Archive for the ‘September 13’ Category

Devotion for Proper 19, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Elijah Slays the Prophets of Baal

Image in the Public Domain

Uncomfortable and Difficult

SEPTEMBER 13, 2020

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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 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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Exodus 24:12-18 or 1 Kings 18:1, 17-40

Psalm 58

Hebrews 3

Mark 8:14-21

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I teach a Sunday School class in which I cover each week’s readings according to the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL).  The RCL has much to commend it, but it is imperfect.  (Of course, it is imperfect; it is a human creation.)  The RCL skirts many challenging, violent passages of scripture.  This post is is a devotion for a Sunday on an unofficial lectionary, however.  The note on the listing for Psalm 58 reads,

Not for the faint of heart.

Indeed, a prayer for God to rip the teeth from the mouths of one’s enemies is not feel-good fare.  Neither is the slaughter of the prophets of Baal Peor (1 Kings 18:40).

I remember a Sunday evening service at my parish years ago.  The lector read an assigned passage of scripture with an unpleasant, disturbing conclusion then uttered the customary prompt,

The word of the Lord.

A pregnant pause followed.  Then the congregation mumbled its proscribed response,

Thanks be to God.

The theme uniting these five readings is faithfulness to God.  Jesus, we read, was the paragon of fidelity.  We should be faithful, too, and avoid committing apostasy.  We should also pay attention and understand, so we can serve God better.  Hopefully, metaphors will not confuse us.

I perceive the need to make the following statement.  Even a casual study of the history of Christian interpretation of the Bible reveals a shameful record of Anti-Semitism, much of it unintentional and much of it learned.  We who abhor intentional Anti-Semitism still need to check ourselves as we read the Bible, especially passages in which Jesus speaks harshly to or of Jewish religious leaders in first-century C.E. Palestine.  We ought to recall that he and his Apostles were practicing Jews, too.  We also need to keep in mind that Judaism has never been monolithic, so to speak of “the Jews” in any place and at any time is to open the door to overgeneralizing.

To condemn long-dead Jewish religious leaders for their metaphorical leaven and not to consider our leaven would be to miss an important spiritual directive.  To consider our leaven is to engage in an uncomfortable, difficult spiritual exercise.  It does not make us feel good about ourselves.

We also need to ask ourselves if we are as dense as the Apostles in the Gospel of Mark.  To do that is uncomfortable and difficult, also.

Sometimes we need for scripture to make us uncomfortable.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/07/25/uncomfortable-and-difficult/

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Devotion for Proper 19 (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:  Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery, by Guercino

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment, Mercy, Hope, and Repentance

SEPTEMBER 13, 2020

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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 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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Jeremiah 32:36-44

Psalm 119:73-80

2 Corinthians 1:3-11

John 7:53-8:11

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Judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Bible.  In Jeremiah 32:36-44, for example, we read that the Babylonian Exile will come yet will also end.  The author of Psalm 119 understands that God, whom he trusts, has humbled him.  In 2 Corinthians 1 the emphasis is on mercy, via Christ.

Judgment and mercy also coexist in John 7:53-8:11, a frequently misunderstood and subtle passage with some ambiguity.  It has been part of the Johannine Gospel since the 200s and is actually of Synoptic origin–probably from the Gospel of Luke.  It flows naturally in some manuscripts from Luke 21:37-38 and into Luke 22.  John 7:53-8:11 us a free-floating pericope; I treat it as such.  Indeed, one can skip over it, reading 7:52 then 8:12, and not miss a beat.

Certain religious leaders set a trap for Jesus.  This was quite a pastime in the canonical Gospels.  These particular officials, in setting this trap, violated the Law of Moses.  First, the man and woman involved in adultery were subject to the death penalty (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22).  Where was the man?  Second, there were supposed to be witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15).  The Roman authorities had deprived the Jewish authorities of the right to execute under the Law of Moses (John 18:31), so there was probably a political element to the trap–Rome or Torah?  (Those who set the trap were Roman collaborators.)  Jesus, being intelligent and perceptive, recognized the trap for what it was.  He reversed the trap.  What did he write with his finger?  Some Patristic exegetes suggested Jeremiah 17:13:

LORD, on whom Israel’s hope is fixed,

all who reject you will be put to shame,

those who forsake you will be inscribed in the dust,

for they have rejected the source of living water, the LORD.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

But we cannot be sure.

Also, the witnesses were to be the first to stone the adulteress (Deuteronomy 17:7):

Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.

–John 8:7b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The woman’s accuser, of course, left the scene.  Jesus, instead of condemning her, instructed her to repent.

Then, if we accept the Lukan placement of the pericope, the chief priests and scribes plotted the death of Jess that fateful Passover week.

(Aside:  I have heard a Roman Catholic joke based on the pericope.  After John 8:11 Jesus and the woman were standing together.  Then a stone came, seemingly from nowhere.  Jesus exclaimed, “O, mother!”)

In God exists judgment and mercy.  Mercy includes opportunities to repent–to turn one’s back on sin.  God likes repentance, I keep reading in the Bible.  There is hope in repentance.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 19, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES COFFIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARITIE LEES SMITH BANCROFT DE CHENEZ, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PIERSON MERRILL, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/19/judgment-mercy-hope-and-repentance/

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Devotion for Proper 19 (Year D)   1 comment

icon-of-timothy

Above:  Icon of Timothy

Image in the Public Domain

The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Part I

SEPTEMBER 13, 2020

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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 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:

Deuteronomy 16:1-22

Psalm 92:(1-4) 5-11 (12-15)

Matthew 26:1-19 or Mark 14:1-16 or Luke 22:1-13

1 Timothy 5:1-23

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Proper 19 is, in the Year D plan by Timothy Matthew Slemmons, the first of 10 Sundays over which the Passion Narrative stretches out.  Passion, in this context, refers to suffering.

The readings, taken together, present a contrast between love and perfidy.  Love manifests itself by caring for others selflessly and by seeking the common good.  Love is self-sacrificial.  Love does not care about maintaining appearances of respectability.  Love endures, but hatred and perfidy fade away, having done their worst.  This is a timeless lesson–one which might seem counterintuitive during dark times.  After all, evil people prosper and retain their positions of authority and/or influence while righteous people suffer, sometimes to the point of martyrdom.  This is a matter of perspective.  God sees the big picture over time, but we see a much smaller portion of time.

We will do well to trust in God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT:  THE TWENTY-SECOND DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIULIA VALLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ISAAC HECKER, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/12/18/the-passion-of-our-lord-jesus-christ-part-i/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 19, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Sky with Rainbow

Above:   Sky with Rainbow

Image in the Public Domain

Redemption and Related Responsibilities

SEPTEMBER 12, 2019

SEPTEMBER 13, 2019

SEPTEMBER 14, 2019

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The Collect:

O God, overflowing with mercy and compassion,

you lead back to yourself all those who go astray.

Preserve your people in your loving care,

that we may reject whatever is contrary to you

and may follow all things that sustain our life in

your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 6:1-6 (Thursday)

Genesis 7:6-10; 8:1-5 (Friday)

Genesis 8:20-9:7 (Saturday)

Psalm 51:1-10 (All Days)

1 Timothy 1:1-11 (Thursday)

2 Peter 2:1-10a (Friday)

John 10:11-21 (Saturday)

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Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth,

a sinner from my mother’s womb.

–Psalm 51:6, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The comedian Lewis Black told a joke explaining why God seems more violent in the Hebrew Bible than in the New Testament.  Having a son calmed him down.  That is, of course, bad theology, for it falls under the heading of the Arian heresy.  Furthermore, the God of the Book of Revelation is not the deity of “Kum ba Yah,” a song I despise for several reasons.  The Smiter-in-Chief is in full form in the composite story of Noah, based on older stories.

Rewritten folklore and mythology in the Bible presents us with the opportunity to ponder profound theology.  We might think that we know a particular tale better than we actually do, so we ought to avoid switching on the automatic pilot.  Human immorality saddens God’s heart in Genesis 6:6, but Noah has found favor with God.  “Noah,” in Hebrew, is “favor” spelled backward.  A note in The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) tells me that this

indicates that human perversion and divine grief will not be the last word.

–page 19

Furthermore, the Hebrew word for the ark occurs in just one other story in the Hebrew Bible.  It applies also to the basket containing young Moses in Exodus 2.  Again The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) helps me dig deeper into the scriptures:

Noah foreshadows Moses even as Moses, removed from the water, foreshadows the people Israel, whom he leads to safety through the death-dealing sea that drowns their oppressors (Exod. chs 14-15).  The great biblical tale of redemption occurs first in a shorter, universal form, then in a longer, particularistic one.

–page 20

The author of Psalm 51 (traditionally King David, but knows for sure?) understood human sinfulness well.  So did the author of 1 Timothy, writing under the name of St. Paul the Apostle.  Laws, he noted,

are not framed for people who are good.

–1:9, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

That statement applies to divine law, certainly.  Indeed, in context, it pertains to the Law of Moses.  That code, containing timeless principles and culturally specific examples thereof, sometimes becomes a confusing array of laws.  Many people mistake culturally specific examples for timeless principles, thereby falling into legalism.  The pillars of that code are:

  1. We mere mortals are totally dependent on God,
  2. We humans depend upon each other also,
  3. We humans are responsible for each other, and
  4. We humans are responsible to each other.

Turning to John 10, we read of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.  The sheep need the shepherd, who protects them and lays down his life for them.  The sheep also know the shepherd’s voice.  I, as a Christian, am one of the sheep.  I know my need for God and the ease with which I yield to many temptations.  The laws of God exist for people such as me.  Divine guidance and redemption play out in my life.

The individual part of religion is important, of course, but it is hardly everything.  The collective aspect is crucial also.  This truth is especially evident in Judaism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Roman Catholicism.  Much of Protestantism, however, has gone overboard with regard to individualism.  Redemption is not just my story or your story.  No, it is our story as we relate to God and God relates to us.  Society exerts a powerful influence upon our notions of morality and reverence; it shapes us, just as we influence it.  May we be salt and light, shaping society according to the four pillars of the Law of Moses and according to the unconditional and free (yet not cheap) love of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MALTBIE DAVENPORT BABCOCK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN I, BISHOP OF ROME

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/18/redemption-and-related-responsibilities/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 19, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

The Harlot of Jericho and the Two Spies (James Tissot)

Above:  The Harlot of Jericho and the Two Spies, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

The Faith of Rahab

SEPTEMBER 13, 14, and 15, 2018

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The Collect:

O God, through suffering and rejection you bring forth our salvation,

and by the glory of the cross you transform our lives.

Grant that for the sake of the gospel we may turn from the lure of evil,

take up our cross, and follow your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47

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The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 2:1-14 (Thursday)

Joshua 2:15-24 (Friday)

Joshua 6:22-27 (Saturday)

Psalm 116 (All Days)

Hebrews 11:17-22 (Thursday)

James 2:17-26 (Friday)

Matthew 21:23-32 (Saturday)

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I will walk in the presence of the LORD

in the land of the living.

–Psalm 116:9, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The readings from Joshua tell of Rahab, a prostitute, and her family, all of Jericho.  “Rahab” might not have been her name, as a note from The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) informs me:

Rahab could be an actual name (compare Rehoboam), but probably indicates her profession, the house of Rahab meaning most likely “brothel.”  The Aram. Tg. and most medieval exegetes interpreted “zonah” as innkeeper, from the root “z-w-n,” yet the Rabbis also acknowledge the ordinary meaning, prostitute (b. Zevah. 116.2).

–Page 443

I refer to her as “Rahab,” for that is the label the text provides me.  The story in Joshua 2 and 6 starts with Israelite spies visiting her.  Why not?  Surely, given her profession, Rahab had heard much information the spies needed to know.  She sheltered these spies, helped them escape, and gained safety for herself and her family when the city fell.

Rahab might have seemed like an unlikely heroine, given her profession.  Yet Matthew 1:5 lists her as the mother of Boaz (as in the Book of Ruth) and an ancestor of Jesus.  We know that, given biology, many women were involved in the generations of reproduction which led to the birth of St. Joseph of Nazareth but the genealogy in Matthew 1 identifies only three:

  1. Rahab (1:5),
  2. Ruth (1:5), and
  3. Bathsheba (“Uriah’s wife,” 1:6).

Two of these women were foreigners, and two had questionable sexual reputations.  When we add St. Mary of Nazareth to the list of women in the genealogy of Jesus, we raise the count of women with sexual scandal tied to their lives to three.  Furthermore, Hebrews 11:31 tells us:

By faith the prostitute Rahab escaped the fate of the unbelievers, because she had given the spies a kindly welcome.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

And when we turn to James 2:25, we read:

Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road?

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Our Lord and Savior, whose family tree included, among others, a prostitute, an unfaithful wife, Gentiles, and a young woman tainted by scandal, turned out well.  He was a figure of great authority who challenged the Temple system, which depended and preyed upon those who could least afford to finance it.  The Temple was also the seat of collaboration with the Roman Empire, built on violence and economic exploitation.  So, when Jesus challenged the Temple system, defenders of it, challenged him.  Jesus was, of course, the superior debater.  After trapping them in a question about the source of authority of St. John the Baptist, he went on to entrap them in a question (21:30), the answer of which condemned them.  Then he said to them:

Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.  For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

–Matthew 21:31b-32, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Jesus died a few days later.  Those he confronted had powerful economic reasons to maintain the Temple system, and the annual celebration of the Passover–or national liberation by God–was nigh.  The Roman authorities had law-and-order reasons for crucifying him.  It was a miscarriage of justice, of course.

Those chief priests and elders in Matthew 21 should have had the faith of Rahab, a prostitute.

JUNE 6, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANCON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/06/06/the-faith-of-rahab/

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Devotion for September 13 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Maps of the World

Above:  Maps of the World 

Maps According to Herodotus, Strabo, Ptolemy, “the Ancients,” and Wind Charts of Aristotle and Vitruvius

From Johann G. Heck, Icongraphic Encyclopedia of Science, Literature, and Art (New York:  Rudolph Garrigue, 1851)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-115363

2 Chronicles and Colossians, Part I:  Tribalism in Religion

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2020

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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:

2 Chronicles 32:1-22

Psalm 51 (Morning)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening)

Colossians 1:1-23

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Sometimes I read the assigned readings and find agreement.  Then there are times such as this one, when I notice contrasts.  The major discrepancy is one between the lessons from Colossians and 2 Chronicles.  The God of 2 Chronicles is a tribal deity who defends the chosen people and smites the others.  But the God of Colossians is a universal deity who seeks reconciliation of peoples.  This the same God concept one finds in Psalm 65.

Tribalism in religion is an unhealthy mindset.  No, God does not help one team win or cause the other to win.  No, God does not love the people of one land more than those of others.  We are all children of God, so God loves all of us dearly.  But how much do we love God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 24, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHIAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/2-chronicles-and-colossians-part-i-tribalism-in-religion/

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Before a Bible Study   Leave a comment

Above:  An Old Family Bible

Image Source = David Ball

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God of glory,

as we prepare to study the Bible,

may we approach the texts with our minds open,

our intellects engaged,

and our spirits receptive to your leading,

so that we will understand them correctly

and derive from them the appropriate lessons.

Then may we act on those lessons.

For the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Amen.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 7, 2011 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF FRED KAAN, HYMNWRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN WOOLMAN, ABOLITIONIST

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