Archive for the ‘Sacred Violence’ Tag

St. Paul the Apostle in Jerusalem   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Paul

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LXXI

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Acts 21:17-23:22

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St. Paul’s Third Missionary Journey spanned 53-58 C.E.  He was back in Jerusalem for Passover in 58 C.E.

St. Paul’s reputation preceded him.  He agreed to St. James of Jerusalem’s plan for damage control.  St. Paul accompanied four men to the Temple, where they made their Nazarite vows.  He also sponsored sacrifices, consistent with the Law of Moses.  This strategy failed.  A Jewish mob beat St. Paul outside the Temple.  They would have killed him had Roman soldiers not rescued him.  The mob’s cries of “Kill him!” echoed another mob’s cries of “Crucify him! Crucify him!” (Luke 23:21).

Notice the sympathetic portrayal of the Romans, O reader.  It is consistent with the Lucan motif of identifying good Roman officials even though Luke-Acts presents the Roman Empire as being at odds with God.  Alas, Luke-Acts presents the empire as being an unwitting tool of God sometimes.

St. Paul had impeccable Jewish credentials as well as Roman citizenship.  As a citizen, he had the legal right to appeal to the emperor.  This fact led him to Rome.

Roman soldiers had to save St. Paul from a Jewish conspiracy a second time.  The soldiers transferred him to Caesarea.

Keep in mind, O reader, that I have been writing this weblog for more than a decade.  During those years, I have made many opinions abundantly clear and repeated myself at least a zillion times, lest someone who reads a post without having read other posts or many other posts mistake me for someone who holds positions I find abhorrent.

For the sake of clarity, I repeat for time number zillion plus one that I reject and condemn anti-Semitism.  Really, I should not have to keep repeating myself in this matter and many other matters.  Yet I do, for even a dispassionate statement of objective historical reality may seem hateful to certain people.  I live in an age of ubiquitous hyper-sensitivity, which I find as objectionable as ubiquitous insensitivity.  I favor ubiquitous sensitivity instead.

As I keep repeating ad nauseum in this series, I have no interest in condemning long-dead people and resting on self-righteous laurels.  I may condemn long-dead people, but I refuse to stop there.  No, I examine myself spiritually and draw contemporary parallels, too.  Sacred violence is an oxymoron, regardless of who commits it.  And I should never approve of it.  Also, my Christian tradition has a shameful legacy of committing and condoning “sacred violence” against targets, including Jews, Muslims, and Christians.

By this point in the narrative, St. Paul was taking a circuitous route to Rome, to bear witness for Jesus there.  The Roman soldiers and officials, as well as the homicidal Jews of Jerusalem, were tools to get him to the imperial capital.

Ask yourself, O reader:  What would push you over the edge into homicidal tendencies?  Answer honestly.  Then take the answer to God in prayer and repent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2022 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 CHRISTIAN FRIEDRICH HASSE, GERMAN-BRITISH MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF ELIAS BOUDINOT, IV, U.S. STATESMAN, PHILANTHROPIST, AND WITNESS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

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

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

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St. Paul’s First Missionary Journey   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Paul the Apostle

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LXVII

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Acts 13:1-14:28

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Terminology and context matter.  A reading of Acts 13:1-14:28 reveals a few mentions of “the Jews.”  Recall, O reader, that Sts. (Joseph) Barnabas and Paul the Apostle were Jewish.  Remember, also, that many of the people they converted were Jews.  “The Jews,” therefore, refers to Jews hostile to Christianity–sometimes, violently so.

We have the same issue in the Gospel of John, a book with mostly Jewish characters and composed during a time of conflict between Jewish Americans and non-Christian Jews.  Another wrinkle in the Johannine Gospel, though, is that “the Judeans” may be the correct translation sometimes.

The hostility of “the Jews” toward Christian Jews and Sts. Paul and Barnabas, in particular, should inspire spiritual examination in the reader or listener.  I think of the shameful record of violence Christians have committed in the name of Christ against Jews, Muslims, other Christians, and other people.  I understand that I am not immune to the dark side of human nature.  How dare I fall into complacent self-righteousness and mistake myself for someone who would never commit or condone such an act, given different circumstances?

Such violence arises from hatred, which flows from fear, which comes from a lack of understanding.  Such violence also indicates the severity of the perceived threat Sts. Paul and Barnabas allegedly posed.

We also notice a pattern in evangelism–taking the message to the Jews first then to the pagans.  This is consistent with St. Paul’s outreach to Gentiles while including Jews in his mission.

For St. Paul, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus ended one epoch and inaugurated another one.  Therefore, in his mind, outreach to the Jewish population made sense.

We read of two miraculous works–a healing and a blinding.  I am happy for the man born crippled, for I rejoice in his healing.  Yet I cannot rejoice in the blinding of Elymas Magus (Bar-Jesus), a magician and a false prophet.  The physical blindness indicated spiritual blindness, mixed with fear of losing influence with Proconsul Sergius Paulus.

Perhaps the magician’s temporary blindness is a metaphor of the failure he and others like him have in blinding people to the course of God’s salvation.

–Robert W. Wall, in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 10 (2002), 190

A relevant matter is the name “Bar-Jesus.”  “Jesus” is simply “Joshua,” a common name.  Yet the irony of “Son of Joshua” opposing nascent Christianity is ironic.  We read that St. Paul described Bar-Jesus as

son of the devil

instead.  The implication here is that opposition to the Gospel was a moral failing.  We readers are supposed to recall the conflict between Jesus and Satan and evil spirits in the Gospel of Luke.  Also, we are supposed to contrast St. Paul, blinded on the road to Damascus, with Elymas/Bar-Jesus.

Speaking of the name “Bar-Jesus,” another rendering is “Bariesou,” similar to “Barieu,” or “wrongdoer.”

Luke-Acts dates to circa 85 C.E.  Recall, O reader, that Gentiles were the intended audience.  Consider, also, the rising tensions between Christians (both Jews and Gentiles) and non-Christian Jews at the time.  Read in context, we may reasonably guess how members of the original audience related Acts 13:1-14:28 to their lives.

This seems like an appropriate setting in which to repeat myself from previous posts:

  1. Judaism at the time understood that God accepted righteous Gentiles.
  2. Luke-Acts documented some Gentiles who had positive relationships with their local Jewish communities.
  3. Intra-Jewish arguments occurred in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles.
  4. Anti-Semitism has always been wrong.
  5. Legalists have always distorted non-legalistic religions.

I have made these points in writing many times.  I tire of the necessity of repetition, but I feel obligated to commit it sometimes, just in case someone has missed all of the ten zillion times I have condemned anti-Semitism, for example.

Recall the Parable of the Mustard Seed, O reader.  The Kingdom of God is like a really big weed–an unwanted plant, by definition–derived from a tiny seed.  The Kingdom of God goes where it will.  I live in Georgia, so I understand the “kudzu theory” of the Kingdom of God.  This kingdom’s shape may not necessarily be what one expects, but the kingdom is present and tenacious.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 23, 2022 COMMON ERA

SATURDAY IN EASTER WEEK

THE FEAST OF TOYOHIKO KAGAWA, RENEWER OF SOCIETY AND PROPHETIC WITNESS IN JAPAN

THE FEAST OF MARTIN RINCKART, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA MARIA OF THE CROSS, FOUNDER OF THE CARMELITE SISTERS OF SAINT TERESA OF FLORENCE

THE FEAST OF WALTER RUSSELL BOWIE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, SEMINARY PROFESSOR, AND HYMN WRITER

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St. Stephen, the First Christian Martyr   Leave a comment

Above:  Saint Stephen, by Luis de Morales

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART LX

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Acts 6:8-8:3

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…but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.

–Acts 6:10, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

St. Stephen, one of the original seven deacons (Acts 6:1-7), had a simple job–to provide social services in the name of Christ.  Simply put, he, as a deacon, was supposed to provide the ancient equivalent of Meals on Wheels (Acts 6:2).  He died for his preaching, though.

Rather than focus on the reported contents of that fateful sermon, or on the politics of it circa 85 C.E. (when St. Luke composed the Acts of the Apostles), I choose other emphases:

  1. St. Stephen’s martyrdom resembles the crucifixion of Jesus.  The servant is not greater than the master, after all.
  2. We meet Saul of Tarsus, still a persecutor of the nascent Church.
  3. We read of sacred violence, one the most egregious oxymorons.

Those who behave violently toward the nonviolent do not impress me.  I understand that violence is sometimes the lesser evil; I am a realist.  Yet I contend that violence is usually unnecessary.  Violence in defense of another person, other human beings, and oneself is necessary at times, sadly.  yet violence against the nonviolent is never morally justifiable.

Nevertheless, violence in the name of God, especially against the nonviolent, is a repeating theme in history.  I, as a Christian, regret that violence in the name of Jesus, crucified despite being innocent of the charges against him, is a dark stain in Christian history.  And I, as a citizen of the United States of America, know that my nation-state, not exempt from human nature, has a record of incarcerating and martyring pacifists during wartime.  My Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days (available at SUNDRY THOUGHTS) includes some of these martyrs.  I also know about the four Quakers the Puritan government of the Massachusetts Bay Colony executed for merely being Quakers.  My Ecumenical Calendar also lists these four martyrs.

The variety of theological certainty that, in one’s imagination, justifies violence against the nonviolent is morally unjustifiable.  Consider the Lucan presentation of the execution of Jesus, O reader.  Remember that the Lucan account emphasizes the innocence of Jesus, hence the injustice of his death.  We have a similar murder here, in Acts 7:54-60.

I, as a Christian, have an obligation to follow Jesus.  I do not recall the verse in which he called for smiting the heretics and evildoers.  That verse does not exist.  I do recall reading about Jesus dying for the heretics and evildoers, though.  And I remember reading about Jesus praying that God would forgive them.

As for pacifists, they are harmless at worst and beneficial at best.  If one disagrees with them, one has the right to do so.  Yet nobody has the moral right to harm them, to seek to harm them, or to consent to their harm.  Why not permit them to lead their nonviolent lives without harassment and persecution?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 15, 2022 COMMON ERA

GOOD FRIDAY

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLGA OF KIEV, REGENT OF KIEVAN RUSSIA; SAINT ADALBERT OF MAGDEBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT ADALBERT OF PRAGUE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR, 997; AND SAINTS BENEDICT AND GAUDENTIUS OF POMERANIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 997

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DAMIEN AND MARIANNE OF MOLOKAI, WORKERS AMONG LEPERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT FLAVIA DOMITILLA, ROMAN CHRISTIAN NOBLEWOMAN; AND SAINTS MARO, EUTYCHES, AND VICTORINUS OF ROME, PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, CIRCA 99

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUNNA OF ALSACE, THE “HOLY WASHERWOMAN”

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Judas Maccabeus, the Second Leader of the Hasmonean Rebellion   Leave a comment

Above:  Judas Maccabeus

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART XVI

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1 Maccabees 3:1-26

2 Maccabees 8:1-7

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(Youths)
See, the conqu’ring hero comes!
Sound the trumpets! Beat the drums!
Sports prepare! The laurel bring!
Songs of triumph to him sing!

(Virgins)
See the godlike youth advance!
Breathe the flutes and lead the dance!
Myrtle wreaths and roses twine
to deck the hero’s brow divine!

(Israelites)
See, the conqu’ring hero comes!
Sound the trumpets! Beat the drums!
Sports prepare! The laurel bring!
Songs of triumph to him sing!
See, the conqu’ring hero comes!
Sound the trumpets! Beat the drums!

George Frederick Handel, Judas Maccabaeus (1746)

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Judas Maccabaeus came forward to take his father’s place.  He had the support of all his brothers and his father’s followers, and they carried on Israel’s campaign with zest.

He enhanced his people’s glory.

Like a giant he put on his breastsplate

and girt himself with weapons of war…..

His renown spread to the ends of the earth,

and he rallied a people near to destruction.

–1 Maccabees 3:1-3a, 9, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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The liveliness of that translation explains why I prefer to read the First Book of the Maccabees in The Revised English Bible (1989).

The account in 2 Maccabees is, predictably, concise.  One should expect that from the condensed version of five books.  The longer account in 1 Maccabees is vivid.  The anonymous author of 1 Maccabees and the anonymous Epitomist of 2 Maccabees wanted people to know that the Hasmoneans fought on God’s side.

By the way, “Heaven,” in 1 Maccabees, is a reverential circumlocution.  Yet “Heaven” is not a reverential circumlocution in the Gospel of Matthew, which uses “God” at least fifty times and “Kingdom of God” four times.  Look it up, O reader.  You may wish to look it up here or here.  The Dalman consensus is erroneous.

I have already made an extended comment about sacred violence in the previous post in this series.  I refer you, O reader, to that post.

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

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This is post #2550 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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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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Glorifying God VII   1 comment

Above:  The Tower of Babel, from Metropolis (1927)

A Screen Capture

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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 11:1-9 or Acts 28:16-31

Psalm 135:1-14

Revelation 6:1-17

John 9:1-41

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The gospel of Christ will always stand in judgment of the things that are happening in the political, economic, and social spheres of communities and nations.  And if this is so, then martyrdom is not as far away as we think.  The word “martyr” in Greek is the same word from which we get the word “witness.”

–Ernest Lee Stoffel, The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), 49-50

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To be a witness to God can be risky.  The risk may or may not involve violence, injury or death.  However, even under the best of circumstances, to ignore or minimize that risk is foolish.  Risk may even come from conventionally religious people–from powerful ones, perhaps.

I detect an element of humor in John 9:1-41.  (Reading the Bible in such a way as to miss humor is far too common.)  By the time a reader arrives at the end of the story, one may imagine steam pouring out of the ears of some of the Pharisees, if this story were in the form of a Looney Tunes cartoon.  This would make for a wonderful scene in verse 27, with the healed man’s question, 

Do you want to become his disciples yourselves?

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

At the end of that story, the healed man found himself expelled from the synagogue.  His plight must have resonated with members of the Johannine Jewish Christian community, on the margins of their Jewish communal life.  Therefore, some Jews referred to other Jews as “the Jews.”

At the end of the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul the Apostle lived under house arrest in Rome.  Ultimately, he did via beheading.

God may have struck down many enemies and oppressors of Israel, but many of the faithful have suffered and/or died for the faith, too.

The story of the Tower of Babel is a myth.  Anyone consulting it in search for a reliable source of linguistic origins is on a doomed mission.  That is not to say, however, that the story contains no truth.

This is a story about the folly of self-importance–collective self-importance, in this case.  Verse 5 reads:

The LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the people had built.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

That verse conveys the insignificance of human achievements relative to God.

The desire to make a name for ourselves–collectively and individually–is a great value in many societies.  It is not, however, a value the Bible champions.  Psalm 135 reads, in part:

Hallelujah.

Praise the name of the LORD;

give praise, you servants of the LORD,

who stand in the house of the LORD,

in the courts of the house of our God.

Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good;

sing hymns to His name, for it is pleasant.

For the LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself,

Israel, as His treasured possession.

–Verses 1-4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

If we–collectively or individually–have a name that should last for generations, centuries, and millennia, God will give it to us.  That name may not persist in human memory, though.

Some of them left a name behind them, 

so that their praises are still sung.

While others have left no memory

and disappeared as though they had not existed.

They are now as though they had never been,

and so too, their children after them.

–Ecclesiasticus 44:8-9, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

So be it.

To seek to glorify God and to maintain divine standards of political, economic, and social justice can be dangerous.  At minimum, the risk is social marginalization and scorn.  Much of this contempt may come from conventionally devout people who should know better.  To serve God or to serve Caesar.  To glorify God or to glorify oneself?  To worship God or to worship country?  The decisions are ours to make?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 23, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE ALMSGIVER, PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES KINGSLEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST, NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD GRUBB, ENGLISH QUAKER AUTHOR, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES D. SMART, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF PHILLIPS BROOKS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MASSACHUSETTS, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/23/devotion-for-proper-18-year-d-humes/

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Repentance, Part VIII   Leave a comment

Above:  Curses Against the Pharisees, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Tenth 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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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

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Jeremiah 7:1-15

Psalm 144

Acts 11:1-18

Matthew 23:34-39

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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

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Salt and Light, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  A Salt Shaker

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourth 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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Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, that the course of this world

may be so peaceably ordered by thy governance,

that thy Church may joyfully serve thee in all godly quietness;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 190

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1 Samuel 3:1-9

Psalm 75

Acts 6:1-15; 7:54-60

Matthew 5:13-16

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But I shall confess him for ever;

I shall sing praises to the God of Jacob.

He will break down the strength of the wicked,

but the strength of the righteous will be raised high.

–Psalm 75:9-10, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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Yes, but martyrdom remains possible.  Ask St. Stephen the Deacon, Christian protomartyr.

Samuel,  of course, grew up and became one of the great religious leaders of the people of Israel had.  People did not always heed his advice, though.  Yet Samuel did his best to be salt and light where and when he was.

Salt is interesting.  An insufficient quantity of it is negative.  So is an excessive quantity.  Likewise, light pollution is real; just as too much darkness is negative.  However, enough salt and light are positive.  Equilibrium, then, is essential.

The Christian Church has a calling to be salt and light in the world.  Each member of the Church as the same mandate, too.  Christian history is a mixed bag, though.  Stains on the record of the Church include Anti-Semitism, Inquisitions, Crusades, and witch hunts.  These and other examples of sins committed in the name of Christ testify to severe blind spots in the minds of institutions and individuals.  These and other examples are evidence of darkness, not light.

By grace, may we–collectively and individually–shed more light and less darkness.  May God shine through us.  And may we add the flavor of God where it is lacking.  But may our zeal not manifest itself in ways that work against our purpose.

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

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The Deliverance of Egyptian Jews   Leave a comment

Above:  King Ptolemy IV Philopator

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 3 MACCABEES

PART IV

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3 Maccabees 5:1-7:23

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King Ptolemy IV Philopator kept trying to kill Jesus.  God kept intervening.  Twice the plan to trample Jews with elephants failed.  The monarch, whom God put into a deep sleep, eventually awoke and returned to drinking.  The following day, God caused King Ptolemy IV to forget his plan to trample the Jews and returned to his banquet.  Yet King Ptolemy IV resolved once more to kill the Jews of Alexandria and the surrounding countryside.  He also planned to march on Judea.

Eleazar, an elderly Jewish priest of Alexandria, prayed, much as High Priest Simon II “the Just” did in 3 Maccabees 2.  He recalled divine acts of deliverance of the Hebrew people.  God answered the prayer by sending two angels; only the Jews could not see the angels.

Only then did King Ptolemy IV repent.  He released the Jews, ended the persecution of them, and wrote a letter on their behalf.  The Jews praised God and returned home.

3 Maccabees is an enjoyable book to read.  The purple prose enlivens the text, full of rising tension.  3 Maccabees is quite a page-turner.

Nevertheless, 3 Maccabees 7:10-16 contains some disturbing material.  We read of pious Jews, with royal permission, executing those Jews who had, “for the belly’s sake,” violated the Law of Moses–had accepted the royally-mandated brand of Dionysius (3 Maccabees 2:25-33).  Such violence is par for the course in a book with “Maccabees” in the title.  I do not have to approve of such violence, though.

3 Maccabees contains a plethora of references to other books, such as Exodus, Daniel, Jonah, 2 Maccabees, and 4 Maccabees.  The two angels (3 Maccabees 6:16f), for example, echo the two angels in 2 Maccabees 3:26.

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey through 3 Maccabees.  I invite you to join me again as I read through the Book of Baruch and the Letter of Jeremiah.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE NINETEENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB AND DOROTHY BUXTON, FOUNDERS OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY SAYERS, ANGLICAN POET, NOVELIST, PLAYWRIGHT, TRANSLATOR, APOLOGIST, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARY CORNELIA BISHOP GATES, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLYMPIAS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, WIDOW AND DEACONESS

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The Revolution and Reign of King Jehu of Israel   3 comments

Above:  King Jehu of Israel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART XC

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2 Kings 9:1-10:30

2 Chronicles 22:5-9

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The Lord has cast down the thrones of rulers,

and has seated the lowly in their place.

The Lord has plucked up the roots of the nations,

and has planted the humble in their place.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 10:14-15, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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King Jehoram/Joram of Israel (Reigned 851-842 B.C.E.)

King Ahaziah/Jehoahaz of Judah (Reigned 843-842 B.C.E.)

King Jehu of Israel (Reigned 842-814 B.C.E.)

Queen Athaliah of Judah (Reigned 842-836 B.C.E.)

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Above:  The Intermarriage of the House of Omri and the House of David

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Dynasties in the northern Kingdom of Israel rose and fell.  I counted five dynasties, as well as four kings who belonged to no dynasty.  Three of the dynasties consisted of only two monarchs.  The House of Omri supplied four Kings of Israel and one Queen of Judah (Athaliah).  The House of Jehu supplied five Kings of Israel.

In 1 Kings 19:15-16, God had assigned Elijah to anoint Jehu the next King of Israel.  Elijah passed that task to his successor, Elisha.  Elisha, in turn, fulfilled it indirectly; he sent a disciple-prophet to anoint Jehu then to 

flee without delay.

The disciple-prophet of Elijah anointed Jehu then did not 

flee without delay.

Jehu presided over a bloodbath that claimed King Jehoram/Joram of Israel, King Ahaziah/Jehoahaz of Judah, Queen Jezebel of Israel, all members of the House of Omri in reach, many Baalists in Israel, and 42 mourners of King Ahaziah/Jehoahaz from Judah.  However, Queen Mother Athaliah, daughter of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel of Israel, remained safe in Jerusalem.  She usurped the throne of Judah and purged as many rival claimants to the throne as she could find.  She did not, however, find her grandson, the future King Jehoash/Joash.  The revolution in Israel occurred during a war against King Hazael of Aram.  The threat of King Hazael persisted.

King Jehu received a negative review in 2 Kings.  

Finding someone to cheer for in this story is extremely difficult.  This is frequently the case in revolutions.  Yes, one says, Side A is terrible.  So is Side B, however.  It is lamentable that the population cannot have good government.  Pity the people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 2, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SOULS/THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL FAITHFUL DEPARTED

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