Archive for the ‘Pax Romana’ Tag

Empires and the Kingdom of God, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Cedars of Lebanon, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-11736

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For Christmas Day, 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, who hast made this most holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light;

grant, we beseech thee, that as we have known on earth the mysteries of that Light,

we may also come to the fullness of his joys in heaven;

who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 118

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Isaiah 11:1-9

Psalm 132:6-17

Hebrews 1:1-12

Luke 2:1-20

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At least two themes unite these assigned readings:  justice/righteousness/equity and the conflict between the Kingdom of God and human empires and kingdoms founded on violence and exploitation.

If we back up into Isaiah 10 then read 11:1-9, we notice a contrast of images.  The mighty Assyrian Empire will not survive the wrath of God, who will cut it down and hack it away with iron.  The Assyrian Empire, likened to a majestic cedar of Lebanon, will fall, but a shoot will grow from the stump of Jesse.  This shoot will be the ideal Davidic monarch.  He will govern justly, righteously, in a manner that will create equity.  After all, “justice” and “righteousness” are translations of the same Biblical word.

Another translation of the same word is “vindication.”  Why not?  Certainly, the poor and the oppressed need vindication.

Luke 2:1-20 is theologically rich yet historically inaccurate.  First, as honest students of Roman antiquity attest, one cannot correctly state that all those men named at the beginning held office at the same time.  Second, that census is pure fiction, objectively.  So be it.  Besides, something much more interesting is playing out.  One notices it, if one has eyes to see and ears to hear.

According to the Roman Empire, founded on violence and exploitation, the Emperor Augustus (né Octavian) was the Son of God and the Savior of the World.  He had presided over the transformation of the Roman Republic, consumed by its terminal civil war, into the Roman Empire and over the founding of the Pax Romana.  Yet, as Tacitus wrote, peace in Roman imperial terms was a desert the Romans had created.

In Luke 2:1-20, the angels sang not to praise the counterfeit Son of God and Savior of the World, but to announce the birth of the genuine article.  The angels sang at the debut of a seemingly unlikely savior, a helpless infant.

One function of the apocalyptic theme in scripture is to criticize those people and institutions in power who violate divine principles of justice/righteousness/equity.  By extolling the virtues of an ideal ruler and government one calls necessary and proper attention to the glaring shortcomings of governments and institutions dependent upon violence and exploitation.  God will cut them down, no mater how formidable they may seem from a human perspective.  Empires, kingdoms, states, and administrations rise and fall, but the Kingdom of God, fully realized on the Earth, will endure.  That is an apocalyptic promise for which we wait faithfully.

Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 12, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TRASILLA AND EMILIANA; THEIR SISTER-IN-LAW, SAINT SYLVIA OF ROME; AND HER SON, SAINT GREGORY I “THE GREAT,” BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF JOHN H. CALDWELL, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILLIAN OF TREVESTE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 295

THE FEAST OF RUTILIO GRANDE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1977

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEOPHANES THE CHRONICLER, DEFENDER OF ICONS

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The Sure Promises of God   2 comments

tissot

Above:  The Blind and Mute Man Possessed by Devils, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

God of tender care, like a mother, like a father, you never forget your children,

and you know already what we need.

In all our anxiety give us trusting and faithful hearts,

that in confidence we may embody the peace and justice

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 31:1-9

Psalm 131

Luke 11:14-23

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O Lord, my heart is not proud:

my eyes are not raised too high.

I do not occupy myself with matters too great for me:

or with marvels that are beyond me.

But I have stilled and made quiet my soul,

like a weaned child nestling to its mother:

so like a child, my soul is quieted within me.

O trust in the Lord:

from this time forth and for ever.

–Psalm 131, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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To place one’s trust in the wrong place is to commit a grave error. Egypt was not material for an ally, so the alliance to which Isaiah 31 refers was stupid, foolish, and other choice adjectives. And Jesus, by bypassing the healing function of religious authorities, made powerful enemies. They trusted in the power structure which collaborated with the Roman Empire—again not the cloth from which to create the garment of a good alliance.

Egypt and Rome acted according to form. The former was no ally and the latter brooked no opposition or the semblance thereof. The Roman Empire, as Tacitus wrote, made a desert and called it peace. This violence was the foundation of the Pax Romana.

But, as Jesus said,

…the kingdom of God has come to you.

–Luke 11:20, The New Revised Standard Version

That kingdom stands not on violence, but on love and righteousness. It stands upon God, the rock. It is the kingdom of the Beatitudes. And that kingdom is simultaneously present with us and not realized fully. Its unveiling remains an ongoing process.

The message of this day’s readings is to trust God, who is faithful. As Martin Luther affirmed in various theological debates and questions, the promises of God are sure, thus our spiritual emphasis belongs there.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 10, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THEODORE PARKER, ABOLITIONIST AND MAVERICK UNITARIAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY PIEROZZI, A.K.A. ANTONINUS OF FLORENCE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF FLORENCE

THE FEAST OF JOHN GOSS, ANGLICAN CHURCH COMPOSER AND ORGANIST; AND WILLIAM MERCER, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS LUDWIG VON ZINZENDORF, RENEWER OF THE CHURCH

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-3-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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