Archive for the ‘Luke 22’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 19 (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:  Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery, by Guercino

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment, Mercy, Hope, and Repentance

SEPTEMBER 13, 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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Jeremiah 32:36-44

Psalm 119:73-80

2 Corinthians 1:3-11

John 7:53-8:11

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Judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Bible.  In Jeremiah 32:36-44, for example, we read that the Babylonian Exile will come yet will also end.  The author of Psalm 119 understands that God, whom he trusts, has humbled him.  In 2 Corinthians 1 the emphasis is on mercy, via Christ.

Judgment and mercy also coexist in John 7:53-8:11, a frequently misunderstood and subtle passage with some ambiguity.  It has been part of the Johannine Gospel since the 200s and is actually of Synoptic origin–probably from the Gospel of Luke.  It flows naturally in some manuscripts from Luke 21:37-38 and into Luke 22.  John 7:53-8:11 us a free-floating pericope; I treat it as such.  Indeed, one can skip over it, reading 7:52 then 8:12, and not miss a beat.

Certain religious leaders set a trap for Jesus.  This was quite a pastime in the canonical Gospels.  These particular officials, in setting this trap, violated the Law of Moses.  First, the man and woman involved in adultery were subject to the death penalty (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22).  Where was the man?  Second, there were supposed to be witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15).  The Roman authorities had deprived the Jewish authorities of the right to execute under the Law of Moses (John 18:31), so there was probably a political element to the trap–Rome or Torah?  (Those who set the trap were Roman collaborators.)  Jesus, being intelligent and perceptive, recognized the trap for what it was.  He reversed the trap.  What did he write with his finger?  Some Patristic exegetes suggested Jeremiah 17:13:

LORD, on whom Israel’s hope is fixed,

all who reject you will be put to shame,

those who forsake you will be inscribed in the dust,

for they have rejected the source of living water, the LORD.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

But we cannot be sure.

Also, the witnesses were to be the first to stone the adulteress (Deuteronomy 17:7):

Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.

–John 8:7b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The woman’s accuser, of course, left the scene.  Jesus, instead of condemning her, instructed her to repent.

Then, if we accept the Lukan placement of the pericope, the chief priests and scribes plotted the death of Jess that fateful Passover week.

(Aside:  I have heard a Roman Catholic joke based on the pericope.  After John 8:11 Jesus and the woman were standing together.  Then a stone came, seemingly from nowhere.  Jesus exclaimed, “O, mother!”)

In God exists judgment and mercy.  Mercy includes opportunities to repent–to turn one’s back on sin.  God likes repentance, I keep reading in the Bible.  There is hope in repentance.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 19, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES COFFIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARITIE LEES SMITH BANCROFT DE CHENEZ, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PIERSON MERRILL, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/19/judgment-mercy-hope-and-repentance/

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Devotion for Proper 24 (Year D)   1 comment

the-denial-of-saint-peter-by-caravaggio

Above:  The Denial of Saint Peter, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Part VI

OCTOBER 18, 2020

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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 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:

Haggai 2:20-23 or Daniel 7:(1-3) 4-8 (9-18) 19-28

Psalm 38 or 55

Matthew 26:57-27:2 or Mark 14:53-15:1 or Luke 22:54-23:1 or John 18:13-28

Romans 9:6-33

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The assigned readings, taken together, focus on the contrast between the justice of God and the injustice of human political and economic systems.  When God destroys corrupt human systems, a better order replaces them.  In the Gospels Jesus becomes a scapegoat whom St. Simon Peter denies knowing.  The options for the Psalm fit the mood of Holy Week well, with the major exceptions of the confession of sin in Psalm 38 and the vengeful desire in Psalm 55.

To write or speak of the Kingdom of God and how it differs from human social norms and institutions is to, among other things, to criticize human social norms and institutions.  To do so, when one dies it properly, is to contemplate one’s complicity in collective sin.  That would lead to repentance, or turning one’s back on sin.  That can, when enough people do it, lead to social reform.  After all, society is people.

May we not deny Christ as he is present among us in the victims of injustice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL TAIT, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN BLEW, ENGLISH PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/12/20/the-passion-of-our-lord-jesus-christ-part-vi/

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Devotion for Proper 23 (Year D)   1 comment

garden-of-gethsemane

Above:  The Garden of Gethsemane

Image in the Public Domain

The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Part V

OCTOBER 11, 2020

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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 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:

Haggai 2:10-19

Psalm 3 or 134

Matthew 26:36-56 or Mark 14:32-52 or Luke 22:39-53 or John 18:1-12

Romans 7:1-14

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The reality of the Temple at the time of Jesus was a far cry from the prediction of what the Temple would become, according to Haggai 2:10-19.  The Second Temple, which Herod the Great had ordered expanded, had become the seat of collaboration with the Romans.  Many Jews attended events at the Temple faithfully, but they did so under the watchful gazes of Roman soldiers at the fortress next door.  In this context the annual commemoration of the Passover–of God’s deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt–occurred.

The law of God is good, but abuses of it are bad.  Among these abuses was the crucifixion of Jesus, the judicial killing of a scapegoat.  That event is still in the future–albeit the near future–in the assigned readings from the Gospels.  Nevertheless, this is not too early to notice the contrast between the forgiving attitude of Jesus and the vengeful author of Psalm 3.  Forgiveness is, of course, the best policy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL TAIT, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN BLEW, ENGLISH PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/12/20/the-passion-of-our-lord-jesus-christ-part-v/

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Devotion for Proper 22 (Year D)   1 comment

Temple of Solomon

Above:  The First Temple at Jerusalem

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Part IV

OCTOBER 4, 2020

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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 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:

2 Chronicles 7:1-22 or Haggai 1:15b-29

Psalm 41

Matthew 26:20-35 or Mark 14:17-31 or Luke 22:14-38

Colossians 3:18-4:18 or 1 Peter 2:1, 11-18 (19-25); 3:1-12

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The First Temple at Jerusalem–when it was new and after it had become ruins–occupies the focus in the two options for the First Reading.  God–in the Ark of the Covenant–was present there, faith affirmed.  With that faith came the obligation to, in the words of Psalm 41, consider the poor and the needy.  This was part of the covenant most of the population disregarded, to its detriment.  Consistent with that ethic of caring for the poor and the needy was the example of Jesus, who modeled the teaching that the way to true greatness is servanthood.

As for the readings from the epistles, I must make some critical (in the highest sense of that word) comments about them.  They do contain some sexism, but not as much as some think.  The texts do speak of the responsibilities of husbands toward their wives, after all.  The overall portrait is one of a high degree of mutuality.  Also, the failure to condemn slavery disturbs me.  That failure is a recurring theme in Christian history, from the first century to at least the nineteenth century.  Christianity need not mean default contrariness, for not everything in society is wrong, but the Christian Gospel ought to lead one to oppose servitude and sexism.  The Gospel is, after all, about liberation–freedom to serve God without the societal constraints foreign to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL TAIT, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN BLEW, ENGLISH PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/12/20/the-passion-of-our-lord-jesus-christ-part-iv/

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Devotion for Proper 19 (Year D)   1 comment

icon-of-timothy

Above:  Icon of Timothy

Image in the Public Domain

The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Part I

SEPTEMBER 13, 2020

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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 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:

Deuteronomy 16:1-22

Psalm 92:(1-4) 5-11 (12-15)

Matthew 26:1-19 or Mark 14:1-16 or Luke 22:1-13

1 Timothy 5:1-23

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Proper 19 is, in the Year D plan by Timothy Matthew Slemmons, the first of 10 Sundays over which the Passion Narrative stretches out.  Passion, in this context, refers to suffering.

The readings, taken together, present a contrast between love and perfidy.  Love manifests itself by caring for others selflessly and by seeking the common good.  Love is self-sacrificial.  Love does not care about maintaining appearances of respectability.  Love endures, but hatred and perfidy fade away, having done their worst.  This is a timeless lesson–one which might seem counterintuitive during dark times.  After all, evil people prosper and retain their positions of authority and/or influence while righteous people suffer, sometimes to the point of martyrdom.  This is a matter of perspective.  God sees the big picture over time, but we see a much smaller portion of time.

We will do well to trust in God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT:  THE TWENTY-SECOND DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIULIA VALLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ISAAC HECKER, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/12/18/the-passion-of-our-lord-jesus-christ-part-i/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 24, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Agony in the Garden

Above:   The Agony in the Garden, by El Greco

Image in the Public Domain

Trust in God

OCTOBER 21, 2019

OCTOBER 22, 2019

OCTOBER 23, 2019

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The Collect:

O Lord God, tireless guardian of your people,

you are always ready to hear our cries.

Teach us to rely day and night on your care.

Inspire us to seek your enduring justice for all the suffering world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 25:2-22 (Monday)

1 Samuel 25:23-35 (Tuesday)

1 Samuel 25:36-42 (Wednesday)

Psalm 57 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 6:1-11 (Monday)

James 5:7-12 (Tuesday)

Luke 22:39-46 (Wednesday)

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Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful,

for I have taken refuge in you;

in the shadow of your wings will I take refuge

until this time of trouble has gone by.

–Psalm 57:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Yet sometimes suffering does happen.  Jesus goes on to die after Luke 22:39-46.  Furthermore, James 5:11 refers to Job.  In addition, much suffering of the innocent results from the actions of others.

Several of the assigned readings for these days speak of deferred yet certain divine justice.  The length of the delay might be relatively brief (as in 1 Samuel 25) or part of an eschatological plan.  Regardless of the duration of the wait, having patience can be quite difficult.  In Revelation 6:10-11 the impatience extends into the afterlife.  How much more difficult will patience be for us on this side of Heaven?

We must try to trust in God.  That is the meaning of belief in the Bible:  to trust.  We can strive for that goal on our own power, but can succeed only by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/trust-in-god-2/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 19, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

God Speaking to Job

Above:   God Speaking to Job, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

Humility, Sin, and Suffering

SEPTEMBER 18, 2019

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The Collect:

O God, overflowing with mercy and compassion,

you lead back to yourself all those who go astray.

Preserve your people in your loving care,

that we may reject whatever is contrary to you

and may follow all things that sustain our life in

your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 40:6-14; 42:1-6

Psalm 73

Luke 22:31-33, 54-62

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When I tried to understand these things it was too hard for me….

–Psalm 73:16, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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We know why the titular character of the Book of Job suffered; a heavenly wager between God and his loyalty tester (the Satan) occurred in Chapters 1 and 2.  Alleged friends tormented Job by insisting (piously, from their perspective) that, since God is just, God does not permit the innocent to suffer, so Job must have sinned and therefore deserves his suffering and needs to confess and repent of his sins.  “For what?” Job replied repeatedly.  Along the way, from the point of view of the Book of Job, with its layers of authorship, Job and his alleged friends committed the same error; they presumed to know how God does and should work.

Jesus was about to suffer and die in Luke 22.  The cause of that suffering was not anything he had done wrong in the eyes of God.  Some years ago I heard Donald S. Armentrout advise reading the rest of the Bible through the lenses of the four Gospels.  He likened the Gospels to eyeglasses–the Gospel glasses.  From that point of view the suffering of Jesus has, among other things, reinforced the Book of Job in its refutation of Job’s alleged friends.

The caution against presuming to know more about God than we do remains also.  Humility before God is a virtue, is it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ABBOT OF GLASTONBURY AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ADVOCATE OF THE POOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/19/humility-sin-and-suffering/

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Devotion for Friday and Saturday Before Proper 24, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Herodian Temple with Antonia Fortress

Above:  The Herodian Temple and the Antonia Fortress

Image in the Public Domain

How Long, O Lord?

OCTOBER 15 and 16, 2021

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The Collect:

Sovereign God, you turn your greatness into goodness for all the peoples on earth.

Shape us into willing servants of your kingdom,

and make us desire always and only your will,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 47:1-9 (Friday)

Isaiah 47:10-15 (Saturday)

Psalm 91:9-16 (Both Days)

Revelation 17:1-18 (Friday)

Luke 22:24-30 (Saturday)

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In the Life of Brian (1979), a brilliant spoof of organized religion and of old-school Biblical movies, but not of Jesus or the Bible, Jewish Palestinian rebels meet to discuss how little the Roman Empire has done for them.  The partisans come up with a long list, however.  The scene is funny, but it does not constitute a defense of imperialism.  The fact is that imperialism can bring many benefits to the conquered and occupied populations, but a host of indignities and abuses accompanies the benefits.  For all the roads, schools, bridges, and aqueducts, living under occupation comes with a psychological burden.  This reality indicates that the main beneficiary of imperialism is the imperial power.

On a literal level Isaiah 47 condemns the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire and Revelation 17 does the same with regard to the Roman Empire.  In a broader sense, however, they condemn all authorities based on violence, oppression, and hubris.  Such authorities exist, as some always have at any given time.  Names, locations, and ideological foundations change, but such tyranny has never ceased to exist since the dawn of human governments.

Our Lord and Savior rejected the standards of these authorities.  They claim to be benefactors, he said, but they are not.  Jesus went on to propose a different standard of greatness:  service.

But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and are called benefactors.  But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves.  For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves?  Is it not the one at the table?  But I am among you as one who serves.

–Luke 22:25-27, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Psalm 91 seems too optimistic to me, for it speaks of the faithful finding deliverance (via God) from peril.  This happens sometimes and has occurred often, of course, but many of the faithful have become martyrs instead.  I think of the martyrs in Heaven in the Revelation of John asking “how long?”  Nevertheless, I affirm that God provides justice for the faithful eventually and that all violent regimes collapse in time–frequently too late for my taste, however.  That is an issue to take up with God faithfully, in the tradition of other Psalms and those martyrs from the Apocalypse of John.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/how-long-o-lord/

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Devotion for Wednesday and Thursday in Pentecost Week (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  Pieta, by Michelangelo Buonarroti

Numbers and Luke, Part XI:   Atonement

MAY 26 and 27, 2021

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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:

Numbers 23:4-28 (Wednesday)

Numbers 24:1-25 (Thursday)

Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning–Wednesday)

Psalm 97 (Morning–Thursday)

Psalms 1 and 33 (Evening–Wednesday)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening–Thursday)

Luke 22:47-71 (Wednesday)

Luke 23:1-25 (Thursday)

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How can I damn whom God has not damned,

How doom when the LORD has not doomed?

–Numbers 23:8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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It would have been nice (per Numbers 31:16) if Balaam had maintained that attitude.

Balaam, in Numbers 23 and 24, did as God instructed him, to King Balak’s dismay.  This was risky in the short term, I suppose, but the two merely parted company. Thus that part of the story ended.

Among my essential books is A Short History of Christian Thought, Revised and Expanded Edition (Oxford University Press, 1996), by Linwood Urban.  Father/Professor Urban’s volume is a wonderful resource for reading about Christian theological development.  These doctrines which we Christians affirm, refute, or discuss did not fall fully formed from Heaven.  No, theologians wrote and debated.  Bishops gathered at council and synods.  And, more often than not, they got it right.

Urban devotes a chapter to the doctrine of the Atonement.  He contextualizes it in Scripture and theology.  And he traces three understandings of the Atonement in the Bible and the writings of Church Fathers.  To summarize:

Reconciliation or atonement is said to be accomplished by the Incarnation itself, by the sacrificial death of Christ on Calvary, and by the conquest and defeat of the Devil.

–page 106

I recommend reading Urban’s chapter for full citations to the Bible and named Church Fathers.  These are matters of theological history.  Thus the existence of more than one ancient interpretation of the mechanics of the Atonement in Christian theology is a matter of objectively correct and confirmed history, not opinion.  As the late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, everybody is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts.

As for me, I grew up learning St. Anselm of Canterbury’s theory of Penal Substitutionary Atonement.  Jesus took my place on the cross, people told me.  This does not satisfy me, for it makes God seem like a vindictive thug.

I will not be satisfied until I see my son tortured and executed,

I imagine such a deity saying or thinking.  I recognize the Conquest of Satan theory in the Scriptures, and I hear echoes of the Incarnation-as-Atonement in the Gospels before their Passion narratives begin.  But we must come to terms with the death of Jesus.  That even played a vital role in the Atonement process.  Yet me must not stop there, for dead Jesus did not redeem us; resurrected Jesus did.

My conclusion follows:  The entire earthly life of Jesus was necessary for the Atonement to occur.  The Incarnation was vital, as were the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.  And Jesus was one whom God had neither damned nor doomed.  No, his death pointed out the futility and cruelty of scapegoating people.  And his Resurrection from the dead showed God’s power, which God had demonstrated many times.  Now and again, however, we mere mortals seem to need reminders.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 26, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEREMIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, ECUMENIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/numbers-and-luke-part-xi-atonement/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday in Pentecost Week (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Above:  Balaam and the Angel

Numbers and Luke, Part X:   Obedience to Our Sovereign God

MAY 24 and 25, 2021

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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:

Numbers 22:1-20 (Monday)

Numbers 22:21-23:3 (Tuesday)

Psalm 5 (Morning–Monday)

Psalm 42 (Morning–Tuesday)

Psalms 84 and 29 (Evening–Monday)

Psalms 102 and 133 (Evening–Tuesday)

Luke 22:1-23 (Monday)

Luke 22:24-46 (Tuesday)

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Parts of the readings from the Book of Numbers prove to be inconsistent with my Western and scientific worldview and mindset, which I have inherited from my post-Enlightenment culture.  What influence might one non-Israelite prophet’s curse have upon them?  And we all know that donkeys lack the capacity for human language.  But these details are trivial matters; the main point of the Balak and Balaam narrative is to affirm the sovereignty of God.  Balaam, hired to curse the Israelites on behalf of Balak, the King of Moab, disobeys God by setting with Balak’s agents.  The the prophet receives divine permission to continue on the journey but only to speak as God, not Balak wishes.

To digress briefly, who stops Balaam and his donkey in their tracks?  The narrative, in 22:22-26, uses a Hebrew term for “the adversary,” or the Satan.  The theology of Satan changed from the beginning of the Bible to the New Testament.  Here, in the Book of Numbers, as in the Book of Job, the Satan was an angel who worked for God.  Free agency, such as we see in the New Testament, came later.  This is a well-documented pattern of facts, one which serious study of the texts reveals.  There are even entire books on just this subject.

While I am wearing my higher criticism hat….

Luke 22:24-27, set immediately after our Lord’s betrayal by Judas Iscariot and the institution of the Holy Eucharist and the Last Supper, bears a striking resemblance to Matthew 20:25-28 and Mark 10:42-45, both of which follow on the heels of James and John, sons of Zebedee, asking for high status for themselves (or their mother, our Lord’s aunt, asking for them, depending on the account one reads) in the Kingdom of God.  And the passages from Matthew and Mark precede the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem almost immediately.  Such discrepancies did not trouble the Church Fathers who approved the New Testament canon, so I will not permit them to disturb me either.  Besides, I know that the Gospels are not documentaries.

Anyhow, the theme of obedience we find in Numbers 22 runs through Luke 22 also.  Jesus obeys God.  Those who defy the Greco-Roman system of age and patronage, a system which oppressed people while impressing them with moments of generosity, obey God.  Those who stand by Jesus obey God.  Even Judas Iscariot played his part in salvation history.  If nobody had betrayed Jesus, would he have suffered, died, and risen?  Again we see the sovereignty of God playing out in the texts.

Sometimes agents in these dramas of the sovereignty of God are less than savory characters.  Consider the Numbers and Luke readings for examples of this, O reader.  Balaam, for example, obeyed God until he did not; consult Numbers 31:16.  And, elsewhere in the Bible, the narrative presents the Assyrians and the Babylonians as agents of divine sovereignty and punishment–agents those texts also condemn.  The fact that you, O reader, and I have roles to play in divine plans does not necessarily bode well for us.  Yet may we be on God’s side.  It is better for us, and I propose that God prefers it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 26, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEREMIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, ECUMENIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/numbers-and-luke-part-x-obedience-to-our-sovereign-god/

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