Archive for the ‘Leviticus 25’ Tag

Atonement and the Sovereignty of God   1 comment

Salome with the Head of John the Baptist

Above:  Salome with the Head of John the Baptist, by Caravaggio

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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Leviticus 16:1-34

Psalm 69

Matthew 14:1-12

Hebrews 9:1-28

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O God, you know my folly;

the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.

–Psalm 69:5, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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The contents of Leviticus 16 might seem odd to a Gentile, especially one who is a Christian.  Part of a note from The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) explains it well:

The preceding chs have established that sins and bodily impurities contaminate the Tabernacle.  Regular atonement for unintentional sin and the routine eradication of impurity eliminate as much of both types of defilement as possible.  Yet, since not all unintentional wrongs are discovered and not everyone is diligent about atonement, a certain amount of defilement remains.  In particular, deliberate crimes, which contaminate the inner sanctum where the divine Presence is said to dwell, are not expurgated by the regular atonement rituals.  This ch thus provides the instructions for purging the inner sanctum along with the rest of the Tabernacle once a year, so that defilement does not accumulate.  It logically follows the laws of purification (chs 12-15), as they conclude with the statement that only by preventing the spread of impurity can the Israelites ensure God’s continual presence among them (15:31).  The annual purification ritual, briefly alluded to in Ex. 30:10, is to be performed on the tenth day of the seventh month (v. 29).  Elsewhere (23:27, 28; 25:9) this day is referred to as “yom hakippurim”–often translated as “Day of Atonement.”

–Page 231

When we turn to the Letter to the Hebrews we read an extended contrast between the annual rites for Yom Kippur and the one-time sacrifice of Jesus.  We also read a multi-chapter contrast between human priests and Jesus, who is simultaneously the priest and the victim.

How much more will the blood of Christ, who offered himself, blameless as he was, to God through the eternal Spirit, purify our conscience from dead actions so that we can worship the living God.

–Hebrews 9:14, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

St. John the Baptist, of whose death we read in Matthew 14:1-12, was the forerunner of Jesus.  Not only did John point to Jesus and baptize him, but he also preceded him in violent death.  The shedding of the blood of St. John the Baptist on the orders of Herod Antipas was a political and face-saving act.  Antipas had, after all, imprisoned John for political reasons.  The alleged crime of St. John the Baptist was to challenge authority with his words, which was one reason for the crucifixion of Jesus also.

Part of the grace evident in martyrdom (such as that of St. John the Baptist) and of the crucifixion of Jesus was that those perfidious deeds glorified not those who ordered and perpetrated them but God.  We honor St. John the Baptist, not Herod Antipas, and thank God for John’s faithful witness.  We honor Jesus of Nazareth and give thanks–for his resurrection; we do not sing the praises of the decision-making of Pontius Pilate on that fateful day.  Another part of the grace of the crucifixion of Jesus is that, although it was indeed a perfidious act, it constituted a portion of the process of atonement for sins–once and for all.

Certain powerful people, who found Jesus to be not only inconvenient but dangerous, thought they had gotten rid of him.  They could not have been more mistaken.  They had the power to kill him, but God resurrected him, thereby defeating their evil purposes.  God also used their perfidy to affect something positive for countless generations to come.  That was certainly a fine demonstration of the Sovereignty of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE SIXTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKERS AND PEACE ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/09/04/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d/

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Tenants, Not Landlords   2 comments

death-of-naboth

Above:  The Stoning of Naboth, by Caspar Luiken

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, you direct our lives by your grace,

and your words of justice and mercy reshape the world.

Mold us into a people who welcome your word and serve one another,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 21:1-16 (Monday)

1 Kings 21:17-29 (Tuesday)

Psalm 119:161-168 (Both Days)

1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 (Monday)

1 John 4:1-6 (Tuesday)

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Princes have persecuted me without a cause,

but my heart stands in awe of your word.

I am as glad of your word

as one who finds great spoils.

As for lies, I hate and abhor them,

but your law do I love.

–Psalm 119:161-163, Common Worship (2000)

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The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants.

–Leviticus 25:23, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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But we belong to God….

–1 John 4:6a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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As for brotherly love, there is no need to write to you about that, since you have yourselves learnt from God to love another….

–1 Thessalonians 4:9, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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One of the great lessons of the Bible is that we belong to God, the world belongs to God, and we are only tenants and stewards responsible to God and each other. The Law of Moses, in Leviticus 25:23-28, addresses the issue of the ownership, sale, purchase, and redemption of land in the light of that ethic. God is watching us and we have no right to exploit or trample each other. If God is our parental figure metaphorically (usually Father yet sometimes Mother; both analogies have merit), we are siblings. Should we not treat each other kindly and seek to build each other up?

King Ahab and his Canaanite queen, Jezebel, abused their power and violated the ethic I just described. Neither one was of good character. Jezebel plotted perjury, false accusations, and the execution of an innocent man. Ahab consented to this plan. His responsibility flowed partially from his moral cowardice, for he could have prevented his wife’s plot from succeeding. And he, of course, could have been content with what he had already in the beginning of the story. The man was the monarch, after all.

Many of us seek after wealth or try to retain it while laboring under the misapprehension that it does or should belong to us. Actually, all of it belongs to God. Yes, there is a moral responsibility in all societies to provide a basic human standard of living for all people, given the ethic of mutuality and the fact that there is sufficient wealth for everyone to have enough to meet his or her needs. (I do not presume that there is one way all societies must follow to accomplish this goal.) And, if more of us thought of ourselves as stewards and tenants answerable to God, not as lords and masters, a greater number of our fellow citizens would be better off. That is a fine goal to which to strive en route to the final destination of a society based on mutuality.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 24, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF IDA SCUDDER, REFORMED CHURCH IN AMERICA MEDICAL MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF EDWARD KENNEDY “DUKE” ELLINGTON, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JACKSON KEMPER, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WISCONSIN

THE FEAST OF MOTHER EDITH, FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE SACRED NAME

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-8-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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God’s Economy Is Not Ours   1 comment

Above:  Shofar with “To a Good Year,” by Alphonse Levy (Lived 1843-1918)

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Leviticus 25:1, 8-17 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And YHWH spoke to Moses in Mount Sinai, saying,…

And you shall count seven Sabbaths of years:  seven years, seven times.  And the days of the seven Sabbaths of years shall be for you forty-nine years.  And you shall pass a blasting horn in the seventh month on the tenth of the month; on the Day of Atonement you shall have the horn pass through all your land.  And you shall consecrate the year that makes fifty years and proclaim liberty in the land, to all its inhabitants.  It shall be a jubilee for you.  And you shall go back, each to his possession; and you shall go back, each to his family.  It, the year that makes fifty years, shall be a jubilee for you.  You shall not seed, you shall not harvest its free growths, and you shall not cut of its untrimmed fruits, because it is a jubilee; it shall be a holy thing to you.  You shall eat its produce from the field.  In this jubilee year you shall go back, each to his possession.  And when you will make a sale to your fellow or buy from your fellow’s hand:  each of you, do not persecute his brother.  You shall buy from your fellow by the number of years from the jubilee.  He shall sell to you by the number of years of yields–corresponding to a greater amount of the years, you shall make its price greater; and corresponding to a smaller amount of the years, you shall make its price smaller–because it is a number of yields that he is selling to you.  And you shall not persecute–each of you–his brother, but you shall fear your God, because I am YHWH,  your God.

Psalm 67 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

May God be merciful to us and bless us,

show us the light of his countenance and come to us.

Let your ways be known upon earth,

your saving health among all nations.

3 Let the peoples praise you, O God;

let all the peoples praise you.

4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,

for you judge the peoples with equity

and guide all the nations upon earth.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;

let all the peoples praise you.

6 The earth has brought forth her increase;

may God, our own God, give us his blessing.

May God give us his blessing,

and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The Israelites had escaped from Egypt, where the economy was one of artificial scarcity for many and plenty for few.  This economic reality sounds contemporary, does it not?  There is enough wealth, in various forms, for everyone to have a sufficient amount; lack of equitable distribution is the problem.

So, in Leviticus 25, we have a divine order to observe the Year of the Jubilee every fiftieth year.  Slaves were to become free people, and people were to recover their lost property, especially land.  This was supposed to be a corrective to the inequitable distribution of wealth which had developed over the previous forty-nine years.  Unfortunately, if the Israelites ever obeyed these laws, there is no record of it in the Bible.  One may assume safely, given the Scriptural narrative of idolatry and economic exploitation, that they did not.

Much of the Religious Right in North America is in love with the worst, most exploitative variety of capitalism.  Even the Progressive Era of the early Twentieth Century comes in for criticism–for doing too much.  What part of inspecting food and drugs, busting trusts, setting aside national parks and reserves, granting women the right to vote, and attempting to outlaw child labor is excessive?  The Progressive Era, rather, was too timid; there should have been a Judeo-Christian Socialist revolution, inspired by the Year of the Jubilee.

The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.,  was a strong and prophetic social critic.  Unfortunately, the MLK of the King holiday is not the MLK of history.  The MLK of history was a much more complicated man than the one reactionaries like to honor.  Consider these words from “A Time to Break Silence,” the April 4, 1967, speech in which Dr. King condemned the Vietnam War:

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. n the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

This is the best contrast between human and divine economies I have read.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 14, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST SAINTS MACRINA THE ELDER, BASIL THE ELDER, EMILIA, NAUCRATIUS, AND PETER OF SEBASTE, FAITHFUL CHRISTIANS OVER THREE GENERATIONS

THE FEAST OF CIVIL RIGHTS MARTYRS AND ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF RICARDO MONTALBAN, ACTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT SAVA, FOUNDER OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/week-of-proper-12-saturday-year-1/

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