Archive for the ‘Law of Moses’ Tag

Devotion for Pentecost Sunday (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Pentecost, by Phiddipus

Image in the Public Domain

Community and Faith

MAY 20, 2018

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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:

Deuteronomy 16:9-12

Isaiah 60:19-22

Galatians 3:1-5

John 3:31-36

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“Pentecost” comes from “fifty,” as in the formulation in Deuteronomy 16.  The harvest festival described in that text is a community celebration of gratitude to God.

That communal ethos, rampant in the Bible, runs counter to much of Western Civilization, with its emphasis on individualism.  To read past the blindness of individualism when pondering the Bible can be difficult, but it is essential.  The glory of YHWH, we read in Isaiah 60, will shine on the faithful community.  We also read of a foolish community (or a group of communities) in Galatians 3.

As St. Paul the Apostle argued correctly, one cannot break one part of the Law of Moses without violating the entire law code.  And nobody can keep all of the Law.  The emphasis on the Holy Spirit in Galatians 3:1-5 is appropriate for this Sunday, a commemoration of an extraordinary event–the birth of the Church.

In the Gospel of John (17:3) eternal life is simply knowing God via Jesus; time and timelessness has nothing to do with the definition.  There is no such thing as an eternity without God, for eternity is, by definition, in God.  Eternity is a quality of life, not the afterlife.  One can have an afterlife without God; the term for that is Hell.  Eternity, however, begins in this life and continues into the next one.  Eternal life comes via the Holy Spirit.  Community can reinforce this faith.

I will not attempt to explain the Holy Trinity, for a set of heresies has originated from such efforts.  No, I ponder the Trinity and affirm that God is at least that and certainly far more.  I cannot grasp the Trinity, so how can I understand the full nature of God?  What we mere mortals are worthy of grasping, however, is sufficient for salvation and justification.  That which is left for us is to stand in the awe of God, to trust in God, to recognize our complete dependence on God, and, by grace, to love each other selflessly and self-sacrificially, thereby following the example of Jesus, the visible manifestation of God.  We can do this via the power of the Holy Spirit.

Happy Pentecost!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HANS ADOLF BRORSON, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/14/community-and-faith/

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Devotion for the Fourth Sunday of Easter (Ackerman)   2 comments

Above:  The Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain

Good and Bad Shepherds

APRIL 22, 2018

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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:

Ezekiel 34:25-31

Psalm 28

1 Timothy 4:6-16

Luke 15:4-10

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On the Revised Common Lectionary the Fourth Sunday of Easter is Good Shepherd Sunday.   David Ackerman’s Beyond the Lectionary (2013) continues this custom.

Shepherd is a sufficiently common metaphor for monarch in the Hebrew Bible that serious students should not be surprised to encounter it.  In Ezekiel 34 the bad shepherds are Kings of Judah who have ignored the Law of Moses, practiced and condemned idolatry, presided over economic exploitation, and generally harmed the people.   Toward the end of the lifespan of the Kingdom of Judah some of the last kings are about to experience the just desserts the author of Psalm 28 sought for his enemies.

In contrast to the bad shepherds of Ezekiel 34 we find Jesus in Luke 15 and St. Timothy in 1 Timothy 4.  Pastors are shepherds too, after all, and sound teaching matters greatly.  In the temporal context of 1 Timothy 4, when certain doctrines we Christians of today take for granted were developing and others did not exist yet, the definition of sound teaching depended more on oral tradition than it does today–on written sources and established creeds.  Some of the particulars of 1 Timothy are culturally specific, but one can identify timeless principles behind those examples.  As for Jesus, he is the good shepherd who seeks everyone, although not all lost sheep will repent.

May leaders seek and effect the best interests of the people, by grace.  These might be political, institutional, or religious leaders, but all of them are shepherds.  May they be good shepherds.  Whenever any are bad shepherds, may they repent and become good shepherds.  If, however, they insist on being bad shepherds, may good shepherds replace them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN DAVID JAESCHKE, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER; AND HIS GRANDSON, HENRI MARC HERMANN VOLDEMAR VOULLAIRE, MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF MILTON SMITH LITTLEFIELD, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN AND CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/13/good-and-bad-shepherds-2/

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Devotion for the Fourth Sunday in Lent (Ackerman)   2 comments

Above:  High Priest Offering Incense on an Altar

Image in the Public Domain

The Failure of the Flesh

MARCH 11, 2018

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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:

Leviticus 18:19-22; 19:19, 27-28

Psalm 118:5-9

Romans 1:8-2:11

Mark 10:32-34

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While the reading from Mark 10 marks the movement of Jesus toward his death and Psalm 118 reminds us of the wisdom of trusting in God and not in flesh, we read frequently misinterpreted passages from Leviticus and Romans.  Although the homosexual orientation has existed since antiquity, the recognition of its reality is much more recent.  The assumption in the readings, therefore, is that there is no such thing as the homosexual orientation, hence the allegedly unnatural nature of the acts.  Furthermore, Leviticus also condemns wearing clothing (except in fringes and in priestly vestments) made of two or more types of cloth and recognizes the existence of slavery.  The illicit sexual encounter in Leviticus 19:20 is allegedly wrong–and a capital offense–because someone has reserved the slave woman for another man.  As for combining linen and wool (except when one is supposed to do so), mixing them is wrong in the text, as are mixing seeds of two plants in the same field and breeding animals across species barriers.

The real theme seems to be mixing.  As Everett Fox summarizes,

Mixtures in the Bible seem to be reserved for the divine sphere alone.

The Five Books of Moses (1997), page 603

And God mandates some mixing in the Torah, as I have indicated.  Exodus 28:6 and 39:29 prescribe the mixing of different types of cloth in priestly vestments and Numbers 15:37-40 commands fringes on clothing.

Mixing has long obsessed many people.  Race mixing has long occurred in the United States, for example.  It was ubiquitous on plantations–often via the rape of slave women by masters.  The social offense was getting caught.  Consensual race mixing via marriage used to be illegal in 27 states, until 1967.

The truth, of course, is that many of us are genetic hodge-podges.  I am, for example, somewhat Cherokee, although my ancestry is mostly British and Irish, with contributions from elsewhere in Western Europe.  Purity is not a matter of ethnicity or of any other form of identity, despite the fact that many people insist that it is.  Thinking vainly that is otherwise exemplifies claiming to be wise yet really being a fool.

The real point of the reading from Romans is not to judge others for doing what one also does (2:1).  Besides, judgment resides in the divine purview alone.  In Pauline theology to break one part of the Law of Moses is to violate the entire code–a thought worthy of consideration in the context of divine patience, meant to lead people to repentance.

Guilt in the reading from Roman 1-2 is both individual and collective.  Individual sins are staples of much of the theology of Protestantism, which does not handle collective sins as well as Judaism and Roman Catholicism do.  To focus on personal peccadilloes to the marginalization or denial of collective sins is to mis the point and the means of correcting the relevant social problem or problems.  And all of us are partially responsible for faults in our societies.  Will we accept that reality and act accordingly?

The natural conclusion to this post comes from Psalm 118.  Rely on God, not on flesh.  God is faithful, but flesh fails.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2017 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 LUGUORI AND THE SISTERS OF MARY DELL’ORTO

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

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

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/the-failure-of-the-flesh/

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Devotion for the First Sunday in Lent (Ackerman)   2 comments

Above:  Amos

Image in the Public Domain

Love, the Fulfillment of the Law of Moses

FEBRUARY 18, 2018

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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:

Amos 2:4-8, 13-16

Psalm 25:16-18

Galatians 5:2-12

Matthew 23:27-36

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The author of Psalm 25 was an observant Jew contending with enemies who disapproved of his piety.  He trusted in God, to whom he appealed for help.

That piety was sorely lacking in the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah.  (Aside:  I recommend reading all of Amos 2, for doing so makes the designated passages thereof more meaningful than they are otherwise.)  That lack of piety, made manifest in ritual offenses and violations of human dignity (including the infamous selling of the poor for a poor of sandals in 2:6) YHWH was most displeased.  Dire consequences ensued.

Although Amos supported the Law of Moses, the attitude of St. Paul the Apostle in Galatians was different.  For St. Paul requiring a Gentile convert to Christianity to become a Jew first was wrong.  The apostle had written earlier in that epistle that the Law of Moses was like a disciplinarian or house servant who performed his or her work until the arrival of Christ (Chapter 3:23f):

The distinction between circumcised and uncircumcised is irrelevant in Christ.  What counts is faith that expresses itself in love, because love is the fulfillment of the Law (5:14; Romans 13:8-10).

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003), page 2087

That love was absent from the attitudes and actions of certain scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:27-36.

In all fairness I feel obligated to defend the motivations of the Judaizers, of whom St. Paul was critical.  Although I am grateful for St. Paul and his work, from which I, as a Gentile, benefit, I acknowledge the pious motives of the Judaizers, defenders of tradition, as they understood it.  I think of them as pious folk who took to heart passages such as Amos 2 and Psalm 25.  Nevertheless, their error, I perceive, was on of which I have been guilty:  maintaining barriers God has knocked down.

We humans like boundaries, literal as well as metaphorical.  They tell us who falls into what category.  There are divinely established categories, I affirm, but they are not necessarily ours.  Furthermore, we might not know where the differences between God’s plan and our definitions lie.  This fact complicates one’s quest to lead a holy life, does it not?

I offer no easy answers regarding how to read God’s mind, for nobody cam read the divine mind.  I do, however, suggest that trusting in God’s grace to treat each other selflessly and self-sacrificingly is a fine spiritual discipline, for love is the fulfillment of the Law of Moses, which contains both timeless principles and culturally specific examples thereof.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2017 COMMON ERA

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/2017/06/05/love-the-fulfillment-of-the-law-of-moses/

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Devotion for the Seventh Sunday of Easter (Year D)   2 comments

figs

Above:  Figs

Image in the Public Domain

And Pour Contempt On All My Pride

MAY 13, 2018

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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 9:23-24; 24:1-10

Psalm 115

Mark 11:27-33 and 12:35-37 or Luke 20:1-8 and 20:41-47 or John 21:20-25

2 Corinthians 10:1-17

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Boasting is overrated.  It is a pastime for many and a profession for others, but the fact remains that hubris will go before the fall.  The only proper boast is in divine grace and the merits of Jesus Christ.  A vocation from God is a cause to reflect on one’s responsibility and one’s total dependence on grace, not on one’s greatness or virtues.

Part of the Law of Moses is the reality that we depend completely on God, whom we have an obligation to glorify and to whom to return in repentance whenever we stray.  Nevertheless, many of us stray repeatedly and without the habit of repentance.  We might, as in the case of the scribes in Mark 12 and Luke 20, engage in or condone economic injustice–in violation of the Law of Moses.  More mundanely, we might question the authority of Jesus in our lives.  He will win that argument ultimately, of course.  We have the gift of free will; may we, by grace, refrain from abusing it often.  None of us can use free will properly all the time, but we can, by grace, improve over time.

May we say, with Isaac Watts (1674-1748),

When I survey the wondrous cross

where the young Prince of Glory died,

my richest gain I count but loss,

and pour contempt on all my pride.

And, consistent with Matthew 25:31-46, may we care for the least of Christ’s brethren.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN DOBER, MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER; JOHANN LEONHARD DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; AND ANNA SCHINDLER DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDITH CAVELL, NURSE AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF SCOTLAND, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT NECTARIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, ARCHBISHOP

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/and-pour-contempt-on-all-my-pride/

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Devotion for the Feast of the Ascension (Year D)   2 comments

home

Above:  Odd Fellows Widows’ and Orphans’ Home, Corsicana, Texas, 1910

J149681 U.S. Copyright Office

Copyright deposit; Jno. J. Johnson; 1910

Copyright claimant’s address: Ennis, Tex.

Photographer = John J. Johnson

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-133853

The Idol of Public Respectability

MAY 10, 2018

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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:

Proverbs 1:1-7

Psalm 119:145-176

Mark 12:35-37 or Luke 20:41-47

1 John 2:3-29

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The term “fear of God” should be “awe of God,” for the latter translation conveys the concept accurately.  Certain distractions can draw our attention away from God and the awe thereof.  Among these are suffering (not necessarily a distraction, per Psalm 119, yet a distraction for many), worldly appetites (also not necessarily distractions inherently, but distractions for many), and false teaching (always a distraction).  The issue is idolatry.  An idol is an object, teaching, philosophy, or practice that draws attention and awe away from God.  Many idols for many people are not idols for many other people.  If someone treats something as an idol, it is an idol for that person.

One can seem to be holy and free of idols yet be disingenuous.  In the parallel readings from mark (extended) and Luke Jesus condemns those who put on airs of righteousness yet crave public respectability and devour the property of widows, in violation of the Law of Moses.  The spiritual successors of the scribes Jesus condemned are numerous, unfortunately.  Some of them even have their own television programs.

Public respectability is not a virtue in the Gospel of Luke:

Alas for you when the world speaks well of you!  This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.

–Luke 6:26, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

That saying’s companion is:

Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, then your reward will be great in heaven.  This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

–Luke 6:23, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

This is a devotion for the Feast of the Ascension.  The selection of these lections seems odd, I admit, but one can make the connection.  After the Ascension Jesus was no longer physically present with his Apostles.  Afterward, however, the Holy Spirit descended upon them and empowered them to do much to spread the word of Jesus and to glorify God.  Of the original Apostles (including St. Matthias, who replaced Judas Iscariot) only two did not die as martyrs.  St. John the Evangelist suffered much for God and died of natural causes.  Those Apostles (minus Judas Iscariot) did not crave and did not receive public respectability.  They did, however, glorify God and change the world for the better.

May we resist the idol of public respectability and, by grace, live so as to glorify God and benefit our fellow human beings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN DOBER, MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER; JOHANN LEONHARD DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; AND ANNA SCHINDLER DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDITH CAVELL, NURSE AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF SCOTLAND, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT NECTARIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, ARCHBISHOP

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/the-idol-of-public-respectability/

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Devotion for the Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year D)   1 comment

tamar-and-judah

Above:  Tamar and Judah, by Aert de Gelder

Image in the Public Domain

Taking Difficult Passages of Scripture Seriously

APRIL 22, 2018

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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:

Genesis 38:1-30 or Ecclesiastes 5:1-20

Psalm 10

Matthew 22:23-33 or Mark 12:18-27 and Luke 20:39-40

2 Corinthians 7:2-16

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I recall that, in 1996, my father began his tenure as pastor of the Asbury United Methodist Church, north of Baxley, in Appling County, Georgia.  Shortly after this I began to attend to services at St. Thomas Aquinas Episcopal Church in town, for I had been an Episcopalian for a few years.  Nevertheless, I was never a stranger at Asbury Church during my father’s tenure there.

One of the adult Sunday School classes at Asbury was discussing the Book of Genesis at the pace of a chapter a week.  On one Sunday morning in the summer of 1996 the leader of the group, having covered Chapter 37 the previous week, skipped over Chapter 38 to Chapter 39, with little explanation.  The story of Judah, Tamar, levirate marriage (the background of the question in the readings from the Gospels), and temple prostitution was a really hot potato, so to speak.  The narrative in Genesis 38 does not criticize a young, childless widow for having sexual relations with her father-in-law at a pagan temple and becoming pregnant with twins.  In her situation she did what she needed to do to secure her future.

Deuteronomy 25:5-10 commands the practice of levirate marriage, for the benefit of a childless widow in a patriarchal society without a government-defined social safety net.  In the case of Genesis 38 the practice, applied to a particular set of circumstances, makes many modern readers of the Bible squirm in their theological seats.  This is no excuse for ignoring the chapter, of course.  Whenever a portion of scripture makes one uncomfortable, one should study it more closely and, in the highest meaning of the word, critically.

The Sadducees in the parallel readings of Matthew, Mark, and Luke did not ignore levirate marriage, but they did employ it in a question meant to entrap Jesus.  They did not affirm the resurrection of the dead.  That is why, according to a song for children,

they were sad, you see.

For the Sadducees the emphasis on this life helped to justify the accumulation of wealth in a society in which economic injustice was ubiquitous.  They, like others, failed to ensnare Jesus verbally.  He was that capable.

Koheleth, writing in Ecclesiastes, noted that economic injustice and other forms of social injustice ought not to surprise anyone.  After all, he mentioned, perpetrators of injustice protect each other.  Nevertheless, as the author of Psalm 10 understood, those who exploited the poor (in violation of the Law of Moses) could not escape divine justice.

Just as the painful letter of St. Paul the Apostle to the Corinthian congregation led to the changing of hearts there, the study of difficult passages of scripture can lead people to learn more about the Bible, ask vital questions, think more critically about scripture, and grow spiritually.  It can also change hearts and minds for the better.  May we who call ourselves followers of God neither ignore nor use such passages flippantly, but take them seriously instead.  Then may we act accordingly.  We might even learn that we are committing or condoning social injustice, perhaps that of the economic variety.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 11, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP THE EVANGELIST, DEACON

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/taking-difficult-passages-of-scripture-seriously/

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