Devotion for June 27 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  The Baptism of the Eunuch, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Joshua and Acts, Part II:  Religion and Nationalism

SATURDAY, JUNE 27, 2020

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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:

Joshua 2:1-24

Psalm 36 (Morning)

Psalms 80 and 27 (Evening)

Acts 8:26-40

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Among the few named women in the Matthew version of our Lord’s family tree is Rahab, a prostitute of Jericho.  Danna Nolan Fewell, in her chapter on the Book of Joshua (pages 63-66) from The Woman’s Bible Commentary (1992), edited by Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe, makes much of Rahab’s marginal status.  Yet the prostitute recognized Yahweh’s power, and thereby became an insider.  Four chapters later, she and her family found refuge in the midst of slaughter.

The notes on page 466 of The Jewish Study Bible (2004) explain how Jewish and Christian interpreters have dealt with a Bible story in which a prostitute is a heroic figure.  One tradition says that she converted, married Joshua, and became the mother of prophets.  Or perhaps, some have said, she was an innkeeper, not a harlot.  They point to the linguistic similarity between two Hebrew words.  Yet I think that the scandal of the story is something to accept, not from which to flee.

Another outsider who became an insider was the Ethiopian eunuch who struggled with Isaiah 53 until St. Philip the Evangelist, one of the early deacons, helped him to understand.  Of St. Philip we know little, but he did obey God and aid the eunuch in coming to Christ.

These stories point toward the universality of God’s call to we human beings.  The old (and yet current) notion of a tribal deity who favors just one nation or country is both inadequate and inaccurate.  Unfortunately, that tribal God notion pervades the Book of Joshua, which also contains the Rahab story, which offers a different vision.  The concept of a tribal God can prove quite appealing and comforting, for we assume quite often that God is on our side.  If, for example, God favors the State of Israel, what about the oppressed Palestinians? (They are people too.)  When does one cross a dangerous line and erect a national religion?  I am an American.  Is God always on the my country’s side in wars?  No!  My leaders, like those of all other countries, are mere mortals.

In my country’s past the Confederate States of America (CSA) fought for, among other things, the preservation of slavery; its founders said so before they claimed otherwise after the Civil War.  The CSA understood God to be on its side.  This was a great misapprehension.  I have read postwar church documents from the South.  In late 1865, for example, the newly-renamed Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS), founded four years earlier as the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America (PCCSA), expressed official shock and confusion over Confederate defeat.  God could not have been angry about the existence of slavery, for the Bible condoned and commanded that institution, they reasoned.  So maybe Southerners had not managed the institution properly, they said.  They misunderstood the situation.  As Abraham Lincoln said, the real question is not whether God is on our side but whether we are on God’s side.

May we–you, O reader, and I–be on guard against religious nationalism, which misrepresents God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 17, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BENNETT J. SIMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF COMPIEGNE

THE FEAST OF SAINT NERSES LAMPRONATS, ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF TARSUS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/joshua-and-acts-part-ii-religion-and-nationalism/

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