Week of 4 Epiphany: Friday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  An Eastern Orthodox Icon of David

To Glorify God

FEBRUARY 2, 2018

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 47:2-11 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

As the fat is selected from the peace offering,

so David was selected from the sons of Israel.

He played with lions as with young goats,

and with bears as with lambs of the flock.

In his youth did he not kill a giant,

and take away reproach from the people,

when he lifted his hand with a stone in the sling

and struck down the boasting of Goliath?

He appealed to the Lord, the Most High,

and he gave him strength in his right hand

to slay a man mighty in war,

to exalt the power of his people.

So they glorified him for his ten thousands,

and praised him for the blessings of the Lord,

when the glorious diadem was bestowed upon him.

For he wiped out his enemies on every side,

and annihilated his adversaries the Philistines;

he crushed their power even to this day.

In all that he did he gave thanks

to the Holy One, the Most High, with ascriptions of glory;

he sang praise with all his heart,

and he loved his Maker.

He placed singers before the altar,

to make sweet melody with their voices.

He gave beauty to the feasts,

and arranged their times throughout the year,

while they praised God’s holy name,

and the sanctuary resounded from early morning.

The Lord took away his sins,

and exalted his power for ever;

he gave him the covenant of kings

and a throne of glory in Israel.

Psalm 18:31-33, 46-50 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

31  As for God, his ways are always perfect;

the words of the LORD are tried in the fire;

he is a shield to all who trust in him.

32  For who is God, but the LORD?

who is the Rock, except our God?

33  It is God who girds me about with strength

and makes my way secure.

46  The LORD lives!  Blessed is my Rock!

Exalted is the God of my salvation!

47  He is the God who gave me victory

and cast down the peoples beneath me.

48 You rescued me from the fury of my enemies;

you exalted me above those who rose against me;

you saved me from my deadly foe.

49 Therefore will I extol you among the nations, O LORD,

and sing praises to your Name.

50 He multiplies the victories of his king;

he knows loving-kindness to his anointed,

to David and his descendants for ever.

Mark 6:14-29 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known.  Some said,

John the Baptist has been raised from the dead; that is why these powers are at work in him.

But others said,

It is Elijah.

And others said,

It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.

But when Herod heard of it he said,

John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.

For Herod had sent and seized John, and bound him for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife.  And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him.  But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe.  When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly.  But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and the leading men of Galilee.  For when Herodias’ daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl,

Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will grant it.

And he vowed to her,

Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.

And she went out, and said to her mother,

What shall I ask?

And she said,

The head of John the Baptist.

And she came in immediately with haste to the king, and asked, saying,

I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.

And the king was exceedingly sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her.  And immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard and gave orders to bring his head.  He went and beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother.  When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 4 Epiphany:  Friday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/08/week-of-4-epiphany-friday-year-1/

Matthew 14 (Parallel to Mark 6):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/week-of-proper-12-saturday-year-1/

Luke 9 (Parallel to Mark 6):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/07/week-of-proper-20-thursday-year-1/

Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (August 29):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-the-beheading-of-st-john-the-baptist-martyr-august-29/

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One might add to the Canadian Anglican lectionary another response, an alternative to Psalm 18:31-33, 46-50.  Psalm 151 is part of the Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox traditions.

First I offer the New Revised Standard Version rendering:

1  I was small among my brothers,

and youngest in my father’s house;

I tended my father’s sheep.

2  My hands made a harp;

my fingers fashioned a lyre.

3  And who will tell my Lord?

The Lord himself; it is he who hears.

4  It was he who sent his messenger

and took me from my father’s sheep,

and anointed me with his anointing oil.

5  My brothers were handsome and tall,

but the Lord was not pleased with them.

6  I went out to meet the Philistine,

and he cursed me by his idols.

7  But I drew his own sword;

I beheaded him, and took away disgrace from the people of Israel.

And here is the translation of Psalm 151 from the St. Athanasius Academy Septuagint (2008):

1  I was small among my brothers

And the youngest in my father’s house;

I tended my father’s sheep.

2  My hands built a musical instrument;

My fingers tuned a lyre.

3  And who shall tell my Lord?

The Lord Himself, He Himself hears.

4  He sent forth His Angel

And took me from my father’s sheep;

5  My brothers were handsome and tall,

But the Lord took no pleasure in them.

6  I went out to meet the foreigner,

And he cursed me with his idols;

7  But I drew his own sword and beheaded him,

And removed disgrace from the children of Israel.

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What is the chief end of man?

Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

–The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question #1, as contained in the Book of Confessions (1967), of The United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America

The lectionary readings pair two rulers and two beheadings with only the most superficial similarities.  The differences, however, are quite revealing.

Herod Antipas was a son of Herod the Great.  Antipas, like his father, was a cruel and devious man who held his position only because the Roman Empire said so.  Antipas had married Herodias, his late half-brother’s niece.  Let that sink in.  John the Baptist had called him out on this, so Antipas had him arrested and imprisoned.  Then, at a party, Antipas so enjoyed his wife’s/late half-brother’s niece’s daughter erotic dancing (Let that sink in.) that he made a hasty pledge, which culminated in the execution of the forerunner of the Messiah.  Antipas, by the way, died in exile in Gaul.

In contrast to Herod Antipas we have David, which, 1 and 2 Samuel tell us, was far from perfect.  But David comes across as a hero and a man who heeded criticism from prophets.  And from David came the lineage which included Jesus, who called Herod Antipas “that fox.”

The basic virtue of David was that he tried (much of the time, at least) to glorify God and defend his kingdom.  It is always a good thing for anyone to glorify God.  And, when a ruler faces a national security threat, it is good for him or her to defend his or her realm while obeying basic principles of human rights.  David, as the texts present him, believed in something greater than himself, but Herod Antipas seems to have been a mere opportunist.

David glorified God, and history and tradition have honored him justifiably.  May we glorify God in our own day and circumstances, for that is the right thing to do.

KRT

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