Archive for the ‘Mitchell Dahood’ Tag

Devotion for Saturday Before the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Good Shepherd

Above:  The Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain

God Cares, Part I

MARCH 26, 2022

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The Collect:

God of compassion, you welcome the wayward,

and you embrace us all with your mercy.

By our baptism clothe us with garments of your grace,

and feed us at the table of your love,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives

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:

Exodus 32:7-14

Psalm 32

Luke 15:1-10

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How blest is he whose transgression is forgiven,

whose sin has been remitted.

How blest the man

to whom Yahweh imputes no guilt,

And in whose spirit there is no guile.

But I had become like a potsherd,

my bones had wasted away

through my groaning all day long.

For day and night, O Most High,

your hand was oppressive;

I was ravaged, O Shaddai,

as by the drought of summer.

My sin I made known to you,

and did not hide my guilt from you.

I said, “I shall confess, O Most High,

my transgressions, O Yahweh!”

Then you forgave my sinful guilt.

–Psalm 32:1-5, Mitchell Dahood, The Anchor Bible (1966)

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Acknowledging one’s sins is pat of the process of repentance, or turning away from them.

The key word in the assigned reading from Luke 15 is repentance.  Jesus answers criticisms for welcoming and dining with sinners by telling parables of being lost then found and welcomed.  Sheep were essential to the livelihood of shepherds in verses 3-6, just as the small amount of money in verses 8 and 9 probably constituted the woman’s entire savings.  In each case a penitent sinner is as precious to God as the lost sheep is to the shepherd and the ten silver coins are to the woman.  Heavenly celebration ensues after the return of the newly penitent.  This theme continues in verses 11-32, traditionally the Parable of the Prodigal Son, although the loving father and the dutiful yet resentful older brother are equally compelling characters.

I detect a difference in the portrayal of God in Luke 15 and Exodus 32.  God seeks the lost in two parables in Luke 15 and waits for the return of the penitent in the third parable.  In Exodus 32, however, Moses has to persuade God not to destroy the Israelites.  Granted, they probably did not know the error of their ways, but the God of Luke 15 would have responded differently than the God of Exodus 32.  The God of Luke 15 would have, like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (for lack of a better name), waited for them to realize their sins then repent.

In universe, then, did the ten silver coins know that they were lost?  The Prodigal Son came to his senses in time.  And the lost sheep was an especially stupid animal.  Yet all of these were precious in Luke 15.

I acknowledge that both judgment and mercy exist in God.  The balance of them is beyond my purview.  Yet I rely on divine mercy, which I understand to be vast.  That mercy, extended to me, requires much of me.  I am, for example, to act mercifully toward others and to respond gratefully to God.  Grace is free, not cheap.

Principles are easy to state, but coming to understand how best to apply them in daily life is frequently difficult.  A well-meaning person might, out of faithfulness and compassion, act in such a way as to make a bad situation worse accidentally.  The most effective method of helping might not be obvious to one.  What is a person who seeks to apply the Golden Rule properly to do?  May you, O reader, find the proper answers in your circumstances.

May each of us, precious in the sight of God, remain faithful, repent when we depart from the proper path, and function as the most effective agents of divine mercy possible, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 30, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/god-cares-part-i/

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

River Jordan 1890

Above:  The River Jordan, 1890

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-02716

Miracles, Actual and Perceived

MARCH 24 and 25, 2022

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The Collect:

God of compassion, you welcome the wayward,

and you embrace us all with your mercy.

By our baptism clothe us with garments of your grace,

and feed us at the table of your love,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives

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:

Joshua 4:1-13 (Thursday)

Joshua 4:14-24 (Friday)

Psalm 32 (Both Days)

2 Corinthians 4:16-5:5 (Thursday)

2 Corinthians 5:6-15 (Friday)

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Rejoice in Yahweh and be glad, you just,

and shout for joy, all you upright of heart!

–Psalm 32:11, Mitchell Dahood, The Anchor Bible (1966)

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The theme of the power of God unites these days’ assigned readings.

The composite reading from Joshua 4, continuing directly from chapter 3, tells of the crossing of the Israelites into Canaan, the Promised Land.  Parallelism is evident, for one reads of a parting of the waters in Exodus 14 and in Joshua 3 and 4.  Each instance of such a parting has a natural explanation.  In Exodus 14:21 the author refers to

a strong east wind

(TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985).

The miracle of the Exodus from Egypt is therefore not the parting of the Sea of Reeds, but the liberation of the Hebrew slaves by the figurative hand of God.  J. Alberto Soggin, in Joshua:  A Commentary (1972), informs me that occasional earthquakes in Jordan valley cause walls of limestone to collapse, thereby forming natural dams which hold back water until the water forces its way through them.  Soggin provides three documented examples–in 1267, 1906, and 1927.  The miracle in Joshua 3 and 4, therefore, is that the Israelites ceased their wandering and entered the Promised Land.

The mighty power of God, in whom the just should rejoice and be glad, is of the essence in 2 Corinthians 4 and 5.  Via the power of God the just can withstand persecutions and other afflictions.  Through the power of God one can live confidently and faithfully.  By means of the power of God, who has initiated the process of reconciliation with human beings, we can make peace with others and with God.

This process of reconciliation requires us to abandon our slave mentalities.  The majority of Israelites who left Egypt remained slaves in their minds.  They were free yet did not think as free people.  Each of us is a slave to one thing or another if he or she chooses to be.  For many people the chosen master is a grudge or a set of resentments.  Seeking to correct injustice is positive, for it improves society.  However, nursing a grudge distracts a person from his or her purpose in God.  Many of us in Homo sapiens sapiens need first to make peace with ourselves, for, until we do that, we cannot be at peace with other people and with God.  Others of us have, fortunately, arrived at that spiritual place already.

To forgive oneself for being weak and sinful is essential.  To be at ease with one’s inadequacy and God’s sufficiency is crucial if one is to find peace with oneself.  Then one will have an easier time forgiving others for the same weak and sinful state.  This forgiveness might not happen immediately or quickly, but that is fine.  Sometimes one needs to let go, let God, and notice in the fullness of time that one’s anger has faded significantly, if not gone away completely.  When one realizes that this is the case, one has evidence of a miracle.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 29, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF GEORGE DAWSON, ENGLISH BAPTIST AND UNITARIAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE CHURCH OF NORTH INDIA, 1970

THE FEAST OF JENNETTE THRELFALL, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/29/miracles-actual-and-perceived/

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Devotion for Saturday Before the Second Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod--James Tissot

Above:  Reconstruction of Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

Two Killings

MARCH 12, 2022

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The Collect:

God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross

you promise everlasting life to the world.

Gather all peoples into your arms, and shelter us with your mercy,

that we may rejoice in the life we share in 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Psalm 118:26-29

Psalm 27

Matthew 23:37-39

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Hearken to my voice, O LORD, when I call;

have mercy on me and answer me.

–Psalm 27:7, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Psalm 118 is a song of praise to God after a military victory.  Literary echoes of the text are apparent in the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  Consider this verse, O reader:

Blessed be who enters in the name of Yahweh,

we bless you in the house of Yahweh.

–Psalm 118:26, The Anchor Bible:  Psalms III:  101-150 (1970), by Mitchell Dahood, S.J.

That allusion fits well, for, when Jesus entered Jerusalem that fateful week, he did so not as a conquering hero but as one who had conquered and who was en route to the peace talks.  A victorious monarch rode a beast of burden to the negotiations for peace.  Jesus resembled a messianic figure who had won a battle.  He was not being subtle, nor should he have been.

The tone of the assigned reading from Matthew 23 fits the tone of the verse from Psalm 27 better, however.  Psalm 27 consists of two quite different poems with distinct tenors.  Part I is happy and confident, but Part II comes from a place of concern and a context of peril.  The latter distinction is consistent with Christ’s circumstances between the Triumphal Entry and the Crucifixion.

Matthew 23’s Jesus is not a vacation Bible school Jesus or seeker-sensitive Jesus.  That Jesus’s hair is nice and combed.  His robes are sparkling white, and his face is aglow as he hovers about six inches off the ground.  He hugs people a lot, speaks in calm tones, and pats little children on the head as he tells his audience, only four chapters earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, that the kingdom belongs “to such as these” (Matt. 19:14; cf. Mark 10:14/Luke 18:16).  The Jesus of Matt. 23 is of a different sort.  He is fired up and within a word or two of unleashing some profanity in the style of a high school football coach.  This Jesus’s hair is untamed.  His clothes are beaten and tattered from a semitransient lifestyle.  His face and neck are reddened by the Palestinian sun, and his feet are blistered, cracked, and calloused.  There is a wild look in his eyes, sweat pouring down his forehead, and spit flying off his lips when he yells, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Matt. 23:13, 15, 23, 25, 27, 39; cf. 23:16).  His message ends not with a head pat to a child and an aphorism about the kingdom, but with tales of murder and bloodshed (23:34-37).

When you finish reading Jesus’s tirade against the scribes and Pharisees in Matt. 23, you might need a deep breath.  Those who have grown all too accustomed to the teddy-bear Jesus may need to reassess wholesale their idea of Jesus.  At the very least, we can point to the text and affirm that, when early Christians such as Matthew commemorated Jesus’s life in the form of narrative Gospels, they portrayed a Jewish teacher who was embroiled in heated controversy with other Jewish teachers and gave as good as he got.

–Chris Keith, Jesus Against the Scribal Elite:  The Origins of the Conflict (2014), page 5

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You scholars and Pharisees, you imposters!  Damn you!

–Matthew 23:29a, The Complete Gospels:  Annotated Scholars Version (1994)

Literary context matters.  Immediately prior to Matthew 23:37-39, the lament of Jesus over Jerusalem, our Lord and Savior, having engaged in verbal confrontations with religious authorities, denounces the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy, power plays, impiety, violence, and inner impurity.  Immediately after Matthew 23:37-39 comes Matthew 24, in which Christ speaks apocalyptically, as in Mark 13 and Luke 21.  (The order of some of the material differs from one Synoptic Gospel to another, but these are obviously accounts of the same discourse.)  Jesus is about to suffer and die.

Matthew 23:34-39 echoes 2 Chronicles 24:17-25.  In 2 Chronicles 24 King Joash/Jehoash of Judah (reigned 837-800 B.C.E.), having fallen into apostasy and idolatry, orders the execution (by stoning) of one Zechariah, son of the late priest Jehoiada.  Zechariah’s offense was to confront the monarch regarding his apostasy and idolatry.  The priest’s dying wish is

May the LORD see and avenge!

–2 Chronicles 24:22, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The theology of the narrative holds that God saw and avenged, given the subsequent killing of Joash/Jehoash by servants.

A contrast between that story and the crucifixion of Jesus becomes clear.  Never does Jesus say

May the LORD see and avenge!

or anything similar to it.  One cannot find Christ’s prayer for forgiveness for the crown and those who crucified him in Matthew or Mark, but one can locate it at Luke 23:34, which portrays him as a righteous sufferer, such as the author of Part II of Psalm 27.

The example of Jesus has always been difficult to emulate.  That example is, in fact, frequently counter-intuitive and counter-cultural.  Love your enemies?  Bless those who persecute you?  Take up your cross?  Really, yes.  It is possible via grace.  I know the difficulty of Christian discipleship.  It is a path I have chosen, from which I have strayed, and to which I have returned.  The goal is faithfulness, not perfection.  We are, after all, imperfect.  But we can do better, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 15, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 28:  THE TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF REGENSBURG

THE FEAST OF JOHANN GOTTLOB KLEMM, INSTRUMENT MAKER; DAVID TANNENBERG, SR., GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN ORGAN BUILDER; JOHANN PHILIP BACHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN INSTRUMENT MAKER; JOSEPH FERDINAND BULITSCHEK, BOHEMIAN-AMERICAN ORGAN BUILDER; AND TOBIAS FRIEDRICH, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/15/two-killings/

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Devotion for the Eighth Day of Lent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

01202v

Above:  The Plain of Esdraelon and the Carmel Ridge, Palestine, Ottoman Empire, 1900

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-01202

The Lineage of Faithful Community

THURSDAY, MARCH 5, 2020

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The Collect:

O God, our leader and guide, in the waters of baptism

you bring us to new birth to live as your children.

Strengthen our faith in your promises, that by your

Spirit we may lift your life to all the world 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 51:1-3

Psalm 121

2 Timothy 1:3-7

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I raise my eyes to the Mountain,

whence will my help come to me?

My help will come from the home of Yahweh,

who made heaven and earth.

He shall not put your foot in the Quagmire,

your guardian shall not slumber.

Indeed he never slumbers nor sleeps,

the guardian of Israel.

Yahweh is your guardian,

Yahweh is your shade,

the Most High is your right hand.

By day the sun

will not strike you

Nor the moon at night.

Yahweh will guard you

from every evil.

He will guard your life.

Yahweh will guard your going and your coming

from now unto eternity.

–Psalm 121, translated by Mitchell Dahood in The Anchor Bible (1970)

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The readings from 2 Timothy and Isaiah remind us of spiritual legacies.  Typical Jewish practice was to speak of the nature of God by retelling what God had done.  Thus we read in Isaiah 51 of Abraham, Sarah, and gracious acts of God in the context of other statements of divine faithfulness, mercy, and judgment.  In my copy of The Revised English Bible (1989), opened to Isaiah 51:1-3, I read of part of Chapter 49, in which God is like a mother who can never forget her child.  And, in 49:26, I read these words:

I shall make your oppressors eat their own flesh,

and they shall be drunk with their own blood

as if with wine,

and all mankind will know

that I the LORD am your Deliverer,

your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.

When the oppressors refuse to cease oppressing, how can the situation be otherwise?

I, drawing from 2 Timothy 1, acknowledge that family inheritance helps explain why I am a Christian.  There is more to it than that, of course, but the family inheritance helps.  I grew up a Christian because of my family, but I remain one because of the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  As I check the lectionary I am following, I note that John 3:1-17 is the assigned Gospel reading to which one strain of these lections is building.  So I notice that 2 Timothy 1, in the context of John 3, ought not to become an excuse to rest on one’s spiritual inheritance.  The epistle confirms the necessity of active faith.

And, as for John 3, the proper English-language term is

born from above,

not

born again.

I, a Christian, have never had a

born again

experience, but I am familiar in my spiritual life with the Roman Catholic-Lutheran-Anglican sense of baptismal regeneration.  I follow Martin Luther’s advice and trust in the promises of God pronounced at baptism.

Psalm 121 speaks of divine protection–in this case, of religious pilgrims.  The Ancients knew of sunstroke, of course, hence one line of the text.  And many of them believed erroneously that the Moon could also be dangerous, hence terms such as

moonstruck

and

lunatic.

God, the psalm says, will protect also from the Moon.  Our fears, whether based in objective reality or not, are real, and we need grace for their alleviation.  May we welcome that grace and act boldly in faithfulness to God.  And may we join or continue in the line of those who have walked with God and bring others to the procession.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SQUANTO, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

THE FEAST OF JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY CROSS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/the-lineage-of-faithful-community/

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