Archive for the ‘Law of Moses’ Tag

Economic Crisis in Jerusalem and Its Environs   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Nehemiah

Image in the Public Domain

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

PART XVII

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Nehemiah 5:1-19

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Give judgment for me, O LORD,

for I have lived with integrity;

I have trusted in the Lord and not faltered.

–Psalm 26:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Law of Moses forbade exploitation and taught mutuality in the context of total dependence on God.  Exodus 22:24-26 forbade a lender from seizing collateral.  Usury also violated the Law of Moses.  Yet, in Jerusalem during the time of Nehemiah, some wealthy Jews were violating these laws and forcing some poor Jews into slavery.

This was an outbreak of economic injustice.  It was not the first such outbreak in the Bible, of course.  Egyptians had enslaved Hebrews.  Later, Hebrew prophets had condemned the exploitation of the poor by the wealthy.  Forms of economic exploitation have varied from place to place and from time to time.  Economic exploitation has never ended.

Nehemiah enforced the Law of Moses.  He established a jubilee (Leviticus 25:1-5; Deuteronomy 15:1-18).  Nehemiah had the power and the will to make the order stick.

I write this blog post in the context of the COVID-19/Coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic crisis.  Many governments have failed in their duties to their people and to the global community.  Many individuals have failed to keep their obligations consistent with mutuality.  Many individuals have chosen to act irresponsibly.

Yes, each of us the keeper of his or her brothers and sisters.  Each of us is responsible to and for his or her brothers and sisters.  This is a sacred principle.

Those who exercise authority have more obligations than the rest of us.  They make decisions that affect more lives than any decision, I, for example, make.  Those who exercise authority also have an obligation to lead by example as they work for the common good.

Nehemiah’s decisions and actions indicated that he understood that great principle.

The world needs more Nehemiahs and fewer Sanballats.

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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Restoration of Worship in Jerusalem and Opposition to the Rebuilding of the Temple   Leave a comment

Above:  Darius I

Image in the Public Domain

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

PART XII

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1 Esdras 5:47-53

Ezra 3:1-4:5

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O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you;

my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you,

as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.

–Psalm 63:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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I detect chronological confusion in each text and between the two of them.  Ezra 3:1-4:6 places these events circa 538 B.C.E., during the reign of Cyrus II and shortly after the conquest of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Yet Ezra 3:1-46 also names Zerubbabel as the governor.  In objectively correct  chronology, we find that Zerubbabel received his appointment after the death of Cyrus II.  (Cyrus II died in 530 B.C.E.)  On the other hand, 1 Esdras 5:47-73 correctly places these events and Zerubbabel’s governorship post-Cyrus II.  Nevertheless, 1 Esdras 5:73, following the lead of Ezra 4:5, mentions Cyrus II as being one of the kings during these events.  These hiccups are minor matters.  Now I turn my attention to major issues.

Proper worship of YHWH in Jerusalem had been impossible for decades, since Nebuchadnezzar II had taken (in stages) sacred vessels from the Temple to Babylon.  The restoration of proper liturgical worship in YHWH in Jerusalem (whenever that occurred) was a great joy and a communal blessing.  It was essential to communal restoration.  Many local Gentiles delayed the rebuilding of the Temple, unfortunately.

By the way, 1 Esdras 5:47-73 acknowledges that Gentile opposition while softening the attitude evident in Ezra 3:1-4:6.  1 Esdras is less hostile to Gentiles than Ezra.  1 Esdras 5:50, for example, says that some of the

other peoples of the land

joined Jews in preparing the altar of the God of Israel.

I can only imagine what joy those returned exiles must have felt when they could worship God properly, according to the Law of Moses.  I can identity with not being able to worship God as part of a congregation.  I write these words during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Attending church each Sunday consists of watching a video on YouTube, and I cannot take communion.  This seems to be the pattern I will continue to live indefinitely.  I know that, when the vaccine will be widely available and the pandemic is over, returning to church services will be especially joyful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MACKILLOP, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALTMAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PASSAU

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF PREACHERS

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Images of Gods   1 comment

Above:  The Tribute Money, by Titian

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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Jeremiah 23:1-6

Psalm 100

Colossians 1:11-20

Luke 20:20-26

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The application of imagery reserved for YHWH in the Hebrew Bible to Jesus in the New Testament makes sense, given Trinitarian theology.  Psalm 100 lauds God (YHWH), the Good Shepherd.  YJWH is the Good Shepherd in Jeremiah 23:1-6.  Jesus is the self-identified Good Shepherd in John 10, not one of today’s assigned readings.  Jesus, like YHWH in various Psalms, has primacy in creation, according to Colossians 1:15.

I will turn to the Gospel reading next.

This reading, set early in Holy Week, is one in which Jesus evades a trap:

Is it permissible for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?

–Luke 20:23b, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

“Yes” and “no” were dangerous answers.  If Jesus had replied, “no,” he would have made himself a target for Romans, who were swarming in Jerusalem that week.  On the other hand, if Jesus had responded, “yes,” he would have offended those who interpreted the Law of Moses to read that paying such taxes was illegal.

Jesus evaded the trap and ensnared those trying to ensnare him.  Why did the spies carry Roman denarii into the Temple complex?  A denarius, an idol, technically.  That year, the image on the coin was that of Emperor Tiberius.  The English translation of the Latin inscription was,

Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus, Augustus.

Jesus asked a seemingly obvious question with a straight-forward answer.

Show me a denarius.  Whose head and name are on it?

–Luke 20:25, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

The answer was obvious.  Our Lord and Savior’s answer was one for the ages:

Well then, give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar–and to God what belongs to God.

–Luke 20:25, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

The coin bore the image of Tiberius Caesar.  He was welcome to have it back.

Each of us bears the image of God.  Each of us belongs to God.  Each of us has a mandate to be faithful to God in all matters.  All areas of human life fall under divine authority.  Human, temporal authority is limited, though.

One of the features of segments of Christianity in the United States of America that disturbs me is the near-worship (sometimes worship) of the nation-state.  I refer not exclusively to any given administration and/or nation-state.  Administrations come and go.  Nation-states rise and fall.  The principle of which I write remains constant.  In my North American context, the Americanization of the Gospel in the service of a political program and/or potentate dilutes and distorts the Gospel.  The purposes of the Gospel include confronting authority, not following it blindly.  True Judeo-Christian religion has a sharp prophetic edge that informs potentates how far they fall short of God’s ideals and that no nation-state is the Kingdom of God.

We have only one king anyway.  That monarch is YHWH, as N. T. Wright correctly insists in Jesus and the Victory of God (1996).  Jesus defies human definitions of monarchy.  This is a prominent theme in the Gospel of John.  Yet the theme of Christ the King Sunday is timeless.  Despite appearances to the contrary, God remains sovereign.

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-29-year-c-humes/

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Building Up Each Other in Christ, Part VI   1 comment

Above:  Saul and the Witch of Endor, by Benjamin West

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 28:1-20 or Lamentations 2:1-13

Psalm 113

Romans 14:1-13, 17

Luke 18:9-14

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You must not let what you think good be brought into disrepute; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but justice, peace, and joy, inspired by the Holy Spirit….Let us, then, pursue the things that make for peace and build up the common life.

–Romans 14:16-17, 19, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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The context of Romans 14 is a communal one.  Food is a major topic.  Rather, what and how people think food–which food is acceptable to eat, for example–is a major topic.  Within that context, we read counsel to refrain from judging one another in faith community.  The cultural context of Romans 14 may not apply to one’s life, but the timeless principle does.

God commands us to care for and build up each other, especially the vulnerable, the poor, and the distressed.  If one keeps reading in 1 Samuel 28, one may notice that the necromancer/witch is concerned about King Saul, depressed.  The Law of Moses forbids exploiting people and teaches mutuality.  The theology of the Babylonian Exile is that consistent disregard for the Law of Moses led to the exile.  Psalm 113 tells us that God raises the poor from the dust and needs from the dunghill then seats him with princes.

When we turn to the Gospel lesson, we may ask ourselves which character we resemble more.  So we think more highly of ourselves than we should?  Are we so busy judging others that we do not see our true character?  Or do we know exactly what our character is and beg for divine mercy?  Conventional piety can function as a set of blinders.  Appearances can deceive.  Self-defense mechanisms that guard our egos can be difficult to break down.

God’s standards and categories are not identical to ours, despite some minor overlapping.  Many who think of themselves as insiders are really outsiders, and visa versa.  That should inspire us to be humble before God and to avoid looking down our noses at others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 1, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/05/01/devotion-for-proper-27-year-c-humes/

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The Golden Rule VIII   Leave a comment

Above:  Kurdish Refugee Camp in Turkey

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Eighteenth 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, forasmuch as without thee we are not able to please thee;

mercifully grant, that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 218

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Deuteronomy 10:17-21

Psalms 113 and 114

2 Corinthians 7:6-10

Matthew 22:34-36

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You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

–Deuteronomy 10:19, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Before I begin in earnest, I make a comment about two of the readings; they are too short.  The lesson from Deuteronomy should back up to 10:12.  The pericope from Matthew 22 should terminate at verse 40.

Deuteronomy 10:12-21, in the voice of Moses speaking to a population preparing to enter Canaan, the Promised Land, reminds them of obligations we know most of them and the majority of their descendants for generations went on to ignore.  According to the text, people are to:

  1. Revere YHWH;
  2. Walk only in YHWH’s paths; and
  3. Serve YHWH completely.

YHWH upholds the cause of the fatherless and the the widow.  YHWH befriends the stranger and fulfills the stranger’s basic needs.  Therefore, the people of God, acting collectively, have a mandate to do the same.  The society, acting together, must obey this commandment, or else sin.

Functionally, government is one way a society works together.  Private-sector efforts can go far, but some issues are, by necessity, policy matters.

If behaving humanely toward strangers, such as refugees from war zones, sounds like a radical policy proposal, political norms are inhumane.  If recognizing strangers as neighbors in God seems odd to one, one needs to check one’s moral compass.  This message is the Law of Moses 101 and the Gospel of Jesus Christ 101.

Many Christians and Muslims saved the lives of many of their Jewish neighbors during World War II.  The heroic deeds many Muslims in northern Africa have received less attention and publicity than those of many European Christians.  Not surprisingly, members of historically persecuted groups wee among the Christians most active in sheltering and smuggling Jews.  Many Huguenots (French) and Waldensians (Italian) eagerly came to the aid of their Jewish neighbors.  So did many Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, some of whom their churches have subsequently canonized, often as martyrs.  Most of the population of predominately Lutheran Denmark rose up against their Nazi overlords in stunning acts of civil disobedience, made themselves ungovernable, and saved the lives of nearly all Danish Jews.  Were these Righteous among the Nations (whether formally recognized as such or not) radicals?

Yes, if following the Golden Rule is radical.  Following the Golden Rule individually and collectively seems to be radical.  That seems odd, from a certain perspective, for the Golden Rule exists in most of the world’s religions.  So does violating it and justifying the violations.

The world would be a better place if more individuals, families, faith communities, communities, institutions, societies, corporations, and governments committed to obeying the Golden Rule.  That would constitute positive, radical change.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC AND RELIGIOUS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS BOSA OF YORK, JOHN OF BEVERLEY, WILFRID THE YOUNGER, AND ACCA OF HEXHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF JAMES EDWARD WALSH, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY BISHOP AND POLITICAL PRISONER IN CHINA

THE FEAST OF SIMON B. PARKER, UNITED METHODIST BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY REES, WELSH ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND BISHOP OF LLANDAFF

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Eternal Life III   Leave a comment

Above:  A Gavel

Image in the Public Domain

Photographer = Airman First Class Grace Lee, United States Air Force

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For the Twelfth 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 Merciful God, of whose only gift it cometh that

thy faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service;

grant, we beseech thee, that we may so faithfully serve thee in this life,

that we fail not to attain thy heavenly promises;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 206

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Ezekiel 34:1-24

Psalm 66:1-10, 16-20

2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1

Matthew 7:1-6

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Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you all your sins through our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen you in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep you in eternal life.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), 353

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One can read “eternal,” “eternity,” and “eternal life” throughout the Bible.  The confusing element is that the authors did not agree about what whose terms meant.  Frequently “eternal” is a synonym for “everlasting” and “eternity” means the afterlife, timelessness, or a very long time.  I, as a Johannine Christian, take my definition of eternal life from John 17:3–knowing God via Jesus.  Eternal life can continue into the afterlife, according to this verse.  Notice the blessing I quoted from The Book of Common Prayer (1979), O reader; it reflects Johannine theology.  When we turn to St. Paul the Apostle, dictating an epistle to the Corinthian church, we find that he understood eternal life to mean spending one’s afterlife with Jesus.

I hope you, O reader, do not think I am being needlessly pedantic in this post.  (I am capable of unapologetic pedantry, though.  It is consistent with my orientation toward details.)  No, in this post, I strive to understand what the authors were trying to say before I interpret what they said.  God

rules from his eternal fortress

in the Mitchell J. Dahood translation of Psalm 66.  Nevertheless, God

rules by his might for ever,

according to the Revised Standard Version.  “Eternal” equals “forever” in Psalm 66, but not in 2 Corinthians and John.  Eternal life can begin before death in John, but not in Paul.

The readings from Ezekiel and Matthew are germane.  Repentance holds off divine judgment in Ezekiel 33.  That is important background for Ezekiel 34, in which how we think of and treat others inform how God will evaluate us.  Likewise, we read in Matthew 7:1-5 that God will apply to us the standard we use to judge others or not judge them.  This teaching, a cousin of the Golden Rule, reminds me of the penalty for perjury in the Law of Moses–to suffer the fate one would have had an innocent person suffer.  Given that repentance holds off divine judgment, the lack of repentance does not hold off divine judgment.  Then one cannot move into the metaphorical eternal, heavenly building from 2 Corinthians 5:1.

Judgment in these matters is God’s purview.  We human beings, although not completely uninformed, know far less than God does.  May we strive to take up our crosses and follow Jesus daily.  May we encourage others to do the same.  May we also support them when they do.  And may we, by grace, have a minimum of hypocrisy as we follow Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 23, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF TOYOHIKO KAGAWA, RENEWER OF SOCIETY AND PROPHETIC WITNESS IN JAPAN

THE FEAST OF JAKOB BÖHME, GERMAN LUTHERAN MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF MARTIN RINCKART, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA MARIA OF THE CROSS, FOUNDRESS OF THE CARMELITE SISTERS OF SAINT TERESA OF FLORENCE

THE FEAST OF WALTER RUSSELL BOWIE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, SEMINARY PROFESSOR, AND HYMN WRITER

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Abundance, Overabundance, and Scarcity   3 comments

Above:  The Parable of the Rich Fool, by Rembrandt van Rijn

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 3:1-20 or Jeremiah 18:1-11

Psalm 104:1-6, 14-24

Romans 7:12-25

Luke 12:13-21

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Abundance is of God.  Scarcity is a human creation.

The society in which Jesus lived consisted mostly of poor people.  A small portion of the population controlled most of the wealth.  The middle class was very small.  The society in which Jesus lived resembled many contemporary societies in these ways.  The rich fool in the parable hoarded much more food than he needed; he should have kept what he needed for himself and shared the rest.  That was his moral obligation to the poor, according to the Law of Moses and the testimony of the Hebrew prophets.  The rich fool was not bereft of teaching of the law and the testimony of the prophets.  He chose to disregard them.

Assuming that one (1) recognizes the voice of God, and (2) understands what that voice tells one to do, obeying that voice may prove challenging, as St. Paul the Apostle knew.  Temptation is strong, after all.  The temptation to trust in that which is tangible is hardwired into human psychology.  Human psyches frequently stand between us and our potential in God.  This overarching problem is both psychological and spiritual.  It holds back individuals and societies, to common detriment.  However, assuming that one does not recognize the voice of God or what that voice tells one to do, one is like the rich fool in the parable.  Obliviousness to God is a spiritual and societal affliction.

In Augustinian terms, sin is disordered love.  God is worthy of the most love.  People, hobbies, et cetera, are worthy of less love.  To love anyone or anything more than one ought to do is to have disordered love and to commit idolatry, to draw love away from God.  Hoarding, as in the parable, is a psychological and a spiritual ailment.

Life does not consist of the abundance of possessions, Jesus teaches us.I know hoarding when I see it, based on other people’s houses in which I have been present, as well as on some reality television programs.  I have never been a hoarder.  Nevertheless, I know the negative consequences of having collected too many possessions.  I also know the joys of downsizing.  I know the sensation of having become the possession of the inanimate objects, as well as the joys of removing many of them, revealing walls and floors.  I rejoice in seeing uncluttered surfaces and walls with a few, spaced-out pictures on them.  I understand that overabundance is antithetical to abundant life.  Overabundance leads one to serve possessions and to swear fealty to them, not to God.

Abundance is of God.  There is enough of everything for all people to have what they need.  Scarcity is a sinful, human creation.  It is the inevitable result of overabundance, rooted in idolatry.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 22, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GENE BRITTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF DONALD S. ARMENTROUT, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HADEWIJCH OF BRABERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF KATHE KOLLWITZ, GERMAN LUTHERAN ARTIST AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VITALIS OF GAZA, MONK, HERMIT, AND MARTYR, CIRCA 625

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/22/devotion-for-proper-18-year-c-humes/

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Mutuality in God III   Leave a comment

Above:  The Sermon of the Beatitudes, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Eighth 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, whose never-failing Providence ordereth all things in heaven and earth;

we humbly beseech thee to put away from us all hurtful things,

and to give us those things which may be profitable for us;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 196

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Jeremiah 23:16-32

Psalm 40:1-11

2 Corinthians 4:1-10

Matthew 5:27-37

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Mutuality is a value the Law of Moses teaches.  We depend entirely on God.  Self-sufficiency is a lie and a delusion.  In that context, we depend on each other, are responsible to each other, and are responsible for each other.  We have no right to exploit, victimize, or objectify one another.  We have no right to make a mockery of the spirit of the law while superficially satisfying its letter.

I choose to bypass the explanation of cultural contexts and to land on the main ideas in this post.  Cultural contexts come and go, but timeless principles last forever.  Mistaking a culturally-specific example of a timeless principle is a road to legalism, which misses the spirit of the Law.  Many false prophets (as in Jeremiah 23) may think they are genuine articles.  Many of them are legalists.  They are still on the way to destruction.

Jesus had a way with commandments; he made them more rigorous without falling into legalism.  He did not, of course, advocate for self-mutilation (Matthew 5:29-30).  Eyes and hands do not cause sins.  However, hyperbole is a legitimate rhetorical device.

Scripture is one context within which to read and interpret scripture.  Therefore, I propose that, if you, O reader, read this post and despair for yourself, that you need not do that for long.  Repentance is a daily spiritual task, and divine mercy exists.  To quote Psalm 103:3-4 (Mitchell J. Dahood, 1970):

If you should keep record of iniquities, Yah,

Lord, who could survive?

But with you there is forgiveness,

that you might be revered.

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 19, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALPHEGE, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY, AND MARTYR, 1012

THE FEAST OF DAVID BRAINERD, AMERICAN CONGREGATIONALIST THEN PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EMMA OF LESUM, BENEFACTOR

THE FEAST OF MARY C. COLLINS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MISSIONARY AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF OLAVUS PETRI, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN, HISTORIAN, LITURGIST, MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND “FATHER OF SWEDISH LITERATURE;” AND HIS BROTHER, LAURENTIUS PETRI, SWEDISH LUTHERAN ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSALA, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND “FATHER OF SWEDISH HYMNODY”

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Judgment, Mercy, and Ego   1 comment

Above:  The Pharisee and the Publican

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourth Sunday in Lent, 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 Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth;

enter not into judgment with thy servants, we beseech thee, but be pleased of thy great kindness to grant,

that we who are now righteously afflicted and bowed down by the sense of our sins,

may be refreshed and lifted up with the joy of thy salvation.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 152

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Malachi 3:1-6

Psalms 130 and 131

Philippians 3:7-15

Luke 18:1-17

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Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.  I do not pretend to know what that balance is, for I know I am not God.  Standards of behavior exist, however.  They include not practicing sorcery, committing adultery, swearing falsely, cheating workers of wages, and subverting the cause of the widow, the orphan, and the stranger.  I wonder how many people ignore the mandate of economic justice and of protecting strangers, encoded into the Law of Moses, present in the books of the Hebrew prophets, and extant in Christian moral teaching, and consider themselves sufficiently moral.

Lists, such as the one in Malachi 3:5, are not comprehensive.  They are not supposed to be.  They do, however, prompt us to consider what, in our context, we would add to any given list, consistent with the lists from the Bible.  These lists, never intended to be comprehensive, contain timeless principles and some timeless examples, too.

Such lists condemn almost all of us, do they not?  As the author of Psalm 130 asked, if God were to count sins, who could stand?  Yet we know that divine judgment is real, as is mercy.

Recognition of total dependence on God is a principle in Judaism and Christianity, from the Law of Moses to the writings of St. Paul the Apostle.  Yes, we bear the image of God.  Yes, we are slightly lower than “the gods”–members of the divine court–usually translated into English as “the angels.”  No, we are not pond scum.  Yet we are also powerless to commit any righteousness other than what Lutheran theology categorizes as civic righteousness.  Civil righteousness is objectively good, but it cannot save us.

For many people, the main idol to surrender to God is ego.  People will go far to protect ego.  They will frequently disregard objective reality and continue to believe disproven statements to protect ego.  They will commit violence to protect ego sometimes.  Some people even slander and/or libel others to protect ego.

Yet, as St. Paul the Apostle, who knew about his ego, understood, ego was rubbish before Christ.

How much better would the world be if more people cared about glorifying God, not themselves?

I do not pretend to have reached a great spiritual height and surrendered my ego.  No, I continue to struggle with it.  I do know something, however.  I know from observation that giving power, from the church level to the national and global levels, to a person with either an inferiority complex or a raging ego is folly at best and doom at worst.  One with an inferiority complex will seek to build up oneself, not the church, country, world, et cetera.  An egomaniac will behave in the same way, with the same results.  People with balanced egos are the ones to work for the common good.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 26, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGARET CLITHEROW, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1586

THE FEAST OF FLANNERY O’CONNOR, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE RUNDLE PRYNNE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES RENDEL HARRIS, ANGLO-AMERICAN CONGREGATIONALIST THEN QUAKER BIBLICAL SCHOLAR AND ORIENTALIST; ROBERT LUCCOCK BENSLY, ENGLISH BIBLICAL TRANSLATOR AND ORIENTALIST; AGNES SMITH LEWIS AND MARGARET DUNLOP SMITH GIBSON, ENGLISH BIBLICAL SCHOLARS AND LINGUISTS; SAMUEL SAVAGE LEWIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND LIBRARIAN OF CORPUS CHRISTI COLLEGE; AND JAMES YOUNG, SCOTTISH UNITED PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITERARY TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUDGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MUNSTER

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Opposing Corruption   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Micah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Micah 3:5-12

Psalm 63:1-8

Titus 3:1-15

Luke 22:1-6, 39-53

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Psalm 63 is a royal text.  Titus 3:1 instructs Christians to obey civil authorities.  Yet in Luke 22 and Micah 3, the authorities (civil and religious) are corrupt.  The stance of faith is to confront corruption, not to support it or accept its bribes.

In full disclosure, the founders of my country rebelled against the British Empire.  I think of a line from Man of the Year (2006):

If dissent were unpatriotic, we would still be British.

Furthermore, nuances regarding obedience to the civil magistrate exist in Christian theology.  For obvious reasons, when to resist and when to obey civil authority has been a question in segments of German theology since 1933.  One may think, for example, of the great Karl Barth (1886-1968) and the Theological Declaration of Barmen (1934), anti-Nazi.  Nevertheless, extreme law-and-order-affirming Christian theology exists.  One historical prime example of this attitude I found during research into conservative Presbyterianism (the Presbyterian Church in America, or PCA, to be precise) comes from The Presbyterian Journal, the magazine that midwifed the birth of the PCA in 1973.  In the October 30, 1974, issue, the editor agreed with a letter-writer, one Joan B. Finneran, “an elect lady of Simpsonville, Maryland.”  Finneran wrote that God establishes governments and commands people to obey earthly authority, therefore

When a Herod or a Hitler comes into power, we must thereby assume this is the LORD’s plan; He will use even such as these to put His total plan into effect for the good of His people here on earth.

Finneran needed to read the Theological Declaration of Barmen.

What should we do in good conscience when systems are corrupt and inhumane?  Corruption leads to collective ruin, after all.  Timeless principles are useful, but they are also vague.  Proper applications of them varies according to circumstances.  If I say,

Oppose corruption and work against the exploitation of the poor and the powerless,

I sound like the Law of Moses, various Hebrew prophets, and Jesus.  I also provide no guidance about how best to follow that counsel.  Proper application of timeless principles depends upon circumstances–who, when, and where one is.

That guidance must come from the Holy Spirit.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 25, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT DISMAS, PENITENT BANDIT

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2020/03/25/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-in-lent-year-c-humes/

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