Archive for the ‘Atonement’ Tag

Devotion for Transfiguration Sunday, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Transfiguration, by Raphael

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-90565

Divine Glory and Sacrificial Love

MARCH 3, 2019

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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 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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Exodus 24:12-18

Psalm 2

2 Peter 1:16-21

Matthew 17:1-9 (or 1-13)

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Interestingly, the Transfiguration account in Matthew follows on the heels of Jesus saying,

Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.

–16:28, The New American Bible (1991)

In that scene, Jesus, looking very much like Moses (and standing with Moses and Elijah) on a mountaintop, stands in divine glory.  We can read another version of the Transfiguration in Luke 9:28-36, shortly before Jesus sets his face literally and figuratively toward Jerusalem–to die.

It is appropriate that we read of the Transfiguration on the Sunday immediately preceding Lent, at the end of which are Good Friday and Holy Saturday.  We are supposed to recall the supreme divine love behind the Incarnation and the Atonement, as well as to remember that God calls us to love like Jesus, who loved all the way to a cross.

That is a variety of love that carries a high price tag.  The grace, although free, is certainly not cheap.  It is, however, the path to life at its fullest and most abundant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR AND ISAAC THE GREAT, PATRIARCHS OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF MEISTER ECKHART, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN AND MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT METODEJ DOMINIK TRCKA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTORIAN OF HADRUMETUM, MARTYR AT CARTHAGE, 484

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/03/23/divine-glory-and-sacrificial-love/

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Devotion for the First Sunday After the Epiphany (Year D)   1 comment

Salome with the Head of John the Baptist

Above:  Salome with the Head of John the Baptist, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

Atonement and the Sovereignty of God

JANUARY 12, 2020

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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 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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Leviticus 16:1-34

Psalm 69

Matthew 14:1-12

Hebrews 9:1-28

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O God, you know my folly;

the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.

–Psalm 69:5, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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The contents of Leviticus 16 might seem odd to a Gentile, especially one who is a Christian.  Part of a note from The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) explains it well:

The preceding chs have established that sins and bodily impurities contaminate the Tabernacle.  Regular atonement for unintentional sin and the routine eradication of impurity eliminate as much of both types of defilement as possible.  Yet, since not all unintentional wrongs are discovered and not everyone is diligent about atonement, a certain amount of defilement remains.  In particular, deliberate crimes, which contaminate the inner sanctum where the divine Presence is said to dwell, are not expurgated by the regular atonement rituals.  This ch thus provides the instructions for purging the inner sanctum along with the rest of the Tabernacle once a year, so that defilement does not accumulate.  It logically follows the laws of purification (chs 12-15), as they conclude with the statement that only by preventing the spread of impurity can the Israelites ensure God’s continual presence among them (15:31).  The annual purification ritual, briefly alluded to in Ex. 30:10, is to be performed on the tenth day of the seventh month (v. 29).  Elsewhere (23:27, 28; 25:9) this day is referred to as “yom hakippurim”–often translated as “Day of Atonement.”

–Page 231

When we turn to the Letter to the Hebrews we read an extended contrast between the annual rites for Yom Kippur and the one-time sacrifice of Jesus.  We also read a multi-chapter contrast between human priests and Jesus, who is simultaneously the priest and the victim.

How much more will the blood of Christ, who offered himself, blameless as he was, to God through the eternal Spirit, purify our conscience from dead actions so that we can worship the living God.

–Hebrews 9:14, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

St. John the Baptist, of whose death we read in Matthew 14:1-12, was the forerunner of Jesus.  Not only did John point to Jesus and baptize him, but he also preceded him in violent death.  The shedding of the blood of St. John the Baptist on the orders of Herod Antipas was a political and face-saving act.  Antipas had, after all, imprisoned John for political reasons.  The alleged crime of St. John the Baptist was to challenge authority with his words, which was one reason for the crucifixion of Jesus also.

Part of the grace evident in martyrdom (such as that of St. John the Baptist) and of the crucifixion of Jesus was that those perfidious deeds glorified not those who ordered and perpetrated them but God.  We honor St. John the Baptist, not Herod Antipas, and thank God for John’s faithful witness.  We honor Jesus of Nazareth and give thanks–for his resurrection; we do not sing the praises of the decision-making of Pontius Pilate on that fateful day.  Another part of the grace of the crucifixion of Jesus is that, although it was indeed a perfidious act, it constituted a portion of the process of atonement for sins–once and for all.

Certain powerful people, who found Jesus to be not only inconvenient but dangerous, thought they had gotten rid of him.  They could not have been more mistaken.  They had the power to kill him, but God resurrected him, thereby defeating their evil purposes.  God also used their perfidy to affect something positive for countless generations to come.  That was certainly a fine demonstration of the Sovereignty of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE SIXTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKERS AND PEACE ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/09/04/atonement-and-the-sovereignty-of-god/

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Devotion for Christmas Day (Year D)   1 comment

Adoration of the Shepherds, by Mikael Toppelius

Above:  The Adoration of the Shepherds, by Mikael Toppelius

Image in the Public Domain

Deciding or Refusing to Repent

DECEMBER 25, 2019

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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 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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Isaiah 6:(8) 9-13 or Jeremiah 10:1-16 (17-25)

Psalm 35 or 94

John 12:17-19, 37-50

Romans 11:2b-28 (29-32) 33-36

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You have seen, O LORD, do not be silent!

O Lord, do not be far from me!

–Psalm 35:22, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Happy are those whom you discipline, O LORD,

and whom you touch out of your law,

giving them respite from days of trouble,

until a pit is dug for the wicked.

For the Lord will not forsake his people;

he will not abandon his heritage;

for justice will return to the righteous,

and all the upright in heart will follow it.

–Psalm 94:12-15, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Some of the readings for this occasion seem to indicate that God has, at various times, designated entire populations and refused to permit them to repent of their sins.  This reading is at odds with the theology of unlimited atonement (by Jesus, via his death and resurrection), which ends a process begun by the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth.  My understanding is that (A) all of us are sinners, (B) God desires all sinners to repent, and (C) many sinners simply refuse to repent.  In Judaism one can find an interpretation of the lection from Isaiah that insists that God predicted that many people would not understand and did not desire them to fail to understand.  In this reading First Isaiah’s mission was to help people to repent, not to prevent it.  This makes sense to me.

Why might one not repent?  One might identify a set of reasons, but perhaps the most basic reason is that one must recognize something as an error before one seeks to correct it.  Spiritual blindness is a major problem from which all people suffer.  We can, by grace, see what occupies our blind spots.  Assuming that we do this, do we want to change?  Maybe we think that necessary change is pointless or too difficult.  Or perhaps we are simply afraid to take action by trusting in God and venturing into unknown (to us) spiritual territory.  Either way, one does not repent.

Whoever loves himself or herself more than God is lost, we read in John 12.  To be a Christian is to follow Jesus, who went to a cross then a tomb, which he occupied only briefly.

To think this much about Good Friday and Easter Sunday on Christmas Day might seem odd, but it is theologically correct.  The recognition of this reality is hardly new.  Indeed, Johann Sebastian Bach incorporated the Passion Chorale tune into his Christmas Oratorio.

Grace is free to all, fortunately.  Yet many will not accept it and the demands accompanying it.  Each of us has a responsibility to say “yes” to God, whose grace is always free and never cheap.  Each of us has a responsibility to love his or her neighbors as he or she loves himself or herself.  Doing so will, for different people, lead to different ends in this life, and translate into action in a variety of ways, depending on circumstances.  The principle is constant, however.  Jesus, who came to us first as a baby, demands nothing less than taking up one’s cross and following him.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 30, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRIETTE LUISE VON HAYN, GERMAN MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/08/30/deciding-or-refusing-to-repent/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  Magnificat

Image in the Public Domain

Why the Birth of Jesus Occurred

DECEMBER 22, 23, and 24, 2014

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

With your abundant grace and might,

free us from the sin that would obstruct your mercy,

that willingly we may bear your redeeming love to all the world,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 1:1-18 (Monday)

1 Samuel 1:19-28 (Tuesday)

1 Samuel 2:1-10 (Wednesday)

Luke 1:46b-55 (All Days)

Hebrews 9:1-14 (Monday)

Hebrews 8:1-13 (Tuesday)

Mark 11:1-11 (Wednesday)

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My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:

the Almighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel,

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

The promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 119

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Stories of and set in the context of angelic annunciations of conception and birth are, of course, appropriate for the days leading up to December 25.  In the previous post I dealt with the story of Samson.  These three days we have Hannah (mother of Samuel) and St. Mary of Nazareth (Mother of God).  To read Hannah’s song (1 Samuel 2:1-10) now is appropriate, for it was the model for the Magnificat.

This is a time to celebrate new life.  I mean that on more than one level.  There is, of course, the birth of Jesus.  Then there is the new spiritual life–both communal and individual–available via Christ.  As we celebrate this joyous time of year–one fraught with grief for many people also–may we, considering the assigned readings from Mark and Hebrews, consider why a birth occurred.  The pericope from Mark tells of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.  The readings from the Letter to the Hebrews, after much Greek philosophical language, culminate thusly:

For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!

–Hebrews 9:13-14, New Revised Standard Version (1989)

To the passage above I add that we must move along to the Resurrection, or else we will have Dead Jesus.  I serve the living Messiah, not Dead Jesus.  Christ’s Resurrection conquered evil plans, as the Classic Theory of the Atonement states correctly.

We find foreshadowing of the crucifixion in the words of Simeon to St. Mary:

…and a sword will pierce your soul too.

–Luke 2:35b, New Revised Standard Version (1989)

In a similar vein, one can sing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” to the tune “Easter Hymn,” to which many people sing “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.”  (The Methodist Hymnal/The Book of Hymns (1966) provides this option.)  Advent and Christmas lead to the crucifixion and the Resurrection.

That is why the birth of Jesus occurred.  Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AEDESIUS, PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; AND SAINT FRUDENTIUS, FIRST BISHOP OF AXUM AND ABUNA OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH

THE FEAST OF THE VICTIMS OF THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/why-the-birth-of-jesus-occurred/

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Devotion for January 9, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

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Above:  Astarte (1902), by John Singer Sargent

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-133676

Idolatry Among Us

JANUARY 9, 2020

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you revealed the incarnation

of your Son by the brilliant shining of a star.

Shine the light of your justice always in our hearts and over all lands,

and accept our lives as the treasure we offer in your praise and for your service,

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 21

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The Assigned Readings:

Micah 5:2-9 (Protestant Versification)/Micah 5:1-8 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Versification)

Psalm 72

Luke 13:31-35

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Blessed are you, O Lord our God:

for you alone do marvellous things.

Blessed be your glorious name for ever:

let the whole earth be filled

with your glory.  Amen.  Amen.

–Psalm 72:19-20, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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The reading from Luke 13 prompts me to think of the Classic Theory of the Atonement, a.k.a. the Conquest of Satan and Christus Victor.  This interpretation dates to early Christianity, for Origen, St. Irenaeus, and St. Justin Martyr argued for it.  I have read more recent iterations of it in the works of Gustav Aulen and N. T. Wright.  As St. Irenaeus (died 202 C.E.) wrote:

The Word of God was made flesh in order that He might destroy death and bring men to life, for we were tied and bound in sin, we were born in sin and live under the dominion of death.

–Quoted in Linwood Urban, A Short History of Christian Thought, Revised and Expanded Edition (New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 1995), page 109

Perfidious men–men, not people generically (I like to use gendered language precisely)–plotted to kill Jesus.  They succeeded in that goal.  Yet our Lord and Savior did not remain dead for long.  So those perfidious men failed ultimately.

God wins ultimately, despite our best human attempts to thwart that result.  Such is the best definition of the sovereignty of God I can muster.

Micah 5:1-8/5:2-9 (depending on the versification in the translation one reads) sounds reassuring for the Hebrew nation in the late eighth century B.C.E.-early seventh century B.C.E., the timeframe for Isaiah 1-39.  Woe be unto any Assyrian invaders, it says.  If one continues to read, however, one discovers that the Assyrians are not the only ones who should quake in fear of divine retribution, which will fall also on the homefront as well:

In anger and fury I shall wreak vengeance

on the nations who disobey me.

–Micah 5:15, The Revised English Bible

The disobedience in Micah 5 took various forms, including idolatry.

Idols range from false deities to anything which anyone lets stand between him or her and God.  I live in Athens, Georgia, a football-mad town.  Often I note the tone of reverence regarding University of Georgia athletics in the local press.  And frequently have I heard sports fans liken sports to religion.  It is one for many of them.  And, ironically, the Bible functions as an idol for many honest seekers of God.  The Scriptures are supposed to be as icons, through which people see God, but their function varies according to the user thereof.

Religion is a basic human need.  Even many militant fundamentalist Atheists possess the same irritating zeal as do many fundamentalists of theistic varieties.  I stand in the middle, rejecting both excessive skepticism and misplaced certainty, overboard materialism and rationality with the haunting fear that having sex standing up will lead to (gasp!) dancing.  So I reject idols on either side of my position while know that I need to examine my own position for the presence of idols, as abstract as they might be.

Perhaps the greatest spiritual challenge is to identify and reject all idols, which do not seem as what they are to us because the most basic assumptions people carry do not look like assumptions to us.  Thus we justify ourselves to ourselves while we stand in serious error.  Sometimes our idols and false assumptions, combined with fears, lead us commit violence–frequently in the name of God or an imagined deity, perhaps understood as being loving.

We are really messed up.  Fortunately, there is abundant grace available to us.  But can we recognize that if idolatry blinds us spiritually?

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 2, 2013 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF HANNAH, MOTHER OF SAMUEL

THE FEAST OF DAVID CHARLES, WELSH CALVINISTIC METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF NEW GUINEA

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM OF ROSKILDE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/idolatry-among-us/

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Devotion for February 16 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  A Crucifix

Job and John, Part X:  Questions of Divine Abuse

FEBRUARY 16, 2020

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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:

Job 12:1-6, 12-25

Psalm 56 (Morning)

Psalms 100 and 62 (Evening)

John 5:30-47

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Job, in Chapter 12, accuses God of abusing power.  This is understandable when coming from that character in the context of the narrative.  And, given the contents of the first two chapters, it seems like a reasonable statement, from a certain point of view.

The abuse in John 5 is of human origin.  Rather, abuse will flow from human plotting and scheming against Jesus.  The refusal to accept Jesus, combined with the willingness to do or to commit or to sanction violence, will lead to our Lord’s death.  And, if if one really affirms Penal Substitutionary Atonement, the death of Jesus constitutes divine abuse.  The depiction of God in that theological formulation sounds to me like

I will not be satisfied until my Son is tortured then killed!

There are, fortunately, two other understandings of the mechanics of the atonement present in the writings of the Church Fathers.

I have more questions than answers regarding the abusiveness (alleged or actual) of divine actions.  My goal is to be faithful, not to attempt a vain theodicy.  If my explanations are wrong, so be it; I can accept that.  As the Book of Job will reveal, God had only brief words for the alleged friends but a speech for Job.  He who asked questions got a dialogue, if not satisfactory answers.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 26, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS REMACLUS OF MAASTRICHT, THEODORE OF MAASTRICHT, LAMBERT OF MAASTRICHT, HUBERT OF MAASTRICHT AND LIEGE, AND FLORIBERT OF LIEGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; LANDRADA OF MUNSTERBILSEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND OTGER OF UTRECHT, PLECHELM OF GUELDERLAND, AND WIRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF CHRISTINA ROSSETTI, POET

THE FEAST OF SAINT PASCHASIUS RADBERTUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ROBERT HUNT, FIRST ANGLICAN CHAPLAIN AT JAMESTOWN, VIRGINIA

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/job-and-john-part-x-questions-of-divine-abuse/

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Week of 4 Epiphany: Wednesday, Year 2   2 comments

Above:  An Orthodox Icon of David

David, the Census, and Bad Theology

FEBRUARY 5, 2020

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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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2 Samuel 24:2, 9-17 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

So the king said to Joab and the commanders of the army, who were with him,

Go through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and number the people.

And Joab gave the sum of the numbering of the people to the king:  in Israel there were eight hundred thousand men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand.

But David’s heart struck him after he had numbered the people?  And David said to the LORD,

I have sinned greatly in what I have done.  But now, O LORD, I pray you, take away the iniquity of your servant; for I have done very foolishly.

And when David arose in the morning, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying,

Go and say to David, “Thus says the LORD, Three things I offer you; choose one of them, that I may do it to you.”

So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him,

Shall three years of famine come to you in your land?  Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you?  Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land?  Now consider, and decide what answer I shall return to him who sent me.

Then David said to Gad,

I am in great distress; let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but not let me fall into the hand of man.

So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning until the appointed time; and there died of the people from Dan to Beersheba seventy thousand men.  And when the angel stretched forth his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented of the evil, and said to the angel who was working destruction among the people,

It is enough; now stay your hand.

And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.  Then David spoke to the LORD when he saw the angel who was striking down the people, and said,

Behold, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done?  Let your hand, I pray you, be against me and against my father’s house?

Psalm 32:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven,

and whose sin is put away!

2 Happy are they to whom the LORD imputes no guilt,

and in whose spirit there is no guile!

While I held my tongue, my bones withered away,

because of my groaning all day long.

4 For your hand was heavy upon me day and night;

my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.

5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you,

and did not conceal my guilt.

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.”

Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.

7 Therefore all the faithful will make your prayers to you in time of trouble;

when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them.

8 You are my hiding-place;

you preserve me from trouble;

you surround me with shouts of deliverance.

Mark 6:1-6 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

He went away from there and came to his own country; and his disciples followed him.  And on the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying,

Where did this man get all this?  What is the wisdom given to him?  What mighty works are wrought by his hands!  Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?

And they took offense at him.  And Jesus said to him,

A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.

And he could not do mighty work there, except that he laid hands upon a few sick people and healed them.  And he marveled because of their unbelief.

And he went about among the villages teaching.

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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:  Wednesday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/week-of-4-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

Matthew 13 (Parallel to Mark 6):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/week-of-proper-12-friday-year-1/

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Often I read a biblical text and find it inspiring.  Then we have 2 Samuel 24, which leads me to argue with its theology.  I write these devotions for sequential reading, as the lectionaries tend to be sequential, so I do not feel the need to repeat certain statements every second or third or fourth, et cetera, post, but I do repeat one maxim I have quoted elsewhere in this series because it has direct bearing on my interpretation.  As Donald Armentrout has said, the best way to read the Bible is through the “Gospel glasses.”  Not all parts of the Bible are equal, for the four canonical Gospels are more important than 1 and 2 Chronicles, for example.  In this case, Jesus trumps the theology in 2 Samuel 24.

So, what was sinful about David’s census?  The narrative indicates that the purpose was military.  Was David overconfident in his army, indicating too little trust in God?  If this is a moral of the story, God does not come across as one in whom I would seek to put my trust.  Rather, God comes across more like a vindictive and omnipotent SOB.  Finally, God’s vindictiveness does run its course, for God orders the angel to stop its destructive work, David builds an altar on the future site of the Temple at Jerusalem, and God averts the plague from Israel.

D. D. Whedon’s Commentary on the Old Testament (1873), a work with whose theology I seldom agree, does summarize a crucial plot point in 2 Samuel 24 well.  The Reverend M. S. Terry wrote the following note regarding verse 15 on page 554 of Volume III:

…David was vainglorious over the multitude of his warriors, but this one stroke almost decimates them….

So, in the narrative, God tells David, in so many words, trust in me OR ELSE!

That portrait of God as a vengeful deity who attacks innocents disturbs me.  This is the same theology which feeds Penal Substitutionary Atonement, which says that Jesus took your, my, et cetera, place on the cross.  So, according to this idea, Jesus was the innocent who died for you and me.  This is bad theology.  It is also only one of several interpretations of the Atonement dating to the age of the Church Fathers.

…God is love.

–1 John 4:8c, Revised Standard Version

Love does not say to Jesus or one of those who died in 2 Samuel 24, “I am really mad, but not with you.  So go, suffer, and die for another person’s sin(s).”  Yes, there is punishment for sins, but that is often passive on God’s part.  God does let our chickens come home to roost, even if only for a limited time.  But there is also mercy.  Judgment and mercy coexist in the Bible, as I have written many times in my devotional blog posts.

In the torture and death of Jesus, we see our Lord and Savior not only identifying with the outcasts of society, as he did when he dined with them, for example, but becoming one of them.  The Roman Empire did its worst to him, and it seemed to have succeeded briefly.  It shamed Jesus in an attempt to eliminate him, but our Lord refused to stay dead for long.  And so he pointed out the superior power of God, as well as the relative weakness of evil and the Roman Empire.  And, by grace, God transformed shame into triumph, hence the Church’s adoption of the cross as its symbol.  In Christ there is no more judgment, just mercy.  He is the Good Shepherd who takes care of all his sheep.

My theology of the Atonement, as I have written in other devotional blog posts, is that it is the result of the entire life cycle of Jesus of Nazareth, from Incarnation to Ascension.  The crucifixion was a vital part of the process, but the Resurrection was more important, for, without it, we would have dead Jesus.  There is no salvation in dead Jesus.

Jesus (the historical person, that is) was in the future tense for the timeframe of 2 Samuel 24, obviously.  But am I to believe that God’s personality changed drastically within a few centuries?  I hope not!  Instead, I state that theology, as recorded in the Bible, changed.  Jesus (and in this case, 1 John) trump 2 Samuel 24.

Often, when bad things happen, we search desperately for meaning.  “Why did these events happen?” we ask ourselves.  It can be tempting to understand them as divine retribution, but what kind of nature are we accusing God of having?  We need to think about that seriously during our reflections.

KRT