Archive for the ‘Vengeance’ Tag

The Opening of the Seven Seals   Leave a comment

Above:  The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Image in the Public Domain

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READING REVELATION, PART X

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Revelation 6:1-7:17

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Without getting lost in the tall weeds of symbolism and numerology, one can consult books that explain the historical background and theological significance of Revelation 6:1-7:17.

THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE

We begin with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  They are, in order:

  1. Jesus, who rides alone, in opposition to the other three;
  2. War,
  3. Famine, and
  4. Death.

The progression of famine and death makes sense.  War is, after all, one of the leading causes of famine.

Emperor Domitian issued an unpopular edict in 92 C.E.  He forbade the laying of new vineyards in Asia Minor and ordered the conversion of half of the vineyards into agricultural land.  The backlash forced Domitian to rescind this edict.  This incident inspired 6:6:

But do not harm the oil and the wine!

In context, the wage in 6:6 was a starvation wage–the price of wheat was sixteen times what it should have been, and the cost of barley was exorbitant, too.  The level of inflation was consistent with wartime scarcity.  Greed frustrated that artificial scarcity and accompanying famine.

Sadly, war, famine, and death have remained ubiquitous since antiquity.  Human nature has not changed.

THE MARTYRS IN HEAVEN

The question of the martyrs in Heaven (6:9-11) is understandable.  Even in Heaven, they are impatient and not entirely happy.  These are the ones whose bodies became sacrifices on the Earth and whose souls became sacrifices in Heaven.  This scene is similar to some scenes in Pseudepigraphal literature.  The prayers of the persecuted righteous, seeking revenge and justice, ascend to Heaven in 1 Enoch 47:1-2; 99:3; and 104:3.  God will answer these prayers in the affirmative, we read there.

What do you intend to do, you sinners,

whither will you flee on that day of judgment,

when you hear the sound of the prayer of the righteous ones?

–1 Enoch 97:3, translated by E. Isaac

2 Baruch 21:19-25 echoes that theme.  That passage begins:

How long will corruption remain, and until when will the time of mortals be happy, and until when will those who pass away be polluted by the great wickedness in this world?

–21:19, translated by A. F. J. Klijn

That is a fair question.

That passage concludes:

And now, show your glory soon and do not postpone that which was promised by you.

–2:25

Revelation 6:9-11 inspired part of a great hymn, “The Church’s One Foundation,” by Samuel John Stone (1839-1900):

…yet saints their watch are keeping,

their cry goes up, “How long?”

and soon the night of weeping 

shall be the morn of song.

In the meantime, Revelation 6:11 tells us, the martyrdoms will continue.

DIVINE JUDGMENT AND MERCY

Revelation 6:12-17, drawing on images from Hebrew prophets and the Assumption/Testament of Moses 10:4-6, presents a vivid depiction of divine wrath.  Divine deliverance of the oppressed may be catastrophic for the oppressors.  How can it be otherwise?

Part of the good news, in the Assumption/Testament of Moses, is:

Then his kingdom will appear throughout his whole creation.

Then the devil will have an end.

Yea, sorrow will be led away with him.

–10:1, translated by J. Priest

I am getting ahead of the story, though.

THE SEALING OF THE SERVANTS OF GOD

Revelation 7:1-8 borrows from Babylonian cosmology, in which the planet was a square, with an angelic watcher of one of the four winds stationed in a corner.  Daniel 7:2-3 also uses this cosmology and describes the winds as destructive agents of God.  This understanding also informs the Syriac Apocalypse of Peter, the Apocalypse of Pseudo-John (chapter 5), and the Questions of Bartholomew (4:31-34).

The sealing (for the preservation) of the servants of God (Revelation 7:3) is similar to a scene in 2 Baruch 6:4-8:1.  The sealed do not receive protection from earthly harm and martyrdom.  They do go to God after they die, though.  The number 144,000 is a fine example of numerology.  One may recall that there were 12 tribes of Israel and that 1000 indicated a large, uncountable quantity.  In context, the meaning is that a vast, uncountable throng of Christians from every people and nation must join the ranks of martyrs before the condition of Revelation 6:11 is fulfilled.

That is not encouraging news, is it?  Yet the news that these martyrs are in Heaven does encourage.

Forces of evil have the power to kill bodies.  Then they have corpses.  These forces can do nothing more to harm these martyrs.

The Gospel of John 16:33b depicts Jesus as telling his apostles:

In the world you will have trouble,

but be brave:

I have conquered the world.

The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Those words occur in the context of the night Jesus was about to become a prisoner.

Let that sink in, O reader.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA OF AVILA, SPANISH ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN, MYSTIC, AND REFORMER

THE FEAST OF GABRIEL RICHARD, FRENCH-AMERICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST IN DETROIT, MICHIGAN

THE FEAST OF OBADIAH HOLMES, ENGLISH BAPTIST MNISTER AND CHAMPION OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IN NEW ENGLAND

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Sin and Punishment   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

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READING JEREMIAH, PART XII

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Jeremiah 17:1-20:18

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The Hebrew prophetic books are repetitive.  When one reads the genre methodically, one realizes this.  Pardon me, therefore, O reader, for not explaining every repeated theme in Jeremiah 17:1-20:18.

Jeremiah 17:1-4 uses powerful imagery to condemn illegitimate worship at cultic sites.  Proverbs 3:3 and 7:3 refer to the tablet of the heart, on which the divine commandments are inscribed.  Yet in Jeremiah 17:1, those tablets are inscribed with the guilt of Judah instead.  Such a heart symbolizes disobedience to God in Ezekiel 2:4 and 3:7.  Eventually, God will make a new covenant, one inscribed on the hearts of the people (Jeremiah 31:31-34).  For now, however, repentance is not an option.  The sins of Judah, not the reparation blood (Leviticus 4:1-7, 13-20), are on the stones of the altar.

2 Kings 22-23 tells of the religious reformation of King Josiah (r. 640-609 B.C.E.).  One may read Jeremiah 17:1-4 and surmise that 17:1-4 predates those reforms or that his four successors presided over a rollback of those reforms.  Either option is feasible.  The second option may be more likely.

God is faithful and forever.  Even the most pious and benevolent people, those who keep the covenant, are not forever.  The Book of Jeremiah focuses on God and on those who are neither pious nor benevolent, though.

Returning to the imagery of the human heart in 17:9-10, we read that the human heart is crooked and deceitful.  The germane Hebrew word, suggestive of deceit, means “crooked.”  The human heart is the most crooked thing, we read.  This is a spiritual and moral pathology.

Jeremiah 17:11 speaks for itself.

Jeremiah’s desire for vengeance (17:18) was predictable.  I have known the same desire under less severe circumstances.  Maybe you have, also, O reader.

The Deuteronomic perspective in the Book of Jeremiah and other Hebrew prophetic books teaches that the (northern) Kingdom of Israel and the (southern) Kingdom of Judah declined and fell because of persistent, unrepentant, collective disregard for the moral mandates of the Law of Moses.  This is the perspective written into much of the Old Testament, from the perspective of the editors after the Babylonian Exile.  Jeremiah 17:19-27 singles out violations of the Sabbath (Deuteronomy 5:14)–especially commercial transactions–as being emblematic of widespread, systemic disregard for the covenant.

Sabbath-keeping has long been a feature of Judaism and Christianity.  Keeping the Sabbath–a sign of freedom in the Law of Moses–has been a way of emulating God.  On the seventh day, in mythology, God created the Sabbath (Genesis 2:1-3).  Sabbath-keeping has always been challenging, in practical terms.  Stopping all work on that day (however one defines it) has always been impossible.  Certain work has always been crucial to perform on the Sabbath, and members of the clergy have had to take their Sabbath some other time in the week.  The Hasmoneans, zealous keepers of the Law of Moses, bowed to reality and engaged in defensive combat (1 Maccabees 2:31-48; 1 Maccabees 9:23-73; 2 Maccabees 15:1-19).  If they had done otherwise, they would have lost battles and lives needlessly.

Sabbath-keeping works to the benefit of people.  Everyone needs to take time off to live.  One should work to live, not live to work.  Structural economic factors may restrict one’s options in keeping the Sabbath as one would prefer to do.  Also, the common good requires, for example, that public health and safety continue on the Sabbath.  Time off is a mark of freedom.  Slavery assumes many forms; one can be a wage slave.

The prophecy of the potter (Jeremiah 18:1-12) is familiar, and popular with lectionary committees.  I have written about it while blogging through lectionaries.  I bring your attention, O reader, to a key point:  God, the Creator, is free to handle His creation as He sees fit.  I am a piece of pottery, not the potter.

People kept plotting against Jeremiah.  Had I been Jeremiah, I would have complained to God, too.  I would have prayed to God to show no mercy on the plotters, also.  I, too, may have rued the day of my birth.  Jeremiah was only human.  God knew that before calling Jeremiah to be a prophet.

Jeremiah made no allies by following God’s instructions in Chapter 19 and symbolically smashing a jug.  That act led to a flogging and a brief incarceration.  Jeremiah suffered intensely and briefly, but Passhur the priest was going to experience “terror all around.” Judah was failing; nobody could change that.

Many people in authority like to maintain their power.  Some of them peacefully resign themselves to the realities of age, health, constitutional term limits, and election results; others do not.  Many people in authority are servant leaders; others are tyrants or would-be despots.  I suppose that nobody in authority wants to hear that the institution, nation-state, kingdom, empire, et cetera, is doomed.  Yet how one handles that news is a test of character.  Besides, power reveals a person’s character.  And, as Heraclitus said,

A man’s character is his fate.

I wonder how Passhur the priest felt in 586 B.C.E., after the Fall of Jerusalem.  I wonder if he remembered the words of Jeremiah and wept bitterly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 10, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES OF NISIBIS, BISHOP; AND SAINT EPHREM OF EDESSA, “THE HARP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK C. GRANT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND NEW TESTAMENT SCHOLAR; AND HIS SON, ROBERT M. GRANT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PATRISTICS SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS OF GETULIUS, AMANTIUS, CAERAELIS, AND PRIMITIVUS, MARTYRS AT TIVOLI, 120; AND SAINT SYMPHROSA OF TIVOLI, MARTYR, 120

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDERICUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THOR MARTIN JOHNSON, U.S. MORAVIAN CONDUCTOR AND MUSIC DIRECTOR

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A Collection of Speeches: The Wickedness of Judah, and the Degenerate City   Leave a comment

Above:  Tares

Image in the Public Domain

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READING FIRST ISAIAH, PART II

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Isaiah 1:2-31

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G. H. D. Kilpatrick, author of the exposition on Isaiah 1-39 in The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 5 (1956), described Isaiah 1 as

The Heart of Isaiah’s Message.

Kilpatrick began:

Here is a tremendous indictment of an apostate nation.  The charge is the blindness, the insensitivity, the brutish stupidity of a people steeped in sin.  The prophet is against them.  In a sense the chapter is an epitome of Isaiah’s whole message and ministry.  In this series of oracles he proceeds from accusation to judgment, and on to the divine promise of mercy in terms of repentance and obedience.  Throughout the book the changes are rung on these themes.

–165

As I reread this chapter for the umpteenth time, I noticed themes that populated the (contemporary) Books of Hosea, Amos, and Micah, too.  I noticed these themes readily because I have blogged my way through them before starting First Isaiah.  I noticed legal charges of having abandoned the covenant.  I noticed the allegation of idolatry–prostitution, metaphorically.  I noticed the condemnation of corruption and social justice, especially that of the economic variety.  I noticed the pronouncement that sacred rituals do not protect one from the consequences of impiety.  I noticed the call to repentance and the possibility of forgiveness.

Chronology is not the organizing principle of the Book of Isaiah.  No, the commission of the prophet is in Chapter 6, for example.  Chapter 1 contains short speeches that summarize themes First Isaiah unpacks in subsequent chapters.

The text provides many options for where I may dwell in this post.  I choose verses 27 and 28.  The translation in Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible (2019), is close to the standard English-language rendering:

Zion shall be redeemed through justice,

and those who turn back in her, through righteousness.

But the rebels and offenders together are shattered,

and those who forsake the LORD shall perish.

However, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) offers a somewhat different translation:

Zion shall be saved in the judgment;

Her repentant ones, in the retribution.

But rebels and sinners shall be crushed,

And those who forsake the LORD shall perish.

These verses date to either the Babylonian Exile or afterward.  (As I wrote regarding the Books of Hosea, Amos, and Micah, the final versions of early prophetic writings date to the time after the Babylonian Exile.)  Differences in Hebrew meter and the concept of Zion’s slavery relative to the surrounding material point to later origin.  That may or may not prove interesting, but there it is.

I noticed that righteousness and justice are related concepts.  This has long constituted old news to me, but I delighted to see another instance of it in Isaiah 1.

That justice and righteousness are related establishes a high standard.  Many people mistake human vendettas for justice.  Many people mistake torture for justice.  Many people are oblivious to or forget Deuteronomy 32:35, in the voice of God:

Vengeance is mine and recompense,

for the time they lose their footing;

Because the day of their disaster is at hand

and their doom is rushing upon them.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

When we set out to take revenge, we embark on a path we ought to leave alone.  God knows better than we do.

I also noticed the difference between the translations of verse 27.  I noticed that TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) had “judgment” for “justice” and “retribution” for “righteousness.”  Yet the germane note in The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), read:

Having been punished, Zion will again know justice and faithfulness.  A new name is given to the reformed Jerusalem; c.f. 62:2-4; Ezekiel 48:35.

–769

The promised salvation will stem only from divine justice and righteousness, not the virtue of Israel.  The destruction of rebels and sinners, however, will stem from their lack of virtue.  For the meantime, Zion, as a faith reality, not a political entity, contains the good and the wicked.  Likewise, in the Parable of the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30), the wheat and the weeds will grow together in the field until the harvest time.  God will judge at the harvest time.  In the meantime, attempting to remove weeds may result in the removal of some wheat, also.

May we–you, O reader, and I–strike a proper balance, by grace.  May we understand correctly the difference between good and evil.  May we understand correctly the difference between that which is sinful and that which is not.  May we understand correctly the difference between justice and injustice.  When appropriate, may we speak out, and do so in the right way.  And may we understand correctly the difference between our tasks and God’s tasks.

If I am going to err, I prefer to do so on the side of kindness, not harshness.  I would rather be too gentle than mean.  I prefer to strike the proper balance in each circumstances, of course.  Yet maybe my Southern training takes over and tells me not to create a needless scene.  I prefer to practice personal diplomacy, even when doing so entails telling white lies.  “No, that dress does not make you look fat,” except it does.  I also know enough to have some idea of what I do not know.  God knows more than I do, and I do not bring people to God by behaving obnoxiously in God’s name.

Nevertheless, as anyone who has read my weblogs sufficiently ought to know, I do not always shy away from writing what I really think.  I am capable of being blunt, too.  There is a time for diplomacy, just as there is a time for bluntness.  Yet there is never any moral justification for not leaving vengeance to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PERCY DEARMER, ANGLICAN CANON AND TRANSLATOR AND AUTHOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONA OF PISA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC AND PILGRIM

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, LUTHER OF THE SLAVES AND FATHER OF SLOVAK HYMNODY

THE FEAST OF RUBY MIDDLETON FORSYTHE, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY THERESA LEDÓCHOWSKA, FOUNDRESS OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF SAINT PETER CLAVER, AND “MOTHER OF AFRICAN MISSIONS;” AND HER SISTER, SAINT URSULA LEDÓCHOWSKA, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE URSULINES OF THE AGONIZING HEART OF JESUS (GRAY URSULINES)

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Attachments and Idolatry, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich Hofmann

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Sixth Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Lord of all power and might, who art the author and giver of all good things:

graft in our hearts the love of thy Name,

increase in us true religion;

nourish us with all goodness,

and of thy great mercy keep us in the same;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 194

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1 Samuel 24:1-20

Psalm 90

Romans 6:1-11

Matthew 19:16-26

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The rich man in Matthew 19:26 had an unhealthy attachment to his wealth.  Jesus, knowing this, counseled the man to remove the obstacle.  Had our Lord and Savior been speaking to a poor man, he would have advised that individual to give up whatever stood in the way–not wealth, obviously, in this hypothetical case.  

Fortunately for King Saul in 1 Samuel 24:1-20, David had no attachment to revenge on him.

Each one of us has at least one unhealthy attachment that functions as an idol.  The object of the attachment may otherwise be positive or morally neutral; the object need not be inherently negative for the attachment to it to be unhealthy.  What attachment(s) is/are God calling you, O reader to renounce?  Liberty in God to be your best self is a great blessing.  Claiming that blessing requires renouncing any unhealthy attachment.  What is holding you back?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACRINA THE ELDER, HER FAMILY, AND SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE ELDER

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAESARIUS OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT CAESARIA OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

THE FEAST OF EIVIND JOSEF BERGGRAV, LUTHERAN BISHOP OF OSLO, TRANSLATOR, AND LEADER OF THE NORWEGIAN RESISTANCE DURING WORLD WAR II

THE FEAST OF KRISTEN KVAMME, NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT SAVA I, FOUNDER OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH AND FIRST ARCHBISHOP OF THE SERBS

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Human Agents of God, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Jesus Before Pilate, First Interview, by James Tissot

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:

Hosea 14:1-9 (Protestant and Anglican)/Hosea 14:2-10 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

Psalm 34

Colossians 3:12-4:6

John 18:28-40

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He who is wise will consider these words,

He who is prudent will take note of them.

For the paths of the LORD are smooth;

The righteous can walk on them,

while sinners stumble on them.

–Hosea 14:10, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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I would feel better about Colossians 3:12-4:6 if it did not accept slavery.

Repent and return to God, Hosea 14, urges.  Accept divine forgiveness and act accordingly.  Forgive each other.  After all, everybody needs forgiveness.  And, although grace is free, it is not cheap.  Become a vehicle of grace.  Remain a vehicle of grace.  And do not be an in instrument of injustice, as Pontius Pilate was.  That is my composite summary of the four readings.

And, of course, never accept cultural practices that run afoul of the Golden Rule.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 8, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THORFINN OF HAMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF A. J. MUSTE, DUTCH-AMERICAN MINISTER, LABOR ACTIVIST, AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF ARCHANGELO CORELLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS COPERNICUS AND GALILEO GALILEI, SCIENTISTS

THE FEAST OF HARRIET BEDELL, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS AND MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2021/01/08/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-d-humes/

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Resisting Evil Without Joining Its Ranks, Part V   1 comment

Above:  Avenge Me of Mine Adversary

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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1 Samuel 26:2-23 or Lamentations 1:1-12

Psalm 112

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 18:1-8

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Never pay back evil for evil….Do not let evil conquer you, but use good to conquer evil.

–Romans 12:17a, 21, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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All of the lesson from Romans 12 explains itself and constitutes timeless advice about how to live in community.  I encourage frequent reading of it, followed by corresponding actions.  Details will differ according to circumstances, such as who, where, and when one is, of course.  The principles remain constant, however.

“Anger” comes from the Old Norse word for “grief.”  Anger flows from grief, literally.  Others may commit evil or some lesser variety of sin, causing us to suffer.  We may be properly sad and angry about that.  Human beings bear the image of God, not the image of doormats, after all.  Resisting evil is a moral imperative.  So is resisting evil in proper ways.  One cannot conquer evil if one joins the ranks of evildoers.

I have struggled with this spiritual issue in contexts much less severe than the fall of the Kingdom of Judah and the time of the Babylonian Exile.  I have known the frustration that results from powerlessness as my life, as I have known it, has ended.  I have learned to read the angry portions of the Book of Psalms and identity with them.  I have also learned of the toxicity of such feelings.  I have learned the wisdom of obeying God and letting go of grudges, even when forgiveness has been more than I could muster.

After all, all people will reap what they sow.  Why not leave vengeance to God?  Why not strive to become the best version of oneself one can be in God?  Why not seek the support of one’s faith community to do so?  Why not support others in one’s faith community in their spiritual growth?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 30, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES MONTGOMERY, ANGLICAN AND MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DIET EMAN; HER FIANCÉ, HEIN SIETSMA, MARTYR, 1945; AND HIS BROTHER, HENDRIK “HENK” SIETSMA; RIGHTEOUS AMONG THE NATIONS

THE FEAST OF JAMES RUSSELL MACDUFF AND GEORGE MATHESON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTERS AND AUTHORS

THE FEAST OF SARAH JOSEPHA BUELL HALE, POET, AUTHOR, EDITOR, AND PROPHETIC WITNESS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/30/devotion-for-proper-26-year-c-humes/

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Judgment and Mercy, Part XVI   1 comment

Above:  The Transfiguration

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

FEBRUARY 14, 2021

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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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Malachi 3:19-24/4:1-6

Psalm 99

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

Luke 9:18-36

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How well can we understand the judgment and mercy of God?  Christianity dwells on divine mercy yet the New Testament contains plenty of judgment.  Need I remind anyone of Revelation?  Furthermore, anger and fantasies of violence recur throughout the Psalms.  We read of the Day of the LORD in Malachi.  In that passage we read, according to TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985), that the faithful will

trample the wicked to a pulp.

Who do we say God is?  Who do we say Jesus is?  We cannot escape all spiritual veils, for we know in part and carry cultural blinders.  Yet we can, by grace, recognize Jesus sufficiently to follow him to Jerusalem, so to speak.

God will tend to judgment and mercy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 22, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT DEOGRATIAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF CARTHAGE

THE FEAST OF EMMANUEL MOURNIER, PERSONALIST PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF JAMES DE KOVEN, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HUGHES, BRITISH SOCIAL REFORMER AND MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM EDWARD HICKSON, ENGLISH MUSIC EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL REFORMER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/03/22/devotion-for-transfiguration-sunday-year-c-humes/

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Pity   1 comment

Above:  Christ Exorcising Demons

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty God, who knowest us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers,

that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright,

grant to us such strength and protection as may support us in all dangers,

and carry us through all temptations;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 131

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Isaiah 51:1-12

Psalm 63

Romans 3:21-26; 5:18-21

Mark 1:29-45

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When we despair, as we frequently have sound reasons to do, do we wallow in that emotion?  Or do we look to God?  We, as human beings, need to release our emotions.  Crying out to God is a healthy way of doing so.  We may, as the author of Psalm 63 did, pray that God will smite our enemies.  We may also recall Romans 12:10-21, however.  Yet we feel what we feel.  If we give it to God, we let go of a great spiritual burden.

Grace is free, costly, and scandalous.  If falls upon us, people like us, those unlike us, and our enemies.  Grace ignores our socially-constructed categories and our psychological defense mechanisms.  Grace makes us whole, if we permit it to do so.  If we reject grace, we do not remain as we are.  No, we became worse off.

The pity of Christ provides us with a model to follow.  Do we pity others as often as we ought?  Do we want them to be their best selves, physically, spiritually, et cetera?  Assuming that we do, do we know how to act accordingly?  Aye, there is the rub!

I live in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia.  I frequently see panhandlers at or near busy intersections.  One cannot walk through downtown Athens for long without encountering panhandlers.  Signs in downtown Athens advise giving funds to certain organizations that help homeless people instead.  This makes sense to me, for many panhandlers are capable of getting jobs and make much money, too.  This breed of panhandlers cast a pall of judgment upon those actually in desperate straits.

Where is the border separating clear-eyed realism from uninformed judgment and bad tactics from good tactics?  Finding that boundary can be difficult.  Realism can resemble insensitivity.  Good-hearted foolishness can look like the proper course of action.  May we, by grace, be as innocent as doves and as shrewd as serpents as we seek to follow Christ and have pity for each other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAN SARKANDER, SILESIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND “MARTYR OF THE CONFESSIONAL,” 1620

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA BARBARA MAIX, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY

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A Covenant People, Part III   3 comments

Above:  John the Baptist in the Desert

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O God, the Father of all truth and grace, who has called us out of darkness

into marvelous light by the glorious gospel of Thy Son;

grant unto us power, we beseech Thee, to walk worthy of this vocation,

with all lowliness and meekness, endeavoring to keep

the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace;

that we may have our fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 127

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Isaiah 61:1-6

Psalm 27

Romans 12:10-21

Luke 3:1-22

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Never pay back evil for evil.

–Romans 12:17a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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The reading from Romans 12 offers some challenging instructions:

  1. Bless, not curse, one’s persecutors (v. 14).
  2. Refrain from repaying evil with evil (v. 17).
  3. Leave vengeance to God (v. 19).
  4. Conquer evil with goodness.  Do not let evil conquer one (vs. 20-21).

Justice is one matter and revenge is another, St. Paul the Apostle understood.  He did not counsel people to live as doormats.  In the context of faith community–a minority population, actually–St. Paul encouraged his audience to take care of each other as they consciously depended entirely on God.  He urged them to be morally superior to their enemies.

The road to evil begins with the delusion that one can and must do x because God either does not exist or care.  (See Psalms 14 and 53, as well as what I have written about them.)  This delusion opens the portal to an approach to life according to which the ends justify the means.

When we, individually and collectively, trust in God, we are free to be better people than those who seek to destroy us unjustly.  We are free to be our best selves and communities.  We are free to take care of each other, individually and collectively.  We are free to refrain from exploiting and making excuses for exploitation.  We are free to gaze upon the loveliness of YHWH and to awake each dawn in the temple of YHWH.  We are free to be a covenant people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 15, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZACHARY OF ROME, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JAN ADALBERT BALICKI AND LADISLAUS FINDYSZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS IN POLAND

THE FEAST OF OZORA STEARNS DAVIS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF VETHAPPAN SOLOMON, APOSTLE TO THE NICOBAR ISLANDS

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Judgment and Mercy, Part XII   1 comment

Above:  The Negev Desert

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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Isaiah 61:1-11

Psalm 126

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

John 1:1-18

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Advent, in most lectionaries, begins with the Second Coming of Jesus and ends in a way that leads into the First Coming.  The Humes four-year lectionary follows that pattern.

The balance of divine judgment and mercy in these four readings is obvious.  In them judgment and mercy are like sides of a coin; one cannot have one without the other being present.  For example, in Isaiah 61, in the voice of Third Isaiah, divine mercy for exiles entails judgment of their oppressors.  The reading from 1 Thessalonians omits 5:15, unfortunately.

Make sure that people do not try to repay evil for evil; always aim at what is best for each other and for everyone.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

God reserves the right to repay evil with judgment.  Far be it from me to tell God when to judge and when to show mercy.

The lectionary’s turn toward the First Coming is especially obvious in John 1:1-18, the magnificent prologue to the Fourth Gospel.  According to this pericope, which emphasizes mercy (as the Johannine Gospel does), judgment is still present.  It is human judgment, though; those who reject the light of God condemn themselves.

That which we call divine wrath, judgment, and punishment is simply the consequences of our actions blowing back on us much of the time.  These can be occasions for repentance, followed by forgiveness and restoration.  Hellfire-and-damnation theology is at least as wrong as universalism; both are extreme positions.

As we prepare to celebrate the Incarnation, may we, trusting in God and walking with Jesus, recall these words (in the context of the Second Coming) from 1 Thessalonians 5:23:

…and may your spirit, life and body be kept blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VENERABLE MATTHEW TALBOT, RECOVERING ALCOHOLIC IN DUBLIN, IRELAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY GIANELLI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF SAINT ALPHONSUS LIGUORI AND THE SISTERS OF MARY DELL’ORTO

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK LUCIAN HOSMER, U.S. UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SEATTLE, FIRST NATIONS CHIEF, WAR LEADER, AND DIPLOMAT

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2019/06/07/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-b-humes/

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