Archive for the ‘Suffering’ Tag

Psalms 73 and 74   1 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   1 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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Grace and Enemies   1 comment

Above:   The Death of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, by Gustave Dore

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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Numbers 16:1-5, 23-25

Psalm 55

Acts 14:8-18

John 2:23-25

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Scarcely had [Moses] finished speaking all these words when the ground under them burst asunder, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up with their households, all Korah’s people and all their possessions.   They went down alive into Sheol, with all that belonged to them; the earth closed over them and they vanished from the midst of the congregation.  All Israel around them fled at their shrieks, for they said, “The earth might swallow us!”

And a fire went forth from the LORD and consumed the two hundred and fifty men offering the incense.

–Numbers 16:31-35, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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The moral of the story is not to challenge the authority of Moses.

A recurring theme in the assigned readings for today is the presence of enemies.  The life of Jesus is constantly in peril in the Gospel of John.  One might imagine him repeating Psalm 55 frequently.

The enemies in Acts 14 include those who, out of ignorance and cultural conditioning, mistake Sts. Barnabas and Paul the Apostle for Zeus and Hermes, respectively, after the healing of a man lame from birth.  It is true that the residents of Lystra did not know what they were doing.  We read of Sts. Paul and Barnabas attempting to correct them, to no avail.  If we keep reading, we learn of the stoning of St. Paul by hostile Jews at Lystra, followed by the departure of the evangelists from the town the following day.

[Paul and Barnabas] warned [the disciples] that to enter the kingdom of God we must undergo many hardships.

–Acts 14:22b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Suffering for the sake of righteousness is an old and frequently perplexing pattern.  We ought to know that God never promised us lives of ease because of our piety, but that we would have divine companionship during such times of suffering.   We also have the model of Jesus, who suffered and died mightily, not because of his own sins, but those of others.  Suffering the consequences of one’s actions makes more sense, from a human perspective, does it not?  Just desserts are reciprocal, after all.

Yet, as we notice often, the just desserts seem not to arrive, at least not on schedule, as we define the schedule.   The righteous suffer and the wicked prosper; that is an ancient lament.  When we interject scandalous grace into the equation we learn that some of wicked might repent.  Maybe we want them to suffer, not repent.  Perhaps we seek the wrath, not the forgiveness, of God for our enemies.  If so, are we not on their moral level?  Should we not dwell on a higher moral level?

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-10-ackerman/

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Building Up Each Other in Christ   1 comment

ancient-corinth

Above:  Ancient Corinth

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-07406

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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:

1 Kings 9:1-9, 11:1-13 or Ecclesiastes 8:1-17

Psalm 35

John 15:18-25 (26-27); 16:1-4a

2 Corinthians 12:11-21; 13:1-10 (11-13)

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One might suffer for any of a number of reasons.  One might, as did Solomon, suffer for one’s sins; actions do have consequences, after all.  Or one might suffer because of the sins of at least one other person.  This is one reason one might suffer for the sake of righteousness.  Or perhaps one might suffer for merely being at the wrong place at the wrong time.  On other occasions there might be no apparent reason for one’s suffering.

This is a devotion for Trinity Sunday.  Many attempts to explain the mystery of the Holy Trinity have resulted in heresy.  I have resolved to cease trying to explain it and to revel in the glorious mystery instead.  God is greater and more glorious than I can imagine; thanks be to God!

I do feel comfortable in making some comments, however.  For example, Jesus of Nazareth (the historical figure) was the incarnated form of the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son.  I do not pretend to grasp the mechanics of the Godhead, but so be it.  Jesus suffered and died, but not because of any sin of his; he committed none.  God suffered due to human sinfulness and made something wondrous out of something brutal and base.

That extravagant grace imposes certain obligations on those who benefit from it.  Among these obligations is building each other up.  St. Paul the Apostle’s words on that topic remain as applicable today as they were in Corinth nearly 2000 years ago.  Christ Jesus is in me.  He is also in you, O reader.  He is also in those around us.  How will we treat them?  We have Jesus, a role model, to emulate.  Where would the human race be without him?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT FILIP SIPHONG ONPHITHAKT, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN THAILAND

THE FEAST OF MAUDE DOMINICA PETRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MODERNIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF RALPH ADAMS CRAM AND RICHARD UPJOHN, ARCHITECTS; AND JOHN LAFARGE, SR., PAINTER AND STAINED GLASS MAKER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/devotion-for-trinity-sunday-year-d/

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Kyrie Eleison   1 comment

christ-on-the-cross

Above:  Christ on the Cross, by Gerard 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:

Ezra 9:5-15 or Jeremiah 25:15-38 or 2 Chronicles 7:1-22

Psalm 88

Luke 23:(1-12) 13-49

1 Peter 4:(1-8) 9-11 (12-14) 15-19

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The readings for this day speak of fiery ordeals.  In 2 Chronicles 7, Jeremiah 25, Ezra 9, and Psalm 88, they occur because of faithlessness to God.  These ordeals–divine punishment–lie in the future for the first two readings and in the past and the present in the last two lections.  In the first three readings he sins are collective, but they are individual in Psalm 88.  When we turn to Luke 23 and 1 Peter 4 we find that the suffering does not constitute divine punishment.  Faith tells us that Jesus did not sin, and the predicted fiery ordeals in 1 Peter 4 result from one’s righteousness and the lack of righteousness of others.

God is unpleasant in the assigned readings from the Hebrew Bible.  Perhaps the most concise passage to this effect is Jeremiah 25:27 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989):

Then you shall say to them, Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel:  Drink, get drunk and vomit, fall and rise no more, because of the sword that I am sending among you.

I reject Penal Substitutionary Atonement, the idea that Jesus died for my sins.  That theory of the atonement portrays God as one in whom to stand in terror, not to love and respect.  It depicts God as one who says,

I will not be content until some people torture and execute my innocent Son.

No, I am closer to the Classic Theory of the Atonement, or Christus Victor, of the Conquest of Satan.  This theory of the atonement emphasizes the resurrection of Jesus.  This makes sense to me because, without the resurrection, Jesus is dead.  Dead Jesus cannot save anyone from anything–sins or damnation, especially.  Actually, I propose that the entire earthly life of Jesus was the means of atonement.  I prefer to leave the mechanics of the atonement vague, in full Eastern Orthodox style.

Good Friday is among the holiest days of the year.  It is an occasion to reflect on the atonement and on social structures and institutions that kill the innocent.  Good Friday is an especially appropriate day to pray for forgiveness for the evil we have done and the evil done on our behalf.  Innocent people still suffer at the hands of other people.  Scapegoating continues.  State-sponsored violence is not just a matter of the past.  The prayer of our Lord and Savior (“Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.”–Luke 23:34a, The Jerusalem Bible, 1966) remains relevant.  Furthermore, sometimes they (we) do not know what they (we) are doing.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN NITSCHMANN, SR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN LUDWIG BRAU, NORWEGIAN MORAVIAN TEACHER AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/devotion-for-good-friday-year-d/

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The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part VII   1 comment

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Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

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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Job 36:14-37:24

Psalm 11

Matthew 8:5-13 or John 4:43-54

Jude 1-25 or Hebrews 13:9-14, 17-25

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Elihu’s speeches contain much that sounds pious.  Job 36:24-37:24 supports this generalization.  We read, among other things, that we should praise God and that divine grandeur exceeds our knowledge of it.  Elihu even sounds like God in Job 38-41, the “I am God and you are not” speeches:

Mediate on God’s wonders.

Can you tell how God controls them

or how his clouds make the lightning flash?

Can you tell how he holds the clouds in balance:

a miracle of consummate skill?

When your clothes are hot to your body

and the earth lies still under the south wind,

can you help him to spread the vault of heaven,

Or temper the mirror of cast metal?

–Job 37:14b-18, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

I prefer the God of Job 42:7-8 to the God of Job 38-41, for the former acknowledges that Job was correct.  For some reason I have really noticed Job 43:7-8 during the preparation for this series of posts, despite the many times I have read that passage over the years.  Part of the wonder of scripture is that one can always find something one has missed.

Among my favorite aspects of Judaism is the practice of arguing faithfully with God.  The character of Job exemplifies that well.  He is, contrary to an inaccurate cliché, impatient and argumentative–justifiably, I contend.  Yes, we can take refuge in God, but this does preclude a good argument now and then.

We should repent of and express remorse for our sins, as grace helps us to recognize them.  As we do so, we ought to follow the advice of Hebrews 13:13-15 and follow Jesus, who healed people around whom he was not present, into the world as pilgrims each day.  We might suffer reproach, but the servant is not greater than the master.  Sometimes we will suffer for reasons neither we nor others understand, or because of the sins of others.  That is simply reality.

One lesson to learn from the Book of Job is the difference between speaking the truth in love and blaming the victim.  Unfortunately, recognizing that distinction can prove difficult in the moment.  May we, by grace, prove innocent of being like Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, Zophar the Naamathite, and Elihu, who were sincerely wrong and not helpful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 11, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 19:  THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAPHNUTIUS THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF UPPER THEBAID

THE FEAST OF NARAYAN SESHADRI OF JALNA, INDIAN PRESBYTERIAN EVANGELIST AND “APOSTLE TO THE MANGS”

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATIENS OF LYONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/09/11/devotion-for-the-last-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d/

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The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part IV   1 comment

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Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

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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Job 34:21-37

Psalm 12

Matthew 7:1-12

2 Peter 1:1-15

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God cares for the poor and the oppressed, Elihu, Psalm 12, and Matthew 7 tell us.  Yet how do we explain the divine wager in Job 1 and 2, as well as the suffering of other innocent people?  It is a difficult theological question, one for which I, along with the Book of Job, refuse to offer any easy answers.  I not that, according to God in Job 42:7, Job had, unlike Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, spoken truthfully about God.  I remind you, O reader, that Job had spoken critically of God, who agreed with Job in Chapter 42 yet not in Chapters 38-41.  Such contradictions are par for course in a text with layers of authorship.

Elihu, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar should have followed timeless advice which the author of 2 Peter 1 summarized thusly:

…you should make every effort to add virtue to your faith, knowledge to virtue, self-control to knowledge, fortitude to self-control, piety to fortitude, brotherly affection to piety, and love to brotherly affection.

–1:5b-7, The Revised English Bible (1989)

They would have avoided being not only inhospitable but overreaching in statements in defense of God, as they understood God.  Elihu said:

But this is what all sensible folk will say,

and any wise man among my hearers,

“There is not wisdom in Job’s speech,

his words lack sense.

Put him unsparingly to the proof

since his retorts are the same as those that the wicked make.

For to him he adds rebellion,

calling justice into question in our midst

and heaping abuse on God.”

–Job 34:34-37, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

They would have refrained from heaping abuse on Job and would have been good friends had they acted according to the timeless advice the author of 2 Peter 1:5b-7 understood well.

May we–you, O reader, and I–act according to 2 Peter 1:5b-7 daily, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SALVIUS OF ALBI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF MORDECAI JOHNSON, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT NEMESIAN OF SIGUM AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/09/10/devotion-for-the-sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d/

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