Archive for the ‘1 Kings 18’ Tag

Devotion for Thursday Before Proper 29, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

The Death of Ahab--Gustave Dore

Above:   The Death of Ahab, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

Three Kings and Two Deaths

NOVEMBER 21, 2019

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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

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 18:12-22

Psalm 46

Hebrews 9:23-28

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God is our refuge and strength,

a very present help in trouble.

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

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The account from 2 Chronicles 18, quite similar to one in 1 Kings 22, agrees with that sentiment and emphasizes the impropriety of a military alliance with an evil ally–in this case, King Ahab of Israel (reigned 873-852 B.C.E.).  King Jehoshaphat of Judah (reigned 870-846 B.C.E.) enters into a military alliance with Ahab against Aram, a shared enemy.  Only Micaiah, one prophet in a particular group of prophets, says that the planned attack at Ramoth-gilead is a bad idea.  He resists pressure to claim otherwise.  Micaiah is, of course, correct.  Ahab dies.  Jehoshaphat survives, to hear from one Jehu son of Hanani of God’s displeasure over the alliance:

For this, wrath is upon you from the LORD.  However, there is good in you, for you have purged the land of the sacred posts  and have dedicated yourself to worship God.

–2 Chronicles 19:2b-3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

One can read of the reign of Jehoshaphat in 1 Kings 22:1-51 and 2 Chronicles 17:1-20:37.

Hebrews 9:23-28 concerns itself with the atoning qualities of the crucifixion of Jesus.  I, as a student of Christian history, in particular of the development of doctrine and theology, know of three early theories of the Atonement.  Two of these include the death of Christ.  Penal Substitutionary Atonement does not satisfy me (forgive the double entendre), for it depicts a deity in which to stand in dread, not awe.

I will not be satisfied until people torture and kill my son,

that deity proclaims.  The Classic Theory, or Christus Victor, however, places correct emphasis on the resurrection.  Without the resurrection we have dead Jesus, who cannot save anyone.

Both Ahab and Jesus died.  Ahab, who died foolishly (despite warning) and was idolatrous and evil (consult 1 Kings 16:29-22:40 and 2 Chronicles 18:1-34) had it coming.  Jesus, however, was innocent of any offense before God.  The death of Ahab brought to the throne of Israel his son, Ahaziah, who followed in his father’s ignominious footsteps (consult 1 Kings 22:52-54; 2 Kings 1:1-18).  The death of Jesus, in contrast, played a role in the salvation of the human race from sin.

May we who follow Jesus respond to him, treating him as our savior, not merely another martyr to admire.  Grace is free yet not cheap; ask Jesus.  It demands much of us, such as that we not be as Kings Ahab and Ahaziah were.

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

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/06/07/three-kings-and-two-deaths/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 12, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Elisha

Above:   The Prophet Elisha

Image in the Public Domain

The Will of God and Morality

JULY 26, 27, and 28, 2018

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The Collect:

Gracious God, you have placed within the hearts of all your children

a longing for your word and a hunger for your truth.

Grant that we may know your Son to be the true bread of heaven

and share this bread with all the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 19:19-21 (Thursday)

2 Kings 3:4-20 (Friday)

2 Kings 4:38-41 (Saturday)

Psalm 145:10-18 (All Days)

Colossians 1:9-14 (Thursday)

Colossians 3:12-17 (Friday)

John 4:31-38 (Saturday)

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All you have made will confess you, LORD,

those devoted to you will give you thanks.

They will speak of your royal glory

and tell of your mighty deeds,

Making known to all mankind your mighty deeds,

your majestic royal glory.

–Psalm 145:10-12, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

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Certain stories of Elisha resemble those of his mentor, Elijah, as an observant reader of the Books of Kings knows.  And, as an observant reader of the Gospels and the Books of Kings knows, some of the miracle stories of Jesus echo certain accounts of incidents from the lives of Elijah and Elisha.  Examples of these include raising people from the dead and feeding a multitude with a small amount of food.  Those stories indicate, among other things, that the heroes were close to God and were able to meet the needs of people.

The Elisha stories for these days have him leave home, participate in helping his kingdom win a war against Moab, and render dangerous food safe.  They portray him as an agent of the will of God.

The “will of God” is a phrase many people use improperly, even callously.  I, as a student of history, know that various individuals have utilized it to justify the murder of priests of Baal (by the order of Elijah, in 1 Kings 18:40), blame innocent victims of natural disasters exasperated by human shortsightedness (such as God allegedly sending Hurricane Katrina to New Orleans or a devastating earthquake to Haiti, supposedly to smite evildoers in those places), et cetera.  These misuses of the concept of the will of God offend my morality and make God seem like a thug at best.

We ought to exercise great caution using the phrase “the will of God,” for we might speak or write falsely of God and drive or keep people away from a Christian pilgrimage.  This is a topic to approach seriously, not lightly.  Among the most thoughtful treatments is Leslie D. Weatherhead’s The Will of God (1944), which speaks of three wills of God:  intentional, circumstantial, and ultimate.  That is deeper than some professing Christians want to delve into the issue, however.

I do not pretend to be an expert on the will of God, but I do attempt to be an intellectually honest Christian.  I, as a Christian, claim to follow Jesus.  To ask what he would do or would not do, therefore, is a relevant question when pondering issues of morality and the will of God.  The four canonical Gospels are useful for these and other purposes.  I conclude, therefore, that Jesus would not have ordered the deaths of priests of Baal or resorted to homophobia to explain the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.  And I cannot conceive of Jesus agreeing with George Zimmerman that the death of Trayvon Martin was part of God’s plan and that wishing that Martin were alive is almost blasphemous.  Zimmerman is a bad theologian.

Living according to compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, and love, per Colossians 3:12-14, is the best way to proceed.  Doing so increases the probability that one will live as an agent of the will of God, whose love we see epitomized in Jesus.  It is better to live rightly than to seek to be right in one’s opinion of oneself.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 5, 2015 COMMON ERA

EASTER SUNDAY, YEAR B

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT NOKTER BALBULUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/04/05/the-will-of-god-and-morality/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 5, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Kings (2009)

Above:  Captain David Shepherd and King Silas Benjamin of Gilboa, from Kings (2009)

A Screen Capture via PowerDVD

Judgment, Mercy, and God

JUNE 11 and 12, 2018

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The Collect:

All-powerful God, in Jesus Christ you turned death into life and defeat into victory.

Increase our faith and trust in him,

that we may triumph over all evil in the strength

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 16:14-23 (Monday)

1 Kings 18:17-40 (Tuesday)

Psalm 74 (Both Days)

Revelation 20:1-6 (Monday)

Revelation 20:7-15 (Tuesday)

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Till when, O God, will the foe blaspheme,

will the enemy forever revile Your name?

Why do you hold back Your hand, Your right hand?

Draw it out of Your bosom!

–Psalm 74:10-11, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books.

–Revelation 20:12b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

–James 2:24, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

–Romans 5:1-2, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,

Lord, who could stand?

But there is forgiveness with you,

so that you may be revered.

–Psalm 130:3-4, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Where does judgment end and mercy begin with God?  I do not know, for (A) the mind of God is above me, and (B) the scriptural witnesses contradict each other.  How could they not do so, given the human authorship of the Bible and the range of human perspectives on the topic of divine judgment and mercy.  I am not a universalist, so I affirm that our works have some influence on the afterlife, but I also rejoice in divine forgiveness.  And, as for works, both James and St. Paul the Apostle affirmed the importance of works while defining faith differently.  Faith was inherently active for Paul yet purely intellectual for James.

What we do matters in this life and the next.  Our deeds (except for accidents) flow from our attitudes, so our thoughts matter.  If we love, we will act lovingly, for example.  Our attitudes and deeds alone are inadequate to deliver us from sin, but they are material with which God can work, like a few loaves and fishes.  What do we bring to God, therefore?  Do we bring the violence of Elijah, who ordered the slaughter of the priests of Baal?  Or do we bring the desire that those who oppose God have the opportunity to repent?  Do we bring the inclination to commit violence in the name of God?  Or do we bring the willingness to leave judgment to God?  And do we turn our back on God or do we seek God?

May we seek God, live the best way we can, by grace, and rely upon divine grace.  May we become the best people we can be in God and let God be God, which God will be anyway.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LEONIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR; ORIGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN; DEMETRIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND ALEXANDER OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSELM II OF LUCCA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF CYPRUS, EASTERN ORTHODOX MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/judgment-mercy-and-god/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 14, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

Signs

AUGUST 6-8, 2020

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The Collect:

O God our defender, storms rage around and within us and cause us to be afraid.

Rescue your people from despair, deliver your sons daughters from fear,

and preserve us in the faith of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 18:1-16 (Thursday)

1 Kings 18:17-19, 30-40 (Friday)

1 Kings 18:41-46 (Saturday)

Psalm 85:8-13 (All Days)

Acts 17:10-15 (Thursday)

Acts 18:24-28 (Friday)

Matthew 16:1-4 (Saturday)

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Favor your land, Yahweh,

restore the fortunes of Jacob!

Forgive the guilt of your people,

remit all their sin!

Withdraw all your fury,

abate your blazing wrath!

–Psalm 85:2-4, Mitchell Dahood, The Anchor Bible, Volume 17:  Psalms II:  51-100 (1968)

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The theology of the narrative in 1 Kings 18 holds that God is in control of nature and that the long drought is a form of divine punishment for idolatry.  At the beginning of the chapter the drought has entered its third year.  At the end of the chapter, after the slaughter of the priests of Baal, the drought is over.  1 Kings 18 contains at least three signs–drought, the consumption of Elijah’s offering, and the end of the drought.

The greatest sign in all of the Bible was the incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth.  Our Lord and Savior performed many miracles, some even over long distances.  Were those signs insufficient?  Some Pharisees and Sadducees, whose sects were traditional adversaries, acted as if these impressive signs were irrelevant and insufficient.  Maybe they chose not to believe because of the high costs to them in the realms of economics, politics, psychology, and social status.  Whatever their reasons for rejecting Jesus, their question was insincere.  Not even the sign of Jonah–a reference to the death and Resurrection of Jesus–convinced them, for they had made up their minds.  They did not want facts to confuse them.  St. Paul the Apostle got into legal trouble with such people within living memory of the Resurrection.

God, it seems, send signs at the times and in the ways of God’s own choosing.  Often these times and methods are far from those we expect, so that reality upsets us.  Furthermore, the content of these signs upsets our apple carts, threatens our identities, and calls into question some of our most beloved establishments much of the time.  Consider Jesus, O reader.  His mere newborn existence proved sufficient to unnerve a tyrant, Herod the Great.  Later, when Jesus spoke and acted, he called into question the Temple system, which exploited the masses economically and aided and abetted the Roman imperial occupation.  In so doing Our Lord and Savior crossed paths with Roman authorities and questioned a system which gave some people economic benefits, psychological reinforcement, and social status, none of which they wanted to surrender.

The signs of Jesus continue to challenge us in concrete examples from daily life.  Have we excluded or marginalized anyone wrongly?  The words and deeds of Jesus confront us with our sin.  Have we exploited others economically or made excuses for an economically exploitative or related practices?  The words and deeds of Jesus confront us with our sin.  Have we favored the security of empire and/or military might over the freedom which comes from trusting God?  The words and deeds of Jesus confront us with our sin.  They also call us to repent–to change our mind, to turn around–and offer forgiveness when we do, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BETTY FORD, U.S. FIRST LADY AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

THE FEAST OF ALBERT RHETT STUART, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF BROOKE FOSS WESTCOTT, ANGLICAN BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT GRIMWALD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/signs/

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Devotion for September 1, 2, and 3 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   15 comments

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

Radical Inclusion in Christ

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2019

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2019

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 18:1-19 (September 1)

1 Kings 18:20-40 (September 2)

1 Kings 19:1-21 (September 3)

Psalm 110 (Morning–September 1)

Psalm 62 (Morning–September 2)

Psalm 13 (Morning–September 3)

Psalms 66 and 23 (Evening–September 1)

Psalms 73 and 8 (Evening–September 2)

Psalms 36 and 5 (Evening–September 3)

Ephesians 1:1-23 (September 1)

Ephesians 2:1-22 (September 2)

Ephesians 3:1-21 (September 3)

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What I have written briefly of this above will explain to you my knowledge of the mystery of Christ.  This secret was hidden to past, generations of mankind, but it has now, buy the Spirit, been made plain to God’s consecrated messengers and prophets.  It is simply this:  that the gentiles are  to be equal heirs with his chosen people, equal members and equal partners in God’s promise given by Christ Jesus through the gospel.

–Ephesians 3:4-6, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

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The account from 1 Kings boils over with peril–for Obadiah, for Elijah, and for all those who worshiped Baal and other false gods.  The body count is staggering–four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal in 18:40 and an undisclosed number of idol worshipers in 19:18.  The underlying reason for hostility to  many Gentiles in the Old Testament was that many Hebrews succumbed to Gentile false gods and cultic practices, thereby ceasing to be a light to the nations.  But was a massacre the right way to shine positive light?  Of course not!

There were, of course, as I have written in other posts, faithful Gentiles.  Ruth comes to mind immediately.  She even became an ancestor of David and Jesus.  But she adopted the Hebrew religion.

That provides a nice segue into Ephesians.  Paul or someone writing as Paul or revising dictations of an imprisoned Paul wrote of unity in Christ.  In Christ God reconciled with people and brought about human unity.  The church was (and is) the chosen instrument of this unity.  In Christ, the great epistle says, all other divisions fall away.  All of us in Christ are children of God, so we will receive a great inheritance.

This is grand and lofty theology.  So why have we of organized Christianity turned on each other so often?  Why have we even slaughtered each other sometimes?  We do not understand.  Or, if we do understand, we reject the message.  We (broadly speaking) use God as a blunt weapon to marginalize those whom God has called “insiders”, so many who have thought of themselves as insiders have betrayed the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Inclusion in Christ  is too radical a notion for many people to accept, for hurdles to jump through make us confortable.  They provide labels which reassure many falsely.  These labels are idols, in fact.  But Jesus jumped through the hurdles and knocked them down; may we cease to re-erect them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 4, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID I, KING OF SCOTLAND

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, QUAKER FOUNDER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/radical-inclusion-in-christ/

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Proper 4, Year C   14 comments

Above:  Design Drawing for Stained Glass for Memorial Window with Centurion for Church of the Good Shepherd in Raleigh, North Carolina

Image Source = Library of Congress

Divine Inclusion and Human Exclusion

The Sunday Closest to June 1

The Second Sunday after Pentecost

NOT OBSERVED IN 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 18:20-21 (22-29), 30-39 and Psalm 96

or 

1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43 and Psalm 96:1-9

then 

Galatians 1:1-12

Luke 7:1-10

The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 4, Year A:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/proper-4-year-a/

Proper 4, Year B:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/proper-4-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-second-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/prayer-of-confession-for-the-second-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-second-sunday-after-pentecost/

Luke 7:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/devotion-for-the-sixteenth-and-seventeenth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/week-of-proper-19-monday-year-1/

Galatians 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/week-of-proper-22-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-22-tuesday-year-2/

1 Kings 8:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/proper-16-year-b/

1 Kings 18:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/week-of-proper-5-wednesday-year-2/

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A summary of the readings follows:  There is only one God, from whom people (including Elijah and Paul) have received revelations.  The message of God is for all people, who are supposed to revere the deity.  And sometimes one finds deep faith in unexpected quarters.

That last statement, a reference to the Gospel reading, appeals to me on one level and humbles me on another.  I have spent much of my life feeling like a heretic in the Bible Belt.  (I AM A HERETIC IN THE BIBLE BELT.)  Sometimes even Episcopal Church congregations–where I, one who enjoys asking probing questions, exploring possibilities, and becoming comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity, should find a safe haven–have not always provided safe havens. And so I have been as the Roman centurion–a goy one way another.  Yet God accepts me, however heretical I might be.

Nevertheless I also find a reason for caution and humility.  Which populations do I mark unjustly (without knowing that I am doing this unjustly) as beyond the pale theologically?  Whom do I mistake as a member of a den of heretics?  I am clearly not a Universalist; there are theological lines which  God has established.  There is truth–revealed truth–and many people occupy the wrong side of it.  But do I know where those lines are?  How much do I really know, and how much do I just think I know?  And who will surprise me by being present in Heaven?

I tell myself to mind my own business, to be the best and most conscientious person I can be.  I tell myself to practice compassion and to leave judgment to God.  Sometimes I do.  And I know better the rest of the time.  Thus, aware of this failing of mine, I read Luke 7:1-10 with humility.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2012 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/divine-inclusion-and-human-exclusion/

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Week of Proper 5: Thursday, Year 2   6 comments

Above:  Ricardo Montalban as Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Image = A screen capture from a DVD

Revenge and Violence

JUNE 11, 2020

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

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1 Kings 18:40-46 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Then Elijah said to them,

Seize the prophets of Baal, let not a single one of them get away.

They seized them, and Elijah too, took them down to the Wadi Kishon and slaughtered them there.

Elijah said to Ahab,

Go up, eat and drink, for there is a rumbling of [approaching] rain,

and Ahab went up to eat and drink.  Elijah meanwhile climbed to the top of Mount Carmel, crouched on the ground, and put his face between his knees.  And he said to his servant,

Go up and look toward the Sea.

He went up and looked and reported,

There is nothing.

Seven times [Elijah] said,

Go back,

and the seventh time, [the servant] reported,

A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising in the west.

Then [Elijah] said,

Go say to Ahab, “Hitch up [your chariot] and go down before the rain stops you.”

Meanwhile the sky grew black with clouds; there was wind, and a heavy downpour fell; Ahab mounted his chariot and drove off to Jezreel.  The hand of the LORD had come upon Elijah.  He tied up his skirts and ran in front of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.

Psalm 65:1, 8-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 You are to be praised, O God, in Zion;

to you shall vows be performed in Jerusalem.

Those who dwell at the ends of the earth will tremble at your marvelous signs;

you make the dawn and the dusk to sing for joy.

You visit the earth and water it abundantly;

you make it very plenteous;

the river of God is full of water.

10 You prepare the grain,

for so you provide for the earth.

11 You drench the furrows and smooth out the ridges;

with heavy rain you soften the ground and bless its increase.

12 You crown the year with your goodness,

and your paths overflow with plenty.

13 May the fields of the wilderness be rich for grazing,

and the hills be clothed with joy.

14 May the meadows cover themselves with flocks,

and the valleys cloak themselves with grain;

let them shout for joy and sing.

Matthew 5:20-26 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

For I tell you that unless your uprightness is far superior to that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never even enter the Kingdom of Heaven!

You have heard that men of old were told “You shall not murder,” and “Whoever murders will have to answer to the court.”  But I tell you that any one who gets angry with his brother will have to answer to the court, and anyone who speaks abusively to his brother will have to answer to the great council, and anyone who says to his brother “You cursed fool!” will have to answer for it in the fiery pit!  So when you are presenting your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother has any grievance against you, leave your gift right there before the altar and go and make up with your brother; then come back and present your gift.  Be quick and come to terms with your opponent while you are on the way to court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison.  I tell you, you will never get out again until you have paid the last penny!

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The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 5:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/week-of-proper-5-thursday-year-1/

Matthew 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/proper-1-year-a/

Bring Peace to Earth Again:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/bring-peace-to-earth-again/

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Jesus quoted the commandment forbidding murder.  Then he took the principle further.  A good understanding of this requires the explanation of some technical details.

“Raca,” or “empty-headed fool” or “airhead,” was a very strong insult in Jesus’ culture.  As we say in the U.S. South, “Them is fightin’ words.”  To call someone a “raca” was to express extreme contempt.

Just as there is more than one type of love in the New Testament, there is more than one variety of anger there.  The anger Jesus condemns is that which leads one to plot revenge.  Violent acts, such as murder, flow from such anger.  So Jesus says not even to think about murdering, committing any other violent deed, or causing harm of any sort to anyone.

Revenge, a common plot element in many works of fiction (including Star Trek II), and the desire for it are ubiquitous in real life.  All one has to do to hear of them is follow the news closely.  Yet revenge can never restore life to the dead, undo injuries which have resulted in amputations or paralysis, or erase psychological damage.  We need justice, not revenge, but many of us confuse the two categories.

Jesus, of course, did not, according to the canonical Gospels, refrain from all anger.  He did expel money changers from part of the Jerusalem Temple and excoriate certain religious leaders.  But he did not plot revenge on anybody.  He even asked divine forgiveness for those who crucified him and looked on approvingly.

So far the texts seem holy.  Then we return to 1 Kings 18, where, in verse 40, Elijah kills the 450 prophets of Baal.  This is the conclusion of the “My God can set fire to this altar” showdown.  The lectionary skips verse 40, beginning with verse 41 and the end of the drought.  The chapter itself devotes only one verse to the slaughter of the prophets of Baal, an event which might slip unnoticed between the dramatic contest and the end of the drought.  But let us not look away from uncomfortable Bible verses.

How should we understand the slaughter of Baal’s prophets? I found comments in three study Bibles I checked.  The note in The Jerusalem Bible reads:

In this war between Yahweh and Baal those who serve Baal suffer the fate of the conquered in the warfare of the time.

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes that Elijah was “faithful to the deuteronomistic perspective” by ordering the execution of false prophets, per Deuteronomy 13:1-18.  (Read the verses for yourself, O reader; they do command violence.)  Then there is the note from The NIV Study Bible:

Elijah, acting on the authority of the Lord, who sent him, carried out the sentence pronounced in the Mosaic law for prophets of pagan deities (Dt 13:13-18; 17:2-5).

I have a t-shirt I wear from time to time.  “Who would Jesus bomb?” it asks.  (I know; it should say “Whom would Jesus bomb?”)  The question, regardless of whether one uses the objective case, answers itself, does it not?  As an intellectually honest Christian, I seek to follow Jesus more nearly each day.  My success is mixed, but I persist in the effort.  So, to paraphrase the t-shirt, “Whom would Jesus slaughter?”  Nobody, of course; he might use justifiably harsh words, but he would neither condone nor commit the taking of anyone’s life.  And he would neither condone nor commit revenge either.  And Jesus is the Master.  So I side with my Lord.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/allegedly-sacred-violence-part-one/