Archive for the ‘Scapegoats’ Tag

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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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 and Suffering   1 comment

Above:  The Scapegoat, By William Holman Hunt

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Job 1:1; 2:1-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.

One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. The LORD said to Satan,

Where have you come from?

Satan answered the LORD,

From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.

The LORD said to Satan,

Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.

Then Satan answered the LORD,

Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives. But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.

The LORD said to Satan,

Very well, he is in your power; only spare his life.

So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes.

Then his wife said to him,

Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.

But he said to her,

You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?

In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Psalm 26 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give judgment for me, O LORD,

for I have lived with integrity;

I have trusted in the LORD and have not faltered.

Test me, O LORD, and try me;

examine my heart and my mind.

3 For your love is before my eyes;

I have walked faithfully before you.

I have not sat with the worthless,

nor do I consort with the deceitful.

5 I have hated the company of evildoers;

I will not sit down with the wicked.

6 I will wash my hands in innocence, O LORD,

that I may go in procession round your altar,

Singing aloud a song of thanksgiving

and recounting all your wonderful deeds.

8 LORD, I love the house in which you dwell

and the place where your glory abides.

Do not sweep me away with sinners,

nor my life with those who thirst for blood,

10 Whose hands are full of evil plots,

and their right hand full of bribes.

11 As for me, I will live with integrity;

redeem me, O LORD, and have pity on me.

12 My foot stands on level ground;

in the full assembly I will bless the LORD.

Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. But someone has testified somewhere,

What are human beings that you are mindful of them,

or mortals, that you care for them?

You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;

you have crowned them with glory and honor,

subjecting all things under their feet.

Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying,

I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,

in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.

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Some Related Posts:

Job 1 and 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/week-of-proper-21-monday-year-2/

Hebrews 1 and 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/week-of-1-epiphany-monday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/week-of-1-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

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Easy answers for the problem of suffering prove inadequate, as the Book of Job demonstrates.  Not all suffering flows from one’s sins.  And the crucifixion of Jesus provides more refutation of the arguments of Bildad, Eliphaz, Zophar, and Elihu.  Jesus was the best man (and far more) ever, yet ye suffered greatly.  He was, in fact, a scapegoat.  Consider John 11:47-50, verses 49 and 50 of which follow.  Caiaphas is speaking:

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.  (Revised English Bible, 1989)

We still scapegoat people, some of whom are not entirely innocent.  In so doing we let guilty people off the hook.  And, when we scapegoat the wholly innocent, we cause needless suffering.  Sometimes people suffer because of the sins of others.  May we, by grace, find forgiveness for the suffering we inflict on others and desist forever from causing harm to others, for, as we read in Romans 13:9-10:

The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,” and other commandments there may be, are all summed up in the one rule, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love cannot wrong a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.  (Revised English Bible, 1989)

I write these words on October 27, 2011.  A few years ago, I designated October 27 as the Feast of the Victims of the Salem Witch Trials (http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2009/09/02/feast-of-the-victims-of-the-salem-witch-trials-october-27/), so to write against scapegoating on this day is more appropriate than on some other occasions, not that there is a bad time to condemn that practice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VICTIMS OF THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on October 27, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/proper-22-year-b/

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