Archive for the ‘Psalm 127’ Tag

Guide Post to the Septuagint Psalter Project   Leave a comment

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The psalter of the Septuagint contains 151 psalms.

I have written based on all of them, in numerical order.  I have retained the Hebrew numbering system, not that of the Septuagint.

Although I have no theological reticence to venture into textual territory that, according the United Methodism of my youth, is apocryphal, I do have limits.  They reside in the realm of Orthodoxy, with its range of scriptural canons.  Beyond that one finds the Pseudipigrapha.  Psalm 151 concludes the Book of Psalms in The Orthodox Study Bible (2008); so be it.

The Hebrew psalter concludes with Psalm 150.  In other psalters, however, the count is higher.  In certain editions of the Septuagint, for example, Psalm 151 is an appendix to the Book of Psalms.  In other editions of the Septuagint, however, Psalm 151 is an integrated part of the psalter.  There is also the matter of the Syraic psalter, which goes as high as Psalm 155.  I have no immediate plans to ponder Psalms 152-155, however.  Neither do I plan to read and write about Psalms 156-160 any time soon, if ever.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 23, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARTIN DE PORRES AND JUAN MACIAS, HUMANITARIANS AND DOMINICAN LAY BROTHERS; SAINT ROSE OF LIMA, HUMANITARIAN AND DOMINICAN SISTER; AND SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGROVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN COPELAND, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Book One:  Psalms 1-41

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

32

33

34

35

36

37

38

39

40

41

Book Two:  Psalms 42-72

42

43

44

45

46

47

48

49

50

51

52

53

54

55

56

57

58

59

60

61

62

63

64

65

66

67

68

69

70

71

72

Book Three:  Psalms 73-89

73

74

75

76

77

78

79

80

81

82

83

84

85

86

87

88

89

Book Four:  Psalms 90-106

90

91

92

93

94

95

96

97

98

99

100

101

102

103

104

105

106

Book Five:  Psalms 107-150

107

108

109

110

111

112

113

114

115

116

117

118

119:1-32

119:33-72

119:73-104

119:105-144

119:145-176

120

121

122

123

124

125

126

127

128

129

130

131

132

133

134

135

136

137

138

139

140

141

142

143

144

145

146

147

148

149

150

Also in the Greek:  Psalm 151

151

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Posted August 23, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Psalm 1, Psalm 100, Psalm 102, Psalm 103, Psalm 104, Psalm 105, Psalm 106, Psalm 107, Psalm 110, Psalm 111, Psalm 112, Psalm 113, Psalm 114, Psalm 115, Psalm 116, Psalm 117, Psalm 118, Psalm 119, Psalm 119 Aleph, Psalm 119 Gimel, Psalm 119 Mem, Psalm 119 Teth, Psalm 119 Yodh, Psalm 121, Psalm 122, Psalm 123, Psalm 124, Psalm 125, Psalm 126, Psalm 128, Psalm 13, Psalm 130, Psalm 132, Psalm 133, Psalm 134, Psalm 136, Psalm 137, Psalm 138, Psalm 139, Psalm 14, Psalm 141, Psalm 142, Psalm 143, Psalm 144, Psalm 145, Psalm 146, Psalm 147, Psalm 148, Psalm 149, Psalm 15, Psalm 150, Psalm 16, Psalm 17, Psalm 18, Psalm 19, Psalm 2, Psalm 20, Psalm 21, Psalm 22, Psalm 23, Psalm 24, Psalm 25, Psalm 26, Psalm 27, Psalm 28, Psalm 29, Psalm 3, Psalm 30, Psalm 31, Psalm 32, Psalm 33, Psalm 34, Psalm 35, Psalm 36, Psalm 37, Psalm 38, Psalm 4, Psalm 40, Psalm 42, Psalm 43, Psalm 44, Psalm 45, Psalm 46, Psalm 47, Psalm 48, Psalm 5, Psalm 50, Psalm 51, Psalm 53, Psalm 54, Psalm 55, Psalm 56, Psalm 57, Psalm 6, Psalm 61, Psalm 62, Psalm 63, Psalm 65, Psalm 66, Psalm 67, Psalm 68, Psalm 69, Psalm 71, Psalm 72, Psalm 73, Psalm 78, Psalm 79, Psalm 8, Psalm 80, Psalm 81, Psalm 84, Psalm 85, Psalm 86, Psalm 89, Psalm 90, Psalm 91, Psalm 92, Psalm 93, Psalm 95, Psalm 96, Psalm 97, Psalm 98, Psalm 99, Psalms I: 1-76, Psalms II: 77-151

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Lilies of the Field   1 comment

Lillies of the Field

Above:  Lilies of the Field

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Benevolent God, you are the source, the guide, and the goal of our lives.

Teach us to love what is worth loving,

to reject what is offensive to you,

and to treasure what is precious in your sight,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

Ecclesiastes 12:1-8, 13-14

Psalm 127

Luke 12:22-31

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If Yahweh does not build a house

in vain do its builders toil.

If Yahweh does not guard a city

in vain does its guard keep watch.

–Psalm 127:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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We will all age and die, Koheleth reminds us.  Pursuits we might think are important and accomplishments we might think are permanent are actually fleeting and futile, we read.

Perhaps Koheleth overcorrected excessive optimism, such as we find in the Book of Proverbs and some of the psalms, but the point is valid.  Nevertheless, what we do or do not do matters, at least in the moment.  Frequently the effects are long-term, even intergenerational.  Yet the vast majority of us will, in time, become as if we had never existed.  Our names will pass into anonymity.  So be it.

Nevertheless, God loves us.  The passage from Luke 12 might seem unduly optimistic, given the nature of poverty across the planet.  The problem is distribution, not supply.  Those are matters of human responsibility.  Too often we fail miserably in them, do we not?

Koheleth also instructs us accordingly:

This is the end of the matter:  you have heard it all.  Fear God and obey his commandments; this sums up the duty of mankind.  For God will bring everything we do to judgement, every secret, whether good or bad.

–Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Among those commandments is to provide for the less fortunate.  This is a sacred duty, one which requires people working together to accomplish.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 18, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEONIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR; ORIGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN; SAINT DEMETRIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSELM II OF LUCCA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRIL OF JERUSALEM, BISHOP, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF CYPRUS, EASTERN ORTHODOX MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-13-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Gracious Speech Seasoned With Salt   1 comment

Salt Shaker

Above:  A Salt Shaker

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Benevolent God, you are the source, the guide, and the goal of our lives.

Teach us to love what is worth loving,

to reject what is offensive to you,

and to treasure what is precious in your sight,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

Ecclesiastes 2:1-17 (Monday)

Ecclesiastes 3:16-4:8 (Tuesday)

Psalm 127 (Both Days)

Colossians 3:18-4:1 (Monday)

Colossians 4:2-6 (Tuesday)

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If Yahweh does not build a house

in vain do its builders toil.

If Yahweh does not guard a city

in vain does its guard keep watch.

–Psalm 127:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The key word from the readings from Ecclesiastes is “futility.”  The quest for wealth is futile.  Seeking happiness in wealth is futile.  At least one can obtain some enjoyment from possessions, not that one can take them along for the journey after death.

Colossians 3:18-4:6 offers some uncomfortable material.  First we encounter the verse about wives being subject to their husbands.  The next verse mitigates it somewhat by speaking of a husband’s obligation to love his wife and never to be harsh with her.  At least in Ephesians 5, when these topics arise, they do so in the context of

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

–5:21, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

The next difficult topic is slavery, which the New Testament condemns nowhere.  Slavery in the Roman Empire was different from race-based chattel slavery, of courrse, but I posit that all forms of slavery are wrong at all times and at all places.  The expectation that Jesus would return soon and inaugurate social justice informed the absence of a condemnation of slavery, but (A) that was nearly 2000 years ago, (B) Jesus did not return, and (C) the mandate to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself applies in all places an at all times.  At least the text noted that there is no partiality with God.

The parting advice from Colossians 4 is timeless:

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer every one.

4:6, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

Graciousness flows from and imparts grace.  Salt preserves and amplifies flavor.  Contrary to the term “salty language,” gracious speech seasoned with salt builds up others.  It edifies them; it does not insult them.  And it is not futile.

May your speech, O reader, be gracious and seasoned with salt more often that it is already.  May mine be likewise.  May we glorify God, not ourselves.  May we function as effective agents of grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 18, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEONIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR; ORIGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN; SAINT DEMETRIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSELM II OF LUCCA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRIL OF JERUSALEM, BISHOP, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF CYPRUS, EASTERN ORTHODOX MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-13-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Widows   1 comment

Above:  Fresco of the Widow’s Mite

Image Sources = Johannes Bockh and Thomas Mirtsch

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:BasilikaOttobeurenFresko08.JPG)

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17 (New Revised Standard Version):

Naomi her mother-in-law said to her,

My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you. Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.

She said to her,

All that you tell me I will do.

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the LORD made her conceive, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi,

Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.

Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying,

A son has been born to Naomi.

They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Psalm 127 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Unless the LORD builds the house,

their labor is in vain who build it.

2  Unless the LORD watches over the city,

in vain the watchman keeps his vigil.

3  It is in vain that you rise so early and go to bed so late;

vain, too, to eat the bread to toil,

for he gives to his beloved sleep.

4  Children are a heritage from the LORD,

and the fruit of the womb is a gift.

5  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior

are the children of one’s youth.

6  Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them!

he shall not be put to shame

when he contends with his enemies in the gate.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

1 Kings 17:7-16 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

After some time the wadi dried up, because there was no rain in the land.  And the word of the LORD came to him:

Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon, and stay there; I have designated a widow there to feed you.

So he went at once to Zarephath.  When he came to the entrance of the town, a widow was there gathering wood.  He called out to her,

Please bring me a little water in your pitcher, and let me drink.

As she went to fetch it, he called out to her,

Please bring along a piece of bread for me.

She replied,

As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, nothing but a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug.  I am just gathering a couple of sticks, s that I can go home and prepare it for me and my son; we shall eat it and then we shall die.

Elijah said to her,

Don’t be afraid.  Go and do as you have said; but first make me a small cake from what you have there, and bring it out to me; then make some for yourself and your son.  For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel:  The jar of flour shall not give out and the jug oil shall not fail until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the ground.

She went and did as Elijah had spoken, and she and he and her household had food for a long time.  The jar of flour did not give out, nor did the jug of oil fail, just as the LORD had spoken through Elijah.

Psalm 146 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

Praise the LORD, O my soul!

I will praise the LORD as long as I live;

I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

2 Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth,

for there is not help in them.

When they breathe their last, they return to earth,

and in that day their thoughts perish.

Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help!

whose hope is in the LORD their God;

Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;

who keeps his promise for ever.

Who gives justice to those who are oppressed,

and food to those who hunger.

The LORD sets the prisoner free;

the LORD opens the eyes of the blind;

the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down.

8 The LORD loves the righteous;

the LORD cares for the stranger;

he sustains the orphan and the widow,

but frustrates the way of the wicked!

The LORD shall reign for ever,

your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.

Hallelujah!

SECOND READING

Hebrews 9:24-28 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

For Christ has entered , not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.  Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the Holy Place yearly with blood not his own; for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world.  But as it is, he has appeared once for all for the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.  And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly awaiting him.

GOSPEL READING

Mark 12:38-44 (Revised English Bible):

There was a large crowd listening eagerly.  As he taught them, he said,

Beware of the scribes, who love to walk up and down in long robes and be greeted respectfully in the street, and to have the chief seats  in synagogues and places of honour at feasts.  Those who eat up the property of widows, while for appearance’s sake they say long prayers, will receive a sentence all the more severe.

As he was sitting opposite the temple treasury, he watched the people dropping their money into the chest.  Many rich people were putting in large amounts.  Presently there came a poor widow who dropped in two tiny coins, together worth a penny.  He called his disciples to him and said,

Truly I tell you:  this poor widow has given more than all those giving to the treasury; for the others who have given had more than enough, but she, with less than enough, has given all that she had to live on.

The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 27, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/proper-27-year-a/

Ruth 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/week-of-proper-15-saturday-year-1/

1 Kings 17:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/week-of-proper-5-tuesday-year-2/

Hebrews 9:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/week-of-3-epiphany-monday-year-1/

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

Mark 12:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/19/week-of-proper-4-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/week-of-proper-4-saturday-year-2/

Matthew 23 (Parallel to Mark 12):

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twelfth-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/week-of-proper-15-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/week-of-proper-16-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/01/week-of-proper-16-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/06/week-of-proper-16-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/week-of-proper-15-saturday-year-2/

Luke 20-21 (Parallel to Mark 12):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/week-of-proper-29-monday-year-1/

In Remembrance of Me:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/in-remembrance-of-me/

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Widows were among the most vulnerable members of society in Biblical times.  Their societies, being patriarchal, placed most women in subservient and economically dependent statuses.  A widow needed a man–perhaps her son or another relative–to care for her.

This Sunday we read two stories of God providing for widows, whether via a man or a direct miracle.  And, in Mark 12, a widow pays an offering she cannot afford.  I have covered that story in a post (a link to which I have provided) already.  So, with a minimum of repetition, I propose that Jesus probably lamented her sacrifice.  That should have been food money, not an offering the Temple authorities would not have missed.  I hope that God provided for that faithful widow.

Consider the scene from Mark 12.  It was Holy Week, so Jesus was a few days away from dying, something he had to do.  The widow did something she thought she had to do because the religious authorities said so.  Yet it was unnecessary, and she did need to eat.  The major difference between the two sacrifices I choose to emphasize now is that our Lord’s sacrifice was necessary; the widow’s was not.  Yet they shared a common factor:  Temple authorities played large role in both of them.

May we read these stories, digest them, and inwardly digest them.  Accordingly, may we help the vulnerable, as we are able, and refrain from imposing needless burdens upon others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 10, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEO THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/proper-27-year-b/

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God is with the Righteous (Even When Appearances Seem to Indicate Otherwise)   1 comment

Above:  The Beheading of St. John the Baptist, by Caravaggio, 1608

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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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Hebrews 13:1-8 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Let brotherly love continue.  Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.  Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them; and those who are ill-treated, since you also are in the body.  Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for God will judge the immoral and adulterous.  Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never fail you or forsake you.”  Hence we can confidently say,

The Lord is my helper,

I will not be afraid;

what can man do to me?

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.

Psalm 27:1-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom then shall I fear?

the LORD is the strength of my life;

of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers came upon me to eat up my flesh,

it was they, my foes and my adversaries, who stumbled and fell.

Though an army should encamp against me,

yet my heart shall not be afraid;

And though war should rise up against me,

yet will I put my trust in him.

One thing I asked of the LORD;

one thing I seek;

that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life;

To behold the fair beauty of the LORD

and to seek him in his temple.

For in the day of trouble he shall keep me safe in his shelter;

he shall hide me in the secrecy of his dwelling

and set me high upon a rock.

8 Even now he lifts up my head

above my enemies round about me.

Therefore I will offer in his dwelling an oblation with sounds of great gladness;

I will sing and make music to the LORD.

10 Hearken to my voice, O LORD, when I call;

have mercy on me and answer me.

11 You speak in my heart and say, “Seek my face.”

Your face, LORD, will I seek.

12 Hide not your face from me,

nor turn away your servant in displeasure.

13 You have been my helper;

cast me not away;

do not forsake me, O God of my salvation.

Mark 6:14-29 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known.  Some said,

John the Baptist has been raised from the dead; that is why these powers are at work in him.

But others said,

It is Elijah.

And others said,

It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.

But when Herod heard of it he said,

John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.

For Herod had sent and seized John, and bound him for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife.  And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him.  But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe.  When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly.  But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and the leading men of Galilee.  For when Herodias’ daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl,

Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will grant it.

And he vowed to her,

Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.

And she went out, and said to her mother,

What shall I ask?

And she said,

The head of John the Baptist.

And she came in immediately with haste to the king, and asked, saying,

I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.

And the king was exceedingly sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her.  And immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard and gave orders to bring his head.  He went and beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother.  When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; 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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A link to my thoughts for the Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (August 29):  

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-the-beheading-of-st-john-the-baptist-martyr-august-29/

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The reading from Hebrews is pleasant enough.  It contains sage advice on how we can live together harmoniously in society before it makes the famous statement about the unchanging nature of Christ.  The portion of the psalm is pleasant, also, reinforcing the excerpt from Hebrews.

Then we arrive at the Gospel reading, which tells of disturbing events.  The author of Mark has framed the execution of St. John the Baptist as a flashback.  The present day of the reading has Herod Antipas, the Roman client ruler of the Galilee, hearing about the wonders of Jesus and thinking that St. John the Baptist, whom he has had killed, has risen from the dead.  The flashback part of the story tells of how Herod Antipas had married Herodias, the niece of his late half-brother, Alexander, and former wife of his brother, Philip Herod I.  (Think then, what that makes Salome, the daughter of Herodias, in relation to Herod Antipas, other than daughter-in-law.)  St. John the Baptist is in prison for speaking the truth, which is that this marriage is incestuous.  Herodias is spiteful and capable of murder; Herod Antipas, who leers erotically at Salome’s dancing, is more concerned with notions of public honor than sparing a life; and Salome seems to be a willing pawn in her mother’s plot.

I wonder how much better events would have played out had Herodias, Salome, and Herod Antipas lived in accordance with the advice in Hebrews 13:1-8.  That text did not exist at the time, but the principles did.

The text of Psalm 27 says that God protects the faithful, but St. John the Baptist died the way he did.  What are we supposed to make of this?  The theology in some of the psalms is overly simplistic, if not optimistic, in places:  God will protect the faithful, the righteous will prosper, and the evil will meet their doom.  But have you looked around the world recently or read history?  Liars and cheaters win, courts convict both the innocent and the guilty, both the righteous and the unrighteous prosper and stumble, and dictators execute political prisoners.  Perhaps the most generous assessment of some of the theology of Psalms (and Proverbs) is that it is true in the long term, perhaps even the afterlife.

Back in this life, meanwhile, evil wins much of the time.

But, as Voltaire wrote,

Man is free at the moment he wishes to be.

Consider the cases of jailed civil rights activists in the Deep South of the United States in the 1960s.  These were nonviolent people who challenged the racial status quo.  For their troubles local authorities arrested and jailed them.  Without resorting to unpleasant and graphic details, I assure you, O reader, that Southern jails, especially in Mississippi, were hellholes and places where guards delighted in humiliating these brave men and women.  Yet faith lifted the spirits of these incarcerated activists.  Many prisoners sang so much and so happily that they irritated and angered those who had jailed them.  They were incarcerated, yet they were free because they chose to be free and because they tapped into their deep faith.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who has retired recently from public life, tells the story of a Nazi guard and a Jew during the Holocaust.  The guard was forcing the Jew to clean an especially disgusting toilet.

Where is your God now?

the guard asked the Jew.

With me in the muck,

the Jew replied.

Where was God when St. John the Baptist was languishing in prison and as he died?  God was with the saint.  And where was God when the guards raped and humiliated civil rights activists during the 1960s?  God was with the activists.  Jesus said that many would suffer for the sake of righteousness, but that they would not be alone.  This promise holds true today, despite any appearances to the contrary.

Here ends the lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 8, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF ERIK ROUTLEY, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM DWIGHT PORTER BLISS, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, AND RICHARD THEODORE ELY, ECONOMIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/08/week-of-4-epiphany-friday-year-1/

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