Archive for the ‘July 25’ Category

Devotion for Thursday Before Proper 12, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Mordecai and Haman

Above:  Mordecai and Haman

Image in the Public Domain

Esther II:  Heroes and Villains

JULY 25, 2019

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you are always more ready than we are to pray,

and you gladly give more than we either desire or deserve.

Pour upon us your abundant mercy.

Forgive us those things that weigh on our conscience,

and give us those good things that come only through your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Esther 2:19-3:6

Psalm 138

Acts 1:15-20

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I praise your name for your faithful love and your constancy;

your promises surpass even your fame.

–Psalm 138:2b, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The plot thickens in Esther 2 and 3.  Mordecai thwarts an assassination plot against King Ahasuerus.  The two eunuchs who plotted to kill the monarch die after Mordecai alerts Ahasuerus via Queen Esther.  The loyal courtier receives no reward immediately; he must wait until Chapter 6 for Ahasuerus to think about doing that.  Mordecai refuses to bow to Haman, who receives a promotion for no apparent reason and who seeks to destroy not just Mordecai but all Jews in the Persian Empire.

The reason for Mordecai’s refusal to bow down is unclear in the Hebrew text.  However, in Chapter C, as The New American Bible labels it, Mordecai explains in a prayer that he bows only to God.  This is consistent with a later rabbinical interpretation.  The germane notes in The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) mention that argument yet prefers a different explanation, that Mordecai refused to honor an enemy of the Jews.  Those notes also argue that, in the Hebrew Bible, bowing to a human superior is permissible, as in Genesis 23:7; Genesis 43:28; Exodus 18:7; and 1 Kings 1:23.  Another interpretation from Jewish tradition is that, if Haman were wearing an idol on his chest, Mordecai would have bowed refused to bow to the object.

In the Acts of the Apostles the eleven surviving Apostles completed their number (twelve) by choosing one of the outer circle of 70 (or 72, depending on the translation) to replace the recently deceased Judas Iscariot.  They select St. Matthias, of whom we know little.  According to tradition he was a faithful evangelist who brought much glory to God and many people to salvation before becoming a martyr.

The main characters in the readings for today are Mordecai, Haman, and St. Matthias.  Haman seeks to glorify himself and harm others, Mordecai to glorify God and do his duty, and St. Matthias to glorify God, regardless of the cost to himself.  Two of the three died violently, one as a villain and the other as a martyr.

May we pursue righteousness, as demonstrated in the characters of Mordecai and St. Matthias and manifested by love of God and our fellow human beings, regardless of the cost to ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, BISHOP OF ARMAGH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/17/esther-ii-heroes-and-villains/

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Prologue to Posts Scheduled Around Proper 12, Year C (Revised Common Lectionary)   1 comment

Esther Crowned by Ahasuerus

Above:  Esther Crowned by Ahasuerus, by Paolo Veronese

Image in the Public Domain

Esther I:  Vehicles of Grace

JULY 2019

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The daily lectionary for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), as found in their service book-hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), is the one attached to the Revised Common Lectionary.  For the Thursday before Proper 12 through the Wednesday after that Sunday in Year C the first readings come from the Book of Esther, starting with 2:19 and continuing through 8:17.

The Book of Esther exists in two versions–Hebrew and Greek.  The Hebrew version, which does not even mention God, probably dates to 400-300 B.C.E., at the end of the Persian Empire or the beginning of the Hellenistic Age.  The 107 additional verses in the version from the Septuagint bring the word “God” into the story and elaborate on certain details.  The Greek version of the Book of Esther is canonical in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

As I read the Book of Esther again I will consult Jewish and Roman Catholic Bibles.  My plan is to read the Greek version fully in English-language translation.  The New American Bible labels the Greek additions conveniently as Chapters A-F, a system I will cite.

The Book of Esther is a satire, comedy, burlesque, and work of religious fiction.  Jewish exegetes have known this for a long time.  Some characters are buffoonish, our heroes (in the Hebrew version) are strangely less dimensional than other characters, and exaggeration abounds.  One should not, out of piety, become so serious as to misread a book of the Bible.  There are various contexts in which one should read scripture; genre is among them.  Furthermore, the internal chronology of the Book of Esther (in either version), like that of the Book of Daniel, makes no sense.

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In the Greek version the book begins with what The New American Bible calls Chapter A, containing 17 verses.  We meet Mordecai, a Jewish member of the court of King Ahasuerus (sarcastically “the great,” according to A:1) at Susa.  Ahasuerus is a fictitious monarch of the Persian Empire.  Sources I have consulted indicate elements from the actual Xerxes I (reigned 486-465 B.C.E.) and Artaxerxes I (reigned 465-424 B.C.E.).  Mordecai has a dream in which, on a gloomy day amid “tumult, thunder, and earthquake,” two dragons prepare to go to war.  The just live in fear of what might happen to them.  They cry out to God, a mighty river arises, sunlight breaks through, and the lowly rise up and devour the boastful.  Mordecai awakens and attempts throughout the day to comprehend the dream and what God intends to do.

We read in A:1 that Mordecai is not only of the tribe of Benjamin but a descendant of Kish.  This makes him a relative of King Saul (whose father was Kish), who conquered Agag the Amalekite in 1 Samuel 15:1-9.  Haman, Mordecai’s foe, is an Agagite.

Mordecai overhears two eunuchs plot to assassinate Ahasuerus.  The loyal courtier alerts the monarch directly.  Ahasuerus orders the arrest, interrogation, and execution of the eunuchs.  Mordecai receives a reward for his fidelity, but Haman, who had conspired with the eunuchs, begins to plot to harm him.

Chapter 1 depicts Ahasuerus as less than great.  The text states that the king ruled over 127 provinces, or satrapies, but historical records indicate the existence of between 20 and 32 satrapies during the duration of the Persian Empire.  Ahasuerus is wealthy, living in luxury.  He is also mostly powerless, for people manipulate him easily.  The king is also too fond of alcohol in excess.  Ahasuerus orders Queen Vashti to degrade herself  by displaying her beauty to his courtiers .  She refuses the command, thereby disgracing the drunken Ahasuerus.  Thus an imperial incident occurs.  Can the monarch restore his honor?  Vashti loses her position and possibly her life, for he proceeds to choose a new queen from his harem.  Among the virgins in the harem is one Esther, cousin and foster daughter of Mordecai.  This is a secret relationship, however.  He coaches her in how to become the next queen.  She succeeds Vashti.

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What are we supposed to take away from this material and apply to life?  God works behind the scenes in the Book of Esther.  God even works through drunk and easily manipulated monarchs.  Vehicles of grace come in many shapes and sizes; many of them will surprise us.  Many of them do not even know that they are vehicles of grace, but that does not prevent God from working through them, does it?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, BISHOP OF ARMAGH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/17/esther-i-vehicles-of-grace/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 11, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Good Shepherd

Above:   Christ, the Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain

Sheep and Shepherds

JULY 23, 24, and 25, 2018

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The Collect:

O God, powerful and compassionate,

you shepherd your people, faithfully feeding and protecting us.

Heal each of us, and make us a whole people,

that we may embody the justice and peace of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 50:1-7 (Monday)

Zechariah 9:14-10:2 (Tuesday)

2 Samuel 5:1-12 (Wednesday)

Psalm 100 (All Days)

Hebrews 13:17-25 (Monday)

Acts 20:17-38 (Tuesday)

Luke 15:1-7 (Wednesday)

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Shout joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;

serve the LORD with gladness;

come before him with joyful song.

Know that the LORD is God,

he made us, we belong to him,

we are his people, the flock he shepherds.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

his courts with praise.

Give thanks to him, bless his name;

good indeed is the LORD,

his faithfulness lasts through every generation.

–Psalm 100, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2010)

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All of the assigned readings for these three days speak of sheep and shepherds:

  1. God is the shepherd in Psalm 100.
  2. God is the shepherd-divine warrior who will end the Babylonian Exile in Jeremiah 50:1-7 and Zechariah 9:14-10:2.
  3. David, a troublesome character, is the shepherd-king in 2 Samuel 5:1-12.
  4. Jesus is the Good Shepherd in Luke 15:1-7.
  5. St. Paul the Apostle is the shepherd warning of “fierce wolves” in Acts 20:17-38.
  6. Faithful church leaders are the shepherds worthy of obedience in Hebrews 13:17-25.

Now I proceed to unpack some themes:

  1. The core of church doctrine, as in the question of the nature of Christ, developed over centuries, during which debates, arguments, and street brawls, and knife fights occurred in the name of sorting out proper theology.  Much of what we Christians take for granted these days came about over five centuries, give or take a few years.  Even the latest book in the New Testament did not exist until the end of the first century of the Common Era, and consensus regarding canonical status required more time to form.  In that context obeying orthodox bishops made a great deal of sense, although the definition of orthodoxy shifted over time.  Origen, for example, was orthodox in his day yet heterodox ex post facto.
  2. The parable from Luke 15:1-7 assumes a team of shepherds, so one shepherd could leave to seek a lost sheep without fear of losing more animals.
  3. That parable tells us that all people matter to Jesus.  They should, therefore, matter to us also.
  4. One metaphor for kings in the Bible is shepherds.  Some shepherds are good, but others are bad, unfortunately.  Good kings do what is best for all the people, especially the vulnerable ones.
  5. God is the best shepherd, protecting the flock, seeking an unbroken and unforgotten covenant with it, and searching for the lost sheep.  The flock can be bigger, and we can, by grace, function well as junior shepherds, subordinate to God, the senior shepherd.

I notice the community theme inherent in the metaphor of the flock.  We depend upon God, the ultimate shepherd, and upon the other shepherds in the team.  We also depend upon and bear responsibilities toward each other, for we follow the lead of others–often the lead of fellow sheep.  Sometimes this is for better, but often it is for worse.  Sticking together and following the proper leader is essential for group survival and for individual survival.

May we, by grace, recognize the voice of God, our ultimate shepherd, and follow it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 5, 2015 COMMON ERA

EASTER SUNDAY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF MILNER BALL, PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, LAW PROFESSOR, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS, AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT NOKTER BALBULUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/04/05/sheep-and-shepherds/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 11, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Last Judgment

Above:  The Last Judgment

Image in the Public Domain

Freedom and Judgment

JULY 24, 2017

JULY 25, 2017

JULY 26, 2017

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The Collect:

Faithful God, most merciful judge,

you care for your children with firmness and compassion.

By your Spirit nurture us who live in your kingdom,

that we may be rooted in the way of your Son,

 Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Nahum 1:1-13 (Monday)

Zephaniah 3:1-3 (Tuesday)

Daniel 12:1-13 (Wednesday)

Psalm 75 (All Days)

Revelation 14 (Monday)

Galatians 4:21-5:1 (Tuesday)

Matthew 12:15-21 (Wednesday)

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“I will appoint a time,” says God;

“I will judge with equity.

Though the earth and all its inhabitants are quaking,

I will make its pillars fast.

I will say to the boasters, ‘Boast no more,’

and to the wicked, ‘Do not toss your horns;

Do not toss your horns so high,

nor speak with a proud neck.'”

For judgment is neither from the east nor from the west,

nor yet from the wilderness or the mountains.

–Psalm 75:2-6, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The readings for these three days speak of freedom, judgment, and mercy.  In Nahum 1 mercy for the Israelites was judgment upon the Assyrians.  Judgment upon Jerusalem came in Zephaniah 3.  The authors of Daniel 12 and Revelation 14 wrote of an eschatological judgment, something one reads about (sort of) in Matthew 12.  Condemnation resulted from the abuse of freedom.

The late C. H. Dodd summarized a vital lesson in these readings better than my ability to paraphrase.  The Kingdom of God, Dodd wrote, is nearer to or further away only from a human, temporal perspective.

There are particular moments in the lives of men and in the history of mankind when what is permanently true (if largely unrecognized) becomes manifestly and effectively true.  Such a moment is reflected in the gospels….But when a person (or a society) has been presented with such a challenge and declines it is not just where he was before.  His position is the worse for the encounter.  It is this that gives point to the tremendous warnings that Jesus is reported to have uttered about the consequences of rejection….Whatever possibility of disaster may lurk within the choice which is offered, the facing of the choice, in the freedom which the Creator allows to his creatures, in itself raises life to greater intensity.  The coming of the kingdom meant the open possibility of enhancement of life; it also meant the heightening of moral responsibility.

The Founder of Christianity (New York, NY:  Macmillan Publishing Company, 1970), pages 57-58

May we exercise our freedom to become better people, build up our neighborhoods and society, lift each other up, seek the common good, and glorify God.  May our love for God and each other be active and contagious.  And may our words, even if they are impressive in the service of God, be far less eloquent than our actions in the same cause.  May all of this prove to be true because righteousness is good and we seek that which is good.  And may we succeed by grace and be among God’s faithful servants.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF PADUA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF G. K. (GILBERT KEITH) CHESTERTON, AUTHOR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/freedom-and-judgment/

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Devotion for July 24, 25, and 26 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  A Crown

Image Source = Library of Congress

1 Samuel and Acts, Part IV:  Positive and Negative Identity

WEDNESDAY, JULY 24, 2019

THURSDAY, JULY 25, 2019

FRIDAY, JULY 26, 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 Samuel 8:1-22 (July 24)

1 Samuel 9:1-27 (July 25)

1 Samuel 10:1-27 (July 26)

Psalm 15 (Morning–July 24)

Psalm 36 (Morning–July 25)

Psalm 130 (Morning–July 26)

Psalms 48 and 4 (Evening–July 24)

Psalms 80 and 27 (Evening–July 25)

Psalms 32 and 139 (Evening–July 26)

Acts 21:15-36 (July 24)

Acts 21:37-22:16 (July 25)

Acts 22:17-29 (July 26)

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Central to the narrative of 1 Samuel 8-10 is the idea that Israelites were properly different from other nations.  Their neighbors had human kings yet the Israelites had God as monarch; “judges,” or chieftains, provided human governance.  So the demand for a human king constituted a rejection of God.  The people got what they requested, although the beginning of Saul’s reign was promising.  In the long term, however, monarchy turned out as Samuel predicted it would.

In the Acts of the Apostles we read of the other, dark side of not being like other nations:  It can become a matter of hubris, that which goeth before the fall.  Paul worked among Gentiles, to whom he did not apply the Law of Moses.  Yet, contrary to rumor, he did not tell Jews to disobey that code, in particular relative to circumcision.  But objective reality did not prevent him from getting into trouble.

I propose that an element crucial to understanding the theme of being different is considering that the Jews were a minority population, heirs of a monotheistic tradition in a sea of polytheism.  How a member of a minority identifies oneself flows from that minority status.  So a certain element of negative identity (“I am not a/an _______.”) is inevitable.  But positive identity (“I am a/an ________.”) is preferable.

I, as a nonconformist, often by who the fact of who I am and frequently by choice, understand both forms of identity.   I am usually clueless regarding many popular culture-related topics of conversations, for

  1. I have other interests, and
  2. I choose not not to consume most popular media.  The “join the bandwagon” advertising approach has less of an effect on me than on many other people.  I tend to turn away unless I am already interested.

My favorite Fifties music comes from the 1750s and the 1850s, from the European classical tradition, unless one speaks of certain jazz of the 1950s.  I am an unapologetic musical snob; somebody has to be.  And, if many people go out of the way to be like others and to subsume their identities into the collective, somebody has to go out of his or her way to stand out.

But none of that justifies spreading rumors, threatening innocent people with violence, and rejecting God.  None of that makes right writing off most of the human race and contenting oneself with a “God-and-me” relationship.

Speaking of positive identity, each of us, regardless of labels, background, and circumstances, can claim one status with honesty:

I am a bearer of the image of God.

May we think of each other and ourselves accordingly.  As we think so we act and are.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 5, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MOTHER TERESA OF CALCUTTA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF GREGORIO AGLIPAY, PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENT CHURCH BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/1-samuel-and-acts-part-iv-positive-and-negative-identity/

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Week of Proper 11: Wednesday, Year 2   10 comments

Above:  The Prophet Jeremiah, According to Michelangelo Buonarroti

A Bearer of Bad News

JULY 25, 2018

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Jeremiah 1:1-10 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The words of Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin.  The word of the LORD came to him in the days of King Josiah son of Amon of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign, and throughout the days of Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of King Zedekiah son of Josiah son of Judah, when Jerusalem went into exile in the fifth month.

The word of the LORD came to me:

Before I created you in the womb, I selected you;

Before you were born, I consecrated you;

I appointed you a prophet concerning the nations.

I replied:

Ah, Lord GOD!

I don’t know how to speak,

For I am still a boy.

And the LORD said to me:

Do not say, “I am still a boy,”

But go wherever I send you

And speak whatever I command you.

Have no fear of them,

For I am with you to deliver them

–declares the LORD.

The LORD put out His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me:

Herewith I put My words into your mouth.

See, I appoint you this day

Over nations and kingdoms:

To uproot and to pull down,

To destroy and to overthrow,

To build and to plant.

Psalm 71:1-6, 15-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  In you, O LORD, have I taken refuge;

let me never be ashamed.

2  In your righteousness, deliver me and set me free;

incline your ear to me and save me.

3  Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe;

you are my crag and my stronghold.

4  Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,

from the clutches of the evildoer and the oppressor.

5  For you are my hope, O Lord GOD,

my confidence since I was young.

6  I have been sustained by you ever since I was born;

from my mother’s womb you have been my strength;

my praise shall be always of you.

15  My mouth shall recount your mighty acts

and saving deeds all the day long;

though I cannot know the number of them.

16  I will begin with the mighty works of the Lord GOD;

I will recall your righteousness, yours alone.

17  O God, you have taught me since I was young,

and to this day I tell of your wonderful works.

Matthew 13:1-9 (An American Translation):

That same day Jesus went out of his house and was sitting on the seashore.  And such great crowds gathered about him that he got into a boat and sat down in it, while all the people stood on the shore.  And he told them many things in figures, and said to them,

A sower went to sow, and as he was sowing, some of the seed fell by the path and the birds came and ate it up, and some fell on rocky ground where there was not much soil and it sprang up at once, because the soil was not deep, but when the sun came up it was scorched and withered up, because it had no root.  And some of it fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it out.  And some fell on good soil, and yielded some a hundred, some sixty, and some thirty-fold.  Let him who has ears listen!

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The Collect:

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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A Related Post:

Week of Proper 11:  Wednesday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/week-of-proper-11-wednesday-year-1/

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Jeremiah was the anti-Moses.  Moses led his people out of bondage in Egypt, into the wilderness, and toward the Promised Land.  Yet Jeremiah proclaimed that very soon there would occur an exile from that Promised Land.  And he had to flee to Egypt, where he most likely died.  Like Moses, Jeremiah protested that he was unqualified.  In each case God overrode that claim with an assurance of the divine presence.  No, Jeremiah was not qualified.  Neither was Moses.  One could make the same case for Isaiah.  But God does not call the qualified; God qualifies the called.

In Jeremiah’s case, God qualified him to utter some foreboding decrees.  This was difficult, dangerous, and unpopular work.  The call of God took quite a toll on the weeping prophet.  Sometimes suffering results from obedience, not disobedience to God.

This post is the first in which I will follow the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah via the adapted Canadian Anglican lectionary in the U.S. Episcopal Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints.  I invite you, O reader, to join me in this journey.  There will be much uncomfortable content to consider.  One lesson I have learned over years of reading, studying, and pondering the Bible is this:  There is a plethora of uncomfortable material there.

There is an old, perhaps apocryphal story about a woman who spent much of her time on the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) lecture circuit before the ratification of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  She visited one town, where she delivered her standard speech abut the evils of alcohol.  God wants us to avoid alcoholic beverages completely, she said.  After the speaker had completed her prepared remarks, she asked if anyone had any questions. A young man, who had listened quietly and politely, raised his hand.  She called on him.

If what you say is true,

he asked,

how do you explain Jesus turning water into wine?

The speaker replied,

I would like him better if he had not done that.

One might have the same feeling about God in subsequent chapters of Jeremiah.  If so, I ask you, O reader, to confront that discomfort head-on, not to dismiss it flippantly.  Turn that discomfort into an opportunity to deepen your spirituality.

KRT

Week of Proper 11: Thursday, Year 1   12 comments

Above:  Near the Peak of Mount Sinai

Image in the Public Domain

Approaching God

JULY 25, 2019

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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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With this post I rotate translations again.  The Torah readings come from Richard Elliott Friedman’s Commentary on the Torah with a New English Translation and the Hebrew Text (HarperCollins, 2001).  The New Testament lessons come from 1972 revised version of The New Testament in Modern English, by J. B. Phillips.  I recommend that any serious student of the Bible who reads English obtain and use a copy of each of these volumes.

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Exodus 19:1-20 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

In the third month after the exodus of the children of Israel from the land of Egypt, on this day, they came to the wilderness of Sinai.  And they traveled from Rephidim and came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness.  And Israel camped there opposite the mountain.

And Moses had gone up to God.  And YHWH called to him from the mountain, saying,

This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and tell to the children of Israel:  “You’ve seen what I did to Egypt, and I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to me.  And now, if you’ll listen to my voice and observe my covenant, then you’ll be a treasure to me out of all the peoples, because all the earth is mine.  And you’ll be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation to me.”  These are the words that you shall speak to the children of Israel.

And Moses came and called the people’s elders and set before them all these words that YHWH had commanded him.  And all the people responded together, and they said,

We’ll do everything that YHWH has spoken.

And Moses brought back the the people’s words to YHWH.

And YHWH said to Moses,

Here, I am commanding you in a mass of cloud for the purpose that the people will hear when I am speaking with you, and they will believe in you as well forever.

And Moses told the people’s words to YHWH.  And YHWH said to Moses,

Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow; and they shall wash their clothes and be ready for the third day, because on the third day YHWH will come down on Mount Sinai before the eyes of all the people.  And you shall limit the people all around, saying, “Watch yourselves about going up in the mountain and touching its edge.  Anyone who touches the mountain shall be put to death.  A hand shall not touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot.  Whether animal or man, he shall not live.”  At the blowing of the horn they shall go up to the mountain.

And Moses went down from the mountain to the people.  And he consecrated the people, and they washed their clothes.  And he said to the people,

Be ready for three days.  Don’t come close to a woman.

And it was on the third day, when it was morning, and it was:  thunders and lightning and a heavy cloud on the mountain, and a sound of a horn, very strong.  And the entire people that was in the camp trembled.  And Moses brought out the people toward God from the camp, and they stood up at the bottom of the mountain.  And Mount Sinai was all smoke because YHWH came down on it in fire, and its smoke went up like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled greatly.  And the sound of the horn was getting much stronger.  Moses would speak, and God would answer him in a voice.  And YHWH came down on Mount Sinai, at the top of the mountain, and YHWH called to Moses at the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.

Canticle 13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Song of the Three Young Men, 29-34, plus the Trinitarian formula

Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers;

you are worthy of praise; glory to you.

Glory to you for the radiance of your holy Name;

we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you in the splendor of your temple;

on the throne of your majesty, glory to you.

Glory to you, seated between the Cherubim;

we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you, beholding the depths;

in the high vault of heaven, glory to you.

Glory to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;

we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

OR

Psalm 24:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it,

the world and all who dwell therein.

2 For it is who founded it upon the seas

and made it firm upon the rivers of the deep.

3 “Who can ascend the hill of the LORD?

and who can stand in his holy place?”

4 “Those who have clean hands and a pure heart,

who have not pledged themselves to falsehood,

nor sworn by what is a fraud.

5 They shall receive a blessing from the LORD

and a just reward from the God of their salvation.”

6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,

of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob.

Matthew 13:10-17 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

At this the disciples approached him and asked,

Why do you talk to them in parables?

Jesus replied,

Because you have been given the privilege of understanding the secrets of the kingdom of Heaven,” but they have not.  For when a man has something, more is given to him till he has plenty.  For if he has nothing even his nothing will be taken away from him.  This is why I speak to them in these parables; because they go through life with their eyes open, but see nothing, and with their ears open, but understand nothing of what they hear.  They are the living fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophesy which says:

By hearing ye shall hear, and shall in no wise understand;

And seeing ye shall see, and shall in no wise perceive;

For this people’s heart is waxed gross,

And their ears are dull of hearing,

And their eyes have been closed;

Lest haply they should perceive with their eyes,

And hear with their heart,

And should turn again,

And I should heal them.

But how fortunate you are to have eyes that see and ears that hear! Believe me, a great many prophets and good men have longed to see what you are seeing and they never saw it.  Yes, and they have longed to hear what you are hearing and they never heard it.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The reading from Exodus builds up to the giving of the Ten Commandments.  In preparation, the people receive instructions to live according to ritual purity, including abstinence from sexual relations for a few days.  They hear also that nobody ought to touch–even brush up against, on pain of death–the mountain upon which YHWH will descend.  The belief at the time held that God was so “other” that the people needed intermediaries, such as Moses.

The Incarnation of God in the person of Jesus of Nazareth eliminates the needs for intermediaries, not that I object to intercessions by saints on earth or in heaven.  People were not supposed to touch God’s holy mountain–on pain of death–but people could touch God incarnate, Jesus.  Indeed, many people did, and some of them had him over for dinner.  This is the understanding of God I prefer–God among the people and approachable by all.

Parables included references to circumstances many people could understand easily, but not all who heard the parables grasped them.  One needed to listen with the ears of a disciple to understand, and even the Twelve Apostles were confused much of the time.  Yet the message was there, presented plainly, for all with faithful attention to the details.

The greatest and most succinct of my theology resides in Hebrews 4:14-16, which I quote from the Revised Standard Version:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

This is how I approach God:  respectfully and honestly, holding back nothing, especially the unpleasant aspects of myself.  God knows about those anyhow.  I praise, intercede, and kvetch.  Never have I felt anything other than divine love and compassion.  I have approached God in the best of times, the worst of times, and all manner of circumstances in between.  My sense of the presence of God has saved my life on more than one occasion.  The holiness of God is most evident in divine approachability, not mysterious aloofness.

In the Name of God:  the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/approaching-god/