Archive for the ‘Image of God’ Tag

False Significance and True Significance   Leave a comment

THE QUEST FOR FALSE SIGNIFICANCE IS A FORM OF IDOLATRY.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, “Master, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink?  When did we see you a stranger and take you in; or naked and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison, and come to see you?”  “In solemn truth I tell you,” the King will answer them, “that inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these, my brothers, you had done it unto me.”

–Matthew 25:37-40, Helen Barrett Montgomery, the Centenary Translation of the New Testament (1924)

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And lo, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.

–Luke 13:30, Helen Barrett Montgomery, the Centenary Translation of the New Testament (1924)

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The ethics and morals of Jesus of Nazareth shape my ethics and morals.  I am a professing Christian, after all.  

The increase in political extremism defined by hatred, xenophobia, nativism, and conspiracy theories concerns me deeply.  This is a global problem.  As one hears in this video clip, the “quest for significance” is one of the “pillars of radicalization.”  

We are dealing with idolatry.  Sin, in Augustinian terms, is disordered love.  God deserves the most love.  Many people, activities, ideas, et cetera, deserve lesser amounts of love.  Others deserve no love.  To love that which one should not love or to love someone or something more than one ought to do is to deny some love to God.  One bears the image of God.  One is, therefore, worthy of much love.  In fact, Judaism and Christianity teach that one has a moral obligation to love others as one loves oneself, assuming that one loves oneself as one should (Leviticus 19:18; Tobit 4:15; Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 31:15; Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31).  After all, the other human beings also bear the image of God.  Judaism and Christianity also teach people to love God fully, and link love of God and love of other people (Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Matthew 22:36-40).  Therefore, true significance comes from loving God fully and loving God, as God is present in human beings, especially the “least of these.”

Two stories from 1 Maccabees pertain to my theme.  

In 1 Maccabees 5:55-64, two Hasmonean military commanders named Zechariah and Azariah sought to make a name for themselves.  They succeeded; they caused military defeat and won ignominy to define their names.  However, in 1 Maccabees 6:42-47, Eleazar Avaran acted selflessly, in defense of his oppressed people and the Law of Moses.  He died and won an honored name from his people.  Those who sought honor earned disgrace.  He who sacrificed himself gained honor.

I could quote or mention a plethora of Biblical verses and passages about the folly of seeking false significance.  The Bible has so many of them because of the constancy of human nature.  I could quote or mention more verses and passages, but to do so would be triply redundant.

Simply, true human significance comes from God, compared to whom we are all insignificant.  That significance comes from bearing the image of God.  The sooner more of us accept that truth, the better off the rest of us will be.  The social, societal, economic, and political costs of the quest for false significance to extremely high.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHIAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Faithful Community, Part VII   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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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 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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Jeremiah 33:14-16

Psalm 100

Hebrews 13:1-16, 20-21

John 17:1-26

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How can people live in faith community?  Certain details vary according to when and where a given faith community lives, as well as who comprises it.  However, Hebrews 13 provides essential guidance for how to live the John 17, 

that they will all be one,

just as Jesus and YHWH are one.  I choose not to copy or paraphrase all of Hebrews 13:1-16, 20-21.  I encourage you, O reader, to study that text instead.

I do have some comments, though.  The instructions are representative, not comprehensive.  They boil down to this summary:  Honor the image of God in one another.  This is the essence of compassion, which begins by getting outside of oneself.

The Church has a bad name in many quarters.  A certain bumper sticker reads,

JESUS, SAVE ME FROM YOUR FOLLOWERS.

Many non-Christians think of Christians as being non-judgmental.  To be honest, many Christians associate Christianity with right-wing politics, Nativism, xenophobia, fascism, nationalism, and discredited conspiracy theories.  To be honest, many self-identifying Christians embrace at least one of the following:  right-wing politics, Nativism, xenophobia, fascism, nationalism, and discredited conspiracy theories.  One may even think of Falangism, which is Christian fascism, as in Francisco Franco’s Spain.  The contemporary fascist movement in the United States of America does come wrapped in the American flag and the Christian cross.  Many of the Church’s wounds are self-inflicted injuries.  The proper Christian response to these criticisms is to avoid defensiveness and to live the faith as Jesus taught it.

We of the Church can learn much from our critics.  Some of them may know the ethics and morals of Jesus better than many of us do.  The Holy Spirit may be speaking to the Church through some of the Church’s critics.

Christ is the King of the Universe.  Many of his subjects on Earth are not in the Church.  Likewise, many of the members of the Church are not Christ’s subjects.  The Gospel of Mark teaches that many who think they are insiders are really outsiders, and vice versa.  That lesson functions simultaneously as warning and comfort.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 3, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANSKAR AND RIMBERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOPS OF HAMBURG-BREMEN

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE ANNE PROCTER, ENGLISH POET AND FEMINIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALFRED DELP, GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF JEMIMA THOMPSON LUKE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER; AND JAMES EDMESTON, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL DAVIES, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/02/03/devotion-for-christ-the-king-sunday-year-d-humes/

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Deeds and Creeds VI   1 comment

Above:  The Last Judgment, by Fra Angelico

Image in the Public Domain

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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 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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Genesis 19:1-26 or Ruth 3

Psalm 142

Revelation 20:11-15

John 14:15-31

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NSFW Alert:  “Feet” in Ruth 3 are not feet.  No, they are genitals.  The Hebrew Bible contains euphemisms.  In the case of Ruth 3, we have a scene that is unfit for inclusion in a book of Bible stories for children.

The Reverend Jennifer Wright Knust offers this analysis of the Book of Ruth:

To the writer of Ruth, family can consist of an older woman and her beloved immigrant daughter-in-law, women can easily raise children on their own, and men can be seduced if it serves the interests of women.

Unprotected Texts:  The Bible’s Surprising Contractions About Sex and Desire (2011), 33

Speaking or writing of interpretations you may have read or heard, O reader, I turn to Genesis 19.  Open an unabridged concordance of the Bible and look for “Sodom.”  Then read every verse listed.  You will find that the dominant criticism of the people of Sodom was that they were arrogant and inhospitable.  The willingness to commit gang rape against angels, men, and women seems inhospitable to me.

The author of Psalm 142 described the current human reality.  That author descried Christ’s reality in John 14:15-31.  Christ was about to die terribly.  Yet that same Christ was victorious in Revelation 20.

The standard of judgment in Revelation 20:14 may scandalize many Protestants allergic to any hint of works-based righteousness:

…and every one was judged according to the way in which he had lived.

The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

This is not a new standard in the Bible.  It exists in the Hebrew Bible.  Matthew 25:31-46 its people over the head, so to speak, with this standard.  The Letter of James keeps hitting people over the head with it for five chapters.  Deeds reveal creeds.  The standard of divine judgment in Revelation 20:14 makes sense to me.

So, what do I believe?  What are my creeds?  What are your creeds, really?  I refer not to theological abstractions, but to lived faith.  Theological abstractions matter, too.  (I am not a Pietist.)  Yet lived faith matters more.  Do we live according to the love of God?  God seems to approve of doing that.  Do we hate?  God seems to disapprove of doing that.

As St. Paul the Apostle insisted, faith and works are a package deal.  The definition of faith in the Letter of James differs from the Pauline definition.  Faith in James is intellectual.  Therefore, joining faith with works is essential, for faith without works is dead.  In Pauline theology, however, faith includes works.  If one understands all this, one scotches any allegation that the Letter of James contradicts Pauline epistles.

Deeds reveal creeds.  If we value one another, we will act accordingly.  If we recognize immigrants as people who bear the image of God, we will resist the temptation of xenophobia, et cetera.  Knowing how to act properly on our creeds may prove challenging sometimes.  Practical consideration may complicate matters.  Political actions may or may not be the most effective methods to pursue.

By grace, may we–collectively and individually–act properly, so that our deeds may reveal our creeds, to the glory of God and for the benefit of our fellow human beings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 28, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT AND HIS PUPIL, SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIANS

THE FEAST OF DANIEL J. SIMUNDSON, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HENRY AUGUSTINE COLLINS, ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BARNBY, ANGLICAN CHURCH MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SOMERSET CORRY LOWRY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/28/devotion-for-proper-24-year-d-humes/

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Mutuality in God VI   2 comments

Above:  Figs, by Giovanna Garzoni

Image in the Public Domain

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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 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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Amos 8:1-12 or Proverbs 9:1-6

Psalm 119:1-8, 12-16

1 Timothy 5:17-25

John 3:1-21

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The evildoers in Amos 8 were dishonest.  They lived to cheat people and to exploit those who were vulnerable and less fortunate.  These evildoers were, in terms of Proverbs 9, absent from Lady Wisdom’s banquet.  No, they attended Lady Folly’s banquet.  These evildoers, in terms of Psalm 119, did not have blameless ways and did not walk in the Law of God.

I seek to be clear, as Amos 8:4f is clear.  Some people seek to obey the divinely-imposed ethical mandates vis-à-vis mutuality yet get some details wrong.  Amos 8:4f does not condemn such people.  No, it condemns those who are not even trying to obey divine law, to respect God in their fellow human beings.

Such dishonest people have always been with us, unfortunately.

A lifestyle of mutuality seeks to bring out the best in others.  It strives to build the common good, therefore to respect the image of God each person bears.  This effort glorifies God.  May we humans love one another.  May we love God, too.  May we seek to build each other up, not to build ourselves up at the expense of others.  May we glorify God, not ourselves.

This is what we should do, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 2, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE NINTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN KONRAD WILHELM LOEHE, BAVARIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, AND COORDINATOR OF DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN MISSIONS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS NARCISSUS, ARGEUS, AND MARCELLINUS OF TOMI, ROMAN MARTYRS, 320

THE FEAST OF SAINT ODILO OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SABINE BARING-GOULD, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from these posts:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2021/01/02/devotion-for-the-seventh-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d-humes/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/02/devotion-for-proper-5-year-d-humes/

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God With Us, Part VI   1 comment

Above:  Icon of St. John the Baptist

Image in the Public Domain

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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 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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Zechariah 2:10-13 (Protestant and Anglican)/Zechariah 2:14-17 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

Psalm 122

1 John 5:1-11

John 1:19-28

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The readings from Zechariah and the Psalms overlap thematically.  First Zechariah (Chapters 1-8) is a section concerned with the rebuilding of of the Jewish community after the return from the Babylonian Exile.  The legitimization of the Second Temple is a major theme in support of that goal.  In the context of the establishment of an ideal Zion, we read that God will dwell in the midst of the people.

First Zechariah also overlaps with First John thematically.  Both agree that love of God entails keeping divine commandments.  One may think also of another verse:

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

–John 14:15, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

In our scheduled portion of the Gospel of John, we read of St. John the Baptist pointing to Jesus, not himself.  This is a good reading to pair with the verses from Zechariah 2.  God has come to dwell among the people.

God still dwells among us.  The Holy Spirit is present, of course.  God also works through people.  The face of Jesus someone may see today may be your face, O reader.  Likewise, the face of Jesus I see today may be someone in public, as we go about our lives.  God dwells among us.  We will recognize that truth if we know where to look.

May the image of God in you, O reader, greet the image of God in those around you.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 26, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN, DEACON AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/12/26/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-d-humes/

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Respecting the Image of God in Others, Part III   1 comment

Above:  Detail from The Creation of Adam, by Michelangelo Buonarroti

Image in the Public Domain

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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 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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Genesis 1:26-2:3

Psalm 24

1 John 4:1-21

John 1:14-18

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Genesis 1:26f tells us that human beings bear the image of God.  This is not a physical description.  No, the meaning of of “image of God” is profound.

Dr. Richard Elliott Friedman, a Jewish scholar of the Bible, tells us:

Whatever it means, though, it implies that humans are understood here to share in the divine in a way that a lion or cow does not….The paradox, inherent in the divine-human relationship, is that only humans have some element of the divine, and only humans would, by their very nature, aspier to the divine, yet God regularly communicates with them means of commands.  Although made in the image of God, they remain subordinates.  In biblical terms, that would not bother a camel or a dove.  It would bother humans a great deal.

Commentary on the Torah, with a New English Translation and the Hebrew Text (2001), 12

The commandment to do love to each other, especially the vulnerable and the marginalized, has long been a controversial order.  That this has been and remains so speaks ill of people.

Dr. Robert D. Miller, II, a professor at The Catholic University of America, and a translator of The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011), adds more to a consideration to the image of God.  The Hebrew word of “image” is tselem.  It literally means “idol.”

When Genesis 1 says that humanity is the tselem of God, it’s saying if you want to relate to God, relate to your fellow man?

Understanding the Old Testament–Course Guidebook (Chantilly, VA:  The Great Courses, 2019), 9

Biblical authors from a wide span of time hit us over the head, so to speak, with this message.  If we do not understand it yet, we must be either dense or willfully ignorant.

John 1 offers us the flip side of Genesis 1:  The Second Person of the Trinity outwardly resembles us.  Moreover, as one adds other parts of the New Testament, one gets into how Jesus, tempted yet without sin, can identify with us and help us better because of experiences as Jesus of Nazareth, in the flesh.  The theology of the Incarnation, with Jesus being fully human and fully divine, is profound and mysterious.  I know the history of Christian theology well enough to understand that Trinitarian heresies originated with attempts to explain the Trinity rationally.  I prefer to relish the mystery of the Trinity.

We bear the intangible image of God.  Jesus bore the physical image of human beings.   We reach out for God, who reaches out to us.  These are thoughts worthy of every day of the year, but especially during Advent and Christmas.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 25, 2020 COMMON ERA

CHRISTMAS DAY

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/12/25/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-d-humes/

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Idolatry and Tribalism   1 comment

Above:  Saint John the Evangelist, by Peter Paul Rubens

Image in the Public Domain

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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 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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Genesis 1:14-25

Psalm 146

1 John 2:7-12; 3:1-3

John 1:6-13

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Genesis 1 divides the first six days of creation into two groups–the creation of generalities and domains (the first three days’ work) and the creation of the specifics or the inhabitants of those domains (the work of the fourth, fifth, and sixth days).  The seventh day is the time of the creation of the sabbath.  The sovereignty of God is a theme that pervades this great myth.

God also deserves much love.  As the other three readings tell us, that love (or absence thereof) is manifest in how we behave toward other human beings.  These other human beings also bear the image of God (Genesis 1:27).  I know I am getting ahead of the continuous readings in Genesis.  I am staying on topic, though.

Whoever says he is in the light, yet hates his brother, is still in the darkness.  Whoever loves his brother remains in the light, and there is nothing in him to cause a fall.  Whoever hates his brother is in darkness; he walks in darkness and does not know where he is going because darkness has blinded his eyes.

–1 John 2:9-11, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

That text explains itself.

According to a story that may be apocryphal, the elderly St. John the Evangelist was due to visit a congregation somewhere.  The members gathered in great anticipation on the appointed day.  They watched as men carried the infirmed apostle into the space and sat him down in front of the congregation.  Then St. John said, 

My children, love one another.

Immediately, he motioned for the men to carry him out.  One member of the congregation ran after St. John and asked, in so many words, 

That’s all you came here to say?

The apostle replied,

When you have done that, I will tell you more.

Loving one another can be very difficult.  Deciding to love one another can also prove challenging, albeit easier than effectively acting on the goal.  We need grace to succeed, of course.  Yet grace requires our desire to love one another.  Free will and grace are partners.

I write this post during a period of prolonged and intensified political polarization.  Even the definition of objective reality, as in X caused Y, and Z happened, is often contentious.  More so than in the past, many disagreements start at the point of assuming that those who differ from one are bad, if not evil.  The more generous judgment that that those who disagree are probably good yet misinformed and misguided is increasingly rare.

I notice this unfortunate pattern in topics that range far beyond science, religion, and politics.  I detect this regarding science fiction (one of my favorite topics), too. 

Do you enjoy that series?  Do you not enjoy that movie?  What kind of person are you?  You certainly aren’t a real fan.  I’m a real fan! 

Many criteria can define tribalism.

Whenever we erect idols, whether tangible or intangible, we set ourselves up for this.  We do this to ourselves and each other.  We can choose never to do this.  We can also choose to cease and desist from doing this.  We can opt to repent of our idolatry and tribalism.

May we do so.  May we love God.  May we love ourselves and each other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 24, 2020 COMMON ERA

CHRISTMAS EVE

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/12/24/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-of-advent-year-d-humes/

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Humility Before God and People, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  The Ruins of the Tower of Babel, from Metropolis (1927)

A Screen Capture via PowerDVD

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For the Second Sunday after Christmas, Year 2

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

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

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Almighty God, who hast poured upon us the new light of thine incarnate Word;

grant that the same light enkindled in our hearts may shine forth in our lives;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 120

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Genesis 11:1-9

Psalm 85

Colossians 2:6-17

Matthew 3:1-12

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Pride goeth before the fall.

The great myth of the Tower of Babel (which contradicts every bit of evidence regarding the history of languages) in Genesis 11:1-9 is a cautionary tale against hubris.  Lest we think we are hot stuff, God has to kneel town, pull out the really big magnifying glass, and squint, figuratively, to see out greatest achievements.  They are that insignificant.  Humility before God is a virtue.

Humility before God leads naturally to remorse for sins and to repentance.  Humility before God acknowledges both divine judgment and mercy.  Humility before God in Christ helps to keep one rooted in Jesus and established in the faith.  And humility before Good helps one, like St. John the Baptist, say, in so many words,

I have a vocation from God.  That calling is important.  Yet I will not imagine myself to be more important than I am.

Each of us bears the image of God.  Each of us is important.  May we think of ourselves and each other accordingly.  May we encourage one another in faith and practice, for the good of each other.  And may we think of ourselves as neither more nor less important than we are.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARUTHAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MAYPHERKAT AND MISSIONARY TO PERSIA

THE FEAST OF AMILIE JULIANE, COUNTESS OF SCHWARZBURG-RUDOLSTADT, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL TAIT, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY TO THE FAR EAST

THE FEAST OF SOPHIE KOULOMZIN, RUSSIAN-AMERICAN CHRISTIAN EDUCATOR

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“Love Casts Out Fear….” IV   Leave a comment

Above:  King Hezekiah

Image in the Public Domain

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For Christmas Day, Year 2

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

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

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O God, who hast made this most holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light;

grant, we beseech thee, that as we have known on earth the mysteries of that Light,

we may also come to the fullness of his joys in heaven;

who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 118

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Isaiah 9:2-7 (Anglican and Protestant)/Isaiah 9:1-6 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

Psalm 89:1-27 (Protestant and Anglican)/Psalm 89:2-38 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

1 John 4:7-21

Matthew 1:18-25

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On one level, at least, the prophecy in Isaiah 9:1-6/9:2-7 (depending on versification) refers to the birth of the future King Hezekiah of Judah (reigned 727/735-698/687 B.C.E.).  The Bible is generally favorably disposed toward King Hezekiah, of whom one can read further in the following passages:

  1. 2 Kings 16:20;
  2. 2 Kings 18-20;
  3. 2 Chronicles 28:27;
  4. 2 Chronicles 29-32;
  5. Isaiah 36-39;
  6. Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 48:17-22; and
  7. Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 49:4.

We read in Ezekiel 34 that Kings of Israel and Judah were, metaphorically, shepherds–mostly abysmal ones.  Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 49:4 lists Hezekiah as one of the three good kings, alongside David and Josiah.

The steadfast love of God is the theme that unites these four readings.  This faithfulness may be evident in the Davidic Dynasty, a particular monarch, Jesus of Nazareth, or an ordinary human being or community of such people.  Such divine fidelity requires a human faithful response.  Grace is free, not cheap.

The epistle reading holds my attention most of all.  I write you, O reader, to read it again.  The text is fairly self-explanatory.  There is no fear in love.  Anyone who professes to love God yet hates a human being lies about loving God.

These are hard words to hear or read.  I can write only for myself; I know the emotion of hatred.  Perhaps you do, too, O reader.  All of us are imperfect; God knows that.  We can, by grace overcome that hatred.  We all sin.  We all stumble.  But we can lead lives defined by love, by grace.

I can think of people who define their lives according to hatred and resentment.  These are individuals who leave chaos and destruction in their wake.  They are pitiable.  They need to repent.  And, according to our reading from 1 John, they do not love God.  May perfect love drive out their fear, for their sake and for ours.

And may perfect love drive out the remaining unreasonable, destructive fear in the lives of the rest of us.  I refer not to proper, cautious fear.  I write during the COVID-19 pandemic.  A certain level of fear is positive and responsible; it leads to behavior that protects everyone.  No, I refer to fear that leads to selfish, destructive decisions.  I refer to fear that defines certain people as expendable, subhuman, deserving of fewer civil rights and civil liberties than the rest of us, et cetera.  I refer to fear that works against the common good and drags everyone down.  I refer to fear to violates the image of God in anyone.  I refer to fear that violates the principle of mutuality, enshrined in the Law of Moses, the teachings of Hebrew prophets, and the ethics of Jesus of Nazareth.

Merry Christmas, O reader!  May the love of God in Christ fill your life and transform you daily more nearly into his likeness.  May you love like Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 1, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHARLES DE FOUCAULD, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF ALBERT BARNES, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, ABOLITIONIONST, AND ALLEGED HERETIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF DOUGLASS LETELL RIGHTS, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD TIMOTHY MICKEY, JR., U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP AND LITURGIST

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Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the Fiery Furnace, with the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART III

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Daniel 3:1-31 (Jewish, Protestant, and Anglican)

Daniel 3:1-100 (Roman Catholic)

Daniel 3:1-97 (Eastern Orthodox)

The Song of the Three Young Men

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Satire is a feature of the Book of Daniel.  Satire is evident in the uses of humor and in the exaggeration of pomp, circumstance, and numbers.  The portrayal of kings as pompous, blustery, and dangerous people is another feature of Biblical satire.  The two main examples who come to my mind are Nebuchadnezzar II (the version from Daniel 1-4), the fictional Darius the Mede (Daniel 6, 9, and 11), and Ahasuerus from the Book of Esther.

The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego surviving the fiery furnace unsinged and in the company of a mysterious fourth man is familiar.  It is one of the more commonly told Bible stories.  If one overlooks the references to Nebuchadnezzar II, one misses some satirical and theological material.

The story portrays King Nebuchadnezzar II as a blustery, dangerous fool who defeats his own purposes.  (Aren’t we glad such people no longer exist?  I am being sarcastic.)  Verse 15 depicts the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian monarch accidentally invoking YHWH, not any member of the Chaldean pantheon.  And, implausibly, the end of the chapter portrays the king deliberately blessing YHWH.  In other words, King Nebuchadnezzar II was no match for YHWH.

Who was the fourth man?  The Jewish Study Bible suggests that he was an angel.  Much of Christian tradition identifies him as the pre-Incarnate Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity.  I prefer the first option.  Besides, Daniel 3 is a work of fiction.  It is folklore, not history.  And the authors were Jews who died before the birth of Christ.

The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men fall between Daniel 3:23 and 3:24, depending on versification and one’s preferred definition of the canon of scripture.  Set inside the fiery furnace, the additional, Greek verses identify the fourth man as an angel.  

  • The Prayer of Azariah links the suffering of the three pious Hebrews to the sins of their people.  The text expresses communal remorse for and repentance of sin.  God’s punishments are just, the prayer asserts.
  • The Song of the Three Young Men is one of the literary highlights of the Old Testament.  Two canticles from Morning Prayer in The Book of Common Prayer (1979) come from this Greek addition.  I adore the John Rutter setting of part of the Song of the Three Young Men (“Glory to you, Lord God of Our Fathers,” S236 in The Hymnal 1982).  The Song of the Three Young Men calls on all of nature to praise God and celebrates God’s deliverance of the three pious Hebrews.

The question of submission to authority is a thorny issue in the Bible, which provides us with no unified answer.  Many people cite Romans 13:1-7 to justify obedience to authority no matter what.  However, one can point to passages such as Exodus 1:15-22 (Shiphrah and Puah the midwives), Daniel 3, Daniel 6 (Daniel in the lions’ den), Tobit 1:16-22 (burying the dead in violation of a royal edict), and Luke 6:22-26 (from the Woes following the Beatitudes) to justify civil disobedience.  Perhaps the best way through this comes from Matthew 22:15-22.  We owe God everything.  We bear the image of God.  And we ought not to deny God that which belongs to God.  The proper application of that timeless principle varies according to circumstances.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 8:  THE TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS, FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULÉN AND HIS PROTÉGÉ AND COLLEAGUE, ANDERS NYGREN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN BISHOPS AND THEOLOGIANS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN GOTTLOB KLEMM, INSTRUMENT MAKER; DAVID TANNENBERG, SR., GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN ORGAN BUILDER; JOHANN PHILIP BACHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN INSTRUMENT MAKER; JOSEPH FERDINAND BULITSCHEK, BOHEMIAN-AMERICAN ORGAN BUILDER; AND TOBIAS FRIEDRICH, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH PIGNATELLI, RESTORER OF THE JESUITS

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