Archive for the ‘Scapegoat’ Tag

Cleansing from Evil That Arises Within Ourselves, Part II   3 comments

Christ Before Pilate

Above:  Christ Before Pilate, by Mihaly Munkacsy

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God our strength, without you we are weak and wayward creatures.

Protect us from all dangers that attack us from the outside,

and cleanse us from the outside,

and cleanse us from all evil that arises from within ourselves,

that we may be preserved through your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 34:8-28

Psalm 15

John 18:28-32

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Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle?

Who may rest upon your holy hill?

Whoever leads an uncorrupt life

and does the thing that is right;

Who speaks the truth from the heart

and bears no deceit on the tongue;

Who does no evil to a friend

and pours no scorn on a neighbour;

In whose sight the wicked are not esteemed,

but who honours those who fear the Lord.

Whoever has sworn to a neighbour

and never goes back on that word;

Who does not lend money in hope of gain,

nor takes a bribe against the innocent;

Whoever does these things shall never fall.

–Psalm 15, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The reading from Exodus 34 tells of the restoration of the covenant between Yahweh and the recently liberated Hebrews.  God, we read, is compassionate and impassioned, encompassing both mercy and judgment.  The covenant was something God took seriously and many people did not, occasional ceremonies not withstanding.

As I read John 18:28-32, the first thing I noticed was that those who delivered Jesus to Pontius Pilate’s headquarters were willing to let the Roman authorities execute Jesus yet demonstrated great concern for maintaining their own ritual purity ahead of Passover.  The spectacle of people fretting about ritual defilement while being willfully complicit in the execution of an innocent man–a scapegoat, even–is appalling.

Often we Gentiles are prone to point to such stories from the Gospels and condemn the failings of long-dead Palestinian Jews.  Those failings deserve condemnation, of course, but what about our sins?  How often have we been consciously complicit in injustice (actively or passively) and sought to maintain the illusion of righteousness?  We might even fool ourselves, but we do not deceive God, who is both compassionate and impassioned, who commands justice for the widows, the orphans, and the exploited.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARGARET E. SANGSTER, HYMN WRITER, NOVELIST, AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF LYONS (A.K.A. BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS)

THE FEAST OF REINHOLD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY, BISHOP, AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-17-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted June 2, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Exodus 34, John 18, Psalm 15

Tagged with , ,

Love and Forgiveness   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your word.

By your Holy Spirit help us to receive it with joy,

live according to it, and grow if faith and love,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 52:1-6

Psalm 65:[1-8], 9-13

John 12:44-50

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Isaiah 52:1-6 speaks of a time, in our past yet in the original audience’s future, when foreigners would no longer hold sway in Jerusalem.  One might imagine faithful Jews saying, in the words of Psalm 65:1,

You are to be praised, O God, in Zion;

to you shall vows be performed in Jerusalem.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Yet, in John 12, Jerusalem was not only under Roman occupation, but a Roman fortress sat next to and towered over the Temple complex, the seat of a collaborationist and theocratic state.  Jesus, about to die, is in hiding and the Temple rulers have been plotting since John 11:48-50 to scapegoat Jesus, for in the words of High Priest Caiaphas,

…it is better for you to have one man die to have the whole nation destroyed.

–John 11:50b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That was not the only germane conflict, for the Gospel of John came from marginalized Jewish Christians at the end of the first century C.E.  They had lost the argument in their community.  Certainly this fact influenced how they told the story of Jesus.  I know enough about the retelling and reinterpretation of the past to realize that we humans tell history in the context of our present.  The present tense shapes our understanding of events which belong in the past tense; it can be no other way.

What must it be like to experience great hope mixed with subsequent disappointment–perhaps even resentment–inside which we frame the older hope?  Faithful Jews of our Lord and Savior’s time knew that feeling well when they pondered parts of the Book of Isaiah and other texts.  The Johannine audience knew that feeling well when it considered Jesus.  Perhaps you, O reader, know that feeling well in circumstances only you know well.

And how should one respond?  I propose avoiding vengeance (in the style of Psalm 137) and scapegoating.  Anger might feel good in the short term, but it is a spiritual toxin in the medium and long terms.  No, I point to the love of Jesus, which asked God to forgive those who crucified him and consented to it, for they did not know what they had done and were doing.  And I point to Isaiah 52:3, in which God says:

You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

I point to the agape God extends to us and which is the form of love in 1 Corinthians 13.  Love and forgiveness are infinitely superior to anger, resentment, and scapegoating.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF PADUA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF G. K. (GILBERT KEITH) CHESTERTON, AUTHOR

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-10-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Living Jesus, New Covenant   1 comment

agnusdeiwindow

Above:  The Moravian Logo in Stained Glass

Image Source = JJackman

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:AgnusDeiWindow.jpg)

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The Collect:

O God, your Son makes himself known to all his disciples in the breaking of bread.

Open the eyes of our faith, that we may see him in his redeeming work,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 24:1-11

Psalm 134

John 21:1-14

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 34:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/devotion-for-the-eleventh-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/week-of-proper-11-saturday-year-1/

John 21:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/sixth-day-of-easter-friday-in-easter-week/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/fifteenth-day-of-easter-third-sunday-of-easter-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/devotion-for-june-23-24-and-25-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,

you that by night stand in the house of the Lord.

Lift up your hands toward the sanctuary

and bless the Lord.

The Lord who made heaven and earth

give you blessing out of Zion.

–Psalm 134, Common Worship (2000)

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The daily realities and worldviews of biblical characters, being different from my own, require me to do some homework if I am to understand correctly what certain texts describe.  A case in point is Exodus 24, which recounts the sealing of the covenant between the Israelites and Yahweh with Moses sprinkling the blood of sacrificial bulls on the people.  Blood, in the worldview of these ancients, made life possible.  Thus, in this ritual act,

Israel now begins a new life of obedience, signified by sacrifice, the “book of the covenant,” and by the “blood of the covenant.”

The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume I (Nashville, TN:  Abingdon Press, 1994), page 881

We know how obedient many of that group of Israelites turned out to be, do we not?

The interpretive angle that blood makes life possible fits well into atonement theology, especially when one considers Jesus, both priest and sacrifice.  I recall to mind the image which the Gospel of John provides:  Jesus dying as sacrificial animals die at the Temple.  Jesus is the Passover Lamb; his death is the Passover meal.  The original Passover (in Exodus) protected Israelites from the sins of Egyptians, so any properly reasoned theology of atonement which uses Passover imagery must move beyond a tunnel-vision focus on one’s own sins.

The theology of scapegoating disturbs me.  Jesus became a political scapegoat, dying as one.  I agree with others who reject Penal Substitutionary Atonement; Jesus did not take my place on the cross.  Rather, the Classic Theory–the conquest of evil, completed via the Resurrection–is closer to my theology.  Actually, I propose that the entire life of Christ was essential for the Atonement.  And I interpret the death of Jesus as having several meanings, including the point that scapegoating does not work.

My holistic understanding of the Atonement takes into account the vital role of bloodshed in the New Testament reflections on the crucifixion.  If the blood of sacrificial bulls made new spiritual life possible, even sealing the covenant, how much more does the blood of Christ affect those of us who follow him?  We have a New Covenant through him, do we not?  The imagery of blood fits well here.

More important, though, is the Resurrection, through which we have a living Jesus, not a dead one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT:  THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BENSON POLLOCK, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/15/devotion-for-the-eighteenth-day-of-easter-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Jesus and Scapegoating   1 comment

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Above:  The Dogma of the Redemption, by John Singer Sargent

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-133671

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The Collect:

Holy God, source of all love, on the night of his betrayal,

Jesus gave us a new commandment,

to love one another as he loves us.

Write this commandment in our hearts,

and give us the will to serve others

as he was the servant of all, your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 30

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 12:1-4 [5-10] 11-14

Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

John 13:1-17, 31-35

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 12:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-second-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/devotion-for-the-thirty-eighth-day-of-lent-maundy-thursday-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-eighth-day-of-lent-maundy-thursday/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/29/week-of-proper-10-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/proper-18-year-a/

1 Corinthians 11:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-eighth-day-of-lent-maundy-thursday/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/week-of-proper-19-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-19-tuesday-year-2/

John 13:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/devotion-for-march-8-and-9-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-eighth-day-of-lent-maundy-thursday/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/devotion-for-june-9-10-and-11-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Prayer for Holy Thursday/Maundy Thursday:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/prayer-for-holy-thursdaymaundy-thursday/

Lord, Help Us Walk Your Servant Way:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/lord-help-us-walk-your-servant-way/

That Solemn Night:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2012/04/28/that-solemn-night/

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O Lord, I am your servant,

your servant, the child of your handmaid;

you have freed me from my bonds.

I will offer to you a sacrifice of thanksgiving

and call upon the name of the Lord.

–Psalm 116:14-15, Common Worship (2000)

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The greatest title of the Bishop of Rome is “Servant of the Servants of God.”  That model of servanthood comes from Jesus himself, who affirmed by words and deeds the dignity of human beings and called we mortals to respectful community.  In serving each other we seek and find our own best interests, for what affects one person has an impact on others.

The Passover and the Exodus marked the freedom of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, delivered them from the sins of their oppressors, and set them on the way to hearing an ideal of responsibility to and for each other.  In the Law of Moses people, all slaves of God, have no right to exploit or oppress each other.  We humans have yet to fulfill that ethic in our social, economic, and political systems, unfortunately.

Ironically, the reading from the Gospel of John is set on Wednesday, for, in the Fourth Gospel, our Lord and Savior dies on Thursday, while the sacrificial animals die at the Temple.  He is, in other words, the Passover Lamb.  He was, for many, a scapegoat in a difficult political situation.  Yet the wrath of the Roman Empire fell hard in time anyway.

Scapegoating anyone violates the ethic of mutuality in the Law of Moses.  May we, in reverence for Jesus and because it is the right thing to do, refrain from scapegoating people.  May we respect their dignity actively and effectively instead.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 28, 2013 COMMON ERA

THANKSGIVING DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN THE YOUNGER, DEFENDER OF ICONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH PIGNATELLI, RESTORER OF THE JESUITS

THE FEAST OF KAMAHAMEHA AND EMMA, KING AND QUEEN OF HAWAII

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/28/devotion-for-maundy-thursday-years-a-b-and-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Jeremiah and Matthew, Part X: Divine Deliverance–Sometimes Deferred, Sometimes Absent   1 comment

c3baltima_cena_-_da_vinci_5

Above:  The Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci

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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 everlasting 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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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 25:1-18 (November 12)

Jeremiah 26:1-19 (November 13)

Psalm 123 (Morning–November 12)

Psalm 15 (Morning–November 13)

Psalms 30 and 86 (Evening–November 12)

Psalms 48 and 4 (Evening–November 13)

Matthew 26:1-19 (November 12)

Matthew 26:20-35 (November 13)

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Some Related Posts:

Jeremiah 26:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/30/week-of-proper-12-friday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/30/week-of-proper-12-saturday-year-2/

Matthew 26:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/sunday-of-the-passion-palm-sunday-year-a/

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Thereupon the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a meeting of the Council.  ”This man is performing many signs,” they said, “and what action are we taking?”  If we let him to on like this the whole populace will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and sweep away our temple and our nation.”  But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said, “You have no grasp of the situation at all; you do not realize that is more to your interest that one man should die for the people, than that the whole nation should be destroyed.”

–John 11:47-50, The Revised English Bible

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Eliakim, son of King Josiah, was the brother of King Jehoahaz (a.k.a. Shallum), who reigned for about three months in 609 BCE.  But the Pharaoh of Egypt deposed Jehoahaz/Shallum and replaced him with Eliakim, renamed Jehoiakim, who reigned for about eleven years (608-598 BCE).  Judah was under foreign domination, as 2 Kings 23:31-24:7 describes.

This was the context of the readings from Jeremiah 25 and 26:  Judah was flung between Egypt and Chaldea then under a solely Chaldean threat.  Jeremiah understood this as divine judgment–one which would, in time, turn on the agents of that judgment.  And agents of the puppet government tried to have the prophet executed for alleged treason.

Jeremiah survived that threat but Jesus went on to die.  The Gospel of John contexualizes the moment well:  Jesus was about to become a scapegoat.  Yet the perfidious plan of the high priest and others failed.  Not only did Jesus rise from the dead, but Roman forces did destroy Jerusalem, the Temple, and the nation in 70 CE, a generation later.  But I am getting ahead of the story in Matthew 26.

Jesus, surrounded by Apostles, all of whom would abandon him shortly and one of whom betrayed him immediately, faced mighty  forces determined to kill him.  They succeeded–for a few days.

So our eyes wait upon the Lord our God,

until he have mercy upon us.

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,

for we have had more than enough of contempt.

Our soul has had more than enough of the scorn of the arrogant,

and of thee contempt of the proud.

–Psalm 123, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness;

you set me at liberty when I was in trouble;

have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

–Psalm 4:1, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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Many Bible stories have unhappy endings.  Jeremiah, for example, died in exile.  Jesus did suffer greatly, but his story had a happy conclusion in the chronological, past-tense narrative.  The ultimate end of that tale remains for the future, however.  One bit of tissue which connects the Old and New Testament lections today is that tension, reflected in some of the appointed Psalms, between confidence in God and the absence of divine comfort and deliverance in the present tense.  It is a tension I do not presume to attempt to resolve all too conveniently and falsely.  The good and evil suffer.  The good and the evil prosper.  Sometimes deliverance does not occur on our schedule.  Other times it never happens.  This is reality.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 4, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS CARACCIOLO, COFOUNDER OF THE MINOR CLERKS REGULAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN XXIII, BISHOP OF ROME

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/devotion-for-november-12-and-13-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Job and John, Part XXI: Wrestling With Texts   1 comment

Above:  Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, by Gustave Dore

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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 everlasting 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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The Assigned Readings:

Job 33:19-34:9 (March 2)

Job 34:10-33 (March 3)

Job 36:1-21 (March 4)

Psalm 103 (Morning–March 2)

Psalm 5 (Morning–March 3)

Psalm 43 (Morning–March 4)

Psalms 117 and 139 (Evening–March 2)

Psalms 84 and 29 (Evening–March 3)

Psalms 102 and 133 (Evening–March 4)

John 11:1-16 (March 2)

John 11:17-37 (March 3)

John 11:38-57 (March 4)

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Some Related Posts:

John 11:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-fourth-day-of-lent/

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I have difficulty with the Book of Job for several reasons.  One is my conviction that the titular character, according to the book itself, was innocent.  So his complaints were justified.  Yet Elihu–otherwise a redundant idiot–and God both accuse Job of impugning divine justice.  (See Job 36:5 forward and 40:7 forward.)  The Book of Job provides no satisfactory answer to the causes of suffering of the innocent.  That is my second reason for difficulty with the text.  And, being a good Episcopalian, I embrace the ambiguity and refuse to surrender my doubts.  Jesus took away my sins, not my mind.  Dismissing Elihu is impossible for me because of the reasons I have explained.  I would like to dismiss him; take my word for that, O reader.  So I wrestle with the texts; sometimes that is the most faithful response.

Meanwhile, in John 11, Jesus raises his friend Lazarus from the dead.  This sets in motion a plot among Pharisees to scapegoat him for fear of what the Romans will do to the nation otherwise.  Authorities did scapegoat Jesus.  And, a generation later, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem during a revolt.  There is no ambiguity about those facts.  The scapegoating of Jesus did not solve any problem.  It killed an innocent man, but he did not remain dead for long.  And the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem stands as evidence of what the Roman forces did to the Temple in 70 CE.

The desire to eliminate Jesus was a fear reaction, not a reasoned response.  Does God frighten me?  Sometimes, yes.  Do certain depictions of God in the Bible scare and discomfort me?  Yes!  But I recognize my need to approach God with theological humility.  Perhaps my God concept is too small.  It almost certainly is.  Dismissing or rationalizing away that which brings this reality to my attention will not alter the facts.  So I wrestle with the texts faithfully.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW JERSEY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTONY AND THEODOSIUS OF KIEV, FOUNDERS OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONASTICISM; SAINT BARLAAM OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT; AND SAINT STEPHEN OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THE EARLY ABBOTS OF CLUNY

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH WARRILOW, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/devotion-for-march-2-3-and-4-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Scapegoating, Part I   1 comment

The Scapegoat, by William Holman Hunt (1854)

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Collect and lections from the Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints

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Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Ezekiel 37:21-28 (Revised English Bible):

[The Lord GOD has said:] say to them:

The Lord GOD has said: I am going to take the Israelites from their places of exile among the nations; I shall assemble them from every quarter and restore them to their own soil.  I shall make them a single nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel, and one king will be over them all.  No longer will they be two nations, no longer divided into two kingdoms.  They will never again be defiled with their idols, their loathsome ways, and all their acts of disloyalty.  I shall save them from all their sinful backsliding and purify them.  Thus they will be my people, and I shall be their God.  My servant David will be king over them; they will all have one shepherd.  They will conform to my laws and my statutes and observe them faithfully.  They will live in the land which I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your forefathers lived.  They and their descendants will live there for ever, and my servant David is to be their prince for ever.  I shall make an everlasting covenant with them to ensure peace and prosperity.  I shall greatly increase their numbers, and I shall put my sanctuary in their midst for all time.  They will live under the shelter of my dwelling; I shall be their God and they will be my people.  The nations will know that I the LORD am keeping Israel sacred to myself, because my sanctuary is in their midst for ever.

Psalm 85:1-7 (Revised English Bible):

LORD, you have been gracious to your land

and turned the tide of Jacob’s fortunes.

You have forgiven the guilt of your people

and put all their sins away.

You have withdrawn all your wrath

and turned from your hot anger.

God our saviour, restore us

and abandon your displeasure towards us.

Will you be angry with us for ever?

Must your wrath last for all generations?

Will you not give us new life

that your people may rejoice in you?

LORD, show us your love

and grant us your deliverance.

John 11:45-53 (Revised English Bible):

[Contextual note:  This reading occurs immediately after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.]

Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary [of Bethany], and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.  But some of them went off to the Pharisees and reported what he had done.

Thereupon the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a meeting of the Council.

This man is performing many signs,

they said,

and what action are we taking?  If we let him go on like this the whole populace will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away our temple and our nation.

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said,

You have no grasp of the situation at all; you do not realize that it is more to your interest that one man should die for the people, than that the whole nation should be destroyed.

He did not say this of his own accord, but as the high priest that year he was prophesying that Jesus would die for the nation, and not the for the nation alone but to gather together the scattered children of God.  So from that day they plotted his death.

The Collect:

O Lord, in your goodness you bestow abundant graces on your elect: Look with favor, we entreat you, upon those who in these Lenten days are being prepared for Holy Baptism, and grant your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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In this day’s readings we have the love and forgiveness of God juxtaposed with the faithlessness of people.  Ezekiel told of a restored Jewish nation, where the people would serve God and a member of the Davidic dynasty would rule the people.  And when Jesus the Messiah, of the lineage of David, arrived, many of the people unto whom he came rejected him.

The Jews of Judea lived under Roman occupation.  The Romans were paradoxical; they could be both tolerant and tyrannical.  They tolerated the exercise of Judaism as an old religion, exempting Jews from certain obligations, such as sacrificing to the gods for the sake of the empire.  Yet they cracked down severely on rebellions.  History tells of the First Jewish War, in which the Romans destroyed the Jerusalem Temple, and the Second Jewish War of the 130s, in which the Romans crushed a rebellion which a self-proclaimed Messiah led.

Let us consider more historical context.  The Feast of the Passover was near.  This was the annual commemoration of God’s deliverance of the Jews from slavery in Egypt.  In Jesus’ day people celebrated this in Roman-occupied Jerusalem.  If any man were to declare himself the Messiah and lead the charge against the Romans, he would do so at Passover, a politically potent religious event.  The Romans, being aware of the potential security situation, patrolled this annual feast heavily.

Therefore, fears of a potential Roman crackdown because of Jesus’ activities were reasonable.  Yet the scapegoating of Jesus was not.  Scapegoating makes the scapegoaters feel better without solving any problems.  It is a way of appearing to do something constructive while doing something destructive.  This is especially harmful to the scapegoat.

Holy Week is next.  Let us take the final steps of Lent together.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF ARMAGH

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-fourth-day-of-lent/

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Posted February 14, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Ezekiel 37, John 11, Psalm 85

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