Archive for the ‘Sacred Violence’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 18, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Tower of Babel, from Metropolis (1927)

A Screen Capture

Glorifying God

SEPTEMBER 4, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Genesis 11:1-9 or Acts 28:16-31

Psalm 135:1-14

Revelation 6:1-17

John 9:1-41

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The gospel of Christ will always stand in judgment of the things that are happening in the political, economic, and social spheres of communities and nations.  And if this is so, then martyrdom is not as far away as we think.  The word “martyr” in Greek is the same word from which we get the word “witness.”

–Ernest Lee Stoffel, The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), 49-50

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To be a witness to God can be risky.  The risk may or may not involve violence, injury or death.  However, even under the best of circumstances, to ignore or minimize that risk is foolish.  Risk may even come from conventionally religious people–from powerful ones, perhaps.

I detect an element of humor in John 9:1-41.  (Reading the Bible in such a way as to miss humor is far too common.)  By the time a reader arrives at the end of the story, one may imagine steam pouring out of the ears of some of the Pharisees, if this story were in the form of a Looney Tunes cartoon.  This would make for a wonderful scene in verse 27, with the healed man’s question, 

Do you want to become his disciples yourselves?

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

At the end of that story, the healed man found himself expelled from the synagogue.  His plight must have resonated with members of the Johannine Jewish Christian community, on the margins of their Jewish communal life.  Therefore, some Jews referred to other Jews as “the Jews.”

At the end of the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul the Apostle lived under house arrest in Rome.  Ultimately, he did via beheading.

God may have struck down many enemies and oppressors of Israel, but many of the faithful have suffered and/or died for the faith, too.

The story of the Tower of Babel is a myth.  Anyone consulting it in search for a reliable source of linguistic origins is on a doomed mission.  That is not to say, however, that the story contains no truth.

This is a story about the folly of self-importance–collective self-importance, in this case.  Verse 5 reads:

The LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the people had built.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

That verse conveys the insignificance of human achievements relative to God.

The desire to make a name for ourselves–collectively and individually–is a great value in many societies.  It is not, however, a value the Bible champions.  Psalm 135 reads, in part:

Hallelujah.

Praise the name of the LORD;

give praise, you servants of the LORD,

who stand in the house of the LORD,

in the courts of the house of our God.

Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good;

sing hymns to His name, for it is pleasant.

For the LORD has chosen Jacob for Himself,

Israel, as His treasured possession.

–Verses 1-4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

If we–collectively or individually–have a name that should last for generations, centuries, and millennia, God will give it to us.  That name may not persist in human memory, though.

Some of them left a name behind them, 

so that their praises are still sung.

While others have left no memory

and disappeared as though they had not existed.

They are now as though they had never been,

and so too, their children after them.

–Ecclesiasticus 44:8-9, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

So be it.

To seek to glorify God and to maintain divine standards of political, economic, and social justice can be dangerous.  At minimum, the risk is social marginalization and scorn.  Much of this contempt may come from conventionally devout people who should know better.  To serve God or to serve Caesar.  To glorify God or to glorify oneself?  To worship God or to worship country?  The decisions are ours to make?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 23, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE ALMSGIVER, PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA

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

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

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

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

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/23/glorifying-god-vii/

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Devotion for Proper 23, Year C (Humes)   1 comment

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

Image in the Public Domain

Perplexing Readings

OCTOBER 10, 2021

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of 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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1 Samuel 15:1-23 or Jeremiah 31:27-34

Psalm 109:1-5, 21-27, 30-31

Romans 11:1-21

Luke 16:1-15

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We have some perplexing readings this Sunday.  Seldom does a lectionary load a Sunday with difficult lessons.

  1. The attack on the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15 was to avenge an Amalekite attack on Israelites centuries prior, in Exodus 17:8-16.
  2. According to Deuteronomy 20:16-18 and 25:17-19, King Saul and his forces, engaged in a holy war (Is there such a thing?), should have killed all enemies, taken no prisoners, and taken no booty.  They took booty and spared the life of King Agag, though.  This, according to 1 Samuel 15, led to God’s final rejection of Saul, who had blamed others for his violation of the law.  (Are we not glad that leaders everywhere no longer deflect blame for their errors?  That is a sarcastic question, of course.)
  3. The tone in Psalm 109 is relentlessly unforgiving.
  4. We read in Romans 11:1-21 that Gentile believers are, by the mercy of God, a branch grafted onto the Jewish tree.  Yet the Gentile branch is not exempt from the judgment of God.  The Gentile branch also has a long and shameful record of anti-Semitism.
  5. The Parable of the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager is a challenging text.  The titular character is not a role model, after all.  Yet he is intelligent and able to secure his future by committing favors he can call in when he needs to do so.  One point is that we should be astute, but not corrupt.  Naïveté is not a spiritual virtue.
  6. Money is a tool.  It should never be an idol, although it frequently is.  Greed is one of the more common sins.

I admit my lack of comfort with 1 Samuel 15 and its background.  As Amy-Jill Levine says, people did things differently back then.

I also know well the desire for divine vindication, as well as the unwillingness to forgive.  And, when I want to forgive, I do not always know how to do so.  This reminds me of the predicament of St. Paul the Apostle in Romans 7:19-20.

Each of us is susceptible to many forms of idolatry.  Something or someone becomes an idol when one treats something of someone as an idol.  Function defines an idol.

And what about that parable?  In the context of the Gospel of Luke, one needs also to consider teachings about wealth–blessed are the poor, woe to the rich, et cetera.  The theme of reversal of fortune is germane.  Also, the order not to exalt oneself, but to be kind to those who cannot repay one (Luke 14:7-14) constitutes a counterpoint to the dishonest/corrupt/astute manager/steward.  Remember, also, that if the fictional manager/steward had been honest, he would have kept his job longer, and we would not have that parable to ponder as we scratch our heads.

Obeying the Golden Rule, being as innocent as doves, and being as wise as serpents seems like a good policy.  May we heed the law of God written on our hearts, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW JERSEY; AND HIS SON, WILLIAM CROSWELL DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ALBANY; HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTONY AND THEODOSIUS OF KIEV, FOUNDERS OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONASTICISM; SAINT BARLAAM OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT; AND SAINT STEPHEN OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHRISTINA ROSSETTI, POET AND RELIGIOUS WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS REMACLUS OF MAASTRICHT, THEODORE OF MAASTRICHT, LAMBERT OF MAASTRICHT, HUBERT OF MAASTRICT AND LIEGE, AND FLORIBERT OF LIEGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT LANDRADA OF MUNSTERBILSEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND SAINTS OTGER OF UTRECHT, PLECHELM OF GUELDERLAND, AND WIRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZITA OF TUSCANY, WORKER OF CHARITY

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/04/27/perplexing-readings/

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Devotion for Proper 10 (Year D)   1 comment

Temple of Solomon

Above:  Temple of Solomon

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

The Apocalyptic Discourse, Part I

JULY 10, 2022

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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:

Jeremiah 7:1-15 or Daniel 2:1-49

Psalm 17:8-14 (15) or Psalm 83

Matthew 24:1-8 or Mark 13:1-8

1 Corinthians 7:1-40

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Timothy Matthew Slemmons, creator of the Year D project and author of the book in which I find the citations for this series of devotions, sets aside five Sundays for “the Apocalyptic Discourse,” which precedes “the Prelude to the Passion” (four Sundays) and “the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ” (ten Sundays), which leads directly into Christ the King Sunday.  This arrangement presents an opportunity to delve into material usually ignored, minimized, or squeezed into Holy Week.

Holy rituals and the Temple at Jerusalem are not protective talismans that shield us as we commit idolatry, oppress the vulnerable, victimize foreigners, shed the blood of the innocent at holy places, commit adultery, steal, and/or murder, Jeremiah says.  He and other Hebrew prophets agree that proper worship of God entails not just correct ritual but good morality; the first without the second is a mockery of God and the ritual.  Do not trust too much in the Temple, Jeremiah says.  Jesus makes a similar statement about that Temple’s successor.  Both buildings will cease to exist in time, we read.

They did.

The apocalyptic theme continues.  In Daniel the quality of material in the statue from the dream becomes progressively less impressive.  The world of human beings, with their military-based empires, degrades.  One should not trust much in those either.  Neither should one put much stock in marriage, according to St. Paul the Apostle.  According to St. Paul in 1 Corinthians, marriage is a cause for anxiety and distraction from a spiritual orientation during the last days (which he thought were in progress), but at least it is preferable to sinning.

Where, then, should one place one’s trust?  In God, of course.  The two options for this psalm this Sunday are pleas for divine vindication and destruction of one’s enemies (in contrast to the treatment of the Aramean raiders in 2 Kings 6:8-23).  In Year D (2013) Slemmons emphasizes Psalm 83, with,

Cover their faces with shame, O LORD,

that they may seek your Name.

–Verse 16, The Book of Common Prayer (1979),

a rendering, with some variations, common to many translations.  Yet, as I read Psalm 83, I notice that

that they may seek your Name

is out-of-place with the rest of the text, which pleads for their destruction.  One might explain this inconsistency by pointing out that human beings are frequently inconsistent, holding two mutually exclusive opinions simultaneously.  The translation by the late Mitchell J. Dahood, an eminent scholar of Semitic languages, for The Anchor Bible, tilts toward

a coherent exegesis within the immediate context

Psalms II (1968), page 277,

and renders the verse in question thusly:

Fill their faces with shame,

and let your Name, Yahweh, avenge itself.

As a Presbyterian minister I know says,

Translating Hebrew is a bear.

Certainly the apocalyptic mindset and genre thrives during times of difficulty, especially oppression.  We humans tend to seek the destruction of our foes anyway, but more so during times of oppression.  I understand that the deliverance of the righteous by God might entail the destruction of the wicked, especially at times when the oppressors insist on oppressing and not repenting, but the story of capturing Aramean raiders, treating them kindly before repatriating them (2 Kings 6) sticks in my memory.  As I wrote in the post in which I dealt with that account, how we treat others–especially our enemies–is really about who we are, not who they are.

So who are we?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST AND FEMINIST; AND MARIA STEWART, ABOLITIONIST, FEMINIST, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB AND DOROTHY BUXTON, FOUNDERS OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF MARY CORNELIA BISHOP GATES, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/12/17/the-apocalyptic-discourse-part-i/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 29, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Icon of the Apocalypse of John

Above:   Icon of the Apocalypse of John

Image in the Public Domain

God is the Ruler Yet

NOVEMBER 21-23, 2022

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The Collect:

O God, our true life, to serve you is freedom, and to know you is unending joy.

We worship you, we glorify you, we give thanks to you for your great glory.

Abide with us, reign in us, and make this world into a fit habitation for your divine majesty,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 46:18-28 (Monday)

Isaiah 33:17-22 (Tuesday)

Isaiah 60:8-16 (Wednesday)

Psalm 24 (All Days)

Revelation 21:5-27 (Monday)

Revelation 22:8-21 (Tuesday)

Luke 1:1-4 (Wednesday)

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Lift up your heads, O gates;

lift them high, O everlasting doors;

and the King of glory shall come in.

“Who is this King of glory?”

“The LORD, strong and mighty,

the LORD, mighty in battle.”

Lift up your heads, O gates;

lift them high, O everlasting doors;

and the King of glory shall come in.

“Who is this King of glory?”

“The Lord of hosts,

he is the King of glory.”

–Psalm 24:7-10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Here are some thoughts for the time between Proper 29 (Christ the King Sunday) and the First Sunday of Advent.

God wins in the end.  Conquerors fall to other conquerors, who fall to other conquerors.  The faithful who persevere will receive their reward.  Some of them will live long enough to witness the triumph of God in the flesh.  The story of Jesus of Nazareth, attested to by eyewitnesses, contains suffering, death, and resurrection.  The victory of God in that case is one of love and power, not the smiting of enemies, for whom Christ interceded (Luke 23:34).

The Book of Revelation tells of divine creative destruction from Chapters 4 to 20.  Then, in Revelation 21 and 22, God inaugurates the new order.  There is smiting of enemies here, for the deliverance of the oppressed is frequently bad news for unrepentant oppressors.  The new, divine world order, however, contains no oppression.

That divine order has not become reality yet, of course.  Nevertheless, as the Reverend Maltbie Davenport Babcock (1858-1901) wrote:

This is my Father’s world,

O let my ne’er forget

That though the wrong

Seems oft so strong,

God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world:

The battle is not done;

Jesus who died

Shall be satisfied,

And earth and heaven be one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK LUCIAN HOSMER, U.S. UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY GIANELLI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF SAINT ALPHONSUS LIGUORI AND THE SISTERS OF MARY DELL’ORTO

THE FEAST OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN PASTOR THEN EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERT OF NEWMINSTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND PRIEST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/06/07/god-is-the-ruler-yet/

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Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 28, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Saul Consulting the Spirit of Samuel

Above:   Saul Consults the Spirit of Samuel

Image in the Public Domain

God Concepts and Violence

NOVEMBER 10 and 11, 2022

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you,

without you nothing is strong, nothing is holy.

Embrace us with your mercy, that with you as our ruler and guide,

we may live through what is temporary without losing what is eternal,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 28:3-19 (Thursday)

2 Samuel 21:1-14 (Friday)

Psalm 98 (Both Days)

Romans 1:18-25 (Thursday)

2 Thessalonians 1:3-12 (Friday)

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In righteousness shall he judge the world

and the peoples with equity.

–Psalm 98:10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Judgment and mercy exist in balance (as a whole) in the Bible, but God seems bloodthirsty in 1 Samuel 15 and 28 and in 2 Samuel 21.

The divine rejection of Saul, first King of Israel, was due either to an improper sacrifice (1 Samuel 13:8-14) or his failure to kill all Amelikites (1 Samuel 15:2f), depending upon the source one prefers when reading 1-2 Samuel (originally one composite book copied and pasted from various documents and spread across two scrolls).  1 Samuel 28 favors the second story.  In 2 Samuel 21, as we read, David, as monarch, ended a three-year-long drought by appeasing God.  All the king had to do was hand seven members of the House of Saul over to Gibeonites, who “dismembered them before the LORD” on a mountain.

The readings from the New Testament are not peace and love either, but at least they are not bloody.  Their emphasis is on punishment in the afterlife.  In the full context of scripture the sense is that there will be justice–not revenge–in the afterlife.  Justice, for many, also includes mercy.  Furthermore, may we not ignore or forget the image of the Holy Spirit as our defense attorney in John 14:16.

I know an Episcopal priest who, when he encounters someone who professes not to believe in God, asks that person to describe the God in whom he or she does not believe.  Invariably the atheist describes a deity in whom the priest does not believe either.  I do not believe in the God of 1 Samuel 15 and 28 and 2 Samuel 21 in so far as I do not understand God in that way and trust in such a violent deity.  No, I believe–trust–in God as revealed in Jesus of Nazareth, who would not have ordered any genocide or handed anyone over for death and dismemberment.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANKLIN CLARK FRY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA AND THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANCON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/god-concepts-and-violence/

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Devotion for Friday Before Proper 12, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Caiaphas

Above:  Caiaphas

Image in the Public Domain

Esther III:  National Security

JULY 22, 2022

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you are always more ready than we are to pray,

and you gladly give more than we either desire or deserve.

Pour upon us your abundant mercy.

Forgive us those things that weigh on our conscience,

and give us those good things that come only through your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Esther 3:7-15

Psalm 138

Acts 2:22-36

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Though I live surrounded by trouble

you give me life–to my enemies’ fury!

You stretch out your right hand and save me,

Yahweh will do all things for me.

Yahweh, your faithful love endures for ever,

do not abandon what you have made.

–Psalm 138:7-8, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The story in Esther picks up at the point at which Haman persuades Ahasuerus to order genocide against the Jews.  The official reason for the decree, according to the royal decree (as contained in Chapter B, as The New American Bible labels it) is national security.  The Jews allegedly follow laws which set them at opposition to all other people and to royal decrees.  The official purpose of the planned genocide is to restore the stability of the Persian Empire.  The actual reasons, of course, are Haman’s egotism and anti-Semitism.  As Dr. Samuel Johnson stated,

Patriotism is the last resort of a scoundrel.

The reading from Acts 2 concerns the crucifixion of Jesus.  Roman imperial personnel executed Jesus, of course, but certain Jewish religious leaders were complicit in the unjust act.  As Caiaphas said in John 11:50,

You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die than to have the whole nation destroyed.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

National security is a legitimate concern, one which requires difficult decisions sometimes.  Nevertheless, genocide is never a justifiable practice.  Just as national security has its place, so does patriotism.  My point is that some scoundrels hide behind these virtues and convince other people to support them in unjust actions.  I would like to be a pacifist, but my sense of reality prevents me from doing that.  I do propose, however, that most violence is immoral and unnecessary.  This is especially true of the violence planned in Esther 3 and the crucifixion of Jesus.

There is a proper balance between individual rights and the common good.  There is also such a thing as the tyranny of the majority or of a powerful minority.  The common good, by definition, cannot justify genocide or judicial murder.  Those with power have no moral right to victimize any person or population.  And nobody has a moral right to be complicit in such a plot or effort.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, BISHOP OF ARMAGH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/17/esther-iii-national-security/

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Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 29, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ in Majesty Icon

Above:  Christ in Majesty

Image in the Public Domain

The Dawning Kingdom of God

NOVEMBER 18 and 19, 2021

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

you anointed your beloved Son to be priest and sovereign forever.

Grant that all the people of the earth,

now divided by the power of sin,

may be united by the glorious and gentle rule of Jesus Christ,

our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 28:1-10 (Thursday)

Ezekiel 28:20-26 (Friday)

Psalm 93 (Both Days)

Acts 7:54-8:1a (Thursday)

1 Corinthians 15:20-28 (Friday)

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You, O LORD, are Sovereign;

you have put on splendid apparel;

you, O LORD, have put on your apparel

and girded yourself with strength.

You have made the whole world so sure

that it cannot be moved;

ever since the world began, your throne has been established;

you are from everlasting.

The waters have lifted up, O LORD,

the waters have lifted up their voice;

the waters have lifted up their pounding waves.

Mightier than the sound of many waters,

mightier than the breakers of the sea,

mightier is the LORD who dwells on high.

Your testimonies are very sure,

and holiness adorns your house, O LORD,

forever and forevermore.

–Psalm 93, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The journey toward Christ the King Sunday (evident in the selection of the Psalm) continues.  The sovereignty of God is a major theme in Ezekiel 28, where we read announcements that the prideful King of Tyre will die and that the hostile countries around Judah will fall.  The restoration of Judah will follow, thus people will know that Yahweh is the God of the Hebrews.

Death is a punishment in Ezekiel 28 and the penalty for St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr and one of the first Christian deacons.  In Acts 7-8, where we read of the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the accusation was blasphemy, although anger and defensiveness were the actual causes.  Whatever those who executed the saint thought regarding theology, their violence in the name of God belied their protests of righteousness.  St. Stephen was forgiving, however.  One will know a tree by its fruits.

Death is the last enemy to face defeat in 1 Corinthians 15.  The agent of victory over death is the crucified and resurrected Christ.  As verses 17-19 say,

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those who have died in Christ have perished.  If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The Pauline case continues the assertion that God has put everything under subjection to Christ, in God.

The theme of Christ the King Sunday is that, despite appearances to the contrary, God is in charge.  Pope Pius XI created the feast in the 1920s, when dictators dominated Europe and fascism was on the rise.  The message of Christ the King Sunday remains relevant today, for human nature and divine faithfulness are constants.  The Kingdom of God has been present among us for a long time, for it was “at hand” nearly 2000 years ago, when Jesus of Nazareth walked the face of the Earth.  Alas, the Kingdom of God has not become fully realized, for it is simultaneously present and en route.  Human cruelty constitutes evidence of the partial realization of the Kingdom of God, so we hope and pray for the completion of the promise.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SCHEFFLER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORG NEUMARK, GERMAN LUTHERAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN HINES, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/the-dawning-kingdom-of-god/

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Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 23, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Return of the Spies from the Land of Promise Gustave Dore

Above:  Return of the Spies from the Land of Promise, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

Rest in God

OCTOBER 7 and 8, 2021

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, increase in us your gift of faith,

that, forsaking what lies behind and reaching out to what lies ahead,

we may follow the way of your commandments

and receive the crown of everlasting joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 5:1-21 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 5:22-33 (Friday)

Psalm 90:12-17 (Both Days)

Hebrews 3:17-19 (Thursday)

Hebrews 4:1-11 (Friday)

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FYI:  Those of you who compare and contrast versification in translations of the Bible might notice that Deuteronomy 5:1-30 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox versions equals 5:1-33 in Protestant translations.

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So teach us to number our days

that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

–Psalm 90:12, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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Trust and obedience to God undergird the readings for these two days.

Deuteronomy 5, which contains the Ten Commandments, concludes with these words:

Be careful, then, to do as the LORD your God has commanded you.  Do not turn aside to the right or to the left:  follow only the path that the LORD your God has enjoined upon you, so that you may thrive and that it may go well with you and that you may long endure in the land you are to possess.

–Verses 29-30, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

One had to arrive first, however.  In Numbers 14, after spies had returned from their mission to Canaan, fear and faithlessness spread through the population.

I the LORD have spoken:  Thus will I do to all that wicked band that has banded together against Me:  in this very wilderness they shall die to the last man.

–Numbers 14:35, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews, who assumed that David had written Psalm 95, referred to that text:

Forty years I was provoked by that generation;

I thought, “They are a senseless people;

they would not know my ways.”

Concerning them I swore in anger,

“They shall never come to my resting-place!”

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

The Promised Land is the resting-place in Psalm 95, as is one meaning of the Greek word katapausis in the readings from Hebrews.  There are two words for “rest” in them; the other refers to sabbath rest.  Katapausis has two other meanings in the Letter to the Hebrews:

  1. The rest God took after the sixth day of creation; this definition has eschatological overtones; and
  2. The peace of God.

The latter is the ultimate meaning of katapausis in the readings from Hebrews.  Entrance into the peace of God requires trust and obedience.

But what does that mean in practical terms?  Many voices compete to answer that question.  Many of them horrify me.  Those, for example, who argue that fidelity to God requires mutilating offenders and killing heretics and unbelievers appall me.  (Some of those sources quote the Bible word-for-word while ignoring inconvenient passages.)  Those who justify their violence by placing a false stamp of divine approval on it offend me.  I do not pretend to know the mind of God, for I affirm the mystery of the divine.  Yet I state clearly that one can, by considering the example of Jesus, learn much about the requirements for being a Christian.  Loving one’s neighbors as one loves oneself (presuming, of course, that one loves oneself) is part of obeying God, I affirm.

The author of Hebrews referred to Joshua, son of Nun, in 4:8.  May we who call ourselves Christians follow our Joshua–Jesus–into the peace of God.  May we lay aside the fear which leads to disobedience to and lack of trust in God.  May we, by grace, come into that divine rest and lead others to it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY THOMAS SMART, ENGLISH ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERRARD, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF IMMANUEL NITSCHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND MUSICIAN; HIS BROTHER-IN-LAW, JACOB VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN MORAVIAN BISHOP, MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR; HIS SON, WILLIAM HENRY VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS BROTHER, CARL ANTON VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR; HIS DAUGHTER, LISETTE (LIZETTA) MARIA VAN VLECK MEINUNG; AND HER SISTER, AMELIA ADELAIDE VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN CENNICK, BRITISH MORAVIAN EVANGELIST AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/07/03/rest-in-god/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 20, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Jeremiah Sistine Chapel

Above:  Jeremiah, from the Sistine Chapel

Image in the Public Domain

Violence and Nonviolent People

SEPTEMBER 22, 2021

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The Collect:

O God, our teacher and guide,

you draw us to yourself and welcome us as beloved children.

Help us to lay aside all envy and selfish ambition,

that we may walk in your ways of wisdom and understanding

as servants of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 139:1-18

John 8:21-38

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How deep I find your thoughts, O God!

how great is the sum of them!

If I were to count them, they would be more in number than the sand;

to count them all, my lifespan would need to be like yours.

–Psalm 139:16-17, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Many people (especially those who opposed Jeremiah and Jesus) had a different opinion.  Both men had to contend with violence and threats thereof because of their faithful witness to God.  One died in exile; the other endured crucifixion, died, rose again, and returned to Heaven.  Their messages have endured, fortunately.

I have thought deeply about why so many people resort to violence in opposition to nonviolent adversaries.  Jeremiah, who lived in a theocratic puppet state of a foreign power, challenged the legitimate authorities of his realm.  He called them what they were.  Those authorities were politically legitimate, but they were proving ruinous to the kingdom, such as it was.  Jesus challenged a theocratic Temple system which exploited the poor, collaborated with the Roman Empire, and peddled a piety dependent upon prosperity.  He, by words, deeds, and mere existence, made clear that the Temple system was wrong.  In both cases authority figures depended upon their privileges.  To the extent that they excused their violence as righteous they belied their claims of righteousness.

President Abraham Lincoln cautioned against claiming that God was on one’s side.  A good question, he said, is whether one is on God’s side.  Determining the definition of God’s side is often easier after the fact than in the moment, however.  Many professing American Christians with orthodox Christology defended chattel slavery by quoting the Bible in the 1800s.  At the time many others quoted the same sacred anthology to make the opposite argument.  I know which group was on God’s side.  However, I also have the benefit of 150 years of hindsight since the end of the Civil War.

Arguments in which impassioned people who differ strongly with each other and invoke God continue.  Not all sides can be correct, of course.  May the invocation of God to justify bigotry cease.  May the use of allegedly sacred violence follow suit.  Such violence flows from heated rhetoric, which flows from hostile thoughts.  Peace (or at least a decrease of violence) begins between one’s ears.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 30, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN OLAF WALLIN, ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSALA AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR JAMES MOORE, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH LONAS, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND LITURGIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/violence-and-nonviolent-people/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 18, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Jericho, 1925

Above:  Jericho, 1925

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-14127

Jesus and Genocide

SEPTEMBER 6 and 7, 2021

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The Collect:

Gracious God, throughout the ages you transform

sickness into health and death into life.

Openness to the power of your presence,

and make us a people ready to proclaim your promises to the world,

through Jesus Christ, our healer and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47

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The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 6:1-21 (Monday)

Joshua 8:1-23 (Tuesday)

Isaiah 38:10-20 (Both Days)

Hebrews 11:29-12:2 (Monday)

Hebrews 12:3-13 (Tuesday)

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I twitter as if I were a swallow,

I moan like a dove.

My eyes are raised to heaven:

“Lord, pay heed; stand surety for me.”

–Isaiah 38:14, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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One principle of allegedly holy war in the Torah is to kill entire populations and to destroy all property–for the glory of God, not for one’s own gain.  This was the principle which Achan, a Hebrew warrior, violated when he claimed some souvenirs from Jericho, hence the trouble in Joshua 7.  That chapter tells us that the Israelites did not conquer Ai until they had executed Achan and his family (what had they done?) and burned the souvenirs.  The effect of these deeds, according to Joshua 7, was to nip the contagion of sin in the bud.

The author of Hebrews 11:29-12:13 seemed to have a mixed attitude toward violence in the name of God, for he glossed over the violence of the conquest of Canaan while condemning the violence of those who oppressed Jews and Christians.  That author invited his audience to follow the example of Christ in enduring trials.  We should, the author wrote, endure suffering for the sake of discipline–a nice tie-in to Isaiah 38, part of the story of King Hezekiah of Judah.  Nevertheless, discipline is not mass murder or the killing of innocent people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I consider the example of Jesus and apply it to Joshua 6-8.  What would Jesus do?  Would he have impaled the King of Ai on a stake, as in Joshua 8:29?  Against which population would our Lord and Savior authorized genocide?

I am a realist.  Yes, some violence becomes necessary for positive purposes because some people have made it so.  Likewise, some violence becomes inevitable for the same reason.  Nevertheless, I suspect that most violence is both avoidable and needless.  It flows from sinful human nature, not the decrees of God, and many people seek to justify their sinful violence by dressing it up as righteousness.  May we–you, O reader, and I–prove to be innocent of that offense all our days.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONIFACE OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF ANDERS CHRISTENSEN ARREBO, “THE FATHER OF DANISH POETRY”

THE FEAST OF OLE T. (SANDEN) ARNESON, U.S. NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN HYMN TRANSLATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/06/06/jesus-and-genocide/

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