Archive for the ‘Living Bible’ Tag

Greater Dignity and Depth in Worship   9 comments

Hymnal 1941 Title Page

Above:  Part of the Title Page of The Hymnal (1941), of the Evangelical and Reformed Church

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Book from the Library of Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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I like old hymnals.  In fact, I find them infinitely more interesting than contemporary ones.  Please do not misunderstand me, O reader; I am not a reactionary with regard to hymnody.  I do not assume that there has not been a good hymn or hymnal to come down the pike since an arbitrary year.  I am unlike a certain man who told me years ago that nobody had written good church music after 1900.  Rather, I am like the archaeologist of a joke I heard once; the older his wife became, the more interesting he found her.  In this case, the principle applies to hymnals.

Hymnals are like toys to me; they fascinate me, so I “play” with them.  Yesterday I received my copy of The Hymnal (1941), of the Evangelical and Reformed Church, a forerunner of the United Church of Christ.  The Hymnal (1941), like many other books of its sort from that era, is like a stately vessel, for it hails from a time before theologically shallow and extremely annoying praise choruses.  Nobody had thought of praise bands yet, mercifully.  The opening paragraph of the Preface is wonderful:

Christianity is constantly finding better forms of religious expression.  Symbolism, architecture, and ritual are leading the way to finer sanctuaries and more impressive worship services.  A positive theology is asserting itself anew and is greatly influencing religious thinking, thus paving the way for a revival of spiritual living.  Religious realism claims a place in the program of the Church and in the life of believers as a means of interpreting satisfactorily for modern man the social phenomena of an awakened world conscience.  Out of all this grows a demand for greater unity and strength, and greater dignity and depth in worship, the influence of which becomes apparent in the hymns we sing.  THE HYMNAL takes cognizance of this demand.

–page iii

New Forms of Worship (1971)

Above:  The Cover of New Forms of Worship (1971), by James F. White

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Book from the Library of Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Unfortunately, the period from the middle 1960s through the middle 1970s took a negative toll on hymnody and the language of worship.  The proper transition to addressing God as “you” instead of “Thee” was often an awkward one, with a few years required to sort out the proper tone of new liturgies.  The intersecting roads which led to The Book of Common Prayer (1979) and the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) found the proper balance before they arrived at their destinations, fortunately.  Yet, as volumes from my large collection of hymnals, service books, and books about worship attest, some such books from the middle 1960s to the middle 1970s, both mainline and Evangelical, represent what I call, in mock 1950s B-movies style,

THE ATTACK OF THE 1970S.

Examples include The Worshipbook (Presbyterian, 1970/1972), The Hymnbook of the Anglican Church of Canada and the United Church of Canada (1971), Hymns for the Family of God (non-denominational, Gaither-influenced, 1976), Hymns for the Living Church (non-denominational, 1974), The Hymnal of the United Church of Christ (1974), and a number of immediately post-Vatican II Roman Catholic resources.  This was the time of The Living Bible (1971), in which Jesus says,

I am the A and the Z….

–Revelation 22:13a

The infiltration of shallow church music continues, unfortunately.  Lift Up Your Hearts (2013), the new hymnal of the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church, is more about the heart than the head and leans toward contemporary music.  Glory to God:  The Presbyterian Hymnal (2013), of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), contains some praise music, but at least the book leans toward a traditional hymnody.  The United Methodist Hymnal (1989) is of a decidedly Low Church mold, unlike its immediate predecessor, The Methodist Hymnal/The Book of Hymns (1966), which tried to raise the bar, only to become unpopular in many corners of the denomination.  The 1989 book does, unfortunately, contain “seven-eleven” songs, with about seven words one sings eleven times, as the saying goes.  And, ironically, the official Baptist Hymnal (2008), of the Southern Baptist Convention, contains a less traditional hymnody, including more praise music, than the Celebrating Grace Hymnal (2010), of the Cooperative Baptists.  And I have yet to analyze certain contemporary non-denominational hymnals, which I have seen yet not studied for hours on end.  What I have seen, however, has troubled me, given the emphasis upon the informal, the repetitive, and the contemporary.

I have been reading so much about so many hymnals recently that I have forgotten where I read certain comments.  In one of these online places I read a cogent analysis of many contemporary hymnals:  they are more about the worshipers than the one whom the people worship.  I appreciate worship done well.  It elevates the human spirit.  It ought never to become entertainment.  Worship done well creates an atmosphere all about God and differs stylistically from the rest of one’s life, unless one lives in a cloister or a similar setting.  Churches should look like churches.  Hymn texts should be profound and wordy.  Worship should be dignified.  And Eucharist should be the frequent and central act of Christian worship.

Here I stand; I will do no other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE TENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN ROBERTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HOWELL ELVET LEWIS, WELSH CONGREGATIONALIST CLERGYMAN AND POET

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF THOMAS MERTON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

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http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/why-i-like-old-hymnals-and-hymns/

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1 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part I: Words   1 comment

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Above:  Ancient Corinth

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2004000668/PP/)

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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 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

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 20:24-42

Psalm 96 (Morning)

Psalms 132 and 134 (Evening)

1 Corinthians 1:1-25

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Some Related Posts:

1 Corinthians 1:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-sixth-day-of-lent-tuesday-in-holy-week/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/third-sunday-in-lent-year-b/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/week-of-proper-16-friday-year-2/

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Saul flew into a rage against Jonathan.  ”You son of a perverse, rebellious woman!” he shouted.

–1 Samuel 20:30a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Saul boiled with rage.  ”You son of a bitch!” he yelled at him.

–1 Samuel 20:30a, The Living Bible

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Sing a new song to Yahweh!

Sing to Yahweh, all the earth!

Sing to Yahweh, bless his name!

Proclaim his salvation day after day,

declare his glory among the nations,

his marvels to every people!

–Psalm 96:1-3, The New Jerusalem Bible

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After all, Christ me not to baptise, but to preach the gospel, and not by means of wisdom of language, wise words which would make the cross of Christ pointless.  The message of the cross is folly for those who are on the way to ruin, but for those of us who are on the road to salvation it is the power of God.

–1 Corinthians 1;17-18, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Words matter.  Psalm 96 exhorts people to use words to proclaim divine glory and the message of salvation.  And we read of King Saul cursing out his son Jonathan in 1 Samuel 20:30.  The Living Bible, usually a substandard version, gets Saul’s tone right and places it in a familiar, modern idiom.  (Aside:  Later printings of The Living Bible replaced “son of a bitch” with “fool,” which has less of an impact.)  So words can humiliate or encourage, tear down or build up.

And sometimes words prove to be irrelevant.  The message of the cross contradicts conventional wisdom regarding who died that way and why, so of course one cannot cite conventional wisdom on the topic to explain the crucifixion, much less the subsequent resurrection, properly.  But words did play a vital part in Paul’s message; witness his epistles, O reader.  And he had to use words to preach the good news of Jesus.

Words have power.  According to myth, God spoke and thereby transformed chaos into order in Genesis 1.  Much of the time, however, we mere mortals speak and thereby convert order into chaos.  We speak and thereby either build up or tear down.  May we use our words for positive purposes, glorifying God and building up others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 14, 2012 COMMON ERA

PROPER 23:  THE TWENTIETH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL ISAAC JOSEPH SCHERESCHEWSKY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF SHANGHAI

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/devotion-for-august-7-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Bible Translations and Reading Levels   Leave a comment

Above:  An Old Family Bible

Image Source = David Ball

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Family-bible.jpg)

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I admit it:  I have a well-developed English vocabulary and a deep love for the language.  Skillful turns of English delight me.  So it follows that I like translations of the Bible which do not assume that I operate on the reading level of an Elementary School student.  I should (and do) have a more advanced vocabulary, for I am a native English speaker, an adult, and a college graduate.

I have looked up estimates of reading levels for various Bible translations online.  The results follow:

  1. Authorized (King James) Version–12th Grade
  2. Revised Standard Version–12th Grade
  3. New American Standard Bible–11th Grade
  4. New Revised Standard Version–10th Grade
  5. Jerusalem Bible–10th Grade
  6. New Jerusalem Bible–10th Grade
  7. Revised English Bible–10th Grade
  8. New American  Bible–9th Grade
  9. Good News Version/Today’s English Version–8th Grade
  10. Today’s New International Version–8th Grade
  11. Holman Christian Standard Bible–7th to 9th Grades
  12. New King James Version–7th to 9th Grades
  13. New International Version–7th to 8th Grades
  14. English Standard Version–7th to 8th Grades or 10th Grade
  15. Common English Bible–7th Grade
  16. New Living Translation–6th Grade
  17. GOD’S WORD–5th Grade
  18. Living Bible–4th Grade
  19. The Message–3rd to 5th Grades
  20. New Century Version–3rd Grade
  21. New International Reader’s Version–3rd Grade

Counting from 1989 and excluding revised versions (as in the cases of the New American Bible, the New American Standard Bible, and the New International Version) of translations published prior to 1989, I notice a pattern:  Those eleven translations from the above list divide almost evenly at the line separating Sixth Grade from Seventh Grade.  Six fall above it while five fall below it.  This pattern troubles me (although it could be worse), for it reflects an unfortunate decline in the quality of language education in the United States.  I have recognized this decline in the writing of college freshmen and sophomores.

The Bible is an anthology of texts which contain many subtleties.  A text’s meaning depends on various factors, including textual context (what precedes and succeeds it), historical context, and cultural context (which might not be explicit in the text itself).  And, when one examines a given passage, one might uncover possible shades of meaning.  A passage could mean A or B or C.  The proper communication of these subtleties cannot occur within the confines of a Third-Grade  vocabulary.

As for me, I prefer to read translations on the Tenth-Grade reading level and higher.  I have the vocabulary, so I use it.  Frequently I pull the New Revised Standard Version (which I hear almost all the time in my Episcopal parish) and the Revised English Bible off a shelf, but my main two choices–the ones I keep on my desk–are The New Jerusalem Bible (Roman Catholic) and TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (Jewish), both complete in 1985.  (My copy of TANAKH is The Jewish Study Bible from 2003, so it contains the text of the 1999 second edition of that translation.)  I estimate TANAKH to occupy at least a Tenth-Grade reading level, for I have noticed some impressive vocabulary choices.  Both translations are modern English, lacking Elizabethan, archaic language.  And both break with the familiar King James phrases, so I read a new, graceful take on texts.  At the other end of the spectrum is The Message.  It is a stylistic disgrace, ruining the majestic prologue to the Gospel of John by having Jesus move into the neighborhood.  Instead of the word becoming flesh and dwelling among us, it moves into the neighborhood.  That is too casual a rendering.  One can have both modern English and majesty of translation.

My prescription for dealing with an inadequate vocabulary is to consult a dictionary and a thesaurus as often as necessary in private.  If necessary, one should pursue other vocabulary-building strategies.  One should correct one’s vocabulary shortcomings, not read children’s Bibles as an adult for a long time.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

The Golden Rule, Part I   1 comment

Above: Golden Rule, by Norman Rockwell (1961)

Images of this painting are plentiful online, but I took it from http://gardenofpraise.com/art12.htm.

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Genesis 13:2, 5-18 (An American Translation):

Abram was now very rich in cattle, silver, and gold.

Lot, who accompanied Abram, also had flocks and herds, as well as tents.  The land could not support them both; for their possessions were so great that they could not live together.  Trouble arose accordingly between the herdsmen of Abram’s stock and those of Lot’s.  (The Canaanites and the Perizzites were living in the land at that time.)

There simply must be no quarrel between you and me,

Abram said to Lot,

nor between your herdsmen and mine; for we are kinsmen.  The whole land is open to you, is it not?  Please part from me then.  If you go to the left, I will go the right; or if you go to the right, I will go to the left.

Then Lot looked out, and saw that the whole basin of the Jordan was well watered everywhere (this was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the LORD’s own garden, like the land of Egypt in the vicinity of Zoar.  So lot chose the whole Jordan basin.  Lot set off eastward, and thus they parted from each other.  Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the Basin, extending his tents as far as Sodom.  (Now the men of Sodom were wicked, being great sinners against the LORD.)

After Lot had parted from him, the LORD said to Abram,

Raise your eyes now, and look out from the place where you are, north, south, east, and west; for all the land that you see, I am going to give to you and your descendants for all time.  I am going to make your descendants like the dust of the earth, so that it will be as possible to count the dust of the earth as to count your descendants.  Go and travel the length and breadth of the land; for I am giving it to you.

So Abram moved his tent, and went to live beside the terebinth of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the LORD.

Psalm 15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 LORD, who may dwell in your tabernacle?

who may abide upon your holy hill?

Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right,

who speaks the truth from his heart.

3 There is no guile upon his tongue;

he does no evil to his friend;

he does not heap contempt upon his neighbor.

In his sight the wicked is rejected,

but he honors those who fear the LORD.

5 He has sworn to do no wrong

and does not take back his word.

6 He does not give his money in hope of gain,

nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things

shall never be overthrown.

Matthew 7:6, 12-14 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

Do not give what is sacred to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet and turn and tear you in pieces….Therefore you must always treat other people as you would like them to have them treat you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Go in at the narrow gate.  For the road that leads to destruction is broad and spacious, and there are many who go in by it.  But the gate is narrow the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few that find it.

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The Collect:

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; 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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Many readers of the Bible (especially novices to the sacred anthology) become bogged down in the Hebrew Scriptures.  My experience was different, for my first real reading of of any part of the Old Testament was the Joseph epic from Genesis.  There are so many wonderful and epic stories in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Among these is the Abraham epic, through which the Canadian Anglican lectionary I am following guides a reader.  Since our previous lection, famine has forced Abram (later to renamed Abraham) and his family into fertile Egypt.  No sooner had they gone to collect on a divine promise than circumstances had forced them to delay claiming it.  Abram was concerned that royal officials might kill him and claim his lovely wife, Sarai (later to be renamed Sarah), so he claimed that she was actually his sister.  (This was partially true, for she was his half-sister.  But a half-truth is still a half-truth.) Most English versions of the Bible use a euphemism for what happened next, for they claim that the Pharaoh took Sarai into his palace, his house, or his household.  Kenneth N. Taylor’s The Living Bible, which cuts through euphemisms like a knife through butter, gets to the point:

…and she was taken into the harem.  (12:15)

In exchange, the Pharaoh bestows upon Abram much livestock, silver, and gold.

Let us pause here.  There are Bible stories and portions thereof that one does not find discussed often (or at all) in children’s Bible story books and in juvenile Sunday School classes.  I understand why, for the Bible does not carry a “G” rating.  But we are adults here, and we should be able to discuss the R-rated portions of the Bible intelligently and maturely.  This portion of the story of Abram and Sarai has an unsavory taste about it.  He benefited financially (as did she in the medium term and the long term, despite immediate risks) from her compromising situation.

This is an early example of Abram not trusting God to fulfill divine promises.  It is not the most notable one.  Even Abram, a great man of faith, was imperfect.  And God still protected and blessed him.  We can take comfort from that.

Genesis 12 tells us that God caused “great plagues” to befall the Phaoronic household, so the Egyptian monarch deported Abram, Sarai, and company–along with the livestock, silver, and gold.  They returned (in Genesis 13) to Bethel, where there was too little space for Abram, his nephew Lot, and their livestock and herdsmen.  So Abram and Lot parted company and relocated, so that each would have sufficient space and harmony might be preserved.   Then God reiterated the divine promise to Abram.

Genesis 13 contains foreboding foreshadowing regarding Lot, but I will not discuss it here and now.  I intend to follow the events of the Abraham epic in sequentially in this lectionary series.

Now I turn toward the excerpt from Matthew.

Matthew 7:6 is a difficult saying.  Swine were unclean beasts, and dogs were wild scavengers, not beloved pets.  So who among the humans were supposed to be the swine and dogs?

Reading in textual context is especially useful here.  Matthew 7:6 follows 7:1-5, the “do not judge” teaching.  Jesus reminds us that the standard we apply to others will apply to us, as well, and that we ought to notice and deal with our own faults before focusing on those of others.  Then we have this admonition not to throw pearls before swine and to give dogs what is sacred.

I have consulted various books with regard to this verse.  The best interpretation comes from W. Clyde Tilley in The Surpassing Righteousness:  Evangelism and Ethics in the Sermon on the Mount (Smyth & Helwys, 1992).  Tilley writes:

We cannot simply assume that all the beneficiaries of our good deeds, all of the hearers of our treasured teachings, will receive them with equal gratitude.  We cannot even assume that they will be received at all….Now we are being reminded in this case that one’s own perception can be so distorted that the sharing of the sharing of true values with that person can may be hopeless for him and harmful to ourselves….Maybe the only certainty we can have here is that such persistent and final rejecters do exist, even if we must ever defer to God for the final judgment about who these are.  (pages 149-150)

This interpretation is consistent with 7:13-14, the teaching about the narrow gate and the wide road.

In the middle of all this we have 7:12, the Golden Rule.  God is the final judge, and we are not to judge others.  We are called to love one another and ourselves actively, treating others at all times in ways we would want them to treat us.  I recall the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3b-9, 18-23):  many seeds will come to naught.  But we have to try, do we not?

And, by the way, would not the world be a vastly better place if many more people went about practicing the Golden Rule?  Try it on a smaller scale; practice the Golden Rule among all those with whom you come into contact.  Witness the results, in full knowledge that, in a “do unto others before they do unto you” world, you might experience what state intelligence agents call blowback, or unintended negative consequences.  But God is the final judge about who is worthy.  Let us not play God.

Chiefly, may we trust God.  Abram trusted God some of the time, as do we.  Decisions he made when he did not trust God had bad consequences–sometimes for himself and other times for others.  And, as we attempt to live according to the Golden Rule, may we trust that God is just, that our judgment and knowledge are limited, and that loving God and respecting human dignity are always good standards of ethical behavior.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 8, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN RINCKART, ARCHDEACON OF EILENBURG

THE FEAST OF RICHARD BAXTER, ANGLICAN THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/08/week-of-proper-7-tuesday-year-1/

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Posted February 5, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 13, Matthew 7, Psalm 15

Tagged with , , , , ,

Friendship II: Jonathan, A Good Friend   1 comment

Above:  Saul Throws the Spear at David, by George Tinworth

Jonathan, a Good Friend

JANUARY 19, 2012

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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1 Samuel 18:6-9; 19:1-7 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

As they were coming home, when David returned from slaying the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with timbrels, with songs of joy, and with instruments of music.  And the women sang to one another as they made merry,

Saul has slain his thousands,

and David his ten thousands.

And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him; he said,

They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands, and what more can he have but the kingdom?

And Saul eyed David from that day on.

…(Saul tried to kill David, who lives anyway and marries Michal, daughter of Saul.)…

And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David.  But Jonathan, Saul’s son, delighted much in David.  And Jonathan told David,

Saul my father seeks to kill you; therefore take heed to yourself in the morning, stay in a secret place and hide yourself; and I will go out and stand beside my father in the field where you are, and I will speak to my father about you; an if I learn anything I will tell you.

And Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father, and said to him,

Let not the king sin against his servant David; because he has not sinned against you, and because his deeds have been of good service to you; for he took his life in his hand and he slew the Philistine, and the LORD wrought a great victory for all Israel.  You saw it, and rejoiced; why then will you sin against innocent blood by killing David without cause?

And Saul listened to the voice of Jonathan; Saul swore,

As the LORD lives, he shall not be put to death.

And Jonathan called David, and Jonathan showed him all these things.  And Jonathan brought David to Saul, and he was in his presence as before.

Psalm 56 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Have mercy on me, O God,

for my enemies are hounding me;

all day long they assault and oppress me.

2  They hound me all the day long;

truly there are many who fight against me, O Most High.

3  When I am afraid,

I will put my trust in you.

4  In God, whose word I praise,

in God I trust and will not be afraid,

for what can flesh do to me?

5  All day long they damage my cause;

their only thought is to do me evil.

6  They band together; they lie in wait;

they spy upon my footsteps;

because they seek my life.

7  Shall they escape despite their wickedness?

O God, in your anger, cast down the peoples.

8  You have noted my lamentation;

put my tears into your bottle;

are they not recorded in your book?

9  Whenever I call upon you, my enemies will be put to flight;

this I know, for God is on my side.

10  In God, the LORD, whose word I praise,

in God I trust and will not be afraid,

for what can mortals do to me?

11  I am bound by the vow I made to you, O God;

I will present to you thank-offerings;

12  For you have rescued my soul from death and my feet from stumbling,

that I may walk before God in the light of the living.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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I have been watching Bobby Fischer documentaries recently.  The brilliant chess master was not emotionally, mentally, and psychologically well for most of his life.  And his illness grew worse as he aged.

King Saul reminds of Bobby Fischer in some ways.  The Biblical authors understood the king’s mental disturbance as the result of possession by an evil spirit, but today professionals would offer a clinical diagnosis.  Nevertheless, one fact remains:  Saul had become dangerous to others, especially David.  Fortunately, David benefited (in the short term, at least) from the intercession his good friend, Jonathan, his brother-in-law and a son of Saul.

The lectionary I am following will skip to 1 Samuel 24 for tomorrow’s purposes, so I sense the imperative of explaining part of 1 Samuel 20.  Many translations of the Bible are overly polite in places.  Consider the Psalms, for example.  Whereas a literal translation of Hebrew text might be close to

Look, Yahweh!,

many translators have preferred something closer to “I beseech you, O Lord.”  Even the Hebrew texts use euphemisms for cursing, so many a modern version of the Bible does also.  Then there is The Living Bible (completed in 1971).  This is how Kenneth N. Taylor described a confrontation between Saul and Jonathan, per 1 Samuel 20:30-31:

Saul boiled with rage.  ”You son of a bitch!” he yelled at him.  ”Do you think I don’t know that you want this son of a nobody to be king in your place, shaming yourself and your mother?  As long as this fellow is alive, you’ll never be king.  Now go and get him, so I can kill him!”

A 1980s printing of The Living Bible in my library substitutes “fool” for “son of a bitch,” but Taylor captured the flavor of Saul’s outburst well the first time.

You son of a perverse and rebellious woman,

a standard English rendering, does not have the same power.

(Aside:  Pay attention.  This is probably the only time I will say or write anything nice about The Living Bible.  The best way to communicate my attitude toward that version is to tell a story.  A few years ago, in a Bible study of the Matthew Beatitudes, someone read them from The Living Bible.  The ethos of TLB, so evident in that particular text, inspired me to sing, “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony….”  I was, of course, echoing an early 1970s Christmas advertisement for Coca-Cola.)

In the short term, at least, Jonathan was able to shield David from his father’s violent rages.  Jonathan was in a difficult personal and political circumstance, but he did the right thing.  Sometimes doing the right thing is both hard and risky.  Yet mere human decency requires us to act properly.  Are you, O reader, in a difficult and risky situation with conflicting loyalties?  What does mere decency require of you?  And how much might it cost you?

Remember that what I do affects others, as does what you do.  What you do not do affects others, as does what I do not do.  Your circumstance might seem like a small and relatively insignificant one, but it might be more important than appearances indicate, for we are all connected to others.  So make the right decision and stand by it because it is the right thing to do, perhaps for more people than you can imagine.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBA OF IONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY AND ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/09/week-of-2-epiphany-thursday-year-2/

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