Archive for the ‘Psalm 72’ Tag

Devotion for the Feast of the Epiphany, Years A, B, C, and D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Kingdom of Herod the Great

Image in the Public Domain

Gentiles and Divine Justice

JANUARY 6, 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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Isaiah 60:1-6

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

Ephesians 3:1-13

Matthew 2:-12

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…that through the Gospel the Gentiles are joint heirs with the Jews, part of the same body, sharers together in the promise made in Christ Jesus.

–Ephesians 3:6, The New English Bible (1970)

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That is a prominent theme of the Feast of the Epiphany and the season that ensues.

Psalm 72 is a coronation text.  It describes the ideal monarch–one who judges with justice, brings prosperity, defends the poor, delivers the needy, crushes the oppressor, and therefore deserves great respect.  I, as a student of history, cannot identify any world leaders, past and present, whom that vaunted description fits.

The reading from Isaiah 60 makes the most sense in the context of the rest of the chapter.  The historical context is the end of the Babylonian Exile and the return of exiles to a glorified, exalted Jerusalem.  We read, in the voice of God:

For though I struck you in anger, in mercy I have pitied you.

–Isaiah 60:10b, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

One reason we read Isaiah 60:1-6 on this occasion is the reference to camels in verse 6.  That element segues nicely into Matthew 2, in which Persian, Zoroastrian Magi arrived about two years after the birth of Jesus.  In Matthew 2 we meet the disturbed and violent client king Herod the Great, far removed from the ideal monarch in Psalm 72.  We read of these Gentiles, responsive to the direction of God, unlike the half-Jewish Idumean client king, a man clinging to power desperately.

Who are really the insiders?  Who are really the outsiders?  The answers, according to God, might shock many of us.  After all, the justice of God is superior to human justice, even the highest, most moral variety of it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEONIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR; ORIGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN; SAINT DEMETRIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRIL OF JERUSALEM, BISHOP, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF CYPRUS, EASTERN ORTHODOX MARTYR

THE FEAST OF ROBERT WALMSLEY, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/03/18/gentiles-and-divine-justice/

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Devotion for the Second Sunday of Advent, Year A (Humes)   3 comments

Above:   Cedars of Lebanon, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-11736

Building Up the Common Good, Part I

DECEMBER 9, 2018

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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 11:1-10

Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19

Romans 15:4-13

Matthew 3:1-12

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In TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) the first word of the reading from Isaiah 11 is “but.”  This is an invitation to back up into Isaiah 10, where one reads of God cutting down arrogant Assyrian forces.  The metaphor at the end of Isaiah 10 is cutting down the cedars of Lebanon.  That makes sense if one knows the background of that portion of scripture.

The prophet uses the term Lebanon trees ironically:  Assyrian kings boasted in inscriptions that they cut down these mighty cedars on their heroic journeys to despoil the forests of Lebanon to obtain wood for their building projects in Mesopotamia, but here Assyrians themselves become the ax’s victim.

The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), 789

Then we arrive at our reading from Isaiah 11.

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

it begins.  This is a prophecy of a time when an ideal king will rule justly and the society will be peaceable.  This is similar to the high hopes in Psalm 72.  Matthew 3:1-12 evokes this prophecy of Isaiah (in spirit, at least) and has St. John the Baptist apply it to Jesus, whom he baptizes in 3:13-17.

Romans 15:12, which follows a call to think about others first ad to work for the common good, quotes Isaiah 11:10.  The Pauline point is plain:  God seeks for all people to praise, follow, and set their hope on Him.  The family of God is diverse; some branches of it dislike other branches–even consider some of them to be heretical at best.  Some individuals within that family cannot or will not get along with other members thereof.

This has always been true.  Nevertheless, the divine mandate to work for the common good, to put other people before oneself, has never ceased to be relevant.  For nearly two millennia we have had a role model–Jesus, who went so far as to die.

May we love one another as we love ourselves, recognizing that the common good is indeed that to which God calls us in society.  Building ourselves up by exploiting others violates divine commandments and provokes the anger of God, as it should.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FANNIE LOU HAMER, PROPHET OF FREEDOM

THE FEAST OF ALFRED LISTER PEACE, ORGANIST IN ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND

THE FEAST OF HARRIET KING OSGOOD MUNGER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF NEHEMIAH GOREH, INDIAN ANGLICAN PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/03/14/building-up-the-common-good-part-i/

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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 January 5, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Twelve Tribes Map

Above:  Twelve Tribes of Israel

Scanned from an old Bible

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Works in Progress

SATURDAY, JANUARY 5, 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:

Jeremiah 31:7-14

Psalm 72

John 1:[1-9] 10-18

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Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,

who alone does wonderful things.

And blessed be his glorious name for ever.

May all the earth be filled with his glory.

Amen. Amen.

–Psalm 72:18-19, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The reading from Jeremiah 31 comes from articles of consolation focusing on national reunification.  The exiles from Israel, the northern kingdom, will reunite with Judah, the southern kingdom, the text says.  God will turn mourning into joy.

The ten “lost” tribes are not lost, at least not in the sense that their locations are unknown.  The tribes scattered across Africa and Asia.  Most of them have not reunited with the main body of Judaism, although Jewish organizations have been working with some of these groups for the purpose of working toward that goal.  Then there is the case of the Ethiopian Jews, many of whom have relocated to the State of Israel, where they have to contend with racism, a high rate of poverty, and allegations of being insufficiently Jewish.  The prediction of Jeremiah 31 has yet to come true.  The continued passage of time will render its verdict on that prophecy.

The prologue to the Gospel of John is a glorious and profound text.  It, like Jeremiah 31:7-14 and Psalm 72, speaks of acts of God.  Some of these acts have yet to occur.  Yes, the tense in the prologue is past, but consider, O reader, the following passage, the following passage:

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or the will of man, but of God.

–Verses 12-13, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

This continues, does it not?  But to all who receive him….  This will continue, will it not?  But to all who will receive him….

God has acted.  God is acting.  God will continue to act.  As the United Church of Christ says,

God is still speaking.

God has not finished speaking or acting, so who among the ranks of mere mortals knows or can know how God will surprise people next or behave in a non-surprising way?  The passage of time will reveal the answers.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 25, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MICHAEL FARADAY, SCIENTIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/08/25/works-in-progress/

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Devotion for January 3 and 4, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Oil Lamp

Above:  A Biblical Oil Lamp

Image in the Public Domain

Secrets, Lies, and Misconceptions

THURSDAY, JANUARY 3, 2019, and FRIDAY, JANUARY 4, 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:

Job 42:10-17 (January 3)

Isaiah 6:1-5 (January 4)

Psalm 72 (Both Days)

Luke 8:16-21 (January 3)

Acts 7:44-53 (January 4)

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Give the king your judgments, O God,

and your righteousness to the son of a king.

Then shall he judge your people righteously

and your poor with injustice.

–Psalm 72:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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Solomon built the first Temple.  Unfortunately, he used high taxes and forced labor to do so.  So much for justice for the poor!

We cannot keep our secrets forever.  It is good, therefore, that one’s secrets be either positive or morally neutral.  To give to charity anonymously, for example, is a positive secret.  To contribute beauty to the world anonymously for the glory of God is also a virtue.  I think, for example, of William Arthur Dunkerley (1852-1941), who went to much effort to keep the secret that he was the novelist, poet, and religious writer John Oxenham.  Authors and editors of hymnal companion volumes from his lifetime did not know the actual identity of John Oxenham.  (I know, for I own such books from that time period.)

Why we keep secrets matters.  Sometimes it is simply a matter of privacy.  “None of your business” is frequently a legitimate reason.  Keeping a secret so that glory will go to God, one oneself, is a good reason, as I have argued.  Yet covering up something negative, although perhaps successful for a period of time, will fail, at least in the ultimate court of justice–that of God.

The majesty and mystery of God, in whose presence we are not worthy to stand, is awe-inspiring.  That majesty and mystery also becomes an unfortunate excuse to dodge proper questions which warrant real answers.  In the Book of Job, for example, God permitted the titular character to suffer as a test of his loyalty.  Job insisted correctly on his innocence (to which the text attests).  Job deserved a real answer from God.  Instead he received the “I’m God and you’re not” reply.  Then he recanted.  The tacked-on happy ending, in which God restores Job’s riches and gives him more children, does not satisfy me.  The God of the Book of Job is a figure to recoil from in terror, not to love.

A faithful, awe-filled response to God, who exceeds human capacity of comprehension, includes loving and glorifying God, enjoying God, and loving one’s neighbor as one loves oneself.  Attitudes lead to actions.  So, without falling into the heresy of Pietism, I affirm the principle of the Letter of James that works matter.  So does being careful regarding what one says and writes about the character of God.  Many people have used God as an excuse to justify their bigotry and violence.  Some of them wrote parts of scripture.  The standard for me is Jesus of Nazareth, God incarnate.  Understandings of God have changed and continue to do so, but Christ is constant.  And that is no secret.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 25, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MICHAEL FARADAY, SCIENTIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/08/25/secrets-lies-and-misconceptions/

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

3c33676v

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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