Archive for the ‘Repentance’ Tag

God’s Case Against Israel, Part II: Divine Disappointment   Leave a comment

Above:  Dew (Hosea 6:4)

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING HOSEA, PART V

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Hosea 5:8-6:6

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Remorse for and repentance for sins must be sincere if they are to prove effective.  Hosea 6:1-3 offers an example of insincere remorse for and repentance of sins, hence the divine rebuttal in 6:4-6.

The (northern) Kingdom of Israel had erred by breaking the covenant with God.  The way to resolve the problem was to repent, to return to God.  Instead, Israel turned to the Assyrian Empire.   One historical reference was to King Menahem (r. 747-737 B.C.E.), who paid tribute to the Assyrian monarch, Tiglath-pileser III (r. 745-727 B.C.E.) in 738 B.C.E.  (See 2 Kings 15:19-20).  The once-powerful (northern) Kingdom of Israel had become a vassal state of the Assyrian Empire.  The Assyrian king did not have Israel’s best interests in mind; God did.  Another historical reference may have been to King Hoshea (r. 732-722 B.C.E.), the a rebellious vassal of the Assyrian Empire and the last King of Israel.  (See 2 Kings 17:1-41).  Ironically, “Hosea” and “Hoshea,” literally “rescue,” were the same name.

For I desire goodness, not sacrifice;

Obedience to God, rather than burnt offerings.

–Hosea 6:6, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Alternative translations to “goodness” and “obedience to God” exist.  These include:

  1. “Loyalty” and “acknowledgment of God” (The Revised English Bible, 1989),
  2. “Loyalty” and “knowledge of God” (The New American Bible–Revised Edition, 2011),
  3. “Steadfast love” and “knowledge of God” (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989), and
  4. “Trust” and “knowledge of God” (Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible, 2019).

The Law of Moses commands certain burnt offerings, of course.  The Book of Hosea does not argue for nullifying any portion of the covenant with God, bound up with the Law of Moses.  The Book of Hosea does insist that these mandatory sacrifices are not talismans.  People must offer these mandatory sacrifices devoutly and sincerely if these sacred rituals are to have the desired, divinely-intended effects.

John Mauchline (1902-1984), of the University of Glasgow, wrote:

It is not necessary to conclude that Hosea regarded sacrifice as having no value whatsoever as an act of worship.  What is meant is that sacrifice as an expression of a living faith in the Lord may be a genuine religious act, but the Lord’s delight is in the true knowledge of the demands of his service and in the cultivation of that love which is the cultivation of that love which is the will for his people.  It should be noted in passing that whereas Samuel is reported to have called for obedience, not sacrifice, from Saul, Hosea’s demand is for love (cf. 1 Sam. 15:22).

The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 6 (1956), 628

Gale A. Yee, late of of the University of Saint Thomas, Saint Paul, Minnesota, and of the Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts, added:

It is not the sacrificial system that Hosea condemns, but the dishonesty of its worshipers, whose conduct blatantly contradicts the demands of God’s covenant.

The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 7 (1996), 252

Sister Carol J. Dempsey, O.P., of the University of Portland, Portland, Oregon, wrote:

Ethical living is more important than religious rituals.  True worship is not defined solely by ritual practice; rather, it consists of an attitude and way of life characterized by justice, righteousness, and steadfast love–the hallmarks of the covenant and the necessary ingredients for right relationships with all creation (cf. Jer. 9:24).

–In Daniel Durken, ed., The New Collegeville Bible Commentary:  Old Testament (2015), 1495-1496

If one could be a card-carrying ritualist, I would carry that card inside my wallet.  Proper liturgy, as I understand it, sets the table for worship for me.  Low Church Protestant worship, which throws out the proverbial baby with the equally proverbial bath water, leaves me spiritually cold and uninspired.  Visiting houses of worship where such a poor excuse for liturgy is the offering is, for me, engaging in a mere perfunctory social gathering.  I feel like saying yet never say:

There, I was a sociable human being; I put in an appearance.  I did what you expected of me.  Are you happy now?  And do you call that a liturgy?

In some settings, I develop the difficult-to-resist urge to quote Presbyterian theologian and Davidson College professor Kenneth J. Foreman, Sr. (1891-1967):

One does not plead for the use of incense–Presbyterians are not likely to come to that–but at least one may protest against mistaking a general odor of mustiness for the odor of sanctity.

“Better Worship for Better Living,” Presbyterian Survey, August 1932, p. 482

Rituals occupy important places in cultures.  I admit this readily; I am not a Puritan, taking time out from whipping Baptists (see here and here) and executing Quakers (see here and here) to argue that God’s altar needs no polishing and, therefore, will get none.  Neither am I a Pietist, speaking scornfully and dismissively of “externals.”  I like externals!  Externals are important.  Yet even beautiful liturgies, entered into without devotion, are mere pageants.  Conducting splendid rituals, even in accordance with divine commandments, while shamelessly practicing human exploitation, for example, makes a mockery of the rituals.  And, on a less dramatic level, I recall having attended some Holy Eucharists when I, for reasons to do solely with myself, should have stayed home.  I remember some times that I habitually attended church on Sunday morning, but was not in the proper spiritual state.  I recall that I got nothing out of the ritual that usually feeds me spiritually because I brought nothing to it.  I remember that I merely got my attendance card punched, so to speak.

All people and societies have disappointed God.  We have all fallen short of divine high standards, possible to fulfill via a combination of human free will and divine grace.  The grace is present and sufficient.  But do we want to do what God requires?  Do we–individually and collectively–want to fulfill the ethical demands of divine law and covenant?  If we do, we become partners with God.  If we do not, we disappoint God and condemn ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANDREW FOURNET AND ELIZABETH BICHIER, COFOUNDERS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF THE CROSS; AND SAINT MICHAEL GARICOITS, FOUNDER OF THE PRIESTS OF THE SACRED HEART OF BETHARRAM

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN NEPOMUCENE, BOHEMIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1393

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF THE SUDAN, 1983-2005

THE FEAST OF SAINT UBALDO BALDASSINI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF GUBBIO

THE FEAST OF SAINT VLADIMIR GHIKA, ROMANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1954

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Death of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes   Leave a comment

Above:  The Punishment of Antiochus, by Gustave Doré

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XVIII

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

1 Maccabees 6:1-17

2 Maccabees 9:1-29

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Retribution is a theme in 2 Maccabees.  Enemies of pious Jews died ignominiously in that book.  Consider:

  1. Andronicus, who had killed High Priest Onias III (4:34), died via execution (4:38).  “The Lord thus repaid him with the punishment he deserved.”–4:39, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)
  2. High Priest Jason “met a miserable end” (5:8, RSV II).  He, shunned, died in exile in Egypt.  Nobody mourned him after he died.  Jason had no funeral (5:9-10).
  3. High Priest Menelaus died via execution.  He, pushed off a tower about 73 feet high, died in a pit full of ashes.  Nobody held a funeral for Menelaus (13:3-8).
  4. Nicanor, who had commanded the siege of Jerusalem, died in combat.  This his severed head hung from the citadel of Jerusalem.  Furthermore, birds ate his severed tongue (15:28-36).

Is this not wonderful mealtime reading?

Then we come to King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, an infamous blasphemer, “a sinful root” (1 Maccabees 1:10), and “a little horn” (Daniel 7:8) who made “war with the saints” (Daniel 7:21).

When we left off in the narrative, King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, short on funds, was traveling in the eastern part of the Seleucid Empire and raising money to finance the struggle against Judas Maccabeus and his forces (1 Maccabees 3:27-37).  At the beginning of 1 Maccabees 6 and 2 Maccabees 9, the blasphemous monarch was in the area of Susa, in the region of Elam.  King Antiochus IV Epiphanes was engaging in one of his favorite fund-raising tactics–trying to plunder a temple full of valuable treasures.  (Read 1 Maccabees 1:54f and 2 Maccabees 5:15f, O reader.)  He failed this time.  News of the developments in Judea reached the king, whose world was collapsing around him.  He died, allegedly penitent, in the year 164/163 B.C.E. (149 on the Seleucid/Hellenistic calendar).

2 Maccabees elaborates on the account in 1 Maccabees.  2 Maccabees describes vividly the pain in the monarch’s bowels (9:5f), the infestation of worms (9:9), his rotting flesh (9:9), and his body’s stench (9:9).

So the murderer and blasphemer, having endured the most intense suffering, such as he had inflicted on others, came to the end of his life by a most pitiable fate, among the mountains of a strange land.

–2 Maccabees 9:28, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

King Antiochus IV Epiphanes had appointed Philip the regent and the guardian of the new king, Antiochus V Eupator (reigned 164/163 B.C.E.).  There were two major problems, however:

  1. King Antiochus IV Epiphanes had previously appointed Lysias to both positions (1 Maccabees 3:32-33), and
  2. Lysias had custody of the young (minor) heir to the throne.

Philip attempted a coup d’état and failed (1 Maccabees 6:55-56).  Meanwhile, Lysias had installed the seven-year-old King Antiochus V Eupator on the Seleucid throne.  Philip, in mortal danger from Regent Lysias, fled to the protection of King Ptolemy VI Philometor (reigned 180-145 B.C.E.) in Egypt.  

1 and 2 Maccabees differ on the timing of the death of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes relative to the Temple in Jerusalem–the first Hanukkah.  1 Maccabees places the king’s death after the purification of the Temple.  2 Maccabees, however, places the death of the blasphemous monarch prior to the first Hanukkah.  Father Daniel J. Harrington, S.J., writing in The New Collegeville Commentary:  Old Testament (2015), 832, favors the relative dating in 2 Maccabees.  Harrington also proposes that news of the death of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes may have reached Jerusalem after the first Hanukkah.  That analysis is feasible and perhaps probable.

I agree with the evaluation of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 2 Maccabees.  I agree that his repentance was insincere and self-serving.  The monarch was like a criminal who regretted getting arrested and sentenced, not having committed a crime.

An interesting connection to the New Testament deserves comments here.  I start with the Wisdom of Solomon 4:17-20:

These [wicked] people [who look on, uncomprehending] see the wise man’s ending

without understanding what the Lord has in store for him

or why he has taken him to safety;

they look on and sneer,

but the Lord will laugh at them.

Soon they will be corpses without honour,

objects of scorn among the dead for ever.

The Lord will dash them down headlong, dumb.

He will tear them from their foundations,

they will be utterly laid waste,

anguish will be theirs,

and their memory shall perish.

The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

This is the reference in the Lukan account of the death of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:15-20).  That account differs from the version in Matthew 27:3-10 (suicide by hanging, without his entrails bursting out), like that of Ahitophel (2 Samuel 17:23), during Absalom’s rebellion against King David.  (Ahitophel had betrayed King David.)  Both Acts 1:15-20 and 2 Maccabees 9:5-29 echo aspects of the Wisdom of Solomon 4:17-20.  The Lukan account of the death of Judas Iscariot purposefully evokes the memory of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

Obviously, one part of the Wisdom of Solomon 4:17-20 does not apply to King Antiochus IV Epiphanes and Judas Iscariot.  We know their names.

The evil that men do lives after them;

the good is oft interred with their bones.

–William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar

(I memorized that in high school, which was more years ago then I like to admit some days.)

In reality, we may know the names of evildoers in greater quantity than those of the righteous.  Think about it, O reader.  How many gangsters, serial killers, Nazis, Nazi collaborators, terrorists, dictators, would-be dictators, and genocidal dictators can you name?  And how many saints, humanitarians, and other kind-hearted people can you name?  Which category–evildoers or good people–has more names in it?

King Antiochus IV Epiphanes had started down his destructive path by seeking to impose cultural uniformity–Hellenism–on his culturally diverse empire.  He was neither the first nor the last ruler to commit some variation of the error of enforced cultural homogenization.  He learned that defining unity as enforced cultural homogeneity increased disunity by inspiring rebellion.

Cultural diversity adds spice to communal life.  The world would be boring if we were all homogenous.  Mutual respect, toleration, acceptance, and tolerance maintains unity in the midst of cultural diversity.  When acceptance is a bridge too far, tolerance may suffice.  However, there are limits, even to cultural diversity.  Tolerance is a generally good idea.  A good idea, carried too far, becomes a bad idea.  Correctly placing the boundaries of tolerance amid cultural diversity is both necessary and wise.  On the left (where I dwell), the temptation is to draw the circle too wide.  On the right, the temptation is to draw the circle too small.

I am a student of history.  My reading tells me that many rulers of culturally-diverse realms have succeed in maintaining unity.  They have done so by practicing respect for diversity in matters of culture and religion, although not absolutely.  But these rulers have not insisted that everyone fellow a monoculture.  Therefore, very different people have peaceably found their places in those societies.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 10, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SCHOLASTICA, ABBESS OF PLOMBARIOLA; AND HER TWIN BROTHER, SAINT BENEDICT OF NURSIA, ABBOT OF MONTE CASSINO AND FATHER OF WESTERN MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT OF ANIANE, RESTORER OF WESTERN MONASTICISM; AND SAINT ARDO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JULIA WILLIAMS GARNET, AFRICAN-AMERICAN ABOLITIONIST AND EDUCATOR; HER HUSBAND, HENRY HIGHLAND GARNET, AFRICAN-AMERICAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND ABOLITIONIST; HIS SECOND WIFE, SARAH J. SMITH TOMPKINS GARNET, AFRICAN-AMERICAN SUFFRAGETTE AND EDUCATOR; HER SISTER, SUSAN MARIA SMITH MCKINNEY STEWARD, AFRICAN-AMERICAN PHYSICIAN; AND HER SECOND HUSBAND, THEOPHILUS GOULD STEWARD, U.S. AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL MINISTER, ARMY CHAPLAIN, AND PROFESSOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT NORBERT OF XANTEN, FOUNDER OF THE PREMONSTRATENSIANS; SAINT HUGH OF FOSSES, SECOND FOUNDER OF THE PREMONSTRATENSIANS; AND SAINT EVERMOD, BISHOP OF RATZEBURG

THE FEAST OF PHILIP ARMES, ANGLICAN CHURCH ORGANIST

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Martyrdom of the Fifth and Sixth Brothers   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Mother and Her Seven Sons

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XII

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

2 Maccabees 7:15-19

4 Maccabees 11:1-27

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

As usual, 2 Maccabees focuses on theology and is succinct.  Also as usual, 4 Maccabees gives up philosophy, theology, and graphic descriptions of torture.

A few main points stand out in my mind:

  1. Again, brothers about to die told King Antiochus IV Epiphanes he would suffer in the afterlife (2 Maccabees 7:17, 19; 4 Maccabees 11:3).
  2. Descendants of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes were also going to suffer divine punishment (2 Maccabees 7:17).  Is this an echo of intergenerational reward and punishment (Exodus 20:5-6)?  (Ezekiel 18 argues for individual responsibility before God and against intergenerational reward and punishment, by the way.)  Or were those descendants going to suffer for their sins?
  3. God has not abandoned the persecuted Jews (2 Maccabees 7:16).
  4. 2 Maccabees (in 6:12-17; 7:18)  teaches that this persecution was a form of divine punishment of Israel for sins.  I chose not to write about this point when I covered 2 Maccabees 6, for I was focusing on other matters.

Let us–you, O reader, and I–unpack this last theological point.  Who (plural) sinned to bring on this punishment, allegedly?  Were pious Jews, especially the ones who willingly suffered and died rather than violate kosher food laws in the Law of Moses–suffering because of the sins of impious Jews.  Or were these pious Jews suffering because of the perfidy of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes and those who did his bidding?

Rabbi HIillel quoted Rabbi Jose son of Rabbi Judah:

Precious are chastisements, for the name of God rests upon him to whom chastisements come.

The Wisdom of Solomon, a book roughly contemporary with 2 Maccabees, disagrees somewhat with the interpretation of the suffering of pious Jews in 2 Maccabees:

By acting thus you have taught a lesson to your people

how the virtuous man must be kind to his fellow men,

and you have given your sons the good hope

that after sin you will grant repentance.

If with such care and such indulgence you have punished

the enemies of your children,

when death was what they deserved,

and given them time and room to rid themselves of wickedness,

with what attention have you not judged your sons,

to whose ancestors you made such fair promises by oaths and covenants.

Thus, while you correct us, you flog our enemies ten thousand times harder,

to teach us when we judge, to reflect on your kindness

and when we are judged, to look for mercy.

–Wisdom of Solomon 12:19-22, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Furthermore, according to the Wisdom of Solomon 11:1-14, the righteous receive benefits through punishments.  Adding the Wisdom of Solomon 12:9-10 to the mix, we read that God permits pagan nations time to repent.  However, according to the Wisdom of Solomon 12:23-27, divine mercy follows divine judgment.  And as Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 5:4-9 warns us, do not assume divine indulgence to be an entitlement.

I recognize Deuteronomic theology of collective suffering when I read it.  That theology exists in 2 Maccabees and the Wisdom of Solomon.  That theology is the Hebrew Biblical party line regarding the causation of the Babylonian Exile.  And that theology may not apply in all circumstances.

We who identify as devout have a responsibility to be careful in how we think, speak, and write about God.  On one hand, we ought never to try to domesticate God.  On the other hand, we must refrain from depicting God as a monstrous figure worthy of our dread and unworthy of praise and adoration.  We have an obligation not to depict God as being abusive.  How can we draw people to the sole deity if we present that deity as an abuser?  Theodicy, poorly executed, quickly devolves into idiocy.

Perhaps the Jews suffered under King Antiochus IV Epiphanes because he was a bastard intolerant of cultural diversity.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 8, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPHINE BAKHITA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JEROME EMILIARI, FOUNDER OF THE COMPANY OF THE SERVANTS OF THE POOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN OF MATHA AND FELIX OF VALOIS, FOUNDERS OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPHINA GABRIELLA BONINO, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF MITCHELL J. DAHOOD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Repentance, Part VIII   Leave a comment

Above:  Curses Against the Pharisees, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For the Tenth Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

O God, who declarest thine almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity;

mercifully grant unto us such a measure of thy grace, that we,

running the way of thy commandments, may obtain thy gracious promises,

and be made partakers of thy heavenly treasure;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 202

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Jeremiah 7:1-15

Psalm 144

Acts 11:1-18

Matthew 23:34-39

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Scorning the prophets and the Law of God is negative.  At least it is not killing them, though.  That is worse.  Killing them in the name of God adds another layer of perfidy.

I am a Gentile and a Christian writing in 2021.  Merely condemning long-dead Jews would be easy.  All I would have to do would be to quote or paraphrase assigned readings for this Sunday.  That strategy would lean toward self-righteousness, though.

I score high on the scale of Lutheran civic righteousness.  I am generally kind.  I have yet to kill anyone.  I have yet to rob a bank or a liquor store.  I compose lectionary-based devotions at least a year in advance sometimes.  All that is positive.  Yet none of that is salvific.

The readings from Jeremiah and Matthew, in particular, invite me to ask if I have scorned or do scorn any prophets of God.  They beckon me to come and to ponder how many of God’s laws I have violated, actively or passively, especially regarding the areas Jeremiah specified.  These readings invite me to update some of the details for my circumstances and to apply the timeless principles behind the details to my life.  These readings invite you, O reader, to do the same regarding yourself.

One consequence of following this strategy is that self-righteousness melts away and the imperative of repentance becomes central.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERTO DE NOBOLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERARD AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN MOROCCO, 1220

THE FEAST OF EDMUND HAMILTON SEARS, U.S. UNITARIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GUSTAVE WEIGEL, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MEUX BENSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST; CHARLES CHAPMAN GRAFTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST, AND BISHOP OF FOND DU LAC; AND CHARLES GORE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WORCESTER, BIRMINGHAM, AND OXFORD; FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE RESURRECTION; AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND WORLD PEACE

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Wickedness   1 comment

Above:  The Stoning of Saint Stephen, by Rembrandt Van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Genesis 6:1-8 or Acts 22:1-22

Psalm 125

Revelation 2:12-17

John 6:41-59

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Humes lectionary divides Genesis 6 across two Sundays:  Today’s portion of Genesis 6 includes the debut of the Nephilim in the Bible.  This is an example of pagan folklore adapted for scriptural purposes.  And Richard Elliott Friedman, in his Commentary on the Torah (2001), describes stories of the Nephilim as being elements of a larger story

widely separated, distributed across great stretches of the narrative.

–33

According to Dr. Friedman, Genesis 6:1-5 links to Numbers 13:33, Joshua 11:21-22, and 1 Samuel 17:4.  Dr. Friedman describes Goliath of Gath as the last of the Nephilim, the final one to go down to defeat.

The big idea in Genesis 6:1-8 is the increasing wickedness of the human race.  “Wicked” and “wickedness” are words many use casually, with little or not thought about what they mean.  The Random House Dictionary of the English Language (1973) offers various definitions of “wicked.”  The most helpful one, in this context is:

evil or morally bad in principle or in practice; sinful; vicious; iniquitous.

In Jewish theology, wickedness (or one form of it) flows from the conviction that God does not care what we do, therefore we mere mortals are on our own.  The dictionary’s definition of wickedness as being evil in principle or practice is helpful and accurate.  Moustache-twirling villains exist in greater numbers in cartoons than in real life.  Most people who commit wickedness do not think of themselves as being wicked or or having committed wickedness.  Many of them think they have performed necessary yet dirty work, at worst.  And many others imagine that they are doing or have done God’s work.

One may point to Saul of Tarsus, who had the blood of Christians on his hands before he became St. Paul the Apostle.  One lesson to take away from St. Paul’s story is that the wicked are not beyond repentance and redemption.

On a prosaic level, each of us needs to watch his or her life for creeping wickedness.  One can be conventionally pious and orthodox yet be wicked.  One can affirm that God cares about how we treat others and be wicked.  One can sin while imagining that one is acting righteously.

Unfortunately, some of the references in Revelation 2:12-17 are vague.  Time has consumed details of the Nicolaitian heresy, for example.  And the text does not go into detail regarding what some members of the church at Pergamum were doing.  According to Ernest Lee Stoffel, The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), the offense was probably a perceived license to sin, predicated on salvation by grace–cheap grace, in other words.  Grace is cheap yet never cheap.

Moral compartmentalization is an ancient and contemporary spiritual ailment.  The challenge to be holy on Sunday and on Monday remains a topic on the minds of many pastors.  Related to this matter is another one:  the frequent disconnect between private morality and public morality.  Without creating or maintaining a theocracy, people can apply their ethics and morals in public life.  The main caveat is that some methods of application may not work, may be of limited effectiveness, and/or may have negative, unintended consequences.  I feel confident, O reader, in stating that the idealistic aspects of the movement that gave birth to Prohibition in the United States of America did not not include aiding and abetting organized crime.  But they had that effect.

By grace, may we seek to avoid wickedness and succeed in avoiding it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERTO DE NOBOLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERARD AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN MOROCCO, 1220

THE FEAST OF EDMUND HAMILTON SEARS, U.S. UNITARIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GUSTAVE WEIGEL, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MEUX BENSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST; CHARLES CHAPMAN GRAFTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST, AND BISHOP OF FOND DU LAC; AND CHARLES GORE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WORCESTER, BIRMINGHAM, AND OXFORD; FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE RESURRECTION; AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND WORLD PEACE

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/16/devotion-for-proper-12-year-d-humes/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Economic Justice and Fundamental Neighborliness   Leave a comment

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

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For the First Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 41:1-18

Psalm 103

Acts 2:42-47

Luke 16:19-31

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Grace and Enemies, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Bethany

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For Wednesday in Holy Week, Year 2

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Assist us mercifully with thy help, O Lord God of our salvation;

that we may enter with joy upon the mediation of those mighty acts,

whereby thou hast given unto us life and immortality;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947),160

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 62:11-63:7

Psalm 55:1-14

1 John 4:7-11

Matthew 26:1-16

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The attitude in Isaiah 62:11-63:7 and Psalm 55 (in its entirety, not just verses 1-14) differs sharply from that in the other two readings.  In Isaiah 62:11-63:7, the love of God for Israel entails divine destruction of enemies (especially the Moabites) of Israel.  And, in Psalm 55, the love of God for an individual involves the destruction of his foe or foes.  In Matthew 26:1-16, however, divine love for people entails Jesus dying for them.  (I affirm a generalized atonement, not Penal Substitutionary Atonement.)  That sacrificial death is a topic in 1 John 4:7-11.

Do we affirm and trust that God loves us and our enemies?  Do we believe that our foes are within the grasp of redemption?  Do we prefer that our enemies reform or repent, or face destruction.  The answers to those questions reveal much about us.

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Donatism of a Sort, Part III   Leave a comment

Above: St. Augustine Arguing with Donatists, by Charles-André van Loo

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For Tuesday in Holy Week, Year 2

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Almighty and Everlasting God, grant us grace so to contemplate the passion of our Lord,

that we may find therein forgiveness for our sins;

through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth

with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 159-160

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Lamentations 3:1-7, 18-33

Psalm 32

Ephesians 2:13-22

Mark 15:1-39

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The imagery in Lamentations 3 (usually about going into the Babylonian Exile) and Psalm 32 (really about confessing sin, receiving forgiveness, and returning to God) fits with the suffering of Jesus in Mark 15:1-39.  One result of that suffering, we read in Ephesians 2:13-22, is the breaking down of hostility between Jews and Gentiles.  Jesus is the peace, we read.  He is the means of reconciliation, we read.

I got the memo; I read Ephesians 2:13-22.  I also marked, learned, and inwardly digested the text.  However, many people, including a plethora of my fellow Christians, have not read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested Ephesians 2:13-22.  Anti-Semitism has been a sin within the Church since the founding of the Church.

Likewise, among Gentiles, erecting and maintaining walls of hostility has been a long-standing practice.  Donatism (in the broad sense of that word) has been around for a very long time.

As Edmond Browning, a previous Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, insisted, there are 

no outsiders

in Christ.  Many professing Christians have yet to receive that menu.  According to doctrinal purity tests from my right, I am impure–a heretic, probably one damned to Hell.  My alleged offenses, according to some who have spoken to me in person and/or sent emails, include thinking too much and asking too many questions.

Salvation is not a matter of winning Theological Twenty Questions.  Salvation is not a matter of knowledge, as in Gnosticism.  Orthodoxy in theology is not a saving work.  Salvation is a matter of grace.  This grace is at work in Single Predestination and in free will.  We have free will because of grace, after all.

And Donatism is not a virtue.

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Suffering, Part VII   Leave a comment

Above: Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For Palm Sunday, Year 2

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Almighty and Everlasting God, who hast sent thy Son, our Savior Jesus Christ,

to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross,

that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility;

mercifully grant that we may both follow the example of his patience,

and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 157

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Jeremiah 18:1-14

Psalm 8

Hebrews 12:1-11

Mark 11:1-11

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Great power accompanies great privilege.  Psalm 8 includes a staggering idea–that

human beings share in God’s creative power and care of creation.

The Revised New Jerusalem Bible–Study Edition (2019), 941

When we add Jeremiah 18:1-14 to the mix, we add another element:  We belong to God, not ourselves.  We–individually and collectively, ought to allow God to shape us.  That is one of our responsibilities.

Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Bible.  Also, repentance can stave off judgment, sometimes, at least.  Furthermore, punishment can be discipline, as a parent disciplines a child.  And one, such as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, may understand suffering as a form of discipline.

Hebrews 12:5-11 borrows from Proverbs 3:11-12 to address the suffering of the audience familiar with persecution.  Keep the faith, the Letter to the Hebrews teaches.  The text even uses the language of “sons” from Proverbs 3:11-12.  The germane Greek word in Hebrews translates literally as “sons,” not “children.”  This is consistent with the Pauline theology of sonship of God, although St. Paul the Apostle neither dictated nor wrote the Letter to the Hebrews.  The reference to “sons” is crucial and specific to the culture.  It is a reference to heirs, for sons inherited; daughters did not.  Specifically, legitimate sons inherited.

The Jerusalem Bible (1966) gets to the point in 12:8:

If you were not getting this training, as all of you are, then you would not be sons but bastards.

Suffering as spiritual training may be a difficult idea to accept.  Nevertheless, if one professes to be a Christian, one claims to follow Jesus, who suffered greatly, especially during Holy Week.  As Daniel Berrigan (1921-2016), who suffered unjustly at the hands of the United States federal government for practicing his Christian faith observed, those who follow Jesus must 

look good on wood.

So, we have two sides of our calling from God in Christ:

  1. To share in divine creative power and care of creation, and
  2. To look good on wood.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) wrote that when Jesus calls a man to follow him, Christ bids that man to come and die.  A servant is not greater than the master.

Welcome to Holy Week.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 8, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THORFINN OF HAMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF A. J. MUSTE, DUTCH-AMERICAN MINISTER, LABOR ACTIVIST, AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF ARCHANGELO CORELLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS COPERNICUS AND GALILEO GALILEI, SCIENTISTS

THE FEAST OF HARRIET BEDELL, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS AND MISSIONARY

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Human Agents of God, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Jesus Before Pilate, First Interview, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Hosea 14:1-9 (Protestant and Anglican)/Hosea 14:2-10 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

Psalm 34

Colossians 3:12-4:6

John 18:28-40

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

He who is wise will consider these words,

He who is prudent will take note of them.

For the paths of the LORD are smooth;

The righteous can walk on them,

while sinners stumble on them.

–Hosea 14:10, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I would feel better about Colossians 3:12-4:6 if it did not accept slavery.

Repent and return to God, Hosea 14, urges.  Accept divine forgiveness and act accordingly.  Forgive each other.  After all, everybody needs forgiveness.  And, although grace is free, it is not cheap.  Become a vehicle of grace.  Remain a vehicle of grace.  And do not be an in instrument of injustice, as Pontius Pilate was.  That is my composite summary of the four readings.

And, of course, never accept cultural practices that run afoul of the Golden Rule.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 8, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THORFINN OF HAMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF A. J. MUSTE, DUTCH-AMERICAN MINISTER, LABOR ACTIVIST, AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF ARCHANGELO CORELLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS COPERNICUS AND GALILEO GALILEI, SCIENTISTS

THE FEAST OF HARRIET BEDELL, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS AND MISSIONARY

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2021/01/08/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-d-humes/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++