Archive for the ‘Hurricane Katrina’ Tag

The Day of the LORD: Havoc from Shaddai   Leave a comment

Above:  Joel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JOEL, PART II

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Joel 1:2-2:17

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Alas for the day!

For the day of the LORD is near;

It shall come like havoc from Shaddai.

–Joel 1:15, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Locusts have been afflictions in northern Africa and the Near East since antiquity.  They have consumed food and grapes, and devastated lives and livelihoods.

Despite some exegetical interpretations of the locusts in Joel 1:2-2:17 as metaphors for invading armies, one may reasonably read “locusts” as referring to locusts.  The four names for locusts have a rhetorical effect and refer to the life cycle and/or manner of eating of locusts.  The infestation of locusts in Joel 1:2-2:17 is especially devastating.  It is so severe that the text likens the swarm to an invading army on the feared Day of the LORD.

The text calls on priests to lament before God, whom the text portrays as following divine orders.  The text explains the swarm of locusts as divine punishment for human sins, hence the calls for lamentation and repentance (2:12-14).

I object strongly.  I recall certain right-wing, homophobic televangelists explaining the devastation of Hurricane Katrina (2005) as divine wrath for alleged moral laxity.  Locusts go where they will.  God does not direct the paths of hurricanes.  I doubt that any deity who would six hurricanes or swarms of locusts on populations is capable of being merciful.

Joel’s concept of God is not my concept of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

THE FEAST OF CATHERINE LOUISA MARTHENS, FIRST LUTHERAN DEACONESS CONSECRATED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 1850

THE FEAST OF GEORGE ALFRED TAYLOR RYGH, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY IN NEW ZEALAND; HIS WIFE, MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR IN NEW ZEALAND; HER SISTER-IN-LAW, JANE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR IN NEW ZEALAND; AND HER HUSBAND AND HENRY’S BROTHER, WILLIAM WILLAMS, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WAIAPU

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALEN POSTEL, FOUNDER OF THE POOR DAUGHTERS OF MERCY

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Posted July 16, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Joel 1, Joel 2

Tagged with , , ,

The Superscription and First Epigram of the Book of Amos   2 comments

Above:  Map of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel during the Reigns of Kings Azariah (Uzziah) of Judah and Jeroboam II of Israel

Image Scanned from an Old Bible

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READING AMOS, PART I

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Amos 1:1-2

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The superscription (1:1) provides information useful in dating the original version of the Book of Amos.  Jeroboam II (r. 788-747 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 14:23-29) was the King of Israel.  Azariah/Uzziah (r. 785-733 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 15:1-17; 2 Chronicles 26:1-23).  In a seismically-active region, the “big one” of circa 770 or 760 or 750 B.C.E. was apparently a memorable natural disaster.  (Ironing out wrinkles in the chronology of the era from Uzziah to Hezekiah has long been difficult, as many Biblical commentaries have noted.  For example, reputable sources I have consulted have provided different years, ranging from 742 to 733 B.C.E., for the death of King Uzziah.)  Centuries later, after the Babylonian Exile, Second Zechariah recalled that cataclysm in the context of earth-shaking events predicted to precede the Day of the Lord–in Christian terms, the establishment of the fully-realized Kingdom of God:

And the valley in the Hills shall be stopped up, for the Valley of the Hills shall reach only to Azal; it shall be stopped up as a result of the earthquake in the days of King Uzziah of Judah.–And the LORD my God, with all the holy beings, will come to you.

–Zechariah 14:5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The original version of the Book of Amos, then, dates to circa 772 or 762 or 752 B.C.E.

The final version of the Book of Amos, however, dates to the period after the Babylonian Exile.  The prophecies of Hosea, Amos, Micah, and First Isaiah, in their final forms, all do.  So do the final versions of much of the rest of the Hebrew Bible, from Genesis to the two Books of Kings.  The final version of the Book of Amos indicates a pro-Judean bias, evident first in the listing of Kings of Judah before King Jeroboam II of Israel.

“Amos,” the shorter version of “Amasiah,” derives from the Hebrew verb for “to carry” and means “borne by God.”

Amos was a Judean who prophesied in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.  He was, by profession, a breeder of sheep and cattle, as well as a tender of sycamore figs (1:1, 7:14).  The prophet was wealthy.  In 2 Kings 3:4, King Mesha of Moab was also a sheep breeder.  Amos hailed from the village of Tekoa, about eight kilometers, or five miles, south of Bethlehem, and within distant sight of Jerusalem (2 Samuel 14:2; Jeremiah 6:1).  King Rehoboam of Judah (r. 928-911 B.C.E.; 1 Kings 12:1-33; 1 Kings 15:21-31; 2 Chronicles 10:1-12:16; Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47:23) had ordered the fortification of Tekoa (2 Chronicles 11:6).  Although Amos prophesied in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel, “Israel” (Amos 1:1) was a vague reference.

Since the prophetic office as manifested in Amos was a function of Yahweh’s lordship over his people, the political boundary that had been set up between Judah and Israel was utterly irrelevant.  Amos was concerned with Israel in their identity as the people of the Lord; the sphere of his activity was the realm of the old tribal league, all Israel under Yahweh, and not the state cult with its orientation to the current king and his kingdom.

–James Luther Mays, Amos:  A Commentary (1969), 19

I wonder if the vagueness of “Israel” in Amos 1:1 is original or if it is a product of subsequent amendment and editing.  The later editing and amendment do present questions about how to interpret the edited and amended texts.  Anyhow, I recognize that the message of God, via Amos of Tekoa, received and transmitted faithfully in a particular geographical and temporal context, remains relevant.  That message remains germane because human nature is a constant force, often negatively so.

The reference to the cataclysmic earthquake (Amos 1:) may do more than help to date the composition of the first version of the book.  One may, for example, detect references to that earthquake in Amos 2:13, 3;14f, 6:11, and 9:1.  One may reasonably speculate that the Book of Amos, in its final form, at least, may understand the earthquake of circa 770 or 760 or 750 B.C.E. as divine punishment for rampant, collective, persistent, disregard for the moral demands of the Law of Moses.  This presentation of natural disasters as the wrath of God exists also in Joel 1 and 2 (in reference to a plague of locusts) and in Exodus 7-11 (in reference to the plagues on Egypt).  This perspective disturbs me.  I recall certain conservative evangelists describing Hurricane Katrina (2005) as the wrath of God on New Orleans, Louisiana, allegedly in retribution for sexual moral laxity.  I wish that more people would be more careful regarding what they claim about the divine character.  I also know that earthquakes occur because of plate tectonics, swarms of locusts go where they will, and laws of nature dictate where hurricanes make landfall.

Amos seems to have prophesied in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel briefly, perhaps for only one festival and certainly for less than a year, at Bethel, a cultic site.  Then officialdom saw to it that he returned to Tekoa, his livestock and sycamore figs, and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah.

[Amos] proclaimed:

The LORD roars from Zion,

Shouts aloud from Jerusalem;

And the pastures of the shepherds shall languish,

And the summit of Carmel shall wither.

–Amos 2:2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The theological understanding in Amos 2:2 holds that God was resident in Zion.  The reference to Mount Carmel, on the Mediterranean coast and in the (northern) Kingdom of Israel makes plain that the message was, immediately, at least, for the Northern Kingdom.  Looking at a map, one can see the geographical setting.  For the divine voice, shouted in Jerusalem, to make the summit of Mount Carmel writhe, poetically, God really is a force with which to reckon.

God is near, but he is also far–immeasurably exalted, inexpressively different.  He is the king who does not die.

–R. B. Y. Scott, The Relevance of the Prophets, 2nd. ed. (1968), 121

How we mere mortals think, speak, and write about God depends largely on our theological and social contexts–how well we understand science, how we define moral parameters, and how wide or narrow our theological imagination may be.  How we mere mortals think, speak, and write about God must also include much poetry, even prose poetry.  If we are theologically, spiritually, and intellectually honest, we will acknowledge this.  How we mere mortals think, speak, and write about God may or may not age well and/or translate well to other cultures.

Despite certain major differences from the pre-scientific worldview of the eighth-century B.C.E. prophet Amos and the world of 2021 B.C.E., the social, economic, and political context of the Book of Amos bears an unfortunate similarity to the world of 2021.  Economic inequality is increasing.  The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the numbers of poor people while a relative few already extremely wealthy people have become richer.  God still cares deeply about how people treat each other.  God continues to condemn institutionalized inequality.  Many conventionally pious people–religious leaders, especially–are complicit in maintaining this inequality.

Amos of Tekoa continues to speak the words of God to the world of 2021.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JACQUES ELLUL, FRENCH REFORMED THEOLOGIAN AND SOCIOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT CELESTINE V, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ABBOT OF GLASTONBURY AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ATTORNEY, PRIEST, AND ADVOCATE FOR THE POOR

THE FEAST OF GEORG GOTTFRIED MULLER, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

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The Wrath of God   1 comment

Flevit Super Illam, by Enrique Simonet

Above:  Flevit Super Illam (He Wept Over It), by Enrique Simonet

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and love;

and that we may obtain what you promise,

make us love what you command,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 1:11-19

Psalm 56

Luke 19:41-44

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Be kind to me, God, for men are persecuting me,

continually assailants oppress me.

My adversaries persecute me all day long,

indeed those who attack me are many.

Though each day I am afraid of fierce enemies

still I put my trust in you.

–Psalm 56:1-3, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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The main two readings for today are unhappy.  The prophet Jeremiah, having just accepted God’s call, receives his commission, complete with the following promise:

They will attack you,

But they shall not overcome you;

For I am with you–declares the LORD–to save you.

–Jeremiah 1:19, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Jeremiah spent much time on the run from the law, in custody, and finally, in exile.

Jesus, just a few days away from his death, lamented over Jerusalem.  Then he cleansed the Temple of merchants profiteering from the upcoming Passover.  Certainly the memory of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. informed the telling of that story, but one did not need to be a seer or a genius to predict that, in time, yet another rebellion by Jews would lead to Roman forces destroying the city.  The account is historically plausible.

In both readings the cause of the disaster is the same–prolonged, systematic, and societal failure to recognize God and to act accordingly.  One might interpret the resulting disaster not so much as God being vengeful as the proverbial chickens coming home to roost.  Actions have consequences.  We know that the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah strayed far from the societal vision of mutuality underpinning the Law of Moses, and that idolatry was ubiquitous.  In the case of the reading from Luke, the Temple establishment was in league with the occupying Roman forces.  Perhaps the wrath of God in these cases, if one chooses to interpret the doom as such, was as simple as,

You have made your bed.  Now sleep in it.

I am cautious in addressing this matter, for I seek to avoid committing certain errors.  Within my memory during the last decade and more, certain prominent professing Christian evangelists have brought reproach on Christianity by blaming some natural disasters (frustrated by human shortsightedness in matters such as civil engineering) on God, whom they have portrayed as vengeful.  Was Hurricane Katrina (2005) God’s wrath for toleration and acceptance of homosexuality?  Of course not!  How dare anyone suggest that it was!  Despite my caution, I recognize that there is such a thing as the wrath of God, and that it frequently takes the form of having to deal with the consequences of one’s actions and inactions.  My concept of God differs greatly from that of those who worship the gangster God of whom all people should stand in terror and whom nobody can possibly belove.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 5, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DAVID NITSCHMANN, SR., “FATHER NITSCHMANN,” MORAVIAN MISSIONARY; MELCHIOR NITSCHMANN, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR; JOHANN NITSCHMANN, JR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; ANNA NITSCHMANN, MORAVIAN ELDRESS; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, MISSIONARY AND FIRST BISHOP OF THE RENEWED MORAVIAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF BRADFORD TORREY, U.S. ORNITHOLOGIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK, NORTHERN BAPTIST PASTOR AND OPPONENT OF FUNDAMENTALISM

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH, 1972

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Will of God and Morality   1 comment

Elisha

Above:   The Prophet Elisha

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Gracious God, you have placed within the hearts of all your children

a longing for your word and a hunger for your truth.

Grant that we may know your Son to be the true bread of heaven

and share this bread with all the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 19:19-21 (Thursday)

2 Kings 3:4-20 (Friday)

2 Kings 4:38-41 (Saturday)

Psalm 145:10-18 (All Days)

Colossians 1:9-14 (Thursday)

Colossians 3:12-17 (Friday)

John 4:31-38 (Saturday)

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All you have made will confess you, LORD,

those devoted to you will give you thanks.

They will speak of your royal glory

and tell of your mighty deeds,

Making known to all mankind your mighty deeds,

your majestic royal glory.

–Psalm 145:10-12, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

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Certain stories of Elisha resemble those of his mentor, Elijah, as an observant reader of the Books of Kings knows.  And, as an observant reader of the Gospels and the Books of Kings knows, some of the miracle stories of Jesus echo certain accounts of incidents from the lives of Elijah and Elisha.  Examples of these include raising people from the dead and feeding a multitude with a small amount of food.  Those stories indicate, among other things, that the heroes were close to God and were able to meet the needs of people.

The Elisha stories for these days have him leave home, participate in helping his kingdom win a war against Moab, and render dangerous food safe.  They portray him as an agent of the will of God.

The “will of God” is a phrase many people use improperly, even callously.  I, as a student of history, know that various individuals have utilized it to justify the murder of priests of Baal (by the order of Elijah, in 1 Kings 18:40), blame innocent victims of natural disasters exasperated by human shortsightedness (such as God allegedly sending Hurricane Katrina to New Orleans or a devastating earthquake to Haiti, supposedly to smite evildoers in those places), et cetera.  These misuses of the concept of the will of God offend my morality and make God seem like a thug at best.

We ought to exercise great caution using the phrase “the will of God,” for we might speak or write falsely of God and drive or keep people away from a Christian pilgrimage.  This is a topic to approach seriously, not lightly.  Among the most thoughtful treatments is Leslie D. Weatherhead’s The Will of God (1944), which speaks of three wills of God:  intentional, circumstantial, and ultimate.  That is deeper than some professing Christians want to delve into the issue, however.

I do not pretend to be an expert on the will of God, but I do attempt to be an intellectually honest Christian.  I, as a Christian, claim to follow Jesus.  To ask what he would do or would not do, therefore, is a relevant question when pondering issues of morality and the will of God.  The four canonical Gospels are useful for these and other purposes.  I conclude, therefore, that Jesus would not have ordered the deaths of priests of Baal or resorted to homophobia to explain the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.  And I cannot conceive of Jesus agreeing with George Zimmerman that the death of Trayvon Martin was part of God’s plan and that wishing that Martin were alive is almost blasphemous.  Zimmerman is a bad theologian.

Living according to compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, and love, per Colossians 3:12-14, is the best way to proceed.  Doing so increases the probability that one will live as an agent of the will of God, whose love we see epitomized in Jesus.  It is better to live rightly than to seek to be right in one’s opinion of oneself.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 5, 2015 COMMON ERA

EASTER SUNDAY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF MILNER BALL, PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, LAW PROFESSOR, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS, AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT NOKTER BALBULUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/04/05/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-12-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Jeremiah and Matthew, Part III: Putting God to the Test   1 comment

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Above:  Jeremiah from the Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, by Michelangelo

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting 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:

Jeremiah 5:1-9

Psalm 5 (Morning)

Psalms 84 and 29 (Evening)

Matthew 22:23-46

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A Related Post:

Matthew 22:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/proper-25-year-a/

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Shall I not punish such deeds?

–says the LORD–

Shall I not bring retribution

On a nation such as this?

–Jeremiah 5:9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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For you are God who takes no pleasure in wickedness;

no evil can dwell in you.

–Psalm 5:4, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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For you are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness:

no one who is evil can be your guest.

–Psalm 5:4, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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In Jeremiah 5 God defends the impending destruction of Jerusalem.  There is nobody who acts justly and seeks integrity, God says in 5:1.  Not only are people unrighteous, but they are also unrepentant.

That sounds like an accurate description of those who peppered our Lord and Savior with questions while trying to entrap him inside his own words in Matthew 22.  He beat them at their own game, of course.  Whenever someone puts God to the test, God passes with flying colors.

I have tried to read Matthew 22:23-46 as a member of that gospel’s original audience might have done.  That audience consisted of Jewish Christians marginalized from their Hebrew community looking back at the life of Jesus in the context of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple therein at the end of the First Jewish War.  From that position of spiritual and human conflict–resentment even–such an account must have seemed like a prelude to the cataclysmic events of that war and the words from Jeremiah 5 might have echoed in more than one head.  But that is not my perspective.  And I take caution to avoid such a point of view, for I have clear and unpleasant memories of televangelists and others making tacky, insensitive, and judgmental statements of that sort after disasters of both human and natural origins–Hurricane Katrina (2005), the September 11 attacks (2001), etc.  No, my impulse is toward love.  As for judgment, I leave that matter to God, who is infinitely wiser than any human being.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 24, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF IDA SCUDDER, REFORMED CHURCH IN AMERICA MEDICAL MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF EDWARD KENNEDY “DUKE” ELLINGTON, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JACKSON KEMPER, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WISCONSIN

THE FEAST OF MOTHER EDITH, FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE SACRED NAME

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/devotion-for-november-4-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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