Archive for the ‘Judgment and Mercy’ Tag

Israel as God’s Promiscuous Wife   Leave a comment

Above:  A Jewish Wedding Ring

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING HOSEA, PART III

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Hosea 2:2-3:5 (Anglican, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox)

Hosea 2:4-3:5 (Jewish and Roman Catholic)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The insertion of 1:10-2:1/2:1-3 (depending on versification) interrupts the flow from 1:9 to 2:2/2:4 (depending on versification) and gives me theological whiplash.

Rebuke your mother, rebuke her–

For she is not My wife

And I am not her husband–….

–Hosea 2:4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The covenantal relationship between God and Israel was broken at the beginning of the Book of Hosea.  It remained broken in 2:2/2:4-2:13/2:15.

The Hebrew word TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) renders as “rebuke” has other translations in English.  These include:

  1. “Accuse” (The New American Bible–Revised Edition, 2011),
  2. “Call to account” (The Revised English Bible, 1989),
  3. “Plead with” (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989),
  4. “Bring a case against” (Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible, 2019),
  5. “Denounce” (The Jerusalem Bible, 1966), and
  6. “Take to court” (The New Jerusalem Bible, 1985; and The Revised New Jerusalem Bible, 2019).

All of these translations are accurate; the germane Hebrew word means both “reprove” and “take to court.”

The imagery of 2:2/2:4-2:13/2:15 is harsh.  It is the imagery of sexual shaming, the punishment for promiscuity, as in Ezekiel 16.  God, metaphorically Israel’s husband, metaphorically divorces and sexually shames the unfaithful wife.  The wife–Israel–becomes infertile, adding to her disgrace.  Her lovers are idols.  They cannot provide for, feed, and clothe her.  Only God can provide for, feed, and clothe Israel, but she continues to spurn Him.  Israel, having made her bed, so to speak, must lie in it.

If the reading ended there, the news would be hopeless.  Yet we come to Hosea 2:14/2:16-3:5.  God will take Israel back.  Mercy will follow judgment.  The words Ishi and Baali both mean “husband.”  Baali, of course, sounds like Baal (“lord”), as in “the Baals” (2:17/2:19) and “Baal Peor.”  The Hebrew wordplay points to the abandonment of idolatry and the renewal of the covenantal relationship (2:18/2:20f).

Hosea 3:1-5 offers a metaphor different from that in 1:2f.  The adulterous woman, perhaps Gomer, has been offering raisin cakes to the Canaanite fertility goddess Astarte.  (In a form of Hebrew folk religion, Astarte was YHWH’s wife.)  This woman, a metaphor for Israel, must abstain from sexual relations, even with her husband, during a period of purification and separation.  She must, simply put, perform penance.  At the end of this penitential time of purification and separation, God will restore the nation and renew the covenant.  Hosea 3:1-5 is probably a subsequent, Judean addition to the Book of Hosea, given 3:4-5.  Also, 3:1-5 is prose surrounded by poetry.

Without ignoring or minimizing the extremely difficult language and imagery of 2:2/2:4-2:13/2:15, I focus on an idea with practical implications.  Sometimes divine punishment and judgment consist of God stepping back and allowing our metaphorical chickens to come home to roost.  Sometimes divine judgment and punishment have more to do with what God does not do rather than with God does.  Sometimes God really is absent and distant.  Yet, as 2:14/2:16-3:5 remind us, God also shows mercy.

The editing of the Book of Hosea, with the benefit of hindsight and in the context of hopes for a better future, produced a final version of that book that repeatedly swings back and forth between divine judgment and mercy.  The condemnations, punishment, and mercy, in the final version, applied to the (northern) Kingdom of Israel, the (southern) Kingdom of Judah, and the returned community after the Babylonian Exile.  The Book of Hosea’s concluding note (Chapter 14) was one of extravagant divine mercy mixed with the knowledge that some would still reject God and the covenant, even then.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the final version of the Book of Hosea.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS MAKEMIE, FATHER OF AMERICAN PRESBYTERIANISM AND ADVOCATE FOR RELIGIOUS TOLERATION

THE FEAST OF SAINT CARTHAGE THE YOUNGER, IRISH ABBOT-BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA DOMENICA MAZARELLO, COFOUNDRESS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF MARY HELP OF CHRISTIANS

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODORE I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINTS VICTOR THE MARTYR AND CORONA OF DAMASCUS, MARTYRS IN SYRIA, 165

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Family of Hosea and the Restoration of Israel   Leave a comment

Above:  Hosea and Gomer

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING HOSEA, PART II

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Hosea 1:2-2:1 (Anglican, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox)

Hosea 1:2-2:3 (Jewish and Roman Catholic)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

When I began my preparation for writing this post, I read the text aloud.  While doing so, I got theological whiplash.  Late in the reading, I also detected evidence of subsequent, Judean editing of the text, as in 1:7 and 1:10-2:1/2:3.  (I wrote about reasons for subsequent, Judean editing in the original text of the Book of Hosea in the previous post.)

Adultery and prostitution, in the Bible, are sometimes simply adultery and prostitution.  On other occasions, they are not literal references, but metaphors for idolatry.  And, on other occasions, they are both literal and metaphorical.  Regarding Gomer, the third option is germane.

Idolatry was widespread in ancient Israel.  Polytheism was ubiquitous in the ancient world, so monotheism was an outlying theological position.  Canaanite religion was popular in ancient Israel, much to the consternation of God, God’s prophets, and pious priests.  Pious priestly religion and folk religion were quite different from each other.  The cult of Baal Peor, the Canaanite storm and fertility god, entailed shrine prostitution, to ensure continued fertility and productivity of the soil, officially.  Gomer (“to complete,” literally) was probably one of these prostitutes.

A competing scholarly opinion in commentaries holds that Gomer was a different type of prostitute.  Some books I consulted suggested that she may have resorted to prostitution out of economic necessity, that her alternatives may have been starvation and homelessness.  These scholars write accurately that many women in patriarchal societies have found themselves in this predicament, and that, in Gomer’s society, women lacked property rights.

Gomer being a shrine prostitute fits the metaphor in the Book of Hosea better.

Metaphorically, God’s covenant with the Jews was a marriage.  Worship of Baal Peor, therefore, constituted infidelity.  God was, metaphorically, her husband, and the Jewish people were God’s wife.

The marriage of Hosea and Gomer dramatized the divine indictment of Israel.  The prophet played the role of God, and Gomer took the role of Israel.  The children of Hosea ben Beeri and Gomer bath Didlaim bore names that revealed God’s terse messages.

  1. The first son was Jezreel, literally “God sows.”  Jezreel was a city (as in Joshua 15:56) and a valley (as in Judges 6:33).  Apart from the Book of Hosea, this place name occurred in Joshua 15, 17, and 19; Judges 6; 1 Samuel 25, 27, 29, and 30; 2 Samuel 2, 3, and 4; 1 Kings 4, 18, and 21; 2 Kings 8, 9, and 10; 1 Chronicles 4; and 2 Chronicles 22.  The city of Jezreel had a bloody past.  There, for example, Queen Jezebel had plotted the murder of Naboth (1 Kings 21).  And, when King Jehu founded the dynasty to which King Jeroboam II belonged, Jehu did so by assassinating the entire royal court at Jezreel.  What had come around was coming around, God warned.  In 747 B.C.E., King Zechariah, son of Jeroboam II, died after reigning for about six months.  His life and the House of Jehu ended violently when King Shallum staged a palace coup.  About a month later, King Shallum died in another palace coup (2 Kings 15:11-15).  Hosea, by the way, disagreed with the perspective of 2 Kings 9-10, the author of which held that God had authorized Jehu’s revolution.
  2. Lo-ruhamah was the daughter of Hosea and Gomer.  The daughter’s name meant “not accepted” and “not shown mercy.”  (Poor girl!)  God refused to accept or pardon the House of Israel.
  3. Lo-ammi was the second son.  His name meant “not My people.”  (Poor boy!)  The House of Israel had ceased to be God’s people.

Pronouncements of divine judgment continued after 1:9.  But first, in 1:10-2:1/2:1-3 (depending on versification), came an announcement of divine mercy.  Those God had just condemned as not being His people would become the Children of the Living God, shown mercy and lovingly accepted.  This passage may have been a subsequent insertion into the Book of Hosea.

The juxtaposition of material serves a valuable theological purpose.  It reminds us that divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  Therefore, do not abandon all hope or presume on divine mercy; God both judges and forgives.  I recognize this balance without knowing where judgment gives way to mercy, and mercy to judgment.

The marriage of Hosea and Gomer also dramatized God’s continued yearning for Israel.  R. B. Y. Scott wrote:

Hosea speaks of judgment that cannot be averted by superficial professions of repentance; but he speaks more of love undefeated by evil.  The final words remain with mercy.

The Relevance of the Prophets, 2nd. ed. (1968), 80

History offers a complicating factor.  John Adams, while defending the accused British soldiers charged in the so-called Boston Massacre, said,

Facts are stubborn things.

Consider the following stubborn facts, O reader:

  1. The Assyrian Empire absorbed the (northern) Kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.E.  A mass deportation followed.  This was not the first mass deportation.  A previous one had occured in 733 B.C.E., when that empire had claimed much of the territory of the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.
  2. Many refugees from the (northern) Kingdom of Israel fled south, to the Kingdom of Judah after these events.  These refugees merged into the tribes of Judah and Simeon.
  3. Many other Israelites remained in their homeland.  Many who did this intermarried with Assyrian colonists, producing the Samaritans.
  4. The Ten Lost Tribes assimilated.  Their genetic and cultural heritage spread throughout the Old World, from Afghanistan to South Africa, over time.
  5. The two kingdoms did not reunited, contrary to Hosea 1:11/2:2.

Nevertheless, I like what R. B. Y. Scott wrote:

The final word remains with mercy.

I hope so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

THE FEAST OF HENRI DOMINIQUE LACORDAIRE, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, DOMINICAN, AND ADVOCATE FOR THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE

THE FEAST OF FRANCES PERKINS, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF LABOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEMMA OF GORIANO SICOLI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC ANCHORESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT GLYCERIA OF HERACLEA, MARTYR, CIRCA 177

THE FEAST OF UNITA BLACKWELL, AFRICAN-AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Martyrdom of the Fifth and Sixth Brothers   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Mother and Her Seven Sons

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XII

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

2 Maccabees 7:15-19

4 Maccabees 11:1-27

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

As usual, 2 Maccabees focuses on theology and is succinct.  Also as usual, 4 Maccabees gives up philosophy, theology, and graphic descriptions of torture.

A few main points stand out in my mind:

  1. Again, brothers about to die told King Antiochus IV Epiphanes he would suffer in the afterlife (2 Maccabees 7:17, 19; 4 Maccabees 11:3).
  2. Descendants of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes were also going to suffer divine punishment (2 Maccabees 7:17).  Is this an echo of intergenerational reward and punishment (Exodus 20:5-6)?  (Ezekiel 18 argues for individual responsibility before God and against intergenerational reward and punishment, by the way.)  Or were those descendants going to suffer for their sins?
  3. God has not abandoned the persecuted Jews (2 Maccabees 7:16).
  4. 2 Maccabees (in 6:12-17; 7:18)  teaches that this persecution was a form of divine punishment of Israel for sins.  I chose not to write about this point when I covered 2 Maccabees 6, for I was focusing on other matters.

Let us–you, O reader, and I–unpack this last theological point.  Who (plural) sinned to bring on this punishment, allegedly?  Were pious Jews, especially the ones who willingly suffered and died rather than violate kosher food laws in the Law of Moses–suffering because of the sins of impious Jews.  Or were these pious Jews suffering because of the perfidy of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes and those who did his bidding?

Rabbi HIillel quoted Rabbi Jose son of Rabbi Judah:

Precious are chastisements, for the name of God rests upon him to whom chastisements come.

The Wisdom of Solomon, a book roughly contemporary with 2 Maccabees, disagrees somewhat with the interpretation of the suffering of pious Jews in 2 Maccabees:

By acting thus you have taught a lesson to your people

how the virtuous man must be kind to his fellow men,

and you have given your sons the good hope

that after sin you will grant repentance.

If with such care and such indulgence you have punished

the enemies of your children,

when death was what they deserved,

and given them time and room to rid themselves of wickedness,

with what attention have you not judged your sons,

to whose ancestors you made such fair promises by oaths and covenants.

Thus, while you correct us, you flog our enemies ten thousand times harder,

to teach us when we judge, to reflect on your kindness

and when we are judged, to look for mercy.

–Wisdom of Solomon 12:19-22, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Furthermore, according to the Wisdom of Solomon 11:1-14, the righteous receive benefits through punishments.  Adding the Wisdom of Solomon 12:9-10 to the mix, we read that God permits pagan nations time to repent.  However, according to the Wisdom of Solomon 12:23-27, divine mercy follows divine judgment.  And as Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 5:4-9 warns us, do not assume divine indulgence to be an entitlement.

I recognize Deuteronomic theology of collective suffering when I read it.  That theology exists in 2 Maccabees and the Wisdom of Solomon.  That theology is the Hebrew Biblical party line regarding the causation of the Babylonian Exile.  And that theology may not apply in all circumstances.

We who identify as devout have a responsibility to be careful in how we think, speak, and write about God.  On one hand, we ought never to try to domesticate God.  On the other hand, we must refrain from depicting God as a monstrous figure worthy of our dread and unworthy of praise and adoration.  We have an obligation not to depict God as being abusive.  How can we draw people to the sole deity if we present that deity as an abuser?  Theodicy, poorly executed, quickly devolves into idiocy.

Perhaps the Jews suffered under King Antiochus IV Epiphanes because he was a bastard intolerant of cultural diversity.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 8, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPHINE BAKHITA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JEROME EMILIARI, FOUNDER OF THE COMPANY OF THE SERVANTS OF THE POOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN OF MATHA AND FELIX OF VALOIS, FOUNDERS OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPHINA GABRIELLA BONINO, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF MITCHELL J. DAHOOD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Judgment and Mercy, Part XXII   1 comment

Above:  The New Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Genesis 24:34-67 or Zechariah 9:9-12, 16-17

Psalm 145:10-21

Revelation 22:1-7, 12-17

John 16:16-33

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

This life is a mix of pleasure, joy, love, and hardship.  Nevertheless, we read, keep the faith; God will win in the end.  God will destroy the unrepentant wicked, wipe out the oppressive and corrupt world order, and inaugurate the fully realized Kingdom of God.  That is a fine note to go out on one week prior to Christ the King Sunday.

Stereotypes of God in the Old Testament and the New Testament exist.  The God of the Hebrew Bible is supposedly harsh, judgmental, and temperamental.  He is allegedly not gracious.  And the God of the New Testament is supposedly all love, sunshine, puppies, and kittens.  Anyone who has read the Old and New Testaments closely knows or should know that divine judgment and mercy exist in balance throughout the Bible.  The God of Revelation is not all love, sunshine, puppies, and kittens, for example.

So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 2, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF JESUS IN THE TEMPLE

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/02/02/devotion-for-proper-28-year-d-humes/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Hesed, Part IV   1 comment

Above:  Christ Exorcising a Mute, by Gustave Doré

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For the Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people;

that they, plenteous by bringing forth the fruit of good works,

may of thee be plenteously rewarded;

through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth

with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever One God, world without end  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 229-230

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 63:1-9

Psalm 33

Romans 8:24-39

Matthew 9:27-38

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 63:1-9 is related to Isaiah 34.  Read Isaiah 34 before 63:1-9, O reader, for better understanding.

The readings from the Old Testament speak of God delivering Israelites from their enemies.  Isaiah 63:1-9 highlights the Moabites.

Jesus healed common and marginalized people in Matthew 9:27-38.  He restored them to their families and communities.  Those healings also signified the presence of the partially realized Kingdom of God.

The God of Romans 8:24-39 is not the God of Hellfire-and-damnation preaching.  No, the God of Romans 8:24-39 is not seeking to drop people into the pit of Hell.  Actually, the God of Romans 8:24-39 is faithful to the faithful.  Moral perfectionism is an impossible standard anyway.  In Christ, we read, Christians have an older brother.  And the Holy Spirit prays for Christians, making

God’s holy people…always in accordance with the mind of God.

–Romans 8:27b, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Furthermore, nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, who also prays for us.

The epistle reading ends with a glorious and familiar passage:

For I am certain of this:  neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

–Romans 8:38-39, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Grace is staggering, is it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 30, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF LESSLIE NEWBIGIN, ENGLISH REFORMED MISSIONARY AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT BATHILDAS, QUEEN OF FRANCE

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK OAKELEY, ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GENESIUS I OF CLERMONT AND PRAEJECTUS OF CLERMONT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; AND SAINT AMARIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT JACQUES BUNOL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1945

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Judgment and Mercy, Part XXI   1 comment

Above:  Ruth and Boaz, by Julian Schnorr von Carolsfield

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Genesis 18:16-33 or Ruth 2:1-13

Psalm 141

Revelation 19:11-21

John 14:1-14

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Divine judgment and mercy are in balance throughout the Bible.  The intercession of Abraham on the behalf of the people of Sodom (Genesis 18:16-33) proved to be in vain, but he did haggle God down.  That story expresses something positive about God.  When we turn to Revelation 19:11-21, we need to notice that the triumph of suffering, divine love in Christ (mercy, for sure) follows judgment on Babylon (code for the Roman Empire).

I offer a lesson that may be difficult:  Mercy for the oppressed may be judgment and punishment of the oppressors.  Furthermore, oppressors may not think of themselves as such.  They may be the heroes of their own stories.  They may think they are righteous, just.

All of us should squirm in discomfort when we think about the human capacity for self-delusion.  Human psychology can be a person’s worst enemy.  It can also be the worse foe of any community, nation-state, government, institution, corporation, et cetera.  Human psychology is the worst enemy of Homo sapiens and Planet Earth.

Thomas Jefferson, a slaveholder, wrote regarding the consequences of slavery for the United States of America:

I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his his justice cannot sleep forever.

The Apocalypse of John is about, among other topics, what will happen when divine judgment wakes up.  That warning remains germane at all times and in all places.  Exploitation, economic injustice, needless violence, and oppression are always present, to some degree.  They are evil.  God will vanquish them and inaugurate the fully realized Kingdom of God.

In the meantime, one duty of we who follow God is to leave the world better than we found it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 27, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JEROME, PAULA OF ROME, EUSTOCHIUM, BLAESILLA, MARCELLA, AND LEA OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANGELA MERICI, FOUNDRESS OF THE COMPANY OF SAINT URSULA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAROLINA SANTOCANALE, FOUNDRESS OF THE CAPUCHIN SISTERS OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

THE FEAST OF CASPAR NEUMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PIERRE BATIFFOL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, HISTORIAN, AND THEOLOGIAN

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/27/devotion-for-proper-23-year-d-humes/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Good and Evil   Leave a comment

Above:  Parable of the Wicked Tenants

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Grant, we beseech thee, merciful Lord, to thy faithful people pardon and peace,

that they may be cleansed from all their sins,

and serve thee with a quiet mind.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 221

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

1 Kings 21:17-25

Psalm 92

Acts 26:1-32

Matthew 21:28-44

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Your enemies, LORD, your enemies will perish;

all evildoers will be scattered.

–Psalm 92:9, The Revised English Bible (1989)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

That was cold comfort for Naboth and his family.

We have evildoers in the readings this week.  Those of us who know the stories realize that justice eventually came for King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, that St. Paul the Apostle died as a martyr in Rome, and that the targets of Christ’s justifiably harsh words did not take those words well.

I tell you solemnly, tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you.

–Matthew 21:31b, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Those are harsh words to direct at conventionally pious religious leaders.  After reading the four canonical Gospels many times, I conclude that our Lord and Savior, although capable of being very forgiving, had a low tolerance for malarkey.  Good for him!

Anyhow, punishment and reward in the afterlife are emotionally satisfying.  Given the injustice rife in this world, reversal of fortune in the hereafter (perhaps not the sweet hereafter) makes good the divine promise to punish the evil and to reward the righteous.

Evildoers come in three varieties:

  1. Those who know what they are doing is wrong,
  2. Those who think what they are doing is right, and
  3. Those who cannot tell the difference between right and wrong.

Circumstances are not always black-and-white.  Frequently, circumstances are gray.  Sometimes the choices are bad and worse.  In such cases, people need to do the best they can in a fallen world.

Yet evil remains evil, objectively.

May you, O reader, and I, by grace, pursue just and righteous courses in life.  May we do so regardless of the costs to us.  And, when we must choose between bad and worse, may we opt for God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 26, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TIMOTHY, TITUS, AND SILAS, COWORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Mutuality in God IX   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Crucifixion, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For Good Friday, Year 2

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Almighty God, we beseech thee graciously to behold this thy family,

for which our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed,

and given up into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the cross;

who now liveth and reigneth wtih thee and the Holy Spirit,

ever One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 161-162

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Micah 6:1-8

Psalm 69:1-21

2 Corinthians 5:14-21

Matthew 27:33-50

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

He has told you, O man, what is good

And for what the LORD requires of you:

Only to love goodness,

And to walk modestly with your God.

–Micah 6:8-9a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Book of Micah dates to the reigns of Kings Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah of Judah (759-698/687 B.C.E.).  The final version, however, comes from a time after the Fall of Jerusalem (587/586 B.C.E.).  Therefore, hindsight informs the text as much as the then-present tense does.  The Book of Micah proclaims divine judgment and mercy (in balance), as well as the moral imperative of mutuality in society.  To violate mutuality is to trample the vulnerable, which is to offend God.

Jesus died for more than one reason, including scapegoating by authority figures.  His unjust execution (a major point in the Gospel of Luke) constituted a violation of Micah 6:8-9a.  Societies, governments, and institutions00even relatively benign ones–have continued to victimize people.  Every time a court has convicted someone wrongly, an innocent person has died via capital punishment, a government has turned a blind eye to lynching, et cetera, has been an occasion of violating Micah 6:8-9a.

Our (however one defines “our”) name has yet to achieve wisdom.  We are guilty collectively.  Each of us is guilty individually, for each person belongs to the whole.  The Book of Common Prayer (1979) contains a prayer for forgiveness for

sins committed on our behalf.

Original sin taints human societies and institutions.  Even the best intentioned of us cannot avoid contributing to the furtherance of evil from which we benefit.

A note in The Jewish Study Bible offers some useful information about one line:

And to walk modestly with your God.

No English translation properly conveys the meaning of the Hebrew word usually rendered as “humbly” or “modestly.”  Other translations include “wisely,” “completely,” and “carefully.”  I gravitate toward “completely.”  Walking completely with God as a high calling, both individually and collectively.  It is also realistic, by grace.  Do we want to respond faithfully via our free will, itself a result of grace?

On Good Friday and all other days, may we ask ourselves how many more people will die because we–individually and collectively–refuse to respond faithfully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PEPIN OF LANDEN, SAINT ITTA OF METZ, THEIR RELATIONS, SAINTS AMAND, AUSTREGISILUS, AND SULPICIUS II BOURGES, FAITHFUL CHRISTIANS ACROSS GENERATIONAL LINES

THE FEAST OF EMILY GREENE BALCH, U.S. QUAKER SOCIOLOGIST, ECONOMIST, AND PEACE ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF JULIA CHESTER EMERY, UPHOLDER OF MISSIONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP II OF MOSCOW, METROPOLITAN OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA, AND MARTYR, 1569

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JONES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Grace and Enemies, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Bethany

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For Wednesday in Holy Week, Year 2

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Assist us mercifully with thy help, O Lord God of our salvation;

that we may enter with joy upon the mediation of those mighty acts,

whereby thou hast given unto us life and immortality;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947),160

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 62:11-63:7

Psalm 55:1-14

1 John 4:7-11

Matthew 26:1-16

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The attitude in Isaiah 62:11-63:7 and Psalm 55 (in its entirety, not just verses 1-14) differs sharply from that in the other two readings.  In Isaiah 62:11-63:7, the love of God for Israel entails divine destruction of enemies (especially the Moabites) of Israel.  And, in Psalm 55, the love of God for an individual involves the destruction of his foe or foes.  In Matthew 26:1-16, however, divine love for people entails Jesus dying for them.  (I affirm a generalized atonement, not Penal Substitutionary Atonement.)  That sacrificial death is a topic in 1 John 4:7-11.

Do we affirm and trust that God loves us and our enemies?  Do we believe that our foes are within the grasp of redemption?  Do we prefer that our enemies reform or repent, or face destruction.  The answers to those questions reveal much about us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PEPIN OF LANDEN, SAINT ITTA OF METZ, THEIR RELATIONS, SAINTS AMAND, AUSTREGISILUS, AND SULPICIUS II BOURGES, FAITHFUL CHRISTIANS ACROSS GENERATIONAL LINES

THE FEAST OF EMILY GREENE BALCH, U.S. QUAKER SOCIOLOGIST, ECONOMIST, AND PEACE ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF JULIA CHESTER EMERY, UPHOLDER OF MISSIONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP II OF MOSCOW, METROPOLITAN OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA, AND MARTYR, 1569

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JONES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Suffering, Part VII   Leave a comment

Above: Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For Palm Sunday, Year 2

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Almighty and Everlasting God, who hast sent thy Son, our Savior Jesus Christ,

to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross,

that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility;

mercifully grant that we may both follow the example of his patience,

and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 157

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Jeremiah 18:1-14

Psalm 8

Hebrews 12:1-11

Mark 11:1-11

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Great power accompanies great privilege.  Psalm 8 includes a staggering idea–that

human beings share in God’s creative power and care of creation.

The Revised New Jerusalem Bible–Study Edition (2019), 941

When we add Jeremiah 18:1-14 to the mix, we add another element:  We belong to God, not ourselves.  We–individually and collectively, ought to allow God to shape us.  That is one of our responsibilities.

Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Bible.  Also, repentance can stave off judgment, sometimes, at least.  Furthermore, punishment can be discipline, as a parent disciplines a child.  And one, such as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, may understand suffering as a form of discipline.

Hebrews 12:5-11 borrows from Proverbs 3:11-12 to address the suffering of the audience familiar with persecution.  Keep the faith, the Letter to the Hebrews teaches.  The text even uses the language of “sons” from Proverbs 3:11-12.  The germane Greek word in Hebrews translates literally as “sons,” not “children.”  This is consistent with the Pauline theology of sonship of God, although St. Paul the Apostle neither dictated nor wrote the Letter to the Hebrews.  The reference to “sons” is crucial and specific to the culture.  It is a reference to heirs, for sons inherited; daughters did not.  Specifically, legitimate sons inherited.

The Jerusalem Bible (1966) gets to the point in 12:8:

If you were not getting this training, as all of you are, then you would not be sons but bastards.

Suffering as spiritual training may be a difficult idea to accept.  Nevertheless, if one professes to be a Christian, one claims to follow Jesus, who suffered greatly, especially during Holy Week.  As Daniel Berrigan (1921-2016), who suffered unjustly at the hands of the United States federal government for practicing his Christian faith observed, those who follow Jesus must 

look good on wood.

So, we have two sides of our calling from God in Christ:

  1. To share in divine creative power and care of creation, and
  2. To look good on wood.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) wrote that when Jesus calls a man to follow him, Christ bids that man to come and die.  A servant is not greater than the master.

Welcome to Holy Week.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 8, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THORFINN OF HAMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF A. J. MUSTE, DUTCH-AMERICAN MINISTER, LABOR ACTIVIST, AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF ARCHANGELO CORELLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS COPERNICUS AND GALILEO GALILEI, SCIENTISTS

THE FEAST OF HARRIET BEDELL, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS AND MISSIONARY

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++