Archive for the ‘Lewis Black’ Tag

Judgment, Mercy, and Anger   Leave a comment

Above:  Ocean

Image in the Public Domain

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

For the First Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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

O Lord God, who hast promised to hear the prayers of thy people when they call upon thee:

guide us, we pray, that we may know what things we ought to do,

and receive the power to do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 119

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

Micah 7:18-20

Ephesians 3:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12

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

Micah 7:19 contains a wonderful word picture–God hurling the sins of the remnant of the Kingdom of Judah into the sea.  That verbal image belies a familiar stereotype about the Bible.  One can hear easily that the Old Testament is about judgment, doom, and gloom, but that God is suddenly merciful in the New Testament.  Perhaps one thinks of a certain routine by the comedian Lewis Black, in which he repeated that stereotype and said that God changed after having a son.  It is a funny joke, but a rank heresy.  It also indicates a superficial reading of the Old and New Testaments; there is a balance of judgment and mercy in both.  In Micah 7, for example, collective forgiveness follows collective punishment for sins.

The readings from Ephesians 3 and Matthew 2 indicate the expansion of the definition of “Chosen People,” whose sins God figuratively throws into the depths of the sea.  However, if one continues to read Matthew 2, one reads of the lack of mercy of Herod the Great.

A principle present in the Old and New Testaments, as in Matthew 7:1-5, is that God applies to us the standards we apply to others.  In the Law of Moses the penalty for perjury, to convict an innocent person, is to suffer the penalty one would have had the falsely accused person endure.  This is an inverse cousin of the Golden Rule.

Anger is understandable.  Sometimes it is even morally justifiable.  Often, however, it is self-destructive.  Do we define ourselves by how often we forgive and love another or by how often we hate one another and nurse grudges?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2018 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT AEDESIUS, PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; AND SAINT FRUMENTIUS, FIRST BISHOP OF AXUM AND ABUNA OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH

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

Advertisements

Repentance and Restoration, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Neo-Assyrian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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

FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF KINGDOMTIDE, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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

O God, our refuge and strength, you are the author of all godliness:

Be ready, we pray, to hear the devout prayers of your Church;

and grant that those things which we ask faithfully we may obtain effectually;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 154

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

Nahum 1:1-8

Psalm 37

Hebrews 13:1-6

Matthew 18:15-22

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

These four readings, taken as a unit, constitute a masterpiece of liturgical cohesion; the lectionary committee’s work for the Fifth Sunday of Kingdomtide stands the test of time.

As the great Jewish Biblical scholar Richard Elliott Friedman points out, the Hebrew Bible balances divine judgment and mercy; the stereotype of YHWH as more prone to smite than to act mercifully is misleading, as stereotypes are inherently.  Neither is the composite depiction of God in the New Testament that of a warm, fuzzy deity.  One might think of Lewis Black‘s joke that the difference between the God of the Old Testament and the New Testament is that having a kid calmed Him down.  No, the truth of divine judgment and mercy is one we find in the balance of the two factors.  Furthermore, there is the issue of the Arian heresy.

Much of what we humans call the wrath of God looks like proverbial chickens coming home to roost.  Actions and inactions have consequences, after all.  Simply put, that which we sow, we also reap.  When we have an opportunity to sow righteousness, may we do so.  Righteousness is a concrete standard; it boils down, much of the time, to how we treat one another.  Another factor in righteousness is how we behave when we are alone.

The reading from Matthew 18 emphasizes opportunities for repentance–literally turning one’s back on sin.  Judgment might come, but one can avert it by changing one’s mind and ways.  In Jewish and Christian ethics we humans are responsible for and to each other as we stand together before God, upon whom we depend completely.  Facilitating repentance is one of our occasional responsibilities to each other; may we take it seriously, not write people off.  May we value restoration.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 11, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARY SLESSOR, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, FOUNDER OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

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

Redemption and Related Responsibilities   1 comment

Sky with Rainbow

Above:   Sky with Rainbow

Image in the Public Domain

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

The Collect:

O God, overflowing with mercy and compassion,

you lead back to yourself all those who go astray.

Preserve your people in your loving care,

that we may reject whatever is contrary to you

and may follow all things that sustain our life in

your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47

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

The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 6:1-6 (Thursday)

Genesis 7:6-10; 8:1-5 (Friday)

Genesis 8:20-9:7 (Saturday)

Psalm 51:1-10 (All Days)

1 Timothy 1:1-11 (Thursday)

2 Peter 2:1-10a (Friday)

John 10:11-21 (Saturday)

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

Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth,

a sinner from my mother’s womb.

–Psalm 51:6, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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

The comedian Lewis Black told a joke explaining why God seems more violent in the Hebrew Bible than in the New Testament.  Having a son calmed him down.  That is, of course, bad theology, for it falls under the heading of the Arian heresy.  Furthermore, the God of the Book of Revelation is not the deity of “Kum ba Yah,” a song I despise for several reasons.  The Smiter-in-Chief is in full form in the composite story of Noah, based on older stories.

Rewritten folklore and mythology in the Bible presents us with the opportunity to ponder profound theology.  We might think that we know a particular tale better than we actually do, so we ought to avoid switching on the automatic pilot.  Human immorality saddens God’s heart in Genesis 6:6, but Noah has found favor with God.  “Noah,” in Hebrew, is “favor” spelled backward.  A note in The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) tells me that this

indicates that human perversion and divine grief will not be the last word.

–page 19

Furthermore, the Hebrew word for the ark occurs in just one other story in the Hebrew Bible.  It applies also to the basket containing young Moses in Exodus 2.  AgainThe Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) helps me dig deeper into the scriptures:

Noah foreshadows Moses even as Moses, removed from the water, foreshadows the people Israel, whom he leads to safety through the death-dealing sea that drowns their oppressors (Exod. chs 14-15).  The great biblical tale of redemption occurs first in a shorter, universal form, then in a longer, particularistic one.

–page 20

The author of Psalm 51 (traditionally King David, but knows for sure?) understood human sinfulness well.  So did the author of 1 Timothy, writing under the name of St. Paul the Apostle.  Laws, he noted,

are not framed for people who are good.

–1:9, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

That statement applies to divine law, certainly.  Indeed, in context, it pertains to the Law of Moses.  That code, containing timeless principles and culturally specific examples thereof, sometimes becomes a confusing array of laws.  Many people mistake culturally specific examples for timeless principles, thereby falling into legalism.  The pillars of that code are:

  1. We mere mortals are totally dependent on God,
  2. We humans depend upon each other also,
  3. We humans are responsible for each other, and
  4. We humans are responsible to each other.

Turning to John 10, we read of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.  The sheep need the shepherd, who protects them and lays down his life for them.  The sheep also know the shepherd’s voice.  I, as a Christian, am one of the sheep.  I know my need for God and the ease with which I yield to many temptations.  The laws of God exist for people such as me.  Divine guidance and redemption play out in my life.

The individual part of religion is important, of course, but it is hardly everything.  The collective aspect is crucial also.  This truth is especially evident in Judaism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Roman Catholicism.  Much of Protestantism, however, has gone overboard with regard to individualism.  Redemption is not just my story or your story.  No, it is our story as we relate to God and God relates to us.  Society exerts a powerful influence upon our notions of morality and reverence; it shapes us, just as we influence it.  May we be salt and light, shaping society according to the four pillars of the Law of Moses and according to the unconditional and free (yet not cheap) love of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MALTBIE DAVENPORT BABCOCK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN I, BISHOP OF ROME

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

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/18/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-19-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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

Exodus and Luke, Part VII: Discipleship, Jesus, and the Mean God of Exodus 32   1 comment

golden-calf-james-tissot

Above:  The Golden Calf, by James Tissot

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

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 everlasting 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:

Exodus 32:15-35

Psalm 93 (Morning)

Psalms 136 and 117 (Evening)

Luke 6:39-49

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

Some Related Posts:

Luke 6:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/eighth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-third-sunday-of-easter/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-third-sunday-of-easter/

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

Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord” and not do what I say?

–Luke 6:46, The New Jerusalem Bible

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

Psalm 136 is a litany of thanksgiving to God.  The refrain is

his love endures forever.

(Revised English Bible)

Yet I do not see divine love in Exodus 32:15-35.  Do a massacre and a plague constitute love?  Earlier in the chapter Moses had talked God out of retribution, but his attempt at the end of the chapter failed.

I think that the account in Exodus 32:15-35 assumes that, since God is in control of nature, God must have sent the plague.  And, given the bloody nature of certain Bible stories, especially massacres of those of have committed idolatry (as in the case of Elijah and the priests of Baal), I imagine some ancients not batting an eyelash.  Idolatry was on par with murder and cursing or insulting one’s parents as capital offenses in the culture of the Israelites at the time of Moses.  I am  glad that I did not live then; parents selling children into slavery, people executing others for reasons that, in civilized cultures today, do not warrant judicial intervention–it is all too much for my liberal, post-Enlightenment tastes.

Yet I understand the unifying theme which runs between the main readings:  A disciple of God is one who follows God.  Rank hypocrisy offends, does it not?  Those three thousand or so people whom the Levites killed had sworn to keep the new covenant, the one Moses annulled when he broke the stone tablets.  Then, oddly by Western individualistic standards, God punished the faithful people with a plague.  Was the collective responsible?  So, even if I strive to live faithfully in a sinful society, am I still responsible for societal sins?  So, how faithful am I?  And, if I am very faithful, what is the point if God is going to punish me for the sins of others anyway?

I am reading a text written from one set of assumptions in a mindset foreign to it.  So certain aspects of the narrative “will not compute.”  As for faithfulness, I can only do my best to follow God via Jesus then trust Jesus, who is more merciful than God seems to be at the end of Exodus 32.  Comedian Lewis Black has said in a routine that maybe having a child calmed God down between the Old and the New Testaments.  It is a good joke, one which points to an evolution in God concepts in the Bible.  It is also true that, if one accepts the terms of the joke, one commits at least one heresy.  But, to borrow the language, I seek mercy through that child.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 8, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARA LUGER, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF ROLAND ALLEN, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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

Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/devotion-for-the-fifteenth-day-of-easter-third-sunday-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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