Archive for the ‘Samuel’ Tag

Devotion for Saturday Before the Second Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Wise and Foolish Virgins

Above: The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

Disobedience to God, Part II

JANUARY 16, 2021

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The Collect:

Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, most merciful redeemer,

for the countless blessings and benefits you give.

May we know you more clearly,

love you more dearly,

and follow you more nearly,

day by day praising you, with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 2:21-21-25

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

Matthew 25:1-13

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Yahweh, you examine me and know me,

you know when I sit, when I rise,

you understand my thoughts from afar.

You watch me when I walk or lie down,

you know every detail of my conduct.

–Psalm 139:1-3, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Almighty God,

to whom all hearts are open,

all desires known,

and from whom no secrets are hidden:

cleanse the thoughts of our hearts

by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,

that we may perfectly love you,

and worthily magnify your holy name;

through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Common Worship (2000)

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The roots of the Anglican Collect for Purity, a contemporary version of which I have quoted immediately above, reach back to the 1200s C.E., although the echoes of Psalms, especially Psalm 51, take its history back much further.  The theology of the collect fits today’s devotion well.  The first question of the Larger (Westminster) Catechism asks:

What is the chief and highest end of man?

The answer is:

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

–Quoted in Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), The Book of Confessions (1996), page 201

Fulfilling that high spiritual calling requires grace as well as a positive human response to God.  Grace marks that affirmative response possible.  Thus we exist in the midst of grace.  But what will we do with it?  There is, after all, the matter of free will.

The readings for today contain cautionary tales.  Eli was the priest prior to Samuel.  Eli’s sons were notorious and unrepentant sinners.  Their father rebuked them, but not as often and as sternly as he should have done.  Even if he had rebuked them properly, he could not have forced them to amend their attitudes and actions, for which they paid the penalty.  Eli’s successor became someone outside his family; that was the price he paid.  As for the foolish bridesmaids, they did not maintain their supply of lamp oil, as was their responsibility.

Some spiritual tasks we must perform for ourselves.  We cannot perform them for others, nor can others perform them for us.  Others can encourage us, assist us, and point us in the right direction, but only we can attend to certain tasks in our spiritual garden.  Will we do this or not?

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 19, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN HERMANN SCHEIN, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF HUNGARY, PRINCESS

THE FEAST OF F. BLAND TUCKER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF FRANZ SCHUBERT, COMPOSER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/disobedience-to-god-part-ii/

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Devotion for Friday and Saturday Before the First Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Samuel Anoints David

Above:  Samuel Anoints David

Image in the Public Domain

The Call of God, Part II

JANUARY 8 and 9, 2021

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The Collect:

Holy God, creator of light and giver of goodness, your voice moves over the waters.

Immerse us in your grace, and transform us by your Spirit,

that we may follow after your Son, 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 22

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 16:1-13 (Friday)

1 Kings 2:1-4, 10-12 (Saturday)

Psalm 29 (Both Days)

1 Timothy 4:11-16 (Friday)

Luke 5:1-11 (Saturday)

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The LORD shall give strength to his people;

the LORD shall give his people the blessing of peace.

–Psalm 29:11, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The LORD shall give his strength and his bless of peace to his people to equip them to do that which he has called them to do.  What people do with that call and that blessing is not always with a faithful response to God, however.  Let us, O reader, consider King David, formerly a shepherd.  The work of a shepherd was crucial, so may nobody dismiss it.  Yet David had a greater destiny, to which God called him via Samuel.  Nevertheless, David had a dark side, which remained evident until his final advice to Solomon.  (The lectionary pericope from 1 Kings 2 omits the verses in which David gives advice to kill people.)  And the reigns of David and Solomon contained abuses of power.  Solomon existence because of an abuse of David’s power, in fact.  If David was truly a man after God’s own heart, I harbor reservations about the proverbial divine heart.

In the New Testament we read of Apostles and St. Timothy.  Sts. James and John (sons of Zebedee and first cousins of Jesus) and St. Simon Peter were fishermen.  That was an honest and necessary profession, but it was not their destiny.  They were, of course, flawed men (as all people have flaws), but they did much via the power of God.  The advice (in the name of St. Paul the Apostle) to St. Timothy not to let anyone dismiss him because of his youth applies to many people today.  God calls the young, the middle-aged, and the elderly.  God commissions and empowers people from a variety of backgrounds.  God is full of surprises.

Sometimes God surprises us in ways we dislike.  I think of a story which, if it is not true, ought to be.  In the late 1800s, in the United States, a lady on the lecture circuit of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) spoke in a certain town.  She completed her speech about how God wants people to avoid alcohol at all times.  Then entered the Q & A part of her presentation.  One man asked,

If what you say is true, how do you explain Jesus turning water into wine?

The speaker replied,

I would like him better if he had not done that.

Sometimes the call of God in our lives is to deal properly with ways in which God makes us uncomfortable.  (This presupposes the ability to discern from the reality of God and our inaccurate perceptions thereof, of course.)  If Jesus seems to agree with us all of the time, we are relating not to the real Jesus but to an imagined Christ we constructed for our convenience.  The genuine article is a challenging figure who should make us uncomfortable.  And we should seize the opportunity to grow spiritually regardless of any factor, such as age, experience, inexperience, or background.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF REGENSBURG

THE FEAST OF JOHANN GOTTLOBB KLEMM, INSTRUMENT MAKER; DAVID TANNENBERG, SR., GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN ORGAN BUILDER; JOHANN PHILIP BACHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN INSTRUMENT BUILDER; JOSEPH FERDINAND BULITSCHEK, BOHEMIAN-AMERICAN ORGAN BUILDER; AND TOBIAS FRIEDRICH, GERMAN MORAVINA COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF MARGARET MEAD, ANTHROPOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF PHILIP WILLIAM OTTERBEIN, COFOUNDER OF THE CHURCH OF THE UNITED BRETHREN IN CHRIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/the-call-of-god-part-ii/

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Devotion for Thursday Before the First Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Eli and Samuel

Above:  Eli and Samuel, by John Singleton Copley

Image in the Public Domain

The Call of God, Part I

JANUARY 7, 2021

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The Collect:

Holy God, creator of light and giver of goodness, your voice moves over the waters.

Immerse us in your grace, and transform us by your Spirit,

that we may follow after your Son, 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 22

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 3:1-21

Psalm 29

Acts 9:10-19a

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Pay tribute to Yahweh, you sons of God,

tribute to Yahweh of glory and power,

tribute to Yahweh of the glory of his name,

worship Yahweh in his sacred court.

–Psalm 29:1-3, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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The readings for today tell stories of God calling people to pursue a faithful and risky path.  This command to embark upon a new course was for the benefit of others and the glory of God.  If any of the three people on whom these lessons focus had refused to obey and not recanted, God could have found someone else willing to obey, but he who would have refused in such a counterfactual situation would have been worse off spiritually.

We begin in 1 Samuel 3, the account of God’s call to the young Samuel.  The boy was living at Shiloh, with the priest Eli as his guardian.  Paula J. Bowes, author of the Collegeville Bible Commentary volume (1985) on the books of Samuel, noticed the literal and metaphorical levels of meaning in the text:

The picture of Eli as asleep and practically blind describes Israel’s state in relation to the Lord.  The lamp of God, that is, God’s word, is almost extinguished through the unworthiness of the officiating priests.  The Lord ignores Eli and calls directly to the boy Samuel to receive this divine word….Samuel is the faithful, chosen priest who will soon replace the unfaithful and rejected house of Eli.

–Page 15

Eli had the spiritual maturity to accept the verdict of God.  Repeating that judgment was obviously uncomfortable for the boy, who might have been uncertain of how the priest would take the news.

Acts 9 contains an account of the transformation of Saul of Tarsus into St. Paul the Apostle.  Saul, unlike young Samuel, understood immediately who was speaking to him.  Ananias of Damascus also heard from God and, after a brief protest, obeyed.  Thus Ananias abetted the spiritual transformation of Saul into one of the most influential men in Christian history.  The summons to do so met with reasonable fear, however, for Saul had been a notorious persecutor of earliest Christianity.  How was Ananias supposed to know beforehand that Saul had changed?  Ananias had to trust God.  And St. Paul suffered greatly for his obedience to God; he became a martyr after a series of imprisonments, beatings, and even a shipwreck.

Gerhard Krodel, author of the Proclamation Commentaries volume (1981) on the Acts of the Apostles, wrote that Chapter 8 ends with an account of the breaking down of a barrier and that Chapter 9 opens with another such story.  Acts 8 closes with the story of St. Philip the Deacon (not the Apostle) converting the Ethiopian eunuch, a Gentile.  St. Paul had to deal with understandable suspicion of his bona fides after his conversion in Acts 9.  Later in the book he inaugurated his mission to the Gentiles–the breaking down of another barrier.

I have never heard the voice of God.  On occasion I have noticed a thought I have determined to be of outside origin, however.  Usually these messages have been practical, not theological.  For example, about fourteen years ago, I knew in an instant that I should put down the mundane task I was completing and move my car.  I had parked it under a tree, as I had on many previous days, but something was different that day.  So I moved my car to a spot where only open sky covered it.  Slightly later that day I looked at the spot where my car had been and noticed a large tree limb on the ground.  Last year I knew that I should drive the route from Americus, Georgia, back to Athens, Georgia, without stopping.  So I did.  I parked the car at my front door and proceeded to unload the vehicle.  When I went outside to move the car to the back parking lot, the vehicle would not start, for my ignition switch needed work.  But I was home, safe.  Yes, God has spoken to me, but not audibly and not to tell me to become a great priest or evangelist.

My experience of God has been subtle most of the time.  At some time during my childhood God entered my life.  This happened quietly, without any dramatic event or “born again” experience.  God has been present, shaping me over time.  At traumatic times I have felt grace more strongly than the rest of the time, but light is more noticeable amid darkness than other light.  Grace has been present during the good times also.  Not everybody who follows God will have a dramatic experience of the divine.  So be it.  May nobody who has had a dramatic experience of the divine insist that others must have one too.

Yet God does call all the faithful to leave behind much that is comfortable and safe.  Breaking down human-created barriers to God is certain to make one unpopular and others uncomfortable, is it not?  It contradicts “received wisdom” as well as psychological and theological categories.  Anger and fear are predictable reactions which often lead to violence and other unfortunate actions.  Frequently people commit these sins in the name of God.

The call of God is to take risks, break down artificial barriers, and trust God for the glory of God and the benefit of others.  Along the way one will reap spiritual benefits, of course.  Wherever God leads you, O reader, to proceed, may you go there.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF REGENSBURG

THE FEAST OF JOHANN GOTTLOBB KLEMM, INSTRUMENT MAKER; DAVID TANNENBERG, SR., GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN ORGAN BUILDER; JOHANN PHILIP BACHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN INSTRUMENT BUILDER; JOSEPH FERDINAND BULITSCHEK, BOHEMIAN-AMERICAN ORGAN BUILDER; AND TOBIAS FRIEDRICH, GERMAN MORAVINA COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF MARGARET MEAD, ANTHROPOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF PHILIP WILLIAM OTTERBEIN, COFOUNDER OF THE CHURCH OF THE UNITED BRETHREN IN CHRIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/the-call-of-god-part-i/

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Devotion for December 31, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Child Miners 1912

Above:  Juvenile Coal Miners, United States of America, 1908-1912

Photographer = Lewis Hine

Image in the Public Domain

Exploitation

DECEMBER 31, 2020

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The Collect:

All-powerful and unseen God, the coming of your light

into our world has brightened weary hearts with peace.

Call us out of darkness, and empower us to proclaim the birth of your Son,

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 20

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 3:5-14

Psalm 148

John 8:12-19

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Kings of the earth and all peoples,

princes and all rulers of the world;

Young men and women,

old and young together;

let them praise the name of the Lord.

–Psalm 148:11-12, Common Worship (2000)

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The Old Testament texts are of two minds regarding monarchy, for there are layers of composition in the Hebrew Scriptures.  The prophet Samuel warned people that they did not really want a king, who would raise their taxes, take their daughters, and send their sons to war.  Yet much of the Old Testament tradition has led to faithful people reading of how God chose David the shepherd to become a great, although flawed, monarch.  Much of that good press continued during the reign of King Solomon, who, according to 1 Kings, began his time on the throne with much promise.  Nevertheless, the mixed perspective remained evident, for a post-accession purge preceded the gift of wisdom.  And Solomon used forced labor and other economically exploitative policies, which led to the division of the realm after he died.

The Pharisees of John 8:12-19 also depended on economically exploitative policies for their status and finances.  They also collaborated with the violent Roman Empire, which occupied Judea.  Pharisaic piety depended on wealth, for nobody who was poor and therefore had to work hard for mere survival could satisfy that code.  Thus the words of Jesus made sense:

You do not know me or my Father; if you knew me, you would know my Father too.

–John 8:19, Revised English Bible (1989)

Unfortunately, exploitation seems to be part of human economic and political systems.  Judicial systems favor the wealthy often.  Governments find ways to criminalize poverty and homelessness.  Certain self-identified advocates of capitalism endorse the destructive race toward lower wages, thereby shrinking the middle class and undercutting the economy.  Many employees in developed countries lose their jobs due to globalization and the fact that workers in Third World countries earn less money and often lack even basic protections of their rights, such as to a safe workplace.  Often these Third World workers become disposable employees who place themselves in great peril just to survive.  And why?  The rest of us demand more inexpensive items and corporations desire larger profit margins.

Do we know Jesus and the Father?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 9, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 27:  THE TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF MARTIN CHEMNITZ, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF BARTON STONE, COFOUNDER OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH (DISCIPLES OF CHRIST)

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/exploitation/

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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 21, 22, and 23, 2020

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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 Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Third Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Brugghen,_Hendrick_ter_-_The_Calling_of_St._Matthew_-_1621

Above:  The Calling of St. Matthew, by Hendrick ter Brugghen

(Image in the Public Domain)

Vindication and Faithfulness

JANUARY 23-25, 2020

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The Collect:

Lord God, your loving kindness always goes before us and follows us.

Summon us into your light, and direct our steps in the ways of goodness

that come through he cross of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 1:1-20 (Thursday)

1 Samuel 9:27-10:8 (Friday)

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 (Saturday)

Psalm 27:1-6 (all days)

Galatians 1:11-24 (Thursday)

Galatians 2:1-10 (Friday)

Luke 5:27-32 (Saturday)

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One thing I have asked of the LORD;

one thing I seek;

that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life;

to behold the fair beauty of then LORD,

to seek God in the temple.

–Psalm 27:4, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The readings for these three days tell of faithfulness to God, of faithlessness, and of vindication.  Along the way we read of two different Sauls.

Hannah was childless.  For this her husband’s other wife mocked her.  But Elkanah loved Hannah, his wife.   And God answered Hannah’s prayer for a child, giving her the great prophet Samuel.  He, following divine instructions, anointed two kings of Israel–Saul and David, both of whom went their own sinful ways.  Yet Saul, no less troublesome a figure than David, faced divine rejection.  Saul’s attempts at vindication–some of them violent–backfired on him.

Saul of Tarsus, who became St. Paul the Apostle, had to overcome his past as a persecutor of the nascent Christian movement as well as strong opposition to his embrace of the new faith and to his mission to Gentiles.  Fortunately, he succeeded, changing the course of events.

And Jesus, who dined with notorious sinners, brought many of them to repentance.  He, unlike others, who shunned them, recognized the great potential within these marginalized figures.  For this generosity of spirit our Lord and Savior had to provide a defense to certain respectable religious authorities.

Sometimes our quests for vindication are self-serving, bringing benefit only to ourselves.  Yet, on other occasions, we have legitimate grounds for vindication.  When we are in the right those who cause the perceived need for vindication–for whatever reason they do so–ought to apologize instead.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 6, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALLAN CRITE, ARTIST

THE FEAST OF CHARLES ELLIOTT FOX, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF MADELEINE L’ENGLE, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF PETER CLAVER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/vindication-and-faithfulness/

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Devotion for Saturday Before the First Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

08772v

Above:  Mizpah, Between 1898 and 1946

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-08772

Succeeding Amid Opposition

JANUARY 11, 2020

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The Collect:

O God our Father, at the baptism of Jesus you proclaimed him your beloved Son

and anointed him with the Holy Spirit.

Make all who are baptized into Christ faithful to their calling

to be your daughters and sons,

and empower us with your Spirit,

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 22

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 7:3-17

Psalm 29

Acts 9:19b-31

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The voice of the Lord makes oak trees writhe

and strips the forests bare.

And in the temple of the LORD

all are crying, “Glory!”

The LORD sits enthroned above the flood;

the LORD sits enthroned as Sovereign forevermore.

The LORD shall give strength to the chosen people;

the LORD shall give the people the blessing of peace.

–Psalm 29:8-11, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Idolatry was a difficult habit to break, according to the Hebrew Scriptures.  Being a good Monotheist must have been hard in a sea of polytheism.  Blending in has long been easier than sticking out, after all.  But sticking out was part of the mandate for the Israelites.

St. Paul the Apostle, formerly Saul, stuck out so much that some people tried to kill him.  They must have felt threatened by his message, for attempted killing–assassination, murder, or execution–is an extreme action, one reserved for those considered especially undesirable and dangerous.  Apparently, that description, in the opinion of some, applied to the Philistine forces in 1 Samuel 7:10-11.

Violence can be a complicated matter.  Thus I will not attempt to untie that Gordian Knot in this blog post.  But I admit that the instances of it in Acts 9 and 1 Samuel 7 disturb me.

The main point I seek to make here is that Samuel and St. Paul the Apostle led many people to God and others back to God.  And they set good examples even if many people did not follow them.  But these two men were leaders through whom God worked.  They faced much opposition and did not succeed fully.  But who among mere mortals does?  May we–you, O reader, and I–be at least as successful as Samuel and St. Paul the Apostle, by grace, of course, in the pursuits God designates for us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CARL LICHTENBERGER, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF J. R. R. TOLKIEN, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF JIMMY LAWRENCE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF PRUDENCE CRANDALL, EDUCATOR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/succeding-amid-opposition/

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

CMNG_8361_2

Above:  Church of the Common Ground, Woodruff Park, Atlanta, Georgia, June 30, 2013

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Serving God and Each Other

DECEMBER 23 and 24, 2019

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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 hinders our faith,

that eagerly we may receive your promises,

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:

Genesis 17:15-22 (Monday)

Genesis 21:1-21 (Tuesday)

1 Samuel 2:1-10 (both days)

Galatians 4:8-20 (Monday)

Galatians 4:21-5:1 (Tuesday)

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The LORD kills and brings to life;

he brings down to Sheol and raises up.

The LORD makes poor and makes rich;

he brings low; he also exalts.

He raises the poor from the dust;

he lifts the needy from the heap,

to make them sit with princes

and inherit a seat of honor.

–1 Samuel 2:6-8a, The New Revised Standard Version

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Hannah’s Song from 1 Samuel 2, a partial basis for the Magnificat, is fitting to read during Advent and with these lections.  The birth of Isaac was a miracle, as was the birth of Samuel.  And we read an allegory of Isaac and Ishmael in Galatians.  The essence of the allegory is this:  In grace there is freedom, not slavery–freedom to serve God.

Among the underlying principles of the Law of Moses was that everything belongs to God.  Therefore we are tenants on this planet and slaves of God, a kindly (at least some of the time) master.  God, in the Bible (both Testaments) does have quite a temper.  God, in both Testaments, exercises both judgment and mercy.  And, in the Law of Moses, there was mercy in exchange for obedience to the Law, which spoke of mutual responsibilities of people to each other.  If all were slaves of God, none was better than anyone else.  And nobody had the right to exploit anyone else.

There was, of course, the long list of stonable offenses (many of which I have committed), from working on the Sabbath day to showing disrespect to parents.  If one were subject to such laws, who would live into or past adolescence?  Obviously, executing someone does not indicate mercy toward him or her.  I mention these matters to avoid even the appearance of committing prooftexting and to acknowledge the complexity of the texts.  But my earlier point remains accurate.

That point–responsibility to each other–runs through the Galatians lessons also.  There is a consistent biblical testimony on the topic of what we owe to each other as social beings who bear the Image of God.  The well-being of the community is crucial to this theology, for none of us is, as John Donne said, an island.  So, just as surely as we ought not to endanger the community, the community has no right to crush us for simply not conforming to every rule.  Diversity enriches the whole and individualism and communitarianism can co-exist peacefully and respectfully.  Besides, if everybody were alike, much that is essential would not get done.  If that were not bad enough, the community and the world wold be incredibly dull.

May this Advent be a time to renew our commitments to God and each other to labor faithfully for the greater good in interesting and perhaps even quirky ways.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2013 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/serving-god-and-each-other/

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Week of 1 Epiphany: Thursday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  Nazis and the Ark of the Covenant, in a screen capture from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Overconfidence and Misplaced Confidence

JANUARY 16, 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 Samuel 4:1c-11 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines; they encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek.  The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who slew about four thousand men on the field of battle.  And when the troops came to the camp, the elders of Israel said,

Why has the LORD put us to rout today before the Philistines?  Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD here from Shiloh, that he may come among us from the power of our enemies.

So the people sent to Shiloh, and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned upon the cherubim; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

When the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded.  And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said,

What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?

And when they learned that the ark of the LORD had come to the camp, the Philistines were afraid; for they said,

A god has come into the camp.

And they said,

Woe to us!  For nothing like this has happened before.  Woe to us!  Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods?  These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness.  Take courage, and acquit yourselves like men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; acquit yourselves like men and flight.

So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home; and there was a very great slaughter, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers.  And the ark of God was captured; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.

Psalm 44:7-14, 23-26 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7  Surely, you gave us victory over our adversaries

and put those who hate us to shame.

8  Every day we gloried in God,

and we will praise your Name for ever.

9  Nevertheless, we have rejected and humbled us

and do not go forth with our armies.

10  You have made us fall back before our adversary,

and our enemies have plundered us.

11  You have made us like sheep to be eaten

and have scattered us among the nations.

12  You are selling your people for a trifle

and are making no profit on the sale of them.

13  You have made us the scorn of our neighbors,

a mockery and derision to those around us.

14  You have made us a byword among the nations,

a laughing-stock among the peoples.

23  Awake, O Lord!  why are you sleeping?

Arise!  do not reject us for ever.

24  Why have you hidden your face

and forgotten our affliction and oppression?

25  We sink down into the dust;

our body cleaves to the ground.

26  Rise up, and help us,

and save us, for the sake of your steadfast love.

Mark 1:40-45 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And a leper came to him begging him, and kneeling said to him,

If you will, you can make me clean.

Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him,

I will; be clean.

And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.  And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, and said to him,

See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.

But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

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The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 1 Epiphany:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/18/week-of-1-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

Matthew 8 (Parallel to Mark 1):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/week-of-proper-7-friday-year-1/

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1 Samuel 3:1b sets the stage for this day’s reading from Chapter 4.  Consider this short text:

And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.

The Ark of the Covenant was powerful, mysterious, revered, and feared object.  Many Israelites believed that its presence at a battle made their army invincible, and the Philistines, who were accustomed to thinking in polytheistic terms, feared that this was true.  But the Philistines fought through their fear while the Israelites went into battle with misplaced confidence.

What happened next?

  1. The Philistines discovered the power of the ark for themselves, so they returned it.
  2. Eli died.
  3. Samuel succeeded him as priest, prophet, and judge.

That summarizes the portion of 1 Samuel we will skip over in the lectionary.

Back to the main idea now…

The narrative of much of the Old Testament, written in the historically-themed books with the benefit of hindsight, is that YHWH smiles upon worshiping him alone (not as part of a pantheon) and working for social justice, much of which is economic.  God, in the Bible, frowns upon polytheism and economic exploitation.  Consider the words of Hebrew prophets in relation to why a Hebrew nations rises or falls.  The Hebrews were supposed to be a light to the nations; they were not supposed to blend in with them.

Yet, as we read in 1 Samuel 3:1b,

And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.

Many in the Confederate States of America believed honestly that God had ordained the institution of slavery.  So, they thought, those who argued from the Bible against the Peculiar Institution were heretics, and God would surely grant the Confederacy victory in the Civil War.  The Confederacy’s loss therefore left many of these partisans puzzled.  Surely, they told themselves, slavery was still ordained by God, so maybe they had carried it out in the wrong way.  They were not only overconfident; they also had misplaced confidence.

In my nation, the United States of America, income inequality has become much more pronounced in the last few decades.  Ironically, many of the most Social Darwinian defenders of those who have aided and abetted this transfer of wealth are would-be theocrats, self-appointed experts in morality.  Yes, they are quick to condemn sins of the flesh yet oblivious to the sin of economic exploitation.  These are false prophets.  When they speak, the word of the LORD is not heard in the land; their religion is one variety of what Karl Marx understood correctly as the opiate of the masses.  Yet there is a true religion, one which is a liberator, not an opiate, of the masses.  Eli, Samuel, John the Baptist, Jesus of Nazareth, Paul of Tarsus, Francis of Assisi, Menno Simons, and Walter Rauschenbusch were prophets of this religion.  May we hear, understand, and obey, for the common good.  May we neither place in confidence in the wrong places nor become complacent.  And may God save us from ourselves.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/overconfidence-and-misplaced-confidence/

Week of 1 Epiphany: Monday, Year 2   10 comments

Above:  Elkanah and His Wives, from the Masters of Utrecht, Circa 1430

Love, Dignity, and Stigma

JANUARY 13, 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 Samuel 1:1-8 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephraimite.  He had two wives; the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other was Peninnah.  And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the LORD of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the LORD.  On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Penninah his wife and to all her sons and daughters; and, although he loved Hannah, he would give Hannah only one portion, because the LORD had closed her womb.  So it went on year by year; as often she went up to the house of the LORD, she used to provoke her.  Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat.  And Elkanah, her husband, said to her,

Hannah, why do you weep?  And why do you not eat?  And why is your heart sad?  Am I not more to you than ten sons?

Psalm 116:10-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

10 How shall I repay the LORD

for all the good things he has done for me?

11 I will lift up the cup of salvation

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

12 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

13 Precious in the sight of the LORD

is the death of his servants.

14 O LORD, I am your servant;

I am your servant and the child of your handmaid;

you have freed me from my bonds.

15 I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

16 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

17 In the courts of the LORD’s house,

in the midst of you, O Jerusalem.

Hallelujah!

Mark 1:14-20 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying,

The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.

And passing along by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen.  And Jesus said to them,

Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.

And immediately they left their nets and followed him.  And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets.  And immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and followed him.

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The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 1 Epiphany:  Monday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/week-of-1-epiphany-monday-year-1/

Hannah:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/01/31/feast-of-hannah-september-2/

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As a Christian in 2011, I understand my immortality to be spiritual.  So I am not the least worried about the fact that I am childless.  In fact, childlessness has been my choice, for I dislike the company of young children.  Had I lived in the time of Elkanah, Peninnah, and Hannah, however, I would certainly have thought differently.  As The Abingdon Bible Commentary (1929) says on page 384,

In ancient Hebrew thought childlessness was the greatest disaster that could overtake a family; it involved annihilation for the family-soul in which all members of the family, past and present, participate.

Elkanah (literally “God has possessed”) had married two women, Peninnah (“Pearl”) and Hannah (“Grace”).  Peninnah was the mother of his children, but he loved Hannah in a way he did not love his other wife.  Elkanah’s family-soul immortality was assured, thanks to Peninnah’s fecundity, but what about Hannah? Social mores meant that her childlessness lowered her status.

There was a ritual animal sacrifice at Shiloh, followed by a communal feast upon the parts not offered to God.   Depending on how one interprets the Hebrew text in 1:5, Elkanah either gave Hannah a double portion gladly–out of love–or just one portion–regretfully, for he loved her.  His love for Hannah is the main point of that passage; the amount of the portion of the animal is an issue for Hebrew Bible scholars to discuss among themselves.

Hannah, feeling stress, fed by hostility from Peninnah, wept and did not eat as much as her husband thought she should.  Given her circumstances, this was predictable.

The Canadian Anglican lectionary I am following will continue this story in the next day’s readings.  It is sufficed to say that Hannah does have a child–and a great one at that.

For today, however, I leave you, O reader, with a few questions.

  1. Who in your midst is suffering because of stigma?
  2. Do you buy into that stigma?
  3. How can you help this (these) suffering person (persons)?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/love-dignity-and-stigma/