Archive for June 2012

Devotion for Trinity Sunday (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Above:  Supper at Emmaus, by Caravaggio

Numbers and Luke, Part XIV:  Murder, Execution, and Forgiveness

MAY 30, 2021

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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.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 35:9-30

Psalm 19 (Morning)

Psalms 81 and 113 (Evening)

Luke 24:28-53

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You shall not pollute the land in which you live; for blood pollutes the land, and the land can have no expiation for blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it.

–Numbers 35:33, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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The Law of Moses is a peculiar code.  It contains death penalties for a variety offenses yet provides cities of refuge for those who have committed manslaughter.  Its violence is not universal.  Yet a murderer must die, the Law says, for bloodshed pollutes the land and invites divine wrath.  Oddly enough, the logic of the Law of Moses requires more bloodshed to expiate for the initial bloodshed of murder.  So, since life is sacred and blood shed pollutes the land, people shed more blood.  Huh?  I do not understand.

I do not understand for several reasons.  Some might note correctly that I am a practicing and professing liberal, one who recalls certain quotes from great men.  Thaddeus Stevens, who argued for equality before God for all people, regardless of race or economics in the United States until his death in 1868, opposed capital punishment in Pennsylvania in the early 1840s, saying,

Society should know nothing of vengeance.

Mohandas Gandhi, who hopefully needs no introduction, commented that “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” leaves the world blind and toothless.  And Martin Luther King, Jr., who really ought to need no introduction, said on April 4, 1967, that one cannot create peace via violent means.  Mine is a Christian liberalism.  The same Jesus who died via crucifixion did not return to life with a vengeful attitude.  He seemed, in fact, quite forgiving.  and he did not die by manslaughter.  No, his was a judicial killing, a political execution.  I do not perceive the moral difference between an execution and a murder.  Jesus changes everything, including how I perceive the world.  The Jesus I know bears little resemblance to the one of which I hear from Fundamentalists.  No, he is much more complex, interesting, and forgiving.

With this post I end one sequence of posts; the lectionary will pair two different books beginning with the next post.  If I have helped you, O reader, encounter the Jesus I know, I have succeeded.  And I hope that the next sequence of posts will yield the same result.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CORNELIUS HILL, ONEIDA CHIEF AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GEORGIAN, ABBOT; AND SAINTS EUTHYMIUS OF ATHOS AND GEORGE OF THE BLACK MOUNTAIN, ABBOTS AND TRANSLATORS

THE FEAST OF PHILIP MELANCHTON, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN [WITH THE PRESENTATION OF THE AUGSBURG CONFESSION]

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/numbers-and-luke-part-xiv-murder-execution-and-forgiveness/

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Trinity Sunday, Year C   13 comments

Above:  A Tango Postcard

May God Have This Dance?

FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

JUNE 16, 2019

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The Assigned Readings for This Sunday:

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Psalm 8 or Canticle 13 from The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Romans 5:1-5

John 16:12-15

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration for Trinity Sunday:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-trinity-sunday/

Prayer of Confession for Trinity Sunday:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/prayer-of-confession-for-trinity-sunday-2/

Prayer of Dedication for Trinity Sunday:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/prayer-of-dedication-for-trinity-sunday/

Alta Trinita Beata:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/10/21/alta-trinita-beata/

Trinitarian Benedictions:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/trinitarian-benedictions/

Prayer of Confession for Trinity Sunday:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/prayer-of-confession-for-trinity-sunday/

Ancient of Days:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/ancient-of-days/

Thou, Whose Almighty Word:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/thou-whose-almighty-word/

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Wisdom literature, from Proverbs to Sirach/Ecclesiasticus and the Wisdom of Solomon, personifies divine wisdom as feminine.  Much of this imagery influenced the prologue to the Gospel of John, in which Jesus is the Logos of God; the Logos resembles divine wisdom.  Thus, in Proverbs 8, we read a premonition of the Second Person of the Trinity.  The  Second and Third Persons come up in Romans 5 and John 16.  And both possible responses address the First Person of the Trinity.

The doctrine of the Trinity is a fine example of theology.  The doctrine has no single, definitive passage of scripture to attest to it.  Rather, it is the product of deep Christian thinkers who pondered a number of passages carefully and put them together.  Some professing Christians disapprove of that process of doctrine-making; it is, to them, like sausage-making in the simile of laws and sausages:  it is better not to know how they are made.  But that comparison does not apply to sound doctrine, a category in which I file the Trinity.  Those who object to the process of sound doctrine-making are living ironies, for they are more attached to such doctrines than I am.  Yet the process by which the Church itself–a human institution–arrived at them–offends such people.  Such doctrines, they prefer to imagine, fall from Heaven fully formed.  Karen Armstrong is correct:

…fundamentalism is ahistorical….

A History of God:  The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), page xx

(I, alas, have had some unfortunate conversations with some rather doctrinaire and less than intellectually and historically inquisitive professing Christians.  They have rendered me even more allergic to Fundamentalism than I already was.)

I propose that the best way to understand as much as possible about God is through poetry and other art forms.  We humans, I have heard, danced our religion before we thought it.  And the doctrine of the Trinity is at least as much artistry as it is theology.  The nature of God is a mystery to embrace and experience, not to attempt to understand.  So, O reader, dance with God, who seeks you as a partner on the dance floor.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CORNELIUS HILL, ONEIDA CHIEF AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GEORGIAN, ABBOT; AND SAINTS EUTHYMIUS OF ATHOS AND GEORGE OF THE BLACK MOUNTAIN, ABBOTS AND TRANSLATORS

THE FEAST OF PHILIP MELANCHTON, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN [WITH THE PRESENTATION OF THE AUGSBURG CONFESSION]

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/may-god-have-this-dance/

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Proper 3, Year C   Leave a comment

Above:  A Fire Extinguisher

Image Source = KRoock74

Conversations, Trees, and Fruits

The Sunday Closest to May 25

NOT OBSERVED IN 2016

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FIRST READING:  OPTION #1

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 27:4-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

When a sieve is shaken, the refuse appears;

so do a person’s faults when he speaks.

The kiln tests the potter’s vessels;

so the test of a person is in his conversation.

Its fruit discloses the cultivation of a tree;

so a person’s speech discloses the cultivation of his mind.

Do not praise anyone before he speaks,

for this is the way people are tested.

FIRST READING:  OPTION #2

Isaiah 55:10-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,

and do not return there until they have watered the earth,

making it bring forth and sprout,

giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;

it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

For you shall go out in joy,

and be led back in peace;

the mountains and the hills before you

shall burst into song,

and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;

instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;

and it shall be to the LORD for a memorial,

for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

RESPONSE

Psalm 92:1-4, 11-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  It is a good thing to give thanks to the LORD,

and to sing praises to your Name, O Most High;

2  To tell of your loving-kindness early in the morning

and of your faithfulness in the night season;

3  On the psaltery, and on the lyre

and to the melody of the harp.

4  For you have made me glad by your acts, O LORD;

and I shout for joy because of the works of your hands.

11  The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,

and shall spread abroad like a cedar of Lebanon.

12  Those who are planted in the house of the LORD

shall flourish in the courts of our God.

13  They shall still bear fruit in old age;

they shall be green and succulent;

14  That they may show how upright the LORD is,

my Rock, in whom there is no fault.

SECOND READING

1 Corinthians 15:50-58 (New Revised Standard Version):

What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this:  flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  Listen, I tell you a mystery!  We will not all die, but we will be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality.  When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:

Death, has been swallowed up in victory.

Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

GOSPEL READING

Luke 6:39-49 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] also told a parable to them,

Can one blind man guide another?  Surely both will fall into a pit?  The disciple is not superior to this teacher; the fully trained disciple will always be like his teacher.  Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye,’ when you cannot see the plank in your own?  Hypocrite!  Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter that is in your brother’s eye.

There is no sound tree that produces rotten fruit, nor again a rotten tree that produces sound fruit.  For every tree can be told by its own fruit; people do not pick figs from thorns, nor gather grapes from brambles.  A good man draws what is good from the store of goodness in his heart; a bad man draws what is bad from the store of badness.  For a man’s words from what fills his heart.

Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” and not do what I say?

Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and acts on them–I will show you what he is like.  He is like the man who when he built his house dug, and dug deep, and laid the foundations on rock; when the river was in flood it bore down on that house  but could not shake it, it was so well built.  But the one who listens and does nothing is like the man who built his house on soil, with no foundations:  as soon as the river bore down on it, it collapsed; and what a ruin that house became!

The Collect:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 3, Year A:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/14/proper-3-year-a/

Proper 3, Year B:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/proper-3-year-b/

Isaiah 55:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/25/proper-10-year-a/

Luke 6:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/week-of-proper-18-thursday-friday-and-saturday-year-2/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/17/week-of-proper-18-friday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/18/week-of-proper-18-saturday-year-1/

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My grandfather Taylor, whom I do not remember (He died when I was three years old) said that it was better to be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.  That quote came to mind as I made connections among the readings.  Both “Luke” and Jesus ben Sira apply the metaphor of a tree and its fruits to one’s spiritual life.  And the latter writes of one’s conversations as evidence of

the cultivation of his mind

and as a test.  I thought of our Lord’s later comment that what goes into a person’s mouth does not defile him or her; what comes out of his or her mouth does that.  (Read Matthew 15:10 forward.)  To defile was literally

to make one common,

a meaning the late J. B. Phillips made clear in his translations of the New Testament.  Ritual purity set one apart from the great unwashed mass of people; it was about negative identity:

I am not like them.

I want to be careful here.  Christianity, in its pure form, is not overly individualistic; it is more concerned with the community and the individual in that context.  Yet Christianity, in its pure form, does encourage a vital interior life.  If that is not what it ought to be, one’s behavior (including conversation) will reveal this face.  The spiritual fig will not fall far from the tree.

The tongue, James 3:1-2 tells us, is powerful.  The text contains the metaphor of a large forest fire in reference to the negative effects of improper speech, likened also to poison.  Imagine, therefore, O reader, modern metaphors for proper speech and conversation:  a fire extinguisher, flame retardant, an antidote, et cetera.

Such as one thinks, so one is.  The content of one’s character can change, for many people have changed.  The theological term for that is repentance.  The victory is possible via God, in particular through Jesus.  Thus hope for such victory is not in vain; rather, it is well-placed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 14, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FULBERT OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EDWARD THOMAS DEMBY, EPISCOPAL SUFFRAGAN BISHOP OF ARKANSAS, AND HENRY BEARD DELANY, EPISCOPAL SUFFRAGAN BISHOP OF NORTH CAROLINA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FREDERICK HANDEL, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT WANDREGISILUS OF NORMANDY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT, AND SAINT LAMBERT OF LYONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

 Modified on June 26, 2012 Common Era

Devotion for Saturday in Pentecost Week (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, by David Roberts; Lithograph from 1842-1845

Image Source = Library of Congress

Numbers and Luke, Part XIII:  Allegedly Sacred Violence

MAY 29, 2021

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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.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 32:1-6, 16-27

Psalm 104 (Morning)

Psalms 118 and 111 (Evening)

Luke 24:1-27

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…your sin will overtake you….

–Numbers 32:23b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Just when I begin to like the Torah I read something like Numbers 31, a chapter over which the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod Daily Lectionary from the Lutheran Service Book (2006) skips.  (Sometimes skipping is necessary, and the text always remains available for reading.)  The editor or editors of the Torah after the Babylonian Exile wove together various documents; sometimes the seams jump out at a person who reads the texts carefully.  Numbers 31 picks up a thread left dangling at the end of Chapter 25.  In both chapters killing people seems to be answer to idolatry.  And the violence in Chapter 31 is allegedly God-sanctioned war in retribution for the events early in Numbers 25.  In 31:15b we read of Moses saying disapprovingly,

You have spared every female!

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

He goes on to order the death of

every male among the children.

–32:17a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

After that the settlement of the Transjordan begins in Chapter 32.

The lectionary, by pairing Numbers 32, which occurs in the context of the previous chapter, with Luke 24:1-27, begs me to read the Old Testament lessons in the context of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.  Can you, O reader, imagine Jesus ordering the execution of young men and condemning people for sparing every female of a particular population?  Neither can I.  The recently resurrected Jesus, with fresh memories of his death, certainly would not have done so.

There has been far too much killing already in the Bible and beyond its pages.  Too many people (one would be too many) have died because of theological disputes.  May neither you, O reader, nor I be responsible for any such killing.  Rather, may we function as agents of divine love and reconciliation.  Then the prediction of Numbers 32:23b, that our sin will overtake us if we disregard God’s commandments, will not come to fruition for us.

If x, then y

is a logical progression.  So, if x does not occur, neither does y.  And what is more godly than love, the blood-soaked parts of the Hebrew Scriptures notwithstanding?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 26, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEREMIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, ECUMENIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/numbers-and-luke-part-xiii-allegedly-sacred-violence/

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Devotion for Friday in Pentecost Week (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Above:  The Edicule, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, 1898-1946

Image Source = Library of Congress

Numbers and Luke, Part XII:  Two Joshuas

MAY 28, 2021

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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.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 27:12-23

Psalm 51 (Morning)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening)

Luke 23:26-56

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The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod Daily Lectionary from the Lutheran Service Book (2006) skipped Numbers 25:1-27:11.  For the record, idolatry with Moabite prostitutes led to a plague.  A census followed.  And daughters of a deceased man who had no son received full property rights.  Then, in the assigned portion for today, Moses saw the Promised Land the commissioned Joshua, son of Nun, as his successor.

We read of a different Joshua–Jesus–in Luke 23:26-56.  He died via crucifixion, after which Joshua of Arimathea buries him.  For most crucified people, that manner of execution equaled eradication.  It was slow, painful, and humiliating.  then animals devoured the corpse.  This constituted capital punishment at its most Foucaultian extent.

Was Jesus the great leader whom people were supposed to follow?  After all, one who died on a tree was cursed, according to the Law of Moses.  The crucifixion of Jesus constituted a scandal on several fronts.  Yet there was good news:  the story was not over.  And this Joshua would open the portals to the Promised Land yet.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 26, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEREMIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, ECUMENIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/numbers-and-luke-part-xii-two-joshuas/

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Devotion for Wednesday and Thursday in Pentecost Week (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  Pieta, by Michelangelo Buonarroti

Numbers and Luke, Part XI:   Atonement

MAY 26 and 27, 2021

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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.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 23:4-28 (Wednesday)

Numbers 24:1-25 (Thursday)

Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning–Wednesday)

Psalm 97 (Morning–Thursday)

Psalms 1 and 33 (Evening–Wednesday)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening–Thursday)

Luke 22:47-71 (Wednesday)

Luke 23:1-25 (Thursday)

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How can I damn whom God has not damned,

How doom when the LORD has not doomed?

–Numbers 23:8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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It would have been nice (per Numbers 31:16) if Balaam had maintained that attitude.

Balaam, in Numbers 23 and 24, did as God instructed him, to King Balak’s dismay.  This was risky in the short term, I suppose, but the two merely parted company. Thus that part of the story ended.

Among my essential books is A Short History of Christian Thought, Revised and Expanded Edition (Oxford University Press, 1996), by Linwood Urban.  Father/Professor Urban’s volume is a wonderful resource for reading about Christian theological development.  These doctrines which we Christians affirm, refute, or discuss did not fall fully formed from Heaven.  No, theologians wrote and debated.  Bishops gathered at council and synods.  And, more often than not, they got it right.

Urban devotes a chapter to the doctrine of the Atonement.  He contextualizes it in Scripture and theology.  And he traces three understandings of the Atonement in the Bible and the writings of Church Fathers.  To summarize:

Reconciliation or atonement is said to be accomplished by the Incarnation itself, by the sacrificial death of Christ on Calvary, and by the conquest and defeat of the Devil.

–page 106

I recommend reading Urban’s chapter for full citations to the Bible and named Church Fathers.  These are matters of theological history.  Thus the existence of more than one ancient interpretation of the mechanics of the Atonement in Christian theology is a matter of objectively correct and confirmed history, not opinion.  As the late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, everybody is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts.

As for me, I grew up learning St. Anselm of Canterbury’s theory of Penal Substitutionary Atonement.  Jesus took my place on the cross, people told me.  This does not satisfy me, for it makes God seem like a vindictive thug.

I will not be satisfied until I see my son tortured and executed,

I imagine such a deity saying or thinking.  I recognize the Conquest of Satan theory in the Scriptures, and I hear echoes of the Incarnation-as-Atonement in the Gospels before their Passion narratives begin.  But we must come to terms with the death of Jesus.  That even played a vital role in the Atonement process.  Yet me must not stop there, for dead Jesus did not redeem us; resurrected Jesus did.

My conclusion follows:  The entire earthly life of Jesus was necessary for the Atonement to occur.  The Incarnation was vital, as were the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.  And Jesus was one whom God had neither damned nor doomed.  No, his death pointed out the futility and cruelty of scapegoating people.  And his Resurrection from the dead showed God’s power, which God had demonstrated many times.  Now and again, however, we mere mortals seem to need reminders.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 26, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEREMIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, ECUMENIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/numbers-and-luke-part-xi-atonement/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday in Pentecost Week (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Above:  Balaam and the Angel

Numbers and Luke, Part X:   Obedience to Our Sovereign God

MAY 24 and 25, 2021

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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.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 22:1-20 (Monday)

Numbers 22:21-23:3 (Tuesday)

Psalm 5 (Morning–Monday)

Psalm 42 (Morning–Tuesday)

Psalms 84 and 29 (Evening–Monday)

Psalms 102 and 133 (Evening–Tuesday)

Luke 22:1-23 (Monday)

Luke 22:24-46 (Tuesday)

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Parts of the readings from the Book of Numbers prove to be inconsistent with my Western and scientific worldview and mindset, which I have inherited from my post-Enlightenment culture.  What influence might one non-Israelite prophet’s curse have upon them?  And we all know that donkeys lack the capacity for human language.  But these details are trivial matters; the main point of the Balak and Balaam narrative is to affirm the sovereignty of God.  Balaam, hired to curse the Israelites on behalf of Balak, the King of Moab, disobeys God by setting with Balak’s agents.  The the prophet receives divine permission to continue on the journey but only to speak as God, not Balak wishes.

To digress briefly, who stops Balaam and his donkey in their tracks?  The narrative, in 22:22-26, uses a Hebrew term for “the adversary,” or the Satan.  The theology of Satan changed from the beginning of the Bible to the New Testament.  Here, in the Book of Numbers, as in the Book of Job, the Satan was an angel who worked for God.  Free agency, such as we see in the New Testament, came later.  This is a well-documented pattern of facts, one which serious study of the texts reveals.  There are even entire books on just this subject.

While I am wearing my higher criticism hat….

Luke 22:24-27, set immediately after our Lord’s betrayal by Judas Iscariot and the institution of the Holy Eucharist and the Last Supper, bears a striking resemblance to Matthew 20:25-28 and Mark 10:42-45, both of which follow on the heels of James and John, sons of Zebedee, asking for high status for themselves (or their mother, our Lord’s aunt, asking for them, depending on the account one reads) in the Kingdom of God.  And the passages from Matthew and Mark precede the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem almost immediately.  Such discrepancies did not trouble the Church Fathers who approved the New Testament canon, so I will not permit them to disturb me either.  Besides, I know that the Gospels are not documentaries.

Anyhow, the theme of obedience we find in Numbers 22 runs through Luke 22 also.  Jesus obeys God.  Those who defy the Greco-Roman system of age and patronage, a system which oppressed people while impressing them with moments of generosity, obey God.  Those who stand by Jesus obey God.  Even Judas Iscariot played his part in salvation history.  If nobody had betrayed Jesus, would he have suffered, died, and risen?  Again we see the sovereignty of God playing out in the texts.

Sometimes agents in these dramas of the sovereignty of God are less than savory characters.  Consider the Numbers and Luke readings for examples of this, O reader.  Balaam, for example, obeyed God until he did not; consult Numbers 31:16.  And, elsewhere in the Bible, the narrative presents the Assyrians and the Babylonians as agents of divine sovereignty and punishment–agents those texts also condemn.  The fact that you, O reader, and I have roles to play in divine plans does not necessarily bode well for us.  Yet may we be on God’s side.  It is better for us, and I propose that God prefers it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 26, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEREMIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, ECUMENIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/numbers-and-luke-part-x-obedience-to-our-sovereign-god/

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Proper 2, Year C   Leave a comment


Above:  Moravian Logo in Stained Glass

Image Source = JJackman

Mercy, Judgment, and Grace

The Sunday Closest to May 18

NOT OBSERVED IN 2016

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Genesis 45:1-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out,

Send everyone away from me.

So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Joseph said to his brothers,

I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?

But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.

Then Joseph said to his brothers,

Come closer to me.

And they came closer. He said,

I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, “Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there– since there are five more years of famine to come– so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.” And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.

Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.

Psalm 37:1-12 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Do not fret yourself because of evildoers;

do not be jealous of those who do no wrong.

2 For they shall soon whither like the grass,

and like the green grass they fade away.

3 Put your trust in the LORD and do good,

dwell in the land and feed on its riches.

Take delight in the LORD,

and he shall give you your heart’s desire.

Commit your way to the LORD and put your trust in him,

and he will bring it to pass.

He will make your righteousness as clear as the light

and your just dealing as the noonday.

Be still and wait for the LORD

and wait patiently for him.

8  Do not fret yourselves over the one who prospers,

the one who succeeds in evil schemes.

9  Refrain from anger, leave rage alone;

do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.

10 For evildoers shall be cut off,

but those who wait upon the LORD shall possess the land.

11  In a little while the wicked shall be no more;

you shall search out their place, but they will not be there.

12  But the lowly shall possess the land;

they will delight in abundance of peace.

41 But the deliverance of the righteous comes from the LORD;

he is their stronghold in time of trouble.

42 The LORD will help them and rescue them;

he will rescue them from the wicked and deliver them,

because they seek refuge in him.

1 Corinthians 15:35-49 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Someone may ask,

How are dead people raised, and what sort of body do they have when they come back?

These are stupid questions.  Whatever you sow in the ground has to die before it is given new life and the thing that you sow is not what is going to come; you sow  a bare grain, say of wheat or something like that, and then God gives it the sort of body that he has chosen:  each sort of seed gets its own sort of body.

Everything that is flesh is not the same flesh:  there is human flesh, animals’ flesh, the flesh of birds and the flesh of fish.  Then there are heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the heavenly bodies have a beauty of their own and the earthly bodies a different one.  The sun has its brightness, the moon a different brightness, and the stars a different brightness, and the stars differ from each other in brightness.  It is the same with the resurrection of the dead:  the thing that is sown is perishable but what is raised is imperishable; the thing that is sown is contemptible but what is raised is glorious; the thing that is sown is weak but what is raised is powerful; when it is sown it embodies the soul, when it is raised it embodies the spirit.

If the soul has its own embodiment, so dies the spirit have its own embodiment.  The first man, Adam, as scripture says, became a living soul; but the last Adam has become a life-giving spirit.  That is, first the one with the soul, not the spirit, and after that, the one with the spirit.  The first man, being from the earth, is earthly by nature; the second man is from heaven.  As this earthly man was, so are we on earth; and as the heavenly man is, so are we in heaven.  And we, who have been modelled on the earthly man, will be modelled on the heavenly man.

Luke 6:27-38 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

But I say this to you who are listening:  Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly.  To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too; to the man who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic.  Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you.  Treat others as you would like them to treat you.  If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect?  Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what thanks can you expect?  For even sinners do that much.  And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what thanks can you expect?  Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount.  Instead, love your enemies and do good, and lend without any hope of return.  You will have a great reward, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.  Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned.  Give, and there will be gifts for you:  a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.

The Collect:

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 2, Year A:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/proper-2-year-a/

Proper 2, Year B:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/28/proper-2-year-b/

Genesis 45:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/proper-15-year-a/

1 Corinthians 15:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/week-of-proper-19-saturday-year-2/

Luke 6:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/week-of-proper-18-thursday-friday-and-saturday-year-2/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/week-of-proper-18-thursday-year-1/

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 Rise, heart, thy Lord is risen.  Sing his praise

Without delays,

Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise

With him may’st rise;

That, as his death calcined thee to dust,

His life may make thee gold, and much more just….

–George Herbert

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Joseph forgave his brothers who sold him into slavery.  God, he said, used that dastardly deed to help many others years after the fact.  Nevertheless, forgiving those who had sold him into slavery seems like a spiritual feat under my circumstance.  It is possible only by grace.  Being better than others might expect–doing more than one must–being as merciful as possible by grace–is the unifying core of this Sunday’s readings.  Dong this consists of nothing less than applying to others the same love one has received from God.  Thus grace is supposed to beget more grace.

We have a model–Jesus–to follow.  We have his ethical teachings and his life.  And he have his resurrection.  People murdered him.  He forgave them.  He even interceded for them.  Peter denied Jesus, who forgave him.  Jesus is the “man of heaven” whose image each of us can bear.  Bearing our Lord’s image, forgiving our enemies, refraining from baseless judgments–these are possible by grace and free will, the latter of which exists because of grace.  So these are possible ultimately by grace.  These can be very difficult tasks, and I have not mastered them.  But I have learned them better than before.  And I look forward to becoming more proficient at them.  Moral perfectionism is quite unrealistic, for flawed beings can never achieve that goal.  But we can do better.  And God–in Christ–offers to help us do so.

I have known this help many times.  During one particular season of my life I detected much sudden grace.  It was an extremely difficult time, so the grace was that much more obvious.  My spiritual life improved greatly without much effort on my part.  I found that my internal reality had changed for the better overnight.  I did not object; I cooperated instead.  And my willingness to extend mercy to my enemies came in time–not immediately, to be sure; it is still coming.  God, I perceive, meets us where we are and carries us as far as we need to go.  Our task is to cooperate.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 14, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FULBERT OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EDWARD THOMAS DEMBY, EPISCOPAL SUFFRAGAN BISHOP OF ARKANSAS, AND HENRY BEARD DELANY, EPISCOPAL SUFFRAGAN BISHOP OF NORTH CAROLINA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FREDERICK HANDEL, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT WANDREGISILUS OF NORMANDY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT, AND SAINT LAMBERT OF LYONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

Modified on June 23, 2012 Common Era

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Proper 1, Year C   4 comments

Above:  An Oasis in the Sahara Desert

Image Source = Library of Congress

Trusting in God

The Sunday Closest to May 11

NOT OBSERVED IN 2016

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Jeremiah 17:5-11 (Revised English Bible):

These are words of the LORD:

A curse on anyone who trusts in mortals and leans for support on human kind,

while his heart is far from the LORD!

He will be like a juniper in the steppeland;

when good comes he is unaware of it.

He will live among the rocks in the wilderness, in a salt, uninhabited land.

Blessed is anyone who trusts in the LORD, and rests his confidence on him.

He will be like a tree planted by the waterside,

that sends out its roots along a stream.

When the heat comes it has nothing to fear;

its foliage stays green.

Without care in a year of drought,

it does not fail to bear fruit.

The heart is deceitful above any other thing, desperately sick;

who can fathom it?

I, the LORD, search the mind and test the heart,

requiting each one for his conduct and as his deeds deserve.

Like a partridge sitting on a clutch of eggs which it has not laid,

so is he who amasses wealth unjustly.

Before his days are half done it will leave him, and he will be a fool at the last.

Psalm 1 (Revised English Bible):

Happy is the one who does not take the counsel of the wicked for a guide,

or follow the path that sinners tread, or take his seat in the company of scoffers.

His delight is in the law of the LORD; it is his meditation day and night.

He is like a tree planted beside water channels;

it yields its fruit in season and its foliage never fades.

So he too prospers in all he does.

The wicked are not like this; rather they are like chaff driven by the wind.

When judgment comes, therefore, they will not stand firm,

nor will sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

The LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked is doomed.

1 Corinthians 15:12-20 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now if Christ raised from the dead is what has been preached, how can some of you be saying that there is no resurrection of the dead?  If there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ himself cannot have been raised, and if Christ has not been raised then our preaching is useless and your believing it is useless;  indeed, we are shown up as witnesses who have committed perjury before God, because we swore in evidence before God that he had raised Christ to life.  For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, you are still in your sins.  And what is more serious, all who have died in Christ have perished.  If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are the most unfortunate of all people.

But Christ has in fact been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep.

Luke 6:17-26 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] then came down with them and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of his disciples with a great crowd of people from all parts of Judaea and from Jerusalem and from the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon who had come to hear him and to be cured of their diseases.  People tormented by unclean spirits were also cured, and everyone in the crowd was trying to touch him because power came out of him that cured them all.

Then fixing his eyes on his disciples he [Jesus] said:

How happy are you who are poor; yours is the kingdom of God.

Happy are you who are hungry now; you shall be satisfied.

Happy are you who weep now; you shall laugh.

Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, for then your reward will be great in heaven.  This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

But alas for you who are rich; you are having your consolation now.

Alas for you who have your fill now; you shall go hungry.

Alas for you who laugh now; you shall mourn and weep.

Alas for you when the world speaks well of you!  This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.

The Collect:

O  God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 1, Year A:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/proper-1-year-a/

Proper 1, Year B:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/proper-1-year-b/

Jeremiah 17:

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

1 Corinthians 15:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/week-of-proper-19-thursday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-19-friday-year-2/

Luke 6:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/week-of-proper-18-tuesday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/week-of-proper-18-wednesday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/week-of-proper-18-tuesday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-18-wednesday-year-2/

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The theme of trusting in God unites the readings.

When one is reviled and persecuted for the sake of righteousness, what does one have?  God.  When one is poor, hungry, and sorrowful, what does one have?  God.  In particular, in reference to 1 Corinthians 15:12-20, one has the Resurrected Christ, without whom we Christians

are of all people most to be pitied.  (19b, New Revised Standard Version)

Self-reliance will not suffice, for the wealthy, full, and laughing ones, plus those held in esteem all receive woes in our Lord’s Sermon on the Plain.

That is a profoundly counter-cultural message.  Woe to the respected, wealthy, full, and laughing?  Let me count the seconds before a Republican pundit or politician cries “class warfare!”  (I am flying my liberal flag.)  But reliance on God is the key, and such reliance contradicts conventions about self-made men and women.  All that we have comes from God.  All tat we can be is due to God.  Our stewardship of those resources is a great spiritual matter.

Trusting in God can be difficult; I know.  It is still hard for me much of the time.  On the other hand, it has become easier.  But it is all that I have, really.  Everything else is transitory, but God is everlasting.  Everything else is a collection of means to various ends, hopefully positive ones.  Yet God is the greatest end.  In that mystery called God I find my destiny, whatever that will entail.  May you, O reader, find your destiny there also, whatever that will entail.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 13, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMENEGILD, VISIGOTHIC PRINCE AND ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF ROUEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, ABBOT, AND MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARTIN I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF MIKAEL AGRICOLA, FINNISH LUTHERAN BISHOP OF TALLINN

Modified on June 23, 2012 Common Era