Archive for the ‘Zerubbabel’ Tag

The Coronation of Joshua, the High Priest   Leave a comment

Above:  Joshua, High Priest

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART XIII

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Zechariah 6:9-15

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The contents of Zechariah 1:7-6:15 date to early February 519 B.C.E. (1:7).

Zechariah 6:9-15 depicts the making of two crowns yet the coronation of just one man–the high priest, Joshua ben Jehozadak.  We read another reference to “the Branch,” Zerubbabel, supposedly due to wear a royal crown and restore the Davidic Dynasty.  We know that he did neither.  We read an affirmation of the dual leadership of Joshua and Zerubbabel.

Zechariah 6:15 predicts the completion of the Second Temple, under one condition:

If only you will obey the LORD your God!

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

That is almost a quote from Deuteronomy 28:1, at the beginning of a chapter about blessings, curses, and the consequences of disobedience to God.  Deuteronomy 28, placed in the mouth of Moses, comes from a time long after him.  The chapter benefits from centuries’ worth of hindsight.

Hindsight is the context from which people tell stories and weave interpretations.  Hindsight is useful and crucial during transitional periods, such as the temporal context of Haggai-First Zechariah.  Those who fail to learn the lessons of the past are not destined to repeat them.  Time does not play on a loop.  No, those who fail to learn the lessons of the past are destined to commit variations of those errors in new contexts.

Zechariah 6:15b states the overriding theme of Haggai 1-2 and Zechariah 1-8:

If only you will obey the LORD your God!

This is also a theme that repeats, as if on a loop, throughout the Old and New Testaments.  This theme remains germane in 2021.  However, knowing the details of how to obey God can prove challenging.  Applying timeless principles in circumstances introduces a degree of relativism.  I know, for example, that God commands me to love my neighbor as I love myself.  But how I should do that in a particular time, place, and cultural setting, as opposed to another time, place, and cultural setting?

One may have to do one’s best, trust in God, hope to get it right, and pray for forgiveness if one errs.  The desire to please God is a good start, at least.  It is more than many people want to do.  And, by grace, one can forgive oneself for trying and failing, just as God has forgiven one.

The rest of the story comes from Ezra 6:1-22 and 1 Esdras 7:-15.  We read that the construction of the Second Temple was complete in 516 B.C.E., and that a celebration of Passover followed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN DE JACOBIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY BISHOP IN ETHIOPIA; AND SAINT MICHAEL GHEBRE, ETHIOPIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAMILLUS DE LELLIS, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND FOUNDER OF THE MINISTERS OF THE SICK

THE FEAST OF LEON MCKINLEY ADKINS, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MATTHEW BRIDGES, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAMSON OCCUM, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO NATIVE AMERICANS

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The Fourth Vision, Fifth Vision, and Second Oracle of First Zechariah   Leave a comment

Above:  Zerubbabel’s Temple

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART IX

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Zechariah 3:1-4:14

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The contents of Zechariah 1:7-6:15 date to early February 519 B.C.E. (1:7).

The fourth vision (3:1-10; 4:4-5) is of the purification of the high priest Joshua ben Jehozadak, whom we met in Haggai 1:1.  TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) correctly translates the label in 3:2 as “the Accuser,” not “the Satan” or “Satan.”  This version thereby avoids an anachronistic reading of the doctrine of Satan, who, in Jewish theology, went from being an employee of YHWH to rebellious free agent during the Persian period.  “The Satan”–“the Accuser” and “the Adversary”–as an employee of YHWH in Numbers 22:26 and Job 1 and 2, for example.

One may legitimately argue that Satan was a rebellious free agent long before Zoroastrianism influenced Jewish theology, after the Babylonian Exile.  I, as a student of history, try not to read anachronisms into Biblical stories, though.

The vision depicts high priest Joshua as an unjustly criticized servant of God, affirmed and purified by God.  We read that Joshua was human, therefore flawed, yet that this intracommunity sniping was harmful.

We also read (as in Haggai 1:1) that Joshua and Zerubbabel (the governor) shared power.  One may recall Zerubbabel from Haggai 1:1 and 2:20-23.  One may remember that Zerubbabel would have been the Davidic king if there had been one.  One may recall that Haggai identified Zerubbabel as a king in the future (our ancient past).  Zerubbabel is “the Branch” in Zechariah 3:8.  The oracle about Zerubbabel (4:6-10) follows the fourth vision and relates to it.  That oracle declares that the governor will, by divine aid, oversee the completion of the rebuilding of the Temple.

The vision regarding high priest Joshua also predicts unusual prosperity in the future (Zechariah 4:4).  See Micah 4:4 and 1 Kings 5:5, also.

The fifth vision (4:1-3, 11-14) is of the lampstand (a menorah) and olive trees.  This vision speaks of Joshua and Zerubbabel as partners in power, with God being present.  One olive tree stands of Joshua.  The lampstand symbolizes God.  The other olive stands for Zerubbabel.

First Zechariah committed an error Haggai also made:  he predicted that Zerubbabel would become king and that the Davidic monarchy would resume.  He did not become a king, and no Davidic monarch has ruled since the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.).

Sometimes–perhaps frequently–when God restores and revives peoples, God does so in ways they do not expect.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN DE JACOBIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY BISHOP IN ETHIOPIA; AND SAINT MICHAEL GHEBRE, ETHIOPIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAMILLUS DE LELLIS, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND FOUNDER OF THE MINISTERS OF THE SICK

THE FEAST OF LEON MCKINLEY ADKINS, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MATTHEW BRIDGES, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAMSON OCCUM, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO NATIVE AMERICANS

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The Fourth Oracle of Haggai   Leave a comment

Above:  Haggai, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART VI

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Haggai 2:20-23

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Jerusalem, December 18, 520 B.C.E.–a seemingly unremarkable date.

The fourth oracle of Haggai (2:20-23) indicates that Haggai believed that Zerubbabel, grandson of King Jehoiachin of Judah (r. 597 B.C.E.), to be a future monarch.  The reference to a signet ring (Haggai 2:23) echoes Jeremiah 22:24, a reference to Jehoiachin.  Likewise, Zechariah 3:8 refers to Zerubbabel as “the Branch”–a royal, Davidic label.  Historical records tell us that Zerubbabel never reigned as a king.

Zerubbabel was a satrap (governor) of the Persian Empire.  After he left office, someone else succeeded him.  The next Jew to govern as a king was Simon, starting in 142 B.C.E. (1 Maccabees 13:41).  He was a Hasmonean priest-king, both monarch, and high priest, and not of the House of David.

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The prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem, rebuking them in the name of the God of Israel.

–Ezra 5:1, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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Good progress was made with the sacred works, as the result of the prophesies of Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo, and they finished the rebuilding as commanded by the God of Israel and according to the decrees of Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes of Persia.  The house was completed on the third day of the month of Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.

–Ezra 6:14b-15, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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That is, in March 516 B.C.E.

We also find references to Haggai and Zechariah in 1 Esdras 6:1 and 7:3, in language nearly identical to that in the quotes above.

Haggai ceased to prophesy after December 18, 520 B.C.E.  Why did he stop?  Did many people become disillusioned because of precise prophecies that never came true, so that the lost credibility?  I do not know; no texts provide answers to those questions.  Yet the completion of the Second Temple stands in the historical record as part of his legacy.

We–you, O reader, and I–leave the Book of Haggai behind and return to First Zechariah; we have completed the Book of Haggai.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JASON OF TARSUS AND SOSIPATER OF ICONIUM, COWORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE AND EVANGELISTS OF CORFU

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The First Oracle of Haggai   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Haggai

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART II

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Haggai 1:1-15

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King Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (r. 559-530 B.C.E.) conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.E.  The following year, he issued a decree permitting Jewish exiles to return to their ancestral homeland (Ezra 1:1-4).  The first wave of exiles to return to the ruined homeland (Ezra 1:5-2:70; 1 Esdras 2:8-30; 1 Esdras 5:1-73).  The old, prophetic predictions of the homeland being a verdant paradise of piety and prosperity did not match reality on the ground.  Grief and disappointment ensued.  The land was not as fertile as in the germane prophecies, and the economy was bad.

As of 520 B.C.E., proper worship, as had occurred before the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.), had not resumed.  People had set up an altar–most likely in 520 B.C.E. (as 1 Esdras 5:47-55 indicates, not in 538 B.C.E. (as Ezra 3:1-8 indicates).

Construction of the Second Temple began (Ezra 3:10-13; 1 Esdras 5:56-65a).  Yet opposition to that effort caused a pause in construction (Ezra 4:1-23; 1 Esdras 5:65b-73).

Haggai 1:1-15 establishes two dates and three names:

  1. The first date (1:1), converted to the Gregorian Calendar, is August 9, 520 B.C.E.
  2. The first name is Haggai, who prophesied from August 9 to December 18, 520 B.C.E.
  3. The second name is Joshua ben Zehozadak, the chief priest.
  4. The final name is Zerubbabel ben Shealtiel (of the House of David), the satrap (governor).   Notice the lack of the Davidic monarchy, O reader.
  5. The final date (1:15) is September 21, 520 B.C.E.

Haggai offered a simple explanation of why the drought was severe and the economy was poor.  He blamed everything on the lack of a completed Temple in Jerusalem.  The prophet argued that such disrespect for God was the culprit, and that the poverty and drought were punishment.  Work on the construction of the Second Temple resumed.  Surely resuming construction of the Second Temple ended the drought and revived the economy, right?  No, actually, hence Haggai 2:10-10.

Haggai’s heart was in the right place, but he missed an important truth that predated Jesus:

[God] makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.”

–Matthew 5:45b, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Haggai could have recalled certain laments from Hebrew literature.  He could have remembered Psalm 73, for example.  Why did the wicked flourish and the righteous falter?  Haggai could have recalled the Book of Job, in which the innocent, titular character suffered.

I make no pretense of being a spiritual giant and a great spring of wisdom, O reader.  However, I offer you a principle to consider:  God is not a vending machine.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 11, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 10:  THE SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF NATHAN SODERBLOM, SWEDISH ECUMENIST AND ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSULA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID GONSON, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1541

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN GUALBERT, FOUNDER OF THE VALLOMBROSAN BENEDICTINES

THE FEAST OF SAINTS THOMAS SPROTT AND THOMAS HUNT, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1600

THE FEAST OF SAINT VALERIU TRAIAN FRENTIU, ROMANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR, 1952

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The Rise and Fall of Judah’s Political Leaders   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART X

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Ezekiel 17:1-24

Ezekiel 19:1-14

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For this post, O reader, we focus on two allegories.

Ezekiel 17 is the allegory of the eagles, the vine, and the cedar.  For background, read 2 Kings 24-25; Jeremiah 21:14; Jeremiah 22:1-8, 20-30; Jeremiah 27-29; Jeremiah 34; Jeremiah 52; 2 Chronicles 36; 1 Esdras 1:43-58;

The allegory, by definition, uses symbols.  The allegory tells the story of King Jehoiachin of Judah allying with Egypt against the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, losing, and going into exile in 597 B.C.E.  The allegory continues to describe King Zedekiah‘s failed rebellion, and his fate.  The code of the allegory is as follows:

  1. The great eagle = King Nebuchadnezzar II of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire (r. 605-562 B.C.E.) (v. 3).
  2. Lebanon = Jerusalem (v. 3).
  3. The topmost branch = Jehoiachin (r. 597 B.C.E.) (v. 3).
  4. The land of merchants = Babylon (v. 4).
  5. The native seed = Zedekiah (r. 597-586 B.C.E.) (v. 5).
  6. Another great eagle = Pharoah Psammetichus II (r. 595-589 B.C.E.) (v. 7).
  7. The vine = the Davidic Dynastry (vs. 7-8).

Ezekiel 17:18f and 2 Chronicles 36:13 argue that Zedekiah had violated his oath of vassalage by rebelling against King Nebuchadnezzar II, and thereby sinned against God.  These texts also argue that Zedekiah earned his punishment.  This position is consistent with the importance of oaths in the Bible (Genesis 24:7; Genesis 26:3, 28-31; Genesis 50:24; Exodus 13:5, 11; Exodus 20:7; Exodus 33:1; Leviticus 5:1-4; Leviticus 19:12; Numbers 5:17; Numbers 14:16, 30; Numbers 32:11; Deuteronomy 1:8, 35; Deuteronomy 6:10; Judges 11:11-40; 1 Kings 8:31-32; 1 Chronicles 12:19; 2 Chronicles 6:22-23; Psalm 16:4; Isaiah 62:8; Isaiah 144:8; Hosea 4:15; Amos 8:14; Matthew 5:36; et cetera).et cetera

Ezekiel 17 concludes on a note of future restoration (vs. 22-24).  One Jewish interpretation of the final three verses holds that the construction of the Second Temple, under the supervision of Zerubbabel, of the House of David, fulfilled this prophecy (Haggai 2:20-23).  That interpretation does not convince me.  The prophecy concerns the restoration of the Jewish nation.  My sense of the past tells me that one may not feasibly apply this prophecy to the events following 142 B.C.E. and 1948 B.C.E., given the absence of the Davidic Dynasty in Hasmonean Judea and modern Israel.

The emphasis on divine power and human weakness defines the end of Chapter 17.

Ezekiel 19, which uses the metaphors of the lion (the tribe of Judah; Genesis 49:9) and the vine (the nation of the Hebrews), is a lament for the fall of the Judean monarchy.  For Ezekiel, priests properly outrank kings (34:24; 45:7-8), so Kings of Judah are “princes.”  The first cub (v. 4) is King Jehoahaz of Judah (r. 609 B.C.E.).  The second cub may be either King Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, or Zedekiah of Judah.  The identity of the second cub is vague, but the prediction of the destruction of the monarchy of Judah is clear.

Leaders come and go.  Kingdoms, empires, and nation-states rise and fall.  All that is human is transitory.  But God lasts forever.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 28, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN GERARD, ENGLISH JESUIT PRIEST; AND MARY WARD, FOUNDRESS OF THE INSTITUTE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

THE FEAST OF CLARA LOUISE MAASS, U.S. LUTHERAN NURSE AND MARTYR, 1901

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PLUTARCH, MARCELLA, POTANOMINAENA, AND BASILIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, MARTYRS, 202

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA MARIA MASTERS, FOUNDRESS OF THE INSTITUTE OF THE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FACE

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM AND JOHN MUNDY, ENGLISH COMPOSERS AND MUSICIANS

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This is post #2550 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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Restoration of Worship in Jerusalem and Opposition to the Rebuilding of the Temple   2 comments

Above:  Darius I

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 2 KINGS 22-25, 1 ESDRAS, 2 CHRONICLES 34-36, EZRA, AND NEHEMIAH

PART XII

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1 Esdras 5:47-53

Ezra 3:1-4:5

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O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you;

my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you,

as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.

–Psalm 63:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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I detect chronological confusion in each text and between the two of them.  Ezra 3:1-4:6 places these events circa 538 B.C.E., during the reign of Cyrus II and shortly after the conquest of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Yet Ezra 3:1-46 also names Zerubbabel as the governor.  In objectively correct  chronology, we find that Zerubbabel received his appointment after the death of Cyrus II.  (Cyrus II died in 530 B.C.E.)  On the other hand, 1 Esdras 5:47-73 correctly places these events and Zerubbabel’s governorship post-Cyrus II.  Nevertheless, 1 Esdras 5:73, following the lead of Ezra 4:5, mentions Cyrus II as being one of the kings during these events.  These hiccups are minor matters.  Now I turn my attention to major issues.

Proper worship of YHWH in Jerusalem had been impossible for decades, since Nebuchadnezzar II had taken (in stages) sacred vessels from the Temple to Babylon.  The restoration of proper liturgical worship in YHWH in Jerusalem (whenever that occurred) was a great joy and a communal blessing.  It was essential to communal restoration.  Many local Gentiles delayed the rebuilding of the Temple, unfortunately.

By the way, 1 Esdras 5:47-73 acknowledges that Gentile opposition while softening the attitude evident in Ezra 3:1-4:6.  1 Esdras is less hostile to Gentiles than Ezra.  1 Esdras 5:50, for example, says that some of the

other peoples of the land

joined Jews in preparing the altar of the God of Israel.

I can only imagine what joy those returned exiles must have felt when they could worship God properly, according to the Law of Moses.  I can identity with not being able to worship God as part of a congregation.  I write these words during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Attending church each Sunday consists of watching a video on YouTube, and I cannot take communion.  This seems to be the pattern I will continue to live indefinitely.  I know that, when the vaccine will be widely available and the pandemic is over, returning to church services will be especially joyful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MACKILLOP, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALTMAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PASSAU

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF PREACHERS

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Three Young Bodyguards in the Court of Darius I   Leave a comment

Above:  Zerubbabel

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 2 KINGS 22-25, 1 ESDRAS, 2 CHRONICLES 34-36, EZRA, AND NEHEMIAH

PART XI

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1 Esdras 3:1-5:6

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My God, my rock in whom I put my trust,

my shield, the horn of my salvation and my refuge;

you are worthy of praise.

–Psalm 18:2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Our story jumps ahead a few years, past the reign (530-522 B.C.E.) of Cambyses to that (522-486 B.C.E.) of Darius I.

Zerubbabel was of the lineage of David.  Zerubbabel, a bodyguard in the court of Darius I, won a contest.  He provided the winning answer in a contest to state what is strongest.  Our bodyguard (not named) argued that wine is strongest, for it affects people regardless of social class.  Another unnamed bodyguard, citing the great power of Eastern monarchs, insisted that the king is the strongest.  Zerubbabel, the third bodyguard, first argued that women are the strongest and that even Darius I’s concubine had power over the monarch.  Then Zerubbabel changed his answer to truth.

To quote Pontius Pilate in the Gospel of John,

What is truth?

Truth is objective, not subjective.  Truth is right, upright, and everlasting.  Truth is not relative.  Truth is reliable.  That is important to understand at all times, especially during a polarized age in which many people speak shamelessly of

alternative facts.

I cannot have my truth.  You, O reader, cannot have a competing truth.  No, the truth is the truth.

In this charming story, probably originally in Aramaic, Darius I accepted Zerubbabel’s second answer.  Our hero’s prize was the opportunity to help rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple.  Darius I did more; he put the Persian Empire on the side of the reconstruction effort and sent sacred vessels back to the holy city.

Zerubbabel’s prayer glorifying God (4:59-60) is suitable for many occasions.

Consistent chronology is not the organizing principle in 1 Esdras, Ezra, and Nehemiah.  For example, when reading Ezra and Nehemiah, one has to move from one book to another sometimes to keep the timeline in order.  And the chronologies of 1 Esdras and Ezra-Nehemiah are sometimes inconsistent with each other.  That is a minor point for me; I prefer to focus on major points.

With [truth] there is no partiality or preference, but it does what is righteous instead of anything that is unrighteous or wicked.

–1 Esdras 4:39a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MACKILLOP, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALTMAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PASSAU

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF PREACHERS

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Significance and Insignificance   1 comment

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Above:  One of My Favorite Books

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

You are great, O God, and greatly to be praised.

You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

Grant that we may believe in you, call upon you, know you, and serve you,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 4:1-7

Psalm 145:8-14

Luke 10:21-24

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The LORD is faithful in all his words

and merciful in his deeds.

–Psalm 145:14, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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At that moment Jesus exulted in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the wise, and reveal them to the simple.  Yes, Father, such was your choice.”

–Luke 10:21, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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Those Hebrews who returned to their ancestral homeland to rebuild their society, Jerusalem, and the Temple during the Persian period had to contend with major obstacles.  These included people who plotted, lied, and otherwise obstructed plans.  And Persian kings and/or certain underlings were not always sympathetic to the Hebrews.  Within this context First Zechariah received a message from God for Zerubbabel, the governor of Davidic descent:

Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the LORD of hosts.

–Zechariah 4:6b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Often that divine spirit falls not upon the prominent and the powerful, but upon the marginalized and other powerless people.  This segue brings me to our Lord and Savior’s prayer in Luke 10:21.  What are we to make of it?

Reinhold Niebuhr, one of the greatest and most influential theologians of the twentieth century, reflected on that prayer in the intellectual autobiography he wrote for the Library of Living Theology volume about his thought (New York:  Macmillan Company, 1961).  He wrote of two dying elderly women who were parishioners at the Bethel Evangelical Church, Detroit, Michigan, which he served fresh out of seminary.  (“Evangelical” here was in the German sense of word, that is Protestant, in this case, a Lutheran-Reformed hybrid.)  The first lady was filled with anxiety and resentment, not serenity, during the illness which took her life.  This woman, Niebuhr wrote,

was too preoccupied with self.

–page 6

The second woman had experienced much difficulty during her life.  She had functioned as both breadwinner and homemaker for her two daughters because her husband, prone to insanity, could not provide for the family.  At the end of the lady’s life, when she was dying of cancer, she was serene and filled with gratitude to God for mercies and her daughters, however.  This contrast, Niebuhr wrote, taught him the meaning of Christ’s prayer.

The major difference between the two women seems to have been the way each approached death and dying.  In that context Niebuhr wrote that

the ultimate problem of human existence is the peril of sin and death in the way that these two perils are so curiously compounded; for we fall into sin by trying to evade or to conquer death  or our own insignificance, of which death is the ultimate symbol.  The Christian faith holds out the hope that our fragmentary lives will be completed in a total and larger plan than any which we control or comprehend, and that a part of the completion is forgiveness of sins, that is the forgiveness of the evils into which we fall by our frantic efforts to complete our own lives or to endow them with significance.

–pages 6 and 7

Then Niebuhr wrote that

we in the churches ought to admit more humbly than is our wont that there is a mystery of grace which no one can fathom.

–page 7

That mystery was available to our Lord and Savior’s Apostles and other disciples, whom N. T. Wright described as

the diverse and motley group

Luke for Everyone (Louisville, KY:  Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), page 125

with whom he had chosen to associate.

May we recognize that our significance resides in God alone and that the greatest in the Kingdom of God is the servant of all.  Then may we, by grace, act on that reality and succeed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARGARET E. SANGSTER, HYMN WRITER, NOVELIST, AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF LYONS (A.K.A. SAINT BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS)

THE FEAST OF REINHOLD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN, BISHOP, AND MARTYR

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-9-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Be Strong and Act   1 comment

Above:  Zerubbabel

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Haggai 1:14-2:9 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Then the LORD roused the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, the governor of Judah, and the spirit of the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak, and the spirit of all the rest of the people.  They came and set to work on the House of the LORD of Hosts, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month.  In the second year of Darius, on the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai:

Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, the governor of Judah, and to the high priest  Joshua son of Jehozadak, and to the rest of the people:  Who is there left among you who saw this House in its former splendor?  How does it look to you now?  It must seem like nothing to you.  But be strong, O Zerubbabel–says the LORD–be strong.  O high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak; be strong, all of you people of the land–says the LORD–and act!  For I am with you–says the LORD of Hosts.  So I promised you when you came out of Egypt, and my spirit in your midst.  Fear not!

For thus said the LORD of Hosts:

In just a little while longer I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land; I will sake all the nations.  And the precious things of all the nations shall come [here], and I will fill this House with glory,

said the LORD of Hosts.

Silver is Mine and gold is Mine–says the LORD of Hosts.  The glory of this latter house shall be greater than that of the former one,

said the LORD of hosts;

and in this place I will grant prosperity–declares the LORD of Hosts.

Psalm 43 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Give judgment for me, O God,

and defend my cause against an ungodly people;

deliver me from the deceitful and the wicked.

2 For you are the God of my strength;

why have you put me from you?

and why do I go so heavily while the enemy oppresses me?

Sent out your light and your truth, that they may lead me,

and bring me to your holy hill

and to your dwelling;

4 That I may go to the altar of God,

to the God of my joy and gladness;

and on the harp I will give thanks to you, O God my God.

Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?

and why are you so disquieted within me?

Put your trust in God;

for I will yet give thanks to him,

who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

Luke 9:18-22 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now one day when he [Jesus] was praying alone in presence of his disciples he put this question to them,

Who do the crowds say I am?

And they answered,

John the Baptist; others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life.

He said,

But you, who do you say I am?

It was Peter who spoke up.

The Christ of God,

he said.  But he [Jesus] gave them strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this.

The Son of Man

he said

is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.

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The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/11/feast-of-the-confession-of-st-peter-the-apostle-january-18/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/week-of-6-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/week-of-proper-13-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/proper-16-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/proper-17-year-a/

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The returned exiles lived within the Persian province Beyond the River.  It was a minor and impoverished province, far from the glorious heart of the empire.  So there arose an important question:  How could they build a temple appropriate to the glory of God?  They lacked the resources that Solomon could summon.  God’s answer is that he will glorify the house; the people need merely to be reverent and do their best.  Above all, they need to be strong in God and to act accordingly.  God will handle the rest.

I have been inside some wondrous church buildings, from the Washington National Cathedral, in Washington, D.C., to the Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Savannah, Georgia.  It is indeed appropriate to make a church building beautiful; this indicates reverence.  More years ago than I like to admit, I watched a 1970s documentary series calledThe Christians.  One episode showed working men and women of one town in the Soviet Union donating their time and talents to make their local parish church building as lovely as possible.  This was an expression of their faith.  May nobody question the sincerity of architectural beauty born of reverence.

Yet, in a larger sense, no structure, regardless of how stunningly beautiful it may be, is sufficient to show the glory of God.  But God is present in such places.  This is a grace.

If we think that we have little or nothing to offer, that what we have to offer to God is inadequate, we need to remember that God is gracious to the the honestly faithful.  No gift, no matter how large or impressive it is in human terms, is adequate to pay God back for mercy.  So may we bring the small gifts and offerings, too.  It is the thought behind the gift and offering that counts, too.

The reading from Luke is one of the Synoptic accounts of the Confession of Saint Peter.  It is important to remember where this falls in that book.  So here is the sequence of Chapter 9, to verse 51:

  • Jesus sends out the Twelve. (1-6)
  • Herod the tetrarch thinks Jesus might be John the Baptist back from the dead. (7-9)
  • The Twelve return.  Jesus feeds 5000+ people with some loaves and fishes.  (10-17)
  • Peter professes his faith.  (18-21)
  • Jesus foretells his death and resurrection.  (22)
  • Jesus says to take up a cross and follow him.  (23-26)
  • “I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”  (27)  See this:  http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/week-of-6-epiphany-friday-year-1/
  • Jesus is transfigured.  (28-36)
  • Jesus heals an epileptic child.  (37-43a)
  • Jesus predicts his death and resurrection again.  (43b-45)
  • Jesus contradicts notions of greatness.  (46-48)
  • “Anyone who is not against you is for you.”  (49-50)
  • Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem.  (51)

Then Jesus begins to utter some really hard sayings.  Read them yourself.

The only adequate offering is Jesus himself, so let us not fool ourselves with delusions of grandeur or with inferiority complexes.  Our strength is in God alone.  Our identity is in God alone.  Our kinship is in Jesus, through whom we have adoption into the household of God.  We need to act reverently, bringing what we can for the service and glory of God.  But we also must remember that God alone glorifies our gifts, regardless of the form or quantity in which we have them.

So, with that in mind, I offer my devotional blog posts for this purpose.  May they do their job, with God’s help.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 8, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RYAN WHITE, RENEWER OF SOCIETY

THE FEAST OF JAMES CHALMERS, PROTESTANT MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF JULIE BILLIART, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME DE NAMUR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM AUGUSTUS MUHLENBERG, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 8, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/week-of-proper-20-friday-year-1/

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Posted October 25, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Haggai 1, Haggai 2, Luke 9, Psalm 43

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