Archive for the ‘Song of the Three Young Men’ Tag

May God Have This Dance?   1 comment

tango-postcard

Above:  A Tango Postcard

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The Assigned Readings for This Sunday:

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Psalm 8 or Canticle 13 from The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Romans 5:1-5

John 16:12-15

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Trinity Sunday, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/trinity-sunday-year-a/

Trinity Sunday, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/trinity-sunday-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration for Trinity Sunday:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-trinity-sunday/

Prayer of Confession for Trinity Sunday:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/prayer-of-confession-for-trinity-sunday-2/

Prayer of Dedication for Trinity Sunday:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/prayer-of-dedication-for-trinity-sunday/

Alta Trinita Beata:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/10/21/alta-trinita-beata/

Trinitarian Benedictions:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/trinitarian-benedictions/

Prayer of Confession for Trinity Sunday:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/prayer-of-confession-for-trinity-sunday/

Ancient of Days:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/ancient-of-days/

Thou, Whose Almighty Word:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/thou-whose-almighty-word/

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Wisdom literature, from Proverbs to Sirach/Ecclesiasticus and the Wisdom of Solomon, personifies divine wisdom as feminine.  Much of this imagery influenced the prologue to the Gospel of John, in which Jesus is the Logos of God; the Logos resembles divine wisdom.  Thus, in Proverbs 8, we read a premonition of the Second Person of the Trinity.  The  Second and Third Persons come up in Romans 5 and John 16.  And both possible responses address the First Person of the Trinity.

The doctrine of the Trinity is a fine example of theology.  The doctrine has no single, definitive passage of scripture to attest to it.  Rather, it is the product of deep Christian thinkers who pondered a number of passages carefully and put them together.  Some professing Christians disapprove of that process of doctrine-making; it is, to them, like sausage-making in the simile of laws and sausages:  it is better not to know how they are made.  But that comparison does not apply to sound doctrine, a category in which I file the Trinity.  Those who object to the process of sound doctrine-making are living ironies, for they are more attached to such doctrines than I am.  Yet the process by which the Church itself–a human institution–arrived at them–offends such people.  Such doctrines, they prefer to imagine, fall from Heaven fully formed.  Karen Armstrong is correct:

…fundamentalism is ahistorical….

A History of God:  The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), page xx

(I, alas, have had some unfortunate conversations with some rather doctrinaire and less than intellectually and historically inquisitive professing Christians.  They have rendered me even more allergic to Fundamentalism than I already was.)

I propose that the best way to understand as much as possible about God is through poetry and other art forms.  We humans, I have heard, danced our religion before we thought it.  And the doctrine of the Trinity is at least as much artistry as it is theology.  The nature of God is a mystery to embrace and experience, not to attempt to understand.  So, O reader, dance with God, who seeks you as a partner on the dance floor.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CORNELIUS HILL, ONEIDA CHIEF AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GEORGIAN, ABBOT; AND SAINTS EUTHYMIUS OF ATHOS AND GEORGE OF THE BLACK MOUNTAIN, ABBOTS AND TRANSLATORS

THE FEAST OF PHILIP MELANCHTON, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN [WITH THE PRESENTATION OF THE AUGSBURG CONFESSION]

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God, On the Side of the Righteous   1 comment

Above:  St. Michael’s Victory Over the Devil, St. Michael’s Cathedral, Coventry, England

Image Source = sansse

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

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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THE FIRST READING:

Daniel 7:1-27 (Revised English Bible):

In the first year that Belshazzar was king of Babylon, a dream and visions came to Daniel as he lay on his bed.  Then he wrote down the dream, and here his account begins.

In my vision during the night while I, Daniel, was gazing intently I saw the Great Sea churned up by the four winds of heaven, and four great beasts rising out of the sea, each one different from the others.

The first was like a lion, but it had an eagle’s wings.  I watched until its wings were plucked off from the ground and made to stand on two feet as if it were a human being.

Then I saw another, a second beast, like a bear.  It had raised itself on one side, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth.  The command was given to it:  ”Get up and gorge yourself with flesh.”

After this as I gazed I saw another, a beast like a leopard with four wings like those of a bird on its back; this creature had four heads, and it was invested with sovereign power.

Next in the night visions I saw a fourth beast, fearsome and grisly  and exceedingly strong, with great iron teeth.  It devoured and crunched, and it trampled underfoot what was left.  It was different from all the beasts which went before it, and had ten horns.

While I was considering the horns there appeared another horn, a little one, springing up among them, and three of the first horns were uprooted to make room for it.  In this horn were eyes like human eyes, and a mouth that uttered bombast.  As I was looking,

thrones were set in place

and the Ancient in Years took his seat;

his robe was white as snow,

his hair like lamb’s wool.

His throne was flames of fire

and its wheels were blazing fire;

a river of fire flowed from his presence.

Thousands upon thousands served him

and myriads upon myriads were in attendance.

The court sat, and the books were opened.

Then because of the bombast the horn was mouthing, I went on watching until the beast was killed; its carcass was destroyed and consigned to the flames.  The rest of the beasts, though deprived of their sovereignty, were allowed to remain alive until an appointed time and season.  I was watching in visions of the night and I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven; he approached the Ancient in Years and was presented to him.  Sovereignty and glory and kingly power were given to him, so that all people and nations of every language should serve him; his sovereignty was to be an everlasting sovereignty which was not to pass away; and his kingly power was never to be destroyed.

My spirit within me was troubled; and, dismayed by the visions which came into my head, I, Daniel, approached one of those who were standing there and enquired what all this really signified; and he made known to me its interpretation,

These great beasts, four in number,

he said,

are four kingdoms which will arise from the earth.  But the holy ones of the Most High will receive the kingly power and retain possession of it always, for ever and ever.

Then I wished to know what the fourth beast really signified, the beast that was different from all the others, exceedingly fearsome with its iron teeth and bronze claws, devouring and crunching, then trampling underfoot what was left.  I wished also to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn which sprang up at whose coming three of them fell, the horn which had eyes and a mouth uttering bombast and which in its appearance was more imposing than the others.  As I watched, this horn was waging war on holy ones and proving too strong for them until the Ancient in Years came.  Then judgement was pronounced in favor of the holy ones of the Most High, and the time came when the holy ones gained possession of kingly power.

The explanation he gave was this:

The fourth beast signifies a fourth kingdom which will appear on earth.  It will differ from the other kingdoms; it will devour the whole earth, treading it down and crushing it.  The ten horns signify ten kings who will rise from this kingdom; after them will arise another king, who will be different from his predecessors; and he will bring low three kings.  He will hurl defiance at the Most High and wear down the holy ones of the Most High.  He will have it in mind to alter the festival seasons and religious laws; and the holy ones will be delivered into his power for a time, and times, and half a time.  But when the court sits, he will be deprived of his sovereignty, so that it may be destroyed and abolished for ever.  The kingly power, sovereignty, and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be given to the holy people of the Most High.  Their kingly power will last for ever, and every realm will serve and obey them.

THE TWO OPTIONS FOR THE FRIDAY RESPONSE:

Canticle 12, Part II (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

(Part of the Song of the Three Young Men)

Let the the earth glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O mountains and hills,

and all that grows upon the earth,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O springs of water, seas, and streams,

O whales and all that move in the waters.

All birds of the air, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O beasts of the wild,

and all you flocks and herds.

O men and women everywhere, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Psalm 97 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The LORD is King;

let the earth rejoice;

let the multitude of the isles be glad.

2 Clouds and darkness are round about him,

righteousness and justice are the foundations of his throne.

A fire goes before him

and burns up his enemies on every side.

4 His lightnings light up the world;

the earth sees it and is afraid.

The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the LORD,

at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.

The heavens declare his righteousness,

and all the peoples see his glory.

Confounded be all who worship carved images

and delight in false gods!

Bow down before him, all you gods.

Zion hears and is glad, and the cities of Judah rejoice,

because of your judgments, O LORD.

For you are the LORD,

most high over all the earth;

you are exalted far above all gods.

10 The LORD loves those who hate evil;

he preserves the lives of the saints

and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

11 Light has sprung up for the righteous,

and joyful gladness for those who are truehearted.

12 Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous,

and give thanks to his holy Name.

THE TWO OPTIONS FOR THE SATURDAY RESPONSE:

Canticle 12, Part III (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

(Part of the Song of the Three Young Men)

Let the people of God glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him forever.

Glorify the Lord, O priests and servants of the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O spirits and souls of the righteous,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

You that are holy and humble of heart, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Psalm 95:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Come, let us sing to the LORD;

let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving

and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.

3 For the LORD is a great God,

and a great King above all gods.

In his hand are the caverns of the earth,

and the heights of the hills are his also.

5 The sea is his, for he made it,

and his hands have molded the dry land.

Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee,

and kneel before the LORD our Maker.

7 For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

THE GOSPEL READING:

Luke 21:29-36 (Revised English Bible):

Jesus told them a parable:

Look at the fig tree, or at any other tree.  As soon as it bud, you can see for yourselves that summer is near.  In the same way, when you see all this happening, you may know that the kingdom of God is near.

Truly I tell you:  the present generation will live to see it all.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Be on your guard; do not let your minds be dulled by dissipation and drunkenness and worldly cares so that the great day catches you suddenly like a trap; for that day will come on everyone, the whole world over.  Be on the alert, praying at all times for strength to pass safely through all that is coming and to stand in the presence of the Son of Man.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Daniel 7 dates to the Hasmonean-Seleucid period, despite the claims of 7:1, which place it centuries before that.  In this chapter we have the imagery of cosmic war.  The text speaks of four Gentile kingdoms, most likely, in order, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, the Median Confederacy, the Persian Empire, and the Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great.  The ten horns are probably Seleucid kings, with Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who usurped three people to become king and who imposed a Hellenization policy on Jews in his realm, as the little horn.  And the Archangel Michael is almost certainly the “one like a human being.”  He is clearly subservient to God, who dispenses judgment in favor the holy ones.

History tells us that the Hasmoneans rebelled against Antiochus IV Epiphanes and established an independent Jewish state, which lasted for nearly a century, until 63 B.C.E., when the Roman Republic, a de facto empire soon to be a de jure one, assumed control.  This brings me to Luke 21, written after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 C.E.  The text places a prediction of the Second Coming of Jesus within the lifetimes of some of the original audience of the Lukan Gospel in the mouth of our Lord.

Yes, Antiochus IV Epiphanes died painfully and the Hasmonean revolt succeeded afterward.  Yes, there was a time of Judean independence.  But the Romans took over.  And, late in the First Century C.E., they destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple.  This must have seemed like the end of the world to many people at the time.  Yet Jesus did not return before the original members of Luke’s audience died.

We want to think that we are God’s holy ones, and that, in the cosmic war, God might deign to act as and when we predict.  Thus many people have not only longed for, but predicted the return of Jesus on specific dates for nearly two thousand years.  Each time, our Lord has not appeared and the world has not ended.  The rapture did not occur on May 21, 2011, as Harold Camping predicted.  I act on the assumption that his second date, October 21, 2011, the alleged end of the world, will come and go in the same manner.  We want God to take us away from our troubles, and some cling to doomsday dates in their desperation for deliverance and meaning.

Advent, or the season for preparing for Christmas, begins on the day after the Week of Proper 29:  Saturday.  One of the major themes of Advent is that God is with us in the here and the now.  God does not always take us away from our problems; no, sometimes God joins us amid them.  And when God does this, the form of the Incarnation might not be what we expected.  Jesus did not arrive as a conquering hero, expelling the Roman forces; he came as a helpless infant and died via the most humiliating, prolonged, and painful form of public execution the empire used.  But there was a Resurrection, was there not?

Yet the Roman Empire remained in power for centuries after that.

Other times, when some people think they are involved in cosmic warfare and on the side of light, they take matters into their own hands.  This is very much part of the ideology of radical Islamic terrorism, despite the fact that the Koran condemns murder.  Or, to use an example from Christian history, authorities drew on the cosmic warfare defense to justify the persecution and execution of Jews, Muslims, and accused heretics.  I wonder who the real heretics were.  There is no passage in which Jesus says,

Find those who believe differently from you and exterminate them!

No, we ought to leave the cosmic battle to God, who is full of surprises.  May we embrace them and love our neighbors as ourselves, as our Lord told us to do.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, APOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/week-of-proper-29-friday-year-1-and-week-of-proper-29-saturday-year-1/

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Good Reasons for Hope in Dark Times   1 comment

Above:  Daniel

Image Source = Urharec

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:DSCN4866.JPG)

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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THE FIRST READING:

Daniel 6:1-28 (Revised English Bible):

It pleased Darius to appoint a hundred and twenty satraps to be in charge of his kingdom, and over them three chief ministers, to whom the satraps were to submit their reports so that the king’s interests might not suffer; of these three ministers, Daniel was one.  Daniel outshone the other ministers and the satraps because of his exceptional ability, and it was the king’s intention to appoint him over the whole kingdom.  Then the ministers and satraps began to look round for some pretext to attack Daniel’s administration of the kingdom, but they failed to find any malpractice on his part, for he was faithful to his trust.  Since they could discover neither negligence nor malpractice, they said,

We shall not find any ground for bringing a charge against this Daniel unless it is connected with his religion.

These ministers and satraps, having watched for an opportunity to approach the king, said to him,

Long live King Darius!  We, the ministers of the kingdom, prefects, satraps, courtiers, and governors, have taken counsel and are agreed that the king should issue a decree and bring into force a binding edict to the effect that whoever presents a petition to any god or human being rather than the king during the next thirty days is to be thrown into the lion-pit.  Now let your majesty issue the edict and have it put in writing so that it becomes unalterable, for the law of the Medes and the Persians may never be revoked.

Accordingly the edict was signed by King Darius.

When Daniel learnt that this decree had been issued, he went into his house.  It had in the roof-chamber windows open towards Jerusalem; and there he knelt down three times a day and offered prayer and praises to his God as was his custom.  His enemies, on the watch for an opportunity to catch him, found Daniel at his prayers making supplication to his God.  Then they went into the king’s presence and reminded him of the edict.

Your majesty,

they said,

have you not issued an edict that any person who, within the next thirty days, presents a petition to any god or human being other than your majesty is to be thrown into the lion-pit?

The king answered,

The matter has been determined in accordance with the law of the Medes and the Persians, which may not be revoked.

So they said to the king,

Daniel, one of the Jewish exiles, has disregarded both your majesty and the edict, and is making petition to his God three times a day.

When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was greatly distressed; he tried to think of a way to save Daniel, and continued his efforts till sunset.  The men watched for an opportunity to approach the king, and said to him,

Your majesty must know that by the law of the Medes and Persians no edict or decree issued by the king may be altered.

Then the king gave the order for Daniel to be brought and thrown into the lion-pit; but he said to Daniel to be brought and thrown into the lion-pit; but he said to Daniel,

Your God whom you serve at all times, may he save you.

A stone was brought and put over the mouth of the pit, and the king sealed it with his signet and with the signets of his nobles, so that no attempt could be made to rescue Daniel.

The king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no woman was brought to him, and sleep eluded him.  He was greatly agitated and, at the first light of dawn, he rose and went to the lion-pit.  When he came near he called anxiously,

Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you serve continually been able to save you from the lions?

Daniel answered,

Long live the king!  My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths and they have not injured me; he judged me innocent, and moreover I had done your majesty no injury.

The king was overjoyed and gave orders that Daniel should be taken up out of the pit.  When this was done no trace of injury was found on him, because he had put his faith in his God.  By order of the king those who out of malice had accused Daniel were brought and flung into the lion-pit along their children and their wives, and before they reached the bottom the lions were upon them and devoured them, bones and all.

King Darius wrote to all peoples and nations of every language throughout the whole world:

May your prosperity increase!  I have issued a decree that in all my royal domains everyone is to fear and reverence the God of Daniel,

for he is the living God, the everlasting,

whose kingly power will never be destroyed;

whose sovereignty will have no end–

a saviour, a deliverer, a worker of signs and wonders

in heaven and on earth,

who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.

Prosperity attended Daniel during the reigns of Darius and Cyrus the Persian.

THEN RESPONSE #1:

Canticle 12, Part I (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

(Part of the Song of the Three Young Men)

Glorify the Lord, you angels and all powers of the Lord,

O heavens and all waters above the heavens.

Sun and moon and stars of the sky, glorify the Lord,

Praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, every shower of rain and fall of dew,

all winds and fire and heat.

Winter and summer, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O chill and cold,

drops of dew and and flakes of snow.

Frost and cold, ice and sleet, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O nights and days,

O shining light and enfolding dark.

Storm clouds and thunderbolts, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

OR RESPONSE #2:

Psalm 99 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The LORD is King;

let the people tremble;

he is enthroned upon the cherubim;

let the earth shake.

The LORD is great in Zion;

he is high above all peoples.

3 Let them confess his Name, which is great and awesome;

he is the Holy One.

4 “O mighty King, lover of justice,

you have established equity;

you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.”

Proclaim the greatness of the LORD our God

and fall down before his footstool;

he is the Holy One.

Moses and Aaron among his priests,

and Samuel among those who call upon his Name,

they called upon the LORD, and he answered them.

He spoke to them out of the pillar of cloud;

they kept his testimonies and the decree that he gave them.

8 “O LORD our God, you answered them indeed;

you were a God who forgave them,

yet punished them for their evil deeds.”

9 Proclaim the greatness of the LORD our God

and worship him upon his holy hill;

for the LORD our God is the Holy One.

THEN THE GOSPEL READING:

Luke 21:20-28 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

But when you see Jerusalem encircled by armies, then you may be sure that her devastation is near.  Then those who are in Judaea must take to the hills; those who are in the city itself must leave it and those who are out in the country must not return; because this is the time of retribution, when all that stands written is to be fulfilled.  Alas for women with child in those days, and for those who have children at the breast!  There will be great distress in the land and a terrible  judgement on this people.  They will fall by the sword; they will be carried captive into all countries; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by Gentiles until the day of the Gentiles has run its course.

Portents will appear in sun and moon and stars.  On earth nations will stand helpless, not knowing which way to turn from the roar and surge of the sea.  People will faint with terror at the thought of what is coming upon the world; for the celestial powers will be shaken.  Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  When all this begins to happen, stand upright and hold your heads high, because your liberation is near.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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I must attend to some history before I get to my main point.  Here is a partial list of Persian kings and other crucial dates, courtesy of The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford University Press, 2004):

  • Reign of Cyrus II (the Great) = 559-530 B.C.E.
  • Capture of Babylon = 539 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Cambyses = 530-522 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Darius I = 522-486 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Xerxes I = 486-465 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Artaxerxes I = 465-424 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Darius II = 423-405 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Artaxerxes II = 405-359 B.C.E.
  • Exiles begin to return from Babylonia in 538 B.C.E.
  • Second Temple completed in 515 B.C.E.

So, given the contents of Daniel 5 and Daniel 6, the king’s name is really Cyrus.  For more details, follow this link:  http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/week-of-proper-29-wednesday-year-1/.

Now, for the substance….

These are troubling readings.  This day’s lesson from Luke 21 is part of the small apocalypse from that gospel.  The horrific images and dark warnings were past tense for the original audience of that book, written after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 C.E.  And, as for Daniel 6, I understand that, according to Deuteronomy 19:16-19, the penalty for bearing false witness is to suffer the same potential fate as the one of whom a person lied, but what did the wives and children do?  Furthermore, Darius/Cyrus was the most powerful man in the empire; he could have lifted the original edict at any time.

Yet there is hope in dark times.  Yes, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 C.E., but the Jews and their religion have survived.  Yes, the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians demolished the Kingdom of Judah in 587 B.C.E., but the Persians conquered them, allowed Jewish exiles to go home, and facilitated the construction of the Second Temple.  Yes, Daniel got in trouble because he did his job better than some jealous peers, who manipulated the king into trying to execute him, but God saved Daniel.  And even when one dies for one’s Christian faith, the blood of the martyrs waters the church.

The readings take a dark turn toward the end of the church year, but the darkness has not extinguished all light.  In a few days I will, God willing, begin writing devotions for Advent.  (I am working a few months ahead of schedule, obviously.)  Advent is about preparing the birth of our Lord Jesus, the Messiah.  As the Revised English Bible (1989) renders John 1:1-5,

In the beginning the Word already was.  The Word was in God’s presence, and what God was, the Word was.  He was with God in the beginning, and through him all things came to be; without him no created thing came into being.  In him was life, and that life was the light of mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never mastered it.

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, APOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/week-of-proper-29-thursday-year-1/

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Posted May 11, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Daniel 3, Daniel 6, Luke 21, Psalm 99

Tagged with

Then God Acted   1 comment

Above:  Belshazzar’s Feast, by Rembrandt van Rijn

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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THE FIRST READING:

Daniel 5:1-6, 13-31 (Revised English Bible):

King Belshazzzar gave a grand banquet for a thousand of his nobles and he was drinking wine in their presence.  Under the influence of the wine, Belshazzar gave orders for the vessels of gold and silver which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple at Jerusalem to be fetched, so that he and his nobles, along with his concubines and courtesans, might drink from them.  So those vessels belonging to the house of God, the temple at Jerusalem, were brought, and the king, the nobles, and the concubines and courtesans drank from them.  They drank their wine and they praised their gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

Suddenly there appeared the fingers of a human hand writing on the plaster of the palace wall opposite the lamp, and the king saw the palm of the hand as it wrote.  At this the king turned pale; dismay filled his mind, the strength went from his leg, and his knees knocked together.

Daniel was then brought into the royal presence, and the king addressed him:

So you are Daniel, one of the Jewish exiles whom my royal father brought from Judah.  I am informed that the spirit of the gods resides in you and that you are known as a man of clear insight and exceptional wisdom.  The wise men, the exorcists, have just been brought before me to read this writing and make its interpretation known to me, but they have been unable to give its meaning.  I am told that you are able to furnish interpretations and unravel problems.  Now, if you can read this writing and make known the interpretation, you shall be robed in purple and have a gold chain hung round your neck, and you shall rank third in the kingdom.

Daniel replied,

Your majesty, I do not look for gifts from you; give your rewards to another.  Nevertheless I shall read your majesty the writing and make known to you its interpretation.

My lord king, the Most High God gave a kingdom with power, glory, and majesty to your father Nebuchadnezzar; and, because of the power he bestowed on him, all peoples and nations of every language trembled with fear before him.  He put to death whom he would and spared whom he would, he promoted them at will and at will abased them.  But, when he became haughty and stubborn and presumptuous, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory.  He was banished from human society, and his mind became like that of an animal; he had to live with the wild asses and to feed on grass like oxen, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he came to acknowledge that the Most High God is sovereign over the realm of humanity and appoints over whom he will.  But although you knew all this, you, his son, Belshazzar, did not humble your heart.  You have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven; his temple vessels have been fetched for you and your nobles, your concubines, and courtesans to drink from them.  You have praised gods fashioned from silver, gold, bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which cannot see or hear or know, and you have not given glory to God, from whom comes your every breath, and in whose charge are all your ways.  That is why he sent the hand and why it wrote this inscription.

The words inscribed were:  ”Mene mene tekel u-pharsin.”  Their interpretation is this:  mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought you to an end; tekel, you have been weighed in the balance and found wanting; u-pharsin, your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.

Then at Belshazzar’s command Daniel was robed in purple and a gold chain hung round his neck, and proclamation was made that he should rank third in the kingdom.

That very night Belshazzar king of the Chaldaeans was slain, and Darius the Mede took the kingdom, being then about sixty-two years old.

THEN RESPONSE #1:

Canticle 12, Part I (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

(Part of the Song of the Three Young Men)

Glorify the Lord, you angels and all powers of the Lord,

O heavens and all waters above the heavens.

Sun and moon and stars of the sky, glorify the Lord,

Praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, every shower of rain and fall of dew,

all winds and fire and heat.

Winter and summer, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O chill and cold,

drops of dew and and flakes of snow.

Frost and cold, ice and sleet, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O nights and days,

O shining light and enfolding dark.

Storm clouds and thunderbolts, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

OR RESPONSE #2:

Psalm 98 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Sing to the LORD a new song,

for he has done marvelous things.

With his right hand and his holy arm

has he won for himself the victory.

The LORD has made known his victory;

his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel,

and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

Shout with joy to the LORD, all you lands;

lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.

Sing to the LORD with the harp,

with the harp and the voice of song.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn

shout with joy before the King, the LORD.

Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it,

the lands and those who dwell therein.

Let the rivers clap their hands,

and let the hills ring out with joy before the LORD,

when he comes to judge the earth.

10 In righteousness shall he judge the world

and the peoples with equity.

THEN THE GOSPEL READING:

Luke 21:10-19 (Revised English Bible):

Then Jesus added,

Nation will go to war against nation, kingdom against kingdom; there will be severe earthquakes, famines, and plagues in many places, and in the sky terrors and great portents.

But before all this happens they will seize you and persecute you.  You will be handed over to synagogues and put in prison; you will be haled before kings and governors for your allegiance to me.  This will be your opportunity to testify.  So resolve not to prepare your defence beforehand, because I myself will give you such words and wisdom as no opponent can resist or refute.  Even your parents and brothers, your relations and friends, will betray you.  Some of you will be put to death; and everyone will hate you for your allegiance to me.  But not a hair of your head will be lost.  By standing firm you will win yourselves life.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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First I must deal with raw, documented history.  Historians from ancient times from the present agree that Cyrus II (“the Great”) became King of the Persians the Medes in the year we call 559 B.C.E., and that his forces conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.E.  Cyrus, being born circa 600 B.C.E., was approximately sixty-two years old at the time of the conquest.  Thus his age matches that of the mysterious “Darius the Mede” from the end of Daniel 5.  In point of fact, the Book of Daniel is the only ancient source to mention “Darius the Mede” as an immediate predecessor of Cyrus II, who succeeded Cambyses I immediately, almost twenty years before the setting of this story.  There is a simple explanation:  The author of this part of the Book of Daniel was confused as to Persian royal succession.

Belshazzar was a son of and the viceroy of Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.), the last Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian king.   He (Belshazzar) was a powerful prince and a person with whom to reckon, but not a regnal monarch.  History records that he died when the Persian forces, commanded by General Gobyras, captured Babylon.  Gobyras went on to become Cyrus the Great’s governor in Babylon, so some have speculated that Gobyras was “Darius the Mede.”  This seems like a stretch to me, given my propensity for the historical-critical method and my preference for Ockham’s Razor.  It is, however, one way for those who prefer discredited theories of inerrancy and infallibility to explain away a minor (and irrelevant) inaccuracy in the text.

As Galileo Galilei observed in the 1600s, the Bible is not a science book.  And, in certain minor and occasional historical matters, it gets some quibbling and irrelevant details wrong.  This is to be expected, for people wrote many of these texts down a long time after the events the texts describe.   So some out-of-chronological-order references crept into the narrative.  C’est la vie.  Such inaccuracies do not bother me, for I am far from a Biblical literalist.  I prefer instead to focus on the main point of such texts, not permitting minor historical quibbles to become distractions from great spiritual truths.  As a spiritual mentor of mine asked of any Biblical text,

What is really going on here?

That is where I place my emphasis.

Let us  consider the story from Daniel 5 as it is.  The son and viceroy of the last Chaldean king commits sacrilege with confiscated vessels from the late Jerusalem Temple.  He sees a disembodied hand write a text on a wall.  All the viceroy”s usual advisors cannot interpret the text, but Daniel can.  Belshazzar promises Daniel a promotion in exchange for an accurate reading, but the faithful Daniel says that such a nice act is not necessary; he is willing to interpret the text and retain his current standing.  Daniel delivers the bad news.  Belshazzar, much to his credit, promotes Daniel anyway.  The viceroy dies that night, during the Persian conquest.

This is a story about God acting to deliver his people.  History records that the Jews fared much better under the Persians than they did under the Assyrians or the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians.  I have covered this ground already, beginning with this post:  http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/week-of-proper-20-monday-year-1/.   It was not always a pleasant political situation, and not all Persian kings were favorably disposed toward Jewish interests, but the Persian Empire did facilitate the building of the Second Temple.

The reading from Luke 21 spoke of circumstances many Christians at the time of the writing that gospel experienced.  Indeed, with a few minor changes in terminology, it speaks of circumstances many Christians face today.  But, Jesus says, persecution is an opportunity to testify to him, himself a persecuted one.  By enduring, our Lord says, we will win our lives, even if we die.  Or, as Paul wrote, if we suffer with Christ, we will reign with Christ.

These are the kinds of passages which cause me to wonder how prosperity theologians can say what they do.  These men and women sell theological snake oil to those who either choose not to investigate their claims or lack enough Biblical knowledge to know where to begin.  It is rather discouraging, is it not?

This day we have two readings which speak of God acting during times of great difficulty.  In the first the good guys live, but in the second they almost certainly die.  Yet they live with God.  The Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, is honest:  Sometimes faithfulness leads to persecution, even torture and death.  It is unjust, I grant you, but not entirely unexpected.  If we do not grasp this message, it is not because of false advertising in the sacred anthology we call the Bible.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, APOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/week-of-proper-29-wednesday-year-1/

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Empires and Nation-States Rise and Fall, But God Reigns Supreme Always   1 comment

Above:  Ruins of the Ishtar Gate, Babylon, 1932

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2004000690/PP/)

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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THE FIRST READING:

Daniel 2:31-45 (Revised English Bible):

[Daniel addressed King Nebudchadnezzar II, saying,]

As you watched, there appeared to your majesty a great image.  Huge and dreading, it stood before you, fearsome to behold.  The head of the image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet part iron and part clay.  While you watched, you saw a stone hewn from a mountain by no human hand; it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay and shattered them.  Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were all shattered into fragments, as if they were chaff from a summer threshing-floor the wind swept them away until no trace of them remained.  But the stone which struck the image grew and became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.

This was the dream; now we shall relate to your majesty its interpretation.  Your majesty, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom with its power, its might, and its honour, in whose hands he has placed mankind wherever they live, the wild animals, and the birds of the air, granting you sovereignty over the whole world.  After you will arise another kingdom, inferior to yours, then a third kingdom, of bronze, which will will have sovereignty over the whole world.  There will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron; just as iron shatters and breaks all things, it will shatter and crush the others.  As in your vision the feet and toes were part potter’s clay and part iron, so it will be a divided kingdom, and just as you saw iron mixed with clay from the ground, so it will have in it something of the strength of iron.  The toes being part iron and part clay means that the kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle.  As in your vision the iron was mixed with the clay, so there will be a mixing of families by intermarriage, but such alliances will not be stable:  iron does not mix with clay.  In the times of those kings the God of heaven will establish a kingdom which will never be destroyed, nor will it ever pass to another people; it will shatter all these kingdoms and make and end of them, while it will itself endure for ever.  This is meaning of your vision of the stone being hewn from a mountain by no human hand, and then shattering the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold.  A mighty God has made known to your majesty what is to be hereafter.  The dream and its interpretation are true and trustworthy.

THEN RESPONSE #1:

Canticle 12, Part I (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

(Part of the Song of the Three Young Men)

Glorify the Lord, you angels and all powers of the Lord,

O heavens and all waters above the heavens.

Sun and moon and stars of the sky, glorify the Lord,

Praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, every shower of rain and fall of dew,

all winds and fire and heat.

Winter and summer, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O chill and cold,

drops of dew and and flakes of snow.

Frost and cold, ice and sleet, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O nights and days,

O shining light and enfolding dark.

Storm clouds and thunderbolts, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

OR RESPONSE #2:

Psalm 96 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Sing to the LORD a new song;

sing to the LORD, all the whole earth.

2 Sing to the LORD and bless his Name;

proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day.

3 Declare his glory among the nations

and his wonders among all peoples.

4 For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;

he is more to be feared than all gods.

5 As for the gods of the nations, they are but idols;

but it is the LORD who made the heavens.

Oh, the majesty and magnificence of his presence!

Oh, the power and the splendor of his sanctuary!

7 Ascribe to the LORD, you families of the peoples;

ascribe to the LORD honor and power.

Ascribe to the LORD the honor due his Name;

bring offerings and come into his courts.

Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness;

let the whole earth tremble before him.

10 Tell it out among the nations:  ”The LORD is King!

he has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved;

he will judge the peoples with equity.”

11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;

let the sea thunder and all that is in it;

let the field be joyful and all that is therein.

12 Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy

before the LORD when he comes,

when he comes to judge the earth.

13 He will judge the world with righteousness

and the peoples with his truth.

THEN THE GOSPEL READING:

Luke 21:5-9 (Revised English Bible):

Some people were talking about the temple and the beauty of its fine stones and ornaments.  Jesus said,

These things you are gazing at–the time will come when not one stone will be left upon another; they will all be thrown down.

They asked,

Teacher, when will that be?  What will be the sign that these things are about to happen?

He said,

Take care that you are not misled.  For many will come claiming my name and saying, “I am he,” and “The time has come.”  Do not follow them.  And when you hear of wars and insurrections, do not panic.  These things are bound to happen first, but the end does not follow at once.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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I like maps, especially old ones.  Two of the books in my library are Longmans’ New School Atlas (1901) and Hammond’s New Era Atlas of the World (1945).  The latter comes with a supplement reflecting the post-World War II borders.  The maps of Europe and Asia changed quite a bit more than once from 1901 to 1945.  The Russian Empire became the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.  The German Empire shrank slightly into the Weimar Republic, which transformed into the Third Reich, which expanded and shrank greatly, becoming two Germanies.  Austria-Hungary broke up.  Yugoslavia was born.  Poland was reborn, but its borders shifted greatly from 1919 to 1945.  And, in Asia, Japan engulfed many colonies and nations, only to lose the territory. Furthermore, the Ottoman Empire finally collapsed, leaving Turkey and former colonies in its wake.   Since 1945, two Germanies have become one, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia have crumbled, Czechoslovakia has divided, and European colonial empires have fallen.  The British used to boast that the sun never set on their empire.  It was the literal truth; there was daylight somewhere in the British Empire at any given time.  The jealous Germans, of course, grumbled that God did not trust the British in the dark.  Now the sun never sets on the Falkland Islands and small Atlantic and Pacific islands.

Empires and nation-states rise and fall, but God is always in charge.  This lesson is part of the reading from Daniel.  Reputable scholars of the Bible have read the interpretation of Nebudachnezzar II’s dream and detected references to his Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire plus the Persian Empire, the Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great, the Seleucid Empire, and the Roman Republic/Empire.  The Persians conquered the Chaldeans, but Alexander defeated the Persians.  The Seleucid Empire arose from the ashes of Alexander’s Macedonian Empire, but the Romans conquered the weakened Seleucids.  Rome, of course, divided east-west, with the Western Empire fading away by 476 C.E. and the Ottomans putting the remains of the Eastern Empire out of their misery in 1453.  All of these were mighty empires, each in its own day, but are no more.

Proper 29, the Last Sunday after Pentecost (http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/proper-29-year-a/), was Christ the King Sunday.  A few days ago, I wrote the following post (http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/26/week-of-proper-28-wednesday-year-1/), in which I dwelt on the theme that “God is the ruler yet.”  The mountain of God (to borrow an analogy from Daniel 2) shatters kingdoms and stands forever.  Yet cults of personality have arisen and persisted.  Members of the German military swore loyalty to Adolf Hitler, not the German state or constitution.  To this day many virulent racists celebrate the Fuhrer’s birthday.  There is a bizarre cult of personality surrounding the deceased founder of the ruling Kim family in North Korea.  And the cult of personality surrounding Joseph Stalin, despite some setbacks, has never died, unlike Stalin.  Yet “God is the ruler yet.”  May we remember this always, ordering our priorities accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/31/week-of-proper-29-tuesday-year-1/

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Trusting God in Difficult Times   1 comment

Above:  Ruins of Babylon in 1932

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2005007825/PP/)

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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THE FIRST READING:

Daniel 1:1-20 (Revised English Bible):

In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, came and laid siege to Jerusalem.  The Lord handed King Jehoiakim over to him, together with all that was left of the vessels from the house of God; and he carried them off to the land of Shinar, to the temple of his god, where he placed the vessels in the temple treasury.

The king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring into the palace some of the Israelite exiles, members of their royal house and of the nobility.  They were to be young men free from physical defect, handsome in appearance, well-informed, intelligent, and so fitted for service in the royal court; and he was to instruct them in the writings and language of the Chaldaeans.  The king assigned them a daily allowance of fine food and wine from the royal table; and their training was to last for three years ; at the end of that time they would enter his service.  among them were certain Jews:  Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.  To them the master of the eunuchs gave new names:  Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah Shadrach, Michael Meshach, and Azariah Abed-nego.

Daniel determined not to become contaminated with the food and wine from the royal table, and begged the master of the eunuchs to excuse him from touching it.  God caused the master to look on Daniel with kindness and goodwill, and to Daniel’s request he replied,

I am afraid of my lord the king:  he has assigned you food and drink, and if he were to see you looking miserable  compared with the other young men of your age, my head would be forfeit.

Then Daniel said to the attendant whom the master of the eunuchs had put in charge of Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah, and himself,

Submit us to the this test for ten days:  give us only vegetables to eat and water to drink; then compare our appearance with that of the young men who have lived on the kings’ food, and be guided in your treatment of us by what you see for yourself.

He agreed to this proposal and submitted them to this test.  At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who had lived on the food from the king.  So the attendant took away the food assigned to them and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables only.

To all four of these young men God gave knowledge, understanding of books, and learning of every kind, and Daniel had a gift for interpreting visions and dreams of very kind.  At the time appointed for the king for introducing the young men to court, the master of the eunuchs brought them into the presence of Nebuchadnezzar.  The king talked with them all, but found none of them to compare with Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; so they entered the royal service.  Whenever the king consulted them on any matter, he found them ten times superior to all the magicians  and exorcists in his whole kingdom.

THEN RESPONSE #1:

Canticle 13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

(Song of the Three Young Men 29-34 plus the Trinitarian formula)

Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers;

you are worthy of praise; glory to you.

Glory to you for the radiance of your holy Name;

we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you in the splendor of your temple;

on the throne of your majesty, glory to you.

Glory to you, seated between the Cherubim;

we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you, beholding the depths;

in the high vault of heaven, glory to you.

Glory to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;

we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

OR RESPONSE #2:

Psalm 24:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it,

the world and all who dwell therein.

For it is who founded it upon the seas

and made it firm upon the rivers of the deep.

“Who can ascend the hill of the LORD?

and who can stand in his holy place?”

“Those who have clean hands and a pure heart,

who have not pledged themselves to falsehood,

nor sworn by what is a fraud.

They shall receive a blessing from the LORD

and a just reward from the God of their salvation.”

Such is the generation of those who seek him,

of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob.

THEN THE GOSPEL READING:

Luke 21:1-4 (Revised English Bible):

As Jesus looked up and saw rich people dropping their gifts into the chest of the temple treasury, he noticed a poor widow putting in two tiny coins.

I tell you this,

he said:

this poor widow has given more than any of them; for those others who have given had more than enough, but she, with less than enough, has given all she had to live on.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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A Related Post:

Mark 12 (Parallel to Luke 21):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/19/week-of-proper-4-saturday-year-1/

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Last week we read about one way of handling attempted assimilation into a Gentile culture:  insurrection.  However, in Daniel 1, we have an example of nonviolent resistance on a small scale.

The Chaldeans, a.k.a. Neo-Babylonians, had consigned the Kingdom of Judah to history in 587 B.C.E.  Daniel and his fellows found themselves forced into the service of King Neuchadnezzar II against their will, but they made the most of a bad situation.  In the process they retained their Jewish identities despite Chaldean attempts to the contrary.  Consider the renaming, for example.  Daniel, or “El has judged,” became Belteshazzar, or “Protect the king.”  Hananiah, whose name meant “Yah has been gracious,” received the name Shadrach, which was probably Persian for “shining.”  Mishael, literally, “Who is what El is?,” became Meshach, a name derived from the Zoroastrian deity Mithras.  And Azariah, whose name meant “Yah has helped,” became Abed-nego, or “Servant of Nabu,” Nabu being the Babylonina God of Wisdom.

There were royal power plays at work.  Changing the mens’ names signified not only assimilation but dependence on the king, as did assigning food and wine from the king’s table.  Yet these four men followed an invisible and more powerful king, who enabled them to survive in difficult circumstances.

Now I turn toward the lesson from Luke.

I have already covered the Markan version of this story and provided a link to that post.  Yet a grasp of the Lukan telling requires me to back up a few verses, into Luke 20:45-47, immediately before 21:1-4.

In the hearing of all the people Jesus said to his disciples:  ”Beware of the scribes, who like to walk up and down in long robes, and love to be greeted respectfully in the street, to have the chief seats in synagogues and places of honour at feasts.  These are the men who eat up the property of widows, while for appearance’ sake they say long prayers; the sentence they receive will be all the more severe.”

Now read Luke 21:1-4 again.

The widow put two lepta into an offering box at the Temple.  A lepta was 1/128 of a day’s wage, or a denarius.  So the widow was really poor.  Now reconsider the words of Jesus; did the praise the widow or lament her action?  The text does not indicate his tone of voice, but lament seems to be the more likely dominant option.  Certainly he did not want her to starve.  And her meager offering helped support the Temple system off which the corrupt religious establishment lived and from which it derived its power.  Yet the widow did trust God and practice religion piously, as she understood it.  One can, with justification, understand Jesus to have praised her humble piety, which stood in stark contrast to the false holiness of those he had just condemned.

Let us be clear.  Luke 21:1-4 is no more an instruction to give away all the money one has to pay bills and buy food than Daniel 1 is a vegetarian tract.  Yet a common thread runs through them:  We must trust and follow God.  This is easy when times are good, but difficult when circumstances are harsh.  Certainly exile following the destruction of one’s nation is harsh.  Truly grinding poverty is harsh.  ”Woe to those who create and maintain such harsh conditions,” Biblical prophets said again and again.  ”God loves the orphans and the widows,” they said; and the author of Luke-Acts did, too.  Open an unabridged concordance of the Bible and look up “widow” and “widows,” focusing on Luke and Acts.  Then read those passages.

With this post I near the end of this series of devotions.  It will end with “Week of Proper 29:  Saturday, Year 1,” after which I will return to ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS and blog there for a few months.  I mention this because the temporal relationship of this post to Advent is germane.  During Advent we will focus on the approaching Incarnation of God in human form, Jesus of Nazareth.   His birth constituted, among other things, an affirmation of the dignity of human beings, including the poor and the downtrodden, such as today’s widow.

Regardless of your economic situation, O reader, I encourage you to trust and follow God.  By the way, I hope for your sake and that of your family, if you have one, that your economic situation is excellent and improving.  This is a prayer I say for everyone:  May all have all that they need and the good judgment to use it properly.  And may they thank God for it in words, deeds, and attitudes.  Furthermore, may we function as agents of God in helping each other achieve and retain this reality.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 30, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUSEBIUS OF CAESAREA, HISTORIAN AND ROMAN CATHOLIC OF BISHOP

THE FEAST OF APOLO KIVEBULAYA, ANGLICAN EVANGELIST

THE FEAST OF JOACHIM NEANDER, GERMAN REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPHINE BUTLER, WORKER AMONG WOMEN

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/week-of-proper-29-monday-year-1/

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Approaching God   1 comment

Above:  Near the Peak of Mount Sinai

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With this post I rotate translations again.  The Torah readings come from Richard Elliott Friedman’s Commentary on the Torah with a New English Translation and the Hebrew Text (HarperCollins, 2001).  The New Testament lessons come from 1972 revised version of The New Testament in Modern English, by J. B. Phillips.  I recommend that any serious student of the Bible who reads English obtain and use a copy of each of these volumes.

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Exodus 19:1-20 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

In the third month after the exodus of the children of Israel from the land of Egypt, on this day, they came to the wilderness of Sinai.  And they traveled from Rephidim and came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness.  And Israel camped there opposite the mountain.

And Moses had gone up to God.  And YHWH called to him from the mountain, saying,

This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and tell to the children of Israel:  “You’ve seen what I did to Egypt, and I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to me.  And now, if you’ll listen to my voice and observe my covenant, then you’ll be a treasure to me out of all the peoples, because all the earth is mine.  And you’ll be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation to me.”  These are the words that you shall speak to the children of Israel.

And Moses came and called the people’s elders and set before them all these words that YHWH had commanded him.  And all the people responded together, and they said,

We’ll do everything that YHWH has spoken.

And Moses brought back the the people’s words to YHWH.

And YHWH said to Moses,

Here, I am commanding you in a mass of cloud for the purpose that the people will hear when I am speaking with you, and they will believe in you as well forever.

And Moses told the people’s words to YHWH.  And YHWH said to Moses,

Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow; and they shall wash their clothes and be ready for the third day, because on the third day YHWH will come down on Mount Sinai before the eyes of all the people.  And you shall limit the people all around, saying, “Watch yourselves about going up in the mountain and touching its edge.  Anyone who touches the mountain shall be put to death.  A hand shall not touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot.  Whether animal or man, he shall not live.”  At the blowing of the horn they shall go up to the mountain.

And Moses went down from the mountain to the people.  And he consecrated the people, and they washed their clothes.  And he said to the people,

Be ready for three days.  Don’t come close to a woman.

And it was on the third day, when it was morning, and it was:  thunders and lightning and a heavy cloud on the mountain, and a sound of a horn, very strong.  And the entire people that was in the camp trembled.  And Moses brought out the people toward God from the camp, and they stood up at the bottom of the mountain.  And Mount Sinai was all smoke because YHWH came down on it in fire, and its smoke went up like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled greatly.  And the sound of the horn was getting much stronger.  Moses would speak, and God would answer him in a voice.  And YHWH came down on Mount Sinai, at the top of the mountain, and YHWH called to Moses at the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.

Canticle 13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Song of the Three Young Men, 29-34, plus the Trinitarian formula

Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers;

you are worthy of praise; glory to you.

Glory to you for the radiance of your holy Name;

we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you in the splendor of your temple;

on the throne of your majesty, glory to you.

Glory to you, seated between the Cherubim;

we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you, beholding the depths;

in the high vault of heaven, glory to you.

Glory to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;

we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

OR

Psalm 24:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it,

the world and all who dwell therein.

For it is who founded it upon the seas

and made it firm upon the rivers of the deep.

“Who can ascend the hill of the LORD?

and who can stand in his holy place?”

“Those who have clean hands and a pure heart,

who have not pledged themselves to falsehood,

nor sworn by what is a fraud.

They shall receive a blessing from the LORD

and a just reward from the God of their salvation.”

Such is the generation of those who seek him,

of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob.

Matthew 13:10-17 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

At this the disciples approached him and asked,

Why do you talk to them in parables?

Jesus replied,

Because you have been given the privilege of understanding the secrets of the kingdom of Heaven,” but they have not.  For when a man has something, more is given to him till he has plenty.  For if he has nothing even his nothing will be taken away from him.  This is why I speak to them in these parables; because they go through life with their eyes open, but see nothing, and with their ears open, but understand nothing of what they hear.  They are the living fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophesy which says:

By hearing ye shall hear, and shall in no wise understand;

And seeing ye shall see, and shall in no wise perceive;

For this people’s heart is waxed gross,

And their ears are dull of hearing,

And their eyes have been closed;

Lest haply they should perceive with their eyes,

And hear with their heart,

And should turn again,

And I should heal them.

But how fortunate you are to have eyes that see and ears that hear! Believe me, a great many prophets and good men have longed to see what you are seeing and they never saw it.  Yes, and they have longed to hear what you are hearing and they never heard it.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The reading from Exodus builds up to the giving of the Ten Commandments.  In preparation, the people receive instructions to live according to ritual purity, including abstinence from sexual relations for a few days.  They hear also that nobody ought to touch–even brush up against, on pain of death–the mountain upon which YHWH will descend.  The belief at the time held that God was so “other” that the people needed intermediaries, such as Moses.

The Incarnation of God in the person of Jesus of Nazareth eliminates the needs for intermediaries, not that I object to intercessions by saints on earth or in heaven.  People were not supposed to touch God’s holy mountain–on pain of death–but people could touch God incarnate, Jesus.  Indeed, many people did, and some of them had him over for dinner.  This is the understanding of God I prefer–God among the people and approachable by all.

Parables included references to circumstances many people could understand easily, but not all who heard the parables grasped them.  One needed to listen with the ears of a disciple to understand, and even the Twelve Apostles were confused much of the time.  Yet the message was there, presented plainly, for all with faithful attention to the details.

The greatest and most succinct of my theology resides in Hebrews 4:14-16, which I quote from the Revised Standard Version:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

This is how I approach God:  respectfully and honestly, holding back nothing, especially the unpleasant aspects of myself.  God knows about those anyhow.  I praise, intercede, and kvetch.  Never have I felt anything other than divine love and compassion.  I have approached God in the best of times, the worst of times, and all manner of circumstances in between.  My sense of the presence of God has saved my life on more than one occasion.  The holiness of God is most evident in divine approachability, not mysterious aloofness.

In the Name of God:  the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 7, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANCOIS FENELON, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CAMBRAI

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALDRIC OF LE MANS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JULIUS WELLHAUSEN, BIBLE SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUCIAN OF ANTIOCH, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/week-of-proper-11-thursday-year-1/

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