Archive for the ‘Zacchaeus’ Tag

Repentance, Part VI   1 comment

Above:  Zacchaeus, by Niels Larsen Stevns

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Lord Jesus, who hast called us each by name and brought us thy salvation:

give us grace to welcome thee and, in all our affairs,

to deal justly with our brothers, in thy name.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124

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Judges 7:1-8

Acts 9:1-8

Luke 19:1-10

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Repentance is changing one’s mind and turning one’s back on a particular sin or a set of sins.  We read of the beginning of the repentance of Saul of Tarsus (who became St. Paul the Apostle) in Acts 9:1-8 and of the repentance of Zacchaeus, a tax thief for the Roman Empire, in Luke 19:1-10.  We also read, when we compare the Lukan text to Leviticus 6:1-7, that Zacchaeus, promised to pay a restitution rate of 400%, although the standard rate of restitution for his offense was 120%.

Having too many soldiers before a battle is not usually a problem.  Yet, we read in Judges 7:1-8, of God telling Gideon to continue sending soldiers home, until the army, once 32,000 men strong, consisted of 300 troops.  We read of 10,000 soldiers “turning back” because of fear and timidity.  We also read of the victory being unmistakably the work of God.

Are we afraid to turn our backs to any particular sins?  May we repent at least as boldly as we sin.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMÉ DE LAS CASAS, “APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, ANGLICAN DEAN OF WESTMINSTER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD WILLIAM LEINBACH, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERARD, FIRST DEACONESS IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

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Faithful Community, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Zacchaeus, by Niels Larsen Stevns

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as pass our understanding:

Pour into our hearts such love toward you, that we, loving you above all things,

may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 139

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Exodus 20:1-20

Psalm 8

Acts 16:1-10

Luke 19:1-10

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Zacchaeus was a tax chief.  He collected taxes for the occupying Roman Empire.  Zacchaeus also became wealthy by collecting more than his Roman superiors required.  That was how the tax farming system worked; one had to steal in order to earn one’s livelihood.  Jesus restored Zacchaeus to community.  The tax collector’s repentance was evident in the fact that he held himself to the most stringent standards of restitution.  According to Leviticus 6:5, the rate of restitution applicable to Zacchaeus was 120%.  He volunteered to pay 400% instead.

The life of community, defined by following God, is the theme that unites the readings for this week.  Within a relatively homogenous group this can prove difficult.  That is more so when one adds the element of a heterogeneous population.  Just as one should avoid creating a theocracy, one should also grasp that people depend upon, are responsible to, and are responsible for each other.  Mutual respect goes a long way toward proper living in community.

Another characteristic of faithful community is that it encompasses more people over time.  Sometimes God surprises us by expanding it in an unexpected direction, as in Acts 16:10.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH ANN SETON, FOUNDRESS OF THE AMERICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF LANGRES, TERTICUS OF LANGRES, GALLUS OF CLERMONT, GREGORY OF TOURS, AVITUS I OF CLERMONT, MAGNERICUS OF TRIER, AND GAUGERICUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN LUDWIG FREYDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

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Deeds and Creeds I   1 comment

Archelaus

Above:   Archelaus

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Merciful God, gracious and benevolent,

through your Son you invite all the world to a meal of mercy.

Grant that we may eagerly follow this call,

and bring us with all your saints into your life of justice and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 5:12-14

Psalm 50

Luke 19:11-27

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“Consider this well, you who forget God,

lest I rend you and there be none to deliver you.

Whoever offers me the sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me;

but to those who keep in my way will I show the salvation of God.”

–Psalm 50:23-24, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The traditional title for the pericope from Luke 19 is the Parable of the Pounds.  That reading is superficially similar to the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), which teaches the imperative of diligence in the work of God.  In the case of Luke 19:11-27, however, the real point is quite different.

Textual context matters.  Immediately prior to the parable we read of our Lord and Savior’s encounter with Zacchaeus, a man who worked as a tax collector for the Roman Empire.  He was a literal tax thief, although, as we read, he changed his ways and made more restitution than the Law of Moses required.  Immediately after the parable Jesus enters Jerusalem at the beginning of that fateful Holy Week.  The story of Zacchaeus explains verse 11a (“As they were listening to this”); the context of the impending Triumphal Entry is crucial to understanding the pericope which Volume IX (1995) of The New Interpreter’s Bible calls “The Parable of the Greedy and Vengeful King.”

The nobleman in the parable resembles members of the Herodian Dynasty, especially Archelaus (reigned 4 B.C.E.-6 C.E.), son of Herod the Great (reigned 47-4 B.C.E.), Governor of Galilee then the client king of the Jews.  Herod the Great, who traveled to Rome to seek the title of king, reigned as one because the Roman Republic then Empire granted him that title.  He was also a cruel man.  Biblical and extra-Biblical sources agree on this point, constituting a collection of stories of his tyranny and cruelty.  In Matthew 2 he ordered the Massacre of the Innocents, for example.  Archelaus, a son of Herod the Great, ruled as the Roman-appointed ethnarch of Idumea, Judea, and Samaria, after traveling to Rome.  Archelaus sought the title of King, which the Emperor Augustus denied him after meeting with a delegation of Jews.  Archelaus, mentioned by name in Matthew 2:22, was also cruel and tyrannical, victimizing Jews and Samaritans alike.  On one day alone he ordered the massacre of 3000 people at the Temple precinct in Jerusalem.  Eventually Augustus deposed him.  Herod Antipas, full brother of Archelaus, ruled on behalf of the Roman Empire as the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C.E. to 39 C.E., when he sought the title of King and found himself banished to Gaul instead.  Antipas, a chip off the old block, ordered the execution of St. John the Baptist (Matthew 14:3-10) and sought to kill Jesus, who called the tetrarch “that fox” (Luke 13:32).

A trope in the interpretation of parables of Jesus is that one of the characters represents God.  That does not apply accurately to the parable in Luke 19:11-27.  In fact, the unnamed nobleman, who orders the execution of his political opponents, is an antitype of Jesus, who enters Jerusalem triumphantly in the next pericope and dies on the cross a few days later, at the hands of Roman officials.  The Kingdom of God is quite different from the Roman Empire, built on violence and exploitation.  The kingship of Jesus is quite different from the model that the Roman Empire offers.

Amos 5 condemns those in the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah who profess to follow Yahweh, yet oppose the establishment of justice, especially for the needy.  There is nothing wrong with religious rituals themselves, but engaging in them while perpetuating injustice makes a mockery of them.  God is unimpressed, we read.

God, in Psalm 50, addresses those who recite divine statutes yet do not keep them, who think wrongly that God is like them.  They will not find deliverance in God, we read.  That Psalm fits well with Amos 5, of course.  Then there are the evildoers who do not even pretend to honor God and do not change their ways.  Their path is doomed in the long run also.

One must reject the false dichotomy of deeds versus creeds.  In actuality, I argue, deeds reveal creeds.  One might detect a dichotomy between deeds and words, but, barring accidents, no dichotomy between deeds and creeds exists.

What do your deeds reveal about your creeds, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, APOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/06/01/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-26-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Seeking, Finding, and Following Divine Guidance   1 comment

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Above:  Zacchaeus, by Niels Larsen Stevns

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Beautiful God, you gather your people into your realm,

and you promise us food from your tree of life.

Nourish us with your word, that empowered by your Spirit

we may love one another and the world you have made,

through Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 34

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 2:1-5 (Thursday)

Proverbs 2:6-8 (Friday)

Proverbs 2:9-15 (Saturday)

Psalm 67 (All Days)

Acts 15:36-41 (Thursday)

Acts 16:1-8 (Friday)

Luke 19:1-10 (Saturday)

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May God be merciful to us and bless us,

show us the light of his countenance and come to us.

Let your ways be known upon earth,

your saving health among all nations.

Let the people praise you, O God;

let all the peoples praise you.

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,

for you judge the peoples with equity

and guide all the nations upon earth.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;

let all the peoples praise you.

The earth has brought forth her increase;

may God, our own God, give us his blessing.

May God give us his blessing,

and may all the ends of the earth stand in aw of him.

–Psalm 67, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Seeking divine guidance, which God provides, is a noble and frequent occurrence.  But how commonplace is discerning that guidance properly versus mistaking one’s inner voice or the opinions of others for divine guidance?  St. Paul the Apostle sought to spread the Gospel in certain regions yet God’s purpose was for him to so in Macedonia instead.  One can seek to do something to glorify God and still misunderstand God’s call on one’s life, this story has taught for almost 2000 years.

Sometimes texts can prove to be ambiguous.  Does Proverbs 2:1-15 indicate that knowing and acting on the will of God protects one from evildoers?  If so, the passage is falsely optimistic.  If, however, it is in the spirit of Matthew 10:28a (“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul….”), Proverbs 2:1-15 is true.

Luke 19:1-10 (verse 8, specifically) contains other subtleties.  The passage is the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus, a tax collector who has been defrauding his neighbors for years.  He was literally a tax thief for the Roman Empire.  According to Exodus 22:7, the rate of restitution in the case of the theft of money or goods from someone’s house was 200%.  In Luke 19:8b (Revised Standard Version–Second Edition, 1971, consistent with the Greek text), Zacchaeus said,

Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.

–present tense.

That sentence can mean one of two things–that Zacchaeus did that already or planned to do that.  The translation of the Bible or a portion thereof is an act of interpretation.  Thus, in the New International Version (1978, 1984, and 2011 permutations) and in Today’s New International Version (2005) one reads:

Look, Lord!  Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.

The “here and now,” not present in the original Greek text, occurs also in The New English Bible (1970) and The Revised English Bible (1989).  Other translations opt for the future tense, as in the case of The New Revised Standard Version (1989).

The context of Luke 19:1-10 indicates that Zacchaeus repented–turned around, changed his mind–that Jesus approved, and that Zacchaeus found restoration to his community.  He had violated the Biblical injunction not to exploit others and paid the price for it.  Resolving to do the right thing then following through set him on the path to justice.  Zacchaeus did even more than the Law of Moses required him to do.  This course of action was costly in material terms yet much more rewarding spiritually and socially.

I do not pretend to be an expert on the practical, circumstantial details of the will of God, but I have paid attention to certain Biblical principles.  Among them is the fact that economic exploitation is sinful.  The Law of Moses, Hebrew prophets, Jesus, and Revelation 18 agree on this point.  Opposing economic exploitation might place one opposite certain corporate leaders and most of the hosts on the FOX News Channel, but so be it.  One can follow mammon or Jesus, but not both.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 4, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH SETON, FOUNDER OF THE AMERICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF LANGRES, TERTICUS OF LANGRES, GALLUS OF CLERMONT, GREGORY OF TOURS, AVITUS I OF CLERMONT, MAGNERICUS OF TRIER, AND GAUGERICUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN LUDWIG FREYDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/01/04/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Grace, Hope, Free Will, and Doom   1 comment

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Above:  Sycamore Grove, Glen El Capitan, California, June 1899

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/det1994024767/PP/)

Reproduction Number = LC-D43-T01-1370

Photograph by William Henry Jackson (1843-1942)

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The Assigned Readings:

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:14 and Psalm 119:137-144

or 

Isaiah 1:10-18 and Psalm 32:1-8

then 

2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12

Luke 19:1-10

The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through 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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Some Related Posts:

Proper 26, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/proper-26-year-a/

Proper 26, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/proper-26-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-twenty-fourth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-confession-for-the-twenty-fourth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-twenty-fourth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Habakkuk 1-2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/week-of-proper-13-friday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-13-saturday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/proper-22-year-c/

Isaiah 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-november-27-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twelfth-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/week-of-proper-10-monday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/proper-14-year-c/

2 Thessalonians 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/week-of-proper-16-monday-year-2/

Luke 19:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/devotion-for-the-forty-third-and-forty-fourth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/26/week-of-proper-28-tuesday-year-1/

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Oppressors afflict the godly and the merely innocent.  Courts are corrupt, kings and emperors are insensitive, and/or the homeland is occupied.  This is an unjust reality.  And what will God do about it?

The omitted portion of 1 Thessalonians 1 gives one answer:  God will repay the oppressors with affliction.  Sometimes this is the merciful answer to the pleas of the afflicted, for many oppressors will not cease from oppressing otherwise.  I with that this were not true.  I wish that more people would recognize the error of their ways and amend them—repent.  But I am realist.

Many pains are in store for the wicked:

but whoever trusts in the Lord is surrounded by steadfast love.

–Psalm 32:11, New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

But others will repent.  Zacchaeus, once a tax thief for the Roman Empire, did just that.  Leviticus 6:1-5 required Zacchaeus to repay the principal amount of the fraud plus twenty percent.  Instead he repaid four times the principal amount of the fraud.  That action was consistent with Exodus 22:1, which required replacing one stolen then slaughtered sheep with four sheep.  Zacchaeus did more than the Law of Moses required of him.  Yes, he had less money afterward, but he regained something much more valuable—his reputation in the community.  He was restored to society.  And it happened because he was willing and Jesus sought him out.  We humans need to be willing to do the right thing.  Grace can finish what free will begins.

Sometimes I think that God wants to see evidence of good will and initiative from us and that these are enough to satisfy God.  We are weak, distracted easily, and fooled with little effort, but God can make much out of a little good will and even the slightest bit of initiative.  They are at least positive indications—sparks from which fires can grow.  But they depend upon a proper sense of right and wrong—morality.  An immoral act is one which a person commits even though he or she knows it is wrong.  An amoral act is one which a person with no sense of morality commits.  Zaccheaeus was immoral (mostly) until he decided to become moral (mostly).  And grace met him where he was.

There is hope for many of the people we might consider beyond the scope of redemption and restoration.  God is present to extend such hope, and you, O reader, might be an agent of such hope to someone.  If you are or are to be so, please be that—for the sake of that one and those whom he or she will affect.  Unfortunately, some will, by free will, refuse that hope.  That is one element of the dark side of free will.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 9, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE FEAST OF THOMAS TOKE LYNCH, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ANNA LAETITIA WARING, HUMANITARIAN AND HYMN WRITER; AND HER UNCLE, SAMUEL MILLER WARING, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS, BISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE

THE FEAST OF SAINTS WILLIBALD OF EICHSTATT AND LULLUS OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT WALBURGA OF HEIDENHELM, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; SAINTS PETRONAX OF MONTE CASSINO, WINNEBALD OF HEIDENHELM, WIGBERT OF FRITZLAR, AND STURMIUS OF FULDA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS; AND SAINT SEBALDUS OF VINCENZA, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT AND MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/proper-26-year-c/

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Of Food and Ritual Propriety   1 comment

Above:  A Sycamore Tree in Jericho

Image Source = Bonio

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Zacchaeus-sycamore.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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2 Maccabees 6:18-31 (Revised English Bible):

Eleazar, one of the leading teachers of the law, a man of great age and distinguished bearing, was forced to open his mouth to eat pork; but preferring death with honour to life with impiety, he spat it out and voluntarily submitted to the torture.  So should men act who have the courage to reject which despite a natural desire to save their lives it is not lawful to eat.  Because of their long acquaintance with them, the officials in charge of this sacrilegious meal had a word with Eleazar in private; they urged him to bring meat which he was permitted to eat and had himself prepared; he need only pretend to comply with the king’s order to eat the sacrificial meat.  In that way he would escape death by taking advantage of the clemency which their long-standing friendship merited.  But Eleazar made an honourable decision, one worthy of his years and the authority of old age, worthy of the grey hairs he had attained to and wore with such distinction, worthy of his faultless conduct from childhood, but above all worthy of the holy and God-given law; he replied at once:

Send me to my grave! If I went through with this pretence at my time of my life, many of the young might believe that at the age of ninety Eleazar had turned apostate.  If I practiced deceit for the sake of a brief moment of life, I should lead them astray and stain my old age with dishonour.  I might for the present avoid man’s punishment, but alive or dead I should never escape the hand of the Almighty.  If I now die bravely, I shall show that I have deserved my long life and leave to the young a noble example; I shall be teaching them how to die a good death, gladly and nobly, for our revered and holy laws.

With these words he went straight to the torture, while those who a short time before had shown him friendship now turned hostile because, to them, what he said was madness.  When Eleazar was on the point of death from the blows he had received, he groaned aloud and said:

To the Lord belongs all holy knowledge; he knows what terrible agony I endure in my body from this flogging, though I could have escaped death; yet he knows also that in my soul I suffer gladly, because I stand in awe of him.

So he died; and by his death he left a noble example and a memorial of virtue, not only to the young but also to the great mass of his countrymen.

Psalm 3 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  LORD,  how many adversaries I have!

how many there are who rise up against me!

2  How many there are who say of me,

“There is no help for him in his God.”

3  But you, O LORD, are a shield about me;

you are my glory, the one who lifts up my head.

4  I call aloud to the LORD,

and he answers me from his holy hill;

5  I lie down and go to sleep;

I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.

6  I do not fear the multitudes of people

who set themselves against me all around.

7  Rise up, O LORD; set me free, O my God;

surely, you will strike all my enemies across my face,

you will break the teeth of the wicked.

8  Deliverance belongs to the LORD.

Your blessing be upon your people!

Luke 19:1-10 (Revised English Bible):

Entering Jericho Jesus made his way through the city.  There was a man there named Zacchaeus; he was superintendent of taxes and very rich.  He was eager to see what Jesus looked like; but, being  a little man, he could not see him for the crowd.  So he ran on ahead and climbed a sycomore tree in order to see him, for he was to pass that way.  When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said,

Zacchaeus, be quick to come down, for I must stay at your house today.

He climbed down as quickly as he could and welcomed him gladly.  At this time there was a general murmur of disapproval.

He has gone in to be the guest of a sinner,

they said.  But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord,

Here and now, sir, I give half my possessions to charity; and if I have defrauded anyone, I will repay him four times over.

Jesus said to him,

Today  salvation has come to this house–for this man too is a son of Abraham.  The Son of Man has come to seek and to save what is lost.

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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 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.

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Some Related Posts:

Torture:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/a-prayer-for-those-who-inflict-torture/

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/a-prayer-for-those-who-are-tortured/

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There is much that is wearisome about the four Books of the Maccabees.  Consider elderly Eleazar’s speech, set in the context of his flogging to death.  Really, do you think that someone would be so eloquent in such a circumstance?  By the way, there are more over-the-top righteous speeches in 4 Maccabees.  But such speeches made the books of the Maccabees popular with many Christians, living under the threat of persecution, during the earliest centuries of the faith.

So Eleazar preferred to die while keeping the Law of God, as he understood it, rather than even pretend to obey the royal command to eat pork–and pork sacrificed to idol.  The Apostle Paul, writing in 1 Corinthians 8, did not become upset about eating meat sacrificed to idols, for, as he wrote, there is only God.  Yet he recommended not consuming such meat, so as not to confuse those who thought that pantheons were real.  Eating such meat was lawful for him, but not permitted.  Then there is Simon Peter’s vision of ritually unclean food in Acts 10:9-16.

What God has made clean, you must not call profane,

God said.

I am a Gentile–one raised Protestant.  So, not only do I enjoy an occasional pork chop and a ham sandwich, but I even eat before Eucharist and consume meat on Fridays, including Good Friday.  Food prohibitions beyond those associated with health concerns seem superfluous to me.  Nevertheless, none of these facts negate the faith of Eleazar or the tyranny of Antiochus Epiphanes.

Speaking of food…

Jesus invited himself to eat with Zacchaeus, a tax collector and, in so doing, caused a scandal.  The reason for the scandal was the profession of his host, Roman tax collecting.  The Roman imperial tax collection system at the time encouraged corruption, for tax collectors lived off the excess funds they gathered.  Zacchaeus seems to have especially corrupt and understandably despised, but he sought Jesus, who recognized potential in him and responded to that.  Zacchaeus acted to make his repentance plain, for he volunteered to made resitution at a higher level than the Law of Moses required.  Four-fold restitution was the rate mandatory for violent and deliberate destruction (Exodus 22:1), but two-fold restitution was the assigned rate for run-of-the-mill theft (Exodus 22:4 and 7).  And Leviticus 6:5 and Numbers 5:7 specified that the rate of restitution in the case of voluntary confession and repayment was the amount stolen plus one-fifth.

I wonder what else Zacchaeus did.  The Biblical narrative is silent on the matter, but one can assume safely that it reflected the positive impact of Jesus on his life.  Our Lord ate with people such as Zacchaeus, thereby keeping “bad” company.  One was not supposed to eat with “bad” company, according to respectable social norms at the time and place.

Jesus disregarded the appearance of propriety when he reached out to Zacchaeus.  Eleazar gave his life when he maintained such appearances and obeyed his faith.  I propose that there is a rule governing whether one ought to maintain the appearance of propriety:  Why is one doing it?  If the rationale is compassion, maintaining the appearance of propriety is probably justifiable, for many people cannot distinguish between appearances and reality.  But if one is doing this to make one’s self look good, it is probably not justifiable. Would you, O reader, rather be Zacchaeus or Jesus at the dinner, or someone scoffing at the reality of that meal?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 26, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP NERI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/26/week-of-proper-28-tuesday-year-1/

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