Archive for the ‘Image of God’ Tag

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

Biblical World

Above:  Map of Ancient Israel

Image Source = Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1957)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

The Glory of God, Filling the Earth, Part II

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 9, 2019

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave us your only Son

to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 24:15-19

Psalm 72

Luke 1:67-79

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May his rule extend from sea to sea,

from the river to the ends of the earth.

–Psalm 72:8, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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Balaam was a Hebrew prophet who consented to prophesy for hire, to say what his new, temporary employer wanted him to say.  At the time many people thought that blessings and curses had power, so, in the context of Numbers 24, Balaam’s words mattered.  God worked through Balaam, much to the chagrin of the prophet’s temporary employer.  The Hebrews, Balaam proclaimed, would rule the Transjordan region.  That prophecy might have been an addition to the original story of Balaam (complete with the talking donkey), for, at the time of King David, the Kingdom of Israel conquered Moab and Edom.  If the prophecy in question is of later origin, my point remains unaltered.  That point is that, according to the text, the Hebrews would triumph over their enemies and that the closest thing to the Kingdom of God on the Earth would win its battles.

The hope for a literal Kingdom of God on the Earth is ancient.  Many authors of the Hebrew Scriptures echoed it repeatedly, as in Psalm 72, a coronation text.  In time the aspirations of Psalm 72 became messianic.  The prophecy of Zechariah in Luke 1:67-79 fit in well with the desire for a different world order.

My reading in Biblical studies has taught me much about the Kingdom of God.  It has been partially present on the Earth for a long time.  Attempting (as I have done) to identify how long the Kingdom of God has been present on the Earth is probably not the best intellectual exercise to undertake, for, strictly speaking, God has not, at any point in the human past, been closer to or farther away from us than at any other point in the human past.  The Kingdom of God, therefore, has not been nearer to us or more distant from us at any point of time than at another.  Nevertheless, we await the fully unveiled Kingdom of God.

As we wait for, as members of many preceding generations have awaited the fully realized Kingdom of God, may we never lose sight of the partially realized Kingdom of God among us and our roles in it.  May we love our fellow human beings as we love ourselves.  May we put away fear, hatred, bigotry, and everything else that separates us from accomplishing the goal of beloved community.  May we respect the image of God in each other then act accordingly.  Whenever we help the least of those among us we aid Christ.  Likewise, whenever we refuse to help the least of those among us, we refused to aid Christ.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 20, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 20–THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF HENRI NOUWEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY COLERIDGE PATTESON, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF MELANESIA, AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF NELSON WESLEY TROUT, FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN U.S. BISHOP

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/09/21/the-glory-of-god-filling-the-earth-part-ii/

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Devotion for January 7 and 8, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Blue Marble Apollo 17

Above:  Blue Marble, December 17, 1972

Image Source = NASA

The Glory of God, Filling the Earth, Part I

MONDAY, JANUARY 7, 2019

TUESDAY, JANUARY 8, 2019

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave us your only Son

to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 2:1-19 (Thursday)

Daniel 2:24-49 (Friday)

Psalm 72 (Both Days)

Ephesians 4:17-5:1 (Thursday)

Ephesians 5:15-20 (Friday)

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Thanks be to the Lord GOD, the God of Israel,

for he alone does marvellous things.

Thanks be to the glorious name of God for ever,

his glory fills the earth.

Amen and amen.

–Psalm 72:18-19, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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The prophecy of Daniel 2:44 seems problematic:

And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall this kingdom be left to another people.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

“The days of those kings” refers to the era of the successors of the empire of Alexander the Great.  The conqueror had died after a brief reign.

So his officers took over his kingdom, each in his own territory, and after his death they all put on diadems, and so did their sons after them for many years, multiplying evils on the earth.

–1 Maccabees 1:8-9, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

The last of those successor empires, the Ptolomaic Empire, based in Egypt, had ended in 30 B.C.E., becoming a province of the Roman Republic, which was transforming into the Roman Empire.  What, then, could the divine kingdom of Daniel 2:44 be?  Ancient Jewish speculations offered two possibilities–the Messiah and the people of Israel.  Christian interpretations have included the Messiah and the Church.  The latter is possible if one includes the Roman Empire as a successor kingdom to the empire of Alexander the Great, for Rome did spread Hellenism, the cultural legacy of Alexander, far and wide.

I cannot forget, however, a lament of the excommunicated Roman Catholic theologian Alfred Fermin Loisy (1857-1940).  Jesus promised us the Kingdom of God, Loisy wrote, and all we got was the Church.  If we understand the Kingdom of God as having been present on the Earth in a partially evident way for a long time Loisy’s lament becomes less potent yet remains relevant.  Christian history contains much that brings no glory to God–the Crusades, bigotry, discrimination, slavery, misogyny, legalism, anti-intellectualism, a suspicion of science, et cetera.  Much of that litany of shame exists in the category of current events.  Nevertheless, much of Christian history (as well as the Christian present day) is also positive, in the style of the readings from Ephesians, where we find the theme of imitating Christ.  Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the incarcerated and the hospitalized, welcoming the stranger, et cetera–in short, recognizing the image of God in others then acting accordingly–bring glory to God.  In those and other deeds the partially unveiled Kingdom of God becomes visible and God’s glory fills the Earth.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 20, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 20–THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF HENRI NOUWEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY COLERIDGE PATTESON, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF MELANESIA, AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF NELSON WESLEY TROUT, FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN U.S. BISHOP

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/09/21/the-glory-of-god-filling-the-earth-part-i/

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Devotion for December 30 and 31, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Temple of Solomon

Above:  The Temple of Solomon

Scan (from an old book) by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Discomfort with Scripture

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 30, 2018, and MONDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2018

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave us your only Son

to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 3:10-17 (December 30)

1 Kings 3:5-14 (December 31)

Psalm 147:12-20 (Both Days)

Mark 13:32-37 (December 30)

John 8:12-19 (December 31)

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Psalm 147 is a happy hymn of praise to God.  Reading, chanting, or singing that text makes people feel good and holy.  But what about other psalms and parts thereof?

O daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,

happy the one who repays you

for all you have done to us;

Who take your little ones,

and dashes them against the rock.

–Psalm 137:8-9, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

The pericopes for these days constitute a combination of the comfortable and the cringe-worthy.  King Solomon, after obeying his father’s advice and conducting a royal purge after his accession, allegedly received wisdom from God.  He also built a beautiful Temple in Jerusalem, financing it with high taxes and using forced labor.  The Temple was, in the Hebrew religion of the time, where people found reconciliation with God.  And it existed courtesy of the monarchy.  Solomon was using religion to prop up the dynasty.  Meanwhile, the details of Solomon’s reign revealed a lack of wisdom, especially in governance.

Jesus as the light of the world (John 8:12-19) fits easily inside the comfort zones of many people, but the entirety of Mark 13 does not.  That chapter, a miniature apocalypse, proves terribly inconvenient to those who prefer a perpetually smiling Jesus (as in illustrations for many Bibles and Bible story books for children) and a non-apocalyptic Christ.  Yet the chapter is present.

The best approach to scripture is an honest and faithful one.  To pretend that contradictions which do exist do not exist is dishonest, and to lose oneself among the proverbial trees and therefore lose sight of the continuity in the forest is faithless.  Many authors from various backgrounds and timeframes contributed to the Bible, that sacred anthology.  They disagreed regarding various topics, and theology changed as time passed.  Yet there is much consistency on major topics.  And, when certain passages cause us to squirm in discomfort, we are at least thinking about them.  Bringing one’s intellect to bear on scripture is a proper thing to do, for higher-order thinking is part of the image of God, which each human being bears.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 24, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARTHOLOMEW, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/08/24/discomfort-with-scripture-2/

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Devotion for December 29, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Jerusalem and the Second Temple--James Tissot

Above:  Jerusalem and the Second Temple, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

Three Temples

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2018

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave us your only Son

to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Chronicles 28:1-10

Psalm 147:12-20

1 Corinthians 3:10-17

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[The Lord] sends forth his word and melts them;

he blows within his wind and the waters flow.

He declares his word to Jacob,

his statutes and judgments to Israel.

He has not dealt so with any other nation;

they do not know his laws.  Alleluia.

–Psalm 147:19-21, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The pericope from 1 Chronicles, true to the pro-Davidic Dynasty bias of 1-2 Chronicles, omits certain unflattering details and depicts King David as a champion of fidelity to God.  It does, however, say that David’s bloodshed made him unfit to build a temple for YHWH at Jerusalem.

St. Paul the Apostle, writing while the Second Temple still stood, argued that those who trust in God are the Temple of God:

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person.  For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

–1 Corinthians 3:16-17, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

“You” is plural.

I wonder how much better the world would be if more people treated others as parts of the Temple of God–as individuals to respect, if not get along with all the time.  Yet each person has God-given dignity as a bearer of the image of God.  This concept of people–believers, in particular–as the Temple teaches us to treat one another properly.  Even non-believers bear the image of God, and therefore deserve good treatment and basic respect.

I admit that I have an easier time extending basic respect to favored cats and to people I like and who mostly agree with me than to those who annoy me and who seldom agree with me.  Some people think so differently from me that, given the opportunity, they argue about even objective matters, such as what the weather forecast says.  They seem like characters from the great Argument Clinic sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus.  (Statement:  “I came here for an argument.”  Reply:  “No, you didn’t.”)  So I have some spiritual work to do, via grace.  You, O reader, might not be so different from me in that regard.  The good news here is that we need not rely on our own power to accomplish this goal, for we have access to divine grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 23, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 16:  THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN COPELAND, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/08/23/three-temples/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After the Third Sunday of Advent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

St. Paul by Theophanes the Cretan

Above:  Icon of St. Paul, by Theophanes the Cretan

Image in the Public Domain

Authority and Grace

DECEMBER 17, 18, and 19, 2018

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The Collect:

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God,

and open our ears to the preaching of John, that

rejoicing in your salvation, we may bring forth the fruits of repentance;

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 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 16:1-19 (Monday)

Numbers 16:20-35 (Tuesday)

Micah 4:8-13 (Wednesday)

Isaiah 11:1-9 (All Days)

Hebrews 13:7-17 (Monday)

Acts 28:23-31 (Tuesday)

Luke 7:31-35 (Wednesday)

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But a shoot shall grow out of the stump of Jesse,

A twig shall sprout from his stock.

The spirit of the LORD shall alight upon him:

A spirit of wisdom and insight,

A spirit of counsel and valor,

A spirit of devotion and reverence for the LORD.

He shall sense the truth by his reverence for the LORD:

He shall not judge by what his eyes behold,

Nor decide by what his ears perceive.

Thus he shall judge the poor with equity

And decide with justice for the lowly of the land.

He shall strike down a land with the rod of his mouth

And slay the wicked with the breath of his lips.

Justice shall be the girdle of his loins,

And faithfulness the girdle of his waist.

The wolf shall lay down with the lamb,

The leopard lie down with the kid;

The calf, the beast of prey, and the fatling together,

With a little boy to herd them.

The cow and the bear shall graze,

Their young shall lie down together;

And the lion, like the ox, shall eat straw.

A babe shall play

Over a viper’s hole,

And an infant pass his hand

Over an adder’s den.

In all of My sacred mount

Nothing evil or vile shall be done;

For the land shall be filled with devotion to the LORD

As water covers the sea.

–Isaiah 11:1-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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In the Torah Moses was God’s choice to lead the Hebrews for many years.  To oppose Moses, therefore, was to sin, according to that extended narrative, as it has come down to us in its final form.  Disobedience to the principles of the Law of Moses, according to the theology of subsequent biblical books, led to the destruction of two Hebrews kingdoms.  Yet, texts indicated, restoration and good times would follow the Babylonian Exile.

The theology of obeying religious leaders, which occurs in Hebrews 13, meshes well with the composite pericope from Numbers 16.  The historical context of Christian calls to obey approved religious leaders, present in the Bible as well as in early Christian writings from subsequent centuries, occurred in the context of doctrinal formation.  Doctrines did not fall from Heaven or appear magically, fully formed.  No, human beings debated them and sometimes even fought (literally) over them.  Orthodoxy, as approved church leaders have defined it, has changed over time.  For example, Origen (185-254 C.E.) was orthodox by most of the standards of his time.  Yet he became a heretic ex post facto and postmortem because the First Council of Nicaea (325 C.E.) contradicted elements of his Trinitarian theology.

Throughout the Christian past orthodox leaders have disagreed with each other and with those they have labeled heretics (often accurately) in real time.  This raises a legitimate question:  Whom is one supposed to regard as authoritative.  This is an old problem.  The ultimate answer has ways been God, but even heretics have tended to agree with that answer.  Early Christianity was quite diverse–more so than historians of Christianity understood for centuries.  How was one supposed to avoid following a false teacher?  St. Paul the Apostle understood the answer as being to listen to him and his associates.  Apostolic succession was another way of establishing orthodox credentials.  There were always critics of orthodox leaders (who were no less imperfect than heretics), as there had been of Jesus and St. John the Baptist before them.

The question of who speaks for God remains a difficult one much of the time.  I think, for example, that I am generally on the right path theologically, but I know people who disagree with that opinion strongly.  My best answer to the difficult question is to evaluate people and their messages according to certain criteria, such as the following:

  1. Do they teach and practice love of others, focusing on the building up of community without sacrificing the individual to the collective?
  2. Do they teach and practice respecting the image of God in their fellow human beings, even while allowing for the reality of difficult moral quandaries relative to that issue?
  3. Do they focus on the lived example of Jesus, leading people to God via him, instead of focusing on any human personality, especially that of a living person?
  4. Do they teach and practice compassion, as opposed to legalism?

Salvation, which is for both the community and the individual, is a matter of God’s grace and human obedience.  That grace demands much of its recipients.  Go, take up your cross and follow Jesus, it says.  Share your blessings and take risks for the glory of God and the benefit of others, it requires.  Fortunately, it does not command that I have an answer for the question of whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son or just from the Father.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 20, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/authority-and-grace/

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Devotion for Wednesday After the First Sunday of Advent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Destruction of the First Temple

Above:  The Destruction of the First Temple

Image in the Public Domain

Repentance and Community

DECEMBER 5, 2018

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection alert us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and redeem us for your life of justice,

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

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 1:24-31

Psalm 90

Luke 11:29-32

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So teach us to number our days

that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

–Psalm 90:12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The readings for this day invite us to repent.  Despite the clear testimony of scripture to the definition of repentance–changing one’s mind, turning around–the misconception that repentance is synonymous with apologizing continues.  No, apologizing is much easier than repenting.

The text from Isaiah 1 is somewhat ambiguous.  In verses 27 and 28 we read:

Zion shall be saved in the judgment;

Her repentant ones, in the retribution.

But rebels and sinners shall all be crushed,

And those who forsake the LORD shall perish.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

(That passage fits well with texts for the previous two posts–1 and 2— in this series.)

The stern tone in verses 29-31 raises some questions.  Verse 29 begins:

Truly you shall be shamed…

Who is “you”?  Does “you” include the repentant ones?  A note in The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) proposes an answer:

The prophet leaves the answer unclear, perhaps intentionally; it will be given by the inhabitants of Jerusalem themselves through their behavior, and they will lead God to decide whom to punish.

–Pages 769-770

One will know a tree by its fruits.  What kind of tree are you, O reader?  Do you seek to love your neighbor as you love yourself?  We all stumble, for that is the human condition.  Moral perfectionism is unrealistic, but the expectation that one will trust God and strive to improve on one’s performance for the glory of God and the benefit of one’s family, friends, community, and society  is realistic.  Grace is free yet not cheap.  We cannot purchase or earn it, but accepting it imposes certain responsibilities upon us.  The details will vary from person to person, but the principles to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself, to respect the dignity of others (as bearers of the image of God), and to avoid the error that Christianity is a solely individualistic matter are constants.  We human beings, depend entirely upon God and partially upon each other.  We are responsible to and for each other and to God.  We live in community, not to ourselves.  None of us is an island.  Will we be responsible members of our communities, for the glory of God and for the common good?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WALSHAM HOW, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WAKEFIELD AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SISTER, FRANCES JANE DOUGLAS(S), HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EUNICE SHRIVER KENNEDY, FOUNDER OF THE SPECIAL OLYMPICS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LAURENCE OF ROME, ROMAN CATHOLIC DEACON AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SHERMAN BOOTH, ABOLITIONIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/08/12/repentance-and-community/

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Devotion for Tuesday After the First Sunday of Advent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

King David

Above:  King David as a Byzantine Emperor

Image in the Public Domain

Washing Our Robes and Bearing Spiritual Fruits

DECEMBER 4, 2018

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection alert us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and redeem us for your life of justice,

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

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Samuel 7:18-29

Psalm 90

Revelation 22:12-16

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So teach us to number our days

that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

–Psalm 90:12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Earlier in 2 Samuel 7 God had said to David via the prophet Nathan not to build a magnificent temple, contrary to divine wishes.  No, God said, God would make David the founder of a great dynasty.  David would not build a literal house for the Ark of the Covenant, but God would make a metaphorical house of David.  The monarch was overcome with gratitude.

That was all well and good, but the Davidic Dynasty became an instrument of exploitation of the people.  The monarchy became the definition of national identity.  The former model, in which God was the national sovereign, was no more.  One reason for the change of the narrative and its opinion of monarchy was political.  The Biblical authors, who were myriad, disagreed with each other frequently.  Thus, for example, the prophet Samuel’s warning against monarchy came to coexist with texts affirming monarchy.

Nevertheless, the consistent witness of the Old and New Testaments for social justice–frequently in the economic realm–resounds down the corridors of time and reminds us that we do not live in the fully realized Kingdom of God.  Society is not an abstraction.  No, it is simply people.  We make society what it is, so we can change it.  May we improve it, respecting the image of God in others and ourselves.  May we love our fellow human beings–especially those who differ from us–as we love ourselves.  May noble intentions lead to positive results for the benefit of people, the common good of society, and the glory of God.  As I mentioned in the previous post, abundant grace is available to empower us to accomplish the purpose of having a proper, respectful, and awe-filled relationship with God and bearing the related spiritual fruits.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WALSHAM HOW, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WAKEFIELD AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SISTER, FRANCES JANE DOUGLAS(S), HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EUNICE SHRIVER KENNEDY, FOUNDER OF THE SPECIAL OLYMPICS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LAURENCE OF ROME, ROMAN CATHOLIC DEACON AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SHERMAN BOOTH, ABOLITIONIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/08/12/washing-our-robes-and-bearing-spiritual-fruits/

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