Week of Proper 29: Friday, Year 1, and Week of Proper 29: Saturday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:  St. Michael’s Victory Over the Devil, St. Michael’s Cathedral, Coventry, England

Image Source = sansse

God, On the Side of the Righteous

DECEMBER 1 and 2, 2023


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.


I have decided to combine the devotions for the last two days of Ordinary Time in this year’s Canadian Anglican lectionary series because dividing the readings from Daniel and Luke is awkward.  Rather, typing and presening them (Yes, I am typing every word.) as units makes clear their unity.



Daniel 7:1-27 (Revised English Bible):

(I have reformatted the text for clarity.)

Friday’s assigned portion:

In the first year that Belshazzar was king of Babylon, a dream and visions came to Daniel as he lay on his bed.  Then he wrote down the dream, and here his account begins.

In my vision during the night while I, Daniel, was gazing intently I saw the Great Sea churned up by the four winds of heaven, and four great beasts rising out of the sea, each one different from the others.

The first was like a lion, but it had an eagle’s wings.  I watched until its wings were plucked off from the ground and made to stand on two feet as if it were a human being.

Then I saw another, a second beast, like a bear.  It had raised itself on one side, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth.  The command was given to it:  “Get up and gorge yourself with flesh.”

After this as I gazed I saw another, a beast like a leopard with four wings like those of a bird on its back; this creature had four heads, and it was invested with sovereign power.

Next in the night visions I saw a fourth beast, fearsome and grisly  and exceedingly strong, with great iron teeth.  It devoured and crunched, and it trampled underfoot what was left.  It was different from all the beasts which went before it, and had ten horns.

While I was considering the horns there appeared another horn, a little one, springing up among them, and three of the first horns were uprooted to make room for it.  In this horn were eyes like human eyes, and a mouth that uttered bombast.  As I was looking,

thrones were set in place

and the Ancient in Years took his seat;

his robe was white as snow,

his hair like lamb’s wool.

His throne was flames of fire

and its wheels were blazing fire;

a river of fire flowed from his presence.

Thousands upon thousands served him

and myriads upon myriads were in attendance.

The court sat, and the books were opened.

Then because of the bombast the horn was mouthing, I went on watching until the beast was killed; its carcass was destroyed and consigned to the flames.  The rest of the beasts, though deprived of their sovereignty, were allowed to remain alive until an appointed time and season.  I was watching in visions of the night and I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven; he approached the Ancient in Years and was presented to him.  Sovereignty and glory and kingly power were given to him, so that all people and nations of every language should serve him; his sovereignty was to be an everlasting sovereignty which was not to pass away; and his kingly power was never to be destroyed.

Saturday’s assigned portion:

My spirit within me was troubled; and, dismayed by the visions which came into my head, I, Daniel, approached one of those who were standing there and enquired what all this really signified; and he made known to me its interpretation,

These great beasts, four in number,

he said,

are four kingdoms which will arise from the earth.  But the holy ones of the Most High will receive the kingly power and retain possession of it always, for ever and ever.

Then I wished to know what the fourth beast really signified, the beast that was different from all the others, exceedingly fearsome with its iron teeth and bronze claws, devouring and crunching, then trampling underfoot what was left.  I wished also to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn which sprang up at whose coming three of them fell, the horn which had eyes and a mouth uttering bombast and which in its appearance was more imposing than the others.  As I watched, this horn was waging war on holy ones and proving too strong for them until the Ancient in Years came.  Then judgement was pronounced in favor of the holy ones of the Most High, and the time came when the holy ones gained possession of kingly power.

The explanation he gave was this:

The fourth beast signifies a fourth kingdom which will appear on earth.  It will differ from the other kingdoms; it will devour the whole earth, treading it down and crushing it.  The ten horns signify ten kings who will rise from this kingdom; after them will arise another king, who will be different from his predecessors; and he will bring low three kings.  He will hurl defiance at the Most High and wear down the holy ones of the Most High.  He will have it in mind to alter the festival seasons and religious laws; and the holy ones will be delivered into his power for a time, and times, and half a time.  But when the court sits, he will be deprived of his sovereignty, so that it may be destroyed and abolished for ever.  The kingly power, sovereignty, and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be given to the holy people of the Most High.  Their kingly power will last for ever, and every realm will serve and obey them.


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

(Part of the Song of the Three Young Men)

Let the the earth glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O mountains and hills,

and all that grows upon the earth,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O springs of water, seas, and streams,

O whales and all that move in the waters.

All birds of the air, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O beasts of the wild,

and all you flocks and herds.

O men and women everywhere, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Psalm 97 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The LORD is King;

let the earth rejoice;

let the multitude of the isles be glad.

2 Clouds and darkness are round about him,

righteousness and justice are the foundations of his throne.

A fire goes before him

and burns up his enemies on every side.

4 His lightnings light up the world;

the earth sees it and is afraid.

The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the LORD,

at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.

The heavens declare his righteousness,

and all the peoples see his glory.

Confounded be all who worship carved images

and delight in false gods!

Bow down before him, all you gods.

Zion hears and is glad, and the cities of Judah rejoice,

because of your judgments, O LORD.

For you are the LORD,

most high over all the earth;

you are exalted far above all gods.

10 The LORD loves those who hate evil;

he preserves the lives of the saints

and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

11 Light has sprung up for the righteous,

and joyful gladness for those who are truehearted.

12 Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous,

and give thanks to his holy Name.


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

(Part of the Song of the Three Young Men)

Let the people of God glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him forever.

Glorify the Lord, O priests and servants of the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O spirits and souls of the righteous,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

You that are holy and humble of heart, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Psalm 95:1-7 (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.

Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!


Luke 21:29-36 (Revised English Bible):

Friday’s assigned portion:

Jesus told them a parable:

Look at the fig tree, or at any other tree.  As soon as it bud, you can see for yourselves that summer is near.  In the same way, when you see all this happening, you may know that the kingdom of God is near.

Truly I tell you:  the present generation will live to see it all.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Saturday’s assigned portion:

Be on your guard; do not let your minds be dulled by dissipation and drunkenness and worldly cares so that the great day catches you suddenly like a trap; for that day will come on everyone, the whole world over.  Be on the alert, praying at all times for strength to pass safely through all that is coming and to stand in the presence of the Son of Man.


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.


Daniel 7 dates to the Hasmonean-Seleucid period, despite the claims of 7:1, which place it centuries before that.  In this chapter we have the imagery of cosmic war.  The text speaks of four Gentile kingdoms, most likely, in order, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, the Median Confederacy, the Persian Empire, and the Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great.  The ten horns are probably Seleucid kings, with Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who usurped three people to become king and who imposed a Hellenization policy on Jews in his realm, as the little horn.  And the Archangel Michael is almost certainly the “one like a human being.”  He is clearly subservient to God, who dispenses judgment in favor the holy ones.

History tells us that the Hasmoneans rebelled against Antiochus IV Epiphanes and established an independent Jewish state, which lasted for nearly a century, until 63 B.C.E., when the Roman Republic, a de facto empire soon to be a de jure one, assumed control.  This brings me to Luke 21, written after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 C.E.  The text places a prediction of the Second Coming of Jesus within the lifetimes of some of the original audience of the Lukan Gospel in the mouth of our Lord.

Yes, Antiochus IV Epiphanes died painfully and the Hasmonean revolt succeeded afterward.  Yes, there was a time of Judean independence.  But the Romans took over.  And, late in the First Century C.E., they destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple.  This must have seemed like the end of the world to many people at the time.  Yet Jesus did not return before the original members of Luke’s audience died.

We want to think that we are God’s holy ones, and that, in the cosmic war, God might deign to act as and when we predict.  Thus many people have not only longed for, but predicted the return of Jesus on specific dates for nearly two thousand years.  Each time, our Lord has not appeared and the world has not ended.  The rapture did not occur on May 21, 2011, as Harold Camping predicted.  I act on the assumption that his second date, October 21, 2011, the alleged end of the world, will come and go in the same manner.  We want God to take us away from our troubles, and some cling to doomsday dates in their desperation for deliverance and meaning.

Advent, or the season for preparing for Christmas, begins on the day after the Week of Proper 29:  Saturday.  One of the major themes of Advent is that God is with us in the here and the now.  God does not always take us away from our problems; no, sometimes God joins us amid them.  And when God does this, the form of the Incarnation might not be what we expected.  Jesus did not arrive as a conquering hero, expelling the Roman forces; he came as a helpless infant and died via the most humiliating, prolonged, and painful form of public execution the empire used.  But there was a Resurrection, was there not?

Yet the Roman Empire remained in power for centuries after that.

Other times, when some people think they are involved in cosmic warfare and on the side of light, they take matters into their own hands.  This is very much part of the ideology of radical Islamic terrorism, despite the fact that the Koran condemns murder.  Or, to use an example from Christian history, authorities drew on the cosmic warfare defense to justify the persecution and execution of Jews, Muslims, and accused heretics.  I wonder who the real heretics were.  There is no passage in which Jesus says, “Find those who believe differently from you and exterminate them!”

No, we ought to leave the cosmic battle to God, who is full of surprises.  May we embrace them and love our neighbors as ourselves, as our Lord told us to do.



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