Week of Proper 20: Thursday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  Herod Antipas, by James Tissot

Image Source = Brooklyn Museum

That Which Has Significance

SEPTEMBER 27, 2018

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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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Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The words of Koheleth son of David, king in Jerusalem.

Utter futility!–said Koheleth–

Utter futility!  All is futile!

What real value is there for a man

In all the gains he makes beneath the sun?

One generation goes, another comes,

But the earth remains the same forever.

The sun rises, the sun sets–

And glides back to where it riese.

Southward blowing,

Turning northward,

Ever turning blows the wind;

On its rounds the wind returns.

All streams flow into the sea,

Yet the sea is never full;

To the place [from] which they flow

The streams flow back again.

All such things are wearisome:

No man can ever state them;

The eye never has enough of seeing,

Nor the ear enough of hearing.

Only that shall happen

Which has happened,

Only that occur

Which has occurred;

There is nothing new

Beneath the sun!

Sometimes there is a a phenomenon of which they say,

Look, this one is new!

–it occurred long since, in ages that went by before us.  The earlier ones are not remembered; so too those that will occur later will no more be remembered than those that will occur at the very end.

Psalm 90:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

 Lord, you have been our refuge

from one generation to another.

 Before the mountains were brought forth,

or the land and the earth were born,

from age to age you are God.

3  You turn us back to the dust and say,

“Go back, O child of earth.”

 For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past

and like a watch in the night.

 You sweep us away like a dream;

we fade away suddenly like the grass.

 In the morning it is green and flourishes;

in the evening it is dried up and withered.

Luke 9:7-9 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Meanwhile Herod the tetrarch had heard all that was going on; and he was puzzled, because some people were saying that John had risen from the dead, others that Elijah had reappeared, still others that one of the ancient prophets had come back to life.  But Herod said,

John?  I beheaded him.  So who is this that I hear such reports about?

And he was anxious to see him.

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The Collect:

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

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Great ambition without contribution is insignificant.

–William Hundert in The Emperor’s Club (2003)

The Hebrew word often translated “vanity” or “futility” means “air” or “breath,” therefore something transient.  This linguistic background is essential to grasping correctly the passage from Ecclesiastes.  But what is futile?  Does nothing have real meaning and purpose?  A note from page 1606 of The Jewish Study Bible has helped my understanding.  It reads:

Within Jewish commentary, one emphasis applies futility to actions of humans for themselves alone, since actions can last and be worthwhile only if they are involved with Torah and labor for God.

Herod Antipas, of whom we read in Luke 8:19-21, was a bad character.  He, a son of the notorious Herod the Great, had entered into an incestuous marriage, ordered the arrest of John the Baptist for decrying said marriage, and ordered John’s execution to save face at a party.  This man acted for his own self-interest, so his ambitions lacked significance.  John the Baptist, however, acted for God, so his deeds were significant.

The deeds of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth were for God; they were significant.  May we–you, O reader, and I–lead lives of significance, matters lasting and worthwhile.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/that-which-has-significance/

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