Archive for the ‘Sabbath’ Tag

Jonathan, Successor of Judas Maccabeus   4 comments

Above:  Jonathan

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XXV

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1 Maccabees 9:23-73

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Demetrius I Soter (Reigned 162-150 B.C.E.)

Alcimus, High Priest (In Office Before 162-159 B.C.E.)

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Jonathan, son of Mattathias and brother of Judas Maccabeus, led the Hasmonean Rebellion, starting in 160 B.C.E.

His story will occupy blog posts in this series through 1 Maccabees 13:30.

Times were perilous.  Bacchides, as governor, was victorious.  The Hasmoneans were on the run.  A severe famine affected the land.  After the abduction and murder of a brother (John Gaddi), Jonathan led a raid and avenged John Gaddi’s death.  And again (see 1 Maccabees 2:29-41), Hasmoneans had to defend themselves on a Sabbath (1 Maccabees 9:43f).  In the Seleucid/Hellenstic year 153 (159 B.C.E.), Alcimus died in agony (1 Maccabees 9:54-57).  The theme of retribution, prominent in 2 Maccabees (see 4:38, 5:8-10, 13:3-8, and 15:28-36), played out in 1 Maccabees, too.

While Jonathan and his brother Simon worked together to rebuild fortifications, Bacchides continued to fight back.  Yet the Hasmoneans were regaining momentum.  Bacchides returned his prisoners of war and left Judea.

Taking up residence in Michmash, Jonathan began to govern the people and root the apostates out of Israel.

–1 Maccabees 9:73, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Nevertheless, King Demetrius I Soter remained on the Seleucid throne, at least for a little while longer.  The Hasmonean Rebellion had not ended.

In purely human terms, Seleucid efforts against Jonathan failed because of the lack of effective Seleucid leadership.  Conversely, Jonathan succeeded against the odds because, in part, he offered effective leadership.  Also, Jonathan won enough popular support for the Hasmonean Rebellion.  Well-armed military forces have failed throughout the past to control sufficiently mobilized populations.  Populations that have made themselves ungovernable have triumphed over those–not always foreigners–who would govern them.

The anonymous author of 1 Maccabees added another point:  God was on the side of the Hasmoneans.  God may have been on their side.  Assuming that was true, that point did not nullify or contradict my points in the previous paragraph.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE NEW MARTYRS OF LIBYA, 2015

THE FEAST OF BEN SALMON, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PACIFIST AND CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS HAROLD ROWLEY, NORTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MICHAEL PRAETORIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER AND MUSICOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BRAY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MISSIONARY

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The Beginning of the Alliance with the Roman Republic   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of the Expansion of the Roman Republic in the Second Century B.C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XXIII

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1 Maccabees 8:1-32

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Demetrius I Soter (Reigned 162-150 B.C.E.)

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The First Book of the Maccabees presents the leader of the Hasmonean Rebellion as being both idealistic and realistic.  Many people are both idealistic and realistic.  Many other people are one or the other.  Unrealistic idealists work against their own goals.  Realists who lack idealism need a moral compass.

One example of Hasmonean realism exists in 1 Maccabees 2:31-48.  Engaging in combat on the Sabbath violates the Law of Moses, a code the Hasmoneans insisted that Jews follow.  Nevertheless,

On that day they came to this decision:  “Let us fight against anyone who attacks us on the sabbath, so that we may not all die as our kinsmen died in the hiding places.”

–1 Maccabees 2:41, The New American Bible (1991)

Remember that, O reader, when you read a Gospel story in which critics of Jesus and/or his Apostles accuse him or them or allegedly violating the Sabbath.  Recall that relativizing the commandments within the Law of Moses and bowing to reality was already part of the practice of orthodox Judaism prior to the time of Christ.

Consider, O reader, the political situation of Judas Maccabeus and his followers in the Hasmonean Rebellion.  He fought against apostate Jews, as well as King Demetrius I Soter of the Seleucid Empire.  That empire was fracturing.  The Hasmonean Rebellion was just one revolt with which King Demetrius I Soter contended.  Judas Maccabeus and the other Hasmoneans needed allies.  The Roman Republic, furthermore, opposed Demetrius, who had, in violation of orders from the Roman Senate, escaped from Rome, captured the Seleucid throne, and had ordered the execution of Regent Lysisas and the young King Antiochus V Eupator.  The Hasmoneans and the Romans had a common enemy.

The text contains references to Roman victories against King Philip V of Macedonia (197 B.C.E.), King Perseus of Macedonia (168 B.C.E.), and King Antiochus III the Great of the Seleucid Empire (189 B.C.E.).  One also reads about Roman victories in Spain (late 200s B.C.E.), northern Italy (222 and 191 B.C.E.), and Greece (146 B.C.E.).  The reference to the Roman victory against the Achean League in 146 B.C.E. is an anachronism, given the contemporary setting of 160 B.C.E.

Also, comparing 1 Maccabees 8:16 to the opinions of contemporary and subsequent Roman historians reveals that 1 Maccabees 8:16 is an idealized presentation of the later phase of the Roman Republic.  1 Maccabees 8:1 makes clear, however, that what followed was what Judas Maccabeus had heard.

The treaty (8:23-29) provided for mutual defense and for Jews not to aid enemies of the Roman Republic.  King Demetrius I Soter formally had a new enemy (8:31).  Nevertheless, the Roman Republic did not come through for their allies until 142 B.C.E. (1 Maccabees 14:16-24)–18 years later.

Father Daniel J. Harrington, S.J., explains the geopolitical situation following the treaty of 160 B.C.E.:

There is evidence that the Romans were not very scrupulous about fulfilling their obligations in this kind of treaty.  They usually acted when it best suited their interests.  However, a small constituency like the Maccabees had little to lose from such a treaty.  Its existence might scare off the Seleucids, who would not know whether this might be one of those occasions that might bring about Roman intervention.  It also gave the Maccabees and their supporters the status of speaking on behalf of Israel and so constituting a kind of government.

The New Collegeville Bible Commentary:  Old Testament (2015), 792

I, writing in 2021 C.E., note the irony and poignancy of 1 Maccabees 8.  I know that Roman general Pompey added Judea to the Roman Republic in 63 B.C.E., after the composition of 1 Maccabees circa 104 B.C.E.  I know about the First Jewish War (66-73 C.E.) and the Second Jewish War (132-135 C.E.), too.  I know about the Roman imperial destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70 C.E.  These facts inform my interpretation of 1 Maccabees 8.

Nevertheless, in the temporal and geopolitical contexts of 160 B.C.E., Judas Maccabeus acted shrewdly, in a combination of idealism and realism.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE LAST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM OF CARRHAE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHRISTOPH CARL LUDWIG VON PFEIL, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CYRIL AND METHODIUS, APOSTLES TO THE SLAVS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN MICHAEL ALTENBURG, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR, COMPOSER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF VICTOR OLOF PETERSEN, SWEDISH-AMERICAN LUTHERAN HYMN TRANSLATOR

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The Defeat and Death of Nicanor, with the Death of Razis   Leave a comment

Above:  Judas Maccabaeus Before the Army of Nicanor, by Gustave Doré

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XXII

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1 Maccabees 7:26-50

2 Maccabees 14:14-15:37

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Demetrius I Soter (Reigned 162-150 B.C.E.)

Alcimus, High Priest (In Office Before 162-159 B.C.E.)

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I confess to you, O reader, that I am confused.  I do not know if the Nicanor of 1 Maccabees 3:38–a general and a Friend of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes–is the same man as the Nicanor 14:11-15:37.  Commentaries and study Bibles disagree with each other.  They agree, however, that “Nicanor” was a common name.

Anyway, the Nicanor of these readings was formerly in charge of the royal elephants.  Yet King Demetrius I Soter appointed him the governor of Judea.  Nicanor’s mission was, in the words of 1 Maccabees 7:26, to wipe out the people of Israel.  The depiction of Nicanor in 1 Maccabees 7:26-50 was consistently negative.  In 2 Maccabees, however, Nicanor developed good will for Judas Maccabeus, for a time, at least.

Furthermore, according to 2 Maccabees, Alcimus, hoping to prevent Judas Maccabeus from becoming the High Priest, meddled.  Alcimus wrote to King Demetrius I Soter.  Then King Demetrius I Soter wrote to Nicanor.  The friendship with Judas Maccabeus ended.

Nevertheless, the portrayal of Nicanor in 2 Maccabees was still negative.  The story of the death of Razis, a devout Jewish elder (2 Maccabees 14:37-46) painted Nicanor in an especially unflattering light.

2 Maccabees 14:46 affirms the physical resurrection of the dead, by the way.  Furthermore, 2 Maccabees 14:15-16 teaches that some deceased pious people, such as the prophet Jeremiah, were alive prior to the general resurrection of the dead.

Also, Nicanor had no respect for the Jewish Sabbath (2 Maccabees 15:15).  Yet Judas Maccabeus had faith in God.

From 161/160 B.C.E. to 70 C.E., on the twelfth or thirteenth day of Adar, Jews celebrated the feast of the death of Nicanor (1 Maccabees 7:49; 2 Maccabees 15:36).

Here ends my journey through 2 Maccabees.  The remainder of 1 Maccabees awaits me, though.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE LAST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM OF CARRHAE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHRISTOPH CARL LUDWIG VON PFEIL, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CYRIL AND METHODIUS, APOSTLES TO THE SLAVS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN MICHAEL ALTENBURG, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR, COMPOSER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF VICTOR OLOF PETERSEN, SWEDISH-AMERICAN LUTHERAN HYMN TRANSLATOR

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The Beginning of the Hasmonean Rebellion   1 comment

Above:  Mattathias and the Apostate, by Gustave Doré

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XV

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1 Maccabees 2:1-70

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How much is too much to tolerate?  When must one, in good conscience, resist authority?  The First and Second Books of the Maccabees are books about resistance to tyranny and about the political restoration of Israel (Judea).  These are not books that teach submission to all human governmental authority, no matter what.  The heroes include men who killed imperial officials, as well as Jews who ate pork–

death over a ham sandwich,

as a student of mine said years ago.

Mattathias was a Jewish priest zealous for the Law of Moses.  He and his five sons started the Hasmonean Rebellion after the desecration of the Temple in Jerusalem by King Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 167 B.C.E.  Mattathias, having refused an offer to become on the Friends of the King, launched the rebellion.  (Friend of the King was an official position.  Also, there were four ranks of Friends:  Friends (entry-level), Honored Friends, First Friends, and Preferred Friends.)  The sons of Mattathias were:

  1. John Gaddi–“fortunate,” literally;
  2. Simon Thassis–“burning,” literally;
  3. Judas Maccabeus–“designated by Yahweh” or “the hammerer,” literally;
  4. Eleazar Avaran–“awake,” literally; and
  5. Jonathan Apphus–“favorite,” literally.

The rebellion, under Mattathias, was against Hellenism.  Under Judas Maccabeus, the rebellion became a war for independence.

Mattathias died in 166 B.C.E.

The farewell speech in 2:49-70 contains references to the the following parts of the Hebrew Bible:

  1. Genesis 22 (Abraham; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 44:19-21, also);
  2. Genesis 39 (Joseph);
  3. Numbers 25 (Phinehas; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 45:23-26, also);
  4. Joshua 1 (Joshua; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 46:1-10, also); 
  5. Numbers 13 and 14 (Caleb; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 46:7-10, also);
  6. 2 Samuel 7 (David; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47:2-12, also);
  7. 1 Kings 17 and 2 Kings 2 (Elijah; see Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 47:25-12, also); 
  8. Daniel 3 (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego); and
  9. Daniel 6 (Daniel).

The point is to remain faithful to God during difficult times.  I support that.  On the other hand, killing some people and forcibly circumcising others is wrong.  If I condemn Hellenists for committing violence, I must also condemn Hasmoneans for doing the same.

The text intends for us, the readers, to contrast the death of Mattathias with the death of Alexander the Great (1:5-6).  We read:

[Alexander’s] generals took over the government, each in his own province, and, when Alexander died, they all assumed royal crowns, and for many years the succession passed to their descendants.  They brought untold miseries on the world.

–1 Maccabees 1:8-9, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The agenda of 1 Maccabees includes the belief that renewal of Jewish traditions followed the death of Mattathias , however.

I have a habit of arguing with scripture, off-and-on.  I may recognize a text as being canonical yet disagree with part of it.  Arguing with God is part of my patrimony, inherited from Judaism.  Sometimes I seek to adore and thank God.  Arguing with God (as in Judaism) contrasts with submitting to God (as in Islam).  Perhaps the combination of my Protestant upbringing and my inherent rebelliousness keeps showing itself.  If so, so be it; I offer no apology in this matter.

As much as I engage in 1 and 2 Maccabees and find them interesting, even canonical–Deuterocanonical, actually–they disturb me.  Violence in the name of God appalls me, regardless of whether an army, a mob, or a lone civilian commits it.  I may recognize a given cause as being just.  I may, objectively, recognize the historical importance of certain violent acts, including those of certain violent acts, including those of rebellious slaves and of John Brown.  I may admit, objectively, that such violence may have been the only feasible option sometimes, given the circumstances oppressors had created or maintained.   Yet, deep down in my soul, I wish I could be a pacifist.

So, the sacred violence in 1 and 2 Maccabees disturbs me.  I understand the distinction between civilians and combatants.  The violence against civilians in 1 and 2 Maccabees really offends me morally.  These two books are not the only places in the Old Testament I read of violence against civilians.  It is present in much of the Hebrew Bible proper, too.  I object to such violence there, also.

Jennifer Wright Knust, a seminary professor and an an ordained minister in the American Baptist Churches USA, wrote Unprotected Texts:  The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire (2011).  She said in an interview on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio that she has detected a disturbing pattern in many of her students.  Knust has said that many of her pupils think they must hold positions they would otherwise regard as morally repugnant.  They believe this, she has explained, because they interpret the Bible as supporting these positions.

As Mark Noll (a historian, a University of Notre Dame professor, and a conservative Presbyterian) has written, the U.S. Civil War was a theological crisis.  The authority of scripture was a major part of proslavery arguments that quoted the Bible, chapter and verse.  The counterargument was, therefore, allegedly heretical.  That argument rested mainly on a few verses–the Golden Rule, mainly.  And the abolitionist argument was morally superior.

I encourage you, O reader, to go all-in on the Golden Rule.  Questions of orthodoxy or heresy be damned.  Just follow the Golden Rule.  Leave the rest to God.  Do not twist the authority of scripture into an obstacle to obeying the Golden Rule.  I do not believe that God will ever condemn any of us for doing to others as would have them to do to us.

I offer one other thought from this chapter.  Read verses 29-38, O reader.  Notice that even those zealous for keeping the Law of Moses fought a battle on the Sabbath, instead of resting on the day of rest.  Know that, if they had rested, they may have lost the battle.  Know, also, that relativizing commandments within the Law of Moses was a Jewish practice.  (Remember that, so not to stereotype Judaism, as in stories in which Jesus healed on the Sabbath then faced criticism for having done so.)  Ideals clash with reality sometimes.

To return to Knust’s point, one need not believe something one would otherwise consider repugnant.  One need not do so, even if one interprets the Bible to support that repugnant belief.  The recognition of the reality on the ground takes one out of the realm of the theoretical and into the realm of the practical.  May we–you, O reader, and I–properly balance the moral demands (real or imagined) of the theoretical with those (also real or imagined) of the practical.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DANNY THOMAS, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC ENTERTAINER AND HUMANITARIAN; FOUNDER OF SAINT JUDE’S CHILDREN’S RESEARCH HOSPITAL

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALTO TO ALTOMUNSTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF BRUCE M. METZGER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND BIBLICAL TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN TIETJEN, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, ECUMENIST, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT PORFIRIO, MARTYR, 203

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Identity in Christ   Leave a comment

Above:  The Temple of Artemis (1886), Richard Knab

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Lord, we beseech thee, grant thy people grace to withstand

the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil;

and with pure hearts and minds to follow thee, the only true God;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 216

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Proverbs 16:1-9

Psalm 107:1-16

Acts 19:21-41

Luke 14:1-14

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The teachings and commandments of God may fall on deaf ears for many reasons.  One reason is that they constitute either a real or a perceived threat.  They may threaten ego or economic status, for example.

Ephesus was the site of a temple to Artemis.  This temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  Ephesian silversmiths had a vested interest in the continuation of the cult of Artemis, obviously.

Above:  The Ruins of the Temple of Artemis

Image Source = Google Earth

Relativizing commandments was a common practice in Second Temple Judaism.   Whenever practical considerations brushed up against provisions of the Law of Moses, selective violations of that Law may have occurred.  Saving lives was a frequently-cited justification for violating Sabbath laws, for example.  Christ’s healings on the Sabbath exceeded saving lives.  His Sabbath healings threatened perceptions of righteousness.

Christ’s subsequent teaching in Luke 14 threatened egos, too.

This seems like a good time to quote Proverbs 9:

Better a little with righteousness

Than a large income with injustice.

A man may plot out his course,

But it is the LORD who directs his steps.

–Verses 8-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Wealth and human ego may be the two most popular idols.  I am uncertain which one of the two is more popular than the other.

Properly, a Christian’s identity relies on Jesus, not any other factor.  This is a lesson I grasp intellectually yet not psychologically.  Knowing what to do is the first step in accomplishing it.  Knowing what to do is also easier than accomplishing it.  I am working on this matter, by grace.

Perhaps you, O reader, are also struggling with the issue of proper Christian identity.  If so, do not give up.  Hang in there and trust God.  If, however, you do not have this problem, you have received a great blessing.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF THE ORDINATION OF FLORENCE LI-TIM-OI, FIRST FEMALE PRIEST IN THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION

THE FEAST OF GEORGE A. BUTTRICK, ANGLO-AMERICAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND HIS SON, DAVID G. BUTTRICK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEN UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIE POUSSEPIN, FOUNDRESS OF THE DOMINICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE VIRGIN

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF PODLASIE, 1874

THE FEAST OF SAINT SURANUS OF SORA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MARTYR, 580

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Rich in Good Deeds   2 comments

Above:  The Pool of Bethesda

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Zephaniah 1:1-18 or Proverbs 25:6-22

Psalm 119:73-77, 103-105

1 Timothy 6:9-21

John 5:1-18

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Idols abound.  They include wealth, power, prestige, and foreign religions.  Even the most well-meaning people are vulnerable to these temptations.

As we read in 1 Timothy 6, we should be rich in good deeds.  As we read in Psalm 119, we should delight in the Law of God.  And, as even much of Second Temple Judaism affirmed, performing a good deed on the Sabbath is acceptable.

Those who criticized Jesus for healing on the Sabbath in John 5:16f seemed not to have cared about that final detail.  Sabbath laws were flexible in Second Temple Judaism, or at least in portions thereof.  There were schools of Judaism.  And, within each school, personal agendas informed how some people responded and reacted to various deeds on the Sabbath.

None of this should surprise us–especially Gentiles.  I recall a saying from my formative years (as a United Methodist) in southern Georgia, U.S.A., in the Bible Belt:

There are Baptists, then there are Baptists.

So, may we lay aside the stereotype of Second Temple Judaism as a legalistic religion with works-based righteousness.  May we do so as we follow the advice (from 1 Timothy 6) to be rich in good works.  After all, one knows a tree by its fruits.

We can take nothing with us when we die.  We can, at that time, however, leave a legacy of faithful, active love.  We can leave a legacy of trust in God, love of God, and love of our fellow human beings.  We can leave the world better than we found it.  We can leave this life rich in good deeds.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 4, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH ANN SETON, FOUNDRESS OF THE AMERICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR, 1527

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF LANGRES, TERTICUS OF LANGRES, GALLUS OF CLERMONT, GREGORY OF TOURS, AVITUS I OF CLERMONT, MAGNERICUS OF TRIER, AND GAUGERICUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN LUDWIG FREYDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

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Adapted from these posts:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2021/01/04/devotion-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d-humes/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/04/devotion-for-proper-7-year-d-humes/

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Idolatry and Tribalism   1 comment

Above:  Saint John the Evangelist, by Peter Paul Rubens

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Genesis 1:14-25

Psalm 146

1 John 2:7-12; 3:1-3

John 1:6-13

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Genesis 1 divides the first six days of creation into two groups–the creation of generalities and domains (the first three days’ work) and the creation of the specifics or the inhabitants of those domains (the work of the fourth, fifth, and sixth days).  The seventh day is the time of the creation of the sabbath.  The sovereignty of God is a theme that pervades this great myth.

God also deserves much love.  As the other three readings tell us, that love (or absence thereof) is manifest in how we behave toward other human beings.  These other human beings also bear the image of God (Genesis 1:27).  I know I am getting ahead of the continuous readings in Genesis.  I am staying on topic, though.

Whoever says he is in the light, yet hates his brother, is still in the darkness.  Whoever loves his brother remains in the light, and there is nothing in him to cause a fall.  Whoever hates his brother is in darkness; he walks in darkness and does not know where he is going because darkness has blinded his eyes.

–1 John 2:9-11, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

That text explains itself.

According to a story that may be apocryphal, the elderly St. John the Evangelist was due to visit a congregation somewhere.  The members gathered in great anticipation on the appointed day.  They watched as men carried the infirmed apostle into the space and sat him down in front of the congregation.  Then St. John said, 

My children, love one another.

Immediately, he motioned for the men to carry him out.  One member of the congregation ran after St. John and asked, in so many words, 

That’s all you came here to say?

The apostle replied,

When you have done that, I will tell you more.

Loving one another can be very difficult.  Deciding to love one another can also prove challenging, albeit easier than effectively acting on the goal.  We need grace to succeed, of course.  Yet grace requires our desire to love one another.  Free will and grace are partners.

I write this post during a period of prolonged and intensified political polarization.  Even the definition of objective reality, as in X caused Y, and Z happened, is often contentious.  More so than in the past, many disagreements start at the point of assuming that those who differ from one are bad, if not evil.  The more generous judgment that that those who disagree are probably good yet misinformed and misguided is increasingly rare.

I notice this unfortunate pattern in topics that range far beyond science, religion, and politics.  I detect this regarding science fiction (one of my favorite topics), too. 

Do you enjoy that series?  Do you not enjoy that movie?  What kind of person are you?  You certainly aren’t a real fan.  I’m a real fan! 

Many criteria can define tribalism.

Whenever we erect idols, whether tangible or intangible, we set ourselves up for this.  We do this to ourselves and each other.  We can choose never to do this.  We can also choose to cease and desist from doing this.  We can opt to repent of our idolatry and tribalism.

May we do so.  May we love God.  May we love ourselves and each other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 24, 2020 COMMON ERA

CHRISTMAS EVE

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/12/24/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-of-advent-year-d-humes/

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Rebuilding the Culture of Judah, Part II   2 comments

Above:  Jerusalem at the Time of Nehemiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 2 KINGS 22-25, 1 ESDRAS, 2 CHRONICLES 34-36, EZRA, AND NEHEMIAH

PART XX

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Nehemiah 13:1-31

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There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

the holy habitation of the Most High.

God is in the midst of her;

she shall not be overthrown;

God shall help her at the break of day.

The nations make much ado, and the kingdoms are shaken;

God has spoken, and the earth shall melt away.

The LORD of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

–Psalm 46:5-8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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This chapter contains separate elements.  I will write about each one in order.

13:1-3, pertaining to the ban against intermarrying with Ammonites, contains allusions to Deuteronomy 23:3-5 and Numbers 22-24.  One may also look forward to Ezra 9-10.  Perhaps one mistakes such an order for xenophobia.  Yet, if one reads the Hebrew Bible and notices how after intermarriage with Gentiles (with their own gods) led to national idolatry.  Then perhaps one will understand the reason for the ban.

The events of 13:4-9 predated those of 13:1-3.  (Consistent chronology is not the organizing principle in Nehemiah.)  Housing trouble-maker Tobiah (from the readings for the previous post in this series) in the Temple was a terrible idea.  Evicting Tobiah and purifying the rooms was necessary and proper.

Restoring the distribution of the means of supporting the Levites was also crucial.

The Sabbath is a day of essential rest.  The Sabbath is an indication of freedom.  The Sabbath is a gift.

Old, bad habits are difficult to break.  Human beings are creatures of habit.  May we nurture good habits.

Literally, the Book of Nehemiah ends with 13:31.  However, given that consistent chronology is not the organizing principle of Nehemiah, we will proceed chronologically to 9:38-10:39.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC OF NEOCAESAREA; AND ALEXANDER OF COMONA, “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 252, AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF SAINT EQUITIUS OF VALERIA, BENEDICTINE ABBOT AND FOUNDER OF MONASTERIES

THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS LOY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR’ AND CONRAD HERMANN LOUIS SCHUETTE, GERMAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAURICE TORNAY, SWISS ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY TO TIBET, AND MARTYR, 1949

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Objecting for Jesus   Leave a comment

Above:  Near the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, Salem, Massachusetts

Image Source = Google Earth

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For the Twenty-Third Sunday after Trinity, 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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Absolve, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy people from their offenses;

that from the bonds of our sins which, by reason of our frailty,

we have brought upon us, we may be delivered by thy bountiful goodness;

through 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), 228

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Hosea 10:12-11:12

Psalm 146

Philippians 3:7-21

Luke 12:49-59

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We read of the imperative of following God’s way, not our way.  Our way leads to, in words from Hosea 10:13, reaping iniquity and eating the fruits of treachery, having plowed wickedness.  Rather, we ought to sow righteousness and reap the fruits of goodness (Hosea 10:12).  In concrete terms, sowing righteousness means emulating YHWH.  In Psalm 146, YHWH keeps faith with the wronged, defends the cause of the oppressed, feeds the hungry, liberates prisoners, opens the eyes of the blind, uplifts those bend double, loves the just, protects the strangers, reassures the fatherless and the widows, and overturns the domination of the wicked.  Those sound like make many enemies, often among the conventionally religious, who should know better.

Jesus made enemies every time he healed on the Sabbath.  He made enemies every time he woke up after a good night’s sleep.  Christ made enemies because he had a pulse.

We Christians, who profess to follow Jesus, tread the way of the cross, if we really are doing what we should.  We, like St. Paul the Apostle, will make enemies by pursuing righteousness.  Ironically, many of these foes may identify themselves as Christians.  Intra-Christian persecution is a shameful and indefensible tradition.  Other persecution may originate from outside the Christian faith.  Either way, persecutors may imagine that they are positive figures doing what is necessary for the greater good.  Villains frequently think they are heroes.

Christ, functionally, is a cause of dissension.  This reality is as old as the ministry of Jesus and as recent as the present day.  This reality reflects negatively on those who object to Jesus, not on him.

One may also recall other words from the Gospel of Luke:

Blessed are you when people hate you, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of man.  Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, look!–your reward will be great in heaven.  This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets….Alas for you when everyone speaks well of you!  This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.

–Luke 6:22-23, 26, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

May we never take offense at Jesus and think of him as a proper cause of dissension.  After all, many distinctions properly cease to exist or matter in Christ.  Therefore, Jesus should be a means of unity.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH; AND SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH AND “FATHER OF ORTHODOXY”

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SILVESTER HORNE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FRIEDRICH HASSE, GERMAN-BRITISH MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF JULIA BULKLEY CADY CORY, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

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The Appalling Strangeness of the Mercy of God   1 comment

Above:  Christ Healing an Infirm Woman, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

The Appalling Strangeness of the Mercy of God

SEPTEMBER 26, 2021

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 or Jeremiah 23:23-29

Psalm 107:1-3, 170-32

Romans 9:1-6, 16

Luke 13:10-17

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The twin themes of divine judgment and mercy dominate these five readings, O reader.

I know, O reader, that, if you have paid attention to and read this weblog for a while, you can probably guess what I will write next.  The Bible is repetitive.  Lectionaries keep taking me into repetitive territory.  The Bible repeats itself because people missed a given message the first many times.

You cannot conceive, nor can I, of the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God.

–Graham Greene, Brighton Rock (1938)

The mercy of God present in Jesus, healing on the Sabbath, appalled one synagogue official in Luke 13:10-17.  This mercy should have filled that man with joy on behalf of the formerly afflicted woman.  No, he stood of conventional piety, according to which Christ’s actions were inappropriate–even sinful–on the Sabbath.  Jesus did not provide first aid; that would have been fine, according to conventional piety.  Neither did he provide emergency relief that saved her life; that also would have been fine, according to conventional piety.  Had he healed her on any of the other six days of the week, that would have been fine, according to conventional piety.  So much for that version of conventional piety!

The easy way out is to stand on one’s perceived moral superiority to that synagogue official.  The easy way out is to denounce him and stop there.  However, I know myself well enough to affirm that I have my own version of conventional piety–the rules of the spiritual road, as I understand them, so to speak.  If Jesus were to stand in front of me and transgress any of those rules, I would probably take offense at him.  That would be my problem and sin, not his.

You, O reader, probably resemble that remark.  Who among us is a spiritual superhero, greater than mere mortals?

May God forgive all of us our spiritual blindness and fixations that prevent us from responding as we should.  And may we follow divine leading in repenting of those sins.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 25, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARK THE EVANGELIST, MARTYR, 68

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/25/devotion-for-proper-21-year-c-humes/

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