Archive for the ‘Scapegoat’ Tag

Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 17, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Christ Before Pilate

Above:  Christ Before Pilate, by Mihaly Munkacsy

Image in the Public Domain

Cleansing from Evil that Arises Within Ourselves, Part II

SEPTEMBER 1, 2018

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The Collect:

O God our strength, without you we are weak and wayward creatures.

Protect us from all dangers that attack us from the outside,

and cleanse us from the outside,

and cleanse us from all evil that arises from within ourselves,

that we may be preserved through your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 34:8-28

Psalm 15

John 18:28-32

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Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle?

Who may rest upon your holy hill?

Whoever leads an uncorrupt life

and does the thing that is right;

Who speaks the truth from the heart

and bears no deceit on the tongue;

Who does no evil to a friend

and pours no scorn on a neighbour;

In whose sight the wicked are not esteemed,

but who honours those who fear the Lord.

Whoever has sworn to a neighbour

and never goes back on that word;

Who does not lend money in hope of gain,

nor takes a bribe against the innocent;

Whoever does these things shall never fall.

–Psalm 15, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The reading from Exodus 34 tells of the restoration of the covenant between Yahweh and the recently liberated Hebrews.  God, we read, is compassionate and impassioned, encompassing both mercy and judgment.  The covenant was something God took seriously and many people did not, occasional ceremonies not withstanding.

As I read John 18:28-32, the first thing I noticed was that those who delivered Jesus to Pontius Pilate’s headquarters were willing to let the Roman authorities execute Jesus yet demonstrated great concern for maintaining their own ritual purity ahead of Passover.  The spectacle of people fretting about ritual defilement while being willfully complicit in the execution of an innocent man–a scapegoat, even–is appalling.

Often we Gentiles are prone to point to such stories from the Gospels and condemn the failings of long-dead Palestinian Jews.  Those failings deserve condemnation, of course, but what about our sins?  How often have we been consciously complicit in injustice (actively or passively) and sought to maintain the illusion of righteousness?  We might even fool ourselves, but we do not deceive God, who is both compassionate and impassioned, who commands justice for the widows, the orphans, and the exploited.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARGARET E. SANGSTER, HYMN WRITER, NOVELIST, AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF LYONS (A.K.A. BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS)

THE FEAST OF REINHOLD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY, BISHOP, AND MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/cleansing-from-evil-that-arises-within-ourselves-part-ii/

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Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 10, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

Love and Forgiveness

JULY 11, 2020

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The Collect:

Almighty God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your word.

By your Holy Spirit help us to receive it with joy,

live according to it, and grow if faith and love,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 52:1-6

Psalm 65:[1-8], 9-13

John 12:44-50

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Isaiah 52:1-6 speaks of a time, in our past yet in the original audience’s future, when foreigners would no longer hold sway in Jerusalem.  One might imagine faithful Jews saying, in the words of Psalm 65:1,

You are to be praised, O God, in Zion;

to you shall vows be performed in Jerusalem.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Yet, in John 12, Jerusalem was not only under Roman occupation, but a Roman fortress sat next to and towered over the Temple complex, the seat of a collaborationist and theocratic state.  Jesus, about to die, is in hiding and the Temple rulers have been plotting since John 11:48-50 to scapegoat Jesus, for in the words of High Priest Caiaphas,

…it is better for you to have one man die to have the whole nation destroyed.

–John 11:50b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That was not the only germane conflict, for the Gospel of John came from marginalized Jewish Christians at the end of the first century C.E.  They had lost the argument in their community.  Certainly this fact influenced how they told the story of Jesus.  I know enough about the retelling and reinterpretation of the past to realize that we humans tell history in the context of our present.  The present tense shapes our understanding of events which belong in the past tense; it can be no other way.

What must it be like to experience great hope mixed with subsequent disappointment–perhaps even resentment–inside which we frame the older hope?  Faithful Jews of our Lord and Savior’s time knew that feeling well when they pondered parts of the Book of Isaiah and other texts.  The Johannine audience knew that feeling well when it considered Jesus.  Perhaps you, O reader, know that feeling well in circumstances only you know well.

And how should one respond?  I propose avoiding vengeance (in the style of Psalm 137) and scapegoating.  Anger might feel good in the short term, but it is a spiritual toxin in the medium and long terms.  No, I point to the love of Jesus, which asked God to forgive those who crucified him and consented to it, for they did not know what they had done and were doing.  And I point to Isaiah 52:3, in which God says:

You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

I point to the agape God extends to us and which is the form of love in 1 Corinthians 13.  Love and forgiveness are infinitely superior to anger, resentment, and scapegoating.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF PADUA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF G. K. (GILBERT KEITH) CHESTERTON, AUTHOR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/love-and-forgiveness/

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Devotion for November 12 and 13 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Última_Cena_-_Da_Vinci_5

Above:  The Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci

Image in the Public Domain

Jeremiah and Matthew, Part X:  Divine Deliverance–Sometimes Deferred, Sometimes Absent

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2020, AND FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2020

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of 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 25:1-18 (November 12)

Jeremiah 26:1-19 (November 13)

Psalm 123 (Morning–November 12)

Psalm 15 (Morning–November 13)

Psalms 30 and 86 (Evening–November 12)

Psalms 48 and 4 (Evening–November 13)

Matthew 26:1-19 (November 12)

Matthew 26:20-35 (November 13)

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Thereupon the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a meeting of the Council.  “This man is performing many signs,” they said, “and what action are we taking?”  If we let him to on like this the whole populace will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and sweep away our temple and our nation.”  But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said, “You have no grasp of the situation at all; you do not realize that is more to your interest that one man should die for the people, than that the whole nation should be destroyed.”

–John 11:47-50, The Revised English Bible

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Eliakim, son of King Josiah, was the brother of King Jehoahaz (a.k.a. Shallum), who reigned for about three months in 609 BCE.  But the Pharaoh of Egypt deposed Jehoahaz/Shallum and replaced him with Eliakim, renamed Jehoiakim, who reigned for about eleven years (608-598 BCE).  Judah was under foreign domination, as 2 Kings 23:31-24:7 describes.

This was the context of the readings from Jeremiah 25 and 26:  Judah was flung between Egypt and Chaldea then under a solely Chaldean threat.  Jeremiah understood this as divine judgment–one which would, in time, turn on the agents of that judgment.  And agents of the puppet government tried to have the prophet executed for alleged treason.

Jeremiah survived that threat but Jesus went on to die.  The Gospel of John contexualizes the moment well:  Jesus was about to become a scapegoat.  Yet the perfidious plan of the high priest and others failed.  Not only did Jesus rise from the dead, but Roman forces did destroy Jerusalem, the Temple, and the nation in 70 CE, a generation later.  But I am getting ahead of the story in Matthew 26.

Jesus, surrounded by Apostles, all of whom would abandon him shortly and one of whom betrayed him immediately, faced mighty  forces determined to kill him.  They succeeded–for a few days.

So our eyes wait upon the Lord our God,

until he have mercy upon us.

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,

for we have had more than enough of contempt.

Our soul has had more than enough of the scorn of the arrogant,

and of thee contempt of the proud.

–Psalm 123, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness;

you set me at liberty when I was in trouble;

have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

–Psalm 4:1, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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Many Bible stories have unhappy endings.  Jeremiah, for example, died in exile.  Jesus did suffer greatly, but his story had a happy conclusion in the chronological, past-tense narrative.  The ultimate end of that tale remains for the future, however.  One bit of tissue which connects the Old and New Testament lections today is that tension, reflected in some of the appointed Psalms, between confidence in God and the absence of divine comfort and deliverance in the present tense.  It is a tension I do not presume to attempt to resolve all too conveniently and falsely.  The good and evil suffer.  The good and the evil prosper.  Sometimes deliverance does not occur on our schedule.  Other times it never happens.  This is reality.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 4, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS CARACCIOLO, COFOUNDER OF THE MINOR CLERKS REGULAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN XXIII, BISHOP OF ROME

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/jeremiah-and-matthew-part-x-divine-deliverance-sometimes-deferred-sometimes-absent/

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