Archive for the ‘November 23’ Category

Devotions for Friday and Saturday Before Proper 29, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Jehoiakim

Above:   Jehoiakim

Image in the Public Domain

Good and Bad Shepherds

NOVEMBER 22 and 23, 2019

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

O God, our true life, to serve you is freedom, and to know you is unending joy.

We worship you, we glorify you, we give thanks to you for your great glory.

Abide with us, reign in us, and make this world into a fit habitation for your divine majesty,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 11:1-17 (Friday)

Jeremiah 22:18-30 (Saturday)

Psalm 46 (Both Days)

1 Peter 1:3-9 (Friday)

Luke 18:15-17 (Saturday)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

God is our refuge and our strength,

a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved,

and though the mountains be toppled into the depths of the sea;

Though its waters rage and foam,

and though the mountains tremble at its tumult.

The LORD of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

–Psalm 46:1-4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The reading from Second Zechariah is an allegory of a selfish and foolish shepherd who, instead of protecting the sheep of his flock, sells them to their slaughterer for the sum of thirty shekels of silver.  The identification of the shepherd (code for political leader) is open-ended, and the price for which he sells the sheep of his flock to their doom is the same amount Judas Iscariot went on to receive for betraying Jesus in Matthew 26:14-16.  One might surmise correctly that many members of Matthew’s audience, being Jews familiar with their scriptural heritage, would have recognized the echo of Zechariah 11.

Perhaps Second Zechariah was thinking of monarchs such as Jehoiakim (reigned 608-598 B.C.E.), of whom one can read in Jeremiah 22:13-19, 2 Kings 23:36-24:7, and 2 Chronicles 36:5-8, and of his son, Jeconiah/Jehoiachin (reigned 597 B.C.E.), of whom one can read in Jeremiah 22:20-30, 2 Kings 24:8-17, and 2 Chronicles 36:9-10.  Jehoiachin was the penultimate King of Judah, and, by the time of his deposition by a foreign potentate, the realm Kingdom of Judah was obviously independent in name only.

Of Jehoiakim, father of Jehoiachin, Jeremiah 22 says in part:

Woe to him who builds his house on wrong,

his terraces on injustice;

Who works his neighbor without pay,

and gives him no wages.

Who says, “I will build myself a spacious house,

with airy rooms,”

Who cuts out windows for it,

panels it with cedar,

and paints it with vermillion.

–Verses 13-14, The New American Bible (1991)

Such shepherds abound, unfortunately.  I refer not to those who strive to do the right thing for their populations yet fail to accomplish their goals, but to those to operate not out of any sense of seeking the common good but out of greed, self-aggrandisement, and indifference toward justice, especially that of the economic variety.

Among the most familiar images of Jesus in the Gospels is that of the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-21), who not only watches his flock attentively but lays down his life for it.  The Good Shepherd is the polar opposite of the shepherd in Zechariah 11.  The Good Shepherd is Jesus in 1 Peter 1 and the figure who points to powerless children as spiritual models in Luke 18.  The Good Shepherd is one consistent with the description of God in Psalm 46.

To be a sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd is wonderful indeed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK LUCIAN HOSMER, U.S. UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY GIANELLI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF SAINT ALPHONSUS LIGUORI AND THE SISTERS OF MARY DELL’ORTO

THE FEAST OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN PASTOR THEN EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERT OF NEWMINSTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND PRIEST

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/06/07/good-and-bad-shepherds/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Advertisements

Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 29, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ in Majesty Icon

Above:  Christ in Majesty

Image in the Public Domain

The Dawning Kingdom of God

NOVEMBER 22 and 23, 2018

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

you anointed your beloved Son to be priest and sovereign forever.

Grant that all the people of the earth,

now divided by the power of sin,

may be united by the glorious and gentle rule of Jesus Christ,

our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 28:1-10 (Thursday)

Ezekiel 28:20-26 (Friday)

Psalm 93 (Both Days)

Acts 7:54-8:1a (Thursday)

1 Corinthians 15:20-28 (Friday)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

You, O LORD, are Sovereign;

you have put on splendid apparel;

you, O LORD, have put on your apparel

and girded yourself with strength.

You have made the whole world so sure

that it cannot be moved;

ever since the world began, your throne has been established;

you are from everlasting.

The waters have lifted up, O LORD,

the waters have lifted up their voice;

the waters have lifted up their pounding waves.

Mightier than the sound of many waters,

mightier than the breakers of the sea,

mightier is the LORD who dwells on high.

Your testimonies are very sure,

and holiness adorns your house, O LORD,

forever and forevermore.

–Psalm 93, Book of Common Worship (1993)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The journey toward Christ the King Sunday (evident in the selection of the Psalm) continues.  The sovereignty of God is a major theme in Ezekiel 28, where we read announcements that the prideful King of Tyre will die and that the hostile countries around Judah will fall.  The restoration of Judah will follow, thus people will know that Yahweh is the God of the Hebrews.

Death is a punishment in Ezekiel 28 and the penalty for St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr and one of the first Christian deacons.  In Acts 7-8, where we read of the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the accusation was blasphemy, although anger and defensiveness were the actual causes.  Whatever those who executed the saint thought regarding theology, their violence in the name of God belied their protests of righteousness.  St. Stephen was forgiving, however.  One will know a tree by its fruits.

Death is the last enemy to face defeat in 1 Corinthians 15.  The agent of victory over death is the crucified and resurrected Christ.  As verses 17-19 say,

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those who have died in Christ have perished.  If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The Pauline case continues the assertion that God has put everything under subjection to Christ, in God.

The theme of Christ the King Sunday is that, despite appearances to the contrary, God is in charge.  Pope Pius XI created the feast in the 1920s, when dictators dominated Europe and fascism was on the rise.  The message of Christ the King Sunday remains relevant today, for human nature and divine faithfulness are constants.  The Kingdom of God has been present among us for a long time, for it was “at hand” nearly 2000 years ago, when Jesus of Nazareth walked the face of the Earth.  Alas, the Kingdom of God has not become fully realized, for it is simultaneously present and en route.  Human cruelty constitutes evidence of the partial realization of the Kingdom of God, so we hope and pray for the completion of the promise.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SCHEFFLER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORG NEUMARK, GERMAN LUTHERAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN HINES, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/the-dawning-kingdom-of-god/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 29, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

New Jerusalem

Above:  The New Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

Out With the Old; In With the New

NOVEMBER 23 and 24, 2017

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

God of power and might, your Son shows us the way of service,

and in him we inherit the riches of your grace.

Give us the wisdom to know what is right and

the strength to serve the world you have made,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 2:13-23 (Thursday)

1 Chronicles 17:1-15 (Friday)

Psalm 95:1-71 (Both Days)

Revelation 14:1-11 (Thursday)

Revelation 22:1-9 (Friday)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Come, let us sing to the LORD;

let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving

and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.

For the LORD is a great God,

and a great king above all gods.

–Psalm 95:1-3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Out with the old; in with the new:  that is the unifying thread I have found connecting the readings for these days.  1 Kings 2 contains a prediction of the demise of King Ahab of Israel and Revelation 14 speaks of the fall of the Roman Empire.  On the other side of the proverbial coin is the establishment of the new order–the New Jerusalem in Revelation 22 and the Davidic Dynasty in 1 Chronicles 17.  The latter proved imperfect and did not live up to the high expectations of 1 Chronicles 17, of course.  And the New Jerusalem remains a future hope.

Finally the readings reflect some optimism.  I spent most of the previous two posts complaining about excessive gloominess in the pericopes.  Now, however, we read of the creative side of creative destruction.  This is consistent with the proximity of the assigned days for these lessons to the beginning of Advent.  Yes, the world is a troubled place, but a physical manifestation of hope is near liturgically.  Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 7, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE PACIFIC

THE FEAST OF ELIE NAUD, HUGUENOT WITNESS TO THE FAITH

THE FEAST OF JANE LAURIE BORTHWICK, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, POET

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Devotion for November 23 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Michelangelo,_Giudizio_Universale_02

Above:  The Last Judgment, by Michelangelo

Image in the Public Domain

Daniel and Revelation, Part II:  Settling Scores

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 2019

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 3:1-30

Psalm 122 (Morning)

Psalms 141 and 90 (Evening)

Revelation 20:1-15

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The imagery of fire unites the readings from Daniel and Revelation.  King Nebuchadnezzar (Nebuchadrezzar) II orders Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego–all righteous, observant Jews–thrown into the fire.  But they emerge unscathed.  Yet, at the Last Judgment, in Revelation, the unrighteous face an unpleasant fate, one described metaphorically as

the burning lake.

–verse 15, The New Jerusalem Bible

These are stories about settling scores.

Certain Chaldeans came forward to slander the Jews.

–Daniel 3:8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

But God is the one settling scores in Revelation 20 as part of the process of destroying the old, unjust world order before establishing the new, just world order.

Which side of God–good or bad–are you on, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROBERT FRANCIS KENNEDY, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL AND SENATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONIFACE OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/daniel-and-revelation-part-ii-settling-scores/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Week of Proper 28: Friday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 28: Saturday, Year 2   14 comments

Above:  The Expulsion of the Money Changers from the Temple, by Giotto di Bondone

Divine Judgment and Human Discomfort

NOVEMBER 23 and 24, 2018

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

FIRST READING FOR FRIDAY

Revelation 10:8-11 (Revised English Bible):

The voice which I had heard from heaven began speaking to me again; it said,

Go and take the scroll which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and the land.

I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll.  He answered,

Take it, and eat it.  It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will taste as sweet as honey.

I took the scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it, and in my mouth it did taste as sweet as honey, but when I swallowed it my stomach turned sour.

Then I was told,

Once again you must utter prophecies over many nations, races, languages, and kings.

FIRST READING FOR SATURDAY

Revelation 11:1-14 (Revised English Bible):

I was given a long cane to use as a measuring rod, and was told:

Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshippers.  But leave the outer court of the temple out of your measurements; it has been given over to the Gentiles, and for forth-two months they will trample the Holy City underfoot.  I will give my two witnesses authority to prophesy, dressed in sackcloth, for those twelve hundred and sixty days.

They are the two olive trees and the two lamps that stand in the presence of the Lord of the earth.  If anyone tries to injure them, fire issues from their mouths and consumes their enemies; so shall anyone die who tries to do them injury.  These two have the power to shut up the sky, so that no rain falls during the time of their prophesying; and they have power to turn water into blood and to afflict the earth with every kind of plague whenever they like.  But when they have completed their testimony, the beast that comes up from the abyss will wage war on them and will overcome and kill them.  Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, whose name in prophetic language is Sodom, or Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.  For three and a half days people from every nation and tribe, language, and race, gaze on their corpses and refuse them burial.  The earth’s inhabitants gloat over them; they celebrate and exchange presents, for these two prophets were a torrent to them.  But at the end of the three and a half days the breath of life of God came into their bodies, and they rose to their feet, to the terror of those who saw them.  A loud voice from heaven was heard saying to them,

Come up here!

and they ascended to heaven in a cloud, in full view of their enemies.  At that moment there was a silent earthquake, and a tenth of the city collapsed.  Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake; the rest, filled with fear, did homage to the God of heaven.

The second woe has now passed; but the third is soon to come.

RESPONSE FOR FRIDAY

Psalm 119:65-72 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

65  O LORD, you have dealt graciously with your servant,

according to your word.

66  Teach me discernment and knowledge,

for I have believed in your commandments.

67  Before I was afflicted I went astray,

but now I keep your word.

68  You are good and you bring forth good;

instruct me in your statutes.

69  The proud have smeared me with lies,

but I will keep your commandments with my whole heart.

70  Their heart is gross and fat,

but my delight is in your law.

71  It is good for me that I have been afflicted,

that I might learn your statutes.

72  The law of your mouth is dearer to me

than thousands in gold and silver.

RESPONSE FOR SATURDAY

Psalm 144:1-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Blessed be the LORD my rock!

who trains my hands to fight and my fingers to battle;

2  My help and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer,

my shield in whom I trust,

who subdues the peoples under me.

3  O LORD, what are we that you should care for us?

mere mortals that you should think of us?

4  We are like a puff of wind;

our days like a passing shadow.

5  Bow your heavens, O LORD, and come down;

touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.

6  Hurl the lightning and scatter them;

shoot out your arrows and rout them.

7  Stretch out your hand from on high;

rescue me and deliver me from the great waters,

from the hand of foreign peoples,

8  Whose mouths speak deceitfully

and whose right hand is raised in falsehood.

9  O God, I will sing to you a new song;

I will play to you on a ten-stringed lyre.

10  You give victory to kings

and have rescued David your servant.

GOSPEL READING FOR FRIDAY

Luke 19:45-48 (Revised English Bible):

(Set shortly after the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem; the Last Supper occurs in Chapter 22)

Then Jesus went into the temple and began driving out the traders, with these words:

Scriptures says, “My house shall be a house of prayer;” but you have made it a bandits’ cave.

Day by day he taught in the temple.  The chief priests and scribes, with the support of the leading citizens, wanted to bring about his death, but found that they were helpless, because the people all hung on his words.

GOSPEL READING FOR SATURDAY

Luke 20:27-40 (Revised English Bible):

Then some Sadducees, who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and asked:

Teacher, Moses, laid it down for us that if there are brothers, and one dies leaving a wife but not child, then the next should marry the widow and provide an heir for his brother.  Now there seven brothers:  the first took a wife and died childless, then the second married her, then the third.  In this way the seven of them died leaving no children.  Last of all the woman also died. At the resurrection, whose wife is she to be, since all seven had married her?

Jesus said to them,

The men and women of this world marry; but those who have been judged who have been judged worthy of a place in the other world, and of the resurrection from the dead, do not marry, for they are no longer subject to death.  They are like angels; they are children of God, because they share in his resurrection.  That the dead are raised to life again is shown by Moses himself in the story of the burning bush, when he calls the Lord “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.”  God is not the God of the living; in his sight all are alive.

At this some of the scribes said,

Well spoken, Teacher.

And nobody dared put any further question to him.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

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.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 28:  Friday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/week-of-proper-28-friday-year-1/

Week of Proper 28:  Saturday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/week-of-proper-28-saturday-year-1/

The Church’s One Foundation:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/06/26/the-churchs-one-foundation/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

As I have written already in at least one blog post, there is a difference between a negotiation and a rescue operation.  There is justice, which mercy serves sometimes.  Other times, however, punishment must fall.  That is the context for Revelation 7-10, which, in vivid imagery, describes God, whose power reaches from the land to the sea to the waterways to the stars, sheltering the martyrs and inflicting punishment on the wicked.  The sense of doom upon the wicked is palpable in the symbolic language, the details of which I will not unpack here.  Rather, I choose to focus on the main idea, which I have stated already.

We read of John of Patmos eating a scroll containing words of judgment.  (This is similar to Ezekiel 2:8-3:3–follow this link:  https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/week-of-proper-14-tuesday-year-2/.  John agrees with doom upon the Roman Empire yet regrets the fact that Christians will continue to suffer.  Speaking of suffering, the two witnesses in Revelation 11 indicate the continuation of martyrdom.  (I suspect, by the way, that memories of the First Jewish War and the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple influenced Revelation 11.)

Jesus, in Luke’s Gospel confronts the money changers, who used religious sensibilities to create opportunities to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor.  He used words and force.  Nevertheless, I support that money changers were not absent for long.

Why do the good suffer?  Why does God not prevent it?  Why does not God not stop all economic exploitation?  Ask God, not me.  But John of Patmos offers some comfort:  The wicked will suffer the consequences of their actions in time.  Furthermore, God will hear the cry of those who suffer.

I write hagiographies.  My most recent one tells the story of St. James Intercisus, who became a martyr circa 421 C.E. because he confessed his faith to the Persian monarch.  The king’s men tortured, dismembered, and killed the saint slowly and painfully, hence his posthumous surname, Intercisus, or “cut into pieces.  (Follow this link:  http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/feast-of-st-james-intercisus-november-27/)  His death was unnecessary; the king could have decided differently.

Ultimate judgment belongs to God.  May we mere mortals acknowledge this reality, accept it, and act accordingly.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/divine-judgment-and-human-discomfort/

Week of Proper 28: Saturday, Year 1   11 comments

Above:  A Map Showing the Seleucid Empire

Image in the Public Domain

The End of Antiochus IV Epiphanes

NOVEMBER 23, 2019

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

1 Maccabees 6:1-17 (Revised English Bible):

As King Antiochus made his way through the upper provinces heard there was a city, Elymais, famous for its wealth in silver and gold.  Its temple was very rich, full of gold shields, coats of mail, and weapons left there by Philip’s son Alexander, king of Macedon and the first to be king over the Greeks.  Antiochus came to that city, but in his attempt to take and plunder it he was unsuccessful because his plan had become known to the citizens.  They gave battle and drove him off; in bitter resentment he withdrew towards Babylon.

In Persia a messenger brought him the news that the armies which had invaded Judaea had suffered defeat, and that Lysias, who had marched up with an exceptionally strong force, had been flung back into open battle.  Further, the strength of the Jews had increased through the capture of weapons, equipment, and spoil in plenty from the armies they destroyed; they had pulled down the abomination built by him on the altar in Jerusalem and surrounded their temple with high walls as before; they had even fortified Bethsura, his city.

The king was dismayed and so sorely shaken by this report that he took to his bed, ill with grief at the miscarriage of his plans.  There he lay for many days, overcome again and again by bitter grief, and he realized that he was dying.  He summoned all his Friends and said:

Sleep has summoned me; the weight of care has broken my heart.  At first I asked myself:  Why am I engulfed in this sea of troubles, I who was kind and well loved in  the day of my power?  But now I recall the wrong I did in Jerusalem:  I carried off all the vessels of silver and gold that were there, and with no justification sent armies to wipe out the inhabitants of Judaea.  I know that is why these misfortunes have come upon me; and here I am, dying of bitter grief in a foreign land.

He summoned Philip, one of his Friends, and appointed him regent over his whole empire, giving him the crown, his royal robe, and the signet ring, with authority to bring up his son Antiochus and train him for the throne.  King Antiochus died in Persia in the year 149 [163 B.C.E.].

When Lysias learnt that the king was dead, he placed on the throne in succession to his father the young Antiochus, whom he had trained from boyhood, and he gave him the name Eupator.

Psalm 124 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 If the LORD had not been on our side,

let Israel now say,

If the LORD had not been on our side,

when enemies rose up against us;

3 Then they would have swallowed us up alive

in their fierce anger toward us;

Then would the waters have overwhelmed us

and the torrent gone over us;

5 Then would the raging waters

have gone right over us.

6 Blessed be the LORD!

he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler;

the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

Our help is in the Name of the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

Luke 20:27-40 (Revised English Bible):

Then some Sadducees, who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and asked:

Teacher, Moses, laid it down for us that if there are brothers, and one dies leaving a wife but not child, then the next should marry the widow and provide an heir for his brother.  Now there seven brothers:  the first took a wife and died childless, then the second married her, then the third.  In this way the seven of them died leaving no children.  Last of all the woman also died. At the resurrection, whose wife is she to be, since all seven had married her?

Jesus said to them,

The men and women of this world marry; but those who have been judged who have been judged worthy of a place in the other world, and of the resurrection from the dead, do not marry, for they are no longer subject to death.  They are like angels; they are children of God, because they share in his resurrection.  That the dead are raised to life again is shown by Moses himself in the story of the burning bush, when he calls the Lord “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.”  God is not the God of the living; in his sight all are alive.

At this some of the scribes said,

Well spoken, Teacher.

And nobody dared put any further question to him.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

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.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I have a few comments about the reading from Luke 20 before I move along to my main point.  Levirate marriage was part of the Law of Moses.  By this practice a childless widow was supposed to find economic security in a deeply patriarchal society; there would be a man to take care of her.  Finding ultimate economic security, for her, meant giving birth to at least one son who would grow up and care for her in time.  Some Sadducees seized on this matter to ask Jesus an insincere questions.  I wonder if our Lord thought to himself something like,

Why do they keep asking me questions like this?

Indeed, it would have been better to ask him a sincere query.  The Sadducees were wasting his time; may we not follow in their footsteps.

Now, for the main idea….

Being the history geek I am, I opened up an old edition of the New Oxford Annotated Bible (a Revised Standard Version edition from 1977, no less) and found the chronological and genealogical table of Seleucid kings in the back.  Seleucus II Callinicus (reigned 246-225 B.C.E.) died.  His immediate successor was an elder son, Seleucus III Soter Ceraunos (reigned 225-223 B.C.E.).  Seleucus III, dying childless, was succeeded by his younger brother, Antiochus III the Great (reigned 223-187 B.C.E.), who had two sons who became kings after him.  The elder son became Seleucus IV Philopater (reigned 187-175 B.C.E.).  Seleucus IV did have a son before he died.  That son Demetrius, the rightful heir.  But Demetrius was a hostage in Rome when his father died, and his uncle, the younger son Antiochus III, usurped the throne to become Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164 B.C.E.).

Antiochus IV Epiphanes was an ambitious man.  There is nothing wrong with having ambition; indeed, I distrust a person who lacks it.  Ambition drives people to bigger and better goals when one harnesses it properly.  But does one harness one’s ambition or does one’s ambition harness one?  Ambition and foolishness compelled Antiochus IV to break with precedent and try to suppress non-Hellenistic cultures within his empire, and thus inspired opposition.  Jews, for example rebelled.  This rebellion weakened the empire and contributed to king’s bad health and therefore his death.  Indeed, the medical link between high levels of stress and increased susceptibility to diseases is well-documented.

And so Antiochus IV Epiphanes died in 164 B.C.E.  His immediate successor was another usurper, his son, Antiochus V Eupator, a boy who met a bad end in 162 B.C.E.  Demetrius, the rightful heir since 175 B.C.E., finally escaped from Rome and returned home that year, when he became Demetrius I Soter, reigning until 150 B.C.E.).  He met a bad end, too, when Alexander Balas, a son Antiochus IV Epiphanes, killed him and reigned for five years.

That seems like a great deal of trouble to go through for not much reward, does it not?  Why struggle to become king, only to have to struggle to keep the throne and lose it anyway? The rewards seemed to have been short-term only and the miseries long-term.

There is, however, a better way, which is to seek those riches which are intangible, and therefore do not rust or decay and which no earthly thief can take away.  To find one’s identity in God is to locate position in which one will find fulfillment and from which nobody can oust one.  The Seleucid Empire has dwelt in the dustbin of history for over two thousand years; where is the glory of its kings now?  Yet, each year, faithful Jews celebrate Hanukkah and recall the rededication of the Temple by the Hasmoneans.  The fatal ambition of Antiochus IV Epiphanes brought on the necessity to rededicate the Temple and started a Jewish war for independence from the Seleucid Empire.  I know who won and who lost this case.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/the-end-of-antiochus-iv-epiphanes/