Archive for the ‘Mutuality’ Tag

The Jerusalem of the Future and Present, Part I   Leave a comment

Above:  Swords into Plowshares Statue

Image in the Public Domain

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READING FIRST ISAIAH, PART III

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Isaiah 2:1-22

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If Isaiah 2:2-5 seems familiar, O reader, you may be thinking of the nearly identical passage at the beginning of Micah 4.  The Bible quotes itself frequently; that may explain the similarity in texts (Micah 4 and Isaiah 2).  Another theory holds that Micah 4 and Isaiah 2 quoted the same text.  And one may point out that Micah and First Isaiah were contemporaries. Alternatively, Micah 4 and Isaiah may have paraphrased the same source.

The eschatological vision in Isaiah 2:2-5 indicates that Jerusalem will become the seat of God in creation, restored to the divine ideal of primordial harmony of the universe.  The nations, without becoming Jews, will learn from God.  Isaiah 2:2 reads, “all nations,” but Micah 2:2 reads, “many nations.”  One word makes a major difference.

Isaiah 2:2-5 (the vision of future Jerusalem) contrasts with Isaiah 2:6-21 (about divine judgment on a sinful population).  Isaiah 2:6-21, addressed to the (northern) Kingdom of Judah, condemns a variety of offenses, including arrogance, pride, soothsaying, and idolatry.  That pride and arrogance will not stand amid divine punishment, we read.

Verse 22 stands out from the rest of the chapter.  This verse addresses some audience other than verses 6-21.  In French, “you” in 2:6 is tu–singular.  Yet, in French, “you” in 2:22 is vous–plural.  Commentaries on the Book of Isaiah also indicate that “you” in Isaiah 2:22 is plural.  Verse 22 is a late addition.

As for you, stop worrying about mortals,

in whose nostrils is but a breath;

for of what worth are they?

–Isaiah 2:22, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Context is crucial to interpretation.  Given the layers of writing and editing in the final version of Isaiah 2, establishing context can be difficult.  Who are “you?”  They may be the (southern) Kingdom of Judah, but that identification is uncertain.  Also, given the updating of the writings of the early prophets (Hosea, Amos, Micah, and First Isaiah) through the time after the Babylonian Exile, the identity of the plural “you” in verse 22 may be less important than one may think at first.  After all, the prophecy still speaks clearly, long after its original context has ceased to exist.

Isaiah 2:22 pleads with a population to trust in God, not mortals.  It encourages people to rely on God and to abandon the delusion of human self-reliance.  That delusion is at the heart of arrogance, which Isaiah 2:6-21 denounces.  That delusion contradicts the Law of Moses, which teaches that people rely entirely on God, rely on each other, and are responsible to and for each other.  The delusion of self-reliance belies the reality of mutuality.  Whichever population the “you” of Isaiah 2:22 originally was, that “you” can, functionally, be any population in the modern world.  The reality of 2021 is far from the ideal vision of Isaiah 2:2-5 for a range of reasons, including human arrogance.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PERCY DEARMER, ANGLICAN CANON AND TRANSLATOR AND AUTHOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONA OF PISA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC AND PILGRIM

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, LUTHER OF THE SLAVES AND FATHER OF SLOVAK HYMNODY

THE FEAST OF RUBY MIDDLETON FORSYTHE, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY THERESA LEDÓCHOWSKA, FOUNDRESS OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF SAINT PETER CLAVER, AND “MOTHER OF AFRICAN MISSIONS;” AND HER SISTER, SAINT URSULA LEDÓCHOWSKA, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE URSULINES OF THE AGONIZING HEART OF JESUS (GRAY URSULINES)

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God’s Case Against Israel, Part I: Bad Habits   Leave a comment

Above:  Cattle (Hosea 4:16)

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HOSEA, PART IV

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Hosea 4:1-5:7

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The heading for Hosea 4:1-9:17 in The Oxford Study Bible, Revised English Bible with the Apocrypha (1992) is,

God’s case against Israel.

This is a legal case, given the language of accusation and reproof, which carries the connotation of hauling someone into court.  This language carries over from Hosea 2:2/2:4 (depending on versification),:

“To court, take your mother to court!….”

The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

Then we got theological whiplash by changing the tone in Chapter 3 and switching back to judgment in Chapter 4.

Chapter 4 begins:

Hear the word of the LORD,

O people of Israel!

For the LORD has a case

Against the inhabitants of this land,

Because there is no honesty and no goodness

And no obedience to God in the land.

–Hosea 4:1-2, TANAKH: The Holy Scriptures (1985)

As I survey translations, I notice a variety of word choices in lieu of honesty, goodness, and obedience to God.

  1. The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011) offers, in order, fidelity, loyalty, and knowledge of God.
  2. The Revised English Bible (1989) offers, in order, good faith, loyalty, and acknowledgment of God.
  3. The New Revised Standard Version (1989) offers, in order, faithfulness, loyalty, and knowledge of God.
  4. Robert Alter’s The Hebrew Bible (2019) offers, in order, truth, trust, and knowledge of the LORD.

I will unpack the three terms, in order.

  1. Truth/faithfulness/good faith/honesty refers to the trustworthiness expected of a judge, as in Exodus 18:21.
  2. Trust/loyalty/goodness refers to fidelity in human relationships, as in 1 Samuel 20:15.
  3. Knowledge of God/obedience to God/acknowledgment of God refers to marital intimacy.  The metaphors of marriage, sexual fidelity, and divorce are prominent in the Book of Hosea.

In other words, the covenantal relationship between God and Isaiah was broken.  Israel had broken it.

The priesthood was corrupt, too.  Some priests were devout and honest, of course, but corruption was rife.

Exegetes whose writings I have consulted disagree with each other about the alien or bastard children in 5:7.

  1. These offspring may be alien because of Israelite intermarriage with foreigners.
  2. But, O reader, do not forget the pervasive metaphors of marriage and divorce in the Book of Hosea.  We read that God has “cast off” Israel for sustained, collective infidelity to the divine covenant.
  3. The most likely explanation is that both answers apply.

The heart of 4:1-5:7 may reside in 5:4a:

Their habits do not let them

Turn back to their God;….

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Alternative translations of the Hebrew word translated as “habits” include:

  1. Deeds (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989),
  2. Misdeeds (The Revised English Bible, 1989), and
  3. Acts (Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible, 2019).

Each of these translations has something to recommend it.  Yet I prefer “habits.”

Habitual behavior of the population had broken the covenant.

Human beings are creatures of habits.  May we, therefore, learn and nurture good habits, both individually and collectively.

I write this post at a particular moment, therefore certain issues occupy my mind.  The COVID-19 pandemic continues to claim lives needlessly around the world.  Whether to get vaccinated with a proven vaccine is, in the minds of many people with the option to get vaccinated, a politically partisan issue.  Public health policy, which should be just a matter of following science and saving lives, has become a matter of cynical politics for certain elected officials.  Varieties of hatred, often wrapped in Christian rhetoric, are on the rise.  Authoritarianism and objectively-inaccurate conspiracy theories are increasingly popular with most of those who identify with one of the two major political parties in the United States of America.  And speaking the objective truth about reality, as some members of that party do, is risky, if one hops to retain one’s leadership position within that party.

Bad habits separate individuals from each other.  Bad habits separate individuals, cultures, and societies from God.  Bad habits harm the whole.  Whatever I do, for example, affects others.  This is a statement of mutuality.  We all stand before God, completely dependent on grace.  In that context, each person is responsible to and for all other people.

Society is people.  Society shapes its members.  Those members also influence society.  When enough people change their minds, societal consensus shifts.

Their habits do not let them

Turn back to their God;….

This need not apply to any group, although it does.  Members of any such group can change their habits, therefore, their fates.  They can.  Will they?  Will we?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JUNIA AND ANDRONICUS, COWORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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The Rededication and Purification of the Temple: The First Hanukkah   1 comment

Above:  A Menorah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XIX

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1 Maccabees 4:36-61

2 Maccabees 10:1-9

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God, the pagans have invaded your heritage,

they have defiled your holy temple,

they have laid Jerusalem in ruins,

they have left the corpses of your servants as food for the birds of the air,

the bodies of your faithful for the wild beasts.

Around Jerusalem they have shed blood like water,

leaving no one to bury them.

We are the scorn of our neighbours,

the butt and laughing-stock of those around us.

How long will you be angry, Yahweh?  For ever?

Is your jealousy  to go on smouldering like a fire?

Pour out your anger on the nations who do not acknowledge you,

and on the kingdoms that do not call on your name;

for they have devoured Jacob and devastated his home.

Do not count against us the guilt of forever generations,

in your tenderness come quickly to meet us,

for we are utterly weakened;

help us, God our Saviour,

for the glory of your name;

Yahweh, wipe away our sins,

rescue us for the sake of your name.

Why should the nations ask,

“Where is their God?”

Let us see the nations suffer vengeance

for shedding your servants’ blood.

May the groans of the captive reach you,

by your great strength save those who are condemned to death!

Repay our neighbours sevenfold

for the insults they have levelled at you, Lord.

And we, your people, the flock that you pasture,

will thank you for ever,

will recite your praises from age to age.

–Psalm 79, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Psalm 79 is a text from the Babylonian Exile.  One can easily imagine Judas Maccabeus and company reciting it or parts of it, at least mentally, at the first Hanukkah, on Kislev 25 (December 14), 164 B.C.E.  Many of the themes fit.  

My cultural patrimony includes the Scientific Revolution and the ensuing Enlightenment.  I, therefore, have the intellectual category “laws of nature.”  My default understanding of a miracle is a violation of or an exception to at least one law of nature.  That definition does not apply to the Bible, though.  Its authors, who lived and died long prior to the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, lacked the intellectual category “laws of nature.”  We moderns need to be careful not to misread the Bible anachronistically.

In Biblical times, people did have a category I call, for lack of a better label, “We don’t see that every day.”  They recognized the extraordinary.  The traditional Hanukkah miracle (absent from 1 and 2 Maccabees yet mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud) of the oil lasting as long as it did was extraordinary.  The miracles in 1 and 2 Maccabees were that proper Temple worship resumed and that the Temple was suitable for such worship again.

King Antiochus IV Epiphanes had profaned the Temple about three years prior, in 1 Maccabees 1:54f and 2 Maccabees 5:1-27.  King Antiochus IV had died about the time of the first Hanukkah–either before (2 Maccabees 9:1-29) or after (1 Maccabees 6:17).  As Father Daniel J. Harrington, S. J.. wrote in The New Collegeville Bible Commentary:  Old Testament (2015), news of the king’s death may have reached Jerusalem after the rededication and purification of the Temple.

The Jewish war for independence had not ended.  King Antiochus V Eupator, just seven years old, was the new Seleucid monarch, with Lysias as the regent.  And Judas Maccabeus was no fool.  He ordered Mount Zion and Beth-zur fortified.

The Hasmonean Rebellion began as a fight against the Seleucid imperial policy of forced Hellenization.  The rebellion became a war for national independence.  The Hasmonean Rebellion was always a struggle to maintain Jewish communal life, which was under a great and terrible threat.

Communal life is a relatively low priority in a culture that preaches rugged individualism.  Yet communal life is one of the moral pillars of the Law of Moses, which the Hasmoneans guarded and obeyed.  And communal life was a pillar of the moral teachings of Hebrew prophets.  Furthermore, communal life was a moral pillar of the teachings of Jesus and the epistles of St. Paul the Apostle.

Robert Doran, writing in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IV (1996), asks,

But how are we to keep a sense of community when we are not under attack?

–258

He proposes taking the answer from 1 Corinthians 13:4-5.  The answer is love:

Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

In other words, in ecclesiastical-theological terms, Donatism is not an option.  One of my favorite cartoons (probably under copyright protection) depicts a group of people holding really big pencils and drawing lines on the floor.  That single-cell cartoon also depicts Jesus standing among those line-drawers.  He is holding his really big pencil upside-down and erasing lines, though.

Love, in the context of communal life, eschews Donatism and self-aggrandizement.  Love, in the context of communal life, seeks only what is good for the community.  Love, in the context of communal life, embraces mutuality.  We are all responsible to and for each other other.  We all depend upon each other.  We all depend upon each other.  And we all depend entirely on God.  Whatever one does to harm anyone else also damages that one.  Whatever one does to or for anyone else, one does to or for oneself.

If my culture were to recognize these truths and act on them, that would be a miracle.  It would not constitute a violation of or an exception to any law of nature.  It would, however, be extraordinary.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 11, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ONESIMUS, BISHOP OF BYZANTIUM

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Stoicism and Platonism in Fourth Maccabees   Leave a comment

Above:  Zeno of Citium

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART IV

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4 Maccabees 1:1-3:18; 13:1-14:10; 18:20-24

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The Fourth Book of the Maccabees, composed in 20-54 C.E., perhaps in Antioch, is a treatise.  It interprets Judaism in terms of Greek philosophy–Stoicism and Platonism, to be precise.  4 Maccabees elaborates on the story of the martyrdom of the seven brothers and their mother, covered relatively succinctly in 2 Maccabees 7:1-42, and set prior to the Hasmonean Rebellion.

Fourth Maccabees, composed by an anonymous Hellenistic Jew and addressed to other Hellenistic Jews, has two purposes:

  1. To exhort them to obey the Law of Moses (18:1), and
  2. To proclaim that devout reason is the master of all emotions (1:1-2; 18:2).

Cultural assimilation was a common temptation for Hellenistic Jews.  “Keep the faith,” the author urged more verbosely than my paraphrase.  For him, devout reason was a reason informed by the Law of Moses.  Devout reason, in the author’s mind, the highest form of reason was the sole province of faithful Jews.

Vicarious suffering is also a theme in 4 Maccabees.  In this book, the suffering and death of the martyrs purifies the land (1:11; 6:29; 17:21), vindicates the Jewish nation (17:10), and atones for the sins of the people (6:29; 17:22).  The last point presages Penal Substitutionary Atonement, one of several Christian theologies of the atonement via Jesus.

The blending of Jewish religion and Greek philosophy is evident also in the treatment of the afterlife.  The Second Book of the Maccabees teaches bodily resurrection (7:9, 11, 14, 23, and 29).  One can find bodily resurrection elsewhere in Jewish writings (Daniel 12:2; 1 Enoch 5:1-2; 4 Ezra/2 Esdras 7:42; 2 Baruch 50:2-3).  The Fourth Book of the Maccabees, however, similar to the Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-4, teaches instant immortality, with reward or punishment.  The martyrs achieve instant instant immortality with reward (4 Maccabees 9:9, 22; 10:15; 14:15; 15:7; 16:13, 25; 17:12, 18; 18:23).  Antiochus IV Epiphanes, however, goes to everlasting torment (9:9, 29, 32; 10:11, 15; 11:3, 23; 12:18; 18:5).

Stoicism, in the Greek philosophical sense, has a different meaning than the average layperson may assume.  It is not holding one’s feelings inside oneself.  Properly, Stoicism teaches that virtue is the only god and vice is the only evil.  The wise are indifferent to pain and pleasure, to wealth and poverty, and to success and misfortune.  A Stoic, accepting that he or she could change x, y, and z, yet not t, u, and v.  No, a Stoic works to change x, y, and z.  A Stoic, therefore, is content in the midst of difficulty.  If this sounds familiar, O reader, you may be thinking of St. Paul the Apostle being content in pleasant and in unpleasant circumstances (Philippians 4:11-12).

Stoicism shows up elsewhere in the New Testament and in early Christianity, too.  It is in the mouth of St. Paul in Athens (Acts 17:28).  Stoicism is also evident in the writings of St. Ambrose of Milan (337-397), mentor of St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430).  Why would it not be in the writings of St. Ambrose?  Greek philosophy informed the development of early Christian theology.  Greek philosophy continues to exist in sermons, Sunday School lessons, and Biblical commentaries.  Greek philosophy permeates the Gospel of John and the Letter to the Hebrews.  Greek philosophy is part of the Christian patrimony.

Platonism was the favorite form of Greek philosophy in the Roman Catholic Church for centuries.  Platonism permeated the works of St. Clement of Alexandria (circa 150-circa 210/215) and his star pupil, Origen (185-254), for example.  Eventually, though, St. Albert the Great (circa 1200-1280) and his star pupil, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), successfully made the case for Aristotle over Plato.  Holy Mother Church changed her mind after the deaths of Sts. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas. The Church, having embraced Aristotle over Plato, eventually rescinded the pre-Congregation canonization of St. Clement of Alexandria.  And the Church has never canonized Origen.  I have, however, read news stories of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland trying to convince The Episcopal Church to add Origen to the calendar of saints.  (The Episcopal Church already recognizes St. Clement of Alexandria as a saint.)

Platonism and Stoicism have four cardinal virtues–rational judgment, self-control, justice, and courage.  These appear in 4 Maccabees 1:2-4.  As I read these verses, I recognize merit in them.  Some emotions do hinder self-control.  Other emotions to work for injustice and obstruct courage.  News reports provide daily documentation of this.  Other emotions further the causes of justice and courage.  News reports also provide daily documentation of this.

I also affirm that reason should govern emotions.  I cite news stories about irrationality.  Emotions need borders, and must submit to objectivity and reason, for the best results.

4 Maccabees takes the reader on a grand tour of the Hebrew Bible to support this conclusion.  One reads, for example, of Joseph (Genesis 39:7-12; 4 Maccabees 2:1-6), Simeon and Levi (Genesis 49:7; 4 Maccabees 2:19-20), Moses (Numbers 16:1-35; Sirach 45:18; 4 Maccabees 2:17), David (2 Samuel 23:13-17; 1 Chronicles 11:15-19; 4 Maccabees 3:6-18).

Reason can effect self-control, which works for higher purposes.  One of these higher purposes is

the affection of brotherhood.

–4 Maccabees 13:19, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

In the case of the seven martyred brothers, as the author of 4 Maccabees told their story, these holy martyrs used rational judgment and self-control to remain firm in their faith.  Those brothers did not

fear him who thinks he is killing us….

–4 Maccabees 13:14, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

That is the same courage and conviction present in Christian martyrs, from antiquity to the present day.

One may think of another passage:

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

–Matthew 10:28, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

Not surprisingly, many persecuted Christians derived much comfort and encouragement from 4 Maccabees.  These Christians had to rely on each other, just as the seven brothers did in 4 Maccabees.

Mutuality is a virtue in the Law of Moses and in Christianity.

I have spent the first four posts in this series laying the groundwork for the First, Second, and Fourth Books of Maccabees.  I have provided introductory material for these books.

Next, I will start the narrative countdown to the Hasmonean Rebellion.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 4, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CORNELIUS THE CENTURION

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The Gift of Tears to Shed   1 comment

Above:  Tear Ducts

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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Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 24

Revelation 21:1-6a

John 11:32-44

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[The Lord GOD] will destroy death for ever….

–Isaiah 25:8a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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Writing another devotional blog post for All Saints’ Day can prove challenging, given how many I have composed.  My perspective on this hobby of writing lectionary-based devotions is unique, O reader.  I am the only mortal who knows how often I have repeated myself.

Anyway, the connection between Isaiah 25:5-9 and Revelation 21:1-6a is obvious.  Isaiah 25:6-9, set during the great eschatological banquet, is a fine choice to pair with Revelation 21:1-6a.

I have joined the company of those who visit someone’s grave and talk.  In my case, those are the graves of my father (who had Alzheimer’s Disease and died a combination of ailments on October 30, 2014) and my girlfriend (who struggled with mental illness until she died violently on October 14, 2019).  Therefore, Isaiah 25:6-9 has special meaning for me.  Perhaps you, O reader, also find special meaning in this text.  We mere mortals grieve because we are human and have emotions.  We need not grieve alone.  Hopefully, we can rely on other people to help us through the grieving process.  And God is with us, of course.

Jesus wept.

–John 11:35, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Jesus weeps with us.  We are not alone.

Sister Ruth Fox, O.S.B., wrote “A Franciscan Blessing” (1985), which reads, in part:

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer

from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish,

so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

One day, I will be a position to help someone experiencing grief.  I will be able to assist that person because of my grief.  So be it.  Life in God requires people to look out for each other.  

The Feast of All Saints is an occasion to ponder all who have preceded us in the Christian faith.  They constitute a “great cloud of witnesses.”  Some are famous.  Most are obscure.  We may know a few of them by name.  To miss them is legitimate.

At the right time (the time of God’s choosing), may we join them on the other side of the veil.  In the meantime, we have work to do and God to glorify.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 30, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF LESSLIE NEWBIGIN, ENGLISH REFORMED MISSIONARY AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT BATHILDAS, QUEEN OF FRANCE

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK OAKELEY, ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GENESIUS I OF CLERMONT AND PRAEJECTUS OF CLERMONT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; AND SAINT AMARIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT JACQUES BUNOL, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1945

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/30/devotion-for-all-saints-day-year-d-humes/

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Wealth as an Idol   1 comment

Above:  Ancient City of Laodicea

Image Source = Google Earth

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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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Genesis 8:1-13 or Acts 26:1, 9-23, 27-29, 31-32

Psalm 132:1-5, 11-18

Revelation 3:14-22

John 8:31-47

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Laodicea was a wealthy city, a center of the refining of gold, the manufacture of garments, and the manufacture of a popular salve for eyes.  The church in that city was also wealthy, not on Christ.  Jesus said to keep his commandments.  St. Paul the Apostle relied on Christ.

As I have written many times, deeds reveal creeds.  To quote Proverbs, as a man thinks, he is.  And as one thinks, one does.  God is like what God had done and does, in Jewish theology.  Likewise, we are like what we have done and do.

Are we like the Laodicean congregation?  Are we lukewarm?  Are we comfortable, resting on our own laurels and means?  Do we have the luxury of being that way?  (FYI:  “We” can refer either to congregations or to individuals.)

Wealth is not the problem.  No, wealth is morally neutral.  Relationships to wealth are not morally neutral.  To the extent that a person or a congregation may rely on wealth, not God, one makes wealth an idol.

There was once a man who owned a large tract of land.  He enjoyed boasting about how much land he owned.  One day, the landowner was bragging to another man:

I can get in my truck early in the morning and start driving around the edge of my property.  Late in the day, I haven’t gotten home yet.

The other man replied,

I used to have a truck like that, too.

The Bible burst the proverbial balloons of those who trust in their wealth, not in God.  Aside from Revelation 3:14-22, one may think readily of the Gospel of Luke and various Hebrew prophets, for example.  One may also quote 1 Timothy 6:10 (The Jerusalem Bible, 1966):

The love of money is the root of all evils and there are some who, pursuing it, have wandered away from the faith, and so given their souls to any number of fatal wounds.

One may also quote Luke 6, in which the poor are blessed (verse 20), but the rich are having their consolation now (verse 24).

Wealth is morally neutral.  Relationships to it are not.  May we always trust in God and acknowledge our duties to one another, in mutuality, under God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 21, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MIROCLES OF MILAN AND EPIPHANIUS OF PAVIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ALBAN ROE AND THOMAS REYNOLDS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1642

THE FEAST OF EDGAR J. GOODSPEED, U.S. BAPTIST BIBLICAL SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN YI YON-ON, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN KOREA, 1867

THE FEAST OF W. SIBLEY TOWNER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/21/devotion-for-proper-16-year-d-humes/

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The Peace of God, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Noah’s Ark

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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Genesis 6:9-22 or Acts 22:21-30

Psalm 127

Revelation 2:18-29

John 6:60-71

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Context matters.

Thyatira was a frontier city and a center of commerce.  Idolatry was also commonplace, as in meat sacrificed to false deities.  St. Paul the Apostle had addressed other churches regarding this matter.  He recognized that, given the non-existence of those gods and goddesses, one could, in good conscience, eat meat sacrificed to them.  St. Paul the Apostle also treated that matter cautiously.  He knew that many people, still strongly influenced by their culture, did not know that there was only one God.

Whether to consume meat offered to idols remained an issue for many Christians.  In my cultural context, however, that is a non-issue.  Nevertheless, the question of what an equivalent issue in my time and place may be germane.

Ernest Lee Stoffel, in The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), wrote about improper compromises the Church makes with culture–an evergreen issue.  The Church made unacceptable compromises with culture during the age of Christendom.  The Church of 2021, increasingly on the margins of society in places where it used to be prominent, has continued to face the pressure to make improper compromises.

May we of the Church be careful, both collectively and individually.  May we avoid mistaking being serial contrarians for being faithful disciples of Jesus.  The larger culture is not wrong about everything.

And may we never lose faith that God is in charge.  God still cares about us and remains with us.  We may or may not receive protection from unfortunate events.  Nevertheless, God will be with us.  we still depend entirely on God.  We continue to depend on each other and to be responsible to and for each other.  Together, with God’s help, we will come through storms of life, even if they consume us physically, emotionally, and/or economically.

Consider Jesus and St. Paul the Apostle, O reader.  Both of them suffered terribly.  St. Paul died as a martyr.  Jesus died on a cross.  (He did not remain dead for long, of course.)  As Daniel Berrigan (1921-2016) said, Christians should look good on wood.

I have heard of certain Evangelical megachurches without a cross in sight.  Crosses are depressing, some people have explained.  How do such people think Jesus felt?

The servant is not greater than the master.

The peace of God, it is no peace,

But strife closed in the sod.

Yet, brothers, pray for but one thing:

The marvelous peace of God.

–William Alexander Percy (1885-1942), 1924; quoted in Pilgrim Hymnal (1958), #340

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 18, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE CONFESSION OF SAINT PETER THE APOSTLE

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/18/devotion-for-proper-13-year-d-humes/

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Economic Justice and Fundamental Neighborliness   Leave a comment

Above:  Lazarus ad the Rich Man, by Frans Francken the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday after Trinity, 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 God, the Strength of all them that put their trust in thee;

mercifully accept our prayers;

and because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do good thing without thee,

grant us the help of thy grace, that in keeping thy commandments,

we may please thee, both in will and deed;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 184

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Isaiah 41:1-18

Psalm 103

Acts 2:42-47

Luke 16:19-31

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Several themes paly out in the four assigned readings.  These include:

  1. The sovereignty of God,
  2. The persistence of idolatry,
  3. The imperative of repentance, and
  4. Mutuality in faith community.

However, the nearly unifying theme is the divine mandate of economic justice.  God does not forsake the poor and the needy who seek water and find none (Isaiah 41:17).  We read in Acts 2:42-47 that the earliest members of the church in Jerusalem took care of each other economically.  And we read that the rich man in the parable in Luke 16:19-31 did not care about the poor man at his gates.

Various Hebrew prophets condemned the exploitation of the poor.  We read more about the Lukan theme of reversal of fortune in Luke 6:20b-21, 24-26:

Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.

Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be filled.

Blessed are you who are weeping now, for you shall laugh….

But alas for you who are rich, for you are having your consolation now.

Alas for you who have plenty to eat now, for you shall go hungry.

Alas for you who are laughing now, for you shall mourn and weep.

The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

The problem with wealth in the parable was the rich man’s attachment to it, paired with his lack of compassion.  He exhibited signs of conspicuous consumption in a society with a gaping class divide and a majority population that was impoverished.   This rich man could have afforded to act on behalf of the poor at his gate, at least.  Even in death, he still thought of the poor man as a servant, at best.

The rich man’s attachment to wealth and his willful obliviousness to the plight of the poor man at his gate were forms of idolatry.  George Buttrick diagnosed the rich man’s root sin as a lack of “fundamental neighborliness” in 1928.

Economic justice is a manifestation of “fundamental neighborliness.”  God commands it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 13, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILARY OF POITIERS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS, “ATHANASIUS OF THE WEST,” AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS PROTÉGÉ, SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN KEIMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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

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

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL PREISWERK, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Sacred Vocations, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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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The Assigned Readings:

Acts 16:11-34

Psalm 23

2 Thessalonians 3:6-18

John 10:1-18

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2 Thessalonians 3:6-18, in context, contains a crucial message:  Do not use waiting for the Second Coming of Jesus as an excuse for idleness.  Mutuality, a value from the Law of Moses, remains germane.  We all depend on are are responsible to and for each other.  As The Book of Common Prayer (1979) reminds us, we depend upon each other’s labor.

Performing the labor God has assigned to us may get us into trouble, as it did in Acts 16:11-34.  If so, perhaps an opportunity for evangelism will arise from the circumstance.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  Such a shepherd deserves our best efforts, does he not?  May we, by grace, not fail him.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 11, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODOSIUS THE CENOBIARCH, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF CHARLES WILLIAM EVEREST, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS II OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH OF AQUILEIA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD FREDERICK LITTLEDALE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2021/01/11/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter-year-d-humes/

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Mutuality in God IX   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Crucifixion, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

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For Good Friday, 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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Almighty God, we beseech thee graciously to behold this thy family,

for which our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed,

and given up into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the cross;

who now liveth and reigneth wtih thee and the Holy Spirit,

ever One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 161-162

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Micah 6:1-8

Psalm 69:1-21

2 Corinthians 5:14-21

Matthew 27:33-50

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He has told you, O man, what is good

And for what the LORD requires of you:

Only to love goodness,

And to walk modestly with your God.

–Micah 6:8-9a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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The Book of Micah dates to the reigns of Kings Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah of Judah (759-698/687 B.C.E.).  The final version, however, comes from a time after the Fall of Jerusalem (587/586 B.C.E.).  Therefore, hindsight informs the text as much as the then-present tense does.  The Book of Micah proclaims divine judgment and mercy (in balance), as well as the moral imperative of mutuality in society.  To violate mutuality is to trample the vulnerable, which is to offend God.

Jesus died for more than one reason, including scapegoating by authority figures.  His unjust execution (a major point in the Gospel of Luke) constituted a violation of Micah 6:8-9a.  Societies, governments, and institutions00even relatively benign ones–have continued to victimize people.  Every time a court has convicted someone wrongly, an innocent person has died via capital punishment, a government has turned a blind eye to lynching, et cetera, has been an occasion of violating Micah 6:8-9a.

Our (however one defines “our”) name has yet to achieve wisdom.  We are guilty collectively.  Each of us is guilty individually, for each person belongs to the whole.  The Book of Common Prayer (1979) contains a prayer for forgiveness for

sins committed on our behalf.

Original sin taints human societies and institutions.  Even the best intentioned of us cannot avoid contributing to the furtherance of evil from which we benefit.

A note in The Jewish Study Bible offers some useful information about one line:

And to walk modestly with your God.

No English translation properly conveys the meaning of the Hebrew word usually rendered as “humbly” or “modestly.”  Other translations include “wisely,” “completely,” and “carefully.”  I gravitate toward “completely.”  Walking completely with God as a high calling, both individually and collectively.  It is also realistic, by grace.  Do we want to respond faithfully via our free will, itself a result of grace?

On Good Friday and all other days, may we ask ourselves how many more people will die because we–individually and collectively–refuse to respond faithfully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PEPIN OF LANDEN, SAINT ITTA OF METZ, THEIR RELATIONS, SAINTS AMAND, AUSTREGISILUS, AND SULPICIUS II BOURGES, FAITHFUL CHRISTIANS ACROSS GENERATIONAL LINES

THE FEAST OF EMILY GREENE BALCH, U.S. QUAKER SOCIOLOGIST, ECONOMIST, AND PEACE ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF JULIA CHESTER EMERY, UPHOLDER OF MISSIONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP II OF MOSCOW, METROPOLITAN OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA, AND MARTYR, 1569

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JONES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

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