Archive for the ‘Solomon’ Tag

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

Temple of Solomon

Above:  The Temple of Solomon

Scan (from an old book) by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Discomfort with Scripture

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

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave us your only Son

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

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

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 3:10-17 (December 30)

1 Kings 3:5-14 (December 31)

Psalm 147:12-20 (Both Days)

Mark 13:32-37 (December 30)

John 8:12-19 (December 31)

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

O daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,

happy the one who repays you

for all you have done to us;

Who take your little ones,

and dashes them against the rock.

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 24, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARTHOLOMEW, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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

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

Solomon's Wealth and Wisdom

Above:  Solomon’s Wealth and Wisdom

Image in the Public Domain

Treating People Properly

NOT OBSERVED IN 2015

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The Collect:

Almighty God, in signs and wonders your Son revealed the greatness of your saving love.

Renew us with your grace, and sustain us by your power,

that we may stand in the glory of your name,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 7:12-22

Psalm 41

3 John 2-8

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Happy are those who consider the poor….

–Psalm 41:1a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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In the Law of Moses, among purity codes and rules about when to stone people, one finds commandments about caring for people–from strangers to neighbors.  That ethic was apparently strong in the Christian community which received 3 John.  King Solomon, however, exploited his subjects economically.  Thus he violated a divine condition for the perpetuation of the Davidic Dynasty in 2 Chronicles 7:17-22.

Some themes recur in the Bible.  Among these are God’s concern for the poor and displeasure at the mistreatment of them.  This is a point I can repeat in only a few ways, for it falls under the heading of what I, for the purpose of determining what does and does not constitute plagiarism, call the Green Grass Rule:

There are only a few ways to write that the grass is green.

So, O reader, how do you treat people, ranging from strangers to neighbors?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN BROWN, ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSMUND OF SALISBURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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THIS IS POST #400 OF ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS.

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/treating-people-properly/

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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 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 the Feast of the Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

18662v

Above:  The Adoration of the Magi, by Giuseppe Niccolo Vicentino

Woodcut Created Between 1540 and 1560

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-18662

God’s Big Circles

JANUARY 6, 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:

Isaiah 60:1-6

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

Ephesians 3:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12

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Give your king your justice, O God:

and your righteousness to a king’s son,

that he may judge your people rightly:

and uphold the poor with justice.

Let the mountains bring forth peace for the people:

and the hills prosperity with justice.

May the king defend the cause of the poor among the people:

save the children of the needy and crush the oppressor.

May he live as long as the sun endures:

as long as the moon from age to age.

May he come down like rain upon the grass:

like showers that water the earth.

In his days may righteousness flourish:

And abundance of peace till the moon is no more.

May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles pay tribute:

the kings of of Sheba and Seba bring their gifts.

May all the kings fall prostrate before him:

and all the nations render him service.

He shall deliver the needy when they cry:

and the poor who have no helper.

He shall have pity on the weak and the needy:

and save the lives of the poor.

He shall rescue them from oppression and violence:

and their blood shall be precious in his sight.

–Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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Psalm 72 is a coronation prayer.  The king is responsible for assuring the physical safety and well-being of his people.  This mandate includes economic justice and deliverance from violence.  Such an accomplishment will earn the monarch international respect.

But who is the king in each reading?  He is probably Solomon in Psalm 72.  The king delivering the exiles in Isaiah 60 is Yahweh via a human monarch, Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes.  There are two kings in Matthew 2.  One is Herod the Great, a client ruler for the Roman Empire, a violent man, and a mentally unstable person.  The other king is young Jesus, who receives visitors–Persian scholar-astrologers who have put their lives on hold for a long time to undertake the perilous journey.  They do not understand much about the boy, but they know more than others do and act affirmatively toward him.

God’s wisdom, Ephesians 3:10 (The New Jerusalem Bible) tells us, is

many-sided.

That passage, in The Revised English Bible, speaks of

the wisdom of God in its infinite variety.

The New Revised Standard Version mentions

the rich variety

of divine wisdom.  And the Common English Bible speaks of

the many different varieties

of God’s wisdom through the church.  This wisdom God makes known to people via the church.

This many-sided divine wisdom which exists in rich, infinite variety is for all people, although not everyone will embrace it.  And one need not understand completely to receive and accept such wisdom, for nobody can grasp it fully.  There are spiritual mysteries too great for human minds to comprehend ; so be it.  Such mystery comforts me, for it reminds me that there is much in the exclusive purview of God.

And this multi-faceted divine wisdom is for people are are like us and for those who are very different from us.  God loves us all, even when we do not love ourselves, much less each other.  God moves well beyond our comfort zones.  If that bothers us, the fault lies with us, not God.

Each of us carries prejudices, probably learned from friends, relatives, and classmates.  We like to draw a small circle of acceptability, being sure to include ourselves and those like us inside it.  But egocentric “purity” is a huge lie and a spiritual detriment.  God seems to prefer larger circles–even those which include some Zoroastrian Persian astrologers, a heroic Canaanite prostitute, a Moabite woman, and many Samaritans.  How scandalous this is to self-righteous purists!  As St. Simon Peter told the household of St. Cornelius the Centurion in Acts 10:34-35:

I now understand that God has no favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

The New Jerusalem Bible

If you, O reader, arrive in heaven, whom might you be surprised to encounter there?  That question gets to the heart of the meaning of the Feast of the Epiphany.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/gods-big-circles/

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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/

Week of 5 Epiphany: Thursday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  An Eastern Orthodox Icon of Solomon

Faith–Individual and Communal

FEBRUARY 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 Kings 11:1-13 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

King Solomon loved many foreign women in addition to Pharaoh’s daughter–Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Phoenician, and Hittite women, from the nations of which the LORD had said to the Israelites,

None of you shall join them and none of them shall join you, lest they turn your heart away to follow their gods.

Such Solomon clung to and loved.  He had seven hundred royal wives and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned his heart away.  In his old age, his wives turned Solomon’s heart after other gods; and he not as wholeheartedly devoted to the LORD his God as his father David had been.  Solomon followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Phoenicians, and Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.

Solomon did what was displeasing to the LORD and did not remain loyal to the LORD like his father David.  At that time, Solomon built a shrine for Chemosh the abomination of Moab on the hill near Jerusalem, and one for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites.  And he did the same for all his foreign wives who offered and sacrificed to their gods.

The LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him about this matter, not to follow other gods; he did not obey what the LORD had commanded.  And the LORD said to Solomon,

Because you are guilty of this–yo have not kept My covenant and the laws which I enjoined upon you–I will tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants.  But, for the sake of your father David, I will not do it in your lifetime; I will tear it away from your son.  However, I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give your son one tribe, for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.

Psalm 132:11-19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11  The LORD has sworn an oath to David;

in truth, he will not break it:

12  ”A son, the fruit of your body

will I set upon your throne.

13  If your children keep my covenant

and my testimonies that I shall teach them,

their children will sit upon your throne for evermore.”

14  For the LORD has chosen Zion;

he has desired her for his habitation:

15  ”This shall be my resting-place for ever;

here will I dwell, for I delight in her.

16  I will surely bless her provisions,

and satisfy her poor with bread.

17  I will clothe her priests with salvation,

and her faithful people will rejoice and sing.

18  There will I make the horn of David flourish;

I have prepared a lamp for my Anointed.

19  As for his enemies, I will clothe them with shame;

but as for him, his crown will shine.”

Mark 7:24-30 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then he got up and left that place and went off to the neighbourhood of Tyre.  There we went into a house and wanted no one  to know where he was.  But it proved impossible to remain hidden.  For no sooner had he got there, than a woman who had heard about him, and who had a daughter possessed by an evil spirit, arrived and prostrated herself before him.  She was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she asked him to drive the evil spirit out of her daughter.  Jesus said to her,

You must let the children have all they want first.  It is not right, you know, to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.

But she replied,

Yes, Lord, I know, but even the dogs under the table eat the scraps that the children leave.

Jesus said to her,

If you can answer like that you can go home!  The evil spirit has left your daughter.

And she went back to her home and found the child lying quietly on her bed, and the evil spirit gone.

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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:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/15/week-of-5-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

Matthew 15 (Parallel to Mark 7):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/proper-15-year-a/

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The theology of 1 Kings holds that faithlessness to God led to the decline of the Jewish kingdoms of the Old Testament.  The truth is not quite that simple, I maintain, for one must consider economic factors in the mix.  Marxian analysis rounds out the historical analysis nicely.  I covered some of that ground in the previous post.

There is also the question of how to relate to Gentiles.  The author of 1 Kings 11 preferred to stay away from them.  But Jesus went to them in Mark 7.  Tyre was, simply put, Gentiles Central.  Thus I propose that, if our Lord had wanted to avoid Gentiles, he would not have chosen to visit Tyre.  With that social context in mind, what might seem like an insult comes across as a statement meant to elicit a faithful response, which it did.

The proper question is not whether one is a Jew or a Gentile, but whether one is faithful.  A home ought to be a place for the nurturing of faith, so marrying within the faith makes sense to me, assuming that marriage is one’s vocation.  (There is nothing wrong with remaining single if that is one’s call from God.)  Nurturing faith is also the proper work of a congregation and certain other social support system one has.   Religion, which is somewhat personal, is also inherently public, not that this fact ought to lead to the establishment and maintenance of a theocracy.  Besides, mutual forbearance and toleration where respect fails at least has the virtue of fostering civility.  And, as Roger Williams, a minister and a colonial advocate of the separation of church and state, said, a prayer one utters under compulsion is meaningless.

As for me, I stand by and for certain propositions, but I do so without being habitually cranky.  Most of my professions, many of which I offer via this and other weblogs, are positive.  The grace of God is for all people–Jews and Gentiles.  The Apostle Paul and James, Bishop of Jerusalem, stirred up controversy by welcoming Gentiles.  These great men were correct, of course.  Simon Peter came to realize in Acts 10 that purity codes separating Jews from Gentiles were null and void.

I, as a Gentile, stand on the shoulders of these men.

An enduring lesson I offer you, O reader, is this:  Who are your “Gentiles,” those you consider impure, assuming, of course, that you make such judgments?  Like Peter, Paul, and James, and Jesus, may you reach out to them and welcome them in God’s Name, to the glory of God and for the benefit of your “Gentiles.”

KRT

Week of 5 Epiphany: Wednesday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  King Solomon Meets the Queen of Sheba

Image Source = Richardfabi

Regarding the Common

FEBRUARY 12, 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 10:1-10, 13 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s fame, through the name of the LORD, and she came to test him with hard questions.  She arrived in Jerusalem with a very large retinue, with camels bearing spices, a great quantity of gold, and precious stones.  When she came to Solomon, she asked him all she had in mind.  Solomon had answers for all her questions; there was nothing that the king did not know, [nothing] to which he could not give her an answer.  When the queen of Sheba observed all of Solomon’s wisdom, and the palace he had built, the fare of his table, the seating of his courtiers, the service and attire of his attendants, and his wine service, and the burnt offerings that he offered at the House of the LORD, she was left breathless.

She said to the king,

The report  heard in my own land about you and your wisdom was true.  But I did not believe the reports until I came and saw with my own eyes that even the half had been told me; your wisdom and wealth surpass the reports that I heard.  How fortunate are your men and how fortunate are these your courtiers, who are always  in attendance on you and can hear your wisdom!  Praised be the LORD your God, who delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel.  It is because of the LORD’s everlasting love for Israel that He made you king to administer justice and righteousness.

She presented the king with one hundred and twenty talents of gold, and a large quantity of spices, and precious stones.   Never again did such a vast quantity of spices arrive as that which the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon….King Solomon, in turn, gave the queen of Sheba everything she wanted and asked for, in addition to what King Solomon gave her out of his royal bounty.  Then she and her attendants left and returned to her own land.

Psalm 37:1-7, 32-33, 41-42 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Do not fret yourself because of evildoers;

do not be jealous of those who do no wrong.

2 For they shall soon whither like the grass,

and like the green grass they fade away.

3 Put your trust in the LORD and do good,

dwell in the land and feed on its riches.

Take delight in the LORD,

and he shall give you your heart’s desire.

Commit your way to the LORD and put your trust in him,

and he will bring it to pass.

He will make your righteousness as clear as the light

and your just dealing as the noonday.

Be still and wait for the LORD

and wait patiently for him.

32  The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,

and their tongue speaks what is right.

33  The law of their God is in their heart,

and their footsteps shall not falter.

41 But the deliverance of the righteous comes from the LORD;

he is their stronghold in time of trouble.

42 The LORD will help them and rescue them;

he will rescue them from the wicked and deliver them,

because they seek refuge in him.

Mark 7:14-23 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then he called the crowd close to him again, and spoke to them,

Listen to me now, all of you, and understand this.  There is nothing outside a man which can enter into him and make him “common”.  It is the things which come out of a man that make him “common”!

Later, when he had gone indoors away from the crowd, his disciples asked him about this parable.

“Oh, are you as dull as they are?”

he said.

Can’t you see that anything that goes into a man from outside cannot make him “common” or unclean?  You see, it doesn’t go into his heart, but into his stomach, and passes out of the body altogether, so that all food is clean enough.  But,

he went on,

whatever comes out of a man, that is what makes a man “common” or unclean.  For it is from inside, from men’s hearts and minds, that evil thoughts arise–lust, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly!  All these evil things come from inside a man and make him unclean!

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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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A Related Post:

Week of 5 Epiphany:  Wednesday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/14/week-of-5-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

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The author of 1 Kings 10 means for us to admire the wealth and wisdom of Solomon.  In this account Solomon receives the esteemed and wealthy Queen of Sheba.  Sheba, for those of you who wonder, was probably Sabea, located where present-day Yemen occupies space on the world map.  Yemen, of course, has fallen on hard times, with its combination of high illiteracy, poverty, fertility, and social frustration on one hand and little opportunity for economic development on the other.  But it fared much better in ancient times.

Imagine reading or hearing this story while living in exile in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  “Those were the days!” people must have said in Hebrew.  Or imagine reading or hearing this account after the Persians allowed exiled Jews to return to their homeland, then a poor place in a backwater province.  “Those were days!” people must have said in Hebrew upon pondering Solomon’s prestige and wealth.

But I am an American.  As such, I am an heir of a revolution.  (Historians dispute the precise definition of the American Revolution–indeed a good question–but I am an heir of the American Revolution.)  To the extent that I am a monarchist, I am a constitutional one.  As an heir of the American Revolution, I assume the veracity and wisdom of certain Enlightenment theories of governance, and divine right monarchy is not one of them.  Nevertheless, I do not expect to detect foreshadowing of Montesquieu and Locke in the Hebrew Scriptures, for I know better than to look for them there.

For some germane background to 1 Kings 10, let us turn to 1 Kings 6:38-7:1, which tell us that the construction of the Temple took seven years and the building of Solomon’s palace required thirteen years.  The Temple was splendid, as the detailed descriptions of it and its furnishings in 1 Kings indicate.  How ornate, then, was Solomon’s palace, which took six more years to construct?  And who paid for all this?  You, O reader, can guess, can you not?  The taxpayers of the Kingdom of Israel did.  They also paid for the upkeep of the palace and for the royal wine.

1 Kings 10 speaks of how wise, wealthy, and respected Solomon was.  In the next chapter, however, the tone of the narrative changes.  That is where the Canadian Anglican lectionary will take us next, so I will reserve a discussion of those details for then.

1 Kings 10 makes clear that Solomon was most uncommon, and that this was supposed to be a compliment.  Being uncommon was a point of pride to the Pharisees.  To be uncommon was to be pure, and to be common was to be defiled, or impure.  In fact, the standard English translation in the reading from Mark is “defile,” but J. B. Phillips cut to the chase and rendered the Greek text as “make common.”  Haughty Pharisees delighted in not being like other people.  This is not necessarily a fault in a person, as I ponder the concept as an abstract notion, but I am not discussing an abstraction.  No, I am referring to a concrete situation.  Only those with a certain level of wealth could afford to keep the purity codes the Pharisees advocated, so their piety was one to which most people, who were poor, had no hope of achieving.  Thus the Pharisaic piety Jesus criticized was one which marginalized the vast majority of people.

It is no wonder that there was a rebellion after Solomon died.  His grandeur came at a cost to his subjects.  And I understand why Jesus disagreed with so many Pharisees.  Furthermore, as an heir of the American Revolution, which, ironically, colonial elites led, I like the common, to an extent.  The Revolution did lead in time to the extension of voting rights without regard to property, for example.  And the ideals of the American Revolution did bring into sharp relief the hypocrisy of maintaining slavery.  Furthermore, another ideal of the Revolution was that, given opportunity and motivation, one can improve himself and his social station.  So there was not an acceptance of the lowest common denominator embedded in the ideals of the Revolution.  To the extent that one considers the lowest common denominator “common,” I do not like the common.  However, so far as one shuns the systems of firmly fixed social orders and deference to elites, I do like the common.

There is great dignity embedded in every human being by virtue of the image of God present in each of us.  So may we not look down upon others, for they are also God-bearers–as much as Solomon was, the Pharisees were, and the vast population of people who, for financial reasons, could not keep their piety, were.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/regarding-the-common/

Week of 4 Epiphany: Saturday, Year 2   10 comments

Above:  The Court of Solomon

Legacies and Opportunities

FEBRUARY 8, 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 3:3-15 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father; only he sacrificed and burnt incense at the high places.  And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings upon that altar.  At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said,

Ask what I shall give you.

And Solomon said,

You have shown great and merciful love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart before you; and you have kept for him this great and merciful love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day.  And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.  And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered or counted for multitude.  Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to govern this great people of yours?

It pleased the LORD that Solomon had asked this.  And God said to him,

Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word.  Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.  I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days.  And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.

And Solomon awoke, and behold, it was a dream.  Then he came to Jerusalem, and stood before the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and offered up burnt offerings and peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants.

Psalm 119:9-16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

9  How shall a young man cleanse his way?

By keeping to your words.

10  With my whole heart I seek you;

let me not stray from your commandments.

11  I treasure your promise in my heart,

that I may not sin against you.

12  Blessed are you, O LORD;

instruct me in your statutes.

13  With my lips will I recite

all the judgments of your mouth.

14  I have taken greater delight in the way of your decrees

than in all manner of riches.

15  I will meditate on your commandments

and give attention to your ways.

16  My delight is in your statutes;

I will not forget your word.

Mark 6:30-34 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

The apostles returned to Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.  And he said to them,

Come away by yourselves to a quiet place, and rest a while.

For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.  And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves.  Now many saw them going, and knew them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns, and got there ahead of them.  As he landed he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 4 Epiphany:  Saturday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/week-of-4-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

Matthew 14 (Parallel to Mark 6):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/proper-13-year-a/

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This famous account, actually a dream sequence, occurs at the beginning of Solomon’s nearly forty-year reign.  It is a significant dream, unlike the few which I have and recall afterward.  Those dreams I do remember usually fall into the category of “My brain was blowing off steam and conflating events, occasionally with science fiction.”  I seem to do my best thinking while conscious.

Solomon, however, seemed to do better while unconscious.  Already, in 1 Kings 2, he has killed a half-brother, a rival for the throne.  And, later in 1 Kings, Solomon will have severe lapses in judgment, usually involving the intersection of women and foreign relations.  Solomon, the son, stood in the shadow of his father, whom he surpassed in some ways.  And, after Solomon, the kingdom went downhill, largely due to his policies regarding building projects, labor, and taxation to fund these.

Solomon should have stayed on the path of wisdom.  His father, David, was tending sheep when the prophet Samuel arrived under the cover story of coming to sacrifice to the LORD–with Jesse and the sons.  King David, when he did his job well, was a good national shepherd.  This was Solomon’s vocation, one at which he failed on a large scale.  He could have said what King Louis XV of France did:  “After me, the deluge.”  Rehoboam fared better than did Louis XVI, but the kingdom of Saul, David, and Solomon did come apart.

I cannot help but think about all of this when reading 1 Kings 3.  Solomon had an opportunity to do well, but he squandered it.  The fact of his existence indicated that his father had really strayed from the laws of God at times, but none of that mattered in 1 Kings 3.  Solomon had a golden opportunity, and meant well at the time, but….

May we recognize opportunities God grants us, seek to use them for the common good, and, by grace, succeed.  Mindful of human weaknesses and the corresponding need for support and encouragement, may we uphold each other in these vocations.  And may we, who are not in positions of power, pray for those who are, that they may know good from evil, wise from foolish, and choose the the good and the wise, and act accordingly, for the common good.

KRT