Archive for the ‘Judgment and Mercy’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 28, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Caduceus

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

NOVEMBER 15, 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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Numbers 21:4-9 or Malachi 3:19-24/4:1-6

Psalm 74:1-2, 10-17

Hebrews 13:1-16, 20-21

Mark 12:35-44

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The promise of divine punishment for evil and of divine deliverance of the oppressed and righteous on the great Day of the LORD is one example of judgment and mercy being like sides of a coin.  The deliverance of the oppressed is very bad news for the oppressors, who are, in a way, victims of themselves.

If we behave as we should–revere God, take care of each other, et cetera–we will not have to fear punishment from God for not doing so.  We may incur punishment from human authorities, as in Tobit 1, but God did not promise a peaceful life in exchange for righteousness.

Two stories require more attention.

The cure in Numbers, cited also in John 3:14-15, in the context of the crucifixion of Jesus, our Lord and Savior’s glorification, according to the Fourth Gospel, is a textbook case of sympathetic magic.  It is related to Egyptian imagery of kingship, divinity, and protection from cobra saliva.  A commonplace visual echo is the caduceus, the medical symbol.

Pay attention to what precedes and follows Mark 12:41-44.  Our Lord and Savior’s condemnation of those who, among other things,

eat up the property of widows,

precedes the account of the widow giving all she had to the Temple.  Immediately in Chapter 13, we read a prediction of the destruction of the Temple.  I conclude that Jesus found the widow’s faith laudable yet grieved her choice.

May our lives bring glory to God and lead others to faith and discipleship.  May we, in our zeal, not go off the deep end and embarrass God and/or accidentally drive people away from God or get in the way of evangelism.  And may we never mistake an internal monologue for a dialogue with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BROOKE FOSS WESTCOTT, ANGLICAN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND BISHOP OF DURHAM; AND FENTON JOHN ANTHONY HORT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN HENRY BATEMAN, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHAN NORDAHL BRUN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN BISHOP, AUTHOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND RENEWER OF THE CHURCH; AND HIS GRANDSON, WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, U.S. ARCHITECT AND QUAKER PEACE ACTIVIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/07/27/judgment-and-mercy-part-xiv/

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Devotion for All Saints’ Day, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Saint John on Patmos, by the Limbourg Brothers

Image in the Public Domain

The Church Militant and the Church Triumphant

NOVEMBER 1, 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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Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 24

Revelation 7:9-17

John 11:32-44

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Three of the four readings for this day come from the context of tribulation.  The other reading (Psalm 24) is a text composed for the procession of the Ark of the Covenant.

God is the King of Glory, as Psalm 24 attests, but appearances contradict that truth much of the time.  The apocalyptic tone on Isaiah 25:6-9 and Revelation 7:9-17 confirms the discrepancy between appearances and reality.  In John 11, with the story of the raising of Lazarus, immediately precedes the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (John 12).  Furthermore, the Gospel of John tells us, the raising of Lazarus was the last straw before the decision to execute Jesus (John 11:47f).

Despite the violence and other perfidy of the world, we read, God will remain faithful to the righteous and will defeat evil.  That will be a day of rejoicing and the beginning of a new age.  To be precise, it will be a day of rejoicing for the righteous and of gnashing of teeth for the unrighteous.

That day seems to be far off, does it not?  Perhaps it is.  I dare not add my name to the long list of those who have predicted the date of the parousia.  I do, however, rejoice that the Church Triumphant exists and constitutes that great cloud of witnesses surrounding the Church Militant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 26, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANNE AND JOACHIM, PARENTS OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/07/26/the-church-militant-and-the-church-triumphant/

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Devotion for Proper 20, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Elijah in the Wilderness, by Washington Allston

Image in the Public Domain

Signs

SEPTEMBER 20, 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 32:1-14 or 1 Kings 19:1-15

Psalm 59:1-5, 16-17

Hebrews 4:1-13

Mark 8:22-33

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Yahweh, God of Hosts, God of Israel!

Awake to punish all the nations,

show no mercy to wicked traitors.

–Psalm 59:6, Mitchell J. Dahood (1968)

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That attitude is consistent with God’s Plan A in Exodus 32, after the idolatry and apostasy at the base of the mountain.  Aaron’s poor excuse still makes me laugh, though.

So I said to them, “Whoever has gold, take it off!  They gave it to me and I hurled it into the fire and out came this calf!

–Exodus 32:24, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Exodus and Mark contain stories of dramatic, powerful encounters with God.  We read of visual and tactile experiences. We also read of short-lived faithfulness, of much grumbling, of obliviousness, of recognition followed by official denial, and of fidelity.

The juxtaposition of the formerly blind man (Mark 8:22-26) and the obliviousness of St. Simon Peter (Mark 8:32-33) highlights the spiritual blindness of the latter man.  The stories also challenge us to ponder our spiritual blindness.

Even Elijah, who had recently confronted the prophets of Baal Peor then presided over their slaughter (1 Kings 18), had to deal with his spiritual blindness.  While hiding from Queen Jezebel and feeling sorry for himself, he encountered God, who, in that context, revealed self not in dramatic ways (as Baal Peor would have done), but in a still, small voice, or, as The New Jerusalem Bible (1985) renders the text,

a light murmuring sound.

Do we fail to notice messages from God because we seek dramatic signs?

Sometimes, in the Gospels, one reads of Jesus performing a miracle, followed by people demanding a sigh.  One’s jaw should drop.  One should seek God for the correct reasons and not become attached to dramatic signs.  God whispers sometimes.  God whispers to us, to those similar to us, and to those quite different from us.  God judges and forgives.  Signs are abundant.  How many do we notice?

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/signs-part-ii/

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Devotion for Proper 11, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Plague of Flies, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

The Individual and the Collective, Part II

JULY 19, 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 8:1-15 or 2 Samuel 11:1-17

Psalm 50:16-23

2 Corinthians 5:1-10

Mark 5:21-43

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Judgment and Mercy are both individual and collective.  They are individual in Psalm 50:16-23, 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, and Mark 5:21-43.  They are, however, collective in Exodus 8:1-15 and 2 Samuel 11:1-17, in which innocent people pay the stiff penalty for the sins of others or another person–a monarch, in particular.

Collective punishment that affects the innocent is not fair, at least from one perspective.  I subscribe to that point of view.  I also acknowledge that life is not fair.  This is a truth with which more than one Psalmist wrestled and that the authors of layers of the Book of Job addressed in sometimes contradictory ways.  We mere mortals have the right to complain–to kvetch, even–about it to God.  In the Judeo-Christian tradition, with its richness, arguing with God has become an art form.

All that anyone of us does affects others, for good and for ill.  Of course, reward and punishment have collective components; we cannot segregate ourselves entirely in any given society.  This is objective reality.

May God deliver us from ourselves and each other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 23, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN, FOUNDRESS OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HIGH SAVIOR; AND HER DAUGHTER, SAINT CATHERINE OF SWEDEN, SUPERIOR OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HIGH SAVIOR

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE TEAGUE CASE, PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP EVANS AND JOHN LLOYD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF THEODOR LILEY CLEMENS, ENGLISH MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, AND COMPOSER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/07/23/the-individual-and-the-collective-iii/

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Devotion for Proper 10, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Jesus Exorcising the Gerasene Demoniac

Image in the Public Domain

The Individual and the Collective, Part I

JULY 12, 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 3:1-15 or 2 Samuel 7:1-16

Psalm 50:10-15

2 Corinthians 4:7-18

Mark 5:1-20

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Judgement, mercy, and responsibility are both individual and collective.  My Western culture traditionally favors the individual over the collective.  My culture is more comfortable with discussing individual responsibility than collective guilt and punishment.  Yet, O reader, consult some of today’s assigned readings.

  1. Mercy on enslaved Hebrews entailed punishment of Egyptians who, despite not being directly involved in slavery, benefited from it.
  2. Divine judgment of King David, as it played out after 2 Samuel 7, affected innocent subjects adversely.
  3. The owners of the swine herd paid a high economic price for the healing of the Gerasene demoniac (regardless of what psychiatric label we would assign to him today).
  4. Likewise, benefits of grace have also been collective.  We human beings have always influenced each other.  Grace in one life has led to grace in other lives.  Light in the darkness has shed light on people who were merely present.

Those who read the Bible in languages with different forms of second-person pronouns for the singular and the plural have an advantage over those of us for whom “you” and “your” are both singular and plural.  [I live in the U.S. South, where many people say “y’all,” the contraction of “you all.”  The plural form is “all y’all.”  For the purposes of this post, however, I focus on formal linguistic forms.]  The Bible is replete with the plural “you” and “your,” as I note when I consult a passage in the Nouvelle Version Segond Révisée (1978), with tu, ta, ton, vous, votre, vos, and tes.  Think, O reader, about prophets addressing populations, Jesus speaking to crowds and small groups, and authors of epistles writing to congregations.  May we cast off our cultural blinders and digest the Bible as it is.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 22, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALENE, EQUAL TO THE APOSTLES

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/07/22/the-individual-and-the-collective-ii/

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Devotion for Proper 8, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  A Light Bulb in Darkness

Image in the Public Domain

Disclosing and Bringing Out into the Open

JUNE 28, 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 1:8-2:10 or 2 Samuel 1

1 Samuel 2:1-10

2 Corinthians 1:3-22

Mark 4:21-34

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Nothing is hidden except to be disclosed, and nothing concealed except to be brought into the open.

–Mark 4:22, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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That timeless truth, contrary to what some argue, is not “fake news.”  No, it is the Gospel.  The Gospel is much like proper journalism; both exist to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.  So be it.

What do the assigned readings disclose and bring into the open?

  1. Exodus 1:8-2:10 exposes the perfidy of the Pharaoh, who ordered infanticide.  The text also reveals the morality and bravery of Shiphrah and Puah, Egyptian midwives and the the only women the passage names.  Exodus 1:8-2:10 affirms civil disobedience.
  2. 2 Samuel 1, read in the context of 1 Samuel 31, reveals that the man who claimed to kill King Saul was lying.  One may assume reasonably that this unnamed man was trying to gain David’s favor.  The text also reveals that David probably believed the man.  Some lies prove fatal.
  3. 1 Samuel 2:1-10, or the Song of Hannah, an influence on the much later Magnificat, reveals the faith of Hannah, mother of Samuel, and speaks of the terrifying judgment and mercy of God.
  4. 2 Corinthians 1:3-22 reveals St. Paul the Apostle’s spiritual maturity and his troubled relationship with the congregation in Corinth.
  5. The parables in Mark 4:21-34 reveal, among other things, that the Kingdom of God, simultaneously present and future, defies expectations by being invisible yet eventually public and by coming in small packaging.

We cannot hide from God, who knows everything, glorifies disobedient Egyptian midwives, aids distraught and faithful people, and who uses the death and resurrection of Jesus to effect new spiritual life in Christians.  We cannot flee from God, who often works in ways we do not expect.  We cannot hide from God, from whom both judgment and mercy flow.  We cannot hide from from God, who shines a flood light on secrets we hope to keep.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMÉ DE LAS CASAS, “APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, ANGLICAN DEAN OF WESTMINSTER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD WILLIAM LEINBACH, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERARD, FIRST DEACONESS IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/07/18/disclosing-and-bringing-out-into-the-open/

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Devotion for Proper 29, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Christ the King

NOVEMBER 24, 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 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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Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

Psalm 100

Ephesians 1:15-23

Matthew 25:31-46

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Christ the King Sunday, originally established in the Roman Catholic Church opposite Reformation Sunday, was the creation of Pope Pius XI in 1925.  The rise of fascism and other forms of dictatorship in Europe between World Wars I and II was the context for the creation of this feast.  The feast, in full,

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe,

has been the Sunday preceding Advent since Holy Mother Church revised its calendar in 1969.  The feast became part of many Lutheran and Anglican calendars during the 1970s, as part of liturgical revision.  In much of U.S. Methodism Christ the King Sunday used to fall on the last Sunday in August, at the end of the Season after Pentecost and leading into Kingdomtide.  Christ the King Sunday, set immediately prior to Advent, has become ubiquitous in Western Christianity.

The term “Christ the King” works well for me, for Jesus was male.  I have seen the alternative term “Reign of Christ,” an example of unnecessary linguistic neutering.  I have also wondered about the use of the language of monarchy in a world with few monarchs than before, and about how many citizens of republics might relate to such terminology.  I have also noted that “Reign of Christ” does not allay any concerns related to the language of monarchy.

God is the king in Psalm 100, and Jesus is the king in Ephesians 1 and Matthew 25.  We read of negligent Hebrew kings in Ezekiel 34.  There we also read of the promised Messianic sovereign.  In Matthew 25 we read that the Son of Man (an apocalyptic term for, in this case, Jesus) expects us to take care of each other and will mete out both judgment and mercy.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

–John 14:15, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Most of the readings for this Sunday are apocalyptic in tone.  Matthew 25:31-46 belongs to an apocalyptic section (set immediately prior to the crucifixion of Jesus) in that Gospel.  Ephesians (whoever wrote it) is probably from the 90s C.E., about the time of the composition of the Apocalypse of John (Revelation).  The promise of the Second Coming of Christ hangs over Ephesians 1:15-23.  The promise of a Messianic king in Ezekiel 34 is apocalyptic on its face.  The readings also fit well at the end of the Season after Pentecost and before Advent, when many of the readings are apocalyptic.

Apocalyptic literature is inherently hopeful, for it affirms that God will end the current, sinful, exploitative age and usher in a new age of justice–of heaven on Earth.  If one studies the Bible carefully, one recognizes the pattern of pushing dashed apocalyptic hopes forward in time–from the end of the Babylonian Exile to the time after Alexander the Great to the time of Jesus to the end of the first century C.E.  One, studying history, might also find this pattern since the end of the New Testament.  The list of times Jesus was allegedly supposed to have returned, according to a series of false prophets, is lengthy.

Nevertheless, Christ remains the King of the Universe, despite all appearances to the contrary.  God remains faithful to divine promises, and the apocalyptic hope for God to set the world right remains.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DAG HAMMARSKJÖLD, SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD BOUVERIE PUSEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY LASCALLES JENNER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF JOHN CAMPBELL SHAIRP, SCOTTISH POET AND EDUCATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/09/18/christ-the-king-part-iii/

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