Archive for the ‘1 Samuel 15’ Tag

Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 28, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Saul Consulting the Spirit of Samuel

Above:   Saul Consults the Spirit of Samuel

Image in the Public Domain

God Concepts and Violence

NOVEMBER 14 and 15, 2019

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you,

without you nothing is strong, nothing is holy.

Embrace us with your mercy, that with you as our ruler and guide,

we may live through what is temporary without losing what is eternal,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 28:3-19 (Thursday)

2 Samuel 21:1-14 (Friday)

Psalm 98 (Both Days)

Romans 1:18-25 (Thursday)

2 Thessalonians 1:3-12 (Friday)

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In righteousness shall he judge the world

and the peoples with equity.

–Psalm 98:10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Judgment and mercy exist in balance (as a whole) in the Bible, but God seems bloodthirsty in 1 Samuel 15 and 28 and in 2 Samuel 21.

The divine rejection of Saul, first King of Israel, was due either to an improper sacrifice (1 Samuel 13:8-14) or his failure to kill all Amelikites (1 Samuel 15:2f), depending upon the source one prefers when reading 1-2 Samuel (originally one composite book copied and pasted from various documents and spread across two scrolls).  1 Samuel 28 favors the second story.  In 2 Samuel 21, as we read, David, as monarch, ended a three-year-long drought by appeasing God.  All the king had to do was hand seven members of the House of Saul over to Gibeonites, who “dismembered them before the LORD” on a mountain.

The readings from the New Testament are not peace and love either, but at least they are not bloody.  Their emphasis is on punishment in the afterlife.  In the full context of scripture the sense is that there will be justice–not revenge–in the afterlife.  Justice, for many, also includes mercy.  Furthermore, may we not ignore or forget the image of the Holy Spirit as our defense attorney in John 14:16.

I know an Episcopal priest who, when he encounters someone who professes not to believe in God, asks that person to describe the God in whom he or she does not believe.  Invariably the atheist describes a deity in whom the priest does not believe either.  I do not believe in the God of 1 Samuel 15 and 28 and 2 Samuel 21 in so far as I do not understand God in that way and trust in such a violent deity.  No, I believe–trust–in God as revealed in Jesus of Nazareth, who would not have ordered any genocide or handed anyone over for death and dismemberment.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANKLIN CLARK FRY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA AND THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

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

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

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/god-concepts-and-violence/

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

Esther Crowned by Ahasuerus

Above:  Esther Crowned by Ahasuerus, by Paolo Veronese

Image in the Public Domain

Esther I:  Vehicles of Grace

JULY 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, BISHOP OF ARMAGH

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

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Devotion for July 28, 29, and 30 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  Antonius Felix

1 Samuel and Acts, Part VI:  Rejection and Violence

Image in the Public Domain

SUNDAY, JULY 28, 2019

MONDAY, JULY 29, 2019

TUESDAY, JULY 30, 2019

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 13:1-18 (July 28)

1 Samuel 14:47-15:9 (July 29)

1 Samuel 15:10-35 (July 30)

Psalm 67 (Morning–July 28)

Psalm 51 (Morning–July 29)

Psalm 54 (Morning–July 30)

Psalms 46 and 93 (Evening–July 28)

Psalms 85 and 47 (Evening–July 29)

Psalms 28 and 99 (Evening–July 30)

Acts 23:12-35 (July 28)

Acts 24:1-23 (July 29)

Acts 24:24-25:12 (July 30)

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In 1 Samuel we read two accounts of how Samuel and Saul fell out with each other. (These things happen in parts of the Hebrew Scriptures due to the editing together of different sources.)  The first story tells of Saul making an offering Samuel should have performed.  The other version entails Samuel and his soldiers not killing enough people and livestock.  How making an offering or not killing more people and livestock is supposed to offend God eludes me beyond a purely historical-literary critical level of understanding texts and traditions, for I am a liberal Christian and a generally peaceful person.  Violence offends me and ritual sacrifices are foreign to me.

But the rejection of Saul by God occupies the readings from 1 Samuel.  The story of Saul, which ended badly, began with Samuel warning the people that they really did not want a monarch.  Saul’s reign seems to have proven Samuel’s case.  And the reigns of subsequent kings did likewise.

Rejection and violence also figure prominently in the Acts lessons.  Paul evaded plots on his life yet remained in custody for two years.  His offense was, as The New Jerusalem Bible translates part of 24:5, being

a perfect pest.

That did not justify such extreme measures, though.

Rejection and violence unify the sets of readings.  The God of these lessons is, in the words of Psalm 99:4 (The New Jerusalem Bible), one who

loves justice

and has

established honesty, justice and uprightness.

I recognize that description in Acts 23-25 but not in 1 Samuel 13-15.  That does not indicate a fault within me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 5, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF ASIA

THE FEAST OF HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK, NORTHERN BAPTIST PASTOR

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH, 1972 

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/1-samuel-and-acts-part-vi-rejection-and-violence/

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Week of Proper 11: Monday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  The Good Samaritan, by Rembrandt van Rijn

The Primacy of Morality Over Sacrifices

JULY 23, 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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Micah 6:1-9a (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Hear what the LORD is saying:

Come, present [My] case before the mountains,

And let the hills hear you pleading.

Hear, you mountains, the case of the LORD–

You firm foundations of the earth!

For the LORD has a case against His people,

He has a suit against Israel.

My people!

What wrong have I done you?

What hardship have I caused you?

Testify against Me.

In fact,

I brought you up from the land of Egypt,

I redeemed you from the house of bondage,

And I sent before you

Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.

My people,

Remember what Balak king of Moab

Plotted against you,

And how Balaam son of Beor

Responded to him.

[Recall your passage]

From Shittim to Gilgal–

And you will recognize

The gracious acts of the LORD.

With what shall I approach the LORD,

Do homage to God on high?

Shall I approach Him with burnt offerings,

With calves a year old?

Would the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,

With myriads of streams of oil?

Shall I give my first-born for my transgression,

The fruit of my body for my sins?

He has told you, O man, what is good,

And what the LORD requires of you:

Only to do justice

And to love goodness,

And to walk modestly with your God;

Then will your name achieve wisdom.

Psalm 14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”

All are corrupt and commit abominable acts;

there is none who does any good.

2  The LORD looks down from heaven upon us al,

to see if there is any who is wise,

if there is one who seeks after God.

3  Every one has proved faithless;

all alike have turned bad;

there is none who does good; no, not one.

4  Have they no knowledge, all those evildoers

who eat up my people like bread

and do not call upon the LORD?

5  See how they tremble with fear,

because God is in the company of the righteous.

6  Their aim is to confound the plans of the afflicted,

but the LORD is their refuge.

7  Oh, that Israel’s deliverance would come out of Zion!

When the LORD restored the fortunes of his people,

Jacob will rejoice and Israel be glad.

Matthew 12:38-42 (An American Translation):

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees addressed him [Jesus], saying,

Master, we would like to have you show us some sign.

But he answered,

Only a wicked and faithless age insists upon a sign, and no sign will be given it but the sign of the prophet Jonah.  For just as Jonah was in the stomach of the whale for three days and nights, the Son of Man will be three days and nights in the heart of the earth.  Men of Nineveh will rise with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, for when Jonah preached they repented, and there is more than Jonah here!  The queen of the south will rise with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, for she came from the very ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and there is more than Solomon here!

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The Collect:

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

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A Related Post:

Week of Proper 11:  Monday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/week-of-proper-11-monday-year-1/

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Consider this:

To do what is right and just

Is more desired by the LORD than sacrifice.

–Proverbs 21:3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

and this:

Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices

As much as in obedience to the LORD’s command?

Simply, obedience is better than sacrifice,

Compliance than the fat of rams.

–1 Samuel 15:22, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

I think also of something U.S. Presbyterian Shirley Guthrie wrote in his book, Christian Doctrine:

One danger of the sacrificial imagery is that the significance of Christ’s work can easily be corrupted in the same way the sacrificial system of the Old Testament was corrupted.  It easily becomes a kind of bargaining with God.  A sacrifice has been offered to satisfy his demands and appease him–so now we are free go go on being and doing anything we like without interference from him.  How did the prophets protest against such a perversion of the sacrificial system?  See Isaiah 1:10-31; Amos 5:21-24; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8.  Is the prophetic protest against the misuse of sacrifices relevant also to our understanding of the sacrifice of Christ?  Would the prophets allow the split we sometimes make between preaching concerned with social action and preaching concerned with salvation from sin?–Christian Doctrine:  Teachings of the Christian Church (Richmond, VA:  CLC Press, 1968, pages 247-248)

Again and again we read that, although God does not object to rituals and sacrifices, these offend God when we do not accompany them with social justice, especially in the treatment of widows, orphans, and other vulnerable people.  More than one Hebrew prophet made this point plainly.  And yet people claiming to be of God have persecuted populations, discriminated against members of groups, and condoned violence in the name of God.  It continues to this day.

These are not acts of goodness or justice.  An honor killing, for example, is neither good nor just.  Discrimination is neither good nor just.  Terrorism is certainly far from goodness and justice.  But feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned and the ill, housing the homeless, and comforting the grieving are good and just.  The measurement of how good and just we are is how much better we leave our corner of the world relative to its state when we found it.  Are the lives of those we encounter better because we were part of them?  Are the marginalized included, and the unloved loved?  This, according to prophets, is a standard of righteousness.

I am repeating myself, but that is unavoidable.  The texts continue to beat the same drum, so what am I supposed to do?  There is an old and perhaps apocryphal story about the elderly St. John the Apostle/Evangelist/Divine.  He visited a congregation.  The people gathered at the house where they met regularly.  Expectations were high; what wisdom might the Apostle impart?  When St. John did arrive, all he said was,

Love one another.

A disappointed congregant asked the ancient Greek equivalent of, “That’s it?”  The Apostle replied,

When you do that, I will tell you more.

Loving one another seems quite difficult much of the time, does it not?  This, I think, is why the book repeats itself so much on this theme.  Finally, by grace, may we learn this basic lesson and act on it.  That time cannot arrive soon enough.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/the-primacy-of-morality-over-sacrifices/

Proper 6, Year B   21 comments

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Jesus Shall Reign

The Sunday Closest to June 15

The Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

JUNE 17, 2018

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 (New Revised Standard Version):

Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the LORD was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel.

The Lord said to Samuel,

How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.

Samuel said,

How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.

And the Lord said,

Take a heifer with you, and say, “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.” Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.

Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said,

Do you come peaceably?

He said,

Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.

And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought,

Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.

But the Lord said to Samuel,

Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.

Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said,

Neither has the Lord chosen this one.

Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said,

Neither has the Lord chosen this one.

Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse,

The Lord has not chosen any of these.

Samuel said to Jesse,

Are all your sons here?

And he said,

There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.

And Samuel said to Jesse,

Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.

He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said,

Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.

Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

Psalm 20 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  May the LORD answer you the day of trouble;

the Name of the God of Jacob defend you;

2  Send you help from his holy place

and strengthen you out of Zion;

3  Remember all your offerings

and accept your burnt sacrifice;

4  Grant you your heart’s desire

and prosper all your plans.

5  We will shout for joy at your victory

and triumph in the Name of our God;

may the LORD grant all your requests.

6  Now I know that the LORD gives victory to his anointed;

he will answer him out of his holy heaven,

with the victorious strength of his right hand.

7  Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses,

but we will call upon the Name of the LORD our God.

8  They collapse and fall down,

but we will arise and stand upright.

9  O LORD, give victory to the king

and answer us when we call.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Ezekiel 17:22-24 (New Revised Standard Version):

Thus says the LORD God:

I myself will take a sprig

from the lofty top of a cedar;

I will set it out.

I will break off a tender one

from the topmost of its young twigs;

I myself will plant it

on a high and lofty mountain.

On the mountain height of Israel

I will plant it,

In order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit,

and become a noble cedar.

Under it every kind of bird will live;

in the shade of its branches will nest

winged creatures of every kind.

All the trees of the filed shall know

that I am the LORD.

I bring low the high tree;

I make high the low tree;

I dry up the green tree

and make the dry tree flourish.

I the LORD have spoken;

I will accomplish it.

Psalm 92:1-4, 11-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  It is a good thing to give thanks to the LORD,

and to sing praises to your Name, O Most High;

2  To tell of your loving-kindness early in the morning

and of your faithfulness in the night season;

3  On the psaltery, and on the lyre

and to the melody of the harp.

4  For you have made me glad by your acts, O LORD;

and I shout for joy because of the works of your hands.

11  The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,

and shall spread abroad like a cedar of Lebanon.

12  Those who are planted in the house of the LORD

shall flourish in the courts of our God.

13  They shall still bear fruit in old age;

they shall be green and succulent;

14  That they may show how upright the LORD is,

my Rock, in whom there is no fault.

SECOND READING

2 Corinthians 5:6-10, (11-13), 14-17 (New Revised Standard Version):

We are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord– for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.

[Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.] For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

GOSPEL READING

Mark 4:26-34 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.

He also said,

With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

The Collect:

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, 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 6, Year A:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/proper-6-year-a/

1 Samuel 15-16:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/week-of-2-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

Mark 4:

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

Matthew 13 (Parallel to Mark 4):

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/proper-12-year-a/

The Remnant:

http://taylorfamilypoems.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/the-remnant/

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Yea, Amen! let all adore thee,

High on thine eternal throne;

Saviour, take the power and glory;

Claim the kingdom for thine own:

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou shalt reign, and thou alone.

–Charles Wesley, “Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending,” 1758, adapted

A mustard seed is quite small–not actually the smallest of seeds, for we humans know of smaller seeds–but it is minute.  Yet from it comes a mighty weed, a mustard plant, which goes where it will and offers shade and housing to a wide variety of wildlife.  The Kingdom of God, Jesus said, is like this giant weed:  unstoppable and containing a heterogeneous population.

He did not liken the Kingdom of God to a cedar of Lebanon, a mighty and lovely tree.  We will not ignore that species; I will, in fact, get to it very soon.

One of the options for the Old Testament lesson is the familiar story of Samuel anointing David, the most unlikely (in human estimation) candidate for kingship.  Yet, as the text reminds us, God and we human beings see differently.

From that tender sprout came a dynasty (likened to a cedar of Lebanon), one which fell on hard times within a few generations.  This brings me to the reading from Ezekiel.  17:22-24 flows naturally from 17:1-21, so I summarize those initial verses now.  The Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire had exiled King Jehoichin in 597 B.C.E. and installed Zedekiah, another member of the Davidic Dynasty, as King of Judah.  But Zedekiah rebelled.  So, in 586 B.C.E., the Chaldeans ended the existence of the Kingdom of Judah.  The Babylonian Exile began.  Many years later, the prophet Ezekiel predicted that through the Davidic line the world would, in time, come to worship God alone.  The days of glory of David and Solomon were over, but divine glory the likes of which no one alive had witnesses would become public and widespread.

This brings me to 2 Corinthians 5:6-17, which needs no summary.  Just read it again, for the text speaks for itself.

It is obvious that the prediction of universal worship of God has yet to come true.  We human beings can cooperate with God in helping that day become reality, but we cannot stand in its way.  Tyrants have tried.  They have murdered many Jews and Christians over thousands of years, but the Judeo-Christian tradition remains quite alive.  The mustard plant keeps going where it will.  One day, certainly after my lifetime, it will have gone everywhere on this planet.

Until then my fellow Christians and I can anticipate the day when these great words by Isaac Watts become reality:

Jesus shall reign where’er the sun

Doth his successive journeys run;

His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,

Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

–“Jesus Shall Reign,” 1719

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/05/jesus-shall-reign/