Archive for the ‘Psalm 81’ Tag

Devotion for the Third Sunday of Advent (Year D)   1 comment

Candle

Above:  A Candle

Image in the Public Domain

The Universality of God

DECEMBER 15, 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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Joshua 23:1-16

Psalm 81:(1) 2-9 (10-16) or Psalm 95

Luke 3:23-38 or Matthew 1:1-17

Hebrews 4:1-11 (12-16)

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In distress you called, and I rescued you;

I answered you in the secret place of thunder;

I tested you at the waters of Meribah.

–Psalm 81:7, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Do not harden your hears, as at Meribah,

as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,

when your ancestors tested me,

and put me to the proof though they had seen my work.

–Psalm 95:8-9, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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The Deuteronomistic account of the farewell speech of Joshua son of Nun contains reminders to be faithful to God and not to emulate the pagan neighboring ethnic groups.  One may assume safely that at least part of the text is a subsequent invention meant to teach then-contemporary Jews to obey the Law of Moses, unlike many of their ancestors, including many who lived and died after the time of Joshua.  The theme of fidelity to God recurs in Hebrews 4, which reminds us that God sees everything we do.

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid:  Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and magnify your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–The Collect for Purity, in The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 355

The two options for Gospel readings are mutually inconsistent genealogies of Jesus.  Matthew 1, following Jewish practice, divides the past into periods of 14–in this case, 14 generations–14 being the numerical value of “David” in Hebrew.  This version of the family tree begins with Abraham and ends with Jesus, thereby setting his story in the context of God’s acts in history and culminating with the Incarnation.  This genealogy lists only four women, two of whom were foreigners and three of whom were the subjects of gossip regarding their sex lives.  These facts establish an inclusive tone in the text.

The genealogy in Luke 3 starts with Jesus and works backward to the mythical Adam.  The fact that the family tree according to the Gospel of Luke goes back past Abraham (the limits of Judaism, which are porous in the genealogy in Matthew 1) makes the Lukan version more inclusive than its counterpart in Matthew.  Jesus has kinship with all people–Jews and Gentiles–it teaches.  That is consistent with the fact that the initial audience for the Gospel of Luke was Gentile.

The universality of God is a recurring theme in the Bible.  The light of God is for all people, although many will reject it at any given time.  The neglect that light is a grave error, one which carries with it many negative consequences, both temporal and otherwise.  To write off people and populations is another error.  Salvation is of the Jews.  From them the light of Christ shines upon we Gentiles.  Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 21, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 16:  THE FOURTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF JOHN ATHELSTAN LAURIE RILEY, ANGLICAN ECUMENIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/08/21/the-universality-of-god-2/

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Devotion for March 8 and 9 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   12 comments

Above:  The Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci

Job and John, Part XXIV:  God’s Love

NOT OBSERVED IN 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 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 41:1-20, 31-34 (March 8)

Job 42:1-17 (March 9)

Psalm 104 (Morning–March 8)

Psalm 19 (Morning–March 9)

Psalms 118 and 111 (Evening–March 8)

Psalms 81 and 113 (Evening–March 9)

John 13:1-20 (March 8)

John 13:21-38 (March 9)

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I detect a disconnect between the Job lessons and the Johannine readings.  In the Book of Job God refuses to apologize to Job, who admits that he

spoke without understanding.

Then God restores Job’s fortunes.  Job’s error in the book had been to speak of how God ought to govern the world.  His alleged friends’ main theological error had been to speak of how they thought God does govern the world.  But I do not detect a loving God in Job 41.

In John 13, however, Jesus demonstrates his love for his Apostles then says,

I give you a new commandment:

love one another;

you must love one another

just as I have loved you.

It is by your love for one another,

that everyone will recognise you as my disciples.

–John 13:34-35, The New Jerusalem Bible

I am a Christian, not a Jobite.  I am a Christian, so, by definition, I (at least try to) follow Jesus.  The canonical Gospel definition of discipleship is following Jesus.  In Jesus I see God made accessible and manifest.  It is obvious to me that the Book of Job reflects an older and different concept of God.  As I have heard from a Lutheran minister, not all of the Bilbe is equally important.  The Gospels are more important than Leviticus, for example.  (That was an easy statement to make.)  The Gospels outweigh other parts of the Bible.  And the Gospels tell me that God, via Jesus in the case of John 13, models love and that we are to emulate that love.

So be it.

Next stop:  Lent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW JERSEY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTONY AND THEODOSIUS OF KIEV, FOUNDERS OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONASTICISM; SAINT BARLAAM OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT; AND SAINT STEPHEN OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THE EARLY ABBOTS OF CLUNY

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH WARRILOW, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/job-and-john-part-xxiv-gods-love/

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Devotion for February 21 and 22 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Above:  Pebbles

Image Source = Steve Shattuck of Canberra, Australia

Job and John, Part XIV:  The Power of Words

FEBRUARY 21 and 22, 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 16:1-22 (February 21)

Job 17:1-16 (February 22)

Psalm 143 (Morning–February 21)

Psalm 86 (Morning–February 22)

Psalms 81 and 116 (Evening–February 21)

Psalms 6 and 19 (Evening–February 22)

John 7:1-13 (February 21)

John 7:14-31 (February 22)

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A Related Post:

A Prayer for Those Who Have Harmed Us:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/19/a-prayer-for-those-who-have-harmed-us/

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Why do you want to kill me?

–Jesus speaking in John 7:19b, The New Jerusalem Bible

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What afflicts you that you speak on?

–Job speaking in Job 16:3b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Job 16 and 17 consist of Job’s reply to the second speech of Eliphaz the Temanite.  The speaker has no patience with anything he has heard so far, nor should he.  Whoever speaks of “the patience of Job” as if Job were patient, does not understand the Book of Job.

Jesus, in John 7, is living under death threats.  He is trying not to die just yet because

for me the time is not ripe yet (verse 8, The New Jerusalem Bible).

The words of our Lord’s adversaries afflicted him.

Words have power.  According to Hebrew mythology God spoke the universe into being.  What realities do we create with our words?  What realities do we create with our silences?  There is a time to speak.  And there is a time to remain silent.  There is also a time to say a certain amount and nothing more.  May we know the difference and act accordingly.

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-xiv-the-power-of-words/

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Devotion for February 10 and 11 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  A Samaritan Synagogue

Image Source = Library of Congress

Job and John, Part VI:  Support

FEBRUARY 10 and 11, 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 6:14-30 (February 10)

Job 7:1-21 (February 11)

Psalm 19 (Morning–February 10)

Psalm 136 (Morning–February 11)

Psalms 81 and 113 (Evening–February 10)

Psalms 97 and 112 (Evening–February 11)

John 2:1-12 (February 10)

John 2:13-25 (February 11)

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Job needed friends.  He got Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite instead.  Alas for Job!  And he lamented the lack of support.  I would prefer strangulation too; at least it would get me away from those alleged friends.

Counterpoints occur in John.  We being with John the Baptist, whose movement had fewer followers than that of Jesus.  John continued to point toward our Lord.  Then, in Chapter 4, Jesus commenced the longest recorded conversation in the canonical Gospels.  This conversation was with not only a woman–unheard of in many circles–but with a Samaritan woman–even more scandalous.  Many interpreters–out of mysogyny or tradition or both–have assumed that she had a dubious sexual reputation, but there is no textual proof for that.  She could, for example have been in a levirate marriage–legal under the Law of Moses.  Jesus helped the woman at the well.  I can only imagine what harm Eliphaz, Bildad, or Zophar would have wrought.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEASTS OF SAINT OLGA OF KIEV, REGENT OF KIEVAN RUSSIA; ADALBERT OF MAGDEBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; ADALBERT OF PRAGUE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR; AND BENEDICT AND GAUDENTIUS OF POMERANIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAMIEN DE VEUSTER, A.K.A. DAMIEN OF MOLOKAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT EGBERT OF LINDISFARNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND SAINT ADALBERT OF EGMONT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT MELLITUS, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/job-and-john-part-vi-support/

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Devotion for January 24 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Above:  Anger

Image Source = Petar Pavlov

The Folly of Revenge and the Quest for It

JANUARY 24, 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:

Joel 3:1-21/4:1-21

Psalm 143 (Morning)

Psalms 81 and 116 (Evening)

Romans 12:14-13:14

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Egypt shall be like a desolation,

And Edom a desolate waste,

Because of the outrage to the people of Judah,

In whose land they shed the blood of the innocent.

–Joel 4:19, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Never try to get revenge:  leave that, my dear friends, to the Retribution.  As scripture says:  Vengeance is mine–I will pay them back, the Lord promises.  And more:  If your enemy is hungry, give him something to eat; if thirsty, something to drink.  By this, you will be heaping red-hot coals on his head.  Do not be mastered by evil, but master evil with good.

–Romans 12:19-21, The New Jerusalem Bible

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TECHNICAL NOTE:

Versification of  parts of the Hebrew Bible differs depending upon whether one reads from a Protestant translation or a Jewish, Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox one.  Such is the case in Joel, where 2:1-32 in Protestant versions equals 2:1-3:5 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox translations.  And Joel 4 in Jewish, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox versions equals Joel 3 in Protestant translations.

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Vengeance is a primal emotions.  It jumps off the pages of the Book of Psalms.  Consider, O reader, these cringe-worthy lines:

Remember, O LORD, against the Edomites

the day of Jerusalem ‘s fall;

how they cried, “Strip her, strip her

to her very foundations.”

Fair Babylon, you predator,

a blessing on him who repays you in kind

what you have inflicted on us;

a blessing on him who seizes your babies

and dashes them against the rocks.

–Psalm 137:7-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

And how often have relatives of murdered people stated in public their desire for the death penalty for the guilty and cited revenge as it is a good thing?  Revenge poisons a person’s soul and does not undo the damage the perpetrator has inflicted.  There will be retribution for some from God, in whom there is also mercy.  I know the desire for revenge well, and I have had to rid myself of it.

As Paul advised,

As much as possible,and to the utmost of your ability, be a peace with everyone.

–Romans 12:18, The New Jerusalem Bible

Such matters involve more than one party, of course.  And, if not all parties consent to mutual peace, there will be no reconciliation.  I suppose that simply pursuing revenge–rather, leaving judgment to God–is the best possible outcome in such a case.  Getting on with one’s life is better for oneself than obsessing over a real or imagined injury.

Life is short, certainly in geological terms.  May we not mar our brief time on earth with the quest for revenge more than we have done so already.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 2, 2012 COMMON ERA

MONDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN PAYNE AND CUTHBERT MAYNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF HENRY BUDD, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JAMES LLOYD BRECK, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JOHN PAUL II, BISHOP OF ROME

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/the-folly-of-revenge-and-the-quest-for-it/

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Devotion for January 13 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Above:  The Prophet Ezekiel

The Necessity of Theological Humility

JANUARY 13, 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:

Ezekiel 36:13-28

Psalm 19 (Morning)

Psalms 81 and 113 (Evening)

Romans 4:1-25

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…for the Law produces nothing but God’s retribution, and it is only where there is no Law that it is possible to live without breaking the Law….

–Romans 4:15, The New Jerusalem Bible

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The portrayal of God in Ezekiel 36:13-28 is interesting.  There we read, the prophet tells us, in God’s own words, that God had punished the rebellious Hebrews according to their deeds, even permitting foreigners to conquer them and to take many of them into exile.  All of this was in exchange for violations of the Law of Moses.  Yet many foreigners used the defeat of the Hebrews to consider Yahweh weak, unable to prevent the stages of the Babylonian Exile.

The previous sentence requires a brief explanation.  A common assumption in the ancient Middle East was that each nation had its own deities.  So the defeat of Nation A by Nation B indicated, in the minds of many, the greater power of Nation B’s deities.  In this case, it indicated, in the minds of many, the weakness of Yahweh.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming….

So, according to Ezekiel, many people interpreted God’s power as weakness.  Yet they were wrong.  Paul’s comments about the Law in Romans fit well here; where there is Law, there is retribution.  Anyhow, as the prophet explained, God (Yahweh) was about to act to restore the Hebrews geographically and spiritually.  And this would boost not only them but God’s reputation among foreigners.

I consider that my judgments are subject to human flaws and that understandings of God in the Bible exist according to time and authors, but I do offer a thought:  God comes across as selfish in Ezekiel 36:13-28 and as more generous in Romans 4.  Yet I do not pretend to have perfect knowledge, so consider the source.  Our understandings of God are partial at best; may we approach God with all due theological humility.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR, AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, ECUMENIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/the-necessity-of-theological-humility/

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Week of 5 Epiphany: Friday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  The Divided Monarchy

Donatism of a Sort

FEBRUARY 14, 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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1 Kings 11:29-32; 12:19 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

During that time Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem went out of Jerusalem and the prophet Ahijah of Shiloh met him on the way.  He had put on a new robe; and when the two were alone in the open country, Ahijah took hold of the new robe he was wearing and tore it into twelve pieces.

Take ten pieces,

he said to Jeroboam.

For thus said the the LORD, the God of Israel:  I am about to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hands, and I will give you ten tribes.  But one tribe shall remain his–for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city that I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel….

Solomon dies and Rehoboam succeeds him and maintains and makes more severe his policies regarding “the harsh labor and the heavy yoke,” per 12:4 and 12:11

Thus Israel revolted against the House of David, as is still the case.

Psalm 81:8-16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8 Hear, O my people, and I will admonish you:

O Israel, if you would but listen to me!

There shall be no strange god among you;

you shall not worship a foreign god.

10 I am the LORD your God,

who brought you out of the land of Egypt and said,

“Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”

11  And yet my people did not hear my voice,

and Israel would not obey me.

12  So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their hearts,

to follow their own devices.

13  Oh, that my people would listen to me!

that Israel would walk in my ways!

14  I should soon subdue their enemies

and turn my hand against their foes.

15  Those who hate the LORD would cringe before him,

and their punishment would last for ever.

16  But Israel would I feed with the finest wheat

and satisfy him with honey from the rock.

Mark 7:31-37 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Once more Jesus left the neighbourhood of Tyre and passed through Sidon towards the Lake of Galilee, and crossed the Ten Towns territory.  They brought to him a man who was deaf and unable to speak intelligibly, and they implored him to put his hand upon him.  Jesus took him away from the crowd by himself. He put his fingers in the man’s ears and touched his tongue with his saliva.  Then, looking up to Heaven, he gave a deep  sigh and said to him in Aramaic,

Open!

And his ears were opened and immediately whatever had tied his tongue came loose and he spoke quite plainly.  Jesus gave instructions that they should tell no one about this happening, but the more he told them, the more they broadcast the news.  People were absolutely amazed, and kept saying,

How wonderfully he has done everything!  He even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.

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The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 5 Epiphany:  Friday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/week-of-5-epiphany-friday-year-1/

Matthew 15 (Parallel to Mark 7):

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/fourth-day-of-advent/

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A Partial Chronology:

Reign of Solomon, a.k.a. Jedidiah or Yedidiah, King of (united) Israel = 968-928 B.C.E.

Reign of Rehoboam, King of Judah (southern kingdom) = 928-911 B.C.E.

Reign of Jeroboam I, King of Israel (northern kingdom) = 928-907 B.C.E.

Reign of Hoshea, last King of Israel = 732-722 B.C.E.

Reign of Zedekiah (Mattaniah), last King of Judah = 597-586 B.C.E.

–courtesy of The Jewish Study Bible, page 2111

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“What,” [King Rehoboam] asked [the elders who had served his father Solomon], “do you advise that we reply to the people who said to me, ‘Lighten the yoke that your father placed upon us’?”  And the young men who had grown up with him answered, “Speak thus to the people who said to you, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, now make it lighter for us.’  Say to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins.  My father imposed a heavy yoke on you, and I will add to your yoke; my father flogged you with whips, but I will flog  you with scorpions.'”

–1 Kings 12:9-11 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

Rehoboam obeyed that advice, to the detriment of his kingdom, which sundered during a predictable and predicted rebellion.  The leader of that uprising was Jeroboam, a former underling (in charge of forced labor in the House of Joseph–1 Kings 11:28) of Solomon who had been living in exile in Egypt.  There was popular support for Jeroboam, soon to become King Jeroboam I, but there might also have been Pharonic support, for Egypt attacked Rehoboam’s Judah but not Jeroboam’s Israel.  And, during the dueling reigns of Rehoboam and Jeroboam I, the two Jewish kingdoms were openly hostile to each other, fighting a war.

The text lays much of the responsibility for this state of affairs upon Solomon, but does not let Rehoboam off the hook either.  The new monarch of the House of David could have done as his people asked of him, but he chose not to do so.  For the best explanation of what happened immediately after the death of Solomon I turn to Voltaire:

Injustice in the end produces independence.

And, with two Jewish kingdoms, where there used to be one, fighting among themselves off and on, it became easier for foreign and more powerful powers to play them off each other and subdue and conquer them.

None of this had to happen.  It occurred because people in positions of power made certain decisions, which had consequences.  As the Gospel of Mark quotes Jesus in a different context,

…If a kingdom is divided against itself, then that kingdom cannot last…. (Mark 3:24, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition, 1972)

There is an obvious lesson here for leaders of nations, regardless of geography, timeframe, or political persuasion.  But what ought the rest of us learn from it?  What can we take away from it and apply in our public lives?

I am a student of ecclesiastical history.  In ancient Church history I point to the Donatist controversy, which divided northern African Christianity from the time following the Diocletian persecution to the spread of Islam. Beginning in the early 300s, there was a raging and divisive question:  Should the Church have forgiven and readmitted to its fellowship those who had repented of buckling under the harsh Diocletian persecution?  They had managed to avoid suffering by renouncing their faith.  The Roman Church, being in the forgiveness business, accepted heartfelt confessions.  This did not satisfy the holier-than-thou Donatists, however, so they broke away.  The Donatist schism persisted long after the original cause, weakening Christianity in that part of the world.

Modern-day Donatists of various types are with us today.  Every time some group breaks away to the ideological right (Church schisms are usually to the right.), there is Donatism of a sort.  Every time an exclusionary message leads to a denominational or congregational split, one sees evidence of Donatism of a sort.  Donatism in any age is that message which says, “Those people are not pure enough to be part of my church, for they are too lax.”  In the context of the Civil Rights Era U.S. South, some white congregations chose to exclude African Americans from membership.  That was also Donatism.  “Those people are not pure enough to be part of my church, for they are not white.”  There should be standards in the church, of course, but there is no way for loving Christian discipline to coexist with a holier-than-thou attitude.  And there should never be room for racism in the Church.

The Church is stronger when it is relatively unified, maintaining a balanced discipline while remaining in the forgiveness business.  We Christians have much work to do:  people to visit, feed, clothe, convert, and disciple.  This work is more than sufficient to keep us busy.  So I must conclude that, when we find the time to argue about issues Jesus never addressed, we are falling down on our jobs.  When we become so concerned about being theologically correct that we choose not to accept sincere confessions of sin and to forgive others, we have gone wrong.  Did not Jesus associate in public with disreputable and repentant people?

Here are the probing questions with which I leave you, and which only you, O reader, can answer:  Are you a Donatist?  If yes, what will you do about that?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/donatism-of-a-sort/