Archive for the ‘Psalm 81’ Tag

Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 14, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Autumn

Above:  Autumn

Image in the Public Domain

Building Up Our Neighbors, Part VI

AUGUST 15, 2018

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The Collect:

Gracious God, your blessed Son came down from heaven

to be the true bread that gives life to the world.

Give us this bread always,

that he may live in us and we in him,

and that, strengthened by this food,

may live as his body in the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 31:1-6

Psalm 81

John 6:35-40

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I am the LORD your God,

who brought you out of the land of Egypt and said,

“Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”

–Psalm 81:10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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In the assigned readings for this day and the previous six days (including Sunday) in the Revised Common Lectionary (Sunday and daily) God provides physical sustenance, directly or indirectly.  The collect from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006) picks up on this fact and on John 6:35-40, and uses food as a metaphor.  Jesus is the bread of life, we read.  This is nearly identical to Eucharistic language; the bread is the body of Jesus, the bread of heaven, and the wine is the blood of Christ, which fills the cup of salvation.  (I take those statements literally.)  The theme of the lectionary readings for seven days culminates in a glorious metaphor.

I have entitled the Thursday-Saturday and Monday-Wednesday posts “Building Up Our Neighbors,” for that is where the readings have led me.  What builds up hungry and thirsty people more than providing proper food and drink?  One must sustain one’s body if one is to live in it, after all.  Yet there is more than literal food and drink people require, for we humans are both physical and spiritual beings.  Building up our neighbors includes a necessary and proper element of spiritual food and drink also.  Confusing the two categories of needs leads to unfortunate results.  Rumi (1207-1273) understood this fact well.  He wrote:

Stay bewildered in God,

and only that.

Those of you are scattered,

simplify your worrying lives.  There is one

righteousness:  Water the fruit trees,

and don’t water the thorns.  Be generous

to what nurtures the spirit and God’s luminous

reason-light.  Don’t honor what causes

dysentery and knotted-up tumors.

Don’t feed both sides of yourself equally.

The spirit and the body carry different loads

and require different attentions.

Too often

we put saddlebags of Jesus and let

the donkey run loose in the pasture.

Don’t make the body do

what the spirit does best, and don’t let a big load

on the spirit that the body could carry easily.

–The Essential Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne, A. J. Arberry, and Reynold Nicholson, HarperCollins, 1995; paperback, 1996; page 256

As my brethren in the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum) have understood well for centuries, there is a porous boundary between the secular and the sacred and the physical and the spiritual.  A mundane act can be morally neutral or expressive of deep spirituality, depending on the context.  For example, preparing good food can be just that or an act of great kindness which provides proper nutrition for someone and saves his or her life.  Performing otherwise morally neutral mundane acts in the name of Jesus, the bread of life, whose body is the bread of heaven and whose blood fills the cup of salvation is one way of building up one’s neighbors and of glorifying God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 28, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN H. W. STUCKENBERG, LUTHERAN PASTOR AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF EDWIN POND PARKER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGARET POLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/building-up-our-neighbors-part-vi/

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Devotion for Tuesday After Proper 14, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

The Gleaners--Gustave Dore

Above:  The Gleaners, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

Building Up Our Neighbors, Part V

AUGUST 14, 2018

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The Collect:

Gracious God, your blessed Son came down from heaven

to be the true bread that gives life to the world.

Give us this bread always,

that he may live in us and we in him,

and that, strengthened by this food,

may live as his body in the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

Ruth 2:1-23

Psalm 81

2 Peter 3:14-18

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For this is a statute for Israel,

a law of the God of Jacob.

–Psalm 81:4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Among the principles in the Law of Moses, alongside stoning people for a variety of offenses, from insulting parents strongly to working on the Sabbath, is providing for the poor.  Thus there is a commandment to leave some crops unharvested in one’s fields, so that poor people may acquire food.  We read in Ruth 2 that Boaz obeyed this commandment and exceeded it.  In this context we find the theme of the Book of Ruth in 2:12:  Those who seek shelter with God will find it.

2 Peter 3:14-18, the end of that epistle, exists in the context of the expectation of the Second Coming of Jesus, something which has yet to occur as of the drafting and typing of this post.  Divine patience, or waiting, the author wrote between 80 and 90 C.E., is an indication of blessing, not faithlessness.

…and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.

–2 Peter 3:15a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

As my Anabaptist brethren say, this is the age of God’s patience.  May we, therefore, occupy ourselves with the work God has assigned to us, which is, one way or another, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and to leave the world better than we found it.  May we, by grace, complete our individual parts of this great vocation (a long-term, collective effort) to the satisfaction of God, for divine glory, and for the benefit of others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 28, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN H. W. STUCKENBERG, LUTHERAN PASTOR AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF EDWIN POND PARKER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGARET POLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/building-up-our-neighbors-part-v/

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Devotion for Monday After Proper 14, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath--Bartholomeus Breenbergh

Above:  Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath, by Bartholomeus Breenbergh

Image in the Public Domain

Building Up Our Neighbors, Part IV

AUGUST 13, 2018

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The Collect:

Gracious God, your blessed Son came down from heaven

to be the true bread that gives life to the world.

Give us this bread always,

that he may live in us and we in him,

and that, strengthened by this food,

may live as his body in the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 17:1-16

Psalm 81

Ephesians 5:1-4

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Oh, that my people would listen to me!

that Israel would walk in my ways!

–Psalm 81:13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Much of Christianity has condemned personal sins (such as swearing, gambling, fornicating, and fighting) exclusively or primarily while justifying oppressive violence and unjust economic systems over time.  One could point to, among other examples, the tradition of Roman Catholic support for feudalism and manorialism then for various dictators (such as Francisco Franco of Spain; at least he was anti-Communist) or to the Lutheran tradition of supporting the state, even when that is dubious.  And Martin Luther (1483-1546) did support the brutal repression of a peasants’ revolt by the German ruler who was protecting his life during the earliest years of the Protestant Reformation.  I cannot forget that fact either.  (To be fair, the Roman Catholic Church has also opposed dictatorships and many German Lutherans opposed the Third Reich.)  I choose to emphasize an example of which many people are unaware.  The Presbyterian Church in the United States, the old “Southern” Presbyterian Church, began in 1861 with a narrow range of moral concerns:  private behavior.  Slavery was not a moral concern fit for the church.  No, that was a matter for governments to address.  This was an example of the “Spirituality of the Church,” one of the biggest cop-outs I have encountered.  In the 1930s part of the left wing of that denomination succeeded in expanding the church’s range of moral concerns to include structural economic inequality, war and peace, et cetera.  In 1954 the Southern Presbyterians became the first U.S. denomination to affirm the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) as consistent with scripture and Christian values.  Much of the right wing of that denomination objected to these changes vocally, even to the point of defending Jim Crow laws in print.  (I have index cards full of evidence.)  Nevertheless, did not Jesus command people to love their neighbors as they love themselves?

“How long will you judge unjustly,

and show favor to the wicked?

Save the weak and the orphan;

defend the humble and the needy;

Rescue the weak and the poor;

deliver them from the power of the wicked….”

–Psalm 82:2-4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Sins come in the personal and collective responsibilities, among others.  Infractions of both kinds require confession and repentance, but addressing offenses in the former category is easier than seeking to correct offenses in the latter category.  Focusing on the former primarily or exclusively is, I suppose, a way (albeit an unsuccessful way) to seek to let oneself off the proverbial hook morally.

God commands us to care for people actively and effectively.  Sometimes this occurs on a small scale, as in the pericope from 1 Kings 17.  On other occasions the effort is massive and might even entail resisting unjust laws which place the poor at further disadvantage.  All of these efforts are consistent with the command to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 28, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN H. W. STUCKENBERG, LUTHERAN PASTOR AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF EDWIN POND PARKER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGARET POLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/building-up-our-neighbors-part-iv/

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Devotion for Friday and Saturday Before Proper 4, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

The Pool

Above:  The Pool, by Palma Giovane

Image in the Public Domain

The Sabbath and Compassion

JUNE 1 and 2, 2018

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

throughout time you free the oppressed,

heal the sick,

and make whole all that you have made.

Look with compassion on the world wounded by sin,

and by your power restore us to wholeness of life,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 23:1-8 (Friday)

Leviticus 24:5-9 (Saturday)

Psalm 81:1-10 (Both Days)

Romans 8:31-39 (Friday)

John 7:19-24 (Saturday)

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For this is a statute of Israel,

a law of the God of Jacob,

The charge he laid on the people of Joseph,

when they came out of the land of Egypt.

–Psalm 81:4-5, Common Worship (2000)

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The Sabbath theme continues in the pericopes from Leviticus and John.  The reading from Romans fits well with that from Johannine Gospel.  I adore a well-constructed lectionary!

The lessons from Leviticus speak of sacred time, rituals, and items.  As much as I, as a Christian, disagree with the pervasive sense of the holy as other and God as distant which one finds in the Law of Moses, I respect the efforts expended out of reverence.  God did become incarnate as Jesus (however the Trinitarian theology of that works), walk among people, and eat in homes, but excessive casualness regarding matters of ritual and spirituality is no virtue.  That understanding feeds my ritualism.

On six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there shall be a sabbath of complete rest, a sacred occasion.  You shall do no work; it shall be a sabbath of the LORD in all your settlements.

–Leviticus 23:3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Yet Leviticus 12:3 commands male circumcision on the eighth day–even when that day falls on the Sabbath.  Did Jesus, therefore, sin when he healed on the Sabbath?  And was the desire of hostile of people to kill him for healing on the Sabbath sinful?  If one assumes that they understood his Sabbath day healings as constituting profaning the Sabbath, one must then, to be fair, cite Exodus 31:14-15, which calls for the death penalty.  Nevertheless, the religious laws of our Lord and Savior’s day permitted work (other than circumcision) on the Sabbath.  For example, saving a live was permissible.

Jesus proclaimed by words and deeds that every day is an appropriate time to act with maximum compassion and that no day is a good time to become bogged down in heartless and defensive legalism.  His love for those who needed his help and know it is the love to which St. Paul the Apostle refers in Romans 8.  Nothing can separate us from that love.  Dare we scorn it?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 13, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PLATO OF SYMBOLEON AND THEODORE STUDITES, EASTERN ORTHODOX ABBOTS; AND SAINT NICEPHORUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT HELDRAD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINTS RODERIC OF CABRA AND SOLOMON OF CORDOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/the-sabbath-and-compassion/

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Devotion for Thursday Before Proper 4, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

St. Paul

Above:  St. Paul the Apostle, According to a Bible Salesman’s Book from the 1800s

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Violence and the Profaning of the Sabbath

MAY 31, 2018

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

throughout time you free the oppressed,

heal the sick,

and make whole all that you have made.

Look with compassion on the world wounded by sin,

and by your power restore us to wholeness of life,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 31:12-18

Psalm 81:1-10

Acts 25:1-12

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For this is a statute of Israel,

a law of the God of Jacob,

The charge he laid on the people of Joseph,

when they came out of the land of Egypt.

–Psalm 81:4-5, Common Worship (2000)

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Many provisions of the Law of Moses carried the death penalty.  For example, committing blasphemy and adultery came with the risk of execution.  (This remains true in some cultures, and civilized people condemn these penalties rightly.)  Offenses against the holiness of God also led to the risk of death.  Thus committing religious rituals improperly led to a bad end.  And, in Exodus 31, profaning the Sabbath led to execution, for not keeping the Sabbath holy endangered the definition of Israel, indicated self-reliance (not dependence on God), and hearkened back to the Sabbathless work schedule of Hebrew slaves in Egypt.  And, as St. Paul the Apostle knew well, the mere accusation of having violated the Law of Moses led to the risk of death.  Ironically, his accusers were allies of the Roman Empire, a government at least as oppressive as the Pharaonic regime in Egypt.

I refuse to justify the fetish the Law of Moses had for the death penalty.  In fact, I refuse to make excuses for capital punishment, for I see a moral equivalence between an individual taking a life deliberately and a government doing so.  I also recognize disapprovingly the fondness many religious people and institutions have manifested and continue to manifest for political, social, and economic systems built on enforced inequality, on violence, and on artificial scarcity.

Exodus 31:12-17 also reminds us of holy time, something we ought never to neglect (yet ignore frequently).  We should live as free people dependent on God, not as slaves or cogs in exploitative and violent institutions and systems.  We also need time to reflect, relax, “recharge our batteries,” and just be.  Human dignity needs to assume a more prominent place in our societies, for people should matter more than wealth, property, and commodities.  That ethic–the image of God–ought to inform how we think of others, transforming our attitudes regarding those quite different from us and those whom we dislike and with whom we disagree strongly.  This is, I admit, a challenging spiritual vocation.  It is one with which I struggle, but I continue to try, with mixed results.

As for killing, it is unavoidable sometimes, sadly.  We live in an obviously imperfect world in which people, from time to time, permit circumstances to escalate to the point that death will constitute some part of the resolution one way or another.  I wish that this were not true, but it is the reality too often, “too often” meaning at least once.  Much of the time, however, killing is avoidable yet becomes the reality nevertheless.  I propose that, when one profanes the Sabbath (however one defines the Sabbath in the calendar), killing the profaner is wrong and avoidable.  Whom would Jesus execute?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 12, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY I “THE GREAT,” BISHOP OF ROME

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/violence-and-profaning-the-sabbath/

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Devotion for November 21 and 22 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

04865v

Above:  Cardinal Gibbons on Accepting Membership in the National Child Labor Committee, Circa 1913

Photographed by Lewis Wickes Hine (1874-1940)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-nclc-04865

Daniel and Revelation, Part I:  Identifying With Oppressors

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2019, and FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2019

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 2:1-23 (November 21)

Daniel 2:24-49 (November 22)

Psalm 143 (Morning–November 21)

Psalm 86 (Morning–November 22)

Psalms 81 and 116 (Evening–November 21)

Psalms 6 and 19 (Evening–November 22)

Revelation 18:1-24 (November 21)

Revelation 19:1-21 (November 22)

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Daniel prophesied the fall of the Chaldean Empire of King Nebuchadnezzar (Nebuchadrezzar) II (reigned 625-605 BCE), the rise and fall of successive empires, and the founding of God’s rule on earth.  The founding of God’s rule on earth is one of the topics of Revelation 18 and 19.  I find the more interesting topic of those chapters to be the different responses to the fall of “Babylon” (the Roman Empire).  The righteous exult, as they should.  But those who had made common cause with the corruption, injustice, and violence of the late empire lament its passing.

Richard Bauckham, in The Bible in Politics:  How to Read the Bible Politically, 2d. Ed. (Louisville, KY:  Westminster/John Knox Press, 2011), provides excellent analysis:

Rome is a harlot because of her associations with the peoples of her empire for her own economic benefit.  The Pax Romana is really a system of economic exploitation of the empire.  For the favours of Rome–the security and prosperity of the Pax Romana–her lovers pay a high price.  Her subjects give far more to her than she gives to them.

–pages 90-91

The riches came from the exploitation of people (page 91) and the condemnation applies to successive states throughout history (page 93).  Furthermore, there is a hermeneutical trap:

Any reader who finds himself…viewing the prospect of the fall of Rome with dismay should therefore discover with a shock where he stands, and the peril in which he stands.

–page 99

Bauckham concludes with the following:

…there is much to suggest that modern Western society, in its worship of the idol of its ever-increasing material prosperity, is trafficking in human lives.  Chief among its mourners may be the multinational companies, the advertising industry, and the arms trade.  But one should also be aware of the hermeneutical trap John laid for us all.

–page 102

The towel draped across my shower curtain rod says:

MADE IN BANGLADESH.

How old was the person who made my towel?  (Child labor is rampant in Bangladesh.)  How long was his or her work day?  What standard of living does he or she enjoy?  I suspect that the answers would disturb my conscience.  I know that there must have been reasons (not all of them innocent) that the towel cost so little to purchase.  I am, simply by belonging to my First World society, complicit in the exploitation of Third World people.  Every time I shop for a towel, a clock radio, or a pair of tennis shoes, for example, I risk deepening my complicity.

Be merciful to me, O Lord, for you are my God;

I call upon you all the day long.

–Psalm 86:3, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROBERT FRANCIS KENNEDY, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL AND SENATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONIFACE OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/daniel-and-revelation-part-i-identifying-with-oppressors/

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Devotion for November 10 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   8 comments

Parable_of_talents

Above:  The Parable of the Talents

Image in the Public Domain

Jeremiah and Matthew, Part VIII:  Vindication by God

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2019

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 23:1-20

Psalm 19 (Morning)

Psalms 81 and 113 (Evening)

Matthew 25:14-30

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See, a time is coming–declares the LORD–when I will raise up a true branch of David’s line.  He shall reign as king and prosper and he shall do what is just and right in the land.  In his days Judah shall be delivered and Israel shall dwell secure.  And this is the name by which he shall be called:

The LORD is our Vindicator.

–Jeremiah 23:5-6, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Zedekiah (2 Kings 24:18-25:7) had been the last King of Judah.  He had rebelled against his Chaldean overlords and paid the stiff, brutal price for doing so.  Thus it is appropriate that, in the prophecy of Jeremiah, the name of the good, future leader from the Davidic line is, in Hebrew, a play on the name “Zedekiah,” only reversed.  That name in English is:

  • “Yahweh-is-our-Saving-Justice” (The New Jerusalem Bible);
  • “The LORD is our Vindicator” (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures); and
  • “The LORD is our Righteousness” (The Revised English Bible).

That name, transliterated from Hebrew, is YHVH Tzidkenu, according to page 972 of The Jewish Study Bible (2004).  The Hebrew word means both “righteousness” and “deliverance,” as in vindication or salvation.

I find the intersection of lectionaries fascinating, for, as I write through them, one cross-fertilizes he other in my brain.  Vindication as redemption came up in material I covered in the previous post, one based on the Revised Common Lectionary.  As I reported there, one definition of “vindicate” is:

To justify or prove the worth of, especially in the light of later developments.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 3d. Ed. (1996)

Given the repeated pronouncements of impending doom in the Book of Jeremiah through Chapter 22, one might wonder what the new development is.  Perhaps the development just seems new from a human perspective.  Yes, judgment and doom will ensue, but mercy will follow.

The Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth constituted one form of mercy.  Yet with it came an element of judgment also.  Both exist in the Parable of the Talents.  A talent was a large sum of money–as much as a day laborer would earn in fifteen years.  The rich man gave the three servants no instructions to invest, so the servant with only one talent did not violate any formal rule when he stored it in the ground.  Yet he missed the point, which was to do something which increased value.

This parable exists in the shadow of the Second Coming of Jesus, at least in subsequent interpretation.  (I know of at least one relatively orthodox New Testament scholar who insists that YHWH, not Jesus, returns in the parable.)  The point remains unaffected, however:  What have we done for God?  We are supposed to hear then do; that is the call of discipleship.  If we do that, God will vindicate us–redeem us–deliver us–save us–be our righteousness.  If we do not, judgment will follow.  But, after that, there is mercy for many, especially descendants.  The promise of Jeremiah 23:5-6 is that there will be vindication–redemption–deliverance–salvation.

Why not act for God now?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MORAND OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LIPHARDUS OF ORLEANS AND URBICIUS OF MEUNG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF UGANDA

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/jeremiah-and-matthew-part-viii-vindication-by-god/

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