Archive for the ‘Levirate Marriage’ Tag

Resurrection of the Dead, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Resurrection of the Dead

Image in the Public Domain

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

For the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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

Help us, O Lord, to hold fast to the faith delivered to the apostles;

remove from our minds all unfounded and senseless belief,

and inspire us with such thoughts as are true, wise, and well-pleasing to thee;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 126

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

Daniel 12:1-4

Romans 8:22-39

Matthew 22:23-33

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

Ezekiel 37, from last week’s post, is about the restoration of Israel after the Babylonian Exile, not the resurrection of the dead.  Daniel 12, dating to the second century B.C.E., reflects the subsequent theological development of Judaism and does teach the resurrection of the dead.  The other assigned readings for this week are also about the resurrection of the dead.

Sadducees also rejected that doctrine.  As a children’s song explains, that’s why

they were sad, you see.

The ludicrous question about levirate marriage and the resurrection was, therefore, an insincere question and a trap.  Jesus evaded that trap.

The resurrection of the dead satisfies an understandable psychological need.  We recognize rampant injustice in this life, so we need reassurance that justice will define the next life.  We need to hear and read that judgment and mercy, in balance, will be present.

I do not know the resurrection of the dead as a fact, but I accept it on faith.  This doctrine helps me to accept that God is just when the past and current events indicate rampant injustice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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

The Presence of God, Part VI   1 comment

Above:  Caesar’s Coin, by Peter Paul Rubens

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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

Song of Songs 2:8-13 or Isaiah 59:1-4, 7-14, 20-21

Psalm 34:11-22

1 Corinthians 12:12-31

Matthew 22:15-33

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

The Song of Songs is a text between a man and a woman, lovers, perhaps married.  They are in mortal danger because of their love.  I reject overly metaphorical interpretation of the book, such as it is between YHWH and Israel or Christ and the Church.  Nevertheless, the affirmation that God is present in the details of our lives does sacramentalize them.

Speaking of our lives, we Christians have the calling to fulfill our roles in the Church, the body of Christ.  We are all important in that respect.  If we do not do our part, we diminish the Church.

The readings from which Isaiah 59 and Psalm 34 complement each other.  God does not separate Himself from us.  No, we separate ourselves from God.  We do this collectively and individually.  We do this via rife injustice.  We do this via idolatry.  We do this via violence.  These sins have consequences in this life and the next one, we read, but God remains faithful and merciful.  Divine judgment comes bound up with divine mercy, however.

Speaking of idolatry, what was one of our Lord and Savior’s supposedly devout adversary doing with that idolatrous, blasphemous Roman coin?  The Pharisaic trick question was, in the mind of the man who asked it, supposed to entrap Jesus, who might sound like a traitor by advising against paying the Roman head tax or might offend Zealots, Jewish nationalists.  The empire had instituted the head tax in the province of Judea in 6 C.E.  The tax had prompted insurrection.  The tax’s existence contributed to the First Jewish War, after the time of Jesus and before the composition of the Gospel of Matthew.  The tax was payable only in Roman coinage.  At the time of the scene the coinage bore the image of Caesar Tiberius (I) and the inscription (in Latin) translated

Tiberius Caesar, august son of the divine Augustus, high priest.

Jesus found the middle way and turned the tables, so to speak, on those seeking to ensnare him in his words.

Another trick question followed.  Some Sadducees, who rejected belief in the afterlife, asked a question, rooted in levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).  At the time of the writing of that law, the concept of the afterlife was not part of Judaism.  Those Sadducees had missed the point and weaponized scripture.  Jesus challenged their religious authority.

Tip:  Do not attempt to entrap Jesus in his words.

If we will trust God to help us lead holy lives mindful of the divine presence in all details, especially those we might think of as mundane or not sacred yet not bad, we will find sacred meaning in tasks as simple as housework.  We will also be too busy finding such meaning that we will not act like those people condemned in Isaiah 59 or those who attempted to ensnare Jesus verbally.  No, we will be too busy being aware of living in the presence of God to do any of that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 16, 2018 COMMON ERA

PROPER 19:  THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYPRIAN OF CARTHAGE, BISHOP AND MARTYR, 258; AND SAINTS CORNELIUS, LUCIUS I, AND STEPHEN I, BISHOPS OF ROME

THE FEAST OF GEORGE HENRY TRABERT, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR AND AUTHOR

THE FEAST OF JAMES FRANCIS CARNEY, U.S.-HONDURAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY, REVOLUTIONARY, AND MARTYR, 1983

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

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

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/09/16/devotion-for-proper-24-year-a-humes/

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

The Law of Mercy   1 comment

Above:  Judah and Tamar, by the School of Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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

Genesis 38:1-26 or Isaiah 40:21-31

Psalm 18:31-36, 43-50

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Matthew 12:1-21

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

Temple prostitution, in the background in Genesis 38, might be background for 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 also.  If it is, the reading becomes deeper than it is otherwise.  If to engage in sexual relations with a pagan prostitute is to unite with the deity the prostitute serves, idolatry becomes an issue.  Christians are supposed to function as part of the body of Christ, therefore visiting a pagan temple prostitute is worse than visiting a prostitute in general.

Speaking of Genesis 38, it is another of those different stories we find frequently in the Hebrew Bible.  It remains a proverbial hot potato.  When must a father-in-law sire his grandsons?  When the laws governing levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10) dictate.  The text does not condemn Tamar for her deceit either, for the narrative makes plain that it was the option left open to her.

In June 1996 my father became the pastor of the Asbury United Methodist Church in northern Appling County, Georgia, U.S.A.  One of the adult Sunday School classes was reading the Book of Genesis a chapter at a time.  One week the teacher announced that the class would not discuss Chapter 38 (although they had apparently discussed Chapter 37 the previous week), but would talk about Chapter 39 instead.  I wonder if the teacher also skipped the rape of Dinah and the subsequent bloodbath in Chapter 34.  Probably, yes.

When passages of scripture make us that uncomfortable, we should study them.  We should study all of the Bible, of course, but double down on the parts that cause us to squirm.

God is strong, mighty, loving, and trustworthy, we read.  Sometimes mercy on some takes the form of judgment on others.  After all, judgment on oppressors does help the oppressed, does it not?

Much occurs theologically in Matthew 12:1-21, but the major point is that mercy overrides Sabbath laws.  We read that some labor was mandatory on the Sabbath, especially for priests.  So yes, we read Jesus announce, the hungry may pluck grain and the man with the withered hand may receive healing, not just rudimentary first aid.

In the Gospel of Matthew one of the points drilled into the text was that Jesus did not seek to destroy the Law of Moses.  No, he presented his interpretation as correct and in opposition to the interpretations of his critics.  Jesus stood within the context of Judaism, not against it.  For example, the Mishnah, published in 200 C.E. (about 170 years after the crucifixion of Jesus), listed 39 types of labor prohibited on the Sabbath.  Plucking food was not one of them.  Christ’s opponents in Chapter 12:1-21 were, to use an anachronistic expression, more Catholic than the Pope.

The Sabbath, in the Law of Moses, was about liberation.  Slaves in Egypt received no days off, so a day off was a mark of freedom.  Besides, science and experience have taught us the necessity of down time.  Much of my Christian tradition has reacted against leisure (especially “worldly amusements,” a bane of Pietism and Puritanism) and insisted that idle hands are the Devil’s workshop.  Nevertheless, science and experience have affirmed the necessity of a certain amount of idleness.

Judaism, at its best, is not legalistic; neither is Christianity.  Yet legalistic Jews and Christians exist.  A healthy attitude is to seek to respond to God faithfully, without becoming lost in the thicket of laws, without failing to see the forest for the trees, without mistaking culturally specific examples for timeless principles, without shooting cannon balls at gnats, and without forgetting mercy.

And while one is doing that, one should read the scriptural passages that make one squirm in one’s seat.

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

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

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/devotion-for-proper-16-year-a-humes/

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

Vindication, Part II   1 comment

Above:   Judah and Tamar, by the School of Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Vindication

JUNE 17, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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

Genesis 38:1-26

Psalm 35:19-25

Acts 5:1-11

Matthew 12:43-45

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

In June 1996 my father became the pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church in rural Appling County, Georgia, U.S.A.  One of the adult Sunday School classes was reading and discussing the Book of Genesis at the rate of a chapter per week.  I recall that, on the Sunday morning after they had read and discussed Chapter 37, the teacher skipped directly to Chapter 39.

Genesis 38 is a hot potato.  What are we to make of a story that approves of a childless widow pretending to be a pagan temple prostitute, seducing her father-in-law, and becoming pregnant with twins, his children?  Judah (the father-in-law) understands the deception by Tamar (the widow) as justified, per the rules governing levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).  As Professor Amy-Jill Levine says, we must accept that people did things differently then.

The author of Psalm 35 prays for divine vindication against enemies.  Perhaps that mindset informs the treatment of the selfish people (struck dead by God) in Acts 5.  The sense of grievance certainly informs Matthew 12:43-45, which literally demonizes Jewish leaders who opposed Jesus.  One can reasonably imagine members of a marginalized Jewish Christian community demonizing the non-Christian Jews circa 85 C.E.

The desire for divine vindication can be legitimate.  Yet may we who seek vindication never surrender to hatred and thereby become as those who seek to harm us or otherwise deny us that which is rightfully ours.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/devotion-for-proper-6-ackerman/

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

Taking Difficult Passages of Scripture Seriously   1 comment

tamar-and-judah

Above:  Tamar and Judah, by Aert de Gelder

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 38:1-30 or Ecclesiastes 5:1-20

Psalm 10

Matthew 22:23-33 or Mark 12:18-27 and Luke 20:39-40

2 Corinthians 7:2-16

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

I recall that, in 1996, my father began his tenure as pastor of the Asbury United Methodist Church, north of Baxley, in Appling County, Georgia.  Shortly after this I began to attend to services at St. Thomas Aquinas Episcopal Church in town, for I had been an Episcopalian for a few years.  Nevertheless, I was never a stranger at Asbury Church during my father’s tenure there.

One of the adult Sunday School classes at Asbury was discussing the Book of Genesis at the pace of a chapter a week.  On one Sunday morning in the summer of 1996 the leader of the group, having covered Chapter 37 the previous week, skipped over Chapter 38 to Chapter 39, with little explanation.  The story of Judah, Tamar, levirate marriage (the background of the question in the readings from the Gospels), and temple prostitution was a really hot potato, so to speak.  The narrative in Genesis 38 does not criticize a young, childless widow for having sexual relations with her father-in-law at a pagan temple and becoming pregnant with twins.  In her situation she did what she needed to do to secure her future.

Deuteronomy 25:5-10 commands the practice of levirate marriage, for the benefit of a childless widow in a patriarchal society without a government-defined social safety net.  In the case of Genesis 38 the practice, applied to a particular set of circumstances, makes many modern readers of the Bible squirm in their theological seats.  This is no excuse for ignoring the chapter, of course.  Whenever a portion of scripture makes one uncomfortable, one should study it more closely and, in the highest meaning of the word, critically.

The Sadducees in the parallel readings of Matthew, Mark, and Luke did not ignore levirate marriage, but they did employ it in a question meant to entrap Jesus.  They did not affirm the resurrection of the dead.  That is why, according to a song for children,

they were sad, you see.

For the Sadducees the emphasis on this life helped to justify the accumulation of wealth in a society in which economic injustice was ubiquitous.  They, like others, failed to ensnare Jesus verbally.  He was that capable.

Koheleth, writing in Ecclesiastes, noted that economic injustice and other forms of social injustice ought not to surprise anyone.  After all, he mentioned, perpetrators of injustice protect each other.  Nevertheless, as the author of Psalm 10 understood, those who exploited the poor (in violation of the Law of Moses) could not escape divine justice.

Just as the painful letter of St. Paul the Apostle to the Corinthian congregation led to the changing of hearts there, the study of difficult passages of scripture can lead people to learn more about the Bible, ask vital questions, think more critically about scripture, and grow spiritually.  It can also change hearts and minds for the better.  May we who call ourselves followers of God neither ignore nor use such passages flippantly, but take them seriously instead.  Then may we act accordingly.  We might even learn that we are committing or condoning social injustice, perhaps that of the economic variety.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 11, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP THE EVANGELIST, DEACON

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

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-d/

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

Troublemakers   1 comment

Judah and Tamar--School of Rembrandt van Rijn

Above:   Judah and Tamar, by the School of Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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

The Collect:

O God, our eternal redeemer, by the presence of your Spirit you renew and direct our hearts.

Keep always in our mind the end of all things and the day of judgment.

Inspire us for a holy life here, and bring us to the joy of the resurrection,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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

The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 25:5-10 (Thursday)

Genesis 38:1-26 (Friday)

Psalm 17 (Both Days)

Acts 22:22-23:11 (Thursday)

Acts 24:10-23 (Friday)

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

Let my vindication come forth from your presence,

let your eyes be fixed on justice.

–Psalm 17:2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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

Genesis 38 serves several functions.  One is to mark the passage of time between Genesis 37 and 39.  Another is to make people squirm.  What should one make of a story in which Tamar, the heroine, the wronged woman denied what was due her according to levirate marriage (described in Deuteronomy 25), had to resort to posing as a pagan temple prostitute to seduce her father-in-law to get the child(ren) she deserved, according to social customs meant to protect childless widows?  Due to problems with her first husband’s brothers the duty fell to Judah, her father-in-law.

I remember that, in 1996, at Asbury United Methodist Church, north of Baxley in Appling County, Georgia, an adult Sunday School class read the Book of Genesis at the rate of a chapter per week.  One Sunday that summer the time came to ponder Chapter 38.  The leader of the class skipped to Genesis 39, for he found the contents to be too hot a potato, so to speak.

The story of Judah and Tamar continues to make many readers of the Hebrew Bible uncomfortable.  Tamar remains a troublemaker of sorts, long after her death.  Perhaps modern readers who struggle with the tale should think less about our comfort levels and more about the lengths to which certain people need to go to secure basic needs.

St. Paul the Apostle got into legal trouble (again) in Acts 21.  The trumped-up charge boiled down to him being a troublemaker, a disturber of the peace.  As Tertullus, the attorney for chief priest Ananias and Temple elders argued before Felix, the governor:

We found this man to be a pest, a fomenter of discord among the Jews all over the world, a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.  He made an attempt to profane the temple and we arrested him.

–Acts 24:5-6, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Were not those who plotted and attempted to kill St. Paul the real troublemakers?  He planned or committed no violence toward those with whom he disagreed.  The Apostle knew how to employ strong language, but he avoided resorting to violence after his conversion.

How we deal with alleged troublemakers reveals much about our character.  What, then, does this standard reveal about your character, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILL CAMPBELL, AGENT OF RECONCILIATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LIPHARDUS OF ORLEANS AND URBICIUS OF MEUNG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF UGANDA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MORAND OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND MISSIONARY

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

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/06/03/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-27-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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

Oppression   1 comment

Beheading of St. John the Baptist Caravaggio

Above:  The Beheading of St. John the Baptist, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

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

The Collect:

Sovereign God, raise your throne in our hearts.

Created by you, let us live in your image;

created for you, let us act for your glory;

redeemed by you, let us give you what is yours,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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

The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 14:3-11

Psalm 96:1-9 [10-13]

Matthew 14:1-12

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

He [the LORD] will judge the world with righteousness

and the people with his truth.

–Psalm 96:13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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

Herod Antipas (reigned 4 B.C.E.-39 C.E.) was a bad character and a client ruler (a tetrarch, not a king, by the way) within the Roman Empire.  He had marriedHerodias, his niece and daughter-in-law, an act for which St. John the Baptist had criticized him.  This incestuous union violated Leviticus 18:16 and 20:21 and did not come under the levirate marriage exemption in Deuteronomy 25:5.  John, for his trouble, lost his freedom and his life.  Salome (whose name we know from archaeology, not the Bible), at the behest of her mother, Herodias, requested the head of the holy man on a platter.

The text from Isaiah 14 is an anticipated taunt of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.

How the oppressor has ceased!

How his insolence has ceased!

–Isaiah 14:3b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That oppression and insolence did cease in the case of Herod Antipas.  He had deserted the daughter of King Aretas IV of the Nabateans to wed Herodias.  In 36 C.E. Aretas took his revenge by defeating Herod Antipas.  The tetrarch sought Roman imperial assistance yet gained none, for the throne had passed from Tiberius to Caligula.  Herod Antipas, encouraged by Herodias, requested that Caligula award him the title of “King” as the Emperor had done to the tetrarch’s nephew (and brother of Herodias), Herod Agrippa I (reigned 37-44 C.E.).  Yet Herod Agrippa I brought charges against Herod Antipas, who, having traveled to Rome to seek the new title in person, found himself exiled to Gaul instead.  The territories of Herod Antipas came under the authority of Herod Agrippa I who was, unfortunately, one of the persecutors of earliest Christianity (Acts 12:1-5).

Oppression has never disappeared from the face of the Earth.  Certain oppressive regimes have ended, of course, but others have continued the shameful tradition.  You, O reader, can probably name some oppressive regimes in the news.  Sometimes they fight each other, so what is one supposed to do then?  I remember that, during my time as a graduate student at Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia, I took a course about World War II.  The professor asked us one day that, if we had to choose between following Joseph Stalin or Adolf Hitler (a decision many in Eastern Europe had to make in the early 1940s), whom would we select?  I said, “Just shoot me now.”  That, I imagine is how many people in Syria must feel in 2014.

Only God can end all oppression.  Until God does so, may we stand with the oppressed and celebrate defeats of oppressors.  Some good news is better than none, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 31, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 17:  THE TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT AIDAN OF LINDISFARNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/08/31/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-24-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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

Honest Faith Versus False Certainty I   1 comment

zedekiah

Above:  King Zedekiah

Image in the Public Domain

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

The Collect:

Almighty God, your Son came into the world to free us

from all sin and death.  Breathe upon us the power

of your Spirit, that we may be raised to new life in Christ

and serve you in righteousness all our days,  through Jesus Christ,

our Savior and Lord, who lives  and reigns with you and the

Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28

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

The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 32:1-9, 36-41

Psalm 143

Matthew 22:23-33

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

Some Related Posts:

Jeremiah 32:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/proper-21-year-c/

Matthew 22:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/devotion-for-november-4-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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

Teach me to do what pleases you, for you are my God;

let your kindly spirit lead me on a level path.

–Psalm 143:10, Common Worship (2000)

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

The kingdom was doomed.  Jeremiah knew this yet purchased land anyway.  It was a deed of faith in God and of confidence that, someday, exiles would return.  Faith in difficult times is where, as an old saying tells me,

the rubber meets the road.

Alas, the Sadducees’ question in Matthew 22 was insincere.  It was an attempt to entrap Jesus in his words via self-justifying sophistry.  Sadducees did not acknowledge the resurrection of the dead.  That, as a chidren’s song says, is why

they were sad, you see.

Their denial of the doctrine of resurrection of the dead resulted from their limited canon of Scripture—the Torah.  That doctrine, having debuted in the Book of Daniel, was “new-fangled” by Sadducee standards.

Sadducees, usually wealthy landowners, were socially conservative.  Jesus challenged the status quo.  They, denying the resurrection of the dead, emphasized the continuation of the family line.  Jesus focused on other topics.  Their insincere question was an attempt to demonstrate the absurdity of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.  Jesus replied that they misunderstood Scripture.  The nature of the next life, our Lord and Savior said, is a matter of the faithfulness of God to divine promises.  Insincere questions citing Levirate Marriage (part of the Law of Moses) miss the point.

Misplaced certainty and the quest for it contradicts trust in divine promises.  The quest for such certainty leads some people to concert their theological opinions into idols and to demonize those who disagree with them.  The search for such certainty leads some people to focus on affirming their thoughts, not seeking the truth from God.  But what if Jesus disagrees with one?

I recall a story, one which might be apocryphal.  Many moons ago, a lady on the lecture circuit for the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) delivered her stump speech in a certain town.  She spoke of how much God wants people to avoid alcohol at all times.  The orator concluded her remarks and asked if anyone had any questions.  A young man raised his hand.  She called on him.  He asked,

If what you say is true, how do you explain Jesus turning water into wine

The lady replied,

I would like him better if he had not done that.

So much for false certainty!  Honest faith—the kind which survives in difficult times—is a virtue, however.  One can trust in the promises of God without fear of contradiction.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 27, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN

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

Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/devotion-for-the-thirty-first-day-of-lent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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

Greatness in Service   1 comment

02061v

Above:  Le Songe de St. Joseph, Circa 1880

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003671485/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-02061

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

The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come!

With your abundant grace and might,

free us from the sin that hinders our faith,

that eagerly we may receive your promises,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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

The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 37:2-11

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Matthew 1:1-17

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

Some Related Posts:

Genesis 37:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/devotion-for-the-nineteenth-and-twentieth-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

1 Samuel 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/devotion-for-july-17-and-18-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Matthew 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-17/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-december-25-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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

The LORD kills and brings to life;

he brings down to Sheol and raises up.

The LORD makes poor and makes rich;

he brings low; he also exalts.

He raises the poor from the dust;

he lifts the needy from the heap,

to make them sit with princes

and inherit a seat of honor.

–1 Samuel 2:6-8a, The New Revised Standard Version

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

Joseph son of Jacob was a twit as a young man.  His dreams fueled his out-of-control ego and enraged his (mostly older) brothers.  Their reaction was unjustified, of course.  Young Joseph did not realize that true greatness is located in service.  This was a lesson which old Joseph also failed to learn, for he did reduce the vast majority of Egyptians to serfdom.

In contrast to the story of Joseph son of Jacob we have the genealogy of Jesus, son of St. Mary of Nazareth(http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-st-mary-of-nazareth-mother-of-god-august-15/).  A very different Joseph(http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/feast-of-st-joseph-of-nazareth-march-19-2/) raised him.  This Joseph did no harm to nobody so far as the Bible indicates.  This Joseph spared the life of his betrothed, embroiled in a scandal, fled to Egypt with his family, and built a family life for the Son of God.  And in this Joseph’s family history, the only named women were:

  • Tamar, who seduced her father-in-law by posing as a temple prostitute to become pregnant with the child he owed her according to levirate marriage.  She got twins;
  • Rahab, a prostitute who saved the lives of Israelite spies; and
  • Ruth, a foreign woman who adopted her mother-in-law’s religion and seduced her mother-in-law’s kinsman, thereby securing her future and that of her mother-in-law.

Unnamed yet referenced was Bathsheba, wife of Uriah then of David.  Their affair became the stuff of a major Bible story and a turning point in the history of the Kingdom of Israel.  These four, though not as great as people measure greatness, were sufficiently notable to received such posthumous notice.

Through these women God worked great deeds despite their questionable sexual activities and reputations.  Rahab was a prostitute, for example, and Tamar posed as one.  At least two were seductresses and two were foreigners.  All of them violated respectable social customs, and three of them receive positive press in the Bible.  And none of them reduced a population to serfdom.  All of them were preferable to Joseph son of Jacob.

May we help others–not harm them–and find the greatness which exists in service.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2013 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

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

Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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

Vindication By God, Part II   1 comment

11634v

Above:  Salonica, Greece, Between 1910 and 1915

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ggb2005011094/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ggbain-11634

Image Created by the Bain News Service

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

The Assigned Readings:

Haggai 1:15b-29 and Psalm 145:1-5, 18-22 or Psalm 98

or 

Job 19:23-27a and Psalm 17:1-9

then 

2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17

Luke 20:27-38

The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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

Some Related Posts:

Proper 27, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/proper-27-year-a/

Proper 27, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/proper-27-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-twenty-fifth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-twenty-fifth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Haggai 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/week-of-proper-20-friday-year-1/

Job 19:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/devotion-for-february-24-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/week-of-proper-21-thursday-year-2/

2 Thessalonians 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/week-of-proper-16-tuesday-year-2/

Luke 20:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/devotion-for-the-forty-eighth-and-forty-ninth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/week-of-proper-28-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/week-of-proper-28-friday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-28-saturday-year-2/

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

I know that I have a living Defender

and that he will rise up last, on the dust of the earth.

After my awakening, he will set me close to him,

and from my flesh I shall look on God.

–Job 19:25-26, The New Jerusalem Bible

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

The root word for “redeem” descends from the Latin verb meaning “to buy.”  Thus, if Christ has redeemed us, he has bought us.

The root word for “vindicate” descends from the Latin word meaning “avenger.”  One definition of “vindicate,” according to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 3d. Ed. (1996), is:

To justify or prove the worth of, especially in the light of later developments.

Job, in the book, which bears his name, had confidence in God’s vindication of him.  The author of Psalm 17 wrote in a similar line of thought.

Sometimes we want God to do for us more than we want to do for God’s glory.  Thus we might neglect a task (such as rebuilding the Temple in Haggai 1).  No surviving Jew about 2500 years ago recalled the splendor of Solomon’s Temple.  It was a splendor created by high taxes and forced labor, but those facts did not occur in writing in Haggai 1.  Nevertheless, the call for a Second Temple remained.  And the Sadducees in the reading from Luke asked an insincere and irrelevant question about levirate marriage and the afterlife.  They sought to vindicate themselves, not find and answer to a query.

Knowing sound teaching can prove difficult.  How much is flawed tradition and how much is sound tradition?  I have been adding many of the sermon outlines of George Washington Barrett (1873-1956), my great-grandfather, at TAYLOR FAMILY POEMS AND FAMILY HISTORY WRITINGS (http://taylorfamilypoems.wordpress.com/).  According to him, my fondness for rituals detracts from true spirituality, the fact that my Rector is female constitutes a heresy, and even my rare alcoholic drink is sinful.  I label his positions on these matters as of his time and subculture, not of God.  I am myself, not my great-grandfather.  Yet certain basics remain indispensable.  The lordship of Christ is among them.

Cultural and subcultural biases aside, may we cling securely to Jesus, our Redeemer, Defender, and Vindicator, whose Advent we anticipate liturgically and otherwise.  May we want more to do things for his glory than we want him to do for us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MORAND OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LIPHARDUS OF ORLEANS AND URBICIUS OF MEUNG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF UGANDA

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

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/proper-27-year-c/

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