Archive for the ‘Babylonian Captivity’ Tag

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

Ecce Homo

Above:  Ecce Homo, by Elias Garcia Martinez

Image in the Public Domain

Suffering and Grace

APRIL 7 and 8, 2022

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

O God of mercy and might, in the mystery of the passion of your Son

you offer your infinite life to the world.

Gather us around the cross and Christ,

and preserve us until the resurrection,

through 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 29

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 53:10-12 (Thursday)

Isaiah 54:9-10 (Friday)

Psalm 31:9-16 (Both Days)

Hebrews 2:1-9 (Thursday)

Hebrews 2:10-18 (Friday)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Take pity on me, Yahweh,

I am in trouble now.

Grief wastes away my eye,

my throat, my inmost parts.

For my life is worn out with sorrow,

my years with sighs;

my strength yields under misery,

my bones are wasting away.

To every one of my oppressors

I am contemptible,

loathsome to my neighbors,

to my friends a thing of fear.

Those who see me in the street

hurry past me;

I am forgotten, as good as dead in their hearts,

something discarded.

I hear their endless slanders,

threats from every quarter,

as they combine against me,

plotting to take my life.

But I put my trust in you, Yahweh,

I say, “You are my God.”

My days are in your hand, rescue me

from the hands of my enemies and persecutors;

let your face smile on your servant,

save me in your love.

–Psalm 31:9-16, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is a song of the suffering servant.  The text is familiar to me, a person steeped in the scriptures from an early age.  In some ways my early learning constitutes a problem, for it has bequeathed me a set of assumptions through which I need to bore a hole so I can read the full meaning of such a familiar text.  The Christological identification of the suffering servant with Jesus does not fit the immediate context of Deutero-Isaiah, where the suffering servant is most likely the Jewish nation or a pious minority thereof.  God vindicates the suffering servant in Isaiah 53:10-12.  Next in the book God comforts returned exiles:

For this to Me is like the waters of Noah:

As I swore that the waters of Noah

Nevermore would flood the earth,

So I swear that I will not

Be angry with you or rebuke you.

For the mountains may move

And the hills be shaken,

But my loyalty shall never move from you,

Nor My covenant of friendship be shaken

–said the LORD, who takes you back in love.

–Isaiah 54:9-10, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Likewise, God comes to the aid of the afflicted author of Psalm 31, albeit after verse 16.

The Letter to the Hebrews, addressed to persecuted Jewish Christians, encourages the faithful to remain so.  Jesus, who has suffered greatly and endured temptations, can identify with human problems, the text says.  That message is timeless.  A recurring theme in human suffering is the illusion that nobody else can understand one’s pain and distress.  In reality, though, many other people have suffered in similar ways, and Jesus has suffered more than most of us ever will.  Comfort is available, if only one will accept it.

I have learned much via suffering.  I have learned how plentiful grace is and who my true friends are.  I have learned the full extent to which I depend on God and my fellow human beings.  And I have learned that I have gained more potential to help others in their time of great need, pain, and suffering.  I lack any desire to repeat the experience of that suffering, but I thank God for the grace which has flowed from it and continues to do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 7, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GERARD THOMAS NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER; BROTHER OF BAPTIST WRIOTHESLEY NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST, ENGLISH BAPTIST EVANGELIST, AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS NIECE, CAROLINE MARIA NOEL, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AMBROSE OF MILAN, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF ANNE ROSS COUSIN, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA JOSEPHA ROSSELLO, COFOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF OUR LADY OF PITY

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/12/07/suffering-and-grace/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before the Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Parliament Buildings 1916

Above:  The Parliament Buildings in Ottawa on February 4, 1916

Image in the Public Domain

Image Source = The New York Times, February 13, 1916

Partners of God

MARCH 1, 2022

APRIL 1, 2022

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Creator God, you prepare a new way in the wilderness,

and your grace waters our desert.

Open our hearts to be transformed by the new thing you are doing,

that our lives may proclaim the extravagance of your love

given to all through your Son, 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 29

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 43:1-7 (Thursday)

Isaiah 43:8-15 (Friday)

Psalm 126 (Both Days)

Philippians 2:19-24 (Thursday)

Philippians 2:25-3:1 (Friday)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

When the LORD restored Zion

it was as though we were dreaming.

We could not speak for laughing,

we could only utter cries of joy.

Then the saying arose among the nations,

“The LORD has done something great with these people.”

The LORD has done something great with us;

we were delighted.

+++++

Restore us again, Lord,

as streams refresh the dry south.

Those who sow in tears

will reap with shouts of joy.

Whoever weeps as he walks along his furrow

carrying a handful of seed

will surely come here in joy

carrying his sheaves of corn.

–Psalm 126, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Psalm 126 probably dates to the post-exilic period, which did not live up to its billing elsewhere in the Bible.  The text indicates both thanksgiving to God and awareness that circumstances could be better.

That description applies well to contemporary circumstances, both collective and individual, does it not?  Yes, we have a plethora of reasons for gratitude to God, but we also have a host of problems.  Other people created many of them, but we must live with them.  The fact that we live in societal settings means that what we do affects others and that what others do affects us.  We pay for many of the mistakes of other people, therefore.  Sometimes we pay for the errors of our ancestors, whose legacies are not entirely positive.  I can trace some of the positive and negative influences on my life as far back as two of my great-grandfathers, for example.

On the positive side, God calls us to care for and about each other.  God has modeled this commandment frequently, in instances from the Bible and elsewhere, from antiquity to the present day.  We read one example of it in Isaiah 43:1-15, a prophecy of the end of the Babylonian Exile.  We find an example of the imprisoned St. Paul the Apostle expressing his concern for the church at Philippi, a congregation he had founded, and announcing the impending arrival of two of his fellow workers in Christ.

Yes, we have reasons for concern as well as for gratitude to God, but this reality does not excuse inaction when positive action is justified.  We human beings are supposed to support each other in positive pursuits, as God defines them.  If we do this, we will improve some of the circumstances over which we have justifiable concerns.  If we do this, we will act as partners of God, who is always the senior partner.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS COTTERILL, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CALABRIA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SERVANTS AND THE POOR WOMEN SERVANTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/partners-of-god/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Devotion for Wednesday After the Third Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Garlic Mustard Plant Invasion

Above:  Garlic Mustard Plant Invasion

Photographer = Steve Hillebrand, United States Fish and Wildlife Service

Image in the Public Domain

The Extravagance of God and the Irrepressible Kingdom of God

MARCH 23, 2022

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Eternal God, your kingdom has broken into our troubled world

through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son.

Help us to hear your word and obey it,

and bring your saving love to fruition in our lives,

through 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 28

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 13:17-27

Psalm 39

Luke 13:18-21

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Numbers 13:17-27 and Luke 13:18-21 speak of the extravagant generosity of God.

Canaan, the Promised Land, is the bountiful territory overflowing with milk and honey in Numbers 13.  One finds similarly wonderful descriptions of the promise of the Jewish homeland after God has ended the Babylonian Exile later in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Those were dashed hopes, as the narrative of the Old Testament indicates, but the hope for a better future free from deprivation and foreign occupation continues to inspire people living in difficult circumstances.

Unfortunately, the ubiquitous slave mentality and unreasoning fear of the Canaanites led many Israelites to oppose entering Canaan.  Many, according to Numbers 14:3, regretted ever having left Egypt, where they were slaves but at least the leftovers were nice.  God punished the generation which had left Egypt, the Book of Numbers tells us, by granting them their wish not to enter Canaan.  At least God was merciful enough to refrain from striking them dead or sending them back to Egypt.

The generosity–grace–of God–demands a faithful response.  What will we do with grace?  Will we even accept it and its accompanying responsibilities?  Human life is transient, as the author of Psalm 39 understood well, but it does offer many opportunities to function as an agent of God to others.

Cedar of Lebanon

Above:  A Cedar of Lebanon, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-06183

Luke 13:18-21 provides two brief parables illustrating the irrepressible nature of the Kingdom of God.  In the first parable (verses 18 and 19) the Kingdom of God is like a tiny mustard seed, the small beginning of a large, if not noble, mustard plant–a large shrub, really.  A mustard plant, which can grow to be as large as twelve feet tall, offers shelter to a variety of birds.  Implicit in the Lukan version of the parable is that Gentiles are welcome in the Kingdom of God.  The parable shocks by not invoking the image of a mighty, impressive cedar of Lebanon.  Such imagery would indicate a mature plant.  The imagery of a mustard plant, however, promises continued growth.  The Kingdom of God is present among us, but not fully; there is more to come.

Then again [Jesus] said,

“What can I say the kingdom of God is like?  It is like the yeast which a woman took and covered up in three measures of flour until the whole had risen.”

–Luke 13:20-21, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

The second parable is that of yeast which a woman hides in three measures (fifty pounds) of flour.  Most contemporary translations I consulted render a certain Greek word as “mixed,” but the proper meaning is “hid.”  The Revised Standard Version (1946, 1952, and 1971), the Revised Standard Version–Catholic Edition (1965), the Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002), and the New American Standard Bible (1971 and 1995) render that word properly as “hid.”  The 1958 and 1972 editions of The New Testament in Modern English (J. B. Phillips) use “covered up,” which makes the same point.  The woman in the parable seeks to conceal the yeast by hiding it in flour, but the yeast permeates the flour instead.  The parable contains the element of hyperbole, for baking 50 pounds of flour, enough to feed 150 people, at one time, is perhaps improbable.  The hyperbole points to the extravagance of God and the irrepressible nature of the Kingdom of God.

Nobody among mortals can conceal or destroy the Kingdom of God.  That lesson comforts me.  Secularization of society and religious persecution are powerless to conceal or destroy the Kingdom of God, which is like yeast pervading the whole.  The blood of the martyrs waters the church, which has, in certain times and at certain places, gone underground yet remained alive.  The lesson here is about what God does, often despite what certain people do.  God is sovereign.  We can accept or reject that reality, but we can never change it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 19, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN HERMANN SCHEIN, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF F. BLAND TUCKER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/the-extravagance-of-god-and-the-irrepressible-kingdom-of-god/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After the Third Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Zedekiah

Above:  King Zedekiah of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

Spiritual Responsibility

MARCH 21 and 22, 2022

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Eternal God, your kingdom has broken into our troubled world

through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son.

Help us to hear your word and obey it,

and bring your saving love to fruition in our lives,

through 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 28

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 11:1-17 (Monday)

Ezekiel 17:1-10 (Tuesday)

Psalm 39 (Both Days)

Romans 2:1-11 (Monday)

Romans 2:12-16 (Tuesday)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

You chastise mortals in punishment for sin,

consuming like a moth what is dear to them;

surely everyone is a mere breath.

–Psalm 39:11, The Book of Worship of North India (1995)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The judgment of God is righteous, the readings for these days tell us.

Ezekiel 17:1-10 requires explanation, for it uses metaphorical language.  The references involving the cedar, the vine, and the eagles refer to international relations from 598 to 588 B.C.E.  In verses 3-6 the meaning is that King Nebuchadnezzar II of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire had taken many prominent people of Judah, including King Jehoiachin (reigned in 597 B.C.E.), into exile, after which King Zedekiah (reigned 597-586 B.C.E.), who was initially loyal to Nebuchadnezzar II, came to the throne of Judah.  The eagle in verses 7-8 is the Pharaoh of Egypt, to whom Zedekiah transferred his loyalty.  The pericope concludes that the survival of Zedekiah and Judah is impossible.

Part of the background of the assigned passage from Ezekiel is the position that pursuing those alliances with dangerous foreign leaders was not only foolish but faithless.  Obey and trust in God instead, prophets said.  Theological interpretation in the context of the Babylonian Exile reinforced that position.  The people and bad kings of Judah reaped what they sowed, the final versions of certain books of the Hebrew Bible argued.  (There were, of course, good kings of Judah.)

God is angry with Judah in Jeremiah 11:1-17.  The people, having generally (with some notable exceptions) refused to obey the covenant with God, will suffer the punishments for noncompliance which the covenant contains.  Among the accusations is rampant idolatry.

The first word of Romans 2 is “therefore,” which leads me back into chapter 1.  The essence of Romans 1 is that Gentiles have no excuse for persistent unrighteousness, including idolatry.  Divine punishment for them for these offenses is therefore justified.  Then, in Romans 2, St. Paul the Apostle tells his Jewish audience not to be spiritually complacent.

The very fact that the Jew agrees so entirely with Paul’s charge against the Gentile shows that he himself is without excuse and subject to the wrath of God.

–Anders Nygren, Commentary on Romans (1944); Translated by Carl C. Rasmussen (Philadelphia, PA:  Muhlenberg Press, 1949), page 113

Furthermore, some Gentiles have the law of God inscribed on their hearts, when even some Jews do not.  Doing is better than merely hearing, according to the Apostle.

Three thoughts come to my mind at this point.  The first is that St. Paul was correct.  He echoed Jeremiah 31:31f (the inner law), but expanded the text to include Gentiles.  St. Paul also sounded much like Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5.

Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  For as you judge others, so will yourselves be judged, and whatever measure you deal out will be dealt to you.

–Matthew 7:1-2, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The Gospel of Matthew did not exist during St. Paul’s lifetime, but the Apostle did have some familiarity with oral traditions and perhaps some written sayings of Jesus, from which the author of the Gospel of Matthew drew.

My second thought is that St. Paul’s challenge to question one’s assumptions and prejudices is timeless.  Who are those we define as spiritual outsiders?  Some of them might be closer to God than we are, and we might not be as close to God as we think we are.

My final thought in this collection is that St. Paul sounds very much like the perhaps later Letter of James.

Exhibit A:

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

–Romans 2:13, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The emphasis here is on active faith.  The Pauline definition of faith was confidence, in the absence of evidence for or against, which leads to actions.  Thus, later in the epistle, St. Paul argued:

Therefore since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ….

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

Romans 2:13 and 5:1 stand as portions of a unified, steadily building case in a theological treatise.

Exhibit B:

What good is it, my friends, for someone to say he has faith when his actions do nothing to show it?  Can faith save him?…So with faith; if it does not lead to action, it is by itself a lifeless thing.

–James 2:14, 17, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Exhibit C:

Do you have to be told, you fool, that faith divorced from action is futile?…You see then it is by action and not by faith alone that a man is justified.

–James 2:20, 24, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Faith, in the Letter of James, is intellectual, hence the necessity of pairing it with deeds.  On the surface the theologies of justification in the Letter of James and the Letter to the Romans might seem mutually contradictory, but they are not.  No, they arrive at the same point from different destinations.

The judgment of God exists alongside divine mercy.  The balance of the two factor resides solely in the purview of God.  Our actions influence divine judgment and mercy in our cases, however.  One can find that teaching in several places in the Bible, including Ezekiel 18, Matthew 7:1-5, Romans 2:6f, and James 2:8f.  Yes, the legacies of ancestors influence us, but our spiritual responsibility for ourselves remains intact.  May we exercise it properly.

Related to one’s spiritual responsibility for oneself is one’s spiritual responsibility for others, as in Romans 2:17-24.  That, however, is a topic for another post.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 19, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN HERMANN SCHEIN, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF F. BLAND TUCKER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/spiritual-responsibility/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++