Archive for the ‘Judgment and Mercy’ Tag

The Prayer of Nehemiah and His Mission to Jerusalem   Leave a comment

Above:  Nehemiah the Cupbearer

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 2 KINGS 22-25, 1 ESDRAS, 2 CHRONICLES 34-36, EZRA, AND NEHEMIAH

PART XV

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Nehemiah 1:1-2:20

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Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

“May they prosper who love you.

Peace be within your walls

and quietness within your towers.

For my brethren and companions’ sake,

I pray for your prosperity.

Because of the house of the LORD our God,

I will seek to do you good.”

–Psalm 122:6-9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Circa 445 B.C.E., during the reign (465-424 B.C.E.) of Artaxerxes I, King of the Persians and the Medes…

Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king.  If anyone was going to poison the royal wine, Nehemiah would drink it and suffer the consequences.

Nehemiah had a well-honed sense of national sin and of complete dependence on God.  He also understood divine mercy.  Fortunately, he swayed Artaxerxes I, who allowed him to travel to Jerusalem.  Unfortunately, Nehemiah contended with opposition.  Of course he did.  That was consistent with the readings for the previous post in this series.

Nehemiah also carried a letter from the king.  Our hero resumed the construction of the city and its walls.  This was risky, for (1) opposition remained strong and (2) Artaxerxes I changed his mind easily.  The king was, after all, one of the models for the capricious, lazy, and easily-swayed Ahasuerus in the Book of Esther.

Aren’t we glad that mercurial potentates no longer rule?  (I ask that question sarcastically.)

Nehemiah combined trust in God with political savvy.  He knew when and how to speak to the king.  Nehemiah understood what to say.  He knew how to follow God, work in the world as it is, and accomplish his goals without tarnishing himself morally.  Nehemiah’s overriding goal was to improve the lives of his people, the Jews.

As we move in the world, we need to know that piety alone is insufficient.  So are good intentions and high ideals.  We need to wed all of the above with savvy tactics that do not betray all of the above.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 9, 2020 COMMON ERA

PROPER 14:  THE TENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDITH STEIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMAN OF ALASKA, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONK AND MISSIONARY TO THE ALEUT

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF MARY SUMNER, FOUNDRESS OF THE MOTHERS’ UNION

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Two Kingdoms III   Leave a comment

Above:  Herod Agrippa I

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Twenty-Fifth 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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Almighty God, we beseech thee, show thy mercy unto thy humble servants,

that we who put no trust in our own merits may not be dealt with

after the severity of thy judgment, but according to thy mercy;

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), 231

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Isaiah 35:4-10

Psalm 119:129-144

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Luke 19:11-26

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God, who vanquishes the wicked and redeems the oppressed, balances judgment and mercy.  The redemption of the oppressed is mercy for the oppressed and judgment of the oppressors.  In a real sense, oppressors doom themselves.  They do not have to be oppressors, after all.  The redemption of the oppressed may come in this life or the next one, but it will come.  God is faithful.

Now I will focus on the Gospel lesson.  The Parable of the Pounds may seem like a parallel version of the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), but it is not.  The Parable of the Talents is about personal spiritual responsibility.  The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX (1995), labels Luke 19:11-27 as the “Parable of the Greedy and Vengeful King.”

Follow the proverbial bouncing balls with me, O reader.

Herod the Great (reigned 47-4 B.C.E.), a Roman client king, had died, leaving sons:

  1. Archelaus;
  2. Herod Antipas, full brother of Archelaus; and
  3. Philip (the Tetrarch), half-brother of Archelaus and Herod Antipas.

Archelaus wanted to succeed his father as a client king.  Before he departed for Rome, Archelaus had about 3000 people killed.  A delegation of 50 Jews also went to Rome, to argue against Archelaus’s petition to Emperor Augustus.  The emperor made Archelaus the Ethnarch of Idumea, Judea, and Samaria instead.  Archelaus was too brutal, even by Roman imperial standards.  Augustus deposed him in 6 C.E. and exiled the would-be-king to Gaul.

Herod Antipas served as the Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C.E. to 39 C.E.  He ordered the execution of St. John the Baptist, who had objected to the incestuous marriage to Herodias.  (She was the former wife of Philip the Tetrarch, as well as as Herod Antipas’s half-niece.  Salome was, therefore, Herod Antipas’s step-daughter and great-half-niece.)

Philip was the Tetrarch of Northern Transjordan from 4 B.C.E. to 34 C.E.  His territory became Herod Agrippa I’s realm in 37 C.E.  (Herod Agrippa I was Philip’s half-nephew and Herodias’s brother.)  Herod Agrippa I held the title of king from 37 to 44 C.E.

The transfer of that territory to Herod Agrippa I made Herodias jealous.  So did the act by which Emperor Tiberius had granted Lysanius, the Tetrarch of Abilene, the title of king in 34 C.E.  (Lysanius was not a member of the Herodian Dynasty.)  Herodias and Herod Antipas traveled to Rome in 39 C.E. to request that Caligula grant Herod Antipas the title of king, too.  Herod Agrippa I sent emissaries to oppose that petition.  Caligula deposed Herod Antipas and exiled the couple to Gaul.  The emperor also added the territory of Herod Antipas to that of Herod Agrippa I.  Then, in 41 C.E., Emperor Claudius (I) added Judea and Samaria to the realm of Herod Agrippa I.  Herod Agrippa died in 44 C.E.

Jesus and his audience knew the story of Archelaus, the model for the would-be-king in the Parable of the Pounds/Greedy and Vengeful King.  Likewise, the original audience for the Gospel of Luke (written circa 85 C.E.) knew the story of Herod Antipas’s ill-fated quest for the title of king.  They brought that story to this parable, too.

Not every parable of Jesus features a stand-in for God.  The newly-appointed king in the parable was not a role model.  The parable presents us with a study in contrasts between two kingdoms–the kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of God.  The kingdom of this world depends on violence, exploitation, injustice, and artificial scarcity.  The Kingdom of God is the polar opposite of the kingdom of this world.

R. Alan Culpepper, writing about this parable in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX (1995), 364, proposes that

The enemies of the kingdom of God will be punished no less severely than if they had opposed one of the Herods, but in God’s kingdom the greedy will be driven out of the Temple and the generous will be rewarded.

After all, we reap what we sow.

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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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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Two Kingdoms II   1 comment

Above:  Archelaus

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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1 Samuel 31:1-9 or Lamentations 3:1-9, 14-33

Psalm 114

Romans 15:14-33

Luke 19:11-27

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As I have written many times, the judgment and mercy of God exist in a balance of justice/righteousness.  (As I have also written ad infinitum, justice and righteousness are the same word in the Bible.  I keep repeating myself.)  Mercy for the persecuted and oppressed may be judgment on the persecutors and oppressors.  Actions and inaction have consequences.  Not serving God has negative consequences.  Serving God may have some negative consequences in this life, but God rewards the faithful in the afterlife.

Now I will focus on the Gospel lesson.  The Parable of the Pounds may seem like a parallel version of the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), but it is not.  The Parable of the Talents is about personal spiritual responsibility.  The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX (1995), labels Luke 19:11-27 as the “Parable of the Greedy and Vengeful King.”

Follow the proverbial bouncing balls with me, O reader.

Herod the Great (reigned 47-4 B.C.E.), a Roman client king, had died, leaving sons:

  1. Archelaus;
  2. Herod Antipas, full brother of Archelaus; and
  3. Philip (the Tetrarch), half-brother of Archelaus and Herod Antipas.

Archelaus wanted to succeed his father as a client king.  Before he departed for Rome, Archelaus had about 3000 people killed.  A delegation of 50 Jews also went to Rome, to argue against Archelaus’s petition to Emperor Augustus.  The emperor made Archelaus the Ethnarch of Idumea, Judea, and Samaria instead.  Archelaus was too brutal, even by Roman imperial standards.  Augustus deposed him in 6 C.E. and exiled the would-be-king to Gaul.

Herod Antipas served as the Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C.E. to 39 C.E.  He ordered the execution of St. John the Baptist, who had objected to the incestuous marriage to Herodias.  (She was the former wife of Philip the Tetrarch, as well as as Herod Antipas’s half-niece.  Salome was, therefore, Herod Antipas’s step-daughter and great-half-niece.)

Philip was the Tetrarch of Northern Transjordan from 4 B.C.E. to 34 C.E.  His territory became Herod Agrippa I’s realm in 37 C.E.  (Herod Agrippa I was Philip’s half-nephew and Herodias’s brother.)  Herod Agrippa I held the title of king from 37 to 44 C.E.

The transfer of that territory to Herod Agrippa I made Herodias jealous.  So did the act by which Emperor Tiberius had granted Lysanius, the Tetrarch of Abilene, the title of king in 34 C.E.  (Lysanius was not a member of the Herodian Dynasty.)  Herodias and Herod Antipas traveled to Rome in 39 C.E. to request that Caligula grant Herod Antipas the title of king, too.  Herod Agrippa I sent emissaries to oppose that petition.  Caligula deposed Herod Antipas and exiled the couple to Gaul.  The emperor also added the territory of Herod Antipas to that of Herod Agrippa I.  Then, in 41 C.E., Emperor Claudius (I) added Judea and Samaria to the realm of Herod Agrippa I.  Herod Agrippa died in 44 C.E.

Jesus and his audience knew the story of Archelaus, the model for the would-be-king in the Parable of the Pounds/Greedy and Vengeful King.  Likewise, the original audience for the Gospel of Luke (written circa 85 C.E.) knew the story of Herod Antipas’s ill-fated quest for the title of king.  They brought that story to this parable, too.

Not every parable of Jesus features a stand-in for God.  The newly-appointed king in the parable was not a role model.  The parable presents us with a study in contrasts between two kingdoms–the kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of God.  The kingdom of this world depends on violence, exploitation, injustice, and artificial scarcity.  The Kingdom of God is the polar opposite of the kingdom of this world.

R. Alan Culpepper, writing about this parable in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX (1995), 364, proposes that

The enemies of the kingdom of God will be punished no less severely than if they had opposed one of the Herods, but in God’s kingdom the greedy will be driven out of the Temple and the generous will be rewarded.

After all, we reap what we sow.

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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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/05/02/devotion-for-proper-28-year-c-humes/

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Judgment and Mercy, Part XIX   Leave a comment

Above:  The Poor, the Lame, and the Blind Called Into the Supper

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Seventeenth 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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Lord, we beseech thee, grant thy people grace to withstand

the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil;

and with pure hearts and minds to follow thee, the only true God;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 216

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Ezekiel 37:15-28

Psalm 101

Hebrews 4:9-13 and Ephesians 4:1-6

Luke 14:15-33

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Divine justice may seem unrecognizable to many of us much of the time.  Divine justice/righteousness comes bound up with judgment and mercy.  We can hide nothing from God, and divine judgment is frequently permitting our proverbial chickens to roost.  We may, like the author of Psalm 101, favor

destroying the wicked in the land

or something like that, but such a decision belongs with God, not any mere mortal.  God may choose to forgive and restore, for all we know.  Our proper human response is to care for each other to be humble before God and each other.

The Parable of the Great Banquet (Luke 14:15-33) requires attention.  The host represents God.  The host properly takes offense at disrespectful excuses from people who had accepted invitations.  The host, true to the Lukan theme of reversal of fortune, invites the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame–powerless, marginalized people.  Then the host, still having room, invites Gentiles.

R. Alan Culpepper, writing about this parable in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX (1995), quoted T. W. Manson, The Sayings of Jesus (1957), 130:

The two essential points in His teaching are that no man can enter the Kingdom without the invitation of God, and that no man can remain outside it but by his own deliberate choice.

We make our decisions, after all.  Grace is extravagant and free yet not cheap.  Awe, respect, and gratitude for grace should compel one to accept it and to permit it to transform one’s life.  One ought to accept the invitation to the great banquet of God and never offer excuses.  Yet one is free to reject the invitation and to offer excuses.  God sends no person to Hell.  All who are present in Hell condemned themselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAROSLAV VAJDA, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOZEF CEBULA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1941

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAMPHILIUS OF SULMONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND ALMSGIVER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHANEL, PROTOMARTYR OF OCEANIA, 1841

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM STRINGFELLOW, EPISCOPAL ATTORNEY, THEOLOGIAN, AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

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Judgment and Mercy, Part XVIII   1 comment

Above:  David and Goliath

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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1 Samuel 17:1-49 or Jeremiah 32:1-15

Psalm 110

Romans 11:22-36

Luke 16:19-31

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[Yahweh] smote kings in the day of his wrath,

he routed nations;

he heaped corpses high,

He smote heads across a vast terrain.

–Psalm 110:5b-6, Mitchell J. Dahood (1970)

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The key term for this post comes from Romans 11:22–

the kindness and severity of God,

as The Revised English Bible (1989) renders that verse.  That is another way of saying “judgment and mercy.”  That which we call judgment or wrath of God is frequently the proverbial chickens coming home to roost.  As logicians remind us,

If x, then y.

That formula can also work so that y is positive.

One can draw a variety of lessons from these readings.  The lessons include:

  1. Never be insensitive to human suffering. (Luke 16)
  2. Never think that other people exist to do one’s bidding.  (Luke 16)
  3. Never forget that one is vulnerable, regardless of how imposing one may be or seem.  (1 Samuel 17)
  4. Never oppress.  (1 Samuel 17)
  5. Never think oneself wiser than one is.  (Romans 11)
  6. Never lose hope, regardless of how dark the times are or seem to be.  (Jeremiah 32)

After all, God is just/righteous.  Divine judgment and mercy, balanced, are expressions of God’s justice/righteousness.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAROSLAV VAJDA, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOZEF CEBULA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1941

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAMPHILIUS OF SULMONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND ALMSGIVER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHANEL, PROTOMARTYR OF OCEANIA, 1841

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM STRINGFELLOW, EPISCOPAL ATTORNEY, THEOLOGIAN, AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/28/devotion-for-proper-24-year-c-humes/

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Good and Bad Fruit, Part V   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parable of the Fig Tree, by Jan Luyken

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Sixteenth 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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Lord, we pray thee, that thy grace may always go before and follow after us,

and make us continually to be given to all good works;

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), 214

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Deuteronomy 32:39, 40

Psalm 94:11-23

Ephesians 3:13-21

Luke 13:1-17

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The justice of God equals the righteousness of God.  Justice and righteousness are the same word in the Bible.  We read that God will vindicate the faithful, out of justice.  (Aside:  Read Deuteronomy 32:36-42, not 32:39, 40.  The passage makes more sense that way.)  That theme also exists in Psalm 94.  The balance of divine judgment and mercy tilts toward mercy for one more year in the case of the barren fig tree.  If the tree remains barren, however, the balance will tilt toward judgment.  That will be just, in that case.

If we do not lose heart–if we, in the context of faith community, support each other in grasping the love of God in Christ–we will mature spiritually.  We will not be like any barren fig tree.  No, we will be like healthy, productive fig trees.  The evidence will be in our fruits, which will include righteousness/justice.  We may suffer, but God will vindicate us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW JERSEY; AND HIS SON, WILLIAM CROSWELL DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ALBANY; HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTONY AND THEODOSIUS OF KIEV, FOUNDERS OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONASTICISM; SAINT BARLAAM OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT; AND SAINT STEPHEN OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHRISTINA ROSSETTI, POET AND RELIGIOUS WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS REMACLUS OF MAASTRICHT, THEODORE OF MAASTRICHT, LAMBERT OF MAASTRICHT, HUBERT OF MAASTRICT AND LIEGE, AND FLORIBERT OF LIEGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT LANDRADA OF MUNSTERBILSEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND SAINTS OTGER OF UTRECHT, PLECHELM OF GUELDERLAND, AND WIRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZITA OF TUSCANY, WORKER OF CHARITY

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Perplexing Readings   1 comment

Above:  The Parable of the Unjust Steward, by Jan Luyken

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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1 Samuel 15:1-23 or Jeremiah 31:27-34

Psalm 109:1-5, 21-27, 30-31

Romans 11:1-21

Luke 16:1-15

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We have some perplexing readings this Sunday.  Seldom does a lectionary load a Sunday with difficult lessons.

  1. The attack on the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15 was to avenge an Amalekite attack on Israelites centuries prior, in Exodus 17:8-16.
  2. According to Deuteronomy 20:16-18 and 25:17-19, King Saul and his forces, engaged in a holy war (Is there such a thing?), should have killed all enemies, taken no prisoners, and taken no booty.  They took booty and spared the life of King Agag, though.  This, according to 1 Samuel 15, led to God’s final rejection of Saul, who had blamed others for his violation of the law.  (Are we not glad that leaders everywhere no longer deflect blame for their errors?  That is a sarcastic question, of course.)
  3. The tone in Psalm 109 is relentlessly unforgiving.
  4. We read in Romans 11:1-21 that Gentile believers are, by the mercy of God, a branch grafted onto the Jewish tree.  Yet the Gentile branch is not exempt from the judgment of God.  The Gentile branch also has a long and shameful record of anti-Semitism.
  5. The Parable of the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager is a challenging text.  The titular character is not a role model, after all.  Yet he is intelligent and able to secure his future by committing favors he can call in when he needs to do so.  One point is that we should be astute, but not corrupt.  Naïveté is not a spiritual virtue.
  6. Money is a tool.  It should never be an idol, although it frequently is.  Greed is one of the more common sins.

I admit my lack of comfort with 1 Samuel 15 and its background.  As Amy-Jill Levine says, people did things differently back then.

I also know well the desire for divine vindication, as well as the unwillingness to forgive.  And, when I want to forgive, I do not always know how to do so.  This reminds me of the predicament of St. Paul the Apostle in Romans 7:19-20.

Each of us is susceptible to many forms of idolatry.  Something or someone becomes an idol when one treats something of someone as an idol.  Function defines an idol.

And what about that parable?  In the context of the Gospel of Luke, one needs also to consider teachings about wealth–blessed are the poor, woe to the rich, et cetera.  The theme of reversal of fortune is germane.  Also, the order not to exalt oneself, but to be kind to those who cannot repay one (Luke 14:7-14) constitutes a counterpoint to the dishonest/corrupt/astute manager/steward.  Remember, also, that if the fictional manager/steward had been honest, he would have kept his job longer, and we would not have that parable to ponder as we scratch our heads.

Obeying the Golden Rule, being as innocent as doves, and being as wise as serpents seems like a good policy.  May we heed the law of God written on our hearts, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW JERSEY; AND HIS SON, WILLIAM CROSWELL DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ALBANY; HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTONY AND THEODOSIUS OF KIEV, FOUNDERS OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONASTICISM; SAINT BARLAAM OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT; AND SAINT STEPHEN OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHRISTINA ROSSETTI, POET AND RELIGIOUS WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS REMACLUS OF MAASTRICHT, THEODORE OF MAASTRICHT, LAMBERT OF MAASTRICHT, HUBERT OF MAASTRICT AND LIEGE, AND FLORIBERT OF LIEGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT LANDRADA OF MUNSTERBILSEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND SAINTS OTGER OF UTRECHT, PLECHELM OF GUELDERLAND, AND WIRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZITA OF TUSCANY, WORKER OF CHARITY

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/27/devotion-for-proper-23-year-c-humes/

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The Appalling Strangeness of the Mercy of God   1 comment

Above:  Christ Healing an Infirm Woman, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

The Appalling Strangeness of the Mercy of God

SEPTEMBER 26, 2021

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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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1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 or Jeremiah 23:23-29

Psalm 107:1-3, 170-32

Romans 9:1-6, 16

Luke 13:10-17

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The twin themes of divine judgment and mercy dominate these five readings, O reader.

I know, O reader, that, if you have paid attention to and read this weblog for a while, you can probably guess what I will write next.  The Bible is repetitive.  Lectionaries keep taking me into repetitive territory.  The Bible repeats itself because people missed a given message the first many times.

You cannot conceive, nor can I, of the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God.

–Graham Greene, Brighton Rock (1938)

The mercy of God present in Jesus, healing on the Sabbath, appalled one synagogue official in Luke 13:10-17.  This mercy should have filled that man with joy on behalf of the formerly afflicted woman.  No, he stood of conventional piety, according to which Christ’s actions were inappropriate–even sinful–on the Sabbath.  Jesus did not provide first aid; that would have been fine, according to conventional piety.  Neither did he provide emergency relief that saved her life; that also would have been fine, according to conventional piety.  Had he healed her on any of the other six days of the week, that would have been fine, according to conventional piety.  So much for that version of conventional piety!

The easy way out is to stand on one’s perceived moral superiority to that synagogue official.  The easy way out is to denounce him and stop there.  However, I know myself well enough to affirm that I have my own version of conventional piety–the rules of the spiritual road, as I understand them, so to speak.  If Jesus were to stand in front of me and transgress any of those rules, I would probably take offense at him.  That would be my problem and sin, not his.

You, O reader, probably resemble that remark.  Who among us is a spiritual superhero, greater than mere mortals?

May God forgive all of us our spiritual blindness and fixations that prevent us from responding as we should.  And may we follow divine leading in repenting of those sins.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 25, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARK THE EVANGELIST, MARTYR, 68

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/25/devotion-for-proper-21-year-c-humes/

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Judgment and Mercy, Part XVII   Leave a comment

Above:  Ocean Waves

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Thirteenth 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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Almighty and Everlasting God, give unto us the increase of faith, hope, and charity;

and that we may obtain that which thou dost promise,

make us to love that which thou dost command;

through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 208

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Micah 7

Psalm 73

Galatians 3:15-22

Matthew 7:7-14

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For the umpteenth time, divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  This theme exists in all four readings for today.  I cannot, in good conscience, agree with the Psalmist toward the end of Psalm 73.

Annihilate everyone who deserts you.

–Verse 27b, Mitchell J. Dahood (1968)

No, I pray that they will return to God and remain.  Yet I know that not all will.  Not all people will find the hard road that leads to life, having departed from it, return to it.

Galatians 3:15-22 exists in the immediate textual context of Galatians 3:14:

The purpose of this was that the blessing of Abraham should in Jesus Christ be extended to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

Trust in God, we read in Micah 7.  Trust in God as the Kingdom of Judah crumbles and one’s society falls apart.  Trust in God while suffering the consequences of one’s sins.  Trust in God, whose forgiveness and graciousness last longer than wrath.  The poetic image of God hurling sins into the depths of the sea is quite comforting.

After all, annihilation need not be inevitable.  God seeks all people, but not all people seek God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 24, 2020 COMMON ERA

GENOCIDE REMEMBRANCE

THE FEAST OF SAINT EGBERT OF LINDISFARNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK; AND SAINT ADALBERT OF EGMONT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIDELIS OF SIGMARINGEN, CAPUCHIN FRIAR AND MARTYR, 1622

THE FEAST OF JOHANN WALTER, “FIRST CANTOR OF THE LUTHERAN CHURCH”

THE FEAST OF SAINT MELLITUS, BISHOP OF LONDON, AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

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