Archive for the ‘Richard Elliott Friedman’ Tag

Devotion for the Eleventh and Twelfth Days of Lent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

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Above:  Stained-Glass Window:  Moses and the Snake, St. Mark’s Church, Gillingham, Kent, England

Image in the Public Domain

Grace and Obligations

MONDAY, MARCH 9, 2020, and TUESDAY, MARCH 10, 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:

Numbers 21:4-9 (11th Day)

Isaiah 65:17-25 (12th Day)

Psalm 128 (Both Days)

Hebrews 3:1-6 (11th Day)

Romans 4:6-13 (12th Day)

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Happy are they all who fear the LORD,

and who follow in the ways of the LORD!

–Psalm 128:1, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The story in Numbers 21:4-9 is a good place to start this post.  It sent me scurrying to commentaries.  The notes in The Jewish Study Bible (2004) tell me of the Rabbinic discomfort with the sympathetic magic in the account.  Professor Richard Elliott Friedman, in his Commentary on the Torah (2011), makes the connection between the bronze serpent and the incident concerning the snake in the court of the Pharaoh (Exodus 7:8-10).  Friedman also refers to 2 Kings 18:4, in which King Hezekiah orders the destruction of the bronze serpent, to which some people had been burning incense.  Volume 2 (1953) of The Interpreter’s Bible says that the bronze serpent was an example of spiritual homeopathy or at least an example thereof, one which

rests on a sound basis in human experience

whereby

wounds heal wounds.

–page 243

The best, most helpful analysis, however, comes from Walther Eichrodt, as translated by J. A. Baker:

The terrifying power of God, who will turn his weapons of leprosy, serpent and plague (cf. Ex. 4.1-7, Num. 21:6ff; 11:33) even against his own people leaves men in no doubt that the covenant he has created is no safe bulwark, behind which they can make cunning use of the divine power to prosecute their own interests.  The covenant lays claim to the whole man and calls him to a surrender with no reservations.

Theology of the New Testament, Volume One (Philadelphia, PA:  Westminster Press, 1961), pages 44-45

Thus this post continues a line of thought present in its immediate predecessor in order of composition.  God calls the blessed people to function as blessings to others.  The faithful, redeemed people of God have a mandate to cooperate with God in reforming society for the common good and divine glory.  In the Bible righteousness and justice are the same thing.  Hence we read prophets’ condemnations of economic exploitation and judicial corruption as opposites of righteousness.  To live in the household of God is to have both privileges and duties.

One task for those with a slave mentality is to abandon it and to embrace freedom in God.  I know that eating the same thing repeatedly gets old rapidly, but at least the Israelites were not starving.  God does provide; gratitude is in order, even if manna is crystallized insect feces.  Often our mentalities stand between us and God, whose manna does come with the condition of servitude to the source.  What we receive from God might not be what we want or expect, but it is what we need.  May we accept it gratefully and accept the obligation to serve God and leave our world better than we found it.

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/grace-and-obligations/

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Devotion for the Forty-Third and Forty-Fourth Days of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   9 comments

Above:  A United States $500 Bill from 1918  

$500 in 1918= $7,470 in 2011 (Consumer Price Index)

Numbers and Luke, Part V:  Illusions and Attachments as Idols

MAY 29 and 30, 2022

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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:

Numbers 14:1-25 (43th Day of Easter)

Numbers 14:26-45 (44th Day of Easter)

Psalm 93 (Morning–43th Day of Easter)

Psalm 97 (Morning–44th Day of Easter)

Psalms 136 and 117 (Evening–43th Day of Easter)

Psalms 124 and 115 (Evening–44th Day of Easter)

Luke 18:18-34 (43th Day of Easter)

Luke 18:35-19:10 (44th Day of Easter)

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter/

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I found Richard Elliott Friedman’s Commentary on the Torah (2001) helpful in understanding what happened in Numbers 14.  (Aside:  If you, O reader, do not have a copy of that excellent book, you might want to purchase one.)  The spies/scouts have returned from their mission.  Some have warned in dire tones of the dangers there.  As Friedman pointed out and I did notice, they had not mentioned God.  But Caleb was more optimistic, ready to go back with the rest of the population.

In Numbers 14 the community laments the possibility of going to Canaan.  Dying in the desert seems preferable.  Even returning to Egypt, where they had been slaves, seems better than going to Canaan.  Caleb and Joshua try to calm the people, to no avail.  God, angry, threatens to destroy the faithless people, but Moses talks God down.  Instead, God decrees, the people will get their wish:  they will die in the desert.  This does not make them happy either.  And those who, against divine instructions, go up against the Canaanites and the Amalekites without God’s blessing and the Ark of the Covenant perish.

As Friedman stresses, the problem was a slave mentality.  The faithless people had not had to act before.  The Egyptians had acted upon them and made decisions for them.  God had liberated them and provided them with manna and quail in the desert.  (They did have to eat.)  But resettling Canaan would require effort.  It would require them to decide then to act.

An entire generation’s experience is not easily reversed.

–Richard Elliott Friedman, Commentary on the Torah (2001), page 475

The faithless Israelites clung tenaciously to nostalgia (for slavery, oddly enough) and to a slave mentality.  The rich man in Luke 18:18-23 clung to his wealth, which blinded him to his total dependence on God.  Zacchaeus (in Luke 19:1-10) preferred an attachment to Jesus to one to wealth and the illusion of independence.

Illusions and attachments can be the most difficult idols from which to divorce ourselves.  An idol, of course, is anything which distracts us from God.  Statutes of pagan deities are obvious idols, but concepts can be less obvious and more powerful ones.  We depend entirely on God.  We cannot pull ourselves up by our spiritual bootstraps.  Yes, we have an obligation to cooperate with God, but we cannot save ourselves.  And grace–that which we do not do–requires much of us.  It requires us to decide then to act.  It is free, not cheap.

Which illusions and attachments are your most powerful idols, O reader?  I must recognize and confront mine.  May you do the same to yours.  And may we succeed via grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 21, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL FAITHFUL MEMBERS OF THE CLERGY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, JESUIT

THE FEAST OF HENARE WIREMU TARATOA OF TE RANGA, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN JONES AND JOHN RIGBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/numbers-and-luke-part-v-illusions-and-attachments-as-idols/

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Devotion for the Sixth Day of Lent (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

Above:  The Subsiding of the Waters of the Deluge, by Thomas Cole

Genesis and Mark, Part VII:  God and Crises

MARCH 8, 2022

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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:

Genesis 7:11-8:12

Psalm 34 (Morning)

Psalms 25 and 91 (Evening)

Mark 3:20-35

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A Related Post:

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/prayer-for-tuesday-of-the-first-week-of-lent/

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The world of early Genesis mythology was a flat with a dome on top.  There were waters beneath the land and there were waters above the dome.  Thus, in 7:11b (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures), we read:

And the fountains of the great deep burst apart,

And the floodgates of the sky broke open.

As Richard Elliott Friedman wrote of the flood on page 38 of his Commentary on the Torah (2001),

It is more than ordinary rain.  It is a cosmic crisis, in which the very structure of the universe is endangered.

Meanwhile,  in Mark 3, some of our Lord’s relatives think that he might be out of his mind.  Parts I and II of this story bracket an allegation by some scribes that Jesus is in league with Satan. This is how the author the the Gospel of Mark presents the material.  So, in Mark, Jesus has to contend with disbelief by scribes and

his mother and his brothers (verse 31, The New Jerusalem Bible)

In the Gospel of Mark our Lord’s true identity is apparent to demons, God, and himself–yet not to his family members and to his Apostles–that is, until his death.  Wilhelm Wrede, in Das Messiasgeheimnis in den Evangelien (1901), called this the Messianic Secret.  (There was much more to his hypothesis, of course, but I will not chase that rabbit here and now.)  In contrast, in the Gospel of John, there is no secret.  In Mark, Jesus tells people he has healed to say nothing.  (They disobey, of course.)  Yet, in John, he never tries to conceal anything.  The Markan premise makes sense to me, for it fits well with human relationships.  We have blind spots regarding people who are very close to us, do we not?  Often a stranger has more insight than does a friend, a relative, or an associate.

Anyhow, on to my main point..

In Genesis the world itself was in danger.  The only protection for the intended survivors came from God.  Certainly the boxy boat was not much compared to the water.  And, in Mark our Lord’s personal world was in turmoil.  Even worse, his life had been at risk since 3:6.

The Pharisees went out and began at once to plot with the Herodians against him, discussing how to destroy him.  (The New Jerusalem Bible)

Even the life of the incarnate Son of God was endangered.

Such passages and themes of scripture cause me to wonder how anyone can, with a straight face, defend Prosperity Theology.   Not only does the Book of Job raise questions regarding it, but the life of Christ and those of he Apostles (including Paul) disprove it.  Furthermore, what about almost two thousand years of Christian martyrs?  And there is the matter of the suffering prophets of God.  But Jesus, Paul, and others knew that God was in charge.  So, when one’s world is falling apart, God is still in charge.

That is a lesson worth taking to heart.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 8, 2012 COMMON ERA

 THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT II, BISHOP OF ROME

 THE FEAST OF DAME JULIAN OF NORWICH, SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAGDALENA OF CANOSSA, FOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF CHARITY AND THE SONS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER OF TARENTAISE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/genesis-and-mark-part-vii-god-and-crises/

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Devotion for the Fifth Day of Lent (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   9 comments

Above:  Noah’s Ark, by Edward Hicks

Genesis and Mark, Part VI:  Survival in God

MARCH 7, 2022

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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:

Genesis 6:1-7:5

Psalm 119:73-80 (Morning)

Psalms 121 and 6 (Evening)

Mark 3:1-19

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A Related Post:

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/prayer-for-monday-of-the-first-week-of-lent/

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Before I got to my main point I choose to geek out regarding the Hebrew text.  We have part of the familiar tale of Noah’ Ark.  It is a composite from various sources; I checked Richard Elliott Friedman’s The Bible with Sources Revealed:  A New View Into the Five Books of Moses (2003) to see his color-coding scheme.  But one does not need that book to notice two sets of instructions regarding how many animals to take into the Art:  in 6:9-22 and 7:2-4.

I needed commentaries to explain that “Noah” in Hebrew is “favor” spelled backwards.  Thus 6:8, which reads

But Noah found favor with the LORD  (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

contains a wordplay.  And, as Professor Friedman explains in his Commentary on the Torah (2001), it is one of six wordplays on “Noah.”  The others are found in 5:29, 6:6, 6:7, 8:4, and 8:21.

 A further piece of information comes from The Jewish Study Bible (page 21).  The Hebrew word translated “ark” appears in this story and in one other place:  Exodus 2.  There the mother of Moses places her son in an ark (there translated as “basket.”  The Jewish Study Bible note on pages 21-22 tells me that

Noah foreshadows Moses, even as Moses, removed from the water, foreshadows the people Israel, whom he leads to safety through the death-dealing sea that drowns their oppressors (Exodus 14-15).  The great biblical tale of redemption occurs first in a shorter, universal form, then in a longer, particularistic one.

Everett Fox, in a note on page 33 of Genesis and Exodus:  A New English Rendition, explains further:

God, not human engineering, is the source of survival in the story.

I have no interest in engaging in pointless argument at the moment.  We are reading mythology of the highest order.  Mythology of such variety teaches transcendent truth while not being literally true.  There it is.  Accept it.  Deal with it.  Accept science for all its great value.  And accept mythology for its worth.  But do not try to turn a myth into a scientific historical account.

No, I do not want to quarrel.  Rather, I seek to pursue a line of reasoning based on the essence of the flood myth, in the words of Everett Fox:

God, not human engineering, is the source of survival in the story.

God has always been the source of survival.  The man with the withered hand found God via Jesus to be the source of his future means of survival.  May we, unlike the Pharisees and Herodians of Mark 3, not quarrel with God’s methods and timing.

This is a difficult task for many people.  (I count myself among them.)  Although I seldom argue with divine tactics in my life, timing is a different matter.  The methods by which God has provided survival have surprised me often, but I tend to accept them as such.  But could they not occur sooner?  I am not alone in this spiritual state, am I?  Of course not!

 So I have a spiritual problem to which I seek resolution.  It is an opportunity for growth and learning, not a reason for condemnation.  And you, O reader, have your own spiritual problems, just as I have mine.  May you seek and find resolution via God.  And may the journey to that resolution be an occasion for spiritual joy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 7, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMITION OF HUY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF HARRIET STARR CANNON, COFOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF SAINT MARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROSE VENERINI, FOUNDER OF THE VENERINI SISTERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODARD OF NARBONNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP, AND SAINTS JUSTUS AND PASTOR, MARTYRS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/genesis-and-mark-part-vi-survival-in-god/

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