Archive for the ‘Mutuality’ Tag

Economic Crisis in Jerusalem and Its Environs   Leave a comment

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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Building Up Each Other in Christ, Part VII   Leave a comment

Above:  Caesar’s Coin, by Peter Paul Rubens

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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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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Grant, we beseech thee, merciful Lord, to thy faithful people pardon and peace,

that they may be cleansed from all their sins,

and serve thee with a quiet mind.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 221

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Proverbs 16:1-20

Psalms 126 and 129

Ephesians 5:1-16

Matthew 22:15-22

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The Synoptic Gospels tell many of the same stories, but not identically.  That is how oral tradition works; the core remains consistent yet the margins are variable.  Identifying the constant and the variable elements of repeated stories from one Synoptic Gospel to another is easy.  One may, most simply, see them in parallel columns in books of Gospel parallels.  I have two such volumes–Gospel Parallels (Burton H. Throckmorton, Jr.) and Synopsis of the Four Gospels (Kurt Aland).

Matthew 22:15-22, Luke 20:20-26, and Mark 12:13-17 are parallel to each other.  The question was superficially about taxes in general in Luke 20.  In Mark 12 and Matthew 22, however, the tax in question was a census/poll/head tax of one denarius per year.  A denarius, a worker’s wage for one day, at the time bore the image of Emperor Tiberius,

son of the divine Augustus.

A denarius was, therefore, an idol.  Why did Pharisees carry idols around with them?  The tax, which started in 6 C.E., led to the zealot movement.  Jesus avoided alienating zealots on one side and Romans on the other.  Those who sought to entrap Jesus retreated in humiliation (Psalm 129).

We belong to God.  We depend entirely on God.  Most of Ephesians 5:1-16 consists of commentary or advice consistent with the first two sentences of this paragraph:

Live in love as Christ loved you and gave himself up on your behalf, in offering and sacrifice whose fragrance is pleasing to God.

–Ephesians 5:2, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Value wisdom more than gold and silver.  Seek to build up each other, not to entrap and tear down each other.  Forgive one another as God has forgiven one.  Live generously.  All this advice is consistent with Ephesians 5:2.

Living this way may require one to surrender the idol of wanting to be right, of not want wanting to admit error.  A rare saint may not struggle with this temptation.  I am not part of that company.  I report accurately, however, that this struggle has decreased within me during the last few years.  Do not praise me, O reader; God has caused this change.

Anyhow, those who confronted Jesus in the Gospel story for today wanted to be right.  They sought to prove that they were right by placing Jesus in greater peril than he was in already.  He evaded their trap and showed them up, however.  They still refused to admit error.

Psychological defense mechanisms are powerful.  Many people, although confronted with objective evidence of their error or an error, refuse to admit being wrong.  They have leaned on ego instead.  Such defense of ego is destructive, both individually and collectively.  It contributes to the polarization of politics, whereby factions argue about what constitutes objective reality.  This ego defense also prevents individuals from maturing in their thinking and in their spiritual lives.

How much better would society be if more people were trying to build up each other, not beat each other into political, intellectual, and theological submission?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 1, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Building Up Each Other in Christ, Part VI   1 comment

Above:  Saul and the Witch of Endor, by Benjamin West

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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1 Samuel 28:1-20 or Lamentations 2:1-13

Psalm 113

Romans 14:1-13, 17

Luke 18:9-14

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You must not let what you think good be brought into disrepute; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but justice, peace, and joy, inspired by the Holy Spirit….Let us, then, pursue the things that make for peace and build up the common life.

–Romans 14:16-17, 19, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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The context of Romans 14 is a communal one.  Food is a major topic.  Rather, what and how people think food–which food is acceptable to eat, for example–is a major topic.  Within that context, we read counsel to refrain from judging one another in faith community.  The cultural context of Romans 14 may not apply to one’s life, but the timeless principle does.

God commands us to care for and build up each other, especially the vulnerable, the poor, and the distressed.  If one keeps reading in 1 Samuel 28, one may notice that the necromancer/witch is concerned about King Saul, depressed.  The Law of Moses forbids exploiting people and teaches mutuality.  The theology of the Babylonian Exile is that consistent disregard for the Law of Moses led to the exile.  Psalm 113 tells us that God raises the poor from the dust and needs from the dunghill then seats him with princes.

When we turn to the Gospel lesson, we may ask ourselves which character we resemble more.  So we think more highly of ourselves than we should?  Are we so busy judging others that we do not see our true character?  Or do we know exactly what our character is and beg for divine mercy?  Conventional piety can function as a set of blinders.  Appearances can deceive.  Self-defense mechanisms that guard our egos can be difficult to break down.

God’s standards and categories are not identical to ours, despite some minor overlapping.  Many who think of themselves as insiders are really outsiders, and visa versa.  That should inspire us to be humble before God and to avoid looking down our noses at others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 1, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/05/01/devotion-for-proper-27-year-c-humes/

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The Individual and the Collective V   1 comment

Above:  Fresco of Samuel

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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1 Samuel 8:4-20; 11:14-15 or Jeremiah 19:1-6, 10-12a

Psalm 106:1-16, 19-23, 47-48

Romans 8:1-11

Luke 12:35-48

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These assigned readings pertain to collective matters–sins, punishment for sins, and life in the Holy Spirit.  The context is that of a group–a faith community, a kingdom, et cetera.  All of that is consistent with the Biblical theme of mutuality.  We are responsible to and for each other.

Collective guilt and responsibility may seem unfair, assuming a certain perspective.  For example, sometimes a court releases a wrongly-convicted person who has spent years in prison yet whom evidence has exonerated.  Perhaps an expert witness lied under oath.  Maybe DNA has proven the prisoner’s innocence.  Perhaps the prisoner pleaded guilty to a lesser charge to avoid a certain conviction on a more severe charge.  Maybe the testimony of eyewitnesses proved to be unreliable, as it frequently does.  Perhaps the prosecutor engaged in professional misconduct by withholding exculpatory evidence.  Either way, taxpayers have borne the financial costs of what went wrong, leading to the incarceration of an innocent person.  And taxpayers may bear the financial costs of paying reparations to the wrongly convicted.  We not begrudge giving a liberated, wrongly-convicted person a fresh start and the financial means to begin a new life, do we?  We know, after all, that the wrongly-convicted person has paid for the actions of others with time in prison.

Whatever one person does affects others, whether one behaves as a private citizen or in an official capacity.  Likewise, society is people.  What society does wrong and sinfully does affect even those members of it who vocally oppose those sinful actions.  Those activists for justice also suffer when their society incurs punishment for its sins.

On the other hand, given that society is people, individuals can change their society.  Individuals can improve their society or make it worse.

May all of us leave our societies better than we found them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 23, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF TOYOHIKO KAGAWA, RENEWER OF SOCIETY AND PROPHETIC WITNESS IN JAPAN

THE FEAST OF JAKOB BÖHME, GERMAN LUTHERAN MYSTIC

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA MARIA OF THE CROSS, FOUNDRESS OF THE CARMELITE SISTERS OF SAINT TERESA OF FLORENCE

THE FEAST OF WALTER RUSSELL BOWIE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, SEMINARY PROFESSOR, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/23/devotion-for-proper-19-year-c-humes/

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Fearlessly   2 comments

Above:  Jeremiah

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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1 Samuel 2:18-26 or Jeremiah 17:5-10

Psalm 102:18-28

Romans 6:12-23

Luke 12:1-12

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In the context of the balance of divine judgment and mercy, an evergreen Biblical theme, we read another evergreen Biblical theme:  Be your best selves in God.  This applies both individually and collectively.  Be your best self in God.  Be the best family possible in God.  Be the best congregation possible in God.  Be the best ____ possible in God.

Fearlessness, grounded in faith and bound by mutual responsibility, is part of achieving human potential in God.  May we be fearless in loving our neighbors as we love ourselves in good times and during crises.  May we build up each other fearlessly.  May we speak and hear the truth in love, fearlessly. May we proclaim Christ in words and deeds, fearlessly.  May we eschew all bigotry, fearlessly.  May we hold irresponsible authority figures to account for the common good, fearlessly.  May we fearlessly cooperate with God in building societies that are more just, especially for the vulnerable and the impoverished.

May we remember and act fearlessly on the truth that we are precious to God and should, therefore, be precious to each other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 21, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROMAN ADAME ROSALES, MEXICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1927

THE FEAST OF SAINT CONRAD OF PARZHAM, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF GEORGE B. CAIRD, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST THEN UNITED REFORMED MINISTER, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF GEORGIA HARKNESS, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, ETHICIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON BARSABAE, BISHOP; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS, 341

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/21/devotion-for-proper-17-year-c-humes/

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Mutuality in God III   Leave a comment

Above:  The Sermon of the Beatitudes, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Eighth Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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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 God, whose never-failing Providence ordereth all things in heaven and earth;

we humbly beseech thee to put away from us all hurtful things,

and to give us those things which may be profitable for us;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 196

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Jeremiah 23:16-32

Psalm 40:1-11

2 Corinthians 4:1-10

Matthew 5:27-37

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Mutuality is a value the Law of Moses teaches.  We depend entirely on God.  Self-sufficiency is a lie and a delusion.  In that context, we depend on each other, are responsible to each other, and are responsible for each other.  We have no right to exploit, victimize, or objectify one another.  We have no right to make a mockery of the spirit of the law while superficially satisfying its letter.

I choose to bypass the explanation of cultural contexts and to land on the main ideas in this post.  Cultural contexts come and go, but timeless principles last forever.  Mistaking a culturally-specific example of a timeless principle is a road to legalism, which misses the spirit of the Law.  Many false prophets (as in Jeremiah 23) may think they are genuine articles.  Many of them are legalists.  They are still on the way to destruction.

Jesus had a way with commandments; he made them more rigorous without falling into legalism.  He did not, of course, advocate for self-mutilation (Matthew 5:29-30).  Eyes and hands do not cause sins.  However, hyperbole is a legitimate rhetorical device.

Scripture is one context within which to read and interpret scripture.  Therefore, I propose that, if you, O reader, read this post and despair for yourself, that you need not do that for long.  Repentance is a daily spiritual task, and divine mercy exists.  To quote Psalm 103:3-4 (Mitchell J. Dahood, 1970):

If you should keep record of iniquities, Yah,

Lord, who could survive?

But with you there is forgiveness,

that you might be revered.

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 19, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALPHEGE, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY, AND MARTYR, 1012

THE FEAST OF DAVID BRAINERD, AMERICAN CONGREGATIONALIST THEN PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EMMA OF LESUM, BENEFACTOR

THE FEAST OF MARY C. COLLINS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MISSIONARY AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF OLAVUS PETRI, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN, HISTORIAN, LITURGIST, MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND “FATHER OF SWEDISH LITERATURE;” AND HIS BROTHER, LAURENTIUS PETRI, SWEDISH LUTHERAN ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSALA, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND “FATHER OF SWEDISH HYMNODY”

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Perilous Times   1 comment

Above:  Cain after Abel’s Murder

Image in the Public Domain

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A CALL FOR MUTUALITY IN SOCIETIES AND POLITICS

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“Am I my brother’s guardian?”

–Cain, to YHWH, in Genesis 4:9, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Principles matter.  One of these vital principles is the high value of human life.

Wishful thinking will imperil, not save, us from Coronavirus/COVID-19.  All of us–from average citizens to world leaders–must act for the common good.  Necessary and proper actions may be more than inconvenient; they may involve sacrifice.  Good choices are scarce at best and absent at worst these days.  Given bad options, individuals, families, communities, leaders, societies, et cetera, need to act according to the least bad options in a woefully imperfect world.  Perhaps, then, we will not make a bad situation worse, and may improve it, in time.

I lower the boom, rhetorically, on all irresponsible people.  These include politicians who contradict medical and public health experts who are following the data.  Governments must not, for example, ease restrictions prematurely.  To do so would make a bad situation worse.  These irresponsible people also include individuals who disregard social distancing rules and have “Coronavirus parties,” for example.  Other irresponsible people include college and university presidents and chancellors who permit students back on campus prematurely.

I understand the desire to return to life as it was.  That, however, is a form of wishful thinking.  Reality is harsh; we cannot return to life as it was.  Even after this pandemic has ended, we will not return to life as it was.  Whenever that time will arrive, may it find us–as individuals, families, communities, leaders, societies, et cetera–better than we were before the pandemic started.  May we think more about our responsibilities to and for each other, and how much we depend on each other and on God.  May we have a stronger sense that, when we keep any segment of the population “in its place,” we harm the whole.  May we be faster to eschew all bigotry, especially racism, xenophobia, and nativism, and to realize that we, as people, have more in common than not.  May we adjust our economies in ways that are necessary and proper to adapt to the new reality and to decrease poverty.  And may we, collectively, hold leaders and ourselves to a higher standard relative to the common good and replace those we ought to replace.

We all belong to God and each other, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 25, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT DISMAS, PENITENT BANDIT

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Adapted from this post:

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2020/03/25/perilous-times/

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