Archive for the ‘Parable of the Pounds’ Tag

Deeds and Creeds I   1 comment

Archelaus

Above:   Archelaus

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Merciful God, gracious and benevolent,

through your Son you invite all the world to a meal of mercy.

Grant that we may eagerly follow this call,

and bring us with all your saints into your life of justice and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 5:12-14

Psalm 50

Luke 19:11-27

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“Consider this well, you who forget God,

lest I rend you and there be none to deliver you.

Whoever offers me the sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me;

but to those who keep in my way will I show the salvation of God.”

–Psalm 50:23-24, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The traditional title for the pericope from Luke 19 is the Parable of the Pounds.  That reading is superficially similar to the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), which teaches the imperative of diligence in the work of God.  In the case of Luke 19:11-27, however, the real point is quite different.

Textual context matters.  Immediately prior to the parable we read of our Lord and Savior’s encounter with Zacchaeus, a man who worked as a tax collector for the Roman Empire.  He was a literal tax thief, although, as we read, he changed his ways and made more restitution than the Law of Moses required.  Immediately after the parable Jesus enters Jerusalem at the beginning of that fateful Holy Week.  The story of Zacchaeus explains verse 11a (“As they were listening to this”); the context of the impending Triumphal Entry is crucial to understanding the pericope which Volume IX (1995) of The New Interpreter’s Bible calls “The Parable of the Greedy and Vengeful King.”

The nobleman in the parable resembles members of the Herodian Dynasty, especially Archelaus (reigned 4 B.C.E.-6 C.E.), son of Herod the Great (reigned 47-4 B.C.E.), Governor of Galilee then the client king of the Jews.  Herod the Great, who traveled to Rome to seek the title of king, reigned as one because the Roman Republic then Empire granted him that title.  He was also a cruel man.  Biblical and extra-Biblical sources agree on this point, constituting a collection of stories of his tyranny and cruelty.  In Matthew 2 he ordered the Massacre of the Innocents, for example.  Archelaus, a son of Herod the Great, ruled as the Roman-appointed ethnarch of Idumea, Judea, and Samaria, after traveling to Rome.  Archelaus sought the title of King, which the Emperor Augustus denied him after meeting with a delegation of Jews.  Archelaus, mentioned by name in Matthew 2:22, was also cruel and tyrannical, victimizing Jews and Samaritans alike.  On one day alone he ordered the massacre of 3000 people at the Temple precinct in Jerusalem.  Eventually Augustus deposed him.  Herod Antipas, full brother of Archelaus, ruled on behalf of the Roman Empire as the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C.E. to 39 C.E., when he sought the title of King and found himself banished to Gaul instead.  Antipas, a chip off the old block, ordered the execution of St. John the Baptist (Matthew 14:3-10) and sought to kill Jesus, who called the tetrarch “that fox” (Luke 13:32).

A trope in the interpretation of parables of Jesus is that one of the characters represents God.  That does not apply accurately to the parable in Luke 19:11-27.  In fact, the unnamed nobleman, who orders the execution of his political opponents, is an antitype of Jesus, who enters Jerusalem triumphantly in the next pericope and dies on the cross a few days later, at the hands of Roman officials.  The Kingdom of God is quite different from the Roman Empire, built on violence and exploitation.  The kingship of Jesus is quite different from the model that the Roman Empire offers.

Amos 5 condemns those in the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah who profess to follow Yahweh, yet oppose the establishment of justice, especially for the needy.  There is nothing wrong with religious rituals themselves, but engaging in them while perpetuating injustice makes a mockery of them.  God is unimpressed, we read.

God, in Psalm 50, addresses those who recite divine statutes yet do not keep them, who think wrongly that God is like them.  They will not find deliverance in God, we read.  That Psalm fits well with Amos 5, of course.  Then there are the evildoers who do not even pretend to honor God and do not change their ways.  Their path is doomed in the long run also.

One must reject the false dichotomy of deeds versus creeds.  In actuality, I argue, deeds reveal creeds.  One might detect a dichotomy between deeds and words, but, barring accidents, no dichotomy between deeds and creeds exists.

What do your deeds reveal about your creeds, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, APOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/06/01/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-26-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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A Foretaste of the Feast of Christ the King   1 comment

Above:  Herod Archelaus

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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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2 Maccabees 7:1, 20-31, 39-42 (Revised English Bible):

Another incident concerned the arrest of seven brothers along with their mother.  They were being tortured by the king with whips and thongs to force them to eat pork, contrary to the law.

The mother was the most remarkable of all, and she deserves to be remembered with special honour.  She watched her seven sons perish within the space of a single day, yet she bore it bravely, for she trusted in the Lord.  She encouraged each in turn in her native language; filled with noble resolution, her woman’s thoughts fired by a manly spirit, she said to them:

You appeared in my womb, I know not how; it was not I who gave you life and breath, not I who set in order the elements of your being.  The Creator of the universe, who designed the beginning of mankind and devised the origin of all, will in his mercy give you back again breath and life, since now you put his laws above every thought of self.

Antiochus felt that he was being treated with contempt and suspected an insult in her words.  As the youngest brother was still left, the king, not content with appealing to him, even assured him on oath that once he abandoned his ancestral customs he would make him rich and enviable by enrolling him as a king’s Friend and entrusting him with high office.  Since the youth paid no regard whatsoever, the king summoned the mother and urged her to advise her boy to save his life.  After much urging from the king, she agreed to persuade her son.  She leant towards him and, flouting the cruel tyrant, said in her native language:

Son, take pity on me, who carried you nine months in the womb, nursed you for three years, reared you and brought you up to your present age.  I implore you, my child, to look at the heavens and the earth; consider all that is in them, and realize that God did not create them from what already existed and that a human being comes into existence in the same way.  Do not be afraid of this butcher; accept death willingly and prove yourself worthy of your brothers, so that by God’s mercy I may receive back you and them together.

She had barely finished when the young man spoke out:

What are you all waiting for?  I will not submit to the king’s command; I obey the command of the law given through Moses to our forefathers.  And you, King Antiochus, who have devised all manner of atrocities for the Hebrews, you will not escape God’s hand….

Roused by this defiance, the king in his fury used him worse than the others, and the young man, putting his whole trust in the Lord, died without having incurred defilement.

Last of all, after her sons, the mother died.

Then must conclude our account of the eating of entrails and the monstrous tortures.

Psalm 17:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hear my plea of innocence, O LORD;

give heed to my cry;

listen to my prayer, which does not come from lying lips.

Let my vindication come forth from your presence;

let your eyes be fixed on justice.

Weigh my heart, summon me by night,

melt me down; you will find no impurity in me.

I give no offence with my mouth as others do;

I have heeded the words of your lips.

My footsteps hold fast to the ways of your law;

in your paths my feet shall not stumble.

I call upon you, O God, for you will answer me;

incline your ear to me and hear my words.

Show me your marvelous loving-kindness,

O Savior of those who take refuge at your right hand

from those who rise up against them.

Keep me as the apple of your eye;

hide me under the shadow of your wings.

Luke 19:11-28 (Revised English Bible):

While they were listening to this, Jesus went on to tell them a parable, because he was now close to Jerusalem and they [the crowd who disapproved of him eating with Zacchaeus] thought the kingdom of God might dawn at any moment.  He said,

A man of noble birth went on a long journey abroad, to have himself appointed king and then return.  But first he called then of his servants and gave each a sum of money, saying, “Trade with this while I am away.”  His fellow-citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, “We do not want this man as our king.”  He returned however as king, and sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, to find out what profit each had made.  The first came and said, “Your money, sir, has increased tenfold.”  ”Well done,” he replied, “you are a good servant, trustworthy in a very small matter, you shall have charge of ten cities.”  The second came and said, “Here is your money, sir; I kept it wrapped up in a handkerchief.  I was afraid of you because you are a hard man:  you draw out what you do not put in and reap what you do not sow.”  ”You scoundrel!”  he replied.  ”I will condemn you out of your own mouth.  You knew me to be a hard man, did you, drawing out what I never put in, and reaping what I did not sow?  Then why did you not put my money on deposit, and I could have claimed it with interest when I came back?”  Turning to his attendants he said, “Take the money from him and give it to the man with the most.”  ”But sir,” they replied, “he has ten times as much already.”  ”I tell you,” he said, “everyone one has will be given more; but whoever has nothing will forfeit even what he has.  But as for those enemies of mine who did not want me for their king, bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.”

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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 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.

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Some Related Posts:

This is My Father’s World:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/this-is-my-fathers-world/

Matthew 25 (Similar to Luke 19):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/week-of-proper-16-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/proper-28-year-a/

Torture:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/a-prayer-for-those-who-are-tortured/

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/a-prayer-for-those-who-inflict-torture/

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U.S. Presbyterian minister and humanitarian Maltbie Davenport Babcock adored nature and wrote many poems.  He died in 1901, after which his widow arranged for the publication of many of these works.  Among them was the text of the great hymn, “This is My Father’s World.”  One verse is especially germane to this day’s readings:

This is my Father’s world,

O let me ne’er forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong

God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world:

The battle is not done;

Jesus who died shall be satisfied,

And earth and heaven be one.

Antiochus Epiphanes was a tyrant, as was Herod the Great, a Roman client king who died in 4 B.C.E.  Three sons took up their father’s role, each in his own district, with Roman approval, of course.  Herod Archelaus governed much of the territory the modern State of Israel covers, with his capital at Jerusalem.  He was the basis of the parable Jesus told, for a delegation of fifty men from the region traveled to Rome to ask they Archelaus not become the client ruler.

The Parable of the Pounds in Luke 19 is similar to the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25.  For more about latter, follow the germane links I have provided.  In Luke 19, however, there is a unique twist; the king is clearly the villain, and one identified with a member of the notorious Herodian Dynasty.  This parable is set as Jesus nears his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, and therefore his crucifixion a few days later.  The tyranny of the Roman Empire and its rule, whether direct or indirect, was on his mind.

The 1920s were difficult.  Democracies were few and far between in Europe, and some of those were weak.  The Weimar Republic teetered in Germany and the Fascists reigned supreme in Italy.  Japan was on the militaristic and imperialistic path in the Pacific Basin, and Stalin was consolidating his power in the Soviet Union.  In this context, in 1925, Pope Pius XI instituted the Feast of Christ the King, meant, among other things, to serve as a reminder that, as Babcock wrote,

God is the ruler yet.

This is a timeless lesson.

There is a wonderful song, which, according to some sources, is an old Quaker hymn:  ”How Can I Keep from Singing?”

1.  My life flows on in endless song,

Above earth’s lamentation;

I hear the real though far-off song

That hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife

I hear that music ringing;

It sounds an echo in my soul,

How can I keep from singing?

2.  What though the tempest loudly roars,

I hear the truth, it liveth;

What though the darkness round me close,

Songs in the night it giveth.

No storm can shake my inmost calm

While to that rock I’m clinging,

Since love is Lord of heaven and earth,

How can I keep from singing?

3.  When tyrants tremble when they hear

The bells of freedom ringing;

When friends rejoice both far and near

How can I keep from singing?

In prison cell and dungeon vile

Our thoughts to them are winging,

When friends by shame are undefiled,

How can I keep from singing?

–From Songs of the Spirit (1978), of the Friends General Conference

Christ the King Sunday is Proper 29, the last Sunday of the Western Christian year.  I am close to writing the devotion for that day, given where I am in the lectionary cycle.  But, despite the heavy tone of the readings for this day, Wednesday in the Week of Proper 28, Year 1, we have a foretaste of the Feast of Christ the King.

Here ends the lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 26, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP NERI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/26/week-of-proper-28-wednesday-year-1/

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