Archive for the ‘Nehemiah 8’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 20, Year D (Humes)   2 comments

Above:  Ezra Preaches the Law

Image in the Public Domain

Two Kingdoms

SEPTEMBER 18, 2022

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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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Genesis 15:1-18 or Nehemiah 8:1-4a, 5-6, 8-10

Psalm 138

Revelation 12:1-12

John 11:45-57

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Some authors of certain books of the New Testament favored submission to earthly authority, namely the Roman Empire.  The treatment of the Roman Empire in Luke-Acts was politically deft, shifting blame from imperial officials to hostile Jews.  The greatest shift of blame from the Roman Empire to hostile Jews came in the Gospel of John, though.  (Read John 11:45-57, for example, O reader.)  The author (“John,” whoever he was) of Revelation spared no words regarding the Roman Empire, though.  He depicted that empire as being irredeemably evil.

The nature of apocalyptic literature is that most language is symbolic.  A literal reading, therefore, produces nonsense.  Revelation 12:1-12 contains references to pagan mythology and Jewish scripture, some of it mythological in genre.  Without getting lost in the mythological weeds (something easy to do), I cut to the chase.  The Roman Empire was evil.  God was going to destroy it.

This reading raises two question I will address:

  1. How to relate to evil; and
  2. How to relate to God.

First, never submit to evil.  Resist it always.  (That was quick.)

Second, trust God, who is faithful.  In the full Biblical sense, to believe in God is to trust in God.  We mere mortals can trust God, who has established covenants and given the Law of Moses.  Rules matter; they provide definition to generalizations.  What does “love your neighbor” mean, in practical terms?  That is just one example of how laws (many of them bound by time and circumstances) flesh out timeless principles in the Law of Moses.

I write this blog post during troublesome times on Planet Earth.  I write this blog post during perilous times in the United States of America.  I write this blog post eighteen days after Donald Trump, then the President of the United States, sent a mob of domestic terrorists to assault the Capitol Building and endanger the lives of the Vice President, the members of both houses of Congress, their staffers, and Capitol Police officers.  I write this blog post eighteen days after five people died in that insurrection.  I write this blog post four days after United States military personnel had to guard the Capitol grounds for the inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden.  I write this post as some members of the Republican Party continue to doubt the legitimacy of the presidential election of 2020.  Some even go so far as to claim that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who died on March 5, 2013, participated in a plot to rig the American presidential election of 2020.  I write this blog post in a political climate in which even objective reality is a matter of dispute, and some people claim, with straight faces, that a man dead for nearly seven years rigged or helped to rig the U.S. presidential election, and Trump is a savior figure who will deliver the nation from Deep State Democrats who are pedophiles who drink the blood of children. 

Authoritarianism is on the rise in the United States.  Much of the “Religious Right” supports an authoritarian, even theocratic agenda.  Authoritarianism is a form of evil.  Resistance is the only morally justifiable response to it.

God will win in the end.  That is one message of Revelation 12:1-12.  Yet we mere mortals do not live in the end times.  No, we live in the in-between times.  We live between the writing of the prophecy and the fulfillment of it.  And we have moral obligations, which accompany the covenant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 24, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF THE ORDINATION OF FLORENCE LI-TIM-OI, FIRST FEMALE PRIEST IN THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION

THE FEAST OF GEORGE A. BUTTRICK, ANGLO-AMERICAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND HIS SON, DAVID G. BUTTRICK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEN UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIE POUSSEPIN, FOUNDRESS OF THE DOMINICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE VIRGIN

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF PODLASIE, 1874

THE FEAST OF SAINT SURANUS OF SORA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MARTYR, 580

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/24/two-kingdoms-iv/

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Devotion for Proper 19, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Tear Ducts

Image in the Public Domain

The Tears of the Christ

SEPTEMBER 11, 2022

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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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Genesis 13:1-16 or Ezra 1:1-7; 3:8-13

Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26

Revelation 7:9-17

John 11:1-3. 16-44

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Jesus wept.

–John 11:35, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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They will never hunger or thirst again; neither the sun nor scorching wind will ever plague them because the Lamb who is at the throne will be their shepherd and will lead them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away all tears like their eyes.

–Revelation 7:16-17, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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I could take so many paths through the assigned readings for this week.  These readings are rich texts.  I will take just one path, however.

Before I do, here are a few notes:

  1. Abraham waited for God to tell him which land to claim.  Abraham chose well.
  2. Lot chose land on his own.  He chose poorly.  However, at the time he seemed to have chosen wisely; he selected fertile land.
  3. I agree with Psalm 136.  Divine mercy does endure forever.
  4. The chronology of the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah weaves in and out of those books.  I know, for I blogged my way through them in chronological order at BLOGA THEOLOGICA last year.

For the record, the chronological reading order of Ezra-Nehemiah follows:

  1. Ezra 1:1-2:70; Nehemiah 7:6-73a;
  2. Ezra 3:1-4:5;
  3. Ezra 5:1-6:22;
  4. Ezra 4:6-24;
  5. Nehemiah 1:1-2:20;
  6. Nehemiah 3:1-4:17;
  7. Nehemiah 5:1-19;
  8. Nehemiah 6:1-7:5;
  9. Nehemiah 11:1-12:47;
  10. Nehemiah 13:1-31;
  11. Nehemiah 9:38-10:39;
  12. Ezra 7:1-10:44; and
  13. Nehemiah 7:73b-9:38.

I take my lead in this post from the New Testament readings.  Tears are prominent in both of them.  Tears are on my mind during the COVID-19 pandemic.  They are also on my mind as I continue to mourn the violent death of my beloved.  Her departure from this side of the veil of tears has left me shaken and as forever changed me.

The full divinity and full humanity of Jesus are on display in John 11.  We read that Jesus wept over the death of his friend, St. Lazarus of Bethany.  We also read of other people mourning and weeping in the immediate area.  We may not pay much attention to that.  We may tell ourselves, “Of course, they grieved and wept.”  But two words–“Jesus wept”–remain prominent.

There is a scene in The Gospel According to Saint Matthew (1964) that fits this theme.  At the time, Hollywood studios had recently released technicolor movies about a Jesus who had no tear ducts yet had an impressive command of Elizabethan English while resembling a Northern European.  Yet Pier Paolo Pasolini, who committed about half of the Gospel of Matthew to film, presented a Jesus who had tear ducts.  Immediately after the off-camera decapitation of St. John the Baptist, the next shot was a focus on Christ’s face.  He was crying.  So were the men standing in front of him.

Jesus wept.

We weep.  Jesus weeps with us until the day God will wipe away all tears of those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 23, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE ALMSGIVER, PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES KINGSLEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST, NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD GRUBB, ENGLISH QUAKER AUTHOR, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES D. SMART, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF PHILLIPS BROOKS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MASSACHUSETTS, AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/23/the-tears-of-the-christ/

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Devotion for September 22, 23, and 24 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Esdras-Ezra

Above:  Ezra

Image in the Public Domain

Nehemiah and 1 Timothy, Part IV:  Performing Good Deeds at Every Opportunity

SEPTEMBER 22-24, 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:

Nehemiah 7:1-4 (September 22)

Nehemiah 8:1-18 (September 22)

Nehemiah 9:1-21 (September 23)

Nehemiah 9:22-38 (September 24–Protestant Versification)

Nehemiah 9:22-10:1 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Versification)

Psalm 67 (Morning–September 22)

Psalm 51 (Morning–September 23)

Psalm 54 (Morning–September 24)

Psalms 46 and 93 (Evening–September 22)

Psalms 85 and 47 (Evening–September 23)

Psalms 28 and 99 (Evening–September 24)

1 Timothy 5:1-16 (September 22)

1 Timothy 5:17-6:2 (September 23)

1 Timothy 6:3-21 (September 24)

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The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

–Psalm 51:18, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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These days’ readings speak of lamenting sins and of vowing to reform errant ways.  They also offer culturally specific advice as to how to do the latter.  I, as a Christian, do not follow the Law of Moses, for Jesus has fulfilled the Law.  And I read 1 Timothy 5-6, my jaw dropping because of the sexism and the failure to condemn slavery.  I, when pondering Old and New Testament moral advice, find the following statements helpful:

Identifying general principles is important because the real purpose of the Law is to inculcate general principles and values and to apply them in specific instances.  This is done by stating general principles and by illustrating, with specific examples, how general principles can be applied in specific cases.

–Richard Bauckham, The Bible in Politics:  How to Read the Bible Politically, 2d. Ed. (Louisville, KY:  Westminster/John Knox Press, 2011, pages 24-25)

The best moral advice I have located in these days’ readings is to preform good deeds

at every opportunity.

–1 Timothy 5:10d, The Revised English Bible

What that looks like depends on the opportunities.  May we focus on that principle and not become bogged down in legalistic details.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 17, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DANIEL SYLVESTER TUTTLE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY EUPHRASIA PELLETIER, FOUNDER OF THE CONTEMPLATIVES OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD

THE FEAST OF PARDITA MARY RAMABAI, SOCIAL REFORMER IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERT OF CHAISE DIEU, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/nehemiah-and-1-timothy-part-iv-performing-good-deeds-at-every-opportunity/

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Week of Proper 21: Thursday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:  Ezra

The Joy of Forgiveness

SEPTEMBER 30, 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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Nehemiah 8:1-12 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

When the seventh month arrived–the Israelites being [settled] in their towns–the entire people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the scroll of the Teaching of Moses with which the LORD had charged Israel.  On the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the high priest brought the Teaching before the congregation, men and women and all who could listen with understanding.  He read from it, facing the square before the Water Gate, from the first light until midday, to the men and the women and those who could understand; the ears of all the people were given to the scroll of the Teaching.

Ezra the scribe stood upon a wooden tower made for the purpose, and beside hm stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah at his right, and at his left Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, Meshullam.  Ezra opened the scroll in the sight of all the people; the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people; as he opened it, all the people stood up.  Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” with hands upraised.  Then they bowed their hands and prostrated themselves before the LORD with their faces to the ground.  Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites explained the Teaching to the people, while the people stood in their places.  They read from the scroll of the Teaching of God, translating it and giving the sense; so they understood the reading.

Nehemiah the Tirshatha, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites, who were explaining to the people said to all the people,

This day is holy to the LORD your God:  you must not mourn or weep,

for all the people were weeping as they listened to the words of the Teaching.  He further said to them,

Go, eat choice foods and drink sweet drinks and send portions to whoever has nothing prepared, for the day is holy to our Lord.  Do not be sad, for your rejoicing in the LORD is the source of your strength.

The Levites were quieting the people, saying,

Hush, for the day is holy; do not be sad.

Then all the people went to eat and drink and send portions and make great merriment, for they understood the things they were told.

Psalm 119:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Happy are they whose way is blameless,

who walk in the law of the LORD!

2  Happy are they who observe his decrees

and seek him with all their hearts!

3  Who never do any wrong,

but always walk in his ways.

4  You laid down your commandments,

that we should fully keep them.

5  Oh, that my ways were made so direct

that I might keep your statutes!

6  Then I should not be put to shame,

when I regard all your commandments.

7  I will thank you with an unfeigned heart,

when I have learned your righteous judgments.

8  I will keep your statutes;

do not utterly forsake me.

Luke 10:1-12 (The Jerusalem Bible):

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself wast to visit.  He said to them,

The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.  Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.  Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals.  Salute no one on the road.  Whatever you house go into, let your first words be, “Peace be to this house!”  And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you.  Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house.  Whenever you go into a town when they make you welcome, eat what is set before you.  Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near you.”  But whenever you enter a town and they do not make you welcome, go out into its streets and say, “We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave it with you.  Yet be sure of this:  the kingdom of God is very near.”  I tell you, on that day it will not go as hard with Sodom as with that town.

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The Collect:

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; 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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The reading from Nehemiah is, at least in The Episcopal Church, one of those readings one might dread when it appears in the lectionary.  Why did so many Biblical parents insist on such difficult-to-pronounce names?  Why did they not name a son Bob or Harry?  For liturgical reading, at least, there is an easy fix, which is slight rewording of the text to avoid having to read all those name.  For example:  “Ezra the scribe stood upon a wooden tower made for the purpose, and he stood in the middle of a group of men.”  Now the lector can move along to the main point of the passage without tripping his or her tongue on polysyllabic names.

The main point is this:  The Jews in Jerusalem had sinned out of ignorance.  But, when they learned of their sins, they repented.  Ezra told them to focus on the future and to live faithfully from now on, not to berate themselves for prior errors.  How were they to know how to live unless someone had told them?  But, now that they knew, they were responsible.  They ought to live faithfully and joyfully in God, who had provided this law for them and forgiven them.

The fact remains that many people do not know of the God of the Bible because of time, geography, and the fact that nobody has informed them yet.  What about them?  I propose that the best answer to this question comes from Paragraph 1281 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition (1997):

Those who die for the faith, those who are catechumens, and all those who, without knowing of the Church but acting under the inspiration of grace, seek God sincerely and strive to fulfill his will, can be saved even if they have not been baptized.

Grace goes where it will, regardless of what we humans think about that.

As much as there is forgiveness, there is also judgment.  Often they coexist within the same passage of scripture.  Consider the lesson from Luke.  The Synoptic Gospels tell virtually identical stories of Jesus sending the Twelve Apostles out on a preaching mission.  Here in Luke, however, Jesus also sends out the newly-minted seventy-two disciples for a similar purpose.  They will face rejection, Jesus knows.  He tells them to leave places where this happens and to leave the rest to God.

God, of course, judges, but also forgives us and continues to seek us.  So only God and a person really know what goes on between God and him or her.  The rest of us ought not to judge, not that this stops us sometimes.

I write these words on Good Friday 2011, so I give special attention to our Lord and Savior’s prayer for those who executed him and who looked on.  “Forgive them,” he said, ” for they do not know what they are doing.”  What we do to each other in ignorance can be devastating, but it lies within the range of forgiveness.

Perhaps the best way to close this devotion is to quote a prayer from a Rosh Hashanah service, courtesy of Gates of Repentance:  The New Union Prayerbook for the Days of Awe (New York, NY:  Central Conference of American Rabbis, 1978), page 371.  This seems appropriate because The Jewish Study Bible informs me that the gathering in Nehemiah 8 occurred on a date known later as Rosh Hashanah.

Lord, we are not so arrogant as to pretend

that the trial of our lives

does not reveal our flaws.

We know ourselves,

in this moment of prayer,

to have failed

the ones we love and the stranger,

again and again.

We know how often

we did not bring to the surface of our lives

the hidden goodness within.

Where we have achieved, O Lord,

we are grateful;

where we have failed,

we ask forgiveness.

Remember how exposed we are

to the chances and terrors of life.

We were afraid.

We sometimes chose to fail.

And we ask:

Turn our thoughts from the hurt to its remedy.

Free us from the torments of guilt.

Forgiven, O Lord, we shall then forgive others;

failing, we shall learn to understand failure;

renewed and encouraged, we shall strive to be like

those who came before us:  human.

Sinners sometimes, yet a blessing.

Amen.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/the-joy-of-forgiveness/