Archive for May 2011

Week of Proper 29: Tuesday, Year 1   15 comments

Above:  Ruins of the Ishtar Gate, Babylon, 1932

Image Source = Library of Congress

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

NOVEMBER 23, 2021

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

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THE FIRST READING:

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

[Daniel addressed King Nebudchadnezzar II, saying,]

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

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

THEN RESPONSE #1:

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

(Part of the Song of the Three Young Men)

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

O heavens and all waters above the heavens.

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

Praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

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

all winds and fire and heat.

Winter and summer, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O chill and cold,

drops of dew and and flakes of snow.

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

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O nights and days,

O shining light and enfolding dark.

Storm clouds and thunderbolts, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

OR RESPONSE #2:

Psalm 96 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Sing to the LORD a new song;

sing to the LORD, all the whole earth.

2 Sing to the LORD and bless his Name;

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

3 Declare his glory among the nations

and his wonders among all peoples.

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

he is more to be feared than all gods.

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

but it is the LORD who made the heavens.

Oh, the majesty and magnificence of his presence!

Oh, the power and the splendor of his sanctuary!

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

ascribe to the LORD honor and power.

Ascribe to the LORD the honor due his Name;

bring offerings and come into his courts.

Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness;

let the whole earth tremble before him.

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

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

he will judge the peoples with equity.”

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

let the sea thunder and all that is in it;

let the field be joyful and all that is therein.

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

before the LORD when he comes,

when he comes to judge the earth.

13 He will judge the world with righteousness

and the peoples with his truth.

THEN THE GOSPEL READING:

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

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

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

They asked,

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

He said,

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

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The Collect:

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

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

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

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

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/empires-and-nation-states-rise-and-fall-but-god-reigns-supreme-always/

Week of Proper 29: Monday, Year 1   14 comments

Above:  Ruins of Babylon in 1932

Image Source = Library of Congress

Trusting God in Difficult Times

NOVEMBER 22, 2021

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

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THE FIRST READING:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THEN RESPONSE #1:

Canticle 13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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

Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers;

you are worthy of praise; glory to you.

Glory to you for the radiance of your holy Name;

we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you in the splendor of your temple;

on the throne of your majesty, glory to you.

Glory to you, seated between the Cherubim;

we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you, beholding the depths;

in the high vault of heaven, glory to you.

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

we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

OR RESPONSE #2:

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

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

the world and all who dwell therein.

For it is who founded it upon the seas

and made it firm upon the rivers of the deep.

“Who can ascend the hill of the LORD?

and who can stand in his holy place?”

“Those who have clean hands and a pure heart,

who have not pledged themselves to falsehood,

nor sworn by what is a fraud.

They shall receive a blessing from the LORD

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

Such is the generation of those who seek him,

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

THEN THE GOSPEL READING:

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

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

I tell you this,

he said:

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

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The Collect:

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

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

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

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

Now I turn toward the lesson from Luke.

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

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

Now read Luke 21:1-4 again.

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

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

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

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

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/trusting-god-in-difficult-times/

Proper 29, Year A   24 comments

Above:  The Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain

The Face of Jesus

The Sunday Closest to November 23

The Last Sunday After Pentecost:  Christ the King Sunday

NOVEMBER 22, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24 (New Revised Standard Version):

Thus says the Lord GOD:

I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.

Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them:

I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.

I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken.

Psalm 100 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands;

serve the LORD with gladness

and come before his presence with a song.

Know this:  The LORD himself is God;

he himself has made us, and we are his;

we are the sheep of his pasture.

3 Enter his gates with thanksgiving;

go into his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and call upon his name.

4 For the LORD is good;

his mercy is everlasting;

and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Ezekiel 34:11-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

Thus says the Lord GOD:

I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.

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

Come, let us sing to the LORD;

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

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving

and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.

3 For the LORD is a great God,

and a great King above all gods.

In his hand are the caverns of the earth,

and the heights of the hills are his also.

5 The sea is his, for he made it,

and his hands have molded the dry land.

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

and kneel before the LORD our Maker.

7 For he is our God,

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

SECOND READING

Ephesians 1:15-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 25:31-46 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

The Collect:

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

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Our Lord and Savior commands us to love our neighbors as yourselves.  He also tells us that each person is our neighbor.  We are to love God fully and our neighbors as ourselves, for God dwells within each of us.  Do we seek to recognize the face of Jesus when we look at each other?

Respecting Jesus in each other requires us to seek justice for each other.  The audience of the reading from Ezekiel is the ruling class, but Jesus addresses people in general in the lesson from Matthew.  By serving each other, he tells us, we serve God.  Following Jesus is not an abstraction.  No, there are observable deeds.  When given the opportunity, do we care for others, especially those society has marginalized and/or despised?

Let us be honest.  Who enjoys visiting prisoners?  And do we not prefer not to look upon the homeless?  Furthermore, going to a hospital or a nursing home can be far from a pleasant experience.  Yet God also loves and Jesus died for those who are incarcerated or homeless or in a nursing home or a hospital bed.

Speaking of marginalized people, let us ponder shepherds.  They occupied a lower rung on the socio-economic ladder.   Yet they were essential elements of their society.  God spoke as a shepherd in the reading from Ezekiel and Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd.  King David’s immediate former profession was shepherd.  I interpret this combination of facts to mean that we ought not stand on ceremony and rank, seeking glory for ourselves.   Rather, we should seek to serve.  Furthermore, leadership, especially that of a nation, is properly an opportunity and a responsibility to serve others and work for justice.

There is god news and bad news in this day’s readings.  The good news is grace.  Reread the lesson from Matthew:  Those whom God praised did not know how much good they had done.  Yet there is bad news:  judgment.  Those whom God condemned were unaware of the depth of their sins.  Maybe they even thought they had lived righteously.

I like to listen to radio programs and podcasts from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.  Among my favorite series is The Late Show, which profiles deceased Canadians who contributed greatly to society, rarely in ways that made headlines.  Here is a link to the episode about Gladys Evelyn Cook.  She worked with prisoners, understanding who they were and what they had done yet not judging them.  Instead, Cook recognized the potential within them.   With her generous spirit and Christian faith she touched the lives of many people for the good, giving away many hugs.  Inspired by her example and the lives of many other Christians in the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant, I pray that, by grace, I will act properly, not merely out of fear of divine wrath, but because I seek to do the right thing.  Gladys Evelyn Cook makes me want to be a better person than I am.  May I, by grace, have a similar effect on others.  May you, O reader, by grace, have a similar effect on others.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/the-face-of-jesus/

Week of Proper 28: Saturday, Year 1   11 comments

Above:  A Map Showing the Seleucid Empire

Image in the Public Domain

The End of Antiochus IV Epiphanes

NOVEMBER 20, 2021

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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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1 Maccabees 6:1-17 (Revised English Bible):

As King Antiochus made his way through the upper provinces heard there was a city, Elymais, famous for its wealth in silver and gold.  Its temple was very rich, full of gold shields, coats of mail, and weapons left there by Philip’s son Alexander, king of Macedon and the first to be king over the Greeks.  Antiochus came to that city, but in his attempt to take and plunder it he was unsuccessful because his plan had become known to the citizens.  They gave battle and drove him off; in bitter resentment he withdrew towards Babylon.

In Persia a messenger brought him the news that the armies which had invaded Judaea had suffered defeat, and that Lysias, who had marched up with an exceptionally strong force, had been flung back into open battle.  Further, the strength of the Jews had increased through the capture of weapons, equipment, and spoil in plenty from the armies they destroyed; they had pulled down the abomination built by him on the altar in Jerusalem and surrounded their temple with high walls as before; they had even fortified Bethsura, his city.

The king was dismayed and so sorely shaken by this report that he took to his bed, ill with grief at the miscarriage of his plans.  There he lay for many days, overcome again and again by bitter grief, and he realized that he was dying.  He summoned all his Friends and said:

Sleep has summoned me; the weight of care has broken my heart.  At first I asked myself:  Why am I engulfed in this sea of troubles, I who was kind and well loved in  the day of my power?  But now I recall the wrong I did in Jerusalem:  I carried off all the vessels of silver and gold that were there, and with no justification sent armies to wipe out the inhabitants of Judaea.  I know that is why these misfortunes have come upon me; and here I am, dying of bitter grief in a foreign land.

He summoned Philip, one of his Friends, and appointed him regent over his whole empire, giving him the crown, his royal robe, and the signet ring, with authority to bring up his son Antiochus and train him for the throne.  King Antiochus died in Persia in the year 149 [163 B.C.E.].

When Lysias learnt that the king was dead, he placed on the throne in succession to his father the young Antiochus, whom he had trained from boyhood, and he gave him the name Eupator.

Psalm 124 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 If the LORD had not been on our side,

let Israel now say,

If the LORD had not been on our side,

when enemies rose up against us;

3 Then they would have swallowed us up alive

in their fierce anger toward us;

Then would the waters have overwhelmed us

and the torrent gone over us;

5 Then would the raging waters

have gone right over us.

6 Blessed be the LORD!

he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler;

the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

Our help is in the Name of the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

Luke 20:27-40 (Revised English Bible):

Then some Sadducees, who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and asked:

Teacher, Moses, laid it down for us that if there are brothers, and one dies leaving a wife but not child, then the next should marry the widow and provide an heir for his brother.  Now there seven brothers:  the first took a wife and died childless, then the second married her, then the third.  In this way the seven of them died leaving no children.  Last of all the woman also died. At the resurrection, whose wife is she to be, since all seven had married her?

Jesus said to them,

The men and women of this world marry; but those who have been judged who have been judged worthy of a place in the other world, and of the resurrection from the dead, do not marry, for they are no longer subject to death.  They are like angels; they are children of God, because they share in his resurrection.  That the dead are raised to life again is shown by Moses himself in the story of the burning bush, when he calls the Lord “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.”  God is not the God of the living; in his sight all are alive.

At this some of the scribes said,

Well spoken, Teacher.

And nobody dared put any further question to him.

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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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I have a few comments about the reading from Luke 20 before I move along to my main point.  Levirate marriage was part of the Law of Moses.  By this practice a childless widow was supposed to find economic security in a deeply patriarchal society; there would be a man to take care of her.  Finding ultimate economic security, for her, meant giving birth to at least one son who would grow up and care for her in time.  Some Sadducees seized on this matter to ask Jesus an insincere questions.  I wonder if our Lord thought to himself something like,

Why do they keep asking me questions like this?

Indeed, it would have been better to ask him a sincere query.  The Sadducees were wasting his time; may we not follow in their footsteps.

Now, for the main idea….

Being the history geek I am, I opened up an old edition of the New Oxford Annotated Bible (a Revised Standard Version edition from 1977, no less) and found the chronological and genealogical table of Seleucid kings in the back.  Seleucus II Callinicus (reigned 246-225 B.C.E.) died.  His immediate successor was an elder son, Seleucus III Soter Ceraunos (reigned 225-223 B.C.E.).  Seleucus III, dying childless, was succeeded by his younger brother, Antiochus III the Great (reigned 223-187 B.C.E.), who had two sons who became kings after him.  The elder son became Seleucus IV Philopater (reigned 187-175 B.C.E.).  Seleucus IV did have a son before he died.  That son Demetrius, the rightful heir.  But Demetrius was a hostage in Rome when his father died, and his uncle, the younger son Antiochus III, usurped the throne to become Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164 B.C.E.).

Antiochus IV Epiphanes was an ambitious man.  There is nothing wrong with having ambition; indeed, I distrust a person who lacks it.  Ambition drives people to bigger and better goals when one harnesses it properly.  But does one harness one’s ambition or does one’s ambition harness one?  Ambition and foolishness compelled Antiochus IV to break with precedent and try to suppress non-Hellenistic cultures within his empire, and thus inspired opposition.  Jews, for example rebelled.  This rebellion weakened the empire and contributed to king’s bad health and therefore his death.  Indeed, the medical link between high levels of stress and increased susceptibility to diseases is well-documented.

And so Antiochus IV Epiphanes died in 164 B.C.E.  His immediate successor was another usurper, his son, Antiochus V Eupator, a boy who met a bad end in 162 B.C.E.  Demetrius, the rightful heir since 175 B.C.E., finally escaped from Rome and returned home that year, when he became Demetrius I Soter, reigning until 150 B.C.E.).  He met a bad end, too, when Alexander Balas, a son Antiochus IV Epiphanes, killed him and reigned for five years.

That seems like a great deal of trouble to go through for not much reward, does it not?  Why struggle to become king, only to have to struggle to keep the throne and lose it anyway? The rewards seemed to have been short-term only and the miseries long-term.

There is, however, a better way, which is to seek those riches which are intangible, and therefore do not rust or decay and which no earthly thief can take away.  To find one’s identity in God is to locate position in which one will find fulfillment and from which nobody can oust one.  The Seleucid Empire has dwelt in the dustbin of history for over two thousand years; where is the glory of its kings now?  Yet, each year, faithful Jews celebrate Hanukkah and recall the rededication of the Temple by the Hasmoneans.  The fatal ambition of Antiochus IV Epiphanes brought on the necessity to rededicate the Temple and started a Jewish war for independence from the Seleucid Empire.  I know who won and who lost this case.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/the-end-of-antiochus-iv-epiphanes/

Week of Proper 28: Friday, Year 1   8 comments

Above:  Giotto di Bondone’s Painting of Jesus Expelling the Money Changers

Image in the Public Domain

Cleansing the Temple

NOVEMBER 19, 2021

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

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THE FIRST READING:

1 Maccabees 4:36-38, 52-59 (Revised English Bible):

(Context = after the Hasmoneans have defeated a Seleucid force and recaptured the desecrated Temple in Jerusalem)

Judas [Maccabeus]and his brothers said,

Now that our enemies have been crushed, let us go up to the cleanse and rededicate the temple.

When the whole army had assembled, they found the temple laid waste, the altar desecrated, the gates burnt down, the courts overgrown like a thicket or wooded hillside, and the priests’ rooms in ruin.

Early on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, the month of Kislev, in the year 148 [also known as 164 B.C.E.], sacrifice was offered, as laid down by the law, on the newly constructed altar of whole-offerings.  On the anniversary of the day of its desecration by the Gentiles, on that very day it was dedicated with hymns of thanksgiving, to the music of harps and lutes and cymbals.  All the people prostrated themselves in worship and gave praise to Heaven for prospering their cause.

They celebrated the dedication of the altar for eight days; there was rejoicing as they brought whole-offerings and thanks-offerings.  They decorated the front of the temple with gold garlands and ornamental shields.  They renovated the gates and restored the priests’ rooms, fitting them with doors.  At the lifting of the disgrace brought on them by the Gentiles there was very great rejoicing among the people.

Judas, his brothers, and the whole congregation of Israel decree that, at the same season each year, the dedication of the temple should be observed with joy and gladness for eight days, beginning on the twenty-fifth of Kislev.

THEN RESPONSE #1:

Canticle 9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

(Isaiah 12:2-6 plus the Trinitarian formula)

Surely it is God who saves me;

I will trust in him and not be afraid.

For the Lord is my strength and my sure defense,

and he will be my Savior.

Therefore you shall draw water with rejoicing

from the springs of salvation.

And on that day you shall say,

Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name;

Make his deeds known among the peoples;

see that they remember that his Name is exalted.

Sing the praises of the Lord, for he has done great things,

and this is known in all the world.

Cry aloud, inhabitants of Zion, ring out your joy,

for the great one in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

OR RESPONSE #2:

Psalm 113 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

Give Praise, you servants of the LORD;

praise the Name of the LORD.

2 Let the Name of the LORD be blessed,

from this time forth for evermore.

3 From the rising of the sun to its going down

let the Name of the LORD be praised.

The LORD is high above all nations,

and his glory above the heavens.

Who is like the LORD our God, who sits enthroned on high,

but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?

He takes up the weak out of the dust

and lifts up the poor from the ashes.

7 He sets them with the princes,

with the princes of his people.

He makes the woman of a childless house

to be a joyful mother of children.

THEN THE GOSPEL READING:

Luke 19:45-48 (Revised English Bible):

(Set shortly after the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem; the Last Supper occurs in Chapter 22)

Then Jesus went into the temple and began driving out the traders, with these words:

Scriptures says, “My house shall be a house of prayer;” but you have made it a bandits’ cave.

Day by day he taught in the temple.  The chief priests and scribes, with the support of the leading citizens, wanted to bring about his death, but found that they were helpless, because the people all hung on his words.

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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:

Hanukkah (Chanukah):

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/11/28/from-the-hanukkah-chanukah-service/

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/11/28/for-the-sabbath-in-hanukkah-chanukah/

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From the reign of King Solomon to 70 C.E., except for the time between destruction of the first Temple by the Assyrian Empire and the construction of the second Temple during the Persian period, the Temple at Jerusalem occupied the heart of the Jewish faith.  So it was important to Judas Maccabeus (literally “the hammer”) and his brothers, sons of the late Mattathias, to restore and rededicate the Temple, which Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes had ordered defiled.  From the actions of Judas and his brothers, as the text from 1 Maccabees describes them, comes the Jewish holy time called Hanukkah.

Jesus, who in Luke’s gospel was just a few days away from his execution, expelled money changers from the Temple complex, which Herod the Great, hardly a pious individual, had ordered expanded greatly.  The Temple of Jesus’ time was also the seat of collaboration with the Roman Empire.  The Temple complex even sat next to a towering Roman fortress.  The architectural message was plain:  The empire is watching; be very careful.

Jesus was not very careful, by that standard.  Indeed, his deeds that day contributed greatly to his death.  And what was the issue with the money changers?  They converted Roman currency (technically idols) so that poor Jews could purchase sacrificial animals for the Passover, which celebrated God’s deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.  All this occurred under the watchful eyes of Roman soldiers.  And the money changers turned a profit, as did the corrupt senior priest.  This was the collision of corruption and economic exploitation on one hand with liberation and sincere piety on the other.

There is no longer a Temple complex, and most Jews have moved on.  Rabbis reformed Judaism out of necessity after the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E.  And I, as a Christian, understand Jesus to have rendered the functions of the Temple moot.  And, through Christ, we who follow him become tabernacles of God.  May we, by grace, be properly cleansed ones.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/cleansing-the-temple/

Week of Proper 28: Thursday, Year 1   7 comments

Above:  Mattathias

Image in the Public Domain

A Time for Intellectual Honesty

NOVEMBER 18, 2021

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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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1 Maccabees 2:15-28 (Revised English Bible):

The king’s officers who were enforcing apostasy came to the town of Modin to see that sacrifice was offered.  Many Israelites went over to them, but Mattathias and and all his sons stood apart.  The officers addressed Mattathias :

You are a leader here, a man of mark and influence in this town, with your sons and brothers at your back.  Now you be the first to come forward; carry out the king’s decree as all the nations have done, as well as the leading men in Judaea and the people left in Jerusalem.  Ten you and your sons will be enrolled among the king’s Friends; you will all receive high honours, rich rewards of silver and gold, and many further benefits.

In a ringing voice Mattathias replied:

Though every nation within the king’s dominions obeys and forsakes its ancestral worship, though all have chosen to submit to his commands, yet I my sons and my daughters will follow the covenant made with our forefathers.  Heaven forbid that we should ever abandon the law and its statutes!  We will not obey the king’s command, nor will we deviate one step from our way of worship.

As he finished speaking, a Jew came forward in full view of all to offer sacrifice on the pagan altar at Modin, in obedience to the royal decree.  The sight aroused the zeal of Mattathias, and, shaking with passion and in a fury of righteous anger, he rushed forward and cut him down on the very altar.  At the same time he killed the officer sent by the king to enforce sacrifice, and demolished the pagan altar.  So Mattathias showed his fervent zeal for the law, as Phinehas had done when he killed Zimri son of Salu.  He shouted for the whole town to hear,

Follow me, all who are zealous for the law and stand by the covenant!

Then he and his sons took to the hills, leaving behind in the town all they possessed.

Psalm 129 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  “Greatly have they oppressed me since my youth.”

let Israel now say;

2  “Greatly have they oppressed me since my youth,

but they have not prevailed against me,”

3  The plowmen plowed upon my back

and made their furrows long.

4  The LORD, the Righteous One,

has cut the cords of the wicked.

5  Let them be put to shame and thrown back,

all those who are enemies of Zion.

6  Let them be like grass upon the housetops,

which withers before it can be plucked;

7  Which does not fill the hand of the reaper,

nor the bosom of him who binds the sheaves;

8  So that those who go by say not so much as,

“The LORD prosper you,

We wish you will in the Name of the LORD.”

Luke 19:41-44 (Revised English Bible):

When Jesus came in sight of Jerusalem, he wept over it ans aid,

If only you had known this day the way that leads to peace!  But no; it is hidden from your sight.  For a time will come upon you, when your enemies will set up siege-works against you; they will encircle you and hem you in at every point; they will bring you to the ground, you and your children within your walls, and not leave you one stone standing on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s visitation.

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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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Let us–especially those of us who call ourselves–believers–be intellectually honest.  The “new atheists” who point to contradictions and bloody passages in the Bible are not entirely mistaken in the factual points of their claims.  Read the Hebrew Scriptures and notice how many times the authors claim that God ordered massacres of civilian populations and pagan priests.  And how many capital offenses are there in the Law of Moses?  Sometimes, of course, some of these “new atheists” ignore textual and contextual subtleties, so not all of their facts are accurate.

I am an Episcopalian, a nearly compulsive student of the Bible, and a frequent church-goer.  An an Episcopalian, I reject the Reformation claim of sola scriptura in favor of scripture, tradition, and reason.  A common name for this formula is the three-legged stool, but that is misleading, for the scripture leg is longer than the other two; one would fall off the stool easily.  So a tricycle is a better analogy.  Using the Episcopalian tricycle, I can work my way through the contradictions between “wipe out civilian populations when you move back into Canaan” and our Lord’s command to love my neighbors as I love myself, with everybody being my neighbor.  I am Christian; I try to follow Christ, who did not condone genocide.

A few years ago, at a Eucharistic Ministers’ conference in the Diocese of Georgia, I heard Dr. Donald Armentrout speak.  Armentrout, a minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, works as a professor at the Episcopal seminary at The University of the South.  He used the analogy of putting on the “Gospel glasses” when reading the Bible; not all parts of the Bible are equal, he said.  I agree; Jesus takes precedence over Elijah, for example.

So let us consider the readings for this day.  The psalm is angry, as I have been.  But anger proves corrosive after a very short while.  It does not behoove one or others.  Mattathias, original leader of the Hasmonean rebellion which, after his death, liberated Judea from Seleucid rule, killed a fellow Jew to prevent him from making a pagan sacrifice.  And the Gospel of Luke dates to after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., during the First Jewish War.  That event must have had some effect on the writing of Luke 19:41-44.  The dominant theme here is how to respond or react under occupation and oppression, and the readings exist in the shadow of violence.

Violence is a reality we can reduce by practicing nonviolence and loving our neighbors (that is, everybody) as we love ourselves, by grace, of course.  And, as Paul wrote in Romans 13, love fulfills the law.  We follow our Lord, who died by an act of violence and whom God raised from the dead, thereby reversing that deed.  As the Moravians say,

Our lamb has conquered; let us follow him.

And let us do it with intellectual honesty, love of ourselves and our neighbors, and obedience to God.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/a-time-for-intellectual-honesty/

Week of Proper 28: Wednesday, Year 1   11 comments

Above:  Herod Archelaus

Image in the Public Domain

A Foretaste of the Feast of Christ the King

NOVEMBER 17, 2021

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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 7:1, 20-31, 39-42 (Revised English Bible):

Another incident concerned the arrest of seven brothers along with their mother.  They were being tortured by the king with whips and thongs to force them to eat pork, contrary to the law.

The mother was the most remarkable of all, and she deserves to be remembered with special honour.  She watched her seven sons perish within the space of a single day, yet she bore it bravely, for she trusted in the Lord.  She encouraged each in turn in her native language; filled with noble resolution, her woman’s thoughts fired by a manly spirit, she said to them:

You appeared in my womb, I know not how; it was not I who gave you life and breath, not I who set in order the elements of your being.  The Creator of the universe, who designed the beginning of mankind and devised the origin of all, will in his mercy give you back again breath and life, since now you put his laws above every thought of self.

Antiochus felt that he was being treated with contempt and suspected an insult in her words.  As the youngest brother was still left, the king, not content with appealing to him, even assured him on oath that once he abandoned his ancestral customs he would make him rich and enviable by enrolling him as a king’s Friend and entrusting him with high office.  Since the youth paid no regard whatsoever, the king summoned the mother and urged her to advise her boy to save his life.  After much urging from the king, she agreed to persuade her son.  She leant towards him and, flouting the cruel tyrant, said in her native language:

Son, take pity on me, who carried you nine months in the womb, nursed you for three years, reared you and brought you up to your present age.  I implore you, my child, to look at the heavens and the earth; consider all that is in them, and realize that God did not create them from what already existed and that a human being comes into existence in the same way.  Do not be afraid of this butcher; accept death willingly and prove yourself worthy of your brothers, so that by God’s mercy I may receive back you and them together.

She had barely finished when the young man spoke out:

What are you all waiting for?  I will not submit to the king’s command; I obey the command of the law given through Moses to our forefathers.  And you, King Antiochus, who have devised all manner of atrocities for the Hebrews, you will not escape God’s hand….

Roused by this defiance, the king in his fury used him worse than the others, and the young man, putting his whole trust in the Lord, died without having incurred defilement.

Last of all, after her sons, the mother died.

Then must conclude our account of the eating of entrails and the monstrous tortures.

Psalm 17:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hear my plea of innocence, O LORD;

give heed to my cry;

listen to my prayer, which does not come from lying lips.

Let my vindication come forth from your presence;

let your eyes be fixed on justice.

Weigh my heart, summon me by night,

melt me down; you will find no impurity in me.

I give no offence with my mouth as others do;

I have heeded the words of your lips.

My footsteps hold fast to the ways of your law;

in your paths my feet shall not stumble.

I call upon you, O God, for you will answer me;

incline your ear to me and hear my words.

Show me your marvelous loving-kindness,

O Savior of those who take refuge at your right hand

from those who rise up against them.

Keep me as the apple of your eye;

hide me under the shadow of your wings.

Luke 19:11-28 (Revised English Bible):

While they were listening to this, Jesus went on to tell them a parable, because he was now close to Jerusalem and they [the crowd who disapproved of him eating with Zacchaeus] thought the kingdom of God might dawn at any moment.  He said,

A man of noble birth went on a long journey abroad, to have himself appointed king and then return.  But first he called then of his servants and gave each a sum of money, saying, “Trade with this while I am away.”  His fellow-citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, “We do not want this man as our king.”  He returned however as king, and sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, to find out what profit each had made.  The first came and said, “Your money, sir, has increased tenfold.”  “Well done,” he replied, “you are a good servant, trustworthy in a very small matter, you shall have charge of ten cities.”  The second came and said, “Here is your money, sir; I kept it wrapped up in a handkerchief.  I was afraid of you because you are a hard man:  you draw out what you do not put in and reap what you do not sow.”  “You scoundrel!”  he replied.  “I will condemn you out of your own mouth.  You knew me to be a hard man, did you, drawing out what I never put in, and reaping what I did not sow?  Then why did you not put my money on deposit, and I could have claimed it with interest when I came back?”  Turning to his attendants he said, “Take the money from him and give it to the man with the most.”  “But sir,” they replied, “he has ten times as much already.”  “I tell you,” he said, “everyone one has will be given more; but whoever has nothing will forfeit even what he has.  But as for those enemies of mine who did not want me for their king, bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.”

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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:

This is My Father’s World:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/this-is-my-fathers-world/

Torture:

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

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

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U.S. Presbyterian minister and humanitarian Maltbie Davenport Babcock adored nature and wrote many poems.  He died in 1901, after which his widow arranged for the publication of many of these works.  Among them was the text of the great hymn, “This is My Father’s World.”  One verse is especially germane to this day’s readings:

This is my Father’s world,

O let me ne’er forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong

God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world:

The battle is not done;

Jesus who died shall be satisfied,

And earth and heaven be one.

Antiochus Epiphanes was a tyrant, as was Herod the Great, a Roman client king who died in 4 B.C.E.  Three sons took up their father’s role, each in his own district, with Roman approval, of course.  Herod Archelaus governed much of the territory the modern State of Israel covers, with his capital at Jerusalem.  He was the basis of the parable Jesus told, for a delegation of fifty men from the region traveled to Rome to ask they Archelaus not become the client ruler.

The Parable of the Pounds in Luke 19 is similar to the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25.  For more about latter, follow the germane links I have provided.  In Luke 19, however, there is a unique twist; the king is clearly the villain, and one identified with a member of the notorious Herodian Dynasty.  This parable is set as Jesus nears his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, and therefore his crucifixion a few days later.  The tyranny of the Roman Empire and its rule, whether direct or indirect, was on his mind.

The 1920s were difficult.  Democracies were few and far between in Europe, and some of those were weak.  The Weimar Republic teetered in Germany and the Fascists reigned supreme in Italy.  Japan was on the militaristic and imperialistic path in the Pacific Basin, and Stalin was consolidating his power in the Soviet Union.  In this context, in 1925, Pope Pius XI instituted the Feast of Christ the King, meant, among other things, to serve as a reminder that, as Babcock wrote,

God is the ruler yet.

This is a timeless lesson.

There is a wonderful song, which, according to some sources, is an old Quaker hymn:  “How Can I Keep from Singing?”

1.  My life flows on in endless song,

Above earth’s lamentation;

I hear the real though far-off song

That hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife

I hear that music ringing;

It sounds an echo in my soul,

How can I keep from singing?

2.  What though the tempest loudly roars,

I hear the truth, it liveth;

What though the darkness round me close,

Songs in the night it giveth.

No storm can shake my inmost calm

While to that rock I’m clinging,

Since love is Lord of heaven and earth,

How can I keep from singing?

3.  When tyrants tremble when they hear

The bells of freedom ringing;

When friends rejoice both far and near

How can I keep from singing?

In prison cell and dungeon vile

Our thoughts to them are winging,

When friends by shame are undefiled,

How can I keep from singing?

–From Songs of the Spirit (1978), of the Friends General Conference

Christ the King Sunday is Proper 29, the last Sunday of the Western Christian year.  I am close to writing the devotion for that day, given where I am in the lectionary cycle.  But, despite the heavy tone of the readings for this day, Wednesday in the Week of Proper 28, Year 1, we have a foretaste of the Feast of Christ the King.

Here ends the lesson.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/a-foretaste-of-the-feast-of-christ-the-king/

Week of Proper 28: Tuesday, Year 1   10 comments

Above:  A Sycamore Tree in Jericho

Image Source = Bonio

Of Food and Ritual Propriety

NOVEMBER 16, 2021

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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?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/of-food-and-ritual-propriety/

Week of Proper 28: Monday, Year 1   10 comments

Above:  A Map of the Empire of Alexander the Great

Obtained from the Macedonia FAQ website.

A project of Macedonia.org

URL: http://faq.Macedonia.org/

http://faq.macedonia.org/history/alexander.the.great.html

Resistance, Diversity, Assimilation, and Uniformity

NOVEMBER 15, 2021

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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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1 Maccabees 1:1-15, 54-57, 62-64 (Revised English Bible):

Alexander of Macedon, the son of Philip, marched from the land of Kittim, defeated Darius, king of Persia and Media, and seized his throne, being already king of Greece.  During the course of many campaigns, in which he captured strongholds and put kings to death, he traversed the earth to its remotest bounds and plundered countless nations.  When at last the world lay quiet under his sway, his pride knew no limits; he built up an extremely powerful army and ruled over countries, nations, and princedoms, all of which rendered him tribute.

The time came when Alexander fell ill, and, realizing that he was dying, he summoned his generals, nobles who had been brought up with him from childhood, and divided his empire among them while he was yet alive.  At death he had reigned for twelve years.  His generals took over the government, each in his own province, and, when Alexander died, they all assumed royal crowns, and for many years the succession passed to their descendants.  They brought untold miseries on the world.

An offshoot of this stock was an impious man, Antiochus Epiphanes, son of King Antiochus.  He had been a hostage in Rome before he succeeded to the throne in the year 137 of the Greek era.

At that time there emerged in Israel a group of renegade Jews, who inveighed many by saying,

We should go and make an agreement with the Gentiles round about; nothing but disaster has been our lot since we cut ourselves off from them.

This proposal was widely approved, and some of the people in their enthusiasm went to the king and received authority to introduce pagan laws and customs.  They built a gymnasium in the gentile style at Jerusalem; they removed their marks of circumcision and repudiated the holy covenant; they intermarried with Gentiles and sold themselves to evil.

On the fifteenth day of the month of Kislev in the year 145, the abomination of desolation was set up on the altar of the Lord.  In the towns throughout Judaea pagan altars were built; incense was offered at the doors of houses and in the streets.  Every scroll of the law that was found was torn up and consigned to the flames, and anyone discovered in possession of a Book of the Covenant or conforming to the law was by sentence of the king condemned to die.

Yet many in Israel found strength to resist, taking a determined stand against the eating of any unclean food.  They welcomed death and died rather than defile themselves and profane the holy covenant.  Israel lay under a reign of terror.

Psalm 79 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  O God, the heathen here come into your inheritance;

they have profaned your holy temple;

they have made Jerusalem a heap of rubble.

2  They have given the bodies of your servants as food for the birds of the air,

and the flesh of your faithful ones to the beasts of the field.

3  They have shed their blood like water on every side of Jerusalem,

and there was no one to bury them.

4  We have become a reproach to our neighbors,

an object of scorn and derision to those around us.

5  How long will you be angry, O LORD?

will your fury blaze like fire for ever?

6  Pour out your wrath upon the heathen who have not known you

and upon kingdoms that have not called upon your Name.

7  For they have devoured Jacob

and made his dwelling a ruin.

8  Remember not our past sins;

let your compassion be swift to meet us;

for we have been brought very low.

9  Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your Name;

deliver us and forgive us our sins, for your Name’s sake.

10  Why should the heathen say, “Where is your God?”

Let it be known among the heathen and in our sight

that you avenge the shedding of your servants’ blood.

11  Let the sorrowful sighing of the prisoners come before you,

and by your great might spare those who are condemned to die.

12  May the revilings with which they reviled you, O Lord,

return seven-fold into their bosoms.

13  For we are your people and the sheep of your pasture;

we will give you thanks for ever

and show forth your praise from age to age.

Luke 18:35-43 (Revised English Bible):

As Jesus approached Jericho a blind man sat at the roadside begging.  Hearing a crowd going past, he asked what was happening, and was told that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.  Then he called out,

Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.

The people in front told him to hold his tongue; but he shouted all the more,

Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.

Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him.  When he came up Jesus asked him,

What do you want me to do for you?

He answered,

Sir, I want my sight back.

Jesus said to him,

Have back your sight; your faith has healed you.

He recovered his sight instantly and followed Jesus, praising God.  And all the people gave praise to God for what they had seen.

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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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Historical Note:

According to the footnotes in my copy of the Revised English Bible, here are the Greek dates mentioned in the text of 1 Maccabees, with current labels:

137 = 175 B.C.E.

145 = 167 B.C.E.

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Alexander the Great thought that he had a mission to share the benefits of his Greek culture with others, even if they did not want that.  Like imperialists of other ages, he believed that he was doing the colonized a great favor.  Many of the rulers of the successor kingdoms held the same mindset.  Unfortunately for observant Jews in Judea, Antiochus Epiphanes did.

Since I am a Gentile and a product of the Christian Church, the words of Peter and Paul regarding Jews and Gentiles, things unclean and things clean, ring in my ears and echo within my skull.  And, as the book of 1 Maccabees continues, we read that rebel leaders “wiped out apostates” and executed those Jews who had eaten pork–as a former student of mine said, “death over a ham sandwich.”  If you love peace and love, you will have some serious and justified issues with much of the content of 1 Maccabees.

The real issue here, however, is that observant Jews, in their homes, faced death for living their faith, as they understood it, while acting in private.  King Antiochus Epiphanes decided that the private would become a public matter and a capital offense.  Nevertheless, he failed in his policies of assimilation.

Often we fear those who are significantly different from us, for we do not understand them.

What is wrong with these people,

we ask ourselves,

why aren’t they more like me?

Is it possible, however, that we are the ones who  need to be more like them?  Sometimes yes, other times no–but think about it.  Alternatively, sometimes a difference is just that–nothing more or less.  In these circumstance diversity makes the world–or our piece of it–a more interesting place, in a positive way.

Cultural Anthropology 101:  both universal cultural relativism and universal ethnocentrism are falsehoods.   This rule makes great sense to me.  But here is a universal rule to follow:  Love your neighbor as yourself.  And everybody is your neighbor.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/resistance-diversity-assimilation-and-uniformity/

Proper 28, Year A   16 comments

Above:  The Last Judgment, by Fra Angelico

Image in the Public Domain

It is Getting Dark in Here

The Sunday Closest to November 16

The Twenty-Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

NOVEMBER 15, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Judges 4:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, after Ehud died. So the LORD sold them into the hand of King Jabin of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-ha-goiim. Then the Israelites cried out to the LORD for help; for he had nine hundred chariots of iron, and had oppressed the Israelites cruelly twenty years.

At that time Deborah, a prophetess, wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the Israelites came up to her for judgment. She sent and summoned Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali, and said to him,

The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you, “Go, take position at Mount Tabor, bringing ten thousand from the tribe of Naphtali and the tribe of Zebulun. I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin’s army, to meet you by the Wadi Kishon with his chariots and his troops; and I will give him into your hand.”

Psalm 123 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 To you I lift up my eyes,

to you enthroned in the heavens.

As the eyes of the servants look to the hand of their masters,

and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,

3 So our eyes look to the LORD our God,

until he show us his mercy.

Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy,

for we have had more than enough of contempt,

5 Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich,

and of the derision of the proud.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18 (New Revised Standard Version):

Be silent before the Lord GOD!

For the day of the LORD is at hand;

the LORD has prepared a sacrifice,

he has consecrated his guests.

At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps,

and I will punish the people

who rest complacently on their dregs,

those who say in their hearts,

“The LORD wil not do good,

nor will he do harm.”

Their wealth shall be plundered,

and their houses laid waste.

Though they build houses,

they shall not inhabit them;

though they plant vineyards,

they shall not drink wine from them.

The great day of the LORD is near,

near and hastening fast;

the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter,

the warrior cries aloud there.

That day will be a day of wrath,

a day of distress and anguish,

a day of ruin and devastation,

a day of darkness and gloom,

a day of clouds and thick darkness,

a day of trumpet blast and battle cry

against the fortified cities

and against the lofty battlements.

I shall bring such distress upon people

that they shall walk like the blind,

because they have sinned against the LORD,

that blood shall be poured out like the dust,

and their flesh like dung.

Neither shall their silver nor their gold

will be able to save them

on the day of the LORD’s wrath;

in the fire of his passion

the whole earth shall be consumed;

for a full, a terrible end

he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.

SECOND READING

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

Concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say,

There is peace and security,

then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 25:14-30 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

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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Today I choose to leave the Gospel reading to a related post while I pursue another track.

Proper 28 is the penultimate Sunday in the Church year; Advent is nearly upon us.  So the lectionary readings have turned toward the apocalyptic, as they are prone to do in November.  Nevertheless, I write these words in late May 2011, just a few days after the predicted rapture that never occurred.  This was no surprise for me.  To state the case simply, Harold Camping does not know more than Jesus:

But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  (Matthew 24:36, New Revised Standard Version)

It is customary that, in The Episcopal Church, to read an assigned text then say,

The word of the Lord,

to which the congregation responds reflexively,

Thanks be to God.

If the reading comes from Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, the priest or deacon concludes the lesson then says

The Gospel of the Lord,

to which the people say,

Praise be to you, Lord Christ.

Yet I recall one 6:00 P.M. Sunday service at my parish, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, when our Rector, Beth Long, read the designated Gospel text, which was rather grim.  An awkward silence followed before we said with hesitation,

Praise be to you, Lord Christ.

What else were we supposed to say?

That is the sense I take away from Zephaniah.  My fellow liturgy enthusiasts might know that the Roman Catholic Requiem Mass used to include the “Dies Irae” (“Day of wrath and doom impending”) section.  More than one composer set it to music gloriously, with Verdi’s version being the one that plays inside my cranium most often.  The lesson from Zephaniah was the basis of that Latin text.  Anyhow, am I supposed to say “Thanks be to God” after the reading from Zephaniah?

It is vital to remember that we are looking at just a portion of the sacred story; the tone is quite different on Easter Sunday, for example.  There is a time and a season for everything, if not every verse, within a well-constructed lectionary.  There is a time to rejoice.  And there is a time, as we read in 1 Thessalonians, to be serious.  Yet there is never a bad time to put on the breastplate of faith and love.

May we wear it always.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/it-is-getting-dark-in-here/