Archive for the ‘Psalm 124’ Tag

Devotion for Wednesday After Trinity Sunday, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Flood

Above:   Flood, 1924

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-npcc-11224

Grace and Misfortune

JUNE 19, 2019

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The Collect:

God of heaven and earth, before the foundation of the universe

and the beginning of time you are the triune God:

Author of creation, eternal Word of salvation, life-giving Spirit of wisdom.

Guide is to all truth by your Spirit, that we may

proclaim all that Christ has revealed and rejoice in the glory he shares with us.

Glory and praise to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 1:1-21

Psalm 124

Luke 1:46b-55

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…our help is in the name of Yahweh,

who made heaven and earth.

–Psalm 124:8, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The theme of divine favor unites the readings for this day.  Daniel and his companions obey kosher food laws in a foreign land.  They are therefore healthier than they would have been otherwise.  They also gain the favor of a Gentile potentate.  Of course, their fidelity pleases God.  Psalm 124 thanks God for delivering the people from threats.  One might note that the Assyrian and Babylonian Exiles still occurred, of course.  Nothing in Psalm 124 denies the reality of both divine judgment and mercy, however.  And the Magnificat speaks of God’s favor for St. Mary (later of Nazareth) and the downtrodden.  The theme of the reversal of fortune, which is prominent in the Gospel of Luke, is on display in the passage from chapter 1.

I have learned the hard way that certain misfortunes come simply because one has breath.  Sometimes one is merely unfortunate–even in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Even then one is never alone, for God is ever-present.  Grace transforms unfortunate circumstances into occasions of abundant grace.  Even as one suffers God sets a table for one cup in the presence of one’s enemies, and one’s cup overflows.  One can, during times of adversity, speak as the author of Psalm 124 wrote:

Then water was washing us away,

a torrent running over us;

running right over us then

were turbulent waters.

Blessed be Yahweh for not letting us fall

a prey to their teeth!

–Verses 4-6, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Here ends the lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 26, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EMILY MALBONE MORGAN, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF THE COMPANIONS OF THE HOLY CROSS

THE FEAST OF FRED ROGERS, EDUCATOR AND U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/02/26/grace-and-misfortune/

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Devotion for Tuesday After Trinity Sunday, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Light bulb in darkness

Above:   Lightbulb in Darkness

Image in the Public Domain

The Light of Christ

JUNE 18, 2019

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The Collect:

God of heaven and earth, before the foundation of the universe

and the beginning of time you are the triune God:

Author of creation, eternal Word of salvation, life-giving Spirit of wisdom.

Guide is to all truth by your Spirit, that we may

proclaim all that Christ has revealed and rejoice in the glory he shares with us.

Glory and praise to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 8:4-21

Psalm 124

Ephesians 5:15-20

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If Yahweh had not been on our side

–let Israel repeat it–

if Yahweh had not been on our side

when people attacked us,

they would have swallowed us alive

in the heat of their anger.

–Psalm 124:1-3, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The wisdom literature of the Old Testament identifies the power of God as masculine and the wisdom of God as feminine.  Thus, for example, we read Psalm 124, in which God has delivered Israel, and Proverbs 8, in which Lady Wisdom (Sophia) offers spiritual discipline more valuable than gold or rubies.  Spiritual discipline is also the theme of Ephesians 5:15-20.  Be filled with God; do not be drunk, it says.

The context of that passage is the renunciation of pagan ways.  Christianity was a young and small religion, and was still a school of Judaism.  The author’s concern in the passage was that Ephesian Christians behave themselves–be good examples.  This entailed curtailing certain appetites and resisting temptations.

That can prove difficult to do in any time and at any place.  Indeed, I think of a cocktail napkin I saw years ago.  It read,

LEAD ME NOT INTO TEMPTATION.  I CAN FIND MY OWN WAY.

My own temptations keep me busy.  Among my spiritual difficulties is the fact that, quite often, virtues and vices resemble each other.  I know well that resolving to do the right thing is easy, but succeeding is frequently challenging.  Fortunately, God knows that I, like my fellow human beings, am dust, and grace is abundantly available.

In some ways my cultural context is similar to that of Ephesians 5.  Christianity is old, not new, but, in the Western world, it is increasingly in the position of occupying minority status.  In the United States, for example, the fastest-growing religious category is “none.”  Some people are overtly hostile to religion; Reza Aslan calls them antitheists, a category distinct from atheists.  Some adherents of other religions are openly hostile to Christianity.  In such contexts the advice from Ephesians 5:15-20 proves especially helpful.  May the light of Christ shine through us who identify as Christians.  May it scatter the darkness of ignorance and antipathy.  May we, by grace, comport ourselves in a manner worthy of Christ, our Master.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 26, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EMILY MALBONE MORGAN, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF THE COMPANIONS OF THE HOLY CROSS

THE FEAST OF FRED ROGERS, EDUCATOR AND U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/02/26/the-light-of-christ/

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Devotion for Monday After Trinity Sunday, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Apples

Above:   Apples, Currier & Ives, 1868

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC2-3226

Free to Love in God

JUNE 17, 2019

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The Collect:

God of heaven and earth, before the foundation of the universe

and the beginning of time you are the triune God:

Author of creation, eternal Word of salvation, life-giving Spirit of wisdom.

Guide is to all truth by your Spirit, that we may

proclaim all that Christ has revealed and rejoice in the glory he shares with us.

Glory and praise to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 7:1-4

Psalm 124

Ephesians 4:7-16

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…our help is in the name of Yahweh,

who made heaven and earth.

–Psalm 124:8, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The main two lections for this day urge the readers to heed God’s wisdom.  Proverbs 7 uses the imagery of binding divine decrees to one’s fingers and writing them on the tablet of one’s heart, even identifying Wisdom as one’s sister and Understanding as one’s kinswoman.  We read in Galatians that St. Paul the Apostle had become vexed by the influence of Judaizers and the willingness of many Christians in that city to heed their words, not his.  They had surrendered their freedom in Christ, the Apostle insisted.  Even keeping the Jewish liturgical calendar was too much for St. Paul.

I, as a historian of religion, know that the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (the old “Southern Presbyterian Church”) of 1899 passed a resolution condemning the religious observance of Christmas and Easter.  I found the text of that resolution on page 430 the journal of that General Assembly:

There us no warrant for the observance of Christmas and Easter as holy days, but rather contrary (see Galatians iv. 9-11; Colossians ii. 16-21), and such observance is contrary to the principles of the Reformed faith, conducive to will-worship, and not in harmony with the simplicity of gospel in Jesus Christ.

I also denounce any such interpretation of that verse, for the rhythms of the liturgical year facilitate my spiritual life and define my three lectionary-based weblogs, including this one.  To focus in Galatians 4:10 outside of its textual, cultural, and historical contexts is to miss the point.

The point is that we, through Christ, are heirs of and members of the household of God.  We are free to love God, love each other in God, and glorify God.  We are free to knock down, not erect, artificial barriers to God–barriers which people have created and maintained for their own purposes, not those of God.  We are free to include those whom God includes, not to exclude them wrongly.  (The wrongly excluded in Galatians 4 were Gentiles.)  We are free to root our identity in God (in whom is our help) alone, not in the fact that we are not like those other people we dislike so much.

That is a teaching I am comfortable calling the apple of my eye.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 26, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EMILY MALBONE MORGAN, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF THE COMPANIONS OF THE HOLY CROSS

THE FEAST OF FRED ROGERS, EDUCATOR AND U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/02/26/free-to-love-in-god/

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Proper 21, Year B   12 comments

Above:  Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Responsibility for Others

The Sunday Closest to September 28

The Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost

SEPTEMBER 30, 2018

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22 (New Revised Standard Version):

The king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther. On the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther,

What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.

Then Queen Esther answered,

If I have won your favor, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me– that is my petition– and the lives of my people– that is my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the king.

Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther,

Who is he, and where is he, who has presumed to do this?” Esther said, “A foe and enemy, this wicked Haman!

Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen.

Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said,

Look, the very gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, stands at Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.

And the king said,

Hang him on that.

So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the anger of the king abated.

Mordecai recorded these things, and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, enjoining them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same month, year by year, as the days on which the Jews gained relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and presents to the poor.

Psalm 124 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

If the LORD had not been on our side,

let Israel now say;

If the LORD had not been on our side,

when enemies rose up against us;

Then would they have swallowed us up alive

in their fierce anger toward us;

Then the waters would have overwhelmed us

and the torrent gone over us;

Then would the raging waters

have gone over us.

6 Blessed be the LORD!

he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler;

the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

Our help is in the Name of the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29 (New Revised Standard Version):

The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said,

If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.

Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, all at the entrances of their tents. Then the LORD became very angry, and Moses was displeased. So Moses said to the LORD,

Why have you treated your servant so badly? Why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give birth to them, that you should say to me, “Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a sucking child,” to the land that you promised on oath to their ancestors? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they come weeping to me and say, “Give us meat to eat!” I am not able to carry all this people alone, for they are too heavy for me. If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once–if I have found favor in your sight–and do not let me see my misery.

So the LORD said to Moses,

Gather for me seventy of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tent of meeting, and have them take their place there with you.

So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.

Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses,

Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.

And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said,

My lord Moses, stop them!

But Moses said to him,

Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!

Psalm 19:7-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever,

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends?

cleanse me from my secret faults?

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;

let them not get dominion over me;

then shall I be whole and sound,

and innocent of a great offense.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

SECOND READING

James 5:13-20 (Revised English Bible):

Is anyone among you in trouble?  Let him pray.  Is anyone in good heart?  Let him sing praises.  Is one of you ill?  Let him send for the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord; the prayer offered in faith will heal the sick man, the Lord will restore him to health, and if he has committed sins they will be forgiven.  Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  A good man’s prayer is very powerful and effective.  Elijah was a man just like us; yet when he prayed fervently that there should be no rain, the land had no rain for three and a half years; when he prayed again, the rain poured down and the land bore crops once more.

My friends, if one of you strays from the truth and another succeeds in bringing him back, you may be sure of this:  the one who brings a sinner back from his erring ways will be rescuing a soul from death and cancelling a multitude of sins.

GOSPEL READING

Mark 9:38-41 (Revised English Bible):

John said to him,

Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and as he was not one of us, we tried to stop him.

Jesus said,

Do not stop him, for no one who performs a miracle in my name will be able the next moment to speak evil of me.  He is not against us is on our side.  Truly I tell you:  whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you are followers of the Messiah will certainly not go unrewarded.

If anyone causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck.  If your hand causes your downfall, cut if off; it is better for you to enter into life maimed than to keep both hands and go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.  If your foot causes your downfall, cut if off; it is better to enter into life crippled than to keep both your feet  and be thrown into hell.  And if your eye causes your downfall, tear it out; it is better to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than to keep both eyes and be thrown into hell, where the devouring worm never dies and the fire is never quenched.

Everyone will be salted with fire.

Salt is good; but if the salt loses its saltness, how will you season it?

You must have salt within yourselves, and be at peace with one another.

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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Some Related Posts:

Proper 21, Year A:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/15/proper-21-year-a/

Numbers 11:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/17/week-of-proper-13-monday-year-1/

James 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/week-of-7-epiphany-saturday-year-2/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/week-of-proper-2-saturday-year-2/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-2-wednesday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-2-thursday-year-1/

Mark 9:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/week-of-7-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/week-of-7-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

Luke 17 (Parallel to Mark 9):

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/week-of-proper-27-monday-year-1/

For the Canadian Federal Election (2011):

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/for-the-canadian-federal-election-2011/

For the Prime Minister of Japan:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/for-the-prime-minister-of-japan/

O Canada!:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/10/23/o-canada/

For the President and Prime Minister of France:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/10/15/for-the-president-and-the-prime-minister-of-france/

For the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/10/15/for-the-prime-minister-of-the-united-kingdom-of-great-britain-and-northern-ireland/

For the President of the United States and All in Civil Authority:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/13/for-the-president-of-the-united-states-and-all-in-civil-authority/

For the Prime Minister of Canada:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/13/for-the-prime-minister-of-canada/

Thanksgiving for New Zealand:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/08/thanksgiving-for-new-zealand/

For Canada:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/for-canada/

God Save the Queen/King:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/god-save-the-queenking/

Jerusalem:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/01/jerusalem-by-william-blake/

A Prayer for Those Who Influence Public Opinion:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-prayer-for-those-who-influence-opinion/

A Prayer for Proper Priorities:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/a-prayer-for-proper-priorities/

A Prayer for All Who Seek or Hold Public Office in Any Land at Any Time:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/13/for-all-who-seek-or-hold-public-office-in-any-land-at-any-time/

A Prayer to Embrace Love, Empathy, and Compassion, and to Eschew Hatred, Invective, and Willful Ignorance:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/13/for-all-who-seek-or-hold-public-office-in-any-land-at-any-time/

A Prayer for Shalom:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-prayer-for-shalom/

Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/06/26/where-cross-the-crowded-ways-of-life/

O Lord, You Gave Your Servant John:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/o-lord-you-gave-your-servant-john/

Prayers for Cities, Neighborhoods, Communities, and Those Who Serve Them:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/o-lord-you-gave-your-servant-john/

God Bless Our Native Land:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/god-bless-our-native-land/

A Prayer for Our Country:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-prayer-for-our-country/

Independence Day (U.S.A.):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2009/10/18/independence-day-july-4/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/independence-day-u-s-a-july-4/

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We are responsible for ourselves and for others.  That is the theme which unifies the readings for Proper 21, Year B.

We begin with the options for the first reading. Haman had plotted to destroy the Jews, and had seemed to be near achieving success.  Yet the intervention–at the risk of her own life–of Queen Esther foiled Haman’s evil plans.  And what about Numbers 11?  Israelites, bored with the monotony of manna (probably crystalized insect excrement), complained about the lack of meat.  If one reads more than the assigned portions of this chapter, one finds that they got meat until they stood hip-deep in quails.  As some grammatically-challenged people might have said,

That’ll learn ’em.

In the meantime, Moses complained to God that the burden of leadership was too heavy for him to bear alone.  So he got a council of seventy elders to help.  One moral of the story, I suppose, is to be careful about one’s complaints to God.

James and Jesus, the latter in Mark, remind us in positive and negative terms of the principle that we are responsible for each other spiritually.  And, in Mark, we read some hyperbolic language about removing one’s own stumbling blocks.  Our Lord did not advocate mutilation.  Rather, the principle is simple and not unique to Mark 9:  Whatever stands between you and God, get rid of it.  Besides, how can you avoid being a stumbling block to others if you are so severely spiritually errant?  Can the blind lead the blind to safety?  What we do affects others.  What we do not do affects others.

May we act responsible, whether alone or collectively.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/responsibility-for-others/

Week of Proper 13: Friday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 13: Saturday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  Habakkuk

God is Sufficient

AUGUST 7 and 8, 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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FIRST READING FOR FRIDAY

Nahum 2:1-3 and 3:1-7 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

(YHWH speaking)

Behold on the hills

The footsteps of a herald

Announcing good fortune!

A shatterer has come up against you.

Man the guard posts,

Watch the road;

Steady your loins,

Brace all your strength!

For the LORD has restored the Pride of Jacob

As well as the Pride of Israel,

Though marauders have laid them waste

And ravaged their branches.

Ah, city of crime,

Utterly treacherous,

Full of violence,

Where killing never stops!

Crack of whip

And rattle of wheel,

Galloping steed

And bounding chariot!

Charging horsemen,

Flashing swords,

And glittering spears!

Hosts of slain

And heaps of corpses,

Dead bodies without number–

They stumble over bodies.

Because of the countless harlotries of the harlot,

The winsome mistress of sorcery,

Who ensnared nations with her harlotries

And peoples with her sorcery,

I am going to deal with you

–declares the LORD of Hosts.

I will lift up your skirts over your face

And display your nakedness to the nations

And your shame to kingdoms.

I will throw loathsome things over you

And disfigure you

And make a spectacle of you.

All who see you will recoil from you

And will say,

“Nineveh has been ravaged!”

Who will console her?

Where shall I look for

Anyone to comfort you?

FIRST READING FOR SATURDAY

Habakkuk 1:12-2:4 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

(Habakkuk speaking)

You, O LORD, are from everlasting;

My holy God, You never die.

O LORD, You have made them a subject of contention;

O Rock, You have made them a cause for complaint.

You whose eyes are too pure to look upon evil,

Who cannot countenance wrongdoing,

Why do You countenance treachery,

And stand by idle

While the one in the wrong devours

The one in the right?

You have made mankind like the fish of the sea,

Like creeping things that have no ruler.

He has fished them all up with a line,

Pulled them up in his trawl,

And gathered them in his net.

That is why he rejoices and is glad.

That is why he sacrifices in his trawl

And makes offerings to his net;

For through them his portion is rich

And his nourishment fat.

Shall he then keep emptying his trawl,

And slaying nations without pity?

I will stand on my watch,

Take up my station at the post,

And wait to see what He will say tome,

What He will reply to my complaint.

The LORD answered me and said:

Write the prophecy down,

Inscribe it clearly on tablets,

So that it can be read easily.

For there is yet a prophecy for a set term,

A truthful witness for a time that will come.

Even if it tarries, wait for it still;

For it will surely come, without delay:

Lo his spirit within him is puffed up, not upright,

But he righteous man is rewarded with life

For his fidelity….

RESPONSE FOR FRIDAY

Psalm 124 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

If the LORD had not been on our side,

let Israel now say;

If the LORD had not been on our side,

when enemies rose up against us;

Then would they have swallowed us up alive

in their fierce anger toward us;

Then the waters would have overwhelmed us

and the torrent gone over us;

Then would the raging waters

have gone over us.

6 Blessed be the LORD!

he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler;

the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

Our help is in the Name of the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

RESPONSE FOR SATURDAY

Psalm 9:7-12 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7  But the LORD is enthroned for ever;

he has set up his throne for judgment.

8  It is he who rules the world with righteousness;

he judges the peoples with equity.

9  The LORD will be a refuge for the oppressed,

a refuge in time of trouble.

10  Those who know your Name will put their trust in you,

for you never forsake those who seek you, O LORD.

11  Sing praise to the LORD who dwells in Zion;

proclaim to the peoples the things he has done.

12  The Avenger of blood will remember them;

he will not forget the cry of the afflicted.

GOSPEL READING FOR FRIDAY

Matthew 16:24-28 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Jesus said to his disciples,

If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps he must give up all right to himself, take up his cross and follow me.  For the man who wants to save his life will lose it; but the man who loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what good is it for a man to gain the whole world at the price of his real life?  What could a man offer to buy back that life once he has lost it?

For the Son of Man will come in the glory of his Father and in the company of his angels and then he will repay every man for what he has done.  Believe me, there are some standing here today who will know nothing of death till they have seen the Son of Man coming as king.

GOSPEL READING FOR SATURDAY

Matthew 17:14-20 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

When they returned to the crowd again a man came and knelt in front of Jesus.

Lord, have pity on my son,

he said,

for he is a lunatic and suffers terribly.  He is always falling into the fire or into the water.  I did bring him to your disciples but they couldn’t cure him.

Jesus returned,

You really are an unbelieving and difficult people.  How long must I be with you, and how long must I put up with you?  Bring him here to me!

Then Jesus spoke sternly to the evil spirit and it went out of the boy, who was cured from that moment.

Afterwards the disciples approached Jesus privately and asked,

Why weren’t we able to get rid of it?

Jesus replied

Because you have so little faith.  I assure you that if you have faith the size of a mustard-seed you can say to this hill, ‘Up you get and move over there!” and it will move–and you will find nothing is impossible.

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The Collect:

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; 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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For a while now I have been reading and writing a series of lessons from the theologically-oriented histories and from certain prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible.  Some themes have repeated in the arrangement of texts, in close proximity to each other, so I have run out of new things to say, hence my more frequent practice of combining texts from two consecutive days.  The Canadian Anglican lectionary I am following will move along to Ezekiel next, before returning to the Pauline epistles for the first reading.  I will welcome new and different material, for variety is the spice of life, especially with regard to the Bible.

We read in Nahum that God will destroy the foreign powers who impose exile on the ancient Jews.  And God, we read, is with the humble, not the puffed up.  And Jesus tells each of us to take up his or her cross and follow him, and to focus primarily on spiritual matters, not temporal pursuits.  Furthermore, we read, we need not have much faith, but we ought not have too little of it.  We must, above all, have the proper orientation–toward God.

Certain themes repeat in the Bible.  A few of them follow:

  1. God dislikes haughtiness.
  2. God likes humility.
  3. Obedience to God leads to suffering sometimes.
  4. Disobedience to God leads to suffering sometimes.
  5. God can use our few resources to great effect.

May we walk humbly with God, trusting God to be sufficient.  This difficult much of the time for many of us.  We fret because we do not know and because we know this be true.  Planning becomes impossible after a point, and panic can set in.  Yet God is more faithful than we can imagine.  So may we walk humbly with God, trusting God to be sufficient.

KRT

Week of Proper 28: Saturday, Year 1   11 comments

Above:  A Map Showing the Seleucid Empire

Image in the Public Domain

The End of Antiochus IV Epiphanes

NOVEMBER 20, 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 6:1-17 (Revised English Bible):

As King Antiochus made his way through the upper provinces heard there was a city, Elymais, famous for its wealth in silver and gold.  Its temple was very rich, full of gold shields, coats of mail, and weapons left there by Philip’s son Alexander, king of Macedon and the first to be king over the Greeks.  Antiochus came to that city, but in his attempt to take and plunder it he was unsuccessful because his plan had become known to the citizens.  They gave battle and drove him off; in bitter resentment he withdrew towards Babylon.

In Persia a messenger brought him the news that the armies which had invaded Judaea had suffered defeat, and that Lysias, who had marched up with an exceptionally strong force, had been flung back into open battle.  Further, the strength of the Jews had increased through the capture of weapons, equipment, and spoil in plenty from the armies they destroyed; they had pulled down the abomination built by him on the altar in Jerusalem and surrounded their temple with high walls as before; they had even fortified Bethsura, his city.

The king was dismayed and so sorely shaken by this report that he took to his bed, ill with grief at the miscarriage of his plans.  There he lay for many days, overcome again and again by bitter grief, and he realized that he was dying.  He summoned all his Friends and said:

Sleep has summoned me; the weight of care has broken my heart.  At first I asked myself:  Why am I engulfed in this sea of troubles, I who was kind and well loved in  the day of my power?  But now I recall the wrong I did in Jerusalem:  I carried off all the vessels of silver and gold that were there, and with no justification sent armies to wipe out the inhabitants of Judaea.  I know that is why these misfortunes have come upon me; and here I am, dying of bitter grief in a foreign land.

He summoned Philip, one of his Friends, and appointed him regent over his whole empire, giving him the crown, his royal robe, and the signet ring, with authority to bring up his son Antiochus and train him for the throne.  King Antiochus died in Persia in the year 149 [163 B.C.E.].

When Lysias learnt that the king was dead, he placed on the throne in succession to his father the young Antiochus, whom he had trained from boyhood, and he gave him the name Eupator.

Psalm 124 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 If the LORD had not been on our side,

let Israel now say,

If the LORD had not been on our side,

when enemies rose up against us;

3 Then they would have swallowed us up alive

in their fierce anger toward us;

Then would the waters have overwhelmed us

and the torrent gone over us;

5 Then would the raging waters

have gone right over us.

6 Blessed be the LORD!

he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler;

the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

Our help is in the Name of the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

Luke 20:27-40 (Revised English Bible):

Then some Sadducees, who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and asked:

Teacher, Moses, laid it down for us that if there are brothers, and one dies leaving a wife but not child, then the next should marry the widow and provide an heir for his brother.  Now there seven brothers:  the first took a wife and died childless, then the second married her, then the third.  In this way the seven of them died leaving no children.  Last of all the woman also died. At the resurrection, whose wife is she to be, since all seven had married her?

Jesus said to them,

The men and women of this world marry; but those who have been judged who have been judged worthy of a place in the other world, and of the resurrection from the dead, do not marry, for they are no longer subject to death.  They are like angels; they are children of God, because they share in his resurrection.  That the dead are raised to life again is shown by Moses himself in the story of the burning bush, when he calls the Lord “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.”  God is not the God of the living; in his sight all are alive.

At this some of the scribes said,

Well spoken, Teacher.

And nobody dared put any further question to him.

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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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I have a few comments about the reading from Luke 20 before I move along to my main point.  Levirate marriage was part of the Law of Moses.  By this practice a childless widow was supposed to find economic security in a deeply patriarchal society; there would be a man to take care of her.  Finding ultimate economic security, for her, meant giving birth to at least one son who would grow up and care for her in time.  Some Sadducees seized on this matter to ask Jesus an insincere questions.  I wonder if our Lord thought to himself something like,

Why do they keep asking me questions like this?

Indeed, it would have been better to ask him a sincere query.  The Sadducees were wasting his time; may we not follow in their footsteps.

Now, for the main idea….

Being the history geek I am, I opened up an old edition of the New Oxford Annotated Bible (a Revised Standard Version edition from 1977, no less) and found the chronological and genealogical table of Seleucid kings in the back.  Seleucus II Callinicus (reigned 246-225 B.C.E.) died.  His immediate successor was an elder son, Seleucus III Soter Ceraunos (reigned 225-223 B.C.E.).  Seleucus III, dying childless, was succeeded by his younger brother, Antiochus III the Great (reigned 223-187 B.C.E.), who had two sons who became kings after him.  The elder son became Seleucus IV Philopater (reigned 187-175 B.C.E.).  Seleucus IV did have a son before he died.  That son Demetrius, the rightful heir.  But Demetrius was a hostage in Rome when his father died, and his uncle, the younger son Antiochus III, usurped the throne to become Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164 B.C.E.).

Antiochus IV Epiphanes was an ambitious man.  There is nothing wrong with having ambition; indeed, I distrust a person who lacks it.  Ambition drives people to bigger and better goals when one harnesses it properly.  But does one harness one’s ambition or does one’s ambition harness one?  Ambition and foolishness compelled Antiochus IV to break with precedent and try to suppress non-Hellenistic cultures within his empire, and thus inspired opposition.  Jews, for example rebelled.  This rebellion weakened the empire and contributed to king’s bad health and therefore his death.  Indeed, the medical link between high levels of stress and increased susceptibility to diseases is well-documented.

And so Antiochus IV Epiphanes died in 164 B.C.E.  His immediate successor was another usurper, his son, Antiochus V Eupator, a boy who met a bad end in 162 B.C.E.  Demetrius, the rightful heir since 175 B.C.E., finally escaped from Rome and returned home that year, when he became Demetrius I Soter, reigning until 150 B.C.E.).  He met a bad end, too, when Alexander Balas, a son Antiochus IV Epiphanes, killed him and reigned for five years.

That seems like a great deal of trouble to go through for not much reward, does it not?  Why struggle to become king, only to have to struggle to keep the throne and lose it anyway? The rewards seemed to have been short-term only and the miseries long-term.

There is, however, a better way, which is to seek those riches which are intangible, and therefore do not rust or decay and which no earthly thief can take away.  To find one’s identity in God is to locate position in which one will find fulfillment and from which nobody can oust one.  The Seleucid Empire has dwelt in the dustbin of history for over two thousand years; where is the glory of its kings now?  Yet, each year, faithful Jews celebrate Hanukkah and recall the rededication of the Temple by the Hasmoneans.  The fatal ambition of Antiochus IV Epiphanes brought on the necessity to rededicate the Temple and started a Jewish war for independence from the Seleucid Empire.  I know who won and who lost this case.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/the-end-of-antiochus-iv-epiphanes/

Week of Proper 24: Wednesday, Year 1   9 comments

Above:  Eleanor Roosevelt Memorial, New York, New York

Image in the Public Domain

High Expectations and Great Responsibilities

OCTOBER 20, 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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Romans 6:12-19 (Revised English Bible):

Therefore sin must no longer reign in your mortal body, exacting obedience to the body’s desires.  You must no longer put any part of it at sin’s disposal, as an implement for doing wrong.  Put yourselves instead at the disposal of God; think of yourselves instead at the disposal of God; think of yourselves as raised from death to life, and yield your bodies to God as implements for doing right.  Sin shall no longer be your master, for you are no longer under law, but under grace.

What then?  Are we to sin, because we are not under law but under grace?  Of course not!  You know well enough that if you bind yourselves to obey a master, you are slaves of the master you obey; and this is true whether the master is sin and the outcome death, or obedience and the outcome righteousness.  Once you were slaves of sin, but now, thank God, you have yielded wholehearted obedience to that pattern of teaching to which you were made subject; emancipated from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness (to use language that suits your human weakness).  As you once yielded your bodies to the service of impurity and lawlessness, making for moral anarchy, so now you must yield them to the service of righteousness, making a holy life.

Psalm 124 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 If the LORD had not been on our side,

let Israel now say,

If the LORD had not been on our side,

when enemies rose up against us;

3 Then they would have swallowed us up alive

in their fierce anger toward us;

Then would the waters have overwhelmed us

and the torrent gone over us;

5 Then would the raging waters

have gone right over us.

6 Blessed be the LORD!

he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler;

the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

Our help is in the Name of the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

Luke 12:39-48 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Remember, if the householder had known at what time the burglar was coming he would not have let his house be broken into.  So hold yourselves in readiness, because the Son of Man will come at the time you least expect him.

Peter said,

Lord, do you intend this parable specially for us or is it for everyone?

The Lord said,

Who is the trusty and sensible man whom his master will appoint as his steward, to manage his servants and issue their rations at the proper time?  Happy that servant if his master comes home and finds him at work!  I tell you this:  he will be put in charge of all his master’s property.  But if that servant says to himself, “The master is a long time coming,” and begins to bully the menservants and maids, and to eat and drink and get drunk, then the master will arrive on a day when the servant does not expect him, at a time he has not been told.  He will cut him in pieces and assign him a place among the faithless.

The servant who knew his master’s wishes, yet made no attempt to carry them out, will be flogged severely.  But one who did not know them and earned a beating will be flogged less severely.  Where someone has been given much, much will be expected of him; and the more he has had entrusted to him the more will be demanded of him.

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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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Privilege carries responsibility.  This is a basic lesson in Biblical ethics.

Consider, in U.S. history, Eleanor Roosevelt, who was quite wealthy and usually close to power.  She used her position to, among other things, help common and poor people during the Great Depression, visit soldiers and sailors during World War II, work on international human rights after that war, and labor for civil rights during much of her life.  You might know, O reader, about her role in arranging Marian Anderson’s 1939 concert at the Lincoln Memorial, but did you know that the former First Lady risked her life in the 1950s while traveling through the South to teach civil rights workers civil disobedience tactics?  Klan members sought to murder her and the Federal Bureau of Investigation did not protect her during these risky travels.

And let us think of the second person of the Trinity, who left a position of prestige to become one of us, to suffer, and to die for us.  Jesus offers us liberation from sin to serve him.  May we say yes and act accordingly.  If we have said yes are acting accordingly, may we continue to do so.

The cost, of course, might be martyrdom, or at least great suffering.  Consider the eleven surviving Apostles plus Matthias, who filled the vacancy Judas left.  Only St. John died of old age/natural causes, but in exile.  The manner of dying for most of the other eleven was gruesome.

Each day enemies of the cross of Christ martyr more Christians across the world.  Do these makers of martyrs suppose that they will win?  History indicates that they will lose, for, as an old saying tells us, “The blood of the martyrs waters the church.”  And, as the Wisdom of Solomon says,

…the souls of the righteous are in Gods’ hand; no torment will touch them.  In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to be dead their departure was reckoned a defeat, and their going from us as disaster.  But they are at peace, for though in the sight of men they may suffer punishment, they have a sure hope of immortality…. (3:1-4, Revised English Bible)

Martyrdom, of course, is not every faithful Christian’s lot.  Yet grace, although free, is not cheap; it makes costly demands on us.  The call of being chosen by God carries with it corresponding responsibilities to others.  If we are to fulfill these well, we must change from what we are to what we ought to be.  This requires sacrifices.  Some people, for example, understand the call to sacrifice an easy and comfortable life so that they can become renewers of society.  In the case of Eleanor Roosevelt, this meant driving through rural Tennessee in the middle of the night while Klansmen hunted her.  She could have died there, and she knew it.  Thank God that she was safe after all!

Which responsibilities does grace require of you?  Which responsibilities will grace demand of you?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/high-expectations-and-great-responsibilities/

Week of Proper 20: Tuesday, Year 1   6 comments

Above:  Darius I of Persia

Image in the Public Domain

Hearing and Doing

SEPTEMBER 21, 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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Ezra 6:1-8, 12-18 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Thereupon, at the order of King Darius, they searched the archives where the treasures were stored in Babylon.  But it was in the citadel of Ecbatana, in the province of Media, that a scroll was found in which the following was written:

Memorandum:  In the first year of King Cyrus, King Cyrus issued an order concerning the House of God in Jerusalem:  ‘Let the house be rebuilt, a place for offering sacrifices, with a base built up high.  Let it be sixty cubits high and sixty cubits wide, with a course of unused timber for each three courses of hewn stone.  The expenses shall be paid by the palace.  And the gold and the silver vessels of the House of God which Nebuchadnezzar had taken away from the temple in Jerusalem and transported to Babylon shall be returned, and let each go back to the temple in Jerusalem where it belongs; you shall deposit in in the House of God.’

“Now you, Tannenai, governor of the province of Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai and colleagues, the officials of the province of Beyond the River, stay away from that place.  Allow the work of this House of God to go on; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this House of God:  the expenses are to be paid to these men with dispatch out of the resources of the king, derived from the taxes of the province of Beyond the River, so that the work not be stopped….And may the God who established His name there cause the downfall of any king or nation that undertakes to alter or damage that House of God in Jerusalem.  I, Darius, have issued the decree; let it be carried out with dispatch.”

Then Tattenai, governor of the province of Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and their colleagues carried out with dispatch what King Darius had written.  So the elders of the Jews progressed with the building, urged on by the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah son of Iddo, and they brought the building to completion under the aegis of the God of Israel and by the order of Cyrus and Darius and King Artaxerxes of Persia.  The house was finished on the third of the month of Adar in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.  The Israelites, the priests, and the Levites, and all the other exiles celebrated the dedication of the House of God with joy.  And they sacrificed for the dedication of this House of God one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lamps, and twelve goats as a purification offering for all of Israel, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. They appointed the priests in their courses and the Levites in their divisions for the service of God in Jerusalem, according to the prescription in the Book of Moses.

Psalm 124 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 If the LORD had not been on our side,

let Israel now say,

2 If the LORD had not been on our side,

when enemies rose up against us;

3 Then they would have swallowed us up alive

in their fierce anger toward us;

4 Then would the waters have overwhelmed us

and the torrent gone over us;

5 Then would the raging waters

have gone right over us.

6 Blessed be the LORD!

he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

7 We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler;

the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

8 Our help is in the Name of the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

Luke 8:19-21 (The Jerusalem Bible):

His [Jesus’] mother and his brothers came looking for him, but they could not get to him because of the crowd.  He was told,

Your mother and brothers are standing outside and want to see you.

But he said in answer,

My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.

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The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; 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 dates will prove useful in comprehending the material from Ezra.  So, courtesy of The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford University Press, 2004), here they are:

  • Reign of Cyrus II (the Great) = 559-530 B.C.E.
  • Capture of Babylon = 539 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Cambyses = 530-522 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Darius I = 522-486 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Xerxes I = 486-465 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Artaxerxes I = 465-424 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Darius II = 423-405 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Artaxerxes II = 405-359 B.C.E.
  • Exiles begin to return from Babylonia in 538 B.C.E.
  • Second Temple completed in 515 B.C.E.

“Artaxerxes” is Artaxerxes I, in case you were wondering.

Cyrus II had authorized the rebuilding of the Temple at Jerusalem, but politics stopped the process.  The Assyrians had settled other peoples in Judea, and some of the descendants of these ethnic groups obstructed the effort.  The logjam ended during the reign of Darius I.  Thank goodness for archivists!

There is a plethora of Christian theological writing regarding the will(s) of God and the ability of humans to interfere with it/them.  One of the more accessible works on this subject is The Will of God, by Leslie Weatherhead.  As I have lived, read, and pondered, I have concluded that Weatherhead is correct:  the ultimate will of God will come to pass, regardless of what we mere mortals do.  That said, we have the power, through the abuse of our free will, to derail more than one divine path to fulfilling that ultimate will.  In other words, we can stand in the way of God’s Plan A, and Plan B, and Plan C.  Yet, sooner or later, one way or another, God’s ultimate will is going to come to pass.

We function as obstructions when we fail to be both hearers and doers of God’s word and ultimate will.  Yet, when we hear then do, we act as faithful members of the household of God.  Is not that much better than being stubborn, spiteful, and petty?

So, why are we stubborn, spiteful, and petty?  Some of us might not realize what we are doing.  These are those who are so caught up in themselves that they cannot see the detrimental effects of their actions upon others.  Still others of us, if we do know what we are doing, might have distorted values systems which glorify stubbornness, spitefulness, and pettiness.  Then there are those who try to do the right thing, as they understand it, but get it wrong.  These are not bad people who wake up each day and plot their disobedience.  But perhaps cultural blinders prevent them from seeing clearly.  And, of course, all of us are prone to stubbornness, spitefulness, and pettiness from time to time.  Stubbornness, in the service of a good cause, is persistence, a virtue.  So context matters here.

Sometimes, then, we hear and try to do,  but fail.  Other times we hear and do not try to obey.  Still other times he hear but misunderstand.  And sometimes we do not hear at all, so we cannot obey in such circumstances.  Sometimes instructions from God seem quite clear with the aid of hindsight and tradition.  Yet other times traditions distort those instructions.  What are to do?  How can we know how to discern between correct and distorted messages?

This is not a simple matter, and I have not encountered a burning bush in my life.  I have opinions, many of which I voice on this weblog and others within my blog network.  Yet I try to maintain proper theological humility; I can be wrong.  I stand by my opinions today, but I might change some of them by next year.  I am fallible.

So I try to remain open to God’s leading and the Holy Spirit, to confirm when I am correct and tell me when I am not.  The best I can do is the best I can do.  It is not enough, but it does not have to be, for God is all-powerful.  And, even in my worst moments, the worst I can do is delay the fulfillment of the ultimate will of God.  At best, however, I will be part of the fulfillment of that will.  But God will’s is going to come to fruition, with or without me.  I prefer to be part of the solution, not the problem.  By grace, I will succeed more often than not.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/hearing-and-doing-2/

Proper 16, Year A   31 comments

Above:  Saint Peter, by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

Upon This Rock…

The Sunday Closest to August 24

The Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 23, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 1:8-2:10 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people,

Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.

Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.

The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah,

When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.

But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them,

Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?

The midwives said to Pharaoh,

Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.

So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people,

Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.

Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.

The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him,

This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,

she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter,

Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?

Pharaoh’s daughter said to her,

Yes.

So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her,

Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.

So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses,

because,

she said,

I drew him out of the water.

Psalm 124 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 If the LORD had not been on our side,

let Israel now say,

2 If the LORD had not been on our side,

when enemies rose up against us;

3 Then they would have swallowed us up alive

in their fierce anger toward us;

4 Then would the waters have overwhelmed us

and the torrent gone over us;

5 Then would the raging waters

have gone right over us.

6 Blessed be the LORD!

he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

7 We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler;

the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

8 Our help is in the Name of the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Isaiah 51:1-6 (New Revised Standard Version):

Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness,

you that seek the LORD.

Look to the rock from which you were hewn,

and to the quarry from which you were dug.

Look to Abraham your father

and to Sarah who bore you;

for he was but one when I called him,

but I blessed him and made him many.

For the LORD will comfort Zion;

he will comfort her waste places,

and will make her wilderness like Eden,

her desert like the garden of the LORD;

joy and gladness will be found in her,

thanksgiving and the voice of song.

Listen to me, my people,

and give heed to me, my nation;

for a teaching will go out from me,

and my justice for a light to the peoples.

I will bring near my deliverance swiftly,

my salvation has gone out

and my arms will rule the peoples;

the coastlands wait for me,

and for my arm they hope.

Lift up your eyes to the heavens,

and look at the earth beneath;

for the earth will wear out like a garment,

and those who live on it will die like gnats;

but my salvation will be forever,

and my deliverance will never be ended.

Psalm 138 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with my whole heart;

before the gods I will sing your praise.

2 I will bow down toward your holy temple

and praise your Name,

because of your love and faithfulness;

3 For you have glorified your Name

and your word above all things.

4 When I called, you answered me;

you increased my strength within me.

5 All the kings of the earth will praise you, O LORD,

when they have heard the words of your mouth.

6 They will sing of the ways of the LORD,

that great is the glory of the LORD.

7 Though the LORD be high, he cares for the lowly;

he perceives the haughty from afar.

8 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe;

you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies;

your right hand shall save me.

9 The LORD will make good his purpose for me;

O LORD, your love endures for ever;

do not abandon the works of your hands.

SECOND READING

Romans 12:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God–what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 16:13-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples,

Who do people say that the Son of Man is?

And they said,

Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.

He said to them,

But who do you say that I am?

Simon Peter answered,

You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

And Jesus answered him,

Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory 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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What is the rock upon which Jesus built his Church?  I have read various analyses, and the one that makes the most sense to me is God.  Simon Peter was the first pebble upon this rock, and each subsequent believer and follower is another pebble.  The pebbles are the Church.  So God is the foundation of the Church.

God is also the rock from Isaiah 51.  God is the rock from which we are hewn, the quarry from which we are cut.  So our lives and identities derive from God.  We Christians  stand in a long tradition that stretches back to Abraham and Sarah; the Jews are, as Pope John Paul II said, our elder brothers and sisters in faith.  God, the rock, was the strength of the Hebrews when they were slaves in Egypt.  God, the rock, provided the means of their political liberation.  And God, the rock, provides the means of our spiritual liberation.  As Paul reminds us in Romans, this liberation will be evident in our attitudes and relationships.

Next Sunday’s Gospel Reading will pick up where this one leaves off.  In it Jesus predicts his capture, torture, death, and resurrection.  Then Peter, horrified, protests.  But Jesus says to the Apostle he just praised highly a few breaths previously,

Get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.

Peter did not understand yet.  Maybe only Jesus did.  So let us take comfort in the fact that one does not need to achieve spiritual mountainhood to be an effective and important pebble in the rock mass that is the Christian Church.  We have to begin somewhere, so why not where we are?  But let us move on from there to where Jesus wants us to go.

KRT

Week of Proper 10: Monday, Year 1   14 comments

Above:  Granite Head of Pharoah Amenhotep III Wearing the Double Crown of Egypt

Image in the Public Domain

Injustice in the Name of Security

JULY 12, 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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Exodus 1:8-14, 22 (An American Translation):

Then a new king rose over Egypt, who had no knowledge of Joseph; he said to his people,

See, the Israelite people have become too numerous and too strong for us; come, let us take precautions against them lest they become so numerous that in the case of war they should join forces against us, and so escape from the land.

Accordingly, gang-foremen were put in charge of them, to oppress them with their heavy labor; and they built Pithom and Raamses as store-cities for Pharaoh.  But the more they oppressed them, the more they multiplied, so that they became apprehensive about the Israelites.

The Egyptians reduced the Israelites to rigorous slavery; they made life bitter for them in hard work with morter and bricks, and in all kinds of work in the fields, all the work that they exacted of them being rigorous.

(Egyptian midwives permitted Hebrew male children to live, in defiance of royal orders.)

So Pharaoh commanded all his people,

Every boy that is born to the Hebrews, you must throw into the Nile, but you are to let all the girls live.

Psalm 124 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 If the LORD had not been on our side,

let Israel now say;

2 If the LORD had not been on our side,

when enemies rose up against us;

3 Then would they have swallowed us up alive

in their fierce anger toward us;

4 Then the waters would have overwhelmed us

and the torrent gone over us;

5 Then would the raging waters

have gone over us.

6 Blessed be the LORD!

he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

7 We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler;

the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

8 Our help is in the Name of the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

Matthew 10:34-11:1 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I have not come to bring peace but a sword.  For I have come to turn a man against his father and a daughter against her mother and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies will be in his own household.  No one who loves father or mother more than me is worthy of me, and no one who will not take up his cross and follow me is worthy of me.  Whoever gains his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will gain it.

Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes him who has sent me.  Whoever welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will have the same reward as a prophet, and whoever welcomes an upright man because he is upright will have the same reward as an upright man.  And no one who will give the humblest of my disciples even a cup of cold water because he is my disciple, I tell you, can never fail of his reward.

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The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Fear, manufactured or not, based in facts or manufactured, often provides pretexts for tyranny and religious persecution and intolerance.  This is an ancient story as contemporary as today’s headlines.  Let us examine two past examples from this day’s lectionary readings.

Egyptologist David Rohl has prepared a controversal New Chronology for ancient Egypt.  He argues that the Pharaoh under whom Joseph worked was Amenemhat III, of the Twelfth Dynasty.  Rohl states also that the Pharaoh from Exodus 1:8 was Sobekhotep III, of the Thirteenth Dynasty.  The Thirteenth Dynasty came to power because the Twelfth Dynasty died out.  A transition from one dynasty to another would explain why the new regime did not “know Joseph.”

The Pharaoh (whatever his name was) stirred up fear of the Hebrews.  This fits historically if Rohl is correct, for the Thirteenth Dynasty was weaker than its predecessor.  This was a time of political, military, and climatic difficulties greater than during the Twelfth Dyansty.  Perhaps the Pharaoh sought to strengthen his power by subjugating and scapegoating the Hebrews.  But midwives with respect the for the lives of newborn Hebrew boys disobeyed orders to kill said male children.  Let us praise their civil disobedience.

It is easy to target those who are different from ourselves and to heap scorn on them.  There is an unfortunate human tendency to seek easy answers when they are inadequate.  How else can I explain the popularity of fundamentalism and other woes?

Religious persecution was a real threat to the Christians of the Roman Empire.  Most persecutions were regional, not empire-wide, and not constant.  None of these facts, of course, reduced the impact of persecutions when they occurred.  Aside from official actions, there were family issues.  The words in Matthew 10:34 and following describe what many people–especially in the original audience of the Gospel of Matthew–experiened and what numerous Christians have to deal with today.  I write from North America, where I enjoy freedom of religion, but many of my coreligionists elsewhere in the world place their lives at risk if they accept water baptism.

The Emperor Nero scapegoated Christians for the fire that ravaged Rome.  The fire could have started by accident, but Nero had political problems and Christians were unpopular, widely misunderstood, and most importantly, a distinct minority.  So blaming them shifted the blame from Nero.  This was convenient for him.

Scapegoating can be based on religion, ethnicity, race, culture, and other factors.  But it never solves the problems from which people are trying to detract attention.  The Hebrews escaped Egypt, and the Hyksos, foreigners, toppled the Thirteenth Dynasty.  And Roman imperial stability and social decay had nothing to do with the rise of Christianity.  Yet the official line held that the empire would prosper as long as the gods blessed it, which they would do as long as people worshipped them.  So the rise of Christianity was a perceived threat to the stability of the imperium.  In the Egyptian and Roman cases the quest for easy answers won the moment.  God, however, won in time.

Our lectionary journey through Exodus begins here as our trek through Matthew continues.  Let us continue together as we explore these texts and seek meanings in them.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/injustice-in-the-name-of-security/