Archive for the ‘November 29’ Category

Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the First Sunday of Advent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70AD -- a painting by David Roberts (1796-1849).

Above: The Destruction of Jerusalem, by David Roberts

Image in the Public Domain

Leaving the World Better Than We Found It

NOVEMBER 29 and 30, 2018

DECEMBER 1, 2018

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection alert us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and redeem us for your life of justice,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Nehemiah 9:6-15 (Thursday)

Nehemiah 9:16-25 (Friday)

Nehemiah 9:26-31 (Saturday)

Psalm 76 (All Days)

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (Thursday)

1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 (Friday)

Luke 21:20-24 (Saturday)

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For all those who hope in you shall not be ashamed:

but only those who wantonly break faith.

–Psalm 25:2, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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One message from the Hebrew Bible is that God liberated the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and gave them orders to live in a just society.  Yet, as prophets attested, rebellion against God became the norm, not the exception to the rule.  Consequences ensued and God showed both judgment and mercy to the Hebrews.

The Jews of Nehemiah 9 were returned exiles living in a province (a satrapy, technically) of the Persian Empire.  They were home, but circumstances did not live up to high expectations and they lived in a foreign empire.  Living under occupation remained the reality of Jews in Judea for most of the time during the following centuries.  In the time of Jesus of Nazareth the occupying power was the Roman Empire, against whom many Jews fought a war from 66 to 73 C.E.  The writing of the four canonical Gospels occurred in the context of the First Jewish War, shaping the telling of stories of Jesus.  Certainly that context influenced the understanding of Luke 21:20-24.  Jesus might have said something similar to those words, but the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. by Roman forces made that text poignant after the fact.

In 1 Thessalonians, which St. Paul the Apostle probably dictated circa 50 C.E., about four decades prior to the composition of the Gospel of Luke, apocalyptic expectations were alive and well.  Some members of that community either used the hope that Jesus would return quite soon as a reason or an excuse to refrain from good works and necessary, even mundane tasks.  The Apostle’s sage advice was to keep working.  That remains wise counsel, for Jesus has yet to return as of the writing of this sentence, and the necessities of life continue to exist.  Waiting for God to act is a poor excuse not to work for justice and to attempt to leave one’s corner of the world better than one found it.  The world might not resemble the best hopes for it, but that fact is a reason to continue working, not to become lazy or to give into apathy or hopelessness.  God will save the world, but we have a moral imperative to leave it better than we found it.

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

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/leaving-the-world-better-than-we-found-it/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 29, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

Responding to God

NOVEMBER 29, 2017

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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

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 33:7-20

Psalm 7

John 5:19-40

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God is my shield and defense;

he is the savior of the true in heart.

God is a righteous judge;

God sits in judgment everyday.

If they will not repent, God will whet his sword;

he will bend his bow and make it ready.

–Psalm 7:11-13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Striving to be a merely decent human being is a worthy goal, one which falls into the Lutheran category of civic righteousness–that is, good yet incapable of saving one from the consequences of sin.  Yet the standard of mere human decency evaded our Lord and Savior’s critics in John 5.  He was healing people on the Sabbath.  His critics complained about the timing, as if there were ever a bad day to commit a good deed.  His identification of God as his Father seemed blasphemous to them also.  In the Law of Moses the penalty for committing blasphemy is death.

The call to repent–to change one’s mind, to turn around–exists in both main pericopes today.  There is good news for the penitent and bad news for the impenitent, for judgment and mercy coexist.  God keeps offering opportunities to change course for the better and to receive forgiveness, but some people reject the offer.  This point fits well with the rest of Ezekiel, which proceeds from the assumption that sin led to the Babylonian Exile.

That call to repent repeats.  Striving to be a merely decent human being is a good beginning of a positive response to God.  That little bit is possible only via grace, which bestows the free will with which we respond to God positively or negatively.  Shall we reply positively?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SHEPHERD KNAPP, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN DUCKETT AND RALPH CORBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS IN ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF NIKOLAI GRUNDTVIG, HYMN WRITER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/responding-to-god/

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Devotion for Friday Before the First Sunday of Advent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

The Proof in the Pudding

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2019

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection awaken us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and enlighten our walk in the way of your salvation,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 6:1-10

Psalm 122

Hebrews 11:1-7

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 6:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/week-of-6-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/devotion-for-the-fifth-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/week-of-proper-1-tuesday-year-1/

Hebrews 11:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/week-of-3-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/week-of-6-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/devotion-for-the-fifth-day-of-easter-thursday-in-easter-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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I was glad when they said to me:

“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

And now our feet are standing

within your gates, O Jerusalem.”

–Psalm 122:1-2, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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The Priestly Source tells us in Genesis 6:9 that:

Noah walked with God.

The New Revised Standard Version

One definition of faith in the New Testament comes from Hebrews 11:1:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

The New Revised Standard Version

Thus, by faith Noah, a subsequent verse tells us, respected and acted on the divine warning of the Great Flood.  In so doing he not only saved his extended family but

he condemned the world….

The New Revised Standard Version

When we set out merely to do the right thing and succeed, one side effect of our action(s) is the condemnation of those who have done otherwise, for the contrast becomes so stark as to be unmistakable.  Acting based not on what has occurred but on what will happen sets one apart from others, many of whom might become contemptuous.  Yet stepping out on the Hebrews 11:1 definition of faith does empower one to please God, to walk with God.

Sometimes God acts in ways that are new in human experience.  For example, the Incarnation fit that description.  Responding favorably to it pleased God; rejecting it did not.  In our contemporary timeframe the previous statement, altered only to become present tense, continues to apply.  By the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth God did something new, something which made the Kingdom of God–already extant–more

manifestly and effectively true.

–C. H. Dodd, The Founder of Christianity (New York:  Macmillan, 1970, page 57)

Thus the reality of Jesus in words and deeds challenged people to respond positively.

But when a person (or a society) has been presented with such a challenge and declines it, he 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.

–page 58

It is easier to recognize God’s new (to us, anyway) tactics after the fact than beforehand.  Indeed, many people have acted on allegedly divine instructions which turned out to be delusions.  (They were probably talking to themselves.)  The proof, an old saying tells us, is in the pudding.  Jesus has the pudding.

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

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/the-proof-in-the-pudding/

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Devotion for November 29 in Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

vineyard

Above:  A Vineyard

Image in the Public Domain

Against Carping Criticism and Social Injustice

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2017

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2018

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Blessed Lord, who caused 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:

Isaiah 5:1-25

Psalm 85 (Morning)

Psalms 25 and 40 (Evening)

1 Peter 2:1-12

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Rid yourselves, then, of all spite, deceit, hypocrisy, envy and carping criticism….Always behave honourably among gentiles so that they can see for themselves what moral lives you lead, and when the day of reckoning comes, give thanks to God for the things which now make them denounce you as criminals.

–1 Peter 2:1, 11-12, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Put your trust in him [God] always, O people,

pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.

–Psalm 62:9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Isaiah 5 speaks in allegorical terms of God as a farmer and Israel as a vineyard.  The farmer has done his best, yet the vineyard has yielded wild grapes.  In this allegory we read condemnations of wealthy landowners who have expanded their holdings at the expense of people of modest means, in violation of the Law of Moses.  The Bible speaks frequently about how much God condemns economic exploitation, a topic which deserves more attention than many Christians, lay or ordained, give it.  We also read in this allegory a condemnation of impious partying, such as the kind fueled by alcohol.  The common thread is misplaced priorities:  greed and dissipation distract one from what matters in Isaiah 5:  social justice as lived holiness.

Certainly we cannot work toward social justice as lived holiness if we engage in

spite, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and carping criticism,

can we?  Honorable behavior builds up society and the body of Christ.  It might also get us into trouble and even cost us as much as our lives.  That is not fair, obviously.  But, if we are to suffer, may we do so for the sake of righteousness.  May we also refrain from causing or permitting anyone to suffer for the sake of righteousness.

And may we check ourselves daily for bad behaviors, such as those 1 Peter 2:1 lists.  The New Jerusalem Bible translators for 1 Peter did a wonderful job with 2:1;

carping criticism

stood out in my mind the first time I read that verse in this translation.  Alternative renderings include

slander

and

malicious talk

and

unkind words,

but I prefer

carping criticism.

Unfortunately, congregations are frequently hotbeds of

carping criticism.

I grew up in a series of congregations I did not choose.  Their characters varied greatly, but I recall some mainly for the

carping criticism

which took place there.  I am ashamed that I have engaged in

carping criticism

of others, not that all criticism is out-of-bounds; the canonical gospels record critical words of Jesus.  But I have carped.  In so doing I have sinned.  And I am not alone in that reality.

May both social injustice and

carping criticism

decrease exponentially, by grace and human cooperation with it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN BROWN, ABOLITIONIST

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Week of Proper 29: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Year 2   11 comments

Above:  The Measuring of the New Jerusalem

“And Night Shall Be No More”

NOVEMBER 29 and 30, 2018

DECEMBER 1, 2018

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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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FIRST READING FOR THURSDAY

Revelation 18:1-2, 21-19:3, 9 (Revised English Bible):

After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven; he possessed great authority and the earth shone with his splendour.  In a mighty voice he proclaimed,

Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!  She has become a dwelling for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, for every unclean and loathsome bird….

Then a mighty angel picked up a stone like a great millstone and hurled it into the sea, saying,

Thus shall Babylon, the great city, be sent hurling down, never to be seen again!  The sound of harpists and minstrels, flute-players and trumpeters, shall no more be heard in you; no more shall craftsmen of any trade be found in you, or the sound of the mill be heard in you; no more shall the light of the lamp appear in you, no more shall the voices of the bridegroom and bride be heard in you!  Your traders were once the merchant princes of the world, and with your sorcery you deceived all the nations.

The blood of the prophets and of God’s people was found in her, the blood of all who had been slain on earth.  After this I heard what sounded like a vast throng in heaven shouting:

Hallelujah!  Victory and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgements!  He has condemned the great whore who corrupted the earth with her fornication; he has taken vengeance on her for the blood of his servants.

Once more they shouted:

Hallelujah!  The smoke from her burning will rise for ever!

The angel said to me,

Write this:  “Happy are those who are invited to the wedding banquet of the Lamb!”

He added,

These are the very words of God.

FIRST READING FOR FRIDAY

Revelation 20:1-4, 11-21:4 (Revised English Bible):

I saw an angel coming down from heaven with the key to the abyss and a great chain in his hand.  He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent who is the Devil, or Satan, and chained him up for a thousand years; he threw him into the abyss, shutting and sealing it over him,so that he might not seduce the nations again till the thousand years were ended.  After that he must be let loose for a little while.

I saw thrones, and on them sat those to whom judgement was committed.  I saw the souls of those who, for the sake of God’s word and their witness to Jesus, had been beheaded, those who had not worshipped the beast and its image or received its mark on forehead or hand.  They came to life again and reigned with Christ for a thousand years….

I saw a great, white throne, and the One who sits upon it.  From his presence earth and heaven fled away, and there was no room for then any more.  I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne; and books were opened.  Then another book, the book of life, was opened.  The dead were judged by what they had done, as recorded in these books.  The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and Death and Hades gave up the dead in their keeping.  Everyone was judged on the record of his deeds.  Then Death and Hades were flung into the lake of fire.  This lake of fire is the second death; into it were flung any whose names were not to be found in the book of life.

I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had vanished, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready like a bride adorned for her husband.  I heard a loud voice proclaiming from the throne:

Now God has made his dwelling with mankind!  He will dwell among them and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There shall be an end to death, and to mourning and crying and pain, for the old order has passed away!

FIRST READING FOR SATURDAY

Revelation 22:1-7 (Revised English Bible):

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the city’s street.  On either side of the river stood a tree of life, which yields twelve crops of fruit, one for each month of the year.  The leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations.  Every accursed thing shall disappear.  The throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants shall worship him; they shall see him face to face and bear his name on their foreheads.  There shall be no more night, nor will they need the light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will give them light; and they shall reign for ever.

He said to me,

These words are trustworthy and true.  The Lord God who inspires the prophets has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.  And remember, I am coming soon!

RESPONSE FOR THURSDAY

Psalm 100 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands;

serve the LORD with gladness

and come before his presence with a song.

Know this:  The LORD himself is God;

he himself has made us, and we are his;

we are the sheep of his pasture.

3 Enter his gates with thanksgiving;

go into his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and call upon his name.

4 For the LORD is good;

his mercy is everlasting;

and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

RESPONSE FOR FRIDAY

Psalm 84 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts!

My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the LORD;

my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

The sparrow has found her a house

and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young;

by the side of your altars, O LORD of hosts,

my King and my God.

3 Happy are they who dwell in your house!

they will always be praising you.

4 Happy are the people whose strength is in you!

whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.

5 Those who go through the desolate valley will find it a place of springs,

for the early rains have covered it with pools of water.

6 They will climb from height to height,

and the God of gods will reveal himself in Zion.

LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;

hearken, O God of Jacob.

8 Behold our defender, O God;

and look upon the face of your Anointed.

For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room,

and to stand in the threshold of the house of my God

than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.

10 For the LORD is both sun and shield;

he will give grace and glory;

11 No good thing will the LORD withhold

from those who walk with integrity.

12 O LORD of hosts,

happy are they who put their trust in you!

RESPONSE FOR SATURDAY

Psalm 95:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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.

3 For the LORD is a great God,

and a great King above all gods.

In his hand are the caverns of the earth,

and the heights of the hills are his also.

5 The sea is his, for he made it,

and his hands have molded the dry land.

Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee,

and kneel before the LORD our Maker.

7 For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

COMPOSITE GOSPEL READING

Luke 21:20-36 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

But when you see Jerusalem encircled by armies, then you may be sure that her devastation is near.  Then those who are in Judaea must take to the hills; those who are in the city itself must leave it and those who are out in the country must not return; because this is the time of retribution, when all that stands written is to be fulfilled.  Alas for women with child in those days, and for those who have children at the breast!  There will be great distress in the land and a terrible  judgement on this people.  They will fall by the sword; they will be carried captive into all countries; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by Gentiles until the day of the Gentiles has run its course.

Portents will appear in sun and moon and stars.  On earth nations will stand helpless, not knowing which way to turn from the roar and surge of the sea.  People will faint with terror at the thought of what is coming upon the world; for the celestial powers will be shaken.  Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  When all this begins to happen, stand upright and hold your heads high, because your liberation is near.

Jesus told them a parable:

Look at the fig tree, or at any other tree.  As soon as it bud, you can see for yourselves that summer is near.  In the same way, when you see all this happening, you may know that the kingdom of God is near.

Truly I tell you:  the present generation will live to see it all.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Be on your guard; do not let your minds be dulled by dissipation and drunkenness and worldly cares so that the great day catches you suddenly like a trap; for that day will come on everyone, the whole world over.  Be on the alert, praying at all times for strength to pass safely through all that is coming and to stand in the presence of the Son of Man.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 29:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/week-of-proper-29-thursday-year-1/

Week of Proper 29:  Friday, Year 1, and Week of Proper 29:  Saturday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/week-of-proper-29-friday-year-1-and-week-of-proper-29-saturday-year-1/

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The Book of Revelation culminates with the destruction of the city (and empire) of Rome and the establishment of God’s order, the New Jerusalem.  The Empire had persecuted Christians and destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple there.  The latter was a recent memory for many members of the original audience of both Revelation and Luke.  In fact, as I read Luke 21, I perceive that memories of those traumas influenced the telling of the contents.  How could they not?  We humans tell the past in the context of our present and recent history.

There is good news after all.  Revelation is an essentially optimistic book.

“…and night shall be no more….”

–Revelation 22:5a, Revised Standard Version

Part of the text from Revelation reminded me of an anthem my church choir has sung:

Peace be to you and grace from Him who freed us from our sins,

who loved us all and shed his blood that we might saved be.

Sing holy, holy to our Lord, the Lord Almighty God,

who was and is and is to come,

sing holy, holy Lord.

Rejoice on earth, ye saints below, for Christ is coming soon.

E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come and night shall be more.

They need no light, no lamp, nor sun, for Christ will be their all.

In 1954, Paul and Ruth Manz struggled emotionally through the serious (threatening to be fatal) illness of their three-year-old son, John.  Paul, a Lutheran church organist and composer, set words his wife had adapted from Revelation to music.  John recovered and became a minister.  He presided at his father’s funeral in November 2009.

Those of us who have lived for a sufficiently long time understand the darkness of anguish.  I refer not to mere childhood and adolescent alleged emergencies.  No, I mean potentially soul-shattering grief.  In such circumstances, one wonders how one can carry on.  Christ, who suffered grievously, did more than persist–he triumphed, even over death itself.  The power which made that possible can enable us to survive, continue, rebuild, and thrive.  Yew, we can carry one, in Christ, of course.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/and-night-shall-be-no-more/

Week of Proper 29: Friday, Year 1, and Week of Proper 29: Saturday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:  St. Michael’s Victory Over the Devil, St. Michael’s Cathedral, Coventry, England

Image Source = sansse

God, On the Side of the Righteous

NOVEMBER 29 and 30, 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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I have decided to combine the devotions for the last two days of Ordinary Time in this year’s Canadian Anglican lectionary series because dividing the readings from Daniel and Luke is awkward.  Rather, typing and presening them (Yes, I am typing every word.) as units makes clear their unity.

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THE FIRST READING:

Daniel 7:1-27 (Revised English Bible):

(I have reformatted the text for clarity.)

Friday’s assigned portion:

In the first year that Belshazzar was king of Babylon, a dream and visions came to Daniel as he lay on his bed.  Then he wrote down the dream, and here his account begins.

In my vision during the night while I, Daniel, was gazing intently I saw the Great Sea churned up by the four winds of heaven, and four great beasts rising out of the sea, each one different from the others.

The first was like a lion, but it had an eagle’s wings.  I watched until its wings were plucked off from the ground and made to stand on two feet as if it were a human being.

Then I saw another, a second beast, like a bear.  It had raised itself on one side, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth.  The command was given to it:  “Get up and gorge yourself with flesh.”

After this as I gazed I saw another, a beast like a leopard with four wings like those of a bird on its back; this creature had four heads, and it was invested with sovereign power.

Next in the night visions I saw a fourth beast, fearsome and grisly  and exceedingly strong, with great iron teeth.  It devoured and crunched, and it trampled underfoot what was left.  It was different from all the beasts which went before it, and had ten horns.

While I was considering the horns there appeared another horn, a little one, springing up among them, and three of the first horns were uprooted to make room for it.  In this horn were eyes like human eyes, and a mouth that uttered bombast.  As I was looking,

thrones were set in place

and the Ancient in Years took his seat;

his robe was white as snow,

his hair like lamb’s wool.

His throne was flames of fire

and its wheels were blazing fire;

a river of fire flowed from his presence.

Thousands upon thousands served him

and myriads upon myriads were in attendance.

The court sat, and the books were opened.

Then because of the bombast the horn was mouthing, I went on watching until the beast was killed; its carcass was destroyed and consigned to the flames.  The rest of the beasts, though deprived of their sovereignty, were allowed to remain alive until an appointed time and season.  I was watching in visions of the night and I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven; he approached the Ancient in Years and was presented to him.  Sovereignty and glory and kingly power were given to him, so that all people and nations of every language should serve him; his sovereignty was to be an everlasting sovereignty which was not to pass away; and his kingly power was never to be destroyed.

Saturday’s assigned portion:

My spirit within me was troubled; and, dismayed by the visions which came into my head, I, Daniel, approached one of those who were standing there and enquired what all this really signified; and he made known to me its interpretation,

These great beasts, four in number,

he said,

are four kingdoms which will arise from the earth.  But the holy ones of the Most High will receive the kingly power and retain possession of it always, for ever and ever.

Then I wished to know what the fourth beast really signified, the beast that was different from all the others, exceedingly fearsome with its iron teeth and bronze claws, devouring and crunching, then trampling underfoot what was left.  I wished also to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn which sprang up at whose coming three of them fell, the horn which had eyes and a mouth uttering bombast and which in its appearance was more imposing than the others.  As I watched, this horn was waging war on holy ones and proving too strong for them until the Ancient in Years came.  Then judgement was pronounced in favor of the holy ones of the Most High, and the time came when the holy ones gained possession of kingly power.

The explanation he gave was this:

The fourth beast signifies a fourth kingdom which will appear on earth.  It will differ from the other kingdoms; it will devour the whole earth, treading it down and crushing it.  The ten horns signify ten kings who will rise from this kingdom; after them will arise another king, who will be different from his predecessors; and he will bring low three kings.  He will hurl defiance at the Most High and wear down the holy ones of the Most High.  He will have it in mind to alter the festival seasons and religious laws; and the holy ones will be delivered into his power for a time, and times, and half a time.  But when the court sits, he will be deprived of his sovereignty, so that it may be destroyed and abolished for ever.  The kingly power, sovereignty, and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be given to the holy people of the Most High.  Their kingly power will last for ever, and every realm will serve and obey them.

THE TWO OPTIONS FOR THE FRIDAY RESPONSE:

Canticle 12, Part II (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

(Part of the Song of the Three Young Men)

Let the the earth glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O mountains and hills,

and all that grows upon the earth,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O springs of water, seas, and streams,

O whales and all that move in the waters.

All birds of the air, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O beasts of the wild,

and all you flocks and herds.

O men and women everywhere, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Psalm 97 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The LORD is King;

let the earth rejoice;

let the multitude of the isles be glad.

2 Clouds and darkness are round about him,

righteousness and justice are the foundations of his throne.

A fire goes before him

and burns up his enemies on every side.

4 His lightnings light up the world;

the earth sees it and is afraid.

The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the LORD,

at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.

The heavens declare his righteousness,

and all the peoples see his glory.

Confounded be all who worship carved images

and delight in false gods!

Bow down before him, all you gods.

Zion hears and is glad, and the cities of Judah rejoice,

because of your judgments, O LORD.

For you are the LORD,

most high over all the earth;

you are exalted far above all gods.

10 The LORD loves those who hate evil;

he preserves the lives of the saints

and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

11 Light has sprung up for the righteous,

and joyful gladness for those who are truehearted.

12 Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous,

and give thanks to his holy Name.

THE TWO OPTIONS FOR THE SATURDAY RESPONSE:

Canticle 12, Part III (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

(Part of the Song of the Three Young Men)

Let the people of God glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him forever.

Glorify the Lord, O priests and servants of the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O spirits and souls of the righteous,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

You that are holy and humble of heart, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Psalm 95:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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.

3 For the LORD is a great God,

and a great King above all gods.

In his hand are the caverns of the earth,

and the heights of the hills are his also.

5 The sea is his, for he made it,

and his hands have molded the dry land.

Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee,

and kneel before the LORD our Maker.

7 For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

THE GOSPEL READING:

Luke 21:29-36 (Revised English Bible):

Friday’s assigned portion:

Jesus told them a parable:

Look at the fig tree, or at any other tree.  As soon as it bud, you can see for yourselves that summer is near.  In the same way, when you see all this happening, you may know that the kingdom of God is near.

Truly I tell you:  the present generation will live to see it all.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Saturday’s assigned portion:

Be on your guard; do not let your minds be dulled by dissipation and drunkenness and worldly cares so that the great day catches you suddenly like a trap; for that day will come on everyone, the whole world over.  Be on the alert, praying at all times for strength to pass safely through all that is coming and to stand in the presence of the Son of Man.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Daniel 7 dates to the Hasmonean-Seleucid period, despite the claims of 7:1, which place it centuries before that.  In this chapter we have the imagery of cosmic war.  The text speaks of four Gentile kingdoms, most likely, in order, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, the Median Confederacy, the Persian Empire, and the Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great.  The ten horns are probably Seleucid kings, with Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who usurped three people to become king and who imposed a Hellenization policy on Jews in his realm, as the little horn.  And the Archangel Michael is almost certainly the “one like a human being.”  He is clearly subservient to God, who dispenses judgment in favor the holy ones.

History tells us that the Hasmoneans rebelled against Antiochus IV Epiphanes and established an independent Jewish state, which lasted for nearly a century, until 63 B.C.E., when the Roman Republic, a de facto empire soon to be a de jure one, assumed control.  This brings me to Luke 21, written after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 C.E.  The text places a prediction of the Second Coming of Jesus within the lifetimes of some of the original audience of the Lukan Gospel in the mouth of our Lord.

Yes, Antiochus IV Epiphanes died painfully and the Hasmonean revolt succeeded afterward.  Yes, there was a time of Judean independence.  But the Romans took over.  And, late in the First Century C.E., they destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple.  This must have seemed like the end of the world to many people at the time.  Yet Jesus did not return before the original members of Luke’s audience died.

We want to think that we are God’s holy ones, and that, in the cosmic war, God might deign to act as and when we predict.  Thus many people have not only longed for, but predicted the return of Jesus on specific dates for nearly two thousand years.  Each time, our Lord has not appeared and the world has not ended.  The rapture did not occur on May 21, 2011, as Harold Camping predicted.  I act on the assumption that his second date, October 21, 2011, the alleged end of the world, will come and go in the same manner.  We want God to take us away from our troubles, and some cling to doomsday dates in their desperation for deliverance and meaning.

Advent, or the season for preparing for Christmas, begins on the day after the Week of Proper 29:  Saturday.  One of the major themes of Advent is that God is with us in the here and the now.  God does not always take us away from our problems; no, sometimes God joins us amid them.  And when God does this, the form of the Incarnation might not be what we expected.  Jesus did not arrive as a conquering hero, expelling the Roman forces; he came as a helpless infant and died via the most humiliating, prolonged, and painful form of public execution the empire used.  But there was a Resurrection, was there not?

Yet the Roman Empire remained in power for centuries after that.

Other times, when some people think they are involved in cosmic warfare and on the side of light, they take matters into their own hands.  This is very much part of the ideology of radical Islamic terrorism, despite the fact that the Koran condemns murder.  Or, to use an example from Christian history, authorities drew on the cosmic warfare defense to justify the persecution and execution of Jews, Muslims, and accused heretics.  I wonder who the real heretics were.  There is no passage in which Jesus says, “Find those who believe differently from you and exterminate them!”

No, we ought to leave the cosmic battle to God, who is full of surprises.  May we embrace them and love our neighbors as ourselves, as our Lord told us to do.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/god-on-the-side-of-the-righteous/