Archive for March 2015

Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 8, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Hezekiah

Above:  King Hezekiah of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

For the Glory of God

JULY 4, 2018

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The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God,

we implore you to hear the prayers of your people.

Be our strong defense against all harm and danger,

that we may live and grow in faith and hope,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 20:1-11

Psalm 88

Mark 9:14-29

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Do you work wonders for the dead?

will those who have died stand up and give you thanks?

–Psalm 88:11, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The two main pericopes for today contain accounts of healing.  Prayer is a component in both stories, and medicine and contrition augment it in the case of King Hezekiah of Judah.

Biblical healing stories cover a wide range of territory, so to speak, but they have consistent markers.  The healing is for the glory of God and the benefit of the healed person, for example.  Often healings draw others to God while improving the circumstances of the beneficiary.  Restoration is ideally for the community, not just the healed person;  the healing restores the person to wholeness and hopefully to his or her community and family.  In some healing stories the community and/or family seems less than supportive, however.  That points to their sins.

In this post I focus on divine healing for the glory of God.  One who continues to read 2 Kings 20 after verse 11 learns that Hezekiah used part of his extended lifespan to glorify himself in the presence of Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian envoys.  That was a bad decision, for that empire went on to destroy the Kingdom of Judah after this lifetime.  Nevertheless, God remained faithful to the divine promise to protect Judah from the Assyrian Empire.

May we seek to serve and glorify God, not to glorify ourselves and seek our self-interests at the expense of others.  May we succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES VILLIERS SANFORD, COMPOSER, ORGANIST, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF CHARLES HENRY BRENT, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WESTERN NEW YORK

THE FEAST OF JOHN MARRIOTT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT RUPERT OF SALZBURG, APOSTLE OF BAVARIA AND AUSTRIA

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/27/for-the-glory-of-god/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 8, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Good Samaritan

Above:  An Illustration from Ralph Kirby, The Bible in Pictures (1952), Page 82

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

That Which Defiles

JULY 2 and 3, 2018

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The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God,

we implore you to hear the prayers of your people.

Be our strong defense against all harm and danger,

that we may live and grow in faith and hope,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 21:1-15 (Monday)

Leviticus 15:19-31 (Tuesday)

Psalm 88 (Both Days)

2 Corinthians 8:16-24 (Monday)

2 Corinthians 9:1-5 (Tuesday)

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But as for me, O LORD, I cry to you for help;

in the morning my prayer comes before you.

–Psalm 88:14, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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What makes one unclean?  What defiles a person?  To use the germane Greek idiom, what makes a person common?

The Law of Moses lists offenses which make a person common.  Today’s readings from Leviticus provide the following causes for defilement:

  1. Menstruation and contact with the discharge;
  2. Contact with discharged blood;
  3. Priestly contact with corpse, except that of a near relative;
  4. Priestly incest;
  5. Certain forms of grooming for priests;
  6. Priestly cutting of his own flesh;
  7. Priestly marriage to a harlot, a divorced woman, or a woman otherwise not a virgin on the day of the wedding to the priest;
  8. A priest’s daughter committing harlotry, thereby defiling her father and warranting her death; and
  9. Priestly baring of his head or rending of vestments.

The Law of Moses does not like female biology, does it?

The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) includes a priest who refused to violate the third item on that list, for fear that the man lying by the side of the road might be dead.  That priest would have become ritually unclean, therefore not fit to perform sacred rituals for a few days, according to Leviticus 21.  The priest was not the hero of our Lord and Savior’s story.

What really makes one unclean, defiled?  Jesus answered that question in Matthew 15:18-19:

But the things that come out of a man’s mouth come from his heart and mind, and it is they that really make a man unclean.  For it is from a man’s mind that evil thoughts arise–murder, adultery, lust, theft, perjury, and slander.

–J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition (1972)

Mark 7:15 contains a succinct statement:

There is nothing outside a man which can enter him and make him “common.”  It is the things which come out of a man that make him “common”!

–J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition (1972)

The list from Matthew 15 describes how to harm others and oneself in the process.  Building up others (and therefore oneself in the process), as in the readings from 2 Corinthians, does the opposite of defiling one, therefore.  The priest in the Parable of the Good Samaritan should have thought of that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES VILLIERS SANFORD, COMPOSER, ORGANIST, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF CHARLES HENRY BRENT, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WESTERN NEW YORK

THE FEAST OF JOHN MARRIOTT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT RUPERT OF SALZBURG, APOSTLE OF BAVARIA AND AUSTRIA

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/27/that-which-defiles/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 8, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Question Mark

Above:  A Question Mark

Image in the Public Domain

More Questions Than Answers

JUNE 28, 29, and 30, 2018

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The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God,

we implore you to hear the prayers of your people.

Be our strong defense against all harm and danger,

that we may live and grow in faith and hope,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Lamentations 1:16-22 (Thursday)

Lamentations 2:1-12 (Friday)

Lamentations 2:18-22 (Saturday)

Psalm 30 (All Days)

2 Corinthians 7:2-16 (Thursday)

2 Corinthians 8:1-7 (Friday)

Luke 4:31-37 (Saturday)

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Weeping may spend the night,

but joy comes in the morning.

While I felt secure I said,

“I shall never be disturbed.

You, LORD, with your favor, made me as strong as the mountains.”

Then You hid your face,

and I was filled with fear.

–Psalm 30:6-8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition (1996) defines theodicy as

A vindication of God’s goodness and justice in the face of the existence of evil.

Defenses of divine goodness and justice also occur in the context of misfortune attributed to God’s judgment of sinful people.  It is present in the readings from Lamentations and in Psalm 30, for example.  The anonymous authors of Lamentations wept over sins, wrote bitterly that the foe had triumphed, and thought that God had acted as a foe.  Yet the book ends:

Take us back, O LORD, to Yourself,

And let us come back;

Renew our days as of old!

–Lamentations 5:22b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The titular character in the Book of Job says of God:

He may well slay me; I may have no hope;

Yet I will argue my case before Him.

In this too is my salvation:

That no impious man can come into His presence.

–Job 13:15-16, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Modern translations of the Bible, with some exceptions, depart from the King James rendering, which is:

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him….,

which comes from a marginal note in the Masoretic Text.  Saying

I may have no hope

differs from uttering

yet I will trust in him,

at least superficially.  The first translation fits Job 13:15 better than does the second rendering, but pressing the lawsuit against God indicates some hope of victory.

But I know that my Vindicator lives;

In the end He will testify on earth–

This, after my skin will have been peeled off.

But I would behold God while still in my flesh.

I myself, not another, would behold Him;

Would see with my own eyes:

My heart pines within me.

–Job 19:25-27, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Job, in that passage, speaks of a divine hearing within his lifetime.  During that proceeding a defender (presumably not a relative, since his sons had died and his surviving kinsmen had abandoned him) will speak on his behalf.  The translation of this passage from The Jerusalem Bible gets more to the point, for it has an Avenger, not a Vindicator.  These rendering differ from the familiar King James text, which George Frederick Handel set to music in The Messiah (1742) as a reference to Jesus:

For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth….

We who claim to follow God ought to proceed carefully when defending God.  First, God does not require the defenses which mere mortals provide.  Second, many human defenses of God depict God erroneously, as either a warm fuzzy on one hand or a cosmic bully or thug on the other hand.  Often our attempts to justify God to ourselves and others obstruct a healthy relationship with God and dissuade others from following God.  We need to question inadequate God concepts.

The God of Luke 4:31-37, who, through Jesus, delivers people from illnesses allegedly caused by demonic possession is the same God who has blessings and woes just two chapters later (Luke 6:20-26).  This is the same God who encourages repentance–the act of turning around or changing one’s mind.  Apologizing for one’s sins is a fine thing to do, but repentance must follow it if one is to follow God.

I do not pretend to have worked out all or even most of the answers to difficult and uncomfortable questions regarding God and human-divine relationships.  No, I acknowledge that my doubts and unanswered questions in these realms outnumber my answers.  Furthermore, some of my answers are certainly wrong.  I am, however, comfortable with this reality.  I can repent of my errors, by grace, and progress spiritually.  Besides, knowledge is not the path to salvation, as in Gnosticism.  No, grace is the path to salvation.  God has the answers.  That is fine with me.  I remain inquisitive, however, for the journey itself has much merit.

I pray that my conduct of my spiritual journey will encourage others in their pilgrimages with God and prompt others to begin, not have a negative affect on anyone.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES VILLIERS SANFORD, COMPOSER, ORGANIST, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF CHARLES HENRY BRENT, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WESTERN NEW YORK

THE FEAST OF JOHN MARRIOTT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT RUPERT OF SALZBURG, APOSTLE OF BAVARIA AND AUSTRIA

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/27/more-questions-than-answers/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 7, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ Walking on the Sea

Above:  Christ Walking on the Sea, by Amedee Varint

Image in the Public Domain

Do Not Be Afraid

JUNE 27, 2018

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The Collect:

O God of creation, eternal majesty,

you preside over land and sea, sunshine and storm.

By your strength pilot us,

by your power preserve us,

by your wisdom instruct us,

and by your hand protect us,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 10:1-14

Psalm 65

Mark 6:45-52

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Awesome things will you show us in your righteousness,

O God of our salvation,

O Hope of all the ends of the earth

and of the seas that are far away.

–Psalm 65:5, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.

–Jesus in Mark 6:50b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Among the repeated themes in the Bible is that God is on the side of the righteous.  This might prove difficult to see sometimes, given persecutions and other hard times, but texts acknowledge this reality.  The composite theme holds that being on God’s side does not automatically mean that life will be prosperous, healthy, and easy, but that God will be present with one during good times as well as bad times.  Sometimes, in fact, one will suffer for being on God’s side.

I have had difficulty reconciling the God of battles in Joshua 10 with the God of Jesus, but I must, in all honesty, acknowledge that Revelation is not the most peaceful of books in the Bible and that its depiction of God is not pacifistic.  The truth is that we mortals can never, as much as we might try, remove our biases from our quest to understand God as much as we can, which is quite partially.  May we, therefore, consider our God concepts with humility, recognizing that we are all partially mistaken.

Fortunately, God remains faithful to divine promises and accepts with much kindness that which we offer sincerely.  Mercy flows abundantly.  We come to God with our fears, hopes, preconceptions, and the desire to obey divine commandments, but often our spiritual blind spots prevent us from understanding those commandments fully and recognizing many of our sins.  As in the story preceding the pericope from Mark, we bring all we have–a few loaves and fishes, to speak–and God transforms that which is inadequate into that which is more than sufficient.  May we take comfort in that reality.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 25, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/do-not-be-afraid-3/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 7, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Seventh Plague John Martin

Above:  The Seventh Plague, by John Martin

Image in the Public Domain

The Kingdom of This World

JUNE 25 and 26, 2018

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The Collect:

O God of creation, eternal majesty,

you preside over land and sea, sunshine and storm.

By your strength pilot us,

by your power preserve us,

by your wisdom instruct us,

and by your hand protect us,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 7:14-24 (Monday)

Exodus 9:13-35 (Tuesday)

Psalm 65 (Both Days)

Acts 27:13-38 (Monday)

Acts 27:39-44 (Tuesday)

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You still the roaring of the seas,

the roaring of the waves,

and the clamor of the peoples.

Those who dwell at the ends of the earth

will tremble at your marvelous signs;

you make the dawn and dusk to sing for joy.

–Psalm 65:7-8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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God, the biblical authors affirmed, controls nature.  This theme occurs in the plagues upon Egypt, Jesus walking on water, droughts in ancient Israel and Judah, et cetera.  The pericopes from Exodus, in which the theme of God being in control of nature occur, constitute a narrative which contrasts with the storm at sea then the shipwreck in Acts 27.  Innocent Egyptians suffered and/or died in the plagues, but all hands survived in Acts 27.  The plagues led to the freedom of the Hebrew slaves, but the voyage of the prison ship took St. Paul the Apostle to his trial, house arrest, and execution at Rome.  I can only wonder about the fates of the other prisoners.  Drowning at sea might have been a more merciful way of dying.

The Exodus pericopes remind me that sometimes a divine rescue operation comes with a body count.  When oppressors insist on oppressing the end of their oppression is good news for their victims yet bad news for them.  Sometimes innocent people become casualties in the conflict, unfortunately.

I wish that all were joy, love, and happiness.  I wish that nobody would ever oppress anyone.  Violence would be absent from my utopia.  Yet Utopia is nowhere, potentates are often prideful and not concerned with the best interests of their people, and circumstances escalate to the point that some people will suffer from violence one way or another.  This proves (as if anyone needs confirmation) that the Kingdom of God is not fully realized in our midst.

May we pray for the day that it will become fully realized on this plane of existence.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 25, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/the-kingdom-of-this-world/

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Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 7, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Silas Benjamin

Above:  God Speaking to King Silas Benjamin Through a Storm in New King, Part 2, the Final Episode of Kings (2009)

A Screen Capture via PowerDVD

Listening to God

JUNE 23, 2018

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The Collect:

O God of creation, eternal majesty,

you preside over land and sea, sunshine and storm.

By your strength pilot us,

by your power preserve us,

by your wisdom instruct us,

and by your hand protect us,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 37:1-13

Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32

Luke 21:25-28

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Some went down to the sea in ships

and plied their trade in deep waters;

They beheld the works of the LORD

and his wonders in the deep.

Then he spoke, and a stormy wind arose,

which tossed high the waves of the sea.

They mounted up to the heavens and fell back to the depths;

their hearts melted because of their peril.

they reeled and staggered like drunkards and were at their wits’ end.

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress.

He stilled the storm to a whisper

and quieted the waves of the sea.

Then they were glad because of the calm,

and he brought them to the harbor they were bound for.

Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy

and the wonders he does for his children.

Let them exalt him in the congregation of his people

and praise him in the council of the elders.

–Psalm 107:23-32, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The imagery of the storm god, common in the ancient Near East, appears in the Bible.  We find this imagery in the three readings for today, in fact.  Elihu, speaking in Job 37, uses it.  Later, in Chapters 38-41, God speaks out of the tempest.  Psalm 107 (the reading from which I extended) describes a storm at sea.  And we read of natural disasters and of Jesus descending on a cloud in Luke 21.  (Cue “Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending,” everyone.)  The imagery of clouds associated with God is rich in the Bible, from the Book of Exodus to the Transfiguration, Ascension, and Second Coming of Jesus.  And, in the NBC series Kings (2009), based on stories of David and Saul yet set in contemporary times, God speaks to King Silas Benjamin (the Saul figure) from storm clouds.

Nevertheless, another passage of scripture comes to my mind.  In 1 Kings 19 the prophet Elijah is hiding from King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, who want to kill him.  God speaks to Elijah, but not from any storm or natural disaster:

The LORD was passing by:  a great and strong wind came, rending mountains and shattering rocks before him, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a faint murmuring sound.

–1 Kings 19:11b-12, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Then God spoke to Elijah.

I extended the reading from Psalm 107 to include the calmed waters of the sea because doing so works well with the reading from 1 Kings 19.

God does some of God’s best speaking in the quietness, I am convinced.  Certainly some occasions justify dramatic demonstrations, but we mere mortals will miss God’s still, small voice if we focus on God’s booming voice.  God speaks to us often via a range of channels, from the spectacular to the mundane.  My experience has taught me that God has spoken most profoundly to me in the silence and in the conversational speaking tones of people around me.  Sometimes God has whispered to me, but usually God has simply spoken to me.  Those messages have proven most spiritually helpful in my life.

I invite you, O reader, to make a habit of being quiet and listening for whatever God says to you.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 25, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/listening-to-god/

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Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 7, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Beheading of St. Paul

Above:  The Beheading of St. Paul, by Enrique Simonet

Image in the Public Domain

The Problem of Suffering

JUNE 21 and 22, 2018

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The Collect:

O God of creation, eternal majesty,

you preside over land and sea, sunshine and storm.

By your strength pilot us,

by your power preserve us,

by your wisdom instruct us,

and by your hand protect us,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 29:1-20 (Thursday)

Job 29:21-30:15 (Friday)

Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32 (Both Days)

Acts 20:1-16 (Thursday)

Acts 21:1-16 (Friday)

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Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

and his mercy endures for ever.

Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim

that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.

–Psalm 107:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Placing that Psalm in the lectionary for these two days seems ironic, especially when considering the other two pericopes.

The titular character of the Book of Job suffered, but not because of any sin he committed.  Compounding his plight was the fact that he had to endure alleged friends, who blamed him for his plight.  They insisted that, since God does not punish the innocent, Job must have sinned, thus prompting his extreme suffering.  They advised him to repent of his sins, therefore.  Actually, the text tells us, God permitted the suffering as a test of loyalty.  Job protested his innocence and lamented his fate.  Anyone who speaks of the “patience of Job,” as if he had any, ought to pay better attention to the story.

Meanwhile, in the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul the Apostle was traveling to Jerusalem.  He hoped to arrive in time for the first day of Pentecost.  At Caesarea the Apostle learned that his journey would take him to a bad fate.  He accepted the prophecy calmly, saying,

…I am ready not only to be bound but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.

–Acts 21:13c, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

He went on to die for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ at Rome “off-camera,” so to speak, after the end of the Acts of the Apostles.

The alleged friends of Job thought that suffering resulted necessarily from sins.  Yet St. Paul the Apostle suffered for the sake for the sake of righteousness.

Nevertheless, the assumption that we suffer solely or primarily because of our wrongdoing persists.  Also commonplace is a related assumption which says that, if we live righteously, we will prosper and be safe and well.  This is the heresy of Prosperity Theology.

Tell that heresy to Jesus and to the Christian martyrs, if you dare,

I say.  I conclude that false ideas live on because too many people pay little or no attention to the evidence around them.  Perhaps these individuals are merely incurious.  (Many people are not very inquisitive, intellectually or otherwise.)  Or maybe they are distracted among the other details of life.  Regardless of the reason(s), they need to pay better attention and respond to the situation that is, not the situation they imagine exists.

To claim that God never punishes the innocent or permits them to suffer is to make a pious comment–one which is false.  What is the functional difference between permitting innocent people to suffer and punishing them?  I recognize none.  One is passive and the other is active, but the results are the same.  The problem of suffering is complicated for we monotheists, for we lack the luxury of blaming an evil deity for misfortune while letting a good deity off the hook.  Yes, how we live on this plane of reality affects the afterlife, but the rain still falls on the just and on the unjust in this life.  Wicked people still prosper and righteous people still suffer on this side of Heaven.  All of this can be difficult to reconcile with the idea of a loving and just God, hence bad theology in defense of God.  I prefer an honest question to a false certainty, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, “FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC”

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR; AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, ECUMENTIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/the-problem-of-suffering/

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