Archive for October 2012

Devotion for August 16 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  Nazis and the Ark of the Covenant, from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

(A Screen Capture)

2 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part III:  God, Undomesticated

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 16, 2017

THURSDAY, AUGUST 16, 2018

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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:

2 Samuel 6:1-19

Psalm 51 (Morning)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening)

1 Corinthians 9:1-23

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Sometimes I argue with Bible stories.  The Bible, which people wrote, comes from antiquity, a time which predates many of the events which have shaped my world view.  I am, for example, a product of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, and I have access to more knowledge than those who wrote the Bible could ever know about certain topics.  So I reject the idea that demon possession causes epilepsy, for example.

Yet other influences on my thought which cause me to argue with certain Bible stories come from the Bible itself.  God, depending on the part of the Old Testament one reads, is either approachable (as in the case of Abram/Abraham) or fearsome to be near (as in death for touching the Ark of the Covenant).  But God was most approachable in the person of Jesus of Nazareth; people not only touched him but had him over for dinner.

The stories of the power and menace of the Ark of the Covenant speak of God as an undomesticated force.  Jesus died for several reasons, among them the fact that he challenged domesticated views of God.  The study of the past uncovers examples of people who faced violence (often fatal) because they challenged beloved organizing ideas in society.  They include Jesus of Nazareth, Paul of Tarsus, Mohandas Gandhi, and numerous civil rights martyrs in the United States.  Violence, part of the darkness of human nature, rears its ugly head in defense of the indefensible and the merely traditional alike.  But one fact remains unchanged:  We cannot domesticate God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 29, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAUL MANZ, DEAN OF LUTHERAN CHURCH MUSIC

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE JORDAN, RENEWER OF SOCIETY

THE FEAST OF JAMES HANNINGTON AND HIS COMPANIONS, ANGLICAN MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF JOHN BUCKMAN WALTHOUR, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/2-samuel-and-1-corinthians-part-iii-god-undomesticated/

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Devotion for August 15 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  The City of David, 1931

Image Source = Library of Congress

2 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part II:  Proper Concern for Others

TUESDAY, AUGUST 15, 2017

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 15, 2018

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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:

2 Samuel 5:1-25

Psalm 97 (Morning)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening)

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

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For reasons I do not understand every list of kings of Israel and Judah I have seen in study Bibles excludes Ish-bosheth, son of Saul.  He is there in 2 Samuel 2-4, living in David’s shadow.  With that out of the way, I move along to David capturing Jerusalem and making it his capital city.  The narrative of David is clear:  He did well when he obeyed God.

Obeying God means putting away arrogance, which stands in the way of love.   St. Paul, writing in 1 Corinthians 8, dealt with the issue of good offered to false gods.  It is a shame to let good food go to waste, and we know that such alleged deities are not really gods, he wrote, but many other people do not know that.  So, he continued, we who have this knowledge ought not to lead others astray, even accidentally.  Proper concern for others is one principle at work in that line of reasoning.  Another is the fact that people are accountable to each other in society.

At this time I call your attention, O reader to Mark 7:18-21a (The New Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus] said to [his disciples], “Even you, don’t you understand?  Can’t you see that nothing that goes into someone from outside can make that person unclean, because it goes not into the heart but into the stomach and passes into the sewer?” (Thus he pronounced all foods clean.)  And he went on, “It is what comes out of someone that makes that person unclean.  For it is from within , from the heart, that evil intentions emerge…..”

Those evil intentions, the list of which I did not replicate here, are what makes one unclean, according to verse 23.

If St. Paul knew of that saying and of Jesus pronouncing all food clean, he did not indicate that he did.  Indeed, he died before the composition of the Gospel of Mark, but the oral tradition (at least that much) existed during St. Paul’s lifetime.

St. Paul made his statement about food offered to false gods in a particular cultural context.  The application of principles varies according to contexts; reality cannot be any other way.  The principle of not leading others astray, even by accident, is a timeless one. What applying it entails varies from setting to setting.  My only caution is this:  One must not take it to ridiculous extremes.  People being people, some take offense very easily and quickly.  One must  not permit them to limit one’s actions, or else one will do nothing or too little.  And that will be bad.  No, we are called to act affirmatively for the good of others; that is what God wants us to do.  We will do well to obey that command, however it translates into actions in our specific contexts.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 25, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PROCLUS, ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE; AND SAINT RUSTICUS, BISHOP OF NARBONNE

THE FEAST OF ANGELINA AND SARAH GRIMKE, ABOLITIONISTS

THE FEAST OF VINCENT PRICE, ACTOR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/2-samuel-and-1-corinthians-part-ii-proper-concern-for-others/

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Devotion for August 13 and 14 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  Mountains of Gilboa

Image Source = Library of Congress

1 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part VI:  Self-Control

2 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part I:  Self-Control

SUNDAY, AUGUST 13, 2017, and MONDAY, AUGUST 14, 2017

MONDAY, AUGUST 13, 2018, and TUESDAY, AUGUST 14, 2018

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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:

1 Samuel 31:1-13 (August 13)

2 Samuel 1:1-27 (August 14)

Psalm 42 (Morning–August 13)

Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning–August 14)

Psalms 102 and 133 (Evening–August 13)

Psalms 1 and 33 (Evening–August 14)

1 Corinthians 7:1-24 (August 13)

1 Corinthians 7:25-40 (August 14)

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Paul expected Jesus to return quite soon.   So, regarding marriage and sexuality, he advised people to remain as they were–single or married–and to place matters of God above those of the desires of one’s spouse or body.  He advised self-control while acknowledging the goodness of sexuality.  But even a good thing, not controlled, can become a distraction.

Along the way Paul wrote a number of statements one will not hear at a wedding ceremony.

To the unmarried and to widows I say this:  it is a good thing if like me they stay as they are; but if they lack self-control, they should marry.  It is better to be married than to burn with desire.

–Verses 8-9, Revised English Bible

In other words,

Marriage:  At least it is not fornication.

And we read at the end of the chapter:

Thus he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who does not marry does better.

–Verse 38, Revised English Bible

The main idea, that one must not become and/or remain distracted from God’s call on one’s life, unites the chapter.  And sexuality is a powerful human drive; it does ensure the continuation of the species and provide much pleasure.  But it, like so much else, can become a distraction from one’s divine vocation(s).

The theme of self-control continues in 1 and 2 Samuel.  Saul had tried more than once to kill David.  And the monarch had ordered the killing of people who had helped the former shepherd.  Yet David had refused to kill Saul when he had opportunities to do so.  He even lamented not only his friend, Jonathan, but Saul, after they died.  David’s self-control relative to Saul was remarkable.  It is a model to emulate.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 22, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK PRATT GREEN, BRITISH METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMEW ZOUBERBUHLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF PAUL TILLICH, LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/1-samuel-and-1-corinthians-part-vi2-samuel-and-1-corinthians-part-i-self-control/

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Devotion for August 12 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  Peter’s Vision of the Sheet with Animals

Image in the Public Domain

1 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part V:  Food and Fellowship

SATURDAY, AUGUST 12, 2017

SUNDAY, AUGUST 12, 2018

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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:

1 Samuel 28:3-25

Psalm 5 (Morning)

Psalms 8 and 29 (Evening)

1 Corinthians 6:1-20

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When [Jesus] had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable.  He said to them, “Then do you also fail to understand?  Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer.”  (Thus he declared all foods clean.)  And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles.  For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come:  fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.

–Mark 7:17-23, New Revised Standard Version

The  politics of food in the Bible interests me.  Some foods are unclean in the Law of Moses yet God declares them clean in the Acts of the Apostles.  The Apostle Paul dealt with the issue of food in passing in 1 Corinthians 6 yet at length in the context of food offered to imaginary deities elsewhere.  Paul could not have been aware of Mark 7:19b, in which Jesus declared all foods clean, for he died before the Gospel of Mark came into existence.  But, if he was aware of the oral tradition or a written version of that teaching, he did not indicate that he was.  There is also the matter of whom one eats and refuses to eat (as in 1 Corinthians 5:11 and elsewhere.)  But the witch at Endor offered even the unsympathetic King Saul food.

There is a Russian proverb which states that one’s company, not the menu, makes for a good meal.  By that definition Jesus considered prostitutes, Roman collaborators, and other notorious sinners to be good company.  At least they knew of their need for forgiveness.  And he did not condemn them.

“For me everything is permissible,” maybe, but not everything does good.  True, for me everything is permissible, but I am determined not to be dominated by anything.

–1 Corinthians 6:12, The New Jerusalem Bible

That last clause is crucial.  Any behavior or thing can become addictive under certain circumstances.  Modern scientific knowledge regarding the pleasure center of the human brain explains the difference between the brain of an addict and the brain of someone not addicted.  So we know that addiction is a matter of brain chemistry (affected by life circumstances, quite often), not one’s weak will.  Yet the principle that we ought to master our appetites rather than be mastered by them is a timeless one.  And we should also master our prejudices regarding who constitutes good company for table fellowship.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS

THE FEAST OF HUGH LATIMER, NICHOLAS RIDLEY, AND THOMAS CRANMER, ANGLICAN MARTYRS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/1-samuel-and-1-corinthians-part-v-food-and-fellowship/

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Devotion for August 11 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  Saul and David, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

1 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part IV:  Mercy and Discipline

FRIDAY, AUGUST 11, 2017

SATURDAY, AUGUST 11, 2018

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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:

1 Samuel 26:1-25

Psalm 103 (Morning)

Psalms 117 and 139 (Evening)

1 Corinthians 5:1-13

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1 Samuel 26 resembles Chapter 24 closely.  The two are probably variants of the same incident, actually.  1 Samuel and some other books of the Hebrew Bible, being composed of documentary sources edited together, contain such doublets.  Anyhow, it is good to read another account (or variant of a story) of mercy.

In contrast, we have 1 Corinthians 5, in which we read of idolatry, greed, incest, slander, drunkenness, and dishonesty–all within the Corinthian church.  Paul orders the banishment of the offenders.  Indeed, those behaviors destroy self and others, unlike sparing the life of a person who has tried to kill one.  And it is true that negative influences in a group can grow if one does not remove them, just as positive influences can spread.

Once I heard of a United Methodist congregation in Columbus, Georgia.  Membership had not increased in years because of the negative activities of a small number of people, who had been chiefly responsible for a series of short pastorates.  In the 1980s or 1990s the newly appointed minister managed to compel most of these trouble makers to leave the congregation.  Membership and attendance increased substantially and the remaining (former) trouble makers became rather quiet.

Sometimes one must remove from fellowship (for the sake of the group) those who will not reform.  Yet one must never forget the imperative of showing mercy to those who have changed their negative and destructive ways.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS

THE FEAST OF HUGH LATIMER, NICHOLAS RIDLEY, AND THOMAS CRANMER, ANGLICAN MARTYRS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/1-samuel-and-1-corinthians-part-iv-mercy-and-discipline/

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Proper 14, Year C   12 comments

Above:  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., 1964

Photograph by Dick DeMarsico, World Telegraph and Sun

Image Source = Library of Congress

Active, Abrahamic Faith

The Sunday Closest to August 10

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 11, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 and Psalm 50:1-8, 23-24

or 

Genesis 15:1-6 and Psalm 33:12-22

then 

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

Luke 12:32-40

The Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; 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:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-twelfth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/prayer-of-confession-for-the-twelfth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-twelfth-sunday-after-pentecost/

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We human beings use the same word in different ways, with a variety of meanings.  Consider, O reader, the word “day,” for example.  People say,

In my day…

and

Back in the day…,

as well as

There is a new day coming.

Or “day” might apply literally, as in when today separates yesterday from tomorrow.

The same principle applies to “faith” in the New Testament.  The Apostle Paul, in Romans, used it to mean something inherently active, which leads to works.  A Pauline formula is that as a person thinks, so he or she is.  The Letter of James contains a different definition, that of intellectual assent to a proposition or set of propositions.  So, according to that definition, faith without works is dead.  Both epistles agree on the imperative of active faith, so one need not imagine a discrepancy between their conclusions.

And there is the definition of faith from Hebrews 11:1-3:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Indeed, by faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is was made from things that are not visible.

New Revised Standard Version

In other words, faith applies in circumstances in which one can neither prove nor disprove a proposition according to scientific methods or documentary evidence.  That is an anachronistic definition, I know, but it works well.  Science can tell us much; I respect it and reject all anti-scientific sentiments and statements.  God gave us brains; may we use them as fully and critically as possible.  And documents form the basis of the study of history as I practice it.  Objective historical accuracy and the best scientific data available ought to override dogma, superstition, and bad theology.  So, no matter what the Gospels say, demon possession does not cause epilepsy, for example.  Yet there does exist truth which these twin standards of modernism (as opposed to postmodernism) cannot measure.  Such truth is good theology, which one can grasp by faith.

We read in Hebrews of the faithful example of Abram/Abraham (and by implication, of Sarai/Sarah), which harkens back to Genesis.  Theirs is a fantastical story, one which challenges understandings of biology.  But that is not the point.  The point is that God does unexpected things, and that the people of God should accept this reality.  And whether a certain unexpected thing is good news or bad news depends upon one’s spiritual state, as in Luke 12.

The reading from Isaiah 1 caught and held my attention most of all.  I, as an observant Episcopalian, am an unrepentant ritualist.  The text does not condemn ritualism itself.  No, the text damns insincere ritualism mixed with the neglect of vulnerable members of society:

Wash yourselves clean;

Put your evil things

Away from my sight.

Cease to do evil;

Learn to do good.

Devote yourselves to justice;

Aid the wronged.

Uphold the rights of the orphan;

Defend the cause of the widow.

–Isaiah 1:16-17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Do it or else, the text says.  This is a call to society; Enlightenment notions of individualism do not apply here.  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, called for

…a true revolution of values

from a society focused on things to one which places the priority on people.  In the same speech, the one in which he opposed the Vietnam War without equivocation, he said:

A nation that continues to spend year after year more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

A Testament of Hope:  The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.  (Edited by James M. Washington, 1986), page 241

The Prophet Isaiah would  have agreed.

Eternal God, heavenly Father,

you have graciously accepted us as living members

of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ,

and you have fed us with spiritual food

in the sacrament of his Body and Blood.

Send us now into the world in peace,

and grant us strength and courage

to love and serve you

with gladness and singleness of heart;

through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 365

Do we have the Abrahamic faith to do that?  And how much better will our societies be for all their members if we do?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS

THE FEAST OF HUGH LATIMER, NICHOLAS RIDLEY, AND THOMAS CRANMER, ANGLICAN MARTYRS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/active-abrahamic-faith/

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Devotion for August 9 and 10 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Above:  Palestinian Barrier

Image Source = Marc Venezia

1 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part III:  Power and the Abuses Thereof

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 9, 2017, and THURSDAY, AUGUST 10, 2017

THURSDAY, AUGUST 9, 2018, and FRIDAY, AUGUST 10, 2018

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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:

1 Samuel 25:1-22 (August 9)

1 Samuel 25:33-44 (August 10)

Psalm 85 (Morning–August 9)

Psalm 61 (Morning–August 10)

Psalms 25 and 40 (Evening–August 9)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening–August 10)

1 Corinthians 3:1-23 (August 9)

1 Corinthians 4:1-21 (August 10)

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1 Samuel 25 consists of one story, one which context brings alive.  Saul was killing people who helped David.  The monarch missed some of them, but anyone who aided David risked his or her life.  The kingdom was in a state of civil war.  And Nabal, a rich, churlish, boorish, and disreputable fool, was, according to social conventions, supposed to extend hospitality to David and his men.  Yet, under the threat from Saul, this was a great risk.  And Nabal was a lout anyway.  So he acted like the lout he was.  Abigail, his wife, prevented violence.  And Nabal suffered a stroke and died.  Then Abigail married David, who already had another wife, Ahinoam.

David, of course, had married Michal before any of the events, but Saul, in violation of law, had given his daughter to another man.  Michal, The Jewish Study Bible notes tell me, was the only woman the Hebrew Bible describes as loving a man, in this case, David.

The social status of women is of the essence here.  They were chattel, to be given to men.  Yet Abigail’s shrewdness prevents bloodshed.  She might be chattel, but she is a crucial actor in the story.  And Michal’s mistreatment at the hands of powerful men continues, as it will persist.

Power is necessary in certain concentrations, for, without it, chaos results.  But power can also exist in excessive concentrations; that results in tyranny.  The proper exercise of power lifts up the weak, the marginalized, and those labeled chattel; it does not exploit them.  The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4 that he, working for God, had suffered and was suffering.  Powerful people who abused their authority caused that suffering.  And other people consented to it.

May all of us who claim to be on God’s side aid others to the best of our ability and support those who suffer from abuses of power.  May we side with the victims, not those who victimize them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN EDUCATORS AND INTELLECTUALS

THE FEAST OF ROBERT HERRICK, POET

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA OF AVILA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/1-samuel-and-1-corinthians-part-iii-power-and-the-abuses-thereof/

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