Archive for the ‘Psalm 74’ Tag

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

Above:  Caduceus

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

NOVEMBER 15, 2020

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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

Psalm 74:1-2, 10-17

Hebrews 13:1-16, 20-21

Mark 12:35-44

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

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

Two stories require more attention.

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

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

eat up the property of widows,

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2019 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

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

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

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Devotion for Proper 5 (Year D)   1 comment

archery-target

Above:  Archery Target

Image Source = Alberto Barbati

Missing the Point, Part I

NOT OBSERVED IN 2019

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 32:28-47 or Isaiah 5:18-30

Psalm 74

Matthew 12:22-37 or Luke 11:14-23

1 John 3:8-15 (16-24); 4:1-6

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Ah,

Those who call evil good

And evil good;

Who present darkness as light

And light as darkness;

Who present bitter as sweet

And sweet as bitter!

Ah,

Those who are so wise–

In their own opinion;

So clever–

In their own judgment!

–Isaiah 5:20-21; TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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But the Pharisees on hearing this remark said, “This man is only expelling devils because he is in league with Beelzebub, the prince of devils.”

–Matthew 12:24, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition (1972)

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Missing the point is a recurring theme in the assigned readings for Proper 5.  Psalm 74, an exilic text, asks why the Babylonian Exile has occurred.  Deuteronomy 32 and Isaiah 5 answer the question; faithlessness, evident in idolatry and rampant in institutionalized social injustice is the cause.  Certain opponents on Jesus accuse him of being in league with Satan when he casts out demons (in the Hellenistic world view).  However we moderns classify whatever Jesus did in exorcisms, that is not a point on which one should fixate while pondering the texts from the Gospels.

How often do we fail to recognize good for what is evil for what it is because of any number of reasons, including defensiveness and cultural conditioning?  How often do we become too lax or too stringent in defining sin?  I recall a single-cell cartoon.  A man is standing before St. Simon Peter at the Pearly Gates.  The apostle tells him,

No, that is not a sin either.  You must have worried yourself to death.

Falling into legalism and condemning someone for playing bridge or for having an occasional drink without even becoming tipsy is at least as bad as failing to recognize actual sins.

1 John 3:18-20 provides guidance:

Children, love must not be a matter of theory or talk; it must be true love which shows itself in action.  This is how we shall know if we belong to the realm of truth, and reassure ourselves in his sight where conscience condemns us; for God is greater than our conscience and knows all.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

Love does not object when Jesus cures someone on the Sabbath or any other day.  (Consult Matthew 12:1-14) for the Sabbath reference.)  Love does not seek to deny anyone justice, as in Isaiah 5:23.  Love does not compel one to seek one’s own benefit at the expense of others.  Love is not, of course, a flawless insurance policy against missing the point, but it is a good start.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT FILIP SIPHONG ONPHITHAKT, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN THAILAND

THE FEAST OF MAUDE DOMINICA PETRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MODERNIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF RALPH ADAMS CRAM AND RICHARD UPJOHN, ARCHITECTS; AND JOHN LAFARGE, SR., PAINTER AND STAINED GLASS MAKER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/missing-the-point-part-i/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 5, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator--Greece

Above:  Christ Pantocrator Moody

Image in the Public Domain

Calling Good Evil

JUNE 13, 2018

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The Collect:

All-powerful God, in Jesus Christ you turned death into life and defeat into victory.

Increase our faith and trust in him,

that we may triumph over all evil in the strength

of the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 26:16-27:1

Psalm 74

Luke 11:14-28

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Bestir Yourself because of the perpetual tumult,

all the outrages of the enemy in the sanctuary.

–Psalm 74:3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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O LORD:  In their distress they sought You;

Your chastisement reduced them

To anguished whispered prayer.

–Isaiah 26:16, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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But [Jesus] said, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

–Luke 11:28, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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The Bible, being of human authorship and containing texts reflecting changing perspectives over a long period of time, contradicts itself on points small, medium, and large.  This fact does not trouble me, for (A) I am not a biblical literalist, and (B) I worship God, not the Bible.  I do detect much biblical consistency, however.  Again and again biblical texts tell us, for example, to obey the commandments of God and agree that these include social and economic justice.  Texts tell us consistently of divine preference for the poor and disapproval of the exploitation of people.  Pure doctrine alone is insufficient, for justice matters to God.

The people in Isaiah 26 had committed idolatry, as had our Lord and Savior’s accusers in Luke 11.  The idols in Luke 11 were ideas about God and how God works.  Jesus exposed these ideas as false, but ideologies clung to their doctrines and attempted to explain away the evidence they saw.  The enemies in the sanctuary were among the professional religious people.

Lest we, you and I, O reader, congratulate ourselves on our fidelity to God (unlike those people of Judah in Isaiah 26 and like those religious officials in Luke 11), may we avoid the sin of self-righteousness.  God remains active and continues to refuse to fit into the God-shaped boxes we call theology.  Do we see God’s actions then call them evil?  We might.  Have we confused our opinions for God’s facts?  Certainly, at least part of the time.  May we be and remain open to spiritual correction and recognize good when we see it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LEONIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR; ORIGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN; DEMETRIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND ALEXANDER OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSELM II OF LUCCA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF CYPRUS, EASTERN ORTHODOX MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/calling-good-evil/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 5, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Kings (2009)

Above:  Captain David Shepherd and King Silas Benjamin of Gilboa, from Kings (2009)

A Screen Capture via PowerDVD

Judgment, Mercy, and God

JUNE 11 and 12, 2018

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The Collect:

All-powerful God, in Jesus Christ you turned death into life and defeat into victory.

Increase our faith and trust in him,

that we may triumph over all evil in the strength

of the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 16:14-23 (Monday)

1 Kings 18:17-40 (Tuesday)

Psalm 74 (Both Days)

Revelation 20:1-6 (Monday)

Revelation 20:7-15 (Tuesday)

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Till when, O God, will the foe blaspheme,

will the enemy forever revile Your name?

Why do you hold back Your hand, Your right hand?

Draw it out of Your bosom!

–Psalm 74:10-11, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books.

–Revelation 20:12b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

–James 2:24, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

–Romans 5:1-2, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,

Lord, who could stand?

But there is forgiveness with you,

so that you may be revered.

–Psalm 130:3-4, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Where does judgment end and mercy begin with God?  I do not know, for (A) the mind of God is above me, and (B) the scriptural witnesses contradict each other.  How could they not do so, given the human authorship of the Bible and the range of human perspectives on the topic of divine judgment and mercy.  I am not a universalist, so I affirm that our works have some influence on the afterlife, but I also rejoice in divine forgiveness.  And, as for works, both James and St. Paul the Apostle affirmed the importance of works while defining faith differently.  Faith was inherently active for Paul yet purely intellectual for James.

What we do matters in this life and the next.  Our deeds (except for accidents) flow from our attitudes, so our thoughts matter.  If we love, we will act lovingly, for example.  Our attitudes and deeds alone are inadequate to deliver us from sin, but they are material with which God can work, like a few loaves and fishes.  What do we bring to God, therefore?  Do we bring the violence of Elijah, who ordered the slaughter of the priests of Baal?  Or do we bring the desire that those who oppose God have the opportunity to repent?  Do we bring the inclination to commit violence in the name of God?  Or do we bring the willingness to leave judgment to God?  And do we turn our back on God or do we seek God?

May we seek God, live the best way we can, by grace, and rely upon divine grace.  May we become the best people we can be in God and let God be God, which God will be anyway.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LEONIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR; ORIGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN; DEMETRIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND ALEXANDER OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSELM II OF LUCCA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF CYPRUS, EASTERN ORTHODOX MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/judgment-mercy-and-god/

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Week of Proper 7: Saturday, Year 2   1 comment

Above:  Jeremiah Lamenting Over the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Lamentations

JUNE 27, 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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Lamentations 2:2, 10-19 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The Lord has laid waste without pity

All the inhabitants of Jacob;

He has raised in His anger

Fair Judah’s strongholds.

He has brought low in dishonor

The kingdom and its leaders.

Silent sit on the ground

The elders of Fair Zion;

They have strewn dust on their heads

And girded themselves with sackcloth;

The maidens of Jerusalem have bowed

Their heads to the ground.

My eyes are spent with tears,

My heart is in tumult,

My being melts away

Over the ruin of my poor people,

As babes and sucklings languish

In the squares of the city.

They keep asking their mothers,

Where is bread and wine?

As they languish like battle-wounded

In the squares of the town,

As their life runs out

In their mothers’ bosoms.

What can I take as witness or liken

To you, O Fair Jerusalem?

What can I match with you to console you,

O Fair Maiden Zion?

For your ruin is vast as the sea;

Who can heal you?

Your seers prophesied to you

Delusion and folly.

They did not expose your iniquity

So as to restore your fortunes,

But prophesied to you oracles

Of delusion and deception.

All who pass your way

Clap their hands at you;

They hiss and wag their head

At Fair Jerusalem:

Is that the city that was called

Perfect in Beauty,

Joy of All the Earth?

All your enemies

Jeer at you;

They hiss and gnash their teeth,

And cry:

We’ve ruined her!

Ah, this is the day we hoped for;

We have lived to see it!

The LORD has done what He purposed,

Has carried out the decree

That he ordained long ago;

He has torn down without pity.

He has let the foe rejoice over you,

Has exalted the might of your enemies.

Their heart cried out to the Lord.

O wall of Fair Zion,

Shed tears like a torrent

Day and night!

Give yourself no respite,

Your eyes no rest.

Arise, cry out in the night

At the beginning of the watches,

Pour out your heart like water

In the presence of the Lord!

Lift up your hands to Him

For the life of your infants,

Who faint for hunger

At every street corner.

Psalm 74:1-8, 17-20 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  O God, why have you utterly cast us off?

why is your wrath so hot against the sheep of your pasture?

2  Remember your congregation that your purchased long ago,

the tribe you redeemed to be your inheritance,

and Mount Zion where you dwell.

3  Turn your steps toward the endless ruins;

the enemy has laid waste everything in your sanctuary.

4  Your adversaries roared in your holy place;

they set up their banners as tokens of victory.

5  They were like men coming up with axes to a grove of trees;

they broke down all your carved work with hatchets and hammers.

6  They set fire to your holy place;

they defiled the dwelling-place of your Name

and razed it to the ground.

7  They said to themselves, “Let us destroy them altogether.”

They burned down all the meeting-places of God in the land.

8  There are no signs for us to see;

there is no prophet left;

there is not one among us who knows how long.

17  Remember, O LORD, how the enemy scoffed,

how a foolish people despised your Name.

18  Do not hand over the life of your dove to wild beasts;

never forget the lives of your poor.

19  Look upon your covenant;

the dark places of the earth are haunts of violence.

20  Let not the oppressed turn away ashamed;

let the poor and needy praise your Name.

Matthew 8:5-17 (An American Translation):

When he [Jesus] got back to Capernaum, a Roman captain came up and appealed to him,

My servant, sir, is lying sick with paralysis at my house, in great distress.

He said to him,

I will come and cure him.

But the captain answered,

I am not a suitable person,sir, to have you come under my roof, but simply say the word, and my servant will be cured.  For I am myself under the orders of others and I have soldiers under me, and I tell one to go, and he comes, and my slave to do something, and he does it.

When Jesus heard this he was astonished, and said to his followers,

I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such faith as this.  And I tell you, many will come from the east and from the west and take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the Kingdom of of Heaven, while the heirs to the kingdom will be driven into the darkness outside, there to weep and grind their teeth!

Then Jesus said to the captain,

Go!  You shall find it just as you believe!

And the servant was immediately cured.

Jesus went into Peter’s house, and there he found Peter’s mother-in-law sick in bed with fever.  And he touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and waited on him.

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The Collect:

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; 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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A Related Post:

Week of Proper 7:  Saturday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/week-of-proper-7-saturday-year-1/

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At this point I have been exploring much of 2 Kings.  Recently I have written of so many aspects of that text that I recognize many of them in Lamentations 2.  I have nothing new to say or write about them.  So I choose to be quite brief in my remarks for this post.  If you, O reader, are of such a mind, reread the preceding Monday-Saturday posts, beginning with “Week of Proper 5:  Monday, Year 2” (https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/week-of-proper-5-monday-year-2/).  Pay very close attention to the recurring sin of idolatry.

Other than that, read Lamentations (preferably all of it) aloud.  Most people who have experienced the Bible over time have done so orally; either they have read it aloud or someone has read it to them.  One approaches a text differently when one hears it than when one reads it silently off a page.  So read Lamentations aloud.  Let it wash over you and through you.  Listen to God speaking to you through it.

I also recommend listening to the Thomas Tallis settings of Lamentations.  In fact, I have been listening to YouTube recordings of those settings while typing this post.  Listen–really listen–to the music.  The words are Latin, but the English words are not hard to find; begin with Chapter 1, verse 1.  The music, from the 1500s, captures the essence of the biblical author’s grief.  You, O reader, might even choose to read the text aloud while playing the Tallis music.

May the peace of the Lord be with you today and always.

KRT