Archive for the ‘Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’ Tag

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 Monday After Proper 29, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Ahaseurus and Haman at Esther's Feast

Above:  Ahasuerus and Haman at Esther’s Feast, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Two Kings

NOVEMBER 23, 2020

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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:

Esther 2:1-18

Psalm 7

2 Timothy 2:8-13

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I will bear witness that the LORD is righteous;

I will praise the Name of the LORD Most High.

–Psalm 7:18, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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This is a devotion for the day after Christ the King Sunday.  Pope Pius XI created that festival in 1925, when dictators governed much of Europe, interwar tensions were rising, and the Holy Father perceived the need to issue a reminder that God is in control, despite appearances.  The original date was the last Sunday in October, opposite Reformation Sunday in many Protestant churches, but the Roman Catholic Church moved the date to the Sunday before Advent in 1969.  In the middle of the twentieth century many U.S. Protestants observed Christ the King Sunday on the last Sunday in August.  I have found evidence of this in the official materials of the reunited Methodist Church (1939-1968).  Today observance of Christ the King Sunday (on the Sunday before Advent) is common in many non-Roman Catholic communions.  I have detected in the Revised Common Lectionary and the Common Lectionary before that, as well as in official materials of Anglican/Episcopal, Methodist, Moravian, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ, Cooperative Baptist, Evangelical Covenant, and other denominations.

In contrast to Christ the King we have the fictional Ahasuerus, a pompous figure whose courtiers manipulate him.  He and others figure in the Book of Esther, which the germane notes in The Jewish Study Bible (2004) refer to as a low comedy with burlesque elements, as well as a serious side.  (Comedy has a serious side much of the time.)  The Book of Esther pokes fun at authority figures, one of the oldest pastimes.  Ahasuerus, humiliated when Queen Vashti refuses his summons, decides angrily to replace her.  Before he can reverse that decision, his advisers intervene.  This opens the narrative door for Esther to become the secretly Jewish Queen of Persia just in time for Haman to plot to kill the Jews.  Esther might have been a tool of schemers initially, but she becomes an instrument of God.

St. Paul the Apostle might not have written 2 Timothy, but the letter is of the Pauline tradition.  Certainly the Apostle did suffer hardship due to his obedience to God and agreed, as the text says:

If we have died with [Christ Jesus], we will also live with him;

if we endure, we will also reign with him;

if we deny him, he will also deny us;

if we are faithless, he remains faithful–

for he cannot deny himself.

–2:11b-13, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Regardless of the situations of our daily life and how they became our reality, may we obey God and do the right thing.  This might prove to be quite dangerous, leading even to death, but so did the path of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

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/two-kings/

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Week of Proper 24: Monday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 24: Tuesday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  An Ecumenical Environmental Stewardship Meeting at St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, September 24, 2011

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Unity in Christ

OCTOBER 19 and 20, 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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COMPOSITE FIRST READING

Ephesians 2:1-22 (Revised English Bible):

You once were dead because of your sins and wickedness; you followed the ways of this present world order, obeying the commander of the spiritual powers of the air, the spirit now at work among God’s rebel subjects.  We too were once of their number:  we were ruled by our physical desires, and did what instinct and evil imagination suggested.  In our natural condition we lay under the condemnation of God like the rest of mankind.  But God is rich in mercy, and because of his great love for us, he brought us to life with Christ when we were dead because of our sins; it is by grace you are saved.  And he raised us up in union with Christ Jesus and enthroned us with him in the heavenly realms, so that we might display in the ages to come how immense are the resources of his grace, and how great his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by grace you are saved through faith; it is not your own doing.  It is God’s gift, not a reward for work done.  There is nothing for anyone to boast of; we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the life of good deeds which God designed for us.

Remember then your former condition, Gentiles as you are by birth, “the uncircumcised” as you are called by those who call themselves “the circumcised” because of a physical rite.  You were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the community of Israel, strangers to God’s covenants and the promise that goes with them.  Yours was a world without hope and without God.  Once you were far off, but now in union with Christ Jesus you have been brought near through the shedding of Christ’s blood.  For he is himself our peace.  Gentiles and Jews, he has made the two one, and in his own body of flesh and blood has broken down the barrier of enmity which separated them; for he annulled the law with its rules and regulations, so as to create out of the two a single new humanity in himself, thereby making peace.  This was his purpose, to reconcile the two in a single body to God through the cross, by which he killed the enmity.  So he came and proclaimed the good news:  peace to you who were far off, and peace to those who were near; for through him we both have access to the Father in the one Spirit.

Thus you are no longer aliens in a foreign land, but fellow-citizens with God’s people, members of God’s household.  You are built on the foundations of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the corner-stone.  In him the whole building is bonded together in the Lord.  In him you also are being built with all the others into a spiritual dwelling for God.

RESPONSE FOR MONDAY

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 TUESDAY

Psalm 85:8-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8 I will listen to what the LORD God is saying,

for he is speaking peace to his faithful people

and to those who turn their hearts to him.

9 Truly, his salvation is very near those who fear him,

that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Mercy and truth have met together;

righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

11 Truth shall spring up from the earth,

and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

12 The LORD will indeed grant prosperity,

and our land will yield its increase.

13 Righteousness shall go before him,

and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

GOSPEL READING FOR MONDAY

Luke 12:13-21 (Revised English Bible):

Someone in the crowd said to him [Jesus],

Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family property with me.

He said to the man,

Who set me over you to judge or arbitrate?

Then to the people he said,

Beware!  Be on your guard against greed of every kind, for even when someone has more than enough, his possessions do not give him life.

And he told them this parable:

There was a rich man whose land yielded a good harvest.  He debated with himself: “What am I to do?  I have not the space to store my produce.  This is what I will do, ” said he:  ”I will pull down my barns and build them bigger.  I will collect in them all my grain and other goods, and I will say to myself, ‘You have plenty of good things laid by, enough for many years to come:  take life easy, eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.’”  But God said to him, “You fool, this very night you must surrender your life; and the money you have made, who will get it now?” That is how it is with the man who piles up treasure for himself and remains a pauper in the sight of God.

GOSPEL READING FOR TUESDAY

Luke 12:35-38 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Be ready for action, with your robes hitched up and your lamps alight.  Be like people who wait for their master’s return from a wedding party, ready to let him in the moment he returns and knocks.  Happy are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes.  Truly I tell you:  he will hitch up his robe, seat them at table, and come and wait on them.  If in the middle of the night or before dawn when he comes he still finds them awake, and they are happy indeed.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; 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 24:  Monday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/08/week-of-proper-24-monday-year-1/

Week of Proper 24:  Tuesday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/week-of-proper-24-tuesday-year-1/

A Prayer for All Bishops of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/a-prayer-for-all-bishops-of-the-one-holy-catholic-and-apostolic-church/

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Ephesians 2 speaks of unity in Christ.  In the Pauline historical context, the unity was that of Jews and Gentiles.  Times have moved along and circumstances have changed.  To stay local, with a radius of about seven miles from my front door in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, congregations of various Christian denominations have their meeting places.  A partial list follows:

  1. African Methodist Episcopal–1
  2. United Methodist–3
  3. Episcopal–1
  4. Roman Catholic–1
  5. National Baptist–1
  6. Free Will Baptist–1
  7. Southern Baptist–2
  8. Cooperative Baptist–1
  9. Presbyterian (U.S.A.)–2
  10. Presbyterian in America–1
  11. Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)–2
  12. Churches of Christ–1
  13. Christian Church and Churches of Christ–1
  14. Independent–1
  15. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America–1
  16. Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod–1

Of course, separate denominational identities need not lead to hostilities, mutual or otherwise.  I am ritualistic, but some of my best friends are not.  We bear different denominational labels, but we all follow Jesus.  So, as a saying goes,

It’s all good.

Yet many lack this positive attitude.  I recall a late-season episode of Cheers (1982-1993).  Woody and Kelly had discovered on their honeymoon that they belonged to different Lutheran denominations, he to the Missouri Synod and she to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).  They spent much of the episode arguing until he agreed to convert, saying,

Yes, dear.

The episode highlighted the relatively minor differences between and among many denominations, and how much many of us emphasize them.

Our unity as Christians is in Christ, first and foremost.  May we focus on that.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/unity-in-christ/