Archive for the ‘Leviticus 25’ Tag

The Promise of the New Jerusalem   Leave a comment

Above:  Tiges (Isaiah 61:11)

Image in the Public Domain

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READING THIRD ISAIAH, PART IV

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Isaiah 60:1-62:12

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Isaiah 60-62 is a lengthy poem of encouragement to Jerusalem (Zion), personified as a bereaved woman.  Jewish exiles are returning to Jerusalem, we read.

Certain themes are notable, some for their presence and others for their absence:

  1. There is no Davidic monarch in Third Isaiah.  In this respect, Third Isaiah disagrees with Haggai, First Zechariah, and First Isaiah.
  2. In the future, according to Isaiah 60:1-62:12, the Jewish nation will have royal and priestly status, and God will rule directly.
  3. A must society embodies the divine covenant and receives God’s blessing.
  4. Judah, in Isaiah 60:1-22, is superior to its neighbors.  The theme of reversal of fortune exists here.  So do national concerns, overriding universalism of any variety.  We read of Gentiles transporting Jewish exiles to Judah, rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and bringing silver and gold.  This image contrasts with First Isaiah (2:1-4), in which Gentiles stream to Jerusalem to learn God’s ways.
  5. Isaiah 61:1-9 applies the jubilee year (Leviticus 25:10), by which farmers forced into indentured servitude could regain their land, to the nation.  The time to start over had come.
  6. The predicted splendor of Jerusalem contrasted with the actual state of the city prior to 445 B.C.E. and the reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah (Ezra 7-10; Nehemiah 1-13; 1 Esdras 8:1-9:55).  Isaiah 60:1-62:12 offered hope for a better future.

Hope is essential.  These beautiful three chapters, replete with familiar passages, come from a particular context.  If one takes these chapters and passages out of context, one misses much of their meaning.  The central message is timeless, not bound by context, though.  That meaning is that God is faithful.  God has promised to act.  God will act.  Keep the faith.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

THE FEAST OF CATHERINE LOUISA MARTHENS, FIRST LUTHERAN DEACONESS CONSECRATED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 1850

THE FEAST OF GEORGE ALFRED TAYLOR RYGH, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY IN NEW ZEALAND; HIS WIFE, MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR IN NEW ZEALAND; HER SISTER-IN-LAW, JANE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR IN NEW ZEALAND; AND HER HUSBAND AND HENRY’S BROTHER, WILLIAM WILLAMS, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WAIAPU

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALEN POSTEL, FOUNDER OF THE POOR DAUGHTERS OF MERCY

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A New Beginning   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Bartholomew

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 2

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

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

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O Lord, we beseech thee mercifully to receive

the prayers of thy people who call upon thee;

and grant that they may both perceive and know

what things they ought to do,

and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 123

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Isaiah 61:1-3

Psalm 47

Romans 12:1-5

John 1:35-51

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We’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway.

The Reverend Will Campbell (1924-2013)

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If we are to come out of this crisis less selfish than when we went in, we have to let ourselves be touched by others’ pain.

–Pope Francis, The New York Times, November 29, 2020

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Know, O reader, that I have been a serious student of the Bible for most of my life.  (And I feel much younger than my chronological age.)  Muck knowledge of the contents of the Bible has been academic and theoretical, not that there is anything wrong with that.  I have long been an academic and an intellectual, after all.  Living has added the visceral aspect of knowledge to that which has been purely academic and theoretical.  Abstract sympathy for those who grieve has given way to empathy with them, especially during holidays, when families traditionally gather.  Living through the COVID-19 pandemic has made the theme of a fresh start in Isaiah 61:1-3 and Romans 12:1-5 more potent in my mind than the many previous times I read those passages.

Scripture is what it is.  How we mere mortals relate to it depends greatly on our experiences.

Some seemingly dry academic material is appropriate, however.

The speaker in Isaiah 61:1-3 was Third Isaiah.  Exiles had returned to their ancestral homeland.  They had learned that the reality on the ground fell far short of their high hopes.  Much despair set in.  Third Isaiah used language derived from Leviticus 25:10.  There would be a fresh start, a new beginning.

“To proclaim a year of the LORD’s favor….”

–Isaiah 61:2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The Year of Jubilee was supposed to occur every 50 years.  People who had become indentured servants were supposed to go free.  Land lost since the previous Year of Jubilee was supposed to return to its proper owners.  The only actual Year of Jubilee documented in the Bible occurred in Nehemiah 5, after the return from exile.

Romans 12 brings us to the theology of bodies in the thought of St. Paul the Apostle.  We who carry assumptions born of Greek philosophy quickly assume that a body is a vessel for a soul.  To apply this assumption to Pauline theology is to err.

St. Paul, like many other Jews, believed that a person is a body, not that a person has a body.  This was a holistic understanding of the self.  This holistic view applied to the body (individually) and to the body (as a group of people in faith community, as in Romans 12:5).

I have read commentaries as I have sought to understand what amazed St. Nathanael/Bartholomew in John 1:48f.  I have read a series of educated guesses from brains better than mine.  The author of the Gospel of John (“John,” whoever he was) kept the text vague in this passage.  He made his point, though; Jesus astounded St. Nathanael/Bartholomew.  Then St. Nathanael/Bartholomew followed him.

Psalm 47 reminds us that God is the king of all the Earth.  Accepting that can be difficult at times.  Nevertheless, not accepting it is not a feasible alternative for me.  I must have hope, after all.

I must have a basis of hope that a fresh start is possible.  Otherwise, I will collapse into despair.  Otherwise, I will cease to have any spiritual grounding.  In an age when “none” is the fastest growing religious affiliation, the lack of spiritual grounding is a sort of plague.

Then there is a literal plague, COVID-19.  It has laid bare the best and the worst in human nature.  Mainly, as far as I can tell, this coronavirus has confirmed that we humans are naturally selfish bastards who easily fall into delusions that kill us and each other.

Human nature is constant.  So is divine nature.  As Martin Luther advised, we need to rely on the faithfulness of God.  We need a fresh start, a new beginning.  God can provide one, fortunately.

To return to the beginning of this post, the Pope is correct.  We human beings need to emerge from this pandemic less selfish than when we went into it.  We need to allow the pain of others to touch us.  The first step of compassion is to get beyond oneself.

I know better than to expect a change in human nature.  The study of history and theology combines with experience to make me skeptical of excessive optimism.  But, with regard to God, optimism is justifiable.  God has been faithful.  God is faithful.  God will remain faithful.

May the aftermath of this pandemic be mostly positive, by grace.  May the human species have a new beginning, a fresh start.  May we accept this gracious offer from God.  May we take better care of each other and the planet.  May we awaken from our sinful slumber.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 5, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA, FATHER OF CHRISTIAN SCHOLARSHIP

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF NELSON MANDELA, PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA, AND RENEWER OF SOCIETY

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETIUS OF TRIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP; AND SAINT AREDIUS OF LIMOGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF PETER MORTIMER, ANGLO-GERMAN MORAVIAN EDUCATOR, MUSICIAN, AND SCHOLAR; AND GOTTFRIED THEODOR ERXLEBEN, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND MUSICOLOGIST

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The Reigns of Kings Jotham and Ahaz of Judah   5 comments

Above:  King Jotham of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

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

PART XCVIII

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2 Kings 15:32-38; 16:1-20

2 Chronicles 27:1-9; 28:1-27

Isaiah 7:1-8:15

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Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray,

for their wickedness blinded them,

and they did not know the secret purposes of God,

nor hope for the wages of holiness,

nor discern the prize for blameless souls;

for God created man for incorruption,

and made him in the image of his own eternity,

but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,

and those who belong to his party experience it.

–Wisdom of Solomon 2:21-24, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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King Azariah/Uzziah of Judah (Reigned 785-733 B.C.E.)

King Jotham of Judah (Reigned 759-743 B.C.E.)

King Ahaz of Judah (Reigned 743/735-727/715 B.C.E.)

King Pekah of Israel (Reigned 735-732 B.C.E.)

King Rezin of Aram (Reigned 750-732 B.C.E.)

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The contrast between Kings Jotham (father) and Ahaz (son) of Judah was striking.  Jotham was pious, but Ahaz went all-in for idolatry.  Jotham was a capable monarch, but Ahaz reduced the Kingdom of Judah to a vassal state of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.

The Syro-Ephraimite War occurred in the context of the Neo-Assyrian Empire.  The Kingdoms of Israel and Aram sought to force the Kingdom of Judah to join their coalition against Assyria.  King Ahaz refused to do so, however.  Therefore, the Kings of Israel and Aram wanted to depose him and to replace him with a monarch who would join their coalition.  The Syro-Ephraimite War was the context of Isaiah 7:1-8:15, a text many, if not most, Christians read seemingly in reference to the birth of Jesus and not in historical context.  King Ahaz turned not to God but to the Neo-Assyrian Empire.  The Assyrians conquered Aram in 732 B.C.E.  They also reduced the Kingdom of Israel to vassalage.  A decade later, the Assyrians added Israel to their empire.

The Chronicler included material absent in 2 Kings.  He told the story about Judean prisoners of war in Israel and of the prophet Obed’s warning that Israelite tactics against Judah in the Syro-Ephraimite War angered God.  The appeal to Leviticus 25:39-43, 46, worked.  The prisoners of war received aid and went home; they did not become slaves.

A theme present in the germane readings from 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Isaiah is the imperative of trusting God and keeping the commandments.  We need to avoid prosperity theology, a heresy.  Keeping God’s laws does not necessarily lead to health, wealth, and security.  In fact, obeying God may lead to death, poverty, and insecurity, depending on circumstances.  The myriad number of martyrs attests to this.  The example of Jesus also attests to this.  However, being on God’s side is preferable to opposing it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 6, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN GREGOR, FATHER OF MORAVIAN CHURCH MUSIC

THE FEAST OF GIOVANNI GABRIELI AND HANS LEO HASSLER, COMPOSERS AND ORGANISTS; AND CLAUDIO MONTEVERDI AND HEINRICH SCHÜTZ, COMPOSERS AND MUSICIANS

THE FEAST OF HALFORD E. LUCCOCK, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAGDELEINE OF JESUS, FOUNDRESS OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF JESUS

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King Ahab, Queen Jezebel, and Naboth’s Vineyard   Leave a comment

Above:  The Stoning of Naboth

Image in the Public Domain

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

PART LXXVI

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1 Kings 21:1-29

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Do not give yourself to a woman

so that she gains mastery over your strength.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 9:2, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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King Ahab of Israel (Reigned 873-852 B.C.E.)

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This is a story about perversion of justice, complete with forging evidence, making a false allegation, arranging for perjury, and having an innocent man executed–for a vineyard.  This is an account of the perfidy of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel of Israel, both responsible for the death of Naboth and the seizing of his vineyard.  This is a tale of two very wealthy and powerful people not being content with what they had.

King Ahab’s offer to swap vineyards was legal, according to Leviticus 25:29-30.  Naboth, however, had no obligation to accept the proposal.  And he was attached to his inheritance.  That was Naboth’s right.  Besides, Naboth was no fool.  He, a man of independent means, had no desire to become a royal dependent and to reduce his status and that of his family.  Who would want to become a dependent of people of such bad character anyhow?

As one reads the Bible closely for a while, one notices recurring themes.  A few of them recur in this story.  The first theme I notice in 1 Kings 21 is using the letter of the law to cover up perfidy.

The dynamic in the royal marriage is also clear in this story.  Queen Jezebel’s domineering ways are plain.  I do not insist that a wife submit to her husband and that he lord over her.  No, I am too progressive to argue for that chauvinistic standard.  However, I note that Queen Jezebel’s domineering ways worked for injustice in I Kings 21, and that King Ahab was complicit.

On the surface, King Ahab’s offer to exchange vineyards seemed reasonable.  However, the plot to frame Naboth, convict him, execute him, and seize his land was never justifiable, not even superficially.  Nowhere did the Law of Moses forbid cursing a monarch.  Naboth’s sons also died (2 Kings 9:26).  King Ahab and Jezebel had the blood of more than one person on their hands in this case.

Looking ahead, 2 Kings 9 concludes much of the unfinished business in 1 Kings 21.  Perspective is essential when reading the Bible.  To use an anachronistic term, 1 Kings 21 leaves a few Chekhovian guns hanging on walls.  One of them fires in 1 Kings 22.

Another recurring theme in 1 Kings 21 is that we reap what we sow.  Repentance and remorse delay the timing of the sowing, but they do not prevent it.

One may also recognize a recurring theme regarding the falls of dynasties of the northern Kingdom of Israel, going back to the House of Jeroboam I and continuing with the House of Baasha.

The world is rife with injustice, much of official, therefore cloaked in institutional legitimacy.  Power often wears down those who do not have it.  When authority figures who should protect the rights of the people violate those rights, to whom can the people turn for justice?  The promise that God will depose a son of those who trample the people–or just some of the people–may seem like cold comfort indeed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES A. WALSH AND THOMAS PRICE, COFOUNDERS OF THE MARYKNOLL FATHERS AND BROTHERS; AND MARY JOSEPHINE ROGERS, FOUNDRESS OF THE MARYKNOLL SISTERS OF SAINT DOMINIC

THE FEAST OF DMITRY BORTNIANSKY, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF HARRY WEBB FARRINGTON, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Economic Crisis in Jerusalem and Its Environs   2 comments

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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The Sovereignty of God IV   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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