Archive for the ‘Psalm 79’ Tag

Proper 20, Year C   7 comments

Teachings_of_Jesus_31_of_40._parable_of_the_unjust_steward._Jan_Luyken_etching._Bowyer_Bible

Above:  The Parable of the Unjust Steward, by Jan Luyken

God, the Powerful, and the Powerless

The Sunday Closest to September 21

Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost

SEPTEMBER 22, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 and Psalm 79:1-9

or 

Amos 8:4-7 and Psalm 113

then 

1 Timothy 2:1-7

Luke 16:1-13

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 Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-eighteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/prayer-of-confession-for-the-eighteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/prayer-of-dedication-of-the-eighteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

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The lectionary readings for this Sunday challenge several audiences.

  1. In Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 either the prophet or God mourns for the afflicted people, who suffer because of societal sins.  Are you, O reader, among those who take part in societal sins?  Am I?  My Neo-orthodox theology tells me that the answer to both questions is affirmative.
  2. Amos 8:4-7 reminds us that God will punish those who exploit the poor.  This should frighten many people.
  3. The Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager, in a difficult situation of his own creation, eased his problem by easing the economic burdens of those who could not repay him.  In the process he made his employer look good and exposed that employer’s exploitation of those people simultaneously.  The employer could not reverse the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager’s actions without making himself look bad.  This parable reminds us of, among other things, the divine imperative of helping those who cannot repay us.
  4. 1 Timothy 2:1-7 tells us to pray for everyone, powerful and powerless.

One of my favorite ways of approaching a given passage of narrative Scripture is to ask myself who I am most like in a story.  Since I am honest, I am not like the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager except when I function as an agent of grace.  And I have not exploited people, so I am not like the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager’s employer.  So I am usually most like one of those who benefited from debt reduction.  If we are honest, we will admit that we have all benefited from grace via various agents of God.  Some of these agents of God might have had mixed or impure motives, but the consequences of their actions toward us have been positive, have they not?

One great spiritual truth I have learned is that, in the Bible, good news for the exploited often (but not always) means bad news for the exploiters.  And the exploiters can learn to change their ways.  I ponder the Parable of the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager and play out possible subsequent developments in my mind.  How did the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager fare in his new life?  Did his former employer cease to exploit people?  There is hope for all of us, powerful and powerless, in God’s mercy.  What we do with that possibility is to our credit or discredit.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 10, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY VAN DYKE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF HOWARD THURMAN, PROTESTANT THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF PIERRE TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LAW, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/god-the-powerful-and-the-powerless/

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Week of Proper 15: Monday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 15: Tuesday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  The Front of the 1934 U.S. $10,000 Dollar Bill, worth $163,000 in 2010 Currency

Image in the Public Domain

Security Blankets

AUGUST 17 and 18, 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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THE FIRST READING FOR MONDAY

Ezekiel 24:15-24 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The word of the LORD came to me:

O mortal, I am about to take away the delight of your eyes from you through pestilence; but you shall not lament or let your tears flow.  Moan softly; observe no mourning for the dead:  Put on your turban and put your sandals on your feet; do not cover over your upper lip, and do not eat the bread of comforters.

In the evening my wife died, and in the mourning I did as I had been commanded.  And when I spoke to the people that morning, the people asked me,

Will you not tell us what these things portend for us, that you are acting so?

I answered them,

The word of the LORD has come to me:  Tell the House of Israel:  “I am going to desecrate My Sanctuary, your pride and glory, the delight of your eyes and the desire of your heart; and the sons and daughters you have left behind shall fall by the sword.  And Ezekiel shall become a portent for you:   you shall do just as he has done, when it happens; and you shall know that I am the Lord GOD.”  Accordingly, you shall do as I have done:  you shall not cover over your upper lips or eat the bread of comforters, and your turbans shall remain on your heads, and your sandals on your feet.  You shall not lament or weep, but you shall be heartsick because of your iniquities and shall moan to one another.

THE FIRST READING FOR TUESDAY

Ezekiel 28:1-10 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The word of the LORD came to me:

O mortal, say to the prince of Tyre:  Thus said the Lord GOD:

Because you have been so haughty and said, “I am a god; I sit enthroned like a god in the heart of the seas,” whereas you are not a god but a man, though you deemed your mind equal to a god’s–

Yes, you are wiser than Daniel;

Is no hidden matter can anyone

Compare to you.

By your shrewd understanding

You have gained riches,

And you have amassed gold and silver

In your treasuries.

By your great shrewdness in trade

You have increased your wealth,

And you have grown haughty

Because of your wealth.

Assuredly, thus said the Lord GOD:  Because you have deemed your mind equal to a god’s,

I swear that I will bring against you

Strangers, the most ruthless of nations.

They shall unsheathe their swords

Against your prized shrewdness,

And they shall strike down your splendor.

They shall bring you down to the Pit;

In the heart of the sea you shall die

The death of the slain.

Will you still say, “I am a god”

Before your slayers,

When you are proved a man, not a god,

At the hands of those who strike you down?

By the hands of strangers you shall die

The death of the uncircumcised;

For I have spoken

–declares the Lord GOD.

THE RESPONSE FOR MONDAY

Psalm 79:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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

they have profaned your holy temple;

they have made Jerusalem a heap of rubble.

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

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

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

and there was no one to bury them.

4  We have become a reproach to our neighbors,

an object of scorn and derision to those around us.

5  How long will you be angry, O LORD?

will your fury blaze like fire for ever?

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

and upon kingdoms that have not called upon your Name.

7  For they have devoured Jacob

and made his dwelling a ruin.

8  Remember not our past sins;

let your compassion be swift to meet us;

for we have been brought very low.

THE RESPONSE FOR TUESDAY

Psalm 60:1-5 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  O God, you have cast us off and broken us;

you have been angry;

oh, take us back to you again.

2  You have shaken the earth and split it open;

repair the cracks in it, for it totters.

3  You have made your people know hardship;

you have given us wine that makes us stagger.

4  You have set up a banner for those who fear you,

to be a refuge from the power of the bow.

5  Save us by your right hand and answer us,

that those who are dear to you may be delivered.

THE GOSPEL READING (COMBINED FOR BOTH DAYS)

Matthew 19:16-30 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then it happened that a man came up  to him and said,

Master, what good thing must I do to secure eternal life?

Jesus answered him,

I wonder why you ask me what is good?  Only One is good.  But if you want to enter that life you must keep the commandments.

He asked,

Which ones?

Jesus replied,

Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother; and Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

The young man returned,

I have carefully kept all these.  What is still missing in my life?

Then Jesus told him,

If you want to be perfect, go now and sell your possessions and give the money to the poor–you will have riches in Heaven.  The come and follow me!

When the young man heard that he turned away crestfallen, for he was very wealthy.

Then Jesus remarked to his disciples,

Believe me, a rich man will find it very difficult to enter the kingdom of Heaven.  Yes, I repeat, a camel could more easily squeeze through the eye of a needle than a rich man get into the kingdom of God!

The disciples were simply amazed to hear this, and said,

Then who can possibly be saved?

Jesus looked steadily at them and replied,

Humanly speaking it is impossible; but with God anything is possible!

At this Peter exclaimed,

Look, we have left everything and followed you.  What will that be worth to us?

Jesus said,

Believe me when I tell you that in the new world, when the Son of Man shall take his seat on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also be seated on twelve thrones as judges of the twelve tribes of Israel.  Every man who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or land for my sake will get them back many times over, and will inherit eternal life.  But many who are first will be last then–and the last first!

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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My journey through Samuel, Kings, and various prophets is almost over, and I am glad for that fact.  These are horrendous readings from Ezekiel.  God takes the prophet’s wife away from him and uses the incident as an object lesson for others.  And a foreign prince who has deified himself dies–another object lesson.  I do not pretend to understand how to grasp and make anything useful of Ezekiel 24:15-24.  As for Ezekiel 28:1-10, all I can do is repeat a recently covered theme:  God, in the Bible, despises hubris.  One might contrast Ezekiel 28 with Mathew 19, in which Jesus offers a rich man (for whom wealth is a spiritual impediment–his security blanket, if you will) an opportunity to let go of that impediment.

The rich man could not bring himself to follow our Lord’s advice, so he was, as J. B. Phillips translated the text, “crestfallen.”  Jesus probably was, too.  Whatever our impediments are, Jesus offers us opportunities to stop carrying them around.  And, when we refuse, we break his heart.  I prefer that understanding of God to the one I see in Ezekiel 24 and 28.

KRT

Week of Proper 12: Tuesday, Year 2   Leave a comment

Above:  Jeremiah, from the Sistine Chapel Paintings by Michelangelo Buonarroti

What We Need to Hear

JULY 28, 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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Jeremiah 14:17-22 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

And do you speak to them thus:

Let my eyes run with tears,

Day and night let them not cease,

for my hapless people has suffered

A grievous injury, a very painful wound.

If I go out to the country–

Lo, the slain of the sword.

If I enter the city–

Lo, those who are sick with famine.

Both priest and prophet roam the land,

They know not where.

Have You, then, rejected Judah?

Have You spurned Zion?

Why have you smitten us

So that there we hope for happiness,

But find no good;

For a time of healing,

And meet terror instead?

We acknowledge our wickedness, O LORD–

The iniquity of our fathers–

For we have sinned against You.

For Your name’s sake, do not disown us;

Do not dishonor Your glorious throne.

Remember, do not annul Your covenant with us.

Can any of the false gods of the nations give rain?

Can the skies of themselves give showers?

So we hope in You,

For only You made all these things.

Psalm 79:17-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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

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

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

Let it be known among the heathen and in our sight

that you avenge the shedding of your servant’s blood.

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

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

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

return seven-fold into their bosoms.

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

we will give you thanks for ever

and show forth your praise from age to age.

Matthew 13:36-43 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Later, he left the crowds and went indoors, where his disciples came and said,

Please explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.

Jesus replied,

The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.  The field is the whole world.  The good seed?  That is the sons of the kingdom, while the weeds are sons of the evil one of this world.  The enemy who sowed them is the devil.  The harvest is the end of this world.  The reapers are angels.

Just as weeds are gathered up and burned in the fire so will it happen at the end of the world.  The Son of Man will send out his angels and they will uproot from the kingdom everything that is spoiling it, and all those who live in defiance of its laws, and will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be tears and bitter regret.  Then the good will shine out like the sun in their Father’s kingdom.  The man who has ears should use them!

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; 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 12:  Tuesday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/week-of-proper-12-tuesday-year-1/

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Jeremiah prophesied in the context of many false prophets who claimed that the Babylonians would not conquer Judah.  Maybe they quoted the Book of Isaiah and interpreted the defeat of the Assyrians as the fulfillment of certain prophesies.  Maybe they understood the Book of Isaiah in that way; perhaps they interpreted it so in public while being insincere.  Regardless of their motivations, however, they were mistaken, as history tells us.

There is a basic psychological explanation for people’s preference for the false prophets instead of Jeremiah:  Good news is more appealing than bad news.  Yet sometimes the bearers of bad news tell us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear.  By grace, may we distinguish between genuine good news and false prophesy, between warnings we ought to heed and unreliable cries that the sky is falling.  The stakes are so high and the costs of making a mistake are severe.

KRT

Week of Proper 7: Thursday, Year 2   1 comment

Above:  King Zedekiah

What’s in a Name?

JUNE 25, 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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2 Kings 24:8-17 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem; his mother’s name was Nehushta daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem.  He did what was displeasing to the LORD, just as his father had done.  At that time, the troops of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon marched against Jerusalem, and the city came under siege.  King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon advanced against the city while his troops  were besieging it.  Thereupon King Jehoiachin of Judah, along with his mother, courtiers, commanders, and officers, surrendered to the king of Babylon.  The king of Babylon took him captive in the eighth year of his reign.  He carried off from Jerusalem all the treasures of the House of the LORD and the treasures of the royal palace; he stripped off all the golden decorations in the Temple of the LORD–which King Solomon of Israel had made–as the LORD had warned.  He exiled all of Jerusalem; all the commanders and all the warriors–ten thousand exiles–as well as the craftsmen and smiths; only the poorest people in the land were left.  He deported Jehoiachin to Babylon; and the king’s wives and officers and the notables of the land were brought as exiles from Jerusalem to Babylon.  All the able men, to the number of seven thousand–all of them warriors, trained for battle–and a thousand craftsmen and smiths were brought to Babylon as exiles by the king of Babylon.  And the king of Babylon appointed Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, king in his place, changing his name to Zedekiah.

Psalm 79 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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

they have profaned your holy temple;

they have made Jerusalem a heap of rubble.

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

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

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

and there was no one to bury them.

4  We have become a reproach to our neighbors,

an object of scorn and derision to those around us.

5  How long will you be angry, O LORD?

will your fury blaze like fire for ever?

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

and upon kingdoms that have not called upon your Name.

7  For they have devoured Jacob

and made his dwelling a ruin.

Remember not our past sins;

let your compassion be swift to meet us;

for we have been brought very low.

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

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

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

Let it be known among the heathen and in our sight

that you avenge the shedding of your servant’s blood.

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

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

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

return seven-fold into their bosoms.

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

we will give you thanks for ever

and show forth your praise from age to age.

Matthew 7:21-29 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

It is not everyone who says to me, “Lord! Lord!” who will get into the Kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father in heaven.  Many will say to me on that Day, “Lord! Lord!  Was it not in your name that we prophesied, and by your name that we drove out demons, and by your name that we did many mighty acts?”  Then I will say to them plainly, “I never knew you!  Go away from me, you who do wrong!”

Everyone, therefore, who listens to this teaching of mine and acts upon it, will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock.  And the rain fell, and the rivers rose, and the winds blew, and beat about that house, and it did not go down, for its foundations were on rock.  And anyone who listens to this teaching of mine and does not act upon it, will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  And the rain fell, and the rivers rose, and the winds blew and beat down that house, and it went down, and its downfall was complete.

When Jesus had finished this discourse, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them like one who had authority and not like their scribes.

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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:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/week-of-proper-7-thursday-year-1/

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Since we left off in 2 Kings…

Jehoahaz/Shallum, son of Josiah, reigned for three months in 609 B.C.E.  The text tells us that he displeased God.  Pharaoh Neco, who had killed Josiah, deposed and imprisoned Jehoahaz/Shallum and forced Judah to pay an indemnity.

Eliakim became the vassal King of Judah as Jehoiakim.  He reigned for eleven years (608-598 B.C.E.).  The vassal king served not only Egypt but Babylon.

Then, in today’s reading, Jehoiachin/Jeconiah reigned for three months before King Nebuchadnezzar captured him, installed uncle Mattaniah as King Zedekiah, and began the process of exiling selected subjects of Judah.  Zedekiah’s eleven-year reign (597-586 B.C.E.) was quite difficult.

There had been a long period of sunshine during the reign of Josiah.  But he died at the hand of Pharaoh Neco, so the final stage of national decline began.  There were four more kings in 23 years.  Foreign powers chose three of those monarchs and rename two of them.  Darkness had fallen.

When a foreign power dictates a royal name, the sovereign carries a daily reminder of his subjugation to that power.

What’s in a name?  It carries the meaning we humans attach to it.  My parents chose to give me a distinguished name, one which works well in adulthood.  “Kenneth ” is a Gaelic name meaning “born of fire.”  (Make of that, O reader, what you will.)  I have identified three Scottish kings, one Scottish saint, and a Welsh saint named “Kenneth.”  It is a good name.  “Randolph” is my uncle’s first name.  As a young child, I dreaded the moment during each grade level when the teacher read my full name aloud, for my secret was out and many of my classmates mocked me by singing “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”  They were idiots.

There are various venerable traditions for naming a child.  To name a child after a saint is a Roman Catholic custom.  Or one might name a child after one or more family members or after a historical figure.  My paternal great-grandfather was George Washington Barrett.  My favorite example of deriving a name from the past is Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar.

Among monarchs and pontiffs there is a tradition of regnal names.   Hence Joseph Ratzinger is also Pope Benedict XVI.   And King Haakon VII of Norway (reigned 1905-1957), one of my favorite historical figures, was born in Denmark as Christian Frederik Carl Georg Valdemar Axel Oldenburg, or Prince Carl for short.

Identity is precious.  Who defines us? Do our enemies define us and our names?  If they do, they have power over us.  Most of us do not choose or change our names but, if we are fortunate, those who named us did so very well.  Regardless of who named us, may we own our names and know that we do not even own ourselves, for we all belong to God.  And the divine name for each of us is “beloved.”

KRT

Week of Proper 28: Monday, Year 1   10 comments

Above:  A Map of the Empire of Alexander the Great

Obtained from the Macedonia FAQ website.

A project of Macedonia.org

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

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

Resistance, Diversity, Assimilation, and Uniformity

NOVEMBER 18, 2019

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalm 79 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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

they have profaned your holy temple;

they have made Jerusalem a heap of rubble.

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

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

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

and there was no one to bury them.

4  We have become a reproach to our neighbors,

an object of scorn and derision to those around us.

5  How long will you be angry, O LORD?

will your fury blaze like fire for ever?

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

and upon kingdoms that have not called upon your Name.

7  For they have devoured Jacob

and made his dwelling a ruin.

8  Remember not our past sins;

let your compassion be swift to meet us;

for we have been brought very low.

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

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

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

Let it be known among the heathen and in our sight

that you avenge the shedding of your servants’ blood.

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

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

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

return seven-fold into their bosoms.

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

we will give you thanks for ever

and show forth your praise from age to age.

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

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

Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.

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

Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.

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

What do you want me to do for you?

He answered,

Sir, I want my sight back.

Jesus said to him,

Have back your sight; your faith has healed you.

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

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Historical Note:

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

137 = 175 B.C.E.

145 = 167 B.C.E.

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

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

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

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

What is wrong with these people,

we ask ourselves,

why aren’t they more like me?

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

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

KRT

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

Week of Proper 21: Friday, Year 1   10 comments

Above:  Map of the Seleucid Empire in 188 B.C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

Obedience and Persistence

OCTOBER 4, 2019

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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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Baruch 1:15-21 (The Jerusalem Bible):

You are to say:

Integrity belongs to the Lord our God; to us the look of shame we wear today, to us, the people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem, to our kings and princes, our priests, our prophets, as to our ancestors, because we have sinned in the sight of the Lord our God telling us to follow the commandments which the Lord had ordained for us.  From the day when the Lord brought our ancestor out of the land of Egypt until today we have been disobedient to the Lord our God, we have been disloyal, refusing to listen to his voice.  And so the disasters, and the curse which the Lord pronounced through his servant Moses the day he brought our fathers out of Egypt to give us a land where milk and honey flow, have seized on us, disasters we experience today.  Despite all the words of those prophets whom he sent us, we have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God, but each following the dictates of his evil heart, we have taken to serving alien gods, and doing what is displeasing to the Lord our God.

Psalm 79 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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

they have profaned your holy temple;

they have made Jerusalem a heap of rubble.

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

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

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

and there was no one to bury them.

4  We have become a reproach to our neighbors,

an object of scorn and derision to those around us.

5  How long will you be angry, O LORD?

will your fury blaze like fire for ever?

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

and upon kingdoms that have not called upon your Name.

7  For they have devoured Jacob

and made his dwelling a ruin.

8  Remember not our past sins;

let your compassion be swift to meet us;

for we have been brought very low.

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

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

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

Let it be known among the heathen and in our sight

that you avenge the shedding of your servants’ blood.

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

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

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

return seven-fold into their bosoms.

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

we will give you thanks for ever

and show forth your praise from age to age.

Luke 10:13-16 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Alas for you, Chorazin!  Alas for you, Bethsaida!  For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.  And still, it will not go as hard with Tyre and Sidon at the Judgement as with you.  And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted high in heaven?  You shall be thrown down to hell.

Anyone who listens to you listens to me; anyone who rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject the one who sent me.

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The Collect:

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia, became the ruler of Palestine in 332 (having been king in Macedonia since 336)  B.C.E.  After he died nine years later, in 323, his vast empire broke up into competing factions, including the Ptolemaic Empire, headquartered in Egypt, and the Seleucid Empire, based in Syria.  The Ptolemys governed Palestine from 301 to 198 B.C.E. then the Seleucids took control of the region.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164/163), a monarch hostile to Judaism, profaned the Second Temple and outlawed basic Jewish practices in 167 B.C.E.  He banned circumcision, outlawed keeping the Sabbath, burned Torah scrolls, devoted the Temple to the Olympian gods, and forced Jews to eat pork and participate in Hellenistic religious festivals.

The writing of the Book of Baruch occurred in this context.  The author drew on the paradigm of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.E., four centuries before his time.  The book opens with a prayer of confession (part of which is the first reading for this day), moves along to a plea for mercy and deliverance, recalls divine compassion and promises, then praises divine wisdom that people cannot possibly understand.  It concludes with an affirmation of hope.  Thus the purpose of the Book of Baruch is to encourage faithful Palestinian Jews suffering under the Seleucid oppression.  God has not abandoned his people, the book says; God will deliver them.  And nobody understands the mind of God fully, so nobody ought to try.  The task of the faithful is to obey the Torah of God and persist in obedience.

The reading from Luke, with similar lessons in Matthew and Mark, fits well into this theme.  Jesus rebukes First Century C.E. unrepentant Jewish communities, saying that Gentile communities would have repented already.  This message is consistent with comments such as those to the effect that some prostitutes will enter Heaven before certain professional religious people.  In other words, socially-defined religious orthodoxy will not save one from the consequences of one’s own sin.

So, once again, we have the intersection of judgment and mercy.  And, as Peter says to Gentile household in Acts 10:34b-35 (New Revised Standard Version):

I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

This message is positive, especially if one is a person who fears God and “does what is acceptable to him.”  But what if you one just thinks that one does, but is actually mistaken?  Into which category do you fit?  Into which category do I fit?  I do not know, and you might not, either.  Fortunately, A Brief Statement of Belief (Presbyterian Church in the United States, 1962) offers a summary of our hope:

Sin permeates and corrupts our entire being and burdens us more and more with fear, hostility, guilt, and misery.  Sin operates not only within individuals but also within society as a deceptive and oppressive and unwillingly involved in the sins of society.  Man cannot destroy the tyranny of sin in himself or in his world; his only hope is to be delivered from it by God.

I am not a Universalist; there is a reality called Hell, just as there is a reality called Heaven.  Just as there is mercy, there is also judgment.  There is always something of the ways of God that remain hidden from us.  Among these mysteries is the extent of mercy, something I do not question.  Rather, I rejoice in it.  This is the mercy by which God delivers me from myself and you from yourself.  This is the mercy by which God cancels out measures of judgment.  But there is judgment, too.  Let us never forget that, but without neglecting the reality of mercy.  May we have balanced perspectives.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/obedience-and-persistence/

Week of Proper 3: Wednesday, Year 1   11 comments

Above:  Christ Carrying the Cross (1580), by El Greco

Jesus, Who Contradicts Many of Our Assumptions

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

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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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Ecclesiasticus 36:1-2, 5-6, 13-17 (Revised English Bible):

Look on us with pity, Lord God of all,

and strike fear in every nation.

Let them learn, as we ourselves have learned,

that there is not god but you, O Lord.

Renew your signs, repeat your miracles,

with glory for your mighty hand and right arm.

Show mercy to the city of your sanctuary,

to the city of Jerusalem, your dwelling-place.

Fill Zion with the praise of your triumph

and the temple with your glory.

Acknowledge those you created at the beginning

and fulfill the prophecies spoken in your name.

Reward those who look to you in trust;

prove your prophets worthy of credence.

Listen, O Lord, to the prayer of your servants,

who claim Aaron’s blessing on your people.

Let all who live on earth acknowledge

that you are the Lord, the eternal God.

Psalm 79:8-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8 Remember not our past sins;

let your compassion be swift to meet us;

for we have been brought very low.

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

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

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

Let it be known among the heathen and in our sight

that you avenge the shedding of your servant’s blood.

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

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

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

return seven-fold into their bosoms.

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

we will give you thanks for ever

and show forth your praise from age to age.

Mark 10:32-45 (Revised English Bible):

They were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was leading the way; and the disciples were filled with awe, while those who followed behind were afraid.  Once again he took the Twelve aside and began to tell them what was going to happen to him.

We are now going up to Jerusalem,

he said,

and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes; they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles.  He will be mocked and spat upon, and flogged and killed; and three days afterwards, he will rise again.

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached him and said,

Teacher, we should like you to do us a favour.

He asked,

What is it you want me to do for you?

They answered,

Allow us to sit with you in your glory, one at your right hand and the other at your left.

Jesus said to them,

You do not understand what you are asking.  Can you drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?

They answered,

We can.

Jesus said,

The cup that I drink you shall drink, and the baptism that I am baptized with shall be your baptism; but to sit on my right or on my left is not for me to grant; that honour is for those to whom it has already been assigned.

When the other ten heard this, they were indignant with James and John.  Jesus called them to him and said,

You know that among the Gentiles the recognized rulers lord it over their subjects, and the great make their authority felt.  It shall not be so with you; among you whoever wants to be great must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all.  For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

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The Collect:

Grant, O Lord, that the course of this world may be peaceably governed by your providence; and that your Church may joyfully serve you in confidence and serenity; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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The readings from Sirach and Psalms come from circumstances of national distress.  Psalm 79 comes from the aftermath of the Chaldean (Babylonian) destruction of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.E.  Sirach comes from the time after the return from this exile.  The Jews were home, but they were still subject to foreign nations.  And the descendants many Gentiles who had settled in the Jewish homeland remained.  Gentiles lost their land claims.  Religious, ethnic, and cultural conflicts erupted, of course.  So it is not surprising that the full texts of Psalm 79 and Sirach 36 contain much anger toward foreigners.

These readings contain pleas for divine mercy during such difficult times.  It was certainly a feeling that many in First Century C.E. Palestine understood.  Here were Jews living in their homeland, but under Roman occupation and with many Gentiles settled among them.  National glory was something from a past nobody remembered firsthand.  And was not the Messiah supposed to expel all those foreigners?

Speaking of the Messiah, Jesus did not expel any foreigner.  No, he even found great faith among some of them.  Jesus is like that:  not what many people expect or want him to be.

When reading the Gospel of Mark, it is very important to pay close attention to how material is grouped.  For example, this day’s reading flows directly from recent readings about children, a camel passing through the eye of a needle,  and predictions of our Lord and Savior’s death and resurrection.  It seems that some Apostles have not been paying enough attention.  The author of Mark has James and John, sons of Zebedee, ask for glorious positions relative to Jesus.  Note, however, that, in the parallel reading in Matthew 20:20-28, their mother makes the request.  The two are versions of the same story, based on a close reading of them.  (Read them for yourself.)

The other Apostles are angry with James and John, probably because they were jockeying for position, too.  “How dare you two get there first?” the other seemed to ask.  At least that is my interpretation.

Anyhow, Jesus says that the first will be last, and the last will be first.  Anyone who wants to be the greatest must be the lowliest servant.  And, by the way, he will suffer, die and rise again.  I have read this before in Mark.  But here we have these statements repeated.  We humans do not always listen closely enough often enough, do we?  Sometimes “our tapes are running,” so we hear but do not listen.  Jesus says something plainly, but we do not understand, so he has not communicated with us.  The fault is with us, not Jesus.

I propose that the communication breaks down at our end because Jesus contradicts many of our assumptions.  He cannot mean what the words seem to indicate, can he?  Yes, he can.  How often do we need him to repeat himself?  How dense are we?

The Kingdom of God is an inverted order relative to the traditional social arrangements.  According to Matthew 5:3-11 and Luke 6:20-26, the physically hungry will be filled.  Those who are spiritually impoverished will have spiritual abundance.  Those who mourn and weep will laugh.  The meek will inherit the earth.  The merciful will not get run over and taken advantage of; they will receive mercy.  The peacemakers will not be marginalized in a militaristic and angry society; they will be called sons and daughters of God.  The persecuted will triumph in God.  Those reviled for the sake of righteousness will rejoice.  The rich have received their consolation, the well-fed will be hungry, and those laughing now will mourn and weep.  And being well-regarded in polite society does not indicate favor with God.

And, as we have read today, the first will be last, and the last will be first.  Anyone who wishes to be the greatest must be the servant of all.  I know that this is repetitive, but so was Jesus.  Some statements bear repeating.

So, after almost 2,000 years of repetition, why have we not understood yet?  Why are so many of us who claim to follow Jesus so dense?  We are invested in and acculturated to the dominant social arrangements.  It is not that the Kingdom of God is upside-down; we are.

Lord, have mercy.

We need to be right side-up.

KRT

Published Originally as Week of 8 Epiphany:  Wednesday, Year 1, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on November 5, 2010