Archive for the ‘Judgment’ Tag

The Community’s Lament to the Lord   Leave a comment

Above:  $100 Trillion Bank Note, Zimbabwe

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LAMENTATIONS, PART VI

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Lamentation 5:1-22

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The Book of Lamentations concludes on a thoroughly depressing note.  The prayer for restoration ends without hope.  Hope was for Chapters 3 and 4, not Chapter 5.

So much has gone wrong by Chapter 5:

  1. The family structure has broken down (verses 2-3).
  2. Foreign conquerors have overrun the country (verse 2).
  3. The people were defenseless (verse 3).
  4. The economy was and inflation was rampant (verses 4-5).
  5. The last Assyrian king had fallen from power in 609 B.C.E., but the point that trusting in in foreign powers, not in God, remained valid.
  6. The voice of the community accepted intergenerational guilt and punishment (Exodus 20:5 and Deuteronomy 5:9, contra Ezekiel 3:16-21; Ezekiel 14:12-23; Ezekiel 18:1-32; Ezekiel 33:1-20).
  7. Lackeys of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian monarch governed Judah (verse 8).
  8. Food was scarce (verse 9).
  9. The social order had broken down.  Violence, indignity, rape, and abusive labor were rampant (verses 11-14).  Young men performed the work of women, prisoners, slaves, and animals (verse 13).
  10. Old men no longer administered justice at city gates (verse 14), as in Deuteronomy 22:15; Deuteronomy 25:7; Ruth 4:1-2, 11).
  11. Temple worship was impossible (verse 15).
  12. The Davidic Dynasty had ended (verse 16).
  13. The covenant relationship with God was broken (verses 21-22).

Take us back, O LORD, to Yourself,

And let us come back;

Renew our days as of old!

–Lamentations 5:22b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The Book of Lamentations concludes without a divine reply to that plea.  It ends without a comforting or easy answer.  It concludes with God present yet hiding.  Sit with that, O reader.  Give the Book of Lamentations its due.

Thank you, O reader, for accompanying me on this journey through the Book of Lamentations.  I invite you to remain with me as I move along to the Book of Ezekiel.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 19, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN DALBERG ACTON, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC HISTORIAN, PHILOSOPHER, AND SOCIAL CRITIC

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE TEAGUE CASE, EPISCOPAL PROFESSOR OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION, AND ADVOCATE FOR PEACE

THE FEAST OF MICHEL-RICHARD DELALANDE, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF VERNARD ELLER, U.S. CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN MINISTER AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PIERSON MERRILL, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

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Five Visions of Divine Judgment Against Israel   Leave a comment

Above:  Nature Morte au Vase de Porcelaine, by Pierre-Antoine Lemoine

Image in the Public Domain

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READING AMOS, PART V

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Amos 7:1-9:10

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The prophecies against King Jeroboam II (reigned 788-747 B.C.E.; 2 Kings 14:23-29) of Israel, his dynasty (842-747 B.C.E.), and the (northern) Kingdom of Israel were unpopular at Bethel, predictably.

One scholarly hypothesis holds that the original draft of the Book of Amos came into existence after the prophet (who humbly denied being a prophet in 7:14) had to return to the (southern) Kingdom of Judah.  If so, the existence of the Book of Amos constitutes an example of irony.  In 2021, many people can hear and/or read an expanded, amended version of what Amaziah, the priest at Bethel in the middle-to-late 700s B.C.E., tried to quash.

The first vision of judgment (7:1-3) was that of a swarm of locusts consuming late-sown crops after the royal reaping.  (King Jeroboam II had claimed a portion of the earlier harvest for his herds and horses to consume.)  God was not in a forgiving mood.

The second vision of judgment (7:4-6) was that of a rain of fire that, having devoured “the great abyss,” consumed these locust-devastated fields.  In the germane ancient cosmology, that of the creation myth in Genesis 1:1-2:4a, the Earth was flat, with waters below and a dome above.  (Do Creationists think that the planet is like this?  Do they belong to the Flat Earth Society?)  In this apocalyptic scene, God was really not in a forgiving mood.

The third vision of judgment (7:7-9) was that of a plumb line, or a plummet (depending on translation).  One used this tool to determine how far out of line a wall or building had become, if repair was possible, and if demolition was necessary.  The verdict on the kingdom of Jeroboam II was that the realm was beyond salvage.

The fourth vision of judgment (8:1-14) was that of a basket of fruit (or figs) from the end of summer.  (The Hebrew word for “summer” puns on the Hebrew word for “end.”)  God declared doom on the kingdom that had forsaken the covenant.  Rife, systemic social injustice, especially of the economic variety, was evidence of this abandonment of the covenant.  God was indeed distant from the (northern) Kingdom of Israel.  The people had spurned God, anyway.

The language of the fifth vision (9:1-10), the vision of the destruction of the sanctuary, is bleak, evocative, and apocalyptic.  The (northern) Kingdom of Israel had, in laymen’s terms, “torn it.”  The proverbial gig was up.  The fulfillment of this prophecy was simply a matter of time–about a quarter of a century.

Given that commentaries inform me of subsequent editing of the original version of the Book of Amos, I wonder how well some religious figures in the (southern) Kingdom of Judah handled these prophesies as that kingdom went into decline and vassalage, and as the threat of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire loomed.  I also wonder how much of the content in the texts in Amos 7-9 dates to after 722 B.C.E. and before 586 B.C.E.

Anyhow, a timeless lesson applies.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  Divine patience is not infinite.  Neither is divine judgment.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 23, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE DAY OF PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN CARR, ANGLO-AMERICAN COMPOSER AND ORGANIST

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK AUGUSTUS BENNETT, FIRST MAORI ANGLICAN BISHOP IN AOTEAROA/NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JÓZEF KURGAWA AND WINCENTY MATSUZEWSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1940

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM OF PERTH, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC BAKER AND MARTYR, 1201

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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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Deeds and Creeds VI   1 comment

Above:  The Last Judgment, by Fra Angelico

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Genesis 19:1-26 or Ruth 3

Psalm 142

Revelation 20:11-15

John 14:15-31

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 28, 2021 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BARNBY, ANGLICAN CHURCH MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

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

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Adapted from this post:

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

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The Divine Preference for the Poor, Part IV   Leave a comment

Above:  Bread Line, by Nicolae Tonitza

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fifth Sunday after Easter, Year 2

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

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

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O God, from whom all good things do come; grant to us thy humble servants,

that by thy holy inspiration we may think those things that be right,

and by thy merciful guiding may perform the same;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 173-174

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Numbers 24:10-23

Psalms 135:1-18

James 1:22-27

John 16:23-33

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God is in control, despite appearances to the contrary.  The prophet Balaam could not speak anything other than what God commanded.  This upset the men men paying Balaam to utter blessings they wanted to hear.  The author of Psalm 135, praising God for being good, recounted instances of God smiting enemies of Israel.  Jesus went to the cross, but somehow he had already conquered the world.  Jesus also did not stay dead for long.

James 1:27 leads into a section (in Chapter 2) on respecting the poor with these words:

Pure, unspoilt religion, in the eyes of God our Father is this:  coming to the help of orphans and widows when they need it, and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.

The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

I do not know about you, O reader, but I live in a society that does not respect the poor.  The Letter of James teaches that faith without works is dead, and that works reveal faith.  By that standard, my society does not respect the poor.   Even many of the poor do not respect the poor.  The teaching of various Hebrew prophets regarding such disregard for the impoverished concludes with divine judgment.

How is that for justice?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT BISCOP, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT OF WEARMOUTH

THE FEAST OF SAINT AELRED OF HEXHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT OF RIEVAULX

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY PUCCI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY ALFORD, ANGLICAN PRIEST, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, LITERARY TRANSLATOR, HYMN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

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The Request for a King   Leave a comment

Above: The Statue of Samuel, Salisbury Cathedral

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART VIII

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1 Samuel 8:1-22

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Not to us, O LORD, not to us,

but to your Name give glory;

because of your love and because of your faithfulness.

Psalm 115:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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This reading reflects skepticism of the monarchy.  The source (probably E) differs from the Chronicler (see 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah), who liked monarchy, especially David and his dynasty, although not most of the monarchs thereof.

Eli’s sons were not suitable successors (1 Samuel 2-4).  Neither were Samuel’s sons (1 Samuel 8:1-3).  Who would rule after Samuel?

Unlike as in Chapter 12 (where the desire for strong military leadership was the primary reason for wanting a king), the main reason for supporting the establishment of a monarchy in Chapter 8 was the desire to be like the neighboring peoples.  The desire to be like the Smiths and Joneses, so to speak, was a national failing of the Israelites.  It contributed to recurring idolatry.  This desire led to rejecting God as the proper King of Israel.  Despite Samuel’s warning, the desire to be like the neighbors remained.  The people got what they wanted.

One may think of divine judgment as giving us what we do not want.  It is that much of the time.  However, sometimes divine judgment takes the form of giving us what we desire.  We should be careful what we wish for; we may get it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 14, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROFT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, JR., EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMNODIST; AND HIS NEPHEW, JOHN HENRY HOPKINS, III, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1941; AND JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS, EPISCOPAL SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR, 1965

THE FEAST OF SARAH FLOWER ADAMS, ENGLISH UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER; AND HER SISTER, ELIZA FLOWER, ENGLISH UNITARIAN COMPOSER

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Faithful Community, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:   Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourth Sunday after Easter, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Give us, O Lord, a right understanding and a sincere love of thy Word;

that we may not be deceived and carried away by any falsehood,

but grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 123

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Malachi 3:16-4:3

Romans 14:10-19

John 16:1-15

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Divine judgment hangs over the readings from Romans 14 and Malachi 3 and 4 (Malachi 3 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Bibles, which, despite having all the verses, have an extended Chapter 3 and no Chapter 4).  In the context of judgment falling into the purview of God, our human responsibilities include obeying divine commandments and, in particular, supporting one another in faithful community.  The latter point is especially important when the faith community is marginalized and facing conflict.

The assigned portion of John 16 operates on two levels.  The first level is narrative–in this case, shortly before the crucifixion of Jesus.  The text reads as spiritual counsel at the last minute.  The second level is historical, given the Johannine Jewish community’s poor relations with their fellow Jews:

They will ban you from the synagogue….

–Verse 16:2a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Mutual support in faith community is a practice people undertake with divine support.  The delusion of self-sufficiency–the denial of interdependence–lies at the root of evil.  When one thinks that one can–and must–rely on one’s powers, one opens the door to seeking to improve one’s lot by harming others.  Yet when we accept that we depend fully on God and on each other, we realize the necessity of building each other up.

Poorly informed and uninformed judgment works against building people up.  I differentiate between poorly informed judgment on one hand and proper judgment on the other.  One may recall Jesus calling certain religious opponents on the Judean carpet and Hebrew prophets issuing stern condemnations.  The verses against judging do not condemn telling the truth.  They do, however, condemn destructive comments, written and oral.  The truth, in contrast, may prompt one to repent.  It works toward the goal of building up in the context of faithful community.

A major difficulty is a distinguishing poorly informed and uninformed judgment from proper judgment.  Often–probably most of the time–we commit the latter when imagining that we are doing the former.  In the context of conflict avoiding the latter is especially challenging, for anger leads naturally and predictably to invective.  Words matter; invective leads to unfortunate results, not reconciliation.  No, it feeds further conflict.

May we, by grace, build each other up, in the context of faithful community.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS, FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF THE CONSECRATION OF SAMUEL SEABURY, FIRST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROMANIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Posted November 14, 2018 by neatnik2009 in John 16, Malachi 3, Malachi 4, Romans 14

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Spiritual Blindness, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  Jesus Healing the Blind Man, by Eustache Le Sueur

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Ninth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Grant, we beseech thee, merciful God, that thy church, being gathered together in unity by the Holy Spirit,

may manifest thy power among all peoples, to the glory of thy name:

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with thee and the same Spirit,

one God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 120

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Jeremiah 8:4-7

1 Peter 2:7-10

Luke 18:31-43

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The theme of rebellion against God unites the three assigned readings.  This is especially appropriate liturgically on the Sunday preceding Lent, with its focus on confession of sin and on repentance.

I advise you, O reader, to read all of Jeremiah 8, with its vivid poetic language about divine judgment.  That is collective punishment for collective sin.  Western civilization, with its individualism, gives short shrift to collective responsibility, sin, and punishment.  The Hebrew Bible is not a product of Western civilization, though.  Likewise, “you” is plural in 1 Peter 2:7-10.

The blind man in Luke 18:35-43 was more perceptive than the Apostles and the crowd at Jericho.  His story, set in contrast to 18:31-34 by the author of the Gospel of Luke, has long pointed out the spiritual blindness of the other people.

Spiritual and moral blindness is both collective and individual; they influence each other.  We, as members of society, are subject to societal influences.  But what is society but people?  When enough people change their minds, societal norms shift.  We, collectively and individually, need to move toward a state in which the Golden Rule is normative and nothing–not even citations of religious laws–is an acceptable reason to violate the Golden Rule.  This will not usher in the Kingdom of God, for only God can do that.  This will, however, create societies with less spiritual and moral blindness.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SOULS/THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL FAITHFUL DEPARTED

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Being Good Soil, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parable of the Sower

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Grant, we beseech thee, merciful God, that thy church,

being gathered together in unity by thy Holy Spirit,

may manifest thy power among all peoples, to the glory of thy name;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with thee and

the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 120

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Amos 8:11-12

1 Peter 2:1-6

Luke 8:4-15

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Hell is real–a reality, not a place with geography and coordinates–I affirm.  I also argue that God sends nobody there.  No, people send themselves there.

The reading from Amos 8 is one of the more difficult passages of the Bible.  Divine punishment is in full strength, punishing collective disregard for God with divine silence.  The divine judgment consists of giving people in times of trouble what they desire in times of affluence and spiritual indifference.  In other words, be careful what you wish for; you may receive it.

The word of God (what God says) is readily available.  It is proverbial seed in the story usually called the Parable of the Sower yet properly the Parable of the Four Soils.  The sower sows seeds in the usual manner for that time and place.  The emphasis in the parable is on the types of soil and on the fate of the weeds cast upon them.  The story encourages us to be good soil, to be receptive to the words of God.

Being good soil entails focusing on God, not on distractions, or idols.  The definition of “idol” is functional; if an object, activity, or idea functions as an idol in one’s life, it is an idol for once.

Perhaps the major idol these days is apathy.  In much of the world the fastest-growing religious affiliation is “none.”  Atheism and its militant variation, antitheism (to use Reza Aslan’s word) are chic.  Ironically, many atheists and antitheists know more about certain religions and holy books than many adherents of those religions, with their corresponding sacred texts.  These atheists and antitheists also understand less simultaneously.

God remains in charge, though.  Whether that ultimately comforts or terrifies one depends on one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SOULS/THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL FAITHFUL DEPARTED

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Facing God, Other People, and Ourselves   1 comment

Above:  The Reunion of Esau and Jacob, by Francesco Hayez

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Genesis 33:1-11 or Isaiah 17:7-14

Psalm 17:1-8

1 Corinthians 4:1, 9-21

Matthew 10:16-33

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One might suffer for any one of a variety of reasons.  One might suffer (as in the case of Damascus, in Isaiah 17) as punishment for idolatry and injustice.  Maybe (as in 1 Corinthians 4 and Matthew 10) one might suffer for the sake of righteousness.  Perhaps one is merely unfortunate.  Or maybe another explanation fits one’s circumstances.

Either way, the commandment to remember, honor, and obey God remains.  Also, judgment for disobedience is both collective and individual.

As worthwhile as those points are, another one interests me more.  Certain verses in Genesis 32 and 33 refer to faces–of Jacob, Esau, and God.  Karen Armstrong, writing in In the Beginning:  A New Interpretation of Genesis (1996), makes a vital point:  they are all the same face.  Jacob, in confronting Esau, also confronts God and himself.

We human beings go to great lengths to avoid facing God, other people, and ourselves.  In the city in which I live, seldom do I enter a store or a restaurant in which music is not playing; silence is apparently anathema.  Unfortunately, the music is almost always bad, especially in one thrift store, the management of which pipes contemporary Christian “seven-eleven” songs over the speakers.  (I avoid that thrift store more often than not.)  Or, if there is no music, a television set is on.  Sensory stimulation is the order of the day.

But when we are alone and silent, we cannot ignore God and ourselves so easily.  And if we cannot face ourselves honestly, we cannot face others honestly either.  If we persist in running away, so to speak, we will cause our own suffering.  It will not be a matter of God smiting us, but of us smiting ourselves.

One would think that silence would be welcome in more churches.  The silence at the end of the Good Friday service in The Episcopal Church is potent, for example.  Yet many churchgoers have an aversion to silence.  And I recall that, one Good Friday, during that potent silence after the service had ended, someone’s cellular telephone rang, causing spiritual and liturgical disruption.

if we are to become the people we are supposed to be in God, we need to take time to turn off the distracting stimulation and face God, others, and ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 30, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE JORDAN, SOUTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHRYSOLOGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF RAVENNA AND DEFENDER OF ORTHODOXY

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICENTA CHÁVEZ OROZCO, FOUNDRESS OF THE SERVANTS OF THE HOLY TRINITY AND THE POOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM PINCHON, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/devotion-for-proper-13-year-a-humes/

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