Archive for the ‘Law of Moses’ Tag

Psalms 57, 60, 108, and 142: Dependence Upon God   Leave a comment

READING THE BOOK OF PSALMS

PART XLIII

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Psalms 57, 60, 108, and 142

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Psalms 57, 60, 108, and 142 are similar to each other.

The superscription of Psalm 57 links the text to 1 Samuel 24 and 26, when David fled into a cave while on the run from King Saul.  This superscription is dubious, for the psalm refers to more than one enemy–“man-eating lions,” poetically.  The text affirms that God is more powerful than those foes.  Therefore, the psalmist sings hymns to God while surrounded by violent enemies.

The superscription of Psalm 60 links the text to 2 Samuel 8:3-8 and 10:6-18, when David

fought with Aram-Naharaim and Aram-Zobah, and Joab returned and defeated Edom–[an army] of twelve thousand men–in the Valley of Salt.

Psalm 60, following the dubious superscription, claims that God has rejected the people because of their habitual, unrepentant transgression of the moral code in the Law of Moses.  Toward the end of the psalm, the author complains that God is not marching with the army–whether Judean or Israelite–into battles.  This context belies the tacked-on superscription.

Psalm 108 replicates portions of Psalms 57 and 60.  Sources tell me that, in antiquity, copying and pasting like this was an accepted practice.  Psalm 108 merges an individual supplication and a national lament.  Given the triumphant tone of 57 and the downcast plea in Psalm 60, Psalm 108 gives me theological whiplash.  When I read that this compositing occurred after the Babylonian Exile, I conclude that this explanation makes sense, given the communal mixed emotions of that period.  Regardless of past triumphs in God, the people of God are never far away from needing deliverance again.  And the feeling of rejection by God makes sense historically in the postexilic context, as the Hebrew Bible details that time.

The superscription of Psalm 142 links that text to David in a cave.  That is another dubious superscription.  These dubious superscriptions involving David reveal the extent to which many people had David on the brain.  I conclude that before Christians started looking for Jesus in the Hebrew Bible like Waldo in a Where’s Waldo? book and taking that quest to ridiculous extremes, many Jews pioneered that pattern by searching for scenes in David’s life that fit or nearly fit psalms, assuming that one did not read the germane psalm closely.  Psalm 142 is an individual lament of someone beset by enemies (Note the plural form.) and whose only hope for rescue is from God.  The text is sufficiently vague to fit a host of circumstances.

The unifying thematic thread is that God is the only hope for deliverance.  These are tangible circumstances, not spiritual abstractions.  The enemies may conquer the kingdom.  My enemies may kill me.  I recall that God has rescued me.  That is the gist of the circumstances.

We all depend entirely upon God.  We also rely on each other.  For example, we depend upon each other’s labor.  So, interdependence, not independence, is the rule, in societal terms.  This pattern of interdependence framed within dependence upon God is profoundly countercultural in my global Western culture.  Yes, we are weak, compared to God, especially.  Do we–collectively and individually–dare to admit that reality?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 17, 2023 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF EGYPT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND FATHER OF WESTERN MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DEICOLA AND GALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS; AND SAINT OTHMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AT SAINT GALLEN

THE FEAST OF JAMES WOODROW, SOUTHERN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, NATURALIST, AND ALLEGED HERETIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT PACHOMIUS THE GREAT, FOUNDER OF CHRISTIAN COMMUNAL MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS A. DOOLEY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PHYSICIAN AND HUMANITARIAN

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Psalm 50: Rituals and Morality   Leave a comment

READING THE BOOK OF PSALMS

PART XXXVIII

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Psalm 50

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The Law of Moses commands certain rituals and sacrifices.  Hebrew prophetic literature, which condemns violations of the Law of Moses, never teaches that people should ignore the mandated rites and sacrifices.  Neither does Psalm 50.  No, these texts condemn violating the moral aspect of the Law of Moses then cynically keeping the rituals and making sacrifices.  Sacred rites and not talismans.

God’s covenant is a covenant, not a contract; it is not a quid pro quo arrangement.  And God in not a vending machine either.  Yet divine covenant does impose certain obligations on the people.  The social portion of these duties is, in one word, mutuality.  We are all responsible to and for each other.  Exploitation is always wrong.  The Golden Rule must be normative.  In modern terms, attempting to cover up flagrant violations of the moral code by keeping sacred rituals and making mandated sacrifices is like sitting on the front row of pews in church, so as to be visible, despite exploiting vulnerable people.  God’s covenant calls for true piety, not a façade.

I recall one of my favorite movies, The Night of the Hunter (1955).  The antagonist is “preacher” Harry Powell, a Great-Depression-era confidence man and serial killer.  He knows the right words to say.  Harry sings Gospel hymns with gusto.  So, he fools many people into thinking that he is something he is not.  His opposite is Miss Cooper, a morally upright elderly woman who takes in orphans.  She recognizes a wolf in sheep’s clothing when she sees one.  Regardless of how often Harry sings “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” he never says “Jesus” in the movie.  But Miss Cooper does.

Sacred rituals are beautiful.  I, a happily ritualistic Episcopalian, affirm them.  They create the environment for proper worship.  Yet they are in vain if one mocks God by hiding perfidy behind them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 12, 2023 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 CAESARIUS OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF ARLES; AND HIS SISTER, SAINT CAESARIA OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY PUCCI, ITALIAN 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, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

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Psalm 12: Words Matter   Leave a comment

READING THE BOOK OF PSALMS

PART XI

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Psalm 12

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I write this post in politically perilous times.  A vocal element of the body politic in the United States of America–my homeland–is openly authoritarian and fascistic in its inclination.  Some elected members of the United States Congress support Russia in its war against the people of Ukraine and with that the insurrection of January 6, 2021, had succeeded.  They say so openly.  Antisemitism is more commonplace and edging back into the political mainstream.  So is its equally vile cousin, Christian Nationalism, laced with racism.

Words matter in the Bible.  Mythology tells us that God spoke the created order into existence (Genesis 1).  The Law of Moses condemns bearing false witness.  The penalty for perjury in the Law of Moses is to suffer the same fate one would have had the innocent person suffer.  Psalm 12 condemns those with slippery and slick language–those with pernicious speech and flattering words.  The imagery of cutting off lips and cutting off tongues is vivid in Psalm 12.  This may disturb a reader, but, in context, those lips and tongues form words that serve as a weapon or an army for the wicked.

Poetry is poetry, of course.  I oppose maiming anyone, especially in the name of God.  Neither does this text favor maiming any person.  Psalm 12 uses shocking language to attract attention.  Shocking and sometimes inexact language is a rhetorical tool commonplace in the prophetic books and the Book of Psalms.

Words matter.  Just as God, mythologically, spoke creation into existence, our words–in oral and written forms–help to shape our circumstances and those of others.  This is why libel and slander are offenses that lead to court cases.  This is why language that provokes violence falls outside the bounds of constitutional protection.  This why if I were to engage in speech that led to someone’s needless injury or death, I would be criminally liable.  I am a nice person who tries to keep faith with objective reality and live peaceably with others individuals in community, fortunately.

We ought to interpret Psalm 12 in the context of mutuality, a virtue hardwired into the Old and New Testaments.  We human beings, who depend entirely upon God, depend upon each other, too.  We are interdependent.  We have responsibilities to and for each other.  So, slick, slippery, and pernicious speech endangers the common good.  Those who engage in such speech may be self-serving, but they also endanger themselves.  The common good is their good, also.

May your words, O reader, build up the common good.  And may you oppose those whose words endanger the common good.  The love of God and your neighbors compels such attitudes and actions.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 24, 2022 COMMON ERA

CHRISTMAS EVE:  THE LAST DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

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Psalm 4: We Are Like What We Do   Leave a comment

READING THE BOOK OF PSALMS

PART IV

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Psalm 4

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Psalm 4 is direct; its major theme is confidence in hesed, the faithfulness of God.  In typical Jewish theological fashion, God is like what God has done.  The psalmist recalls that God has vindicated him.  Therefore, the psalmist expresses confidence that God will do so again.

The people, likewise, should cease to offer insincere sacrifices.  They ought to offer righteous sacrifices and trust in God.  A subtext comes from the prophetic literature, which condemns those who act impiously–often exploitatively–and use sacred rituals as talismans.  This mocks God, who objects strenuously.  There is no fault in sacred rituals per se; God ordains them in the Law of Moses.  Yet their efficacy comes bound up with keeping the moral mandates in the Law of Moses.

For the sake of truth in advertising, I divulge that I am a ritualistic Episcopalian.  Proper liturgy sets the table, so to speak, for worship.  Most of what passes for liturgy in many Protestant congregations leaves me cold, uninspired, and unimpressed.  It is stale white-bread worship at best and an undignified noise fest at worst.  Most Protestant worship services feel like so-so social gatherings to me.  So, I gravitate to Prayer Books, smells, and bells.  I stand in contrast to my Pietistic and puritanical Low Church Protestant forebears.  Proper ritual is not an “external.”  No, it is essential.

Dr. Charles Smith was a Canadian pathologist.  He was also the favorite expert of many a crown prosecutor who suspected that a baby’s death was not due to natural causes.  Dr. Smith’s expert testimony in court guaranteed a conviction.  The threat of his testimony in court prompted innocent parents to plead guilty to a reduced charge.  The problem with Smith’s testimony was that he lied under oath.  This fact came to light as pathologist after pathologist contradicted his findings.  Smith lost his professional license and gained a disgraced reputation.  He, unrepentant and confronted with the truth, cited his Evangelical Christian faith and his desire to save young lives as defenses.  Meanwhile, prosecutors reviewed cases and judges started freeing parents and clearing their names.  Yet the prosecutors and judges could not reverse the damage Smith had inflicted on the parents.

Words are insufficient; works must not belie them.  We mere mortals are like what we do and have done.  Protestations of our piety ring hollow when evidence contradicts them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 11, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF EL MOZOTE, EL SALVADOR, DECEMBER 11-12, 1981

THE FEAST OF HOWARD CHANDLER ROBBINS, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND HYMN TUNE COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT KAZIMIERZ TOMAS SYKULSKI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1942

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKREFSRUD, HANS PETER BOERRSEN, AND PAUL OLAF BODDING, LUTHERAN MISSIONARIES IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF LUKE OF PRAGUE AND JOHN AUGUSTA, MORAVIAN BISHOPS AND HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF SEVERIN OTT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Posted December 11, 2022 by neatnik2009 in Psalm 4

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Eschatological Ethics XV   3 comments

Above:  The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, by Friedrich Wilhelm Schadow (1788-1862)

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Amos 5:18-24

Psalm 63:1-8 (LBW) or Psalm 84:1-7 (LW)

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 (15-18)

Matthew 25:1-13 (LBWLW) or Matthew 23:37-39 (LW)

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Lord, when the day of wrath comes

we have no hope except in your grace.

Make us so to watch for the last days

that the consumation of our hope may be

the joy of the marriage feast of your Son,

Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 29

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O Lord, we pray that the visitation of your grace

may so cleanse our thoughts and minds

that your Son Jesus, when he shall come,

may find us a fit dwelling place;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 89

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We have, in the church calendar, turned toward Advent.  The tone in readings has shifted toward the Day of the Lord (Old Testament) and the Second Coming of Jesus (New Testament).  In Matthew, both options, set in the days leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus, have taken a dark turn.

The Psalms are the most upbeat readings.

Amos 5:18-24 issues a collective warning.  Putting on airs of piety while perpetuating and/or excusing social injustice–especially economic injustice, given the rest of the Book of Amos–does not impress God.  It angers God, in fact.  Sacred rituals–part of the Law of Moses–are not properly talismans.

Matthew 23:37-39 includes a denunciation of supposedly pious people executing messengers God has sent.  We readers know that Jesus was about to meet the same fate.  We also read Jesus likening himself to a mother hen–being willing to sacrifice himself for the metaphorical chicks.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) teaches individual spiritual responsibility.  This is consistent with the collective spiritual authority in Amos 5 and Mattthew 23.  Despite the reality of collective spiritual authority, there are some tasks to which one must attend.

My position on how much of the Church–Evangelicalism and fundamentalism, especially–approaches the Second Coming of Jesus and teaches regarding that matter is on record at this weblog.  Evangelicalism and fundamentalism get eschatology wrong.  The rapture is a nineteenth-century invention and a heresy.  Dispensationalism is bunk.  The books of Daniel and Revelation no more predict the future than a bald man needs a comb.

I affirm that the Second Coming will occur eventually.  In the meantime, we need to be busy living the Golden Rule collectively and individually.  In the meantime, we need to increase social justice and decrease social injustice–especially of the economic variety–collectively and individually.  In the meantime, we need to work–collectively and individually–at leaving the world better than we found it.  We can do that much, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 23, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARTIN DE PORRES AND JUAN MACIAS, HUMANITARIANS AND DOMINICAN LAY BROTHERS; SAINT ROSE OF LIMA, HUMANITARIAN AND DOMINICAN SISTER; AND SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGREVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCISZEK DACHTERA, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1944

THE FEAST OF THEODORE O. WEDEL, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND HIS WIFE, CYNTHIA CLARK WEDEL, U.S. PSYCHOLOGIST AND EPISCOPAL ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS AUGUSTINE JUDGE, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST; FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SERVANTS OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY, THE MISSIONARY SERVANTS OF THE MOST BLESSED TRINITY, AND THE MISSIONARY CENACLE APOSTOLATE

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Adapted from this post

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Tenants, Not Landlords, Part II   1 comment

Above:  A Vineyard

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 5:1-7

Psalm 80:7-14 (LBW) or Psalm 118:19-24 (LW)

Philippians 3:12-21

Matthew 21:33-43

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Our Lord Jesus, you have endured

the doubts and foolish questions of every generation. 

Forgive us for trying to be judge over you,

and grant us the confident faith to acknowledge you as Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 28

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O God, whose almighty power is made known chiefly

in showing mercy and pity,

grant us the fullness of your grace

that we may be partakers of your heavenly treasures;

through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 84

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The Bible moves past preaching and immediately starts meddling.  Good!  It ought to do this.

The vineyard is an image of the people of God in the Bible.  In Isaiah 5, the image of vineyard full of wild (literally, noxious) grapes condemns the population doomed to suffer exile and occupation.  Psalm 80 likens the people of Israel to a vine and prays for the restoration of Israel in the midst of exile.  The Parable of the Tenants condemns fruitless religious authority figures–a timeless warning.

That parable also quotes Psalm 119 when the Matthean text refers to the cornerstone the builders had rejected.  The cornerstone is a messianic theme, as in Isaiah 8:14; 28:16; and Zechariah 3:9; 4:7.  For other applications of the cornerstone to Jesus, read Acts 4:11; Romans 9:33; 1 Peter 2:4f; Ephesians 2:20; and 1 Corinthians 3:11.

Years ago, I had a discouraging conversation with a female student at the college where I taught.  She told me before class one day that she did not care about what happened to and on the Earth, for her citizenship was in Heaven.  I vainly attempted to persuade her to care.  Her attitude contradicted the Law of Moses, the witness of the Hebrew prophets, the teachings of Jesus, and the epistles–Judaism and Christianity, in other words.

The Golden Rule requires us–collectively and individually–to care for and about each other and the planet.  Judaism and Christianity teach that people are stewards–not owners–of the planet.  (God is the owner.)  The state of ecology indicates that we are terrible stewards, overall.  The lack of mutuality during the COVID-19 pandemic proves that many people do not give a damn about others and the common good.

God remains God.  God still cares.  God cannot exist without caring.  That should comfort many people and terrify many others.  Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 18, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTEMISIA BOWDEN, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATOR AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF ERDMANN NEUMEISTER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS JOHN MCCONNELL, U.S. METHODIST BISHOP AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF JONATHAN FRIEDRICH BAHNMAIER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PETTER DASS, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post

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Forgiveness, Part IV   2 comments

Above:  Joseph Reveals His Identity, by Peter Von Cornelius

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Genesis 50:15-21

Psalm 103:1-13

Romans 14:5-9

Matthew 18:21-35

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O God, you declare your almighty power

chiefly in showing mercy and pity. 

Grant us the fullness of your grace,

that, pursuing what you have promised,

we may share your heavenly glory;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 27

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O God, without whose blessing we are not able to please you,

mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit

may in all things direct and govern our hearts;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 80

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Years ago, I read a news story about forgiveness.  A man had broken into a church building and stolen some equipment.  Police officers had arrested him.  The pastor of that congregation testified on the man’s behalf at the trial and urged leniency.  The judge agreed.  The thief, reformed, joined that church.

The Church is in the forgiveness business when it acts as it should.  Donatism (in both the original, narrow, and the contemporary, broader definitions of that term) resists forgiving.  Life in Christian community entails much mutual forbearance and forgiveness, thereby fostering unity.  In the context of last week’s Gospel reading, however, forbearance and forgiveness does not entail tolerating the intolerable.  If, for example, someone is a domestic abuser, no church or person should overlook that offense.  The Golden Rule requires siding with the victim(s).  Yet, getting away from extreme cases and embracing the spirit of the best of Calvinism, the theological category of Matters Indifferent becomes useful.  Whether or not one does X is a Matter Indifferent; the difference is minor and of no moral importance.

In Matthew 18:21-35 and elsewhere in the canonical Gospels, the link between forgiving others and receiving forgiveness from God is plain.  The standard one applies to others is the standard God will apply to one.  In other words, we will reap what we have sown.  This is consistent with the penalty for perjury in the Law of Moses; one suffers the fate one would have had inflicted on the innocent party, falsely accused.

Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) insisted that the parts of the Bible he understood the best were the ones that bothered him the most.

I resemble that remark.  I know the difficulty of forgiving others–for offenses far less severe than Joseph’s brothers had committed against him.  Yet I also understand the plain meaning of certain verses in the Gospel of Matthew regarding the importance of forgiveness.

Another issue related to forgiveness is forgiving oneself for offenses, real or imagined.  I know this difficulty, too.  Read Genesis 50:15-21 again, O reader.  Do you get the sense that the brothers had not forgiven themselves?  Do you get the sense that they were projecting onto Joseph?

Matthew 18:22 calls back to Genesis 4:24 in the Septuagint.  “Seventy-seven” means limitless.  Jesus still calls us to forgive each other limitless times.  Forgiveness may not necessarily negate punishment, but it will improve human relationships.  At a minimum, when one forgives, one helps oneself by cutting loose spiritual baggage.  We also need to forgive ourselves limitless times.  All this is possible with grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 30, 2022 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, FOUNDER OF THE SERVANTS OF THE HOLY TRINITY AND THE POOR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PINCHON, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF SAINT-BRIEUC

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Adapted from this post

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Hesed, Part VI   1 comment

Above:  St. Simon Peter

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Exodus 6:2-8

Psalm 138

Romans 11:33-36

Matthew 16:13-20

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God of all creation,

you reach out to call people of all nations to your kingdom. 

As you gather disciples from near and far,

count us also among those

who boldly confess your Son Jesus Christ as Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 27

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O almighty God, whom to know is everlasting life,

grant us without doubt to know your Son Jesus Christ

to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life

that, following his steps,

we may steadfastly walk in the say that leads to eternal life;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 77

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One day in Athens, Georgia, I visited my favorite thrift store in search of a lamp.  I saw a wooden lamp that needed polishing.  The item looked ugly in the store.  However, I recognized the lamp’s potential.  So, I purchased the lamp, took it home, and polished it.  I owned an attractive lamp.

In the assigned lessons, we read of the faithfulness of God.

  1. The Book of Exodus makes clear that God freed the Hebrew slaves in Egypt.
  2. Psalm 138 extols the faithful love of God.
  3. Romans 11:33-36 needs no summary; read the passage, O reader.  No paraphrase can do justice to the text.
  4. When we turn to Matthew 16:13-20, we read one account of the Confession of St. Peter.  St. (Simon) Peter is the rock in this passage; make no mistake to the contrary, O reader.  16:19 (addressed to St. Peter) resembles 18:18 (addressed to the disciples).  Binding and loosing refer to rabbinic authoritative teaching–interpretation of the Law of Moses.  Putting 16:19 and 18:18 together, the disciples, with St. Peter as the leader, had Christ’s approval to teach authoritatively, and this role played out on the congregational level.

Consider the Twelve, O reader.  The canonical Gospels frequently portray them as being oblivious.  The Gospel of Mark goes out of its way to do this.  The other three Gospels tone down that motif.  If there was hope for the Twelve, there is hope for us.

Jesus recognized potential in the Twelve.

Jesus recognizes potential in you, O reader.  Jesus recognizes potential in me.  If that is not an example of divine faithful love, I do not know what is.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 23, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN GERARD, ENGLISH JESUIT PRIEST; AND SAINT MARY WARD, FOUNDER OF THE INSTITUTE OF THE VIRGIN MARY

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH GOTTLOB GUTTER, GERMAN-AMERICAN INSTRUMENT MAKER, REPAIRMAN, AND MERCHANT

THE FEAST OF JOHN JOHNS, ENGLISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER 

THE FEAST VINCENT LEBBE, BELGIAN-CHINESE ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; FOUNDER OF THE BROTHERS OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

THE FEAST OF WILHELM HEINRICH WAUER, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

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Adapted from this post

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Love One Another   1 comment

Above:  St. Peter Walking on Water, by Alessandro Allori

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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1 Kings 19:9-18

Psalm 85:8-13 (LBW) or Psalm 28 (LW)

Romans 9:1-5

Matthew 14:22-33

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Almighty and everlasting God,

you are always more ready to hear than we are to pray,

and to give us more than we either desire or deserve. 

Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy,

forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid,

and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask,

except through the merit of your Son,

Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 26

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Almighty and everlasting God,

always more ready to hear than we to pray

and always ready to give more than we either desire or deserve,

pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy,

forgiving us the good things we are not worthy to ask

but through the merits and mediation

of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 74

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I am listening.  What is Yahweh saying?

–Psalm 85:8a, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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Quaker theology includes the Inner Light–the Holy Spirit within each person.  God speaks.  Quakers listen.

I assume that God is a chatterbox in search of an attentive audience.  We are busy and/or distracted.  God gives us assignments.  Like Elijah, we do not complete most of them.  Like St. Simon Peter, we look down at the chaos, not up at Jesus.  We lose faith and sink into that chaos without Jesus, without God.

St. Paul the Apostle believed that the covenant had passed to Christians.  His argument has not convinced me; the Jewish covenant has held.  God has established a separate covenant for faithful Gentiles.  Unfortunately, anti-Semitic misinterpretations of St. Paul’s words have fueled hatred and violence for nearly 2000 years.

What is God saying?  One may experience difficulty knowing the answer to that question even when one is listening carefully.  Assumptions and cultural programming get in the way.  Distractions mean that we miss some messages, even repeated ones.  Ego-defense mechanisms bristle against some messages.  Even when we know the words, we need to interpret them in contexts.

In the middle 1980s, at one of the United Methodist congregations of which my father was the pastor, there was a man named Don.  Don was hard of hearing.  He heard parts of what my father said in sermons.  Don frequently became incensed regarding what he did hear.  He missed contexts and misheard certain words and passages.  He heard (somewhat) and did not understand.  And he assumed that my father was in the wrong.  And Don frequently confronted my father.

Many of us are like Don; we hear partially, misunderstand greatly, and assume that we are correct.  We are, of course, correct some of the time.  A cliché says that even a broken clock is right twice a day.  But why be content to be a broken clock?

Rabbi Hillel and Jesus were correct.  The summary of the Law of Moses is to love God fully and one’s neighbor as oneself.  Gentiles often neglect the second half of Rabbi Hillel’s statement, in full:

The rest is commentary.  Go and learn it.

We Gentiles often stop after,

The rest is commentary.

Many of us tend not to want to study the Law of Moses.  And when many of us do study it, we frequently misinterpret and misunderstand it.  Well-meaning piety may mistake culturally-specific examples for timeless principles, resulting in legalism.

The most basic Biblical commandment is to love self-sacrifically.  If we mean what we say when we affirm that all people bear the image of God, we will treat them accordingly.  We will love them.  We will seek the best for them.  We will not treat them like second-class or third-class citizens.  We will not discriminate against them.  We will not deny or minimize their humanity.  In Quaker terms, we will see the Inner Light in them.

According to a story that may be apocryphal, the aged St. John the Evangelist was planning to visit a house church somewhere.  At the appointed time, the Apostle’s helpers carried him into the space where the congregation had gathered.  The helpers sat St. John down in front of the people.  The Apostle said:

My children, love one another.

Then St. John signaled for his helpers to take him away.  As they did, one member of the congregation ran after St. John.  This person asked an ancient equivalent of,

That’s it?

St. John replied:

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

The message is simple yet difficult.  Yahweh tells us to love one another.  The news tells us all we need to know about how poorly or well we are doing, based on that standard.  We are selfish bastards more often than not, sadly.  Or, like Don, we may be hard of hearing.  Or maybe we have selective memories and attention spans.

Do not imagine, O reader, that I exempt myself from these criticisms.  Rather, I know myself well enough to grasp my sinfulness.  I confess that I am a flawed human being.  I am “but dust.”  I depend on grace.

We all do.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 21, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, JESUIT

THE FEAST OF CARL BERNHARD GARVE, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARITIE LIES SMITH BANCROFT DE CHENEZ, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN JONES AND JOHN RIGBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1598 AND 1600

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Adapted from this post

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St. Paul the Apostle in Jerusalem   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Paul

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LXXI

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Acts 21:17-23:22

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St. Paul’s Third Missionary Journey spanned 53-58 C.E.  He was back in Jerusalem for Passover in 58 C.E.

St. Paul’s reputation preceded him.  He agreed to St. James of Jerusalem’s plan for damage control.  St. Paul accompanied four men to the Temple, where they made their Nazarite vows.  He also sponsored sacrifices, consistent with the Law of Moses.  This strategy failed.  A Jewish mob beat St. Paul outside the Temple.  They would have killed him had Roman soldiers not rescued him.  The mob’s cries of “Kill him!” echoed another mob’s cries of “Crucify him! Crucify him!” (Luke 23:21).

Notice the sympathetic portrayal of the Romans, O reader.  It is consistent with the Lucan motif of identifying good Roman officials even though Luke-Acts presents the Roman Empire as being at odds with God.  Alas, Luke-Acts presents the empire as being an unwitting tool of God sometimes.

St. Paul had impeccable Jewish credentials as well as Roman citizenship.  As a citizen, he had the legal right to appeal to the emperor.  This fact led him to Rome.

Roman soldiers had to save St. Paul from a Jewish conspiracy a second time.  The soldiers transferred him to Caesarea.

Keep in mind, O reader, that I have been writing this weblog for more than a decade.  During those years, I have made many opinions abundantly clear and repeated myself at least a zillion times, lest someone who reads a post without having read other posts or many other posts mistake me for someone who holds positions I find abhorrent.

For the sake of clarity, I repeat for time number zillion plus one that I reject and condemn anti-Semitism.  Really, I should not have to keep repeating myself in this matter and many other matters.  Yet I do, for even a dispassionate statement of objective historical reality may seem hateful to certain people.  I live in an age of ubiquitous hyper-sensitivity, which I find as objectionable as ubiquitous insensitivity.  I favor ubiquitous sensitivity instead.

As I keep repeating ad nauseum in this series, I have no interest in condemning long-dead people and resting on self-righteous laurels.  I may condemn long-dead people, but I refuse to stop there.  No, I examine myself spiritually and draw contemporary parallels, too.  Sacred violence is an oxymoron, regardless of who commits it.  And I should never approve of it.  Also, my Christian tradition has a shameful legacy of committing and condoning “sacred violence” against targets, including Jews, Muslims, and Christians.

By this point in the narrative, St. Paul was taking a circuitous route to Rome, to bear witness for Jesus there.  The Roman soldiers and officials, as well as the homicidal Jews of Jerusalem, were tools to get him to the imperial capital.

Ask yourself, O reader:  What would push you over the edge into homicidal tendencies?  Answer honestly.  Then take the answer to God in prayer and repent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2022 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 CHRISTIAN FRIEDRICH HASSE, GERMAN-BRITISH MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF ELIAS BOUDINOT, IV, U.S. STATESMAN, PHILANTHROPIST, AND WITNESS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

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

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

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