Archive for the ‘Judas Iscariot’ Tag

The Death of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes   Leave a comment

Above:  The Punishment of Antiochus, by Gustave Doré

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XVIII

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1 Maccabees 6:1-17

2 Maccabees 9:1-29

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Retribution is a theme in 2 Maccabees.  Enemies of pious Jews died ignominiously in that book.  Consider:

  1. Andronicus, who had killed High Priest Onias III (4:34), died via execution (4:38).  “The Lord thus repaid him with the punishment he deserved.”–4:39, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)
  2. High Priest Jason “met a miserable end” (5:8, RSV II).  He, shunned, died in exile in Egypt.  Nobody mourned him after he died.  Jason had no funeral (5:9-10).
  3. High Priest Menelaus died via execution.  He, pushed off a tower about 73 feet high, died in a pit full of ashes.  Nobody held a funeral for Menelaus (13:3-8).
  4. Nicanor, who had commanded the siege of Jerusalem, died in combat.  This his severed head hung from the citadel of Jerusalem.  Furthermore, birds ate his severed tongue (15:28-36).

Is this not wonderful mealtime reading?

Then we come to King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, an infamous blasphemer, “a sinful root” (1 Maccabees 1:10), and “a little horn” (Daniel 7:8) who made “war with the saints” (Daniel 7:21).

When we left off in the narrative, King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, short on funds, was traveling in the eastern part of the Seleucid Empire and raising money to finance the struggle against Judas Maccabeus and his forces (1 Maccabees 3:27-37).  At the beginning of 1 Maccabees 6 and 2 Maccabees 9, the blasphemous monarch was in the area of Susa, in the region of Elam.  King Antiochus IV Epiphanes was engaging in one of his favorite fund-raising tactics–trying to plunder a temple full of valuable treasures.  (Read 1 Maccabees 1:54f and 2 Maccabees 5:15f, O reader.)  He failed this time.  News of the developments in Judea reached the king, whose world was collapsing around him.  He died, allegedly penitent, in the year 164/163 B.C.E. (149 on the Seleucid/Hellenistic calendar).

2 Maccabees elaborates on the account in 1 Maccabees.  2 Maccabees describes vividly the pain in the monarch’s bowels (9:5f), the infestation of worms (9:9), his rotting flesh (9:9), and his body’s stench (9:9).

So the murderer and blasphemer, having endured the most intense suffering, such as he had inflicted on others, came to the end of his life by a most pitiable fate, among the mountains of a strange land.

–2 Maccabees 9:28, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

King Antiochus IV Epiphanes had appointed Philip the regent and the guardian of the new king, Antiochus V Eupator (reigned 164/163 B.C.E.).  There were two major problems, however:

  1. King Antiochus IV Epiphanes had previously appointed Lysias to both positions (1 Maccabees 3:32-33), and
  2. Lysias had custody of the young (minor) heir to the throne.

Philip attempted a coup d’état and failed (1 Maccabees 6:55-56).  Meanwhile, Lysias had installed the seven-year-old King Antiochus V Eupator on the Seleucid throne.  Philip, in mortal danger from Regent Lysias, fled to the protection of King Ptolemy VI Philometor (reigned 180-145 B.C.E.) in Egypt.  

1 and 2 Maccabees differ on the timing of the death of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes relative to the Temple in Jerusalem–the first Hanukkah.  1 Maccabees places the king’s death after the purification of the Temple.  2 Maccabees, however, places the death of the blasphemous monarch prior to the first Hanukkah.  Father Daniel J. Harrington, S.J., writing in The New Collegeville Commentary:  Old Testament (2015), 832, favors the relative dating in 2 Maccabees.  Harrington also proposes that news of the death of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes may have reached Jerusalem after the first Hanukkah.  That analysis is feasible and perhaps probable.

I agree with the evaluation of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 2 Maccabees.  I agree that his repentance was insincere and self-serving.  The monarch was like a criminal who regretted getting arrested and sentenced, not having committed a crime.

An interesting connection to the New Testament deserves comments here.  I start with the Wisdom of Solomon 4:17-20:

These [wicked] people [who look on, uncomprehending] see the wise man’s ending

without understanding what the Lord has in store for him

or why he has taken him to safety;

they look on and sneer,

but the Lord will laugh at them.

Soon they will be corpses without honour,

objects of scorn among the dead for ever.

The Lord will dash them down headlong, dumb.

He will tear them from their foundations,

they will be utterly laid waste,

anguish will be theirs,

and their memory shall perish.

The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

This is the reference in the Lukan account of the death of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:15-20).  That account differs from the version in Matthew 27:3-10 (suicide by hanging, without his entrails bursting out), like that of Ahitophel (2 Samuel 17:23), during Absalom’s rebellion against King David.  (Ahitophel had betrayed King David.)  Both Acts 1:15-20 and 2 Maccabees 9:5-29 echo aspects of the Wisdom of Solomon 4:17-20.  The Lukan account of the death of Judas Iscariot purposefully evokes the memory of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

Obviously, one part of the Wisdom of Solomon 4:17-20 does not apply to King Antiochus IV Epiphanes and Judas Iscariot.  We know their names.

The evil that men do lives after them;

the good is oft interred with their bones.

–William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar

(I memorized that in high school, which was more years ago then I like to admit some days.)

In reality, we may know the names of evildoers in greater quantity than those of the righteous.  Think about it, O reader.  How many gangsters, serial killers, Nazis, Nazi collaborators, terrorists, dictators, would-be dictators, and genocidal dictators can you name?  And how many saints, humanitarians, and other kind-hearted people can you name?  Which category–evildoers or good people–has more names in it?

King Antiochus IV Epiphanes had started down his destructive path by seeking to impose cultural uniformity–Hellenism–on his culturally diverse empire.  He was neither the first nor the last ruler to commit some variation of the error of enforced cultural homogenization.  He learned that defining unity as enforced cultural homogeneity increased disunity by inspiring rebellion.

Cultural diversity adds spice to communal life.  The world would be boring if we were all homogenous.  Mutual respect, toleration, acceptance, and tolerance maintains unity in the midst of cultural diversity.  When acceptance is a bridge too far, tolerance may suffice.  However, there are limits, even to cultural diversity.  Tolerance is a generally good idea.  A good idea, carried too far, becomes a bad idea.  Correctly placing the boundaries of tolerance amid cultural diversity is both necessary and wise.  On the left (where I dwell), the temptation is to draw the circle too wide.  On the right, the temptation is to draw the circle too small.

I am a student of history.  My reading tells me that many rulers of culturally-diverse realms have succeed in maintaining unity.  They have done so by practicing respect for diversity in matters of culture and religion, although not absolutely.  But these rulers have not insisted that everyone fellow a monoculture.  Therefore, very different people have peaceably found their places in those societies.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 10, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SCHOLASTICA, ABBESS OF PLOMBARIOLA; AND HER TWIN BROTHER, SAINT BENEDICT OF NURSIA, ABBOT OF MONTE CASSINO AND FATHER OF WESTERN MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT OF ANIANE, RESTORER OF WESTERN MONASTICISM; AND SAINT ARDO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JULIA WILLIAMS GARNET, AFRICAN-AMERICAN ABOLITIONIST AND EDUCATOR; HER HUSBAND, HENRY HIGHLAND GARNET, AFRICAN-AMERICAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND ABOLITIONIST; HIS SECOND WIFE, SARAH J. SMITH TOMPKINS GARNET, AFRICAN-AMERICAN SUFFRAGETTE AND EDUCATOR; HER SISTER, SUSAN MARIA SMITH MCKINNEY STEWARD, AFRICAN-AMERICAN PHYSICIAN; AND HER SECOND HUSBAND, THEOPHILUS GOULD STEWARD, U.S. AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL MINISTER, ARMY CHAPLAIN, AND PROFESSOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT NORBERT OF XANTEN, FOUNDER OF THE PREMONSTRATENSIANS; SAINT HUGH OF FOSSES, SECOND FOUNDER OF THE PREMONSTRATENSIANS; AND SAINT EVERMOD, BISHOP OF RATZEBURG

THE FEAST OF PHILIP ARMES, ANGLICAN CHURCH ORGANIST

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The Sovereignty of God VI   Leave a comment

Above:  Pact of Judas, by Duccio di Buoninsegna

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Twenty-Second Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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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, our Refuge and Strength, who art the author of all godliness;

be ready, we beseech thee, to hear the devout prayers of thy Church;

and grant that those things which we ask faithfully, we may obtain effectually;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 225

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Zephaniah 3:14-20

Psalm 144:1-10, 15

Philippians 1:3-11

Mark 14:1-17

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The sovereignty and trustworthiness of God is the theme that unites the readings this week.

  1. People are like vapor, but God is the bulwark of the author in Psalm 144.
  2. Zephaniah, after mostly pronouncing doom on Judah and some of its neighbors, mixes divine mercy with divine judgment in Chapter 3.  The text concludes with a prophecy of messianic times.
  3. The in-text context of Philippians 1 is one of the periods of incarceration of St. Paul the Apostle.  The mood is upbeat for a letter from prison.
  4. The countdown to the crucifixion of Jesus continues in Mark 14:1-17.  We read of Judas Iscariot betraying Christ.

God is sovereign and trustworthy at all times.  Affirming that truth during dark times may be difficult.  Contrary to the heresy of Prosperity Theology, of course, God never promised the faithful a life without challenges and suffering.  Servants have never been greater than their master.  Jesus suffered.  He said to take up one’s cross and follow him daily.  God has consistently proven to be more powerful than evildoers and principalities.  The Roman Empire executed Jesus.  God resurrected him.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH; AND SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH AND “FATHER OF ORTHODOXY”

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SILVESTER HORNE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FRIEDRICH HASSE, GERMAN-BRITISH MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF JULIA BULKLEY CADY CORY, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

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Resurrected Lives, Part II   1 comment

Above:  St. Matthias

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:

Acts 1:12-26

Psalm 16:5-11

1 Peter 1:3-9, 14-25

Matthew 28:11-20

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Since by your obedience to the truth you have purified yourselves so that you can experience the genuine love of brothers, love each other intensely from the heart….

–1 Peter 1:22, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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As one’s soul rejoices in God, who resurrected Jesus, who has issued the Great Commission, one requires guidance in how to follow Christ.  Certain rules are specific to times and places, but principles are timeless.  In 1 Peter 1:22 and elsewhere the germane principle is genuine love for God and others.  Love of the unconditional and self-sacrificial variety, we read in 1 Corinthians 13, prioritizes others and is not puffed up.  Such love builds up others.

This is a high standard; each of us falls short of it.  By grace we can succeed some of the time, however.  Furthermore, we can strive for agape love more often than we act on it.  We need not attempt moral perfection, which is impossible, but we must seek to do as well as possible, by grace.  We are imperfect; God knows that.  Yet we can improve.

The surviving Apostles regrouped and restored their number to twelve.  They selected St. Matthias to fill the vacancy the death of Judas Iscariot had created.  St. Matthias became a martyr; he loved God to the point of dying for the faith.  We might not have to make the choice, but we still owe God everything.

Grace is always free yet never cheap.  In the wake of Easter it demands that we who accept it lead resurrected lives defined by love.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 30, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOAN OF ARC, ROMAN CATHOLIC VISIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF APOLO KIVEBULAYA, APOSTLE TO THE PYGMIES

THE FEAST OF JOSEPHINE BUTLER, ENGLISH FEMINIST AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LUKE KIRBY, THOMAS COTTAM, WILLIAM FILBY, AND LAURENCE RICHARDSON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/30/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-of-easter-year-a-humes/

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A Faithful Response, Part VI   1 comment

Above:  Ministry of the Apostles

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:

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Psalm 70

Hebrews 12:1-3

John 13:21-32

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As I read Isaiah 50:4-9a, I realized that I had, very recently, written about that passage in the post for Palm/Passion Sunday.  I have decided not to duplicate the essence of that analysis here, but rather to provide a link.

Likewise, a portion of Psalm 70 reminded me of Psalm 71:13, about which I wrote in the post for Tuesday of Holy Week.  I have therefore provided a link to that post also.

Now for Hebrews 12:1-3 and John 13:21-32….

The audience for the poorly named Letter to the Hebrews (actually a treatise) was Gentile Christians.  The author encouraged them to derive courage from the example of Jesus.  Those who crucified Christ intended his execution as a method of disgrace and extermination, but it became, as the Gospel of John stated so well, his glorification (12:23).  Jesus gave the commandment, first to his Apostles (minus Judas Iscariot), to love one another as he loved them.  That commandment has come to apply to Christians.

Jesus loved sacrificially and unconditionally.  He loved all the way to his death.

That is a daunting challenge.  Being a Christian is about serving people, not lording over them.  Many Christians are fortunate; they will never be in a position to face the possibility or reality of martyrdom.  Others are less fortunate, though.  The annals of Christian history are replete with the sacrifices of martyrs.  But all of us must, if we are to follow Christ, love one another as he loved his Apostles–sacrificially and unconditionally.  This, possible via grace, is a mandate, not a recommendation.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 27, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B:  TRINITY SUNDAY

THE FEAST OF PAUL GERHARDT, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ALFRED ROOKER, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST PHILANTHROPIST AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SISTER, ELIZABETH ROOKER PARSON, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF AMELIA BLOOMER, U.S. SUFFRAGETTE

THE FEAST OF SAINT LOJZE GROZDE, SLOVENIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/27/devotion-for-wednesday-of-holy-week-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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Yielding the Full Harvest of Righteousness   1 comment

Above:  Harvest

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:

Obadiah 1-4, 11-15

Psalm 32

Philippians 1:1-14

Matthew 26:1-16

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The pericopes from Obadiah and Matthew recount perfidy.  In Obadiah, the briefest book in the Jewish Bible, with 291 Hebrew words, we read of the perfidy of the Edomites, descendants of Esau who, in the words of verses 12 and 13, gazed with glee and participated in the Fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.  We read of God’s displeasure and promised judgment on the people of Edom.  The perfidy of Matthew 26:1-16 is that of those (including Caiaphas and Judas Iscariot) who plotted to kill Jesus.  In stark contrast to them, we read, was the unnamed woman of Bethany who anointed Jesus.

The author of Psalm 32 had recovered from a serious illness.  In his culture a common assumption was that such an illness was divine punishment for sin, regardless of what the Book of Job argued in its fullness.  The author seemed to accept that assumption, thus he focused on the confession of sins and linked that confession to his recovery.

Yielding the full harvest of righteousness (per Philippians 1:11) is possible only via grace.  One might have the best and most righteous of intentions, but free will, with which God can work, is a good start.  It is also insufficient by itself.  Confessing one’s sins is part of the process; repentance needs to follow it.  Loving one’s fellow human beings to the point of being ready, willing, and able to sacrifice for them, if that is what circumstances and morality require, is also part of yielding the harvest of righteousness, which we can do in community, not in isolation.

May our words and deeds glorify God and benefit others.  The difference between words and deeds proves hypocrisy, which undermines claims to moral authority.  Words also have power; they can tear down or build up.  Words can inspire justice or injustice, reconciliation or alienation, hatred or love or indifference, selflessness or selfishness.  Words can defile the one who utters or writes them or demonstrate one’s good character.

Yielding the full harvest of righteousness is a high and difficult calling.  It is a daunting challenge, but it is one we have a responsibility to accept.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 22, 2018 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

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

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/22/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-in-lent-year-a-humes/

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The Idol of Public Respectability   1 comment

home

Above:  Odd Fellows Widows’ and Orphans’ Home, Corsicana, Texas, 1910

J149681 U.S. Copyright Office

Copyright deposit; Jno. J. Johnson; 1910

Copyright claimant’s address: Ennis, Tex.

Photographer = John J. Johnson

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-133853

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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:

Proverbs 1:1-7

Psalm 119:145-176

Mark 12:35-37 or Luke 20:41-47

1 John 2:3-29

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The term “fear of God” should be “awe of God,” for the latter translation conveys the concept accurately.  Certain distractions can draw our attention away from God and the awe thereof.  Among these are suffering (not necessarily a distraction, per Psalm 119, yet a distraction for many), worldly appetites (also not necessarily distractions inherently, but distractions for many), and false teaching (always a distraction).  The issue is idolatry.  An idol is an object, teaching, philosophy, or practice that draws attention and awe away from God.  Many idols for many people are not idols for many other people.  If someone treats something as an idol, it is an idol for that person.

One can seem to be holy and free of idols yet be disingenuous.  In the parallel readings from mark (extended) and Luke Jesus condemns those who put on airs of righteousness yet crave public respectability and devour the property of widows, in violation of the Law of Moses.  The spiritual successors of the scribes Jesus condemned are numerous, unfortunately.  Some of them even have their own television programs.

Public respectability is not a virtue in the Gospel of Luke:

Alas for you when the world speaks well of you!  This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.

–Luke 6:26, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

That saying’s companion is:

Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, then your reward will be great in heaven.  This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

–Luke 6:23, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

This is a devotion for the Feast of the Ascension.  The selection of these lections seems odd, I admit, but one can make the connection.  After the Ascension Jesus was no longer physically present with his Apostles.  Afterward, however, the Holy Spirit descended upon them and empowered them to do much to spread the word of Jesus and to glorify God.  Of the original Apostles (including St. Matthias, who replaced Judas Iscariot) only two did not die as martyrs.  St. John the Evangelist suffered much for God and died of natural causes.  Those Apostles (minus Judas Iscariot) did not crave and did not receive public respectability.  They did, however, glorify God and change the world for the better.

May we resist the idol of public respectability and, by grace, live so as to glorify God and benefit our fellow human beings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN DOBER, MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER; JOHANN LEONHARD DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; AND ANNA SCHINDLER DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDITH CAVELL, NURSE AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF SCOTLAND, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT NECTARIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, ARCHBISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-ascension-year-d/

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Good and Bad Shepherds, Part I   1 comment

Jehoiakim

Above:   Jehoiakim

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, our true life, to serve you is freedom, and to know you is unending joy.

We worship you, we glorify you, we give thanks to you for your great glory.

Abide with us, reign in us, and make this world into a fit habitation for your divine majesty,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 11:1-17 (Friday)

Jeremiah 22:18-30 (Saturday)

Psalm 46 (Both Days)

1 Peter 1:3-9 (Friday)

Luke 18:15-17 (Saturday)

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God is our refuge and our strength,

a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved,

and though the mountains be toppled into the depths of the sea;

Though its waters rage and foam,

and though the mountains tremble at its tumult.

The LORD of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

–Psalm 46:1-4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The reading from Second Zechariah is an allegory of a selfish and foolish shepherd who, instead of protecting the sheep of his flock, sells them to their slaughterer for the sum of thirty shekels of silver.  The identification of the shepherd (code for political leader) is open-ended, and the price for which he sells the sheep of his flock to their doom is the same amount Judas Iscariot went on to receive for betraying Jesus in Matthew 26:14-16.  One might surmise correctly that many members of Matthew’s audience, being Jews familiar with their scriptural heritage, would have recognized the echo of Zechariah 11.

Perhaps Second Zechariah was thinking of monarchs such as Jehoiakim (reigned 608-598 B.C.E.), of whom one can read in Jeremiah 22:13-19, 2 Kings 23:36-24:7, and 2 Chronicles 36:5-8, and of his son, Jeconiah/Jehoiachin (reigned 597 B.C.E.), of whom one can read in Jeremiah 22:20-30, 2 Kings 24:8-17, and 2 Chronicles 36:9-10.  Jehoiachin was the penultimate King of Judah, and, by the time of his deposition by a foreign potentate, the realm Kingdom of Judah was obviously independent in name only.

Of Jehoiakim, father of Jehoiachin, Jeremiah 22 says in part:

Woe to him who builds his house on wrong,

his terraces on injustice;

Who works his neighbor without pay,

and gives him no wages.

Who says, “I will build myself a spacious house,

with airy rooms,”

Who cuts out windows for it,

panels it with cedar,

and paints it with vermillion.

–Verses 13-14, The New American Bible (1991)

Such shepherds abound, unfortunately.  I refer not to those who strive to do the right thing for their populations yet fail to accomplish their goals, but to those to operate not out of any sense of seeking the common good but out of greed, self-aggrandisement, and indifference toward justice, especially that of the economic variety.

Among the most familiar images of Jesus in the Gospels is that of the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-21), who not only watches his flock attentively but lays down his life for it.  The Good Shepherd is the polar opposite of the shepherd in Zechariah 11.  The Good Shepherd is Jesus in 1 Peter 1 and the figure who points to powerless children as spiritual models in Luke 18.  The Good Shepherd is one consistent with the description of God in Psalm 46.

To be a sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd is wonderful indeed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2016 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY GIANELLI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF SAINT ALPHONSUS LIGUORI AND THE SISTERS OF MARY DELL’ORTO

THE FEAST OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN PASTOR THEN EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERT OF NEWMINSTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/06/07/devotions-for-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-29-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Esther II: Heroes and Villains   1 comment

Mordecai and Haman

Above:  Mordecai and Haman

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you are always more ready than we are to pray,

and you gladly give more than we either desire or deserve.

Pour upon us your abundant mercy.

Forgive us those things that weigh on our conscience,

and give us those good things that come only through your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Esther 2:19-3:6

Psalm 138

Acts 1:15-20

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I praise your name for your faithful love and your constancy;

your promises surpass even your fame.

–Psalm 138:2b, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The plot thickens in Esther 2 and 3.  Mordecai thwarts an assassination plot against King Ahasuerus.  The two eunuchs who plotted to kill the monarch die after Mordecai alerts Ahasuerus via Queen Esther.  The loyal courtier receives no reward immediately; he must wait until Chapter 6 for Ahasuerus to think about doing that.  Mordecai refuses to bow to Haman, who receives a promotion for no apparent reason and who seeks to destroy not just Mordecai but all Jews in the Persian Empire.

The reason for Mordecai’s refusal to bow down is unclear in the Hebrew text.  However, in Chapter C, as The New American Bible labels it, Mordecai explains in a prayer that he bows only to God.  This is consistent with a later rabbinical interpretation.  The germane notes in The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) mention that argument yet prefers a different explanation, that Mordecai refused to honor an enemy of the Jews.  Those notes also argue that, in the Hebrew Bible, bowing to a human superior is permissible, as in Genesis 23:7; Genesis 43:28; Exodus 18:7; and 1 Kings 1:23.  Another interpretation from Jewish tradition is that, if Haman were wearing an idol on his chest, Mordecai would have bowed refused to bow to the object.

In the Acts of the Apostles the eleven surviving Apostles completed their number (twelve) by choosing one of the outer circle of 70 (or 72, depending on the translation) to replace the recently deceased Judas Iscariot.  They select St. Matthias, of whom we know little.  According to tradition he was a faithful evangelist who brought much glory to God and many people to salvation before becoming a martyr.

The main characters in the readings for today are Mordecai, Haman, and St. Matthias.  Haman seeks to glorify himself and harm others, Mordecai to glorify God and do his duty, and St. Matthias to glorify God, regardless of the cost to himself.  Two of the three died violently, one as a villain and the other as a martyr.

May we pursue righteousness, as demonstrated in the characters of Mordecai and St. Matthias and manifested by love of God and our fellow human beings, regardless of the cost to ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, BISHOP OF ARMAGH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/17/devotion-for-thursday-before-proper-12-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Christ, Confronting Us   1 comment

Judas Iscariot

Above:  Judas Iscariot

I took this digital photograph of an image from a fragile book dating to the 1880s.

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The Collect:

O God of mercy and might, in the mystery of the passion of your Son

you offer your infinite life to the world.

Gather us around the cross and Christ,

and preserve us until the resurrection,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 29

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 23:1-8

Psalm 31:9-16

Luke 22:1-13

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This is a devotion for the day immediately preceding Holy Week.  Liturgically Jesus is a day away from his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, yet he has been in the city for days in Luke 22.  In fact, the Triumphal Entry occurs in Luke 19:28-40.  In Luke 22:1-13 preparations for the annual observance of the Passover, mandated in Leviticus 23:4-8, are underway while Judas Iscariot conspires with Temple officials to betray Jesus.  In a short period of time Jesus will fully resemble the afflicted author of Psalm 31

To every one of my oppressors

I am contemptible,

loathsome to my neighbors,

to my friends a thing of fear.

–Psalm 31:11, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

The narratives of Holy Week are familiar to many of us who have read them closely for a long time and heard them liturgically.  Tradition has attempted to smooth over discrepancies among the four canonical Gospels, but I prefer to acknowledge those disagreements and take each Gospel as it is.  The Passion narrative in Luke emphasizes Jesus’s innocence and the injustice of his trial and execution.  Pontius Pilate finds no guilt in Jesus (23:4, 14, 20, and 22); neither does Herod Antipas (23:15).  Jesus, never an insurrectionist, goes to his death, but Barabbas, an insurrectionist, goes free (23:18-25).

Luke 23 compels me to confront injustices–those I commit, those others commit in my name as a member of a society and a citizen of a state and the United States of America, those of which I approve and might not even label as unjust, and those of which I disapprove.  I benefit from some forms of injustice regardless of whether I approve or disapprove of them.  Luke 23 compels me to confront that reality also.  The unjustly executed Christ confronts my easy complacency as I lead my quiet, bookish life.

Practicing Christianity is a difficult undertaking with rigorous demands, but it is a challenge I have accepted for a long time.  I intend to continue to struggle with it and to keep relying on grace, for my human powers are woefully inadequate for the task.

What about you, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 7, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GERARD THOMAS NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER; BROTHER OF BAPTIST WRIOTHESLEY NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST, ENGLISH BAPTIST EVANGELIST, AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS NIECE, CAROLINE MARIA NOEL, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AMBROSE OF MILAN, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF ANNE ROSS COUSIN, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA JOSEPHA ROSSELLO, COFOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF OUR LADY OF PITY

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/07/devotion-for-saturday-before-palm-sunday-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Difficult Questions   1 comment

Question Mark

Above:  Question Mark

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O Lord God, you led your people through the wilderness and brought them to the promised land.

Guide us now, so that, following your Son, we may walk safely through the wilderness of this world

toward the life you alone can give, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 1:1-22

Psalm 17

Luke 21:34-22:6

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The assigned readings for this day present a composite picture of dire circumstances.

The Lukan Apocalypse, set immediately prior to the execution of Christ, advises spiritual vigilance for the return of the Son of Man, that is Jesus.  (“Son of Man” is an apocalyptic term in the Bible.)  Goodness does not spare Jesus from the betrayal by Judas Iscariot, however.

In the Book of Job God permits the titular character to suffer as part of a wager with the Adversary (the Satan), still one of God’s employees, according to the theology of the time.  One might imagine that the author of Psalm 17 was thinking of Job when he wrote that short poem.  Certainly the tone of Psalm 17 is consistent with Job’s speeches.

Hear my just cause, O Lord; consider my complaint;

listen to my prayer, which comes not from lying lips.

Let my vindication come forth from your presence;

let your eyes behold what is right.

–Psalm 17:1-2, Common Worship (2000)

Feel-good religion fails to deal properly with such circumstances.  Easy answers prove inadequate when the questions are difficult.  Human inadequacy becomes obvious and the need to rely on divine sufficiency becomes clear.  But what if one understands God to be at least partially responsible for one’s troubles?  I offer no easy answers, for the questions are difficult.  I do, however, embrace the wonderful Jewish practice of arguing with God faithfully.  It recurs throughout the Hebrew Bible, especially in the Book of Psalms.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 13, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MARTYN DEXTER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HISTORIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABBO OF FLEURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRICE OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS TAVELIC AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/11/13/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-first-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted November 13, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Job 1, Luke 21, Luke 22, Psalm 17

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