Archive for the ‘Luke 18’ Tag

Week of Proper 28: Monday, Year 1   10 comments

Above:  A Map of the Empire of Alexander the Great

Obtained from the Macedonia FAQ website.

A project of Macedonia.org

URL: http://faq.Macedonia.org/

http://faq.macedonia.org/history/alexander.the.great.html

Resistance, Diversity, Assimilation, and Uniformity

NOVEMBER 15, 2021

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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 Maccabees 1:1-15, 54-57, 62-64 (Revised English Bible):

Alexander of Macedon, the son of Philip, marched from the land of Kittim, defeated Darius, king of Persia and Media, and seized his throne, being already king of Greece.  During the course of many campaigns, in which he captured strongholds and put kings to death, he traversed the earth to its remotest bounds and plundered countless nations.  When at last the world lay quiet under his sway, his pride knew no limits; he built up an extremely powerful army and ruled over countries, nations, and princedoms, all of which rendered him tribute.

The time came when Alexander fell ill, and, realizing that he was dying, he summoned his generals, nobles who had been brought up with him from childhood, and divided his empire among them while he was yet alive.  At death he had reigned for twelve years.  His generals took over the government, each in his own province, and, when Alexander died, they all assumed royal crowns, and for many years the succession passed to their descendants.  They brought untold miseries on the world.

An offshoot of this stock was an impious man, Antiochus Epiphanes, son of King Antiochus.  He had been a hostage in Rome before he succeeded to the throne in the year 137 of the Greek era.

At that time there emerged in Israel a group of renegade Jews, who inveighed many by saying,

We should go and make an agreement with the Gentiles round about; nothing but disaster has been our lot since we cut ourselves off from them.

This proposal was widely approved, and some of the people in their enthusiasm went to the king and received authority to introduce pagan laws and customs.  They built a gymnasium in the gentile style at Jerusalem; they removed their marks of circumcision and repudiated the holy covenant; they intermarried with Gentiles and sold themselves to evil.

On the fifteenth day of the month of Kislev in the year 145, the abomination of desolation was set up on the altar of the Lord.  In the towns throughout Judaea pagan altars were built; incense was offered at the doors of houses and in the streets.  Every scroll of the law that was found was torn up and consigned to the flames, and anyone discovered in possession of a Book of the Covenant or conforming to the law was by sentence of the king condemned to die.

Yet many in Israel found strength to resist, taking a determined stand against the eating of any unclean food.  They welcomed death and died rather than defile themselves and profane the holy covenant.  Israel lay under a reign of terror.

Psalm 79 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  O God, the heathen here come into your inheritance;

they have profaned your holy temple;

they have made Jerusalem a heap of rubble.

2  They have given the bodies of your servants as food for the birds of the air,

and the flesh of your faithful ones to the beasts of the field.

3  They have shed their blood like water on every side of Jerusalem,

and there was no one to bury them.

4  We have become a reproach to our neighbors,

an object of scorn and derision to those around us.

5  How long will you be angry, O LORD?

will your fury blaze like fire for ever?

6  Pour out your wrath upon the heathen who have not known you

and upon kingdoms that have not called upon your Name.

7  For they have devoured Jacob

and made his dwelling a ruin.

8  Remember not our past sins;

let your compassion be swift to meet us;

for we have been brought very low.

9  Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your Name;

deliver us and forgive us our sins, for your Name’s sake.

10  Why should the heathen say, “Where is your God?”

Let it be known among the heathen and in our sight

that you avenge the shedding of your servants’ blood.

11  Let the sorrowful sighing of the prisoners come before you,

and by your great might spare those who are condemned to die.

12  May the revilings with which they reviled you, O Lord,

return seven-fold into their bosoms.

13  For we are your people and the sheep of your pasture;

we will give you thanks for ever

and show forth your praise from age to age.

Luke 18:35-43 (Revised English Bible):

As Jesus approached Jericho a blind man sat at the roadside begging.  Hearing a crowd going past, he asked what was happening, and was told that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.  Then he called out,

Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.

The people in front told him to hold his tongue; but he shouted all the more,

Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.

Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him.  When he came up Jesus asked him,

What do you want me to do for you?

He answered,

Sir, I want my sight back.

Jesus said to him,

Have back your sight; your faith has healed you.

He recovered his sight instantly and followed Jesus, praising God.  And all the people gave praise to God for what they had seen.

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of 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.

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Historical Note:

According to the footnotes in my copy of the Revised English Bible, here are the Greek dates mentioned in the text of 1 Maccabees, with current labels:

137 = 175 B.C.E.

145 = 167 B.C.E.

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Alexander the Great thought that he had a mission to share the benefits of his Greek culture with others, even if they did not want that.  Like imperialists of other ages, he believed that he was doing the colonized a great favor.  Many of the rulers of the successor kingdoms held the same mindset.  Unfortunately for observant Jews in Judea, Antiochus Epiphanes did.

Since I am a Gentile and a product of the Christian Church, the words of Peter and Paul regarding Jews and Gentiles, things unclean and things clean, ring in my ears and echo within my skull.  And, as the book of 1 Maccabees continues, we read that rebel leaders “wiped out apostates” and executed those Jews who had eaten pork–as a former student of mine said, “death over a ham sandwich.”  If you love peace and love, you will have some serious and justified issues with much of the content of 1 Maccabees.

The real issue here, however, is that observant Jews, in their homes, faced death for living their faith, as they understood it, while acting in private.  King Antiochus Epiphanes decided that the private would become a public matter and a capital offense.  Nevertheless, he failed in his policies of assimilation.

Often we fear those who are significantly different from us, for we do not understand them.

What is wrong with these people,

we ask ourselves,

why aren’t they more like me?

Is it possible, however, that we are the ones who  need to be more like them?  Sometimes yes, other times no–but think about it.  Alternatively, sometimes a difference is just that–nothing more or less.  In these circumstance diversity makes the world–or our piece of it–a more interesting place, in a positive way.

Cultural Anthropology 101:  both universal cultural relativism and universal ethnocentrism are falsehoods.   This rule makes great sense to me.  But here is a universal rule to follow:  Love your neighbor as yourself.  And everybody is your neighbor.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/resistance-diversity-assimilation-and-uniformity/

Week of Proper 27: Saturday, Year 1   9 comments

Above:  Constellation Perseus (February 1, 2011)

Image Source = Jet Propulsion Laboratory

“It Came Upon the Midnight Clear….”

NOVEMBER 13, 2021

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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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Wisdom of Solomon 18:14-16; 19:6-9 (Revised English Bible):

(Context = The Exodus from Egypt, beginning with the last plague)

All things were lying in peace and silence, and night in her swift course was half spent, when your all-powerful word leapt from your royal throne in heaven like a relentless warrior, bearing the sharp sword of your inflexible decree; with his head touching the heavens and his feet on earth he stood and spread death everywhere.

The whole creation, with all its elements, was refashioned in subservience to your commands, in order that your servants might be preserved unscathed.  They gazed at the cloud that overshadowed the camp, at dry land emerging where before was only water, at an open road leading out of the Red Sea, and a grassy plain in place of stormy waves, across which the whole nation passed under the protection of your hand, after witnessing amazing portents.  They were like horses at pasture, like skipping lambs as they praised you, O Lord, by whom they were rescued.

Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of his marvelous works.

Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

Remember the marvels he has done;

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O childrenof Jacob his chosen.

37 He led out his people with silver and gold;

in all their tribes there was not one that stumbled.

38 Egypt was glad of their going,

because they were afraid of them.

39 He spread out a cloud for a covering,

and a fire to give light in the night season.

40 They asked, and quails appeared,

and he satisfied them with bread from heaven.

41 He opened the rock, and water flowed,

so the river ran in dry places.

42 For God remembered his holy word

and Abraham his servant.

43 So he led forth his people with gladness,

his chosen with shouts of joy.

44 He gave his people the lands of the nations,

and they took the fruit of others’ toil,

45 That they might keep his statutes

and observe his laws.

Hallelujah!

Luke 18:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

Jesus told them a parable to show that they should keep on praying and never lose heart.

In a certain city there was a judge who had no fear of God or respect for man, and in the same city there was a widow who kept coming before him to demand justice against her opponent.  For a time he refused; but in the end he said to himself, “Although I have no fear of God or respect for man, yet this widow is so great a nuisance that I will give her justice before she wears me out with her persistence.”  The Lord said, “You hear what the unjust judge says.  Then will not God give justice to his chosen, to whom he listens day and night?  I tell you, he will give them justice soon enough.  But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

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The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Tradition holds that Jesus was born at midnight, hence Christmas Eve midnight masses.  Indeed, these are lovely services, and Christmas for me lacks something crucial without having attended one.  The midnight timeframe comes from a conflation of the Wisdom of Solomon 18:14-16, which speaks of the angel of death leaving to kill firstborn Egyptian sons, with the Lukan version of the birth narrative of Jesus.

“It Came Upon the Midnight Clear,” the great Christmas carol, features the traditional timeframe in its title.  This hymn dates to 1849, when Edmund Hamilton Sears, a U.S. Unitarian pastor who believed in the deity of Jesus, wrote the words.  (He published them the following year.)  Reverend Sears, who opposed recently-completed U.S.-Mexican War, included an antiwar message in the hymn:

And man, at war with man, hears not

The tidings which they bring;

O hush the noise, ye men of strife,

And hear the angels sing!

Focusing on this Christmas carol is appropriate here, due to the timing of this devotional–one day before Proper 28 and eight days prior to the First Sunday of Advent.  And, after Advent comes Christmas, of course.

The God of the Exodus and the Incarnation is active in human history.  This is the God who cares.  Psalm 14, in most English translations, states that a fool says, “There is no God.”  Yet TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, the current translation from the Jewish Publication Society, renders that text to say that the fool states that “God does not care.”  I have concluded that caring is part of the divine character.  But, you might ask, why the difference in translations?  The rabbinical notes in The Jewish Study Bible mention that atheism was quite rare in the ancient Near East.  And a Presbyterian minister I know has mentioned to me the difficulty in translating much Hebrew.  “Translating Hebrew is a bear,” he said.

And God cares very much in the reading from Luke 18.  The judge was corrupt, rendering verdicts in response to bribes.  But the woman got her justice by merely threatening him with violence.  Jesus says, however, that we need not worry about whether God cares about us and will listen to us.  Indeed, the fact of our Lord’s existence in human form (the Incarnation) constitutes evidence of divine caring.  Maybe God says “no” or “not yet,” answers we might not like, but there is an answer.  Nevertheless, good things happen to good people.  The reality of the existence of God does not change that fact, but neither does it change the reality that God cares, that for God to exist is for God to care.

One of the major effects of prayer is to change the one who prays.  And prayer, of course, is far more than “talking to God;” it is also listening to God and acting according to divine commands.  In other words, prayer is responding positively to God.  Some years ago I heard an interview with a Roman Catholic priest on National Public Radio.  The good Father had taken Jesus at his word; the priest decided to visit a man in prison.  The priest chose to visit a death row inmate, a violent man who, in time, died by the authority of the state.  The inmate was just as violent and vile on the day he died as he was when the priest began to visit him, but the priest was a much better person for the visits.  He had followed his Lord.

Jesus breaks into our lives in ways and at times we might not expect.  We might not get a choir of angels, but, if we are sufficiently perceptive, we will hear and know the voice of God speaking.  God has not ceased to speak, and we ought to listen more often than we do.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/it-came-upon-the-midnight-clear/