Archive for the ‘Jeremiah 11’ Tag

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

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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

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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)

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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)

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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

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

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Twenty-Eighth Day of Lent   17 comments

Logo of the Moravian Church

Image Source = JJackman

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Collect and lections from the Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints

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Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Jeremiah 11:18-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

It was the LORD who made it known to me, and I knew;

then you showed me their evil deeds.

But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter.

And I did not know it was against me that they devised schemes, saying,

Let us destroy the tree with its fruit,

let us cut him off from the land of the living,

so that his name will no longer be remembered!

But you, O LORD of hosts, who judge righteously,

who try the heart and the mind,

let me see your retribution upon them,

for to you I have committed my cause.

Psalm 7:6-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

Rise up, O LORD, in your anger;

lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies;

awake, O my God; you have appointed a judgment.

Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered around you,

and over it take your seat on high.

The LORD judges the peoples;

judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness

and according to the integrity that is in me.

O let the evil of the wicked come to an end,

but establish the righteous,

who test the minds and hearts,

O righteous God.

God is my shield,

who saves the upright in heart.

God is a righteous judge,

and a God who has indignation every day.

John 7:37-52 (New Revised Standard Version):

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out,

Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.  As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’

Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit because Jesus was not yet glorified.

When they heard these words, some in the crowd said,

This is really the prophet.

Others said,

This is the Messiah.

But some asked,

Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he?  Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?

So there was a division in the crowd because of him.  Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.

Then the temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them,

Why did you not arrest him?

The police answered,

Never has anyone spoken like this!

Then the Pharisees replied,

Surely you have not been deceived, too, have you?  Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him?  But this crowd, which does not know the law–they are accursed.

Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus before, and who was one of them, asked,

Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?

They replied,

Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you?  Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee.

The Collect:

Mercifully hear our prayers, O Lord, and spare all those who confess their sins to you; that those whose consciences are accursed by sin may by your merciful pardon be absolved; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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This day’s readings are full of anger.  A righteous man obeying divine instructions faces the dangers associated with his thankless calling and pleas for retribution upon his persecutors.  A psalmist makes the same request.  And religious authorities continue their plotting to eliminate Jesus, whom they perceive as a threat.

Like anyone else I have opinions, many of which I hold strongly.  Sometimes I think that anyone who disagrees with me is misinformed at best.  If I feel less charitable, I might perceive the disagreeing party as an idiot.  On occasion I think that another opinion is dangerous, but never have I agreed with or advocated an assassination squad, torture, execution, or a show trial for anyone.

Yet some of these suggestions have appeared in readings to date, and others will do so.  Characters who identify themselves with godliness supported such tactics in the pages of the Gospels.  Perhaps some of this is due to the fact the partisans of Jesus wrote the canonical Gospels, for one must consider who wrote a document when interpreting it.  Yet I stand convinced that any exaggeration, if present, is slight.  My study of history and recent and current events tells me that people who think they are on God’s side (and therefore all who disagree with them are not) and who feel defensive and homicidal can rationalize to themselves even the greatest atrocities, ranging from the Crusades to the Inquisition to the Religious Wars to the Salem Witch Trials to terrorist attacks.  So, a plot among religious leaders to kill Jesus (ultimately via the Roman Empire) is believable.

It is easy to criticize these conspirators thousands of years later.  But think about this honestly, and perhaps painfully:  Which character are you in each of these readings?  I am not certain that I would have welcomed and followed Jesus had I lived in his time and place.  This conclusion disturbs my conscience and moves to seek divine pardon.  Jesus upset many apple carts in ancient times, and continues to do so.

Too often we of the Church have attempted to domesticate Jesus.  We have reduced him to a smiling man with a child on one knee while dispensing wisdom.  And we have oversimplified his character and occasional mood swings and chosen to ignore difficult sayings.  And when we have arrived at hard-to-digest material, such as the Passion narrative, we have reduced our Lord and Savior to a martyr about whom we make positive statements, but whom we dare not follow too closely.  We have passed off padlum as truth.

Well, Jesus is not domesticated, and God does not fit into a theological box.  Human minds cannot perceive the immensity of God and divine judgment and mercy.  So, much theological humility is appropriate on everybody’s part.    And we must submit ourselves to the mystery which is God without committing intellectual suicide. And we must be open to divine surprises, which are numerous.

KRT

Written on March 4, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/13/domesticating-jesus/

Posted October 28, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2022, April 2, Episcopal Church Lectionary

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