Archive for the ‘August 29’ Category

Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 17, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Vegetables

Above:  Vegetables

Image in the Public Domain

Nobility and Love

AUGUST 29 and 30, 2019

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The Collect:

O God, you resist those who are proud and give grace those who are humble.

Give us the humility of your Son, that we may embody

the generosity of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 15:13-17 (Thursday)

Proverbs 18:6-12 (Friday)

Psalm 112 (Both Days)

1 Peter 3:8-12 (Thursday)

1 Peter 4:7-11 (Friday)

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How blessed is anyone who fears Yahweh,

who delights in his commandments!

–Psalm 112:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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These days’ readings, taken together, extol humility, love, and recognition of complete dependence upon God.  As one saying from Proverbs states eloquently,

Better a meal of vegetables where there is love

Than a flattened ox where there is hate.

–15:17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Like unto that is the commandment to

maintain constant love for one another

–1 Peter 4:8a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989),

which is consistent with the ethic of human responsibilities to and for each other, as in the Law of Moses.

Pride (hubris) goes before the fall.  Humility is frequently difficult also, but it is the better path.  Yes, each of us bears the image of God, but each of us also carries an imperfect nature.  Depravity is not even an article of faith for me, for I have evidence for it, and therefore require no faith to recognize the reality of it.  Nevertheless, as I heard growing up, God did not make any garbage.  Yes, we humans are equally capable of both nobility and depravity, of love and of death.  May we, by grace, succeed more often than not in following the paths of nobility and love.

St. Paul the Apostle offered timeless wisdom in his Letter to the Romans:

Never pay back evil for evil.  Let your aims be such as all count honourable.  If possible, so far as it lies with you, live at peace with all.  My dear friends, do not seek revenge, but leave a place for divine retribution; for there is a text which reads, “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will repay.”  But there is another text:  “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; by doing so you will heap live coals on his head.”  Do not let evil conquer you, but use good to conquer evil.

–12:17-21, The Revised English Bible (1989)

That passage cites Leviticus 19:18 and Proverbs 25:21-22.  It is also compatible with Matthew 5:43-48.

St. Paul summarized an essential part of Christian ethics better than my capacity to paraphrase it.  For that reason I leave you, O reader, with those noble words.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2016 COMMON ERA

MAUNDY THURSDAY

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, ECUMENIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/nobility-and-love/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 16, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Ancient Jerusalem with Solomon's Temple

Above:  Ancient Jerusalem with Solomon’s Temple

Image in the Public Domain

Enemies, Divine Judgment, and Divine Mercy

AUGUST 29, 2018

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The Collect:

Holy God, your word feeds your people with life that is eternal.

Direct our choices and preserve us in your truth,

that, renouncing what is evil and false, we may live in you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 33:10-16

Psalm 119:97-104

John 15:16-25

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How I love your law!

All day long I pore over it.

Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies

for it is available to me for ever.

Psalm 119:97-98, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

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One might have enemies for a wide range of reasons.  Being godly is one of them.  That helps to explain hostility to Jesus, who made evident defects in the political (including religious) and economic systems of First Century C.E. Judea.  (One function of much of the language of the Kingdom of God was to make clear the contrast between human and divine orders.)  Many other faithful people have encountered hostility and/or violence and/or death because of their fidelity to God and their lived applications of divine commandments relative to social justice.  Often those who have despised them and/or condoned or committed violence against them have imagined themselves to be righteous.  Their attitudes and actions and/or inactions have belied that conceit.

Sometimes, however, one has enemies for reasons separate from righteousness.  Such is the case in Isaiah 33.  The unidentified foe (probably the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire) will ultimately perish, as will the sinful people fo the Kingdom of Judah.  Yet a remnant of Judah will survive, for Jerusalem is like a ship floating on a sea of divine love.  The Kingdom of Judah will fall to the conquerors, but God will remain undefeated.  God, never conquered, will restore Judah, for judgment does not preclude love in relation to those whom God has chosen.

Concepts of God are inherently inadequate, for God is infinite and our minds cannot grasp the nature of God.  I have sought to become increasingly aware of the limits of my God concept, which is broader than those many others harbor.  The most workable solution at which I can arrive is to acknowledge limitations of human knowledge relative to God, affirm that what I can know will have to suffice, make the most faithful statements I can, and admit that I am certainly mistaken about a great deal.  My statements of faith are like the song of the bird in a story Anthony De Mello (1931-1987) told in The Song of the Bird (1982).  Yes, every statement about God is a distortion of the truth, but speak and write about God for the same reason the bird sings:

Not because it has a statement, but because it has a song.

–Page 4

The nature of God is a mystery I will never solve, and that is fine.  Where divine judgment ends and divine mercy begins is another mystery I will never solve.  That is also fine.

One lesson I feel comfortable stating unambiguously concerns having enemies.  Whenever I have a foe or foes, I should not assume that God is on my side.  No, I need to ask if I am on God’s side.  I might even arrive at an answer (hopefully an accurate one) to that questions.  Nationalism often gets in the way on this point for many people.  The British national anthem, “God Save the King/Queen,” includes the following frequently omitted stanza:

O Lord, our God, arise,

Scatter his/her enemies

and make them fall.

Confound their politics,

Frustrate their knavish tricks,

On Thee our hopes we fix,

God save us all.

Yet, as Irishman Monsignor Hugh O Flaherty (1898-1963) liked to say,

God has no country.

God created human beings in the divine image.  We have reciprocated.  Perhaps it is something we cannot help but to do, for we must think and write of God in human terms, or not at all.  Nevertheless, if we use our metaphors in the knowledge that they are metaphors, perhaps we will avoid falling into certain theological errors.

As for divine judgment and mercy, they are in the purview of God, where they belong and have always been.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, APOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/enemies-divine-judgment-and-divine-mercy/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 17, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

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Above:  Civil Rights Memorial, Montgomery, Alabama

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-05791

Christian Liberty to Love Our Neighbors

AUGUST 27-29, 2020

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The Collect:

O God, we thank you for your Son,

who chose the path of suffering for the sake of the world.

Humble us by his example,

point us to the path of obedience,

and give us strength to follow your commands,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 14:13-18 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 15:1-9 (Friday)

Jeremiah 15:10-14 (Saturday)

Psalm 26:1-8 (All Days)

Ephesians 5:1-6 (Thursday)

2 Thessalonians 2:7-12 (Friday)

Matthew 8:14-17 (Saturday)

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I will wash my hands in innocence, O Lord,

that I may go about your altar,

To make heard the voice of thanksgiving

and tell of all your wonderful deeds.

Lord, I love the house of your habitation

and the place where your glory abides.

–Psalm 26:6-8, Common Worship (2000)

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Christian liberty is the freedom to follow Christ without the shackles of legalism.  All the Law of Moses and the Prophets point to the love of God and one’s fellow human beings, our Lord and Savior said.  Rabbi Hillel, dead for about two decades at the time, would have continued that teaching with

Everything else is commentary.  Go and learn it.

Many of those laws contained concrete examples of timeless principles.  A host of these examples ceased to apply to daily lives for the majority of people a long time ago, so the avoidance of legalism and the embrace of serious study of the Law of Moses in historical and cultural contexts behooves one.  St. Paul the Apostle, always a Jew, resisted legalism regarding male circumcision. In my time I hear certain Protestants, who make a point of Christian liberty from the Law of Moses most of the time, invoke that code selectively for their own purposes.  I am still waiting for them to be consistent –to recognize the hypocrisy of such an approach, and to cease from quoting the Law of Moses regarding issues such as homosexuality while ignoring its implications for wearing polyester.  I will wait for a long time, I suppose.

My first thought after finishing the readings from Jeremiah was, “God was mad!”  At least that was the impression which the prophet and his scribe, Baruch, who actually wrote the book, left us.  In that narrative the people (note the plural form, O reader) had abandoned God and refused repeatedly to repent–to change their minds and to turn around.  Destruction would be their lot and only a small remnant would survive, the text said.  Not keeping the Law of Moses was the offense in that case.

The crux of the issue I address in this post is how to follow God without falling into legalism.  Whether one wears a polyester garment does not matter morally, but how one treats others does.  The Law of Moses, when not condemning people to death for a host of offenses from working on the Sabbath to engaging in premarital sexual relations to insulting one’s parents (the latter being a crucial point the Parable of the Prodigal Son/Elder Brother/Father), drives home in a plethora of concrete examples the principles of interdependence, mutual responsibility, and complete dependence on God.  These belie and condemn much of modern economic theory and many corporate policies, do they not?  Many business practices exist to hold certain people back from advancement, to keep them in their “places.”  I, without becoming lost in legalistic details, note these underlying principles and recognize them as being of God.  There is a project worth undertaking in the name and love of God.  The working conditions of those who, for example, manufacture and sell our polyester garments are part of a legitimate social concern.

Abstract standards of morality do not move me, except occasionally to frustration.  Our Lord and Savior gave us a concrete standard of morality–how our actions and inactions affect others.  This is a paraphrase of the rule to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself.  I made this argument in a long and thoroughly documented paper I published online.  In that case I focused on the traditional Southern Presbyterian rule of the Spirituality of the Church, the idea that certain issues are political,  not theological, so the denomination should avoid “political” entanglements.  In 1861 the founders of the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America (the Presbyterian Church in the United States from 1865 to 1983) invoked the Spirituality of the Church to avoid condemning slavery, an institution they defended while quoting the Bible.  By the 1950s the leadership of the PCUS had liberalized to the point of endorsing civil rights for African Americans, a fact which vexed the openly segregationist part of the Church’s right wing.  From that corner of the denomination sprang the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in 1973.  This fact has proven embarrassing to many members of the PCA over the years, as it should.  The PCA, to its credit, has issued a pastoral letter condemning racism.  On the other hand, it did so without acknowledging the racist content in the documents of the committee which formed the denomination.

May we, invoking our Christian liberty, seek to love all the neighbors possible as we love ourselves.  We can succeed only by grace, but our willingness constitutes a vital part of the effort.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 19, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT POEMAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINTS JOHN THE DWARF AND ARSENIUS THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

THE FEAST OF SAINT AMBROSE AUTPERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN PLESSINGTON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACRINA THE YOUNGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/christian-liberty-to-love-our-neighbors/

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Devotion for August 29 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Kingdoms of Judah and Israel

Above:  The Divided Monarchy

Image in the Public Domain

1 Kings and 2 Corinthians, Part VI: Authority and Actions

THURSDAY, AUGUST 29, 2019

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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 Kings 11:42-12:19

Psalm 143 (Morning)

Psalms 81 and 116 (Evening)

2 Corinthians 7:1-16

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King Rehoboam took counsel with the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime.  He said, “What answer do you advise [me] to give to this people?  They answered, “If you will be a servant to those people today and serve them, and if you respond to them with kind words, they will be your servants always.”  But he ignored the advice that the elders gave him, and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him.”

–1 Kings 12:6-8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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We have not injured anyone, or ruined anyone, or taken advantage of anyone.

–2 Corinthians 7:2b, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Paul, by his own admission, had the authority to tell people to do things; he had earned his bona fides via many sufferings.  But he encouraged and coaxed (and, more than once, fussed at) people.  He was a man of strong opinions, so some people took offense at him.  But he did not abuse his rightful authority.

In contrast, Rehoboam, son of Solomon, did abuse his authority.  He doubled down on his father’s most exploitative policies, such as forced labor.  The rebellion was predictable.

Each of us has some measure of power over others.  We can, for example, choose to behave graciously or abusively toward another person.  Our decisions will affect others and ourselves, for all of us are parts of the web of humanity.  When we harm another, we injure ourselves.  Likewise, when we aid another, we help ourselves.  That is reality.  May we act in socially constructive ways.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/1-kings-and-2-corinthians-part-vi-authority-and-actions/

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Week of Proper 16: Saturday, Year 2   5 comments


Above:  Parable of the Talents Woodcut, 1712

The Imperative of Responsible Action

AUGUST 29, 2020

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Take  yourselves for instance, brothers, at the time when you were called:  how many of you were wise in the ordinary sense of the word, how many were influential people, or came from noble families?  No, it was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning, and to shame what is strong that he chose what is weak by human reckoning; those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen–those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything.  The human race has nothing to boast about to God, but you, God has made members of Christ Jesus and by God’s doing he has become our wisdom, and our virtue, and our holiness, and our freedom.  As scripture says:

if anyone wants to boast, let him boast about the Lord.

Psalm 33:12-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

12 Happy is the nation whose God is the LORD!

happy the people he has chosen to be his own!

13 The LORD looks down from heaven,

and beholds all the people in the world.

14 From where he sits enthroned he turns his gaze

on all who dwell on the earth.

15 He fashions all the hearts of them

and understands all their works.

16 There is no king that can be saved by a mighty army;

a strong man is not delivered by his great strength.

17 The horse is a vain hope for deliverance;

for all its strength it cannot save.

18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon those who fear him,

on those who wait upon his love,

19 To pluck their lives from death,

and to feed them in time of famine.

20 Our soul waits for the LORD;

he is our help and our shield.

21 Indeed, our heart rejoices in him,

for in his holy name we put our trust.

22 Let your loving-kindness, O LORD, be upon us,

as we have put our trust in you.

Matthew 25:14-30 (The Jerusalem Bible):

It [the kingdom of heaven] is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them.  To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to a third one; each in proportion to his ability.  Then he set out.  The man who had received five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more.  The man who had received two made two more in the same way.  But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.  Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them.  The man who had received five talents came forward bringing five more.

Sir,

he said,

you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more I have made.

His master said to him,

Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown that you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.

Next the man with two talents came forward.

Sir,

he said,

you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.

His master said to him,

Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.

Last came forward the man who had the one talent.

Sir,

said he,

I had heard that you were a hard man, reaping where you had not sown and gathering where you had not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground.  Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.

But his master answered him,

You wicked and lazy servant!  So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered?  Well then, you should deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest.  So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents.  For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.

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The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; 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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I have covered the Parable of the Talents in the Year 1 counterpart to this post.  What follows will duplicate much of that content, but I refer you, O reader, to that post, for my full comments on that parable.

The New Interpreter’s Bible, in Volume VIII, on page 453, places the Parable of the Talents in the context not only of Chapter 25 but within the whole of the Gospel of Matthew.  (For the full analysis, consult that page in Volume VIII.)  Said commentary ends on this note:  It speaks of

the reality of judgment and the necessity of decisions and responsible action.

The rich man in the parable was quite wealthy.  A talent was the equivalent of fifteen years of wages for a day laborer.  So the servant who received just one talent was relatively wealthy, at least for a time.  He was an honest man, for he returned the money, down the last denarius, to his master.  Yet the two servants who showed initiative and doubled the money won praise; the overly cautious man received condemnation.  And one of the dutiful servants received more responsibility, based on his track record.

Grace begins with God and requires to act upon it.  Thus grace is free, not cheap.  This brings me to the reading from 1 Corinthians.  There God is the original actor, and

no human may glory before God.  (verse 29, The Anchor Bible)

Each servant in the Parable of the Talents had reason to glory in the trust of his master, and two of them behaved commendably.  Here, as in many other places in the Bible, money and judgment coexist.

If we take an inventory of our talents (not the monetary measure), we will recognize how much we have on trust from God.  Will we even try to make the most of them?  True, other people can help or hinder our efforts; they are responsible for their deeds.  And we are are accountable for ours.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/the-imperative-of-responsible-action/

Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, Martyr (August 29)   3 comments

Above: The Beheading of St. John the Baptist, by Caravaggio, 1608

St. John the Baptist:  Forerunner of Jesus in Death

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The Assigned Readings for This Feast:

1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

Psalm 139:7-12

Mark 6:17-29

The Collect:

God our Father, you called John the Baptist to be the herald of your Son’s birth and death.  As he gave his life in witness to truth and justice, so may we strive to profess our faith in your gospel.  Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son.  Amen.

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Herod Antipas was a client ruler of the Roman Empire.  He governed the Galilee from 4 B.C.E. to 40 C.E., following the death of his grandfather, King Herod the Great.  Herod Antipas had entered into an incestuous marriage by wedding Herodias, the niece of his late half-brother, Alexander, and former wife of his brother, Philip Herod I.  The scene from the Gospel story is disturbing:  Herod Antipas leering at Salome, at the daughter of his new wife.  From this flowed a series of events which culminated in the beheading of St. John the Baptist.

Salome married her uncle, Philip Herod II.  After he died in 34 C.E., she wed Aristobolus of Chalcis, a son of Herod of Chalcis, another one of her uncles.  Aristobolus was the Roman client king of Armenia Minor from 55 to 72 C.E.  He ordered the minting of coins bearing Salome’s image.  An image follows:

St. John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus.  He identified our Lord as the Messiah and prepared the way for him.  And St. John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus in dying.  The literary term for all this is foreshadowing.  Remember that before the authors of the canonical gospels began to write they knew how the story ended.  Thus each wrote with a thesis in mind and selected details to mention within that context.

Another point comes to mind.  Often the world seems unfair.  Why do the righteous suffer and the unrighteous prosper?  Why did St. John the Baptist suffer and the members of the Herodian dynasty enjoy relatively prominent status, having the power to order executions?  I am not here to answer such questions, for I seek them, too.  But I know that we recall the names of of Herod Antipas, Herodias, and Salome in the context of St. John the Baptist, and that we praise the latter while condemning the former.  Perhaps there is a measure of justice in that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2010

THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

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Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

Before a Bible Study   Leave a comment

Above:  An Old Family Bible

Image Source = David Ball

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God of glory,

as we prepare to study the Bible,

may we approach the texts with our minds open,

our intellects engaged,

and our spirits receptive to your leading,

so that we will understand them correctly

and derive from them the appropriate lessons.

Then may we act on those lessons.

For the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Amen.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 7, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG, SHEPHERD OF LUTHERANISM IN THE AMERICAN COLONIES

THE FEAST OF FRED KAAN, HYMNWRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN WOOLMAN, ABOLITIONIST

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