Archive for the ‘Social Justice’ Tag

Psalms 86-88   Leave a comment

Above:  An Old World Map, Showing Jerusalem as the Center of the World

Image in the Public Domain

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POST XXXIII OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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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 226

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Mitchell J. Dahood, while agreeing with the scholarly consensus that Psalm 86 is an individual lament, emphasizes the point that the author is the King of Israel.  Thus, as Dahood points out, the monarch’s woes have more far-reaching consequences than those of an anonymous subject and a favorable divine answer carries national significance.

Psalm 88 is also a lament.  The author, seriously ill and therefore ostracized, simultaneously blames God for his circumstances and requests divine deliverance.  Can a dead man praise God in Sheol, the psalmist asks.  According to the orthodoxy of the time, no.

Sandwiched between the two laments we read Psalm 87, which predicts that neighboring Gentile kingdoms and empires, from Babylon to Ethiopia, will eventually come to God and recognize Jerusalem as the center of the worship of God.  The Hebrews will remain the Chosen People, of course, but divine mercies extend to the Gentiles.  This is a wonderfully inclusive text.

Psalms 86 and 87 are explicitly national in theme.  Psalm 88, although outwardly individual, might be symbolic of the Babylonian Exile, with Sheol representing exile.  If this is true, reading it with Psalm 87 becomes interesting; enemies will become co-religionists and allies one day, via the power of God.  That is part of the promise of Psalm 87.

As with so many predictions of life after the Babylonian Exile, reality did not live up to high expectations.  The dream did not die, however; people kept deferring it.  The dream has not died.  Visions of lions and lambs lying down together in God’s kingdom on Earth have remained appealing.  Such visions have continued to expose the moral bankruptcy of states, kingdoms, empires, societies, and cultures founded on violence, exploitation, and artificial scarcity.  These visions have also continued to expose prominent figures, including heads of government and of state from antiquity to the present day.  None of them have been able to measure up compared to the standards of the Kingdom of God.  These dreams have never ceased to be relevant and contemporary.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROFT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS, EPISCOPAL SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS CLAUDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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Psalms 73 and 74   Leave a comment

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POST XXVIII OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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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 226

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One of the themes of Psalm 72 is that a monarch is responsible for establishing and maintaining economic and social justice in the realm.  We know from the Hebrew Bible that all but a few Kings of Israel and Judah failed in this matter and many did not even try to succeed in it.  Psalm 73 is a fine companion piece to Psalm 72.  The author of Psalm 73 struggles with the question of why justice persists and many of the wicked prosper while righteous suffer.  Why does God permit this to occur?  The psalmist concludes that there is an ultimate divine justice we mere mortals do not witness.  That might provide some psychological comfort, but it does not solve problems in this life.

Speaking of injustice, we know that the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire was brutal and that violence was one of its foundations.  Psalm 74, from the Babylonian Exile, is a national lament.  The theology of the Babylonian Exile, according to the Hebrew Bible, in its final form, is that longterm, national disobedience to the Law of Moses, as evidenced by idolatry and disregard for the mandate of economic justice, contributed greatly to the downfall of the Kingdom of Judah.  The author of Psalm 74, recognizing national sins, asks,

How long?

Then he asks God to end the exile.

How long?

is a valid question.  How long will many of the evil continue to prosper?  How long will institutionalized social injustice persist?  How long will God seem to turn a blind eye to all this social injustice?  How long will the population suffer the consequences of collective action and inaction that violates God’s law?  How long until we learn our lessons?  How long until the wicked who refuse to repent meet with divine justice?

How long, indeed?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 12, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THADDEUS STEVENS, U.S. ABOLITIONIST, CONGRESSMAN, AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SARAH FLOWER ADAMS, ENGLISH UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER; AND HER SISTER, ELIZA FLOWER, ENGLISH UNITARIAN COMPOSER

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Psalms 71 and 72   Leave a comment

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POST XXVII OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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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 226

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A Christian song I heard decades ago speaks of benefits to having a longterm relationship with God.

The longer I serve him, the sweeter he grows,

it says.  I can imagine the author of Psalm 71 saying that, between laments, of course.  That psalmist is an old man (by the standards of his time and place) who has been a devout Jew.  Enemies press in around him.  He, in turn, expresses confidence in God and, unfortunately, asks for revenge.  The author’s confidence in God comes from a lifetime of piety.  He understands that seeking righteousness does not mean that one will not suffer.

Psalm 72, perhaps for a coronation, contains some interesting conditional clauses followed by wishes:

If he rescues the needy crying for aid,

and the oppressed who has no help;

If he takes pity on the poor and the needy,

and saves the lives of the needy;

If he redeems their lives from lawless oppression,

and their blood is precious in his eyes;

Then may he live long,

and gold from Sheba be given to him!

Then let perpetual prayer be made for him,

blessings invoked on him throughout the day!

–Verses 12-15, Mitchell J. Dahood translation

That series of conditional statements does not describe most Kings of Israel and Judah.  Neither, unfortunately, does it describe most of the Presidents of the United States during the last six decades.

Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

–The Westminster Shorter Catechism

This is true whether one is a commoner or a monarch, a private citizen or a political leader.  Those in positions of power and influence have certain responsibilities the rest of us do not.  May they make wise decisions consistently and build up those for whom they are responsible.  May all of us act in obedience to the divine principles that we depend completely on God, depend on each other, are responsible to and for each other, and have no right to exploit one another.  May we glorify God in part by building each other up.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 12, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THADDEUS STEVENS, U.S. ABOLITIONIST, CONGRESSMAN, AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SARAH FLOWER ADAMS, ENGLISH UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER; AND HER SISTER, ELIZA FLOWER, ENGLISH UNITARIAN COMPOSER

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Psalms 44-46   Leave a comment

Above:  Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Washington, D. C., September 2011

Photographer = Carol Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-18674

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POST XVII OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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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 226

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A recurring theme throughout the Hebrew Bible is that military victory comes not merely through tactics, weaponry, and alliances, but via God.  National strength entails much, including caring effectively for the vulnerable members of society and not exploiting people, themes present in Psalm 45.  If any of this sounds familiar, perhaps that is because one knows the books of the Hebrew prophets and/or has been paying attention to the Book of Psalms.  Scholarly sources suggest a variety of answers regarding the dating of Psalm 44.  Either the dating is impossible to ascertain or the text comes from the exilic period or from the Hasmonean era.  Regardless, Psalm 44 functions well in a variety of settings and periods, after a downturn in national fortunes has occurred.

Psalm 46 works nicely as a counterpart to Psalm 44.  Psalm 46 is a text soldiers recited before going into battle.  That detail is especially interesting, given the politics of the text.  The end of Psalm 46, in many traditional renderings, reads something like:

“Be still, then, and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations;

I will be exalted in the earth.”

The LORD of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

–Psalm 46:11-12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

However, as J. Clinton McCann, Jr., writing in Volume IV (1996) of The New Interpreter’s Bible, argues, this is a bad translation because:

Contemporary readers almost inevitably hear it as a call to meditation or relaxation, when it should be heard in the light of v.9 as something like “Stop!” or “Throw down your weapons! ”  In other words, “Depend on God instead of yourselves.”

–Page 866

Mitchell J. Dahood, while maintaining that bad translation, anticipates McCann’s interpretation of the meaning of the verse.  Father Dahood’s note on that verse refers to prophetic cautions against ill-advised military alliances, as in Isaiah 30:15, and mentions that God is the master of history.  TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) makes these points plain in the translation of the verse:

Desist!  Realize that I am God!

I dominate the nations;

I dominate the earth.

–Verse 11

God can end all war.  The wish that God will end all military conflict and establish a kingdom of peace and justice on the planet is a natural desire for a soldier, is it not?  Yes, warmongers exist;  most seem to be civilians.  None of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines I have known have not been warmongers.  After all, military personnel pay the highest costs of warfare.

The mandate for a country and its leaders to trust in God comes bound with the command to care effectively for the vulnerable members of society and to resist militarism.  This is a lesson the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., understood well, given his anti-Vietnam War speech of April 4, 1967:

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

The textual context for that statement is a call for the transformation of the United States of America from

a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-centered” society

–a call for a moral revolution–

a revolution of values

–a positive revolution, one that recognizes that

War is not the answer

and that neither are hatred and fear to the question of how to defeat Communism.

Enemies and political causes come and go.  Timeless principles, however, remain.  What can be more timeless a principle than trusting in God?  Certainly King’s call for a moral revolution of values remains relevant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 10, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WALSHAM HOW, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WAKEFIELD AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SISTER, FRANCES JANE DOUGLAS(S), HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LAURENCE OF ROME, ROMAN CATHOLIC DEACON AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SHERMAN BOOTH, ABOLITIONIST

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“And Out Came This Calf!”   1 comment

Above:   The Adoration of the Golden Calf

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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Exodus 32:15-34

Psalm 44:1-3

Acts 7:35-43

Mark 7:9-13

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When Moses broke the tablets containing what TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) calls “the Pact” (32:15), he demonstrated divine anger and the nullification of the covenant due to human rebellion.  Related to this particular rebellion was refusing to accept responsibility, as in Aaron’s dodge,

So I said to them, “Whoever has gold, take it off.”  They gave it to me and I hurled it into the fire and out came this calf!

–Exodus 32:24, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The golden bull-calf replaced Moses, not YHWH.  That fact, however, was a minor matter.  The idolatry was the main issue.

Idolatry assumes many forms.  For many people wealth is the primary idol.   That is relevant to the lesson from Mark 7, in which Jesus criticizes certain scribes and Pharisees for accepting financial gifts to the Temple in the knowledge that, in so doing, they are contributing to the poverty of innocent people.  These religious leaders are manipulating the Law of Moses to benefit themselves while maintaining the facade of holiness.  In so doing they are violating the spirit of the Law with regard to helping the poor and the vulnerable.  Their fixation on the minor to the detriment of the major rings as hollow as

…and out came this calf!

In which ways are we–you, O reader, and I–guilty of committing idolatry, dodging responsibility, and condoning unjust economic practices that harm the poor?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 17, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDITH BOYLE MACALISTER, ENGLISH NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EMILY DE VIALAR, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE APPARITION

THE FEAST OF JANE CROSS BELL SIMPSON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TERESA AND MAFALDA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESSES, QUEENS, AND NUNS; AND SANCHIA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESS AND NUN

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/17/devotion-for-proper-8-ackerman/

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Hesed   1 comment

Above:  Mephibosheth Before David

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Samuel 9:1-13a

Psalm 68:17-20

Revelation 19:1-10

Mark 8:1-10

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The reading from 2 Samuel 9 contains a wonderful Hebrew word, hesed, which can mean “faith” or “kindness.”  For example, in 9:1 we read,

David inquired, “Is there anyone still left in the House of Saul with whom I can keep faith for the sake of Jonathan?”

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The New Revised Standard Version (1989) uses the other translation:

David asked, “Is there anyone left of the House of Saul to whom I may show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”

Kindness is not always a simple matter.  Treating Mephibosheth, the self-described “dead dog” and crippled son of Jonathan with mercy and prestige is easy enough.   Furthermore, the miracle (the Feeding of the 4000) in Mark 8 is an example of extravagant and unambiguous kindness.  But what about the contents of the other readings?

Babylon (the Roman Empire) has fallen in Revelation 18.  The regime based on violence, oppression, and economic exploitation is no more.  Those who benefited from relationships to the empire mourn its passing.  We read of rejoicing in Heaven in Revelation 19.  But what about the innocent victims of the fall of the empire?  Might they also mourn the passing of the empire?

In Psalm 68 (a liturgy for a festival celebration in the Temple), taken in full, we read of God’s judgment and mercy.  Yes, divine hesed is present, but so is God crushing the heads of his enemies (verse 21).  As I have written repeatedly, good news for the oppressed is frequently catastrophic news for the unrepentant oppressors.  Perhaps the enemies whose heads God crushes were harming the widows and orphans mentioned in verse 5.

There is more than enough divine hesed to go around, but each of us has the individual responsibility to practice hesed toward each other also.  Furthermore, we have the collective responsibility to practice hesed institutionally, including as nation-states.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HANS ADOLF BRORSON, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2017/06/14/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter-ackerman/

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Good and Bad Shepherds   1 comment

Above:  The Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 34:25-31

Psalm 28

1 Timothy 4:6-16

Luke 15:4-10

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On the Revised Common Lectionary the Fourth Sunday of Easter is Good Shepherd Sunday.   David Ackerman’s Beyond the Lectionary (2013) continues this custom.

Shepherd is a sufficiently common metaphor for monarch in the Hebrew Bible that serious students should not be surprised to encounter it.  In Ezekiel 34 the bad shepherds are Kings of Judah who have ignored the Law of Moses, practiced and condemned idolatry, presided over economic exploitation, and generally harmed the people.   Toward the end of the lifespan of the Kingdom of Judah some of the last kings are about to experience the just desserts the author of Psalm 28 sought for his enemies.

In contrast to the bad shepherds of Ezekiel 34 we find Jesus in Luke 15 and St. Timothy in 1 Timothy 4.  Pastors are shepherds too, after all, and sound teaching matters greatly.  In the temporal context of 1 Timothy 4, when certain doctrines we Christians of today take for granted were developing and others did not exist yet, the definition of sound teaching depended more on oral tradition than it does today–on written sources and established creeds.  Some of the particulars of 1 Timothy are culturally specific, but one can identify timeless principles behind those examples.  As for Jesus, he is the good shepherd who seeks everyone, although not all lost sheep will repent.

May leaders seek and effect the best interests of the people, by grace.  These might be political, institutional, or religious leaders, but all of them are shepherds.  May they be good shepherds.  Whenever any are bad shepherds, may they repent and become good shepherds.  If, however, they insist on being bad shepherds, may good shepherds replace them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN DAVID JAESCHKE, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER; AND HIS GRANDSON, HENRI MARC HERMANN VOLDEMAR VOULLAIRE, MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF MILTON SMITH LITTLEFIELD, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN AND CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2017/06/13/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter-ackerman/

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