Archive for the ‘Voltaire’ Tag

Devotion for January 14 and 15 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Above:  Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones, by Gustave Dore

Freedom in Jesus

JANUARY 14 and 15, 2020

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 36:33-37:14 (January 14)

Ezekiel 37:15-28 (January 15)

Psalm 136 (Morning–January 14)

Psalm 123 (Morning–January 15)

Psalms 97 and 112 (Evening–January 14)

Psalms 30 and 86 (Evening–January 15)

Romans 5:1-21 (January 14)

Romans 6:1-23 (January 15)

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The Ezekiel and Romans readings function best when one reads them continuously.  Lectionaries are useful, but sometimes they are too choppy.

We begin with the lessons from Ezekiel.  Exiles will return to their ancestral homeland; that is one meaning of the Valley of Dry Bones.  Another traditional interpretation infers the resurrection of the dead before the last judgment.  I see no reason that is flawed.  But, as a narrative matter, the former reading of the text takes me my next point, which is that, in the homeland, God and the people will commune:

I will make a covenant of friendship with them–it shall be an everlasting covenant with them–I will establish them, and I will place My Sanctuary among them forever.  My Presence shall rest over them; I will be their God and they shall be My People.  And when My Sanctuary abides among them forever, the nations shall now that I the LORD do sanctify Israel.

–Ezekiel 37:26-28, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

What Ezekiel understood as the Second Temple applies nicely to Jesus, in whom we have reconciliation with God, in whom our offenses are lifted from us and through whom we have justification.  It is in Jesus that we are free from slavery to sin.  Voltaire said that we human beings are free as we choose to be.  If we choose to give ourselves over to someone’s authority, we lose a measure of freedom.  And even coercion cannot deprive a person of inner freedom if he or she opts to retain it.  Mohandas Gandhi was a free man in some prison cells, for example.  Likewise, if we choose to enslave ourselves to sin and shame, we have ourselves to blame.  But, if we seek liberty in Christ, we have grace and enough free will to choose to follow him to thank.

One of the most difficult forms of slavery to break is that of honor and shame.  What others think of us does affect us, so we have to care about that somewhat.  What other people say about influences whether we obtain certain employment (or keep it), for example.  Yet the most important assessment comes from God.  May the divine assessment be,

Well done, good and faithful servant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 25, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD

THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR B

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/freedom-in-jesus/

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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 4 Epiphany: Friday, Year 1   14 comments

Above:  The Beheading of St. John the Baptist, by Caravaggio, 1608

God is With the Righteous (Even When Appearances Seem to Indicate Otherwise)

FEBRUARY 8, 2019

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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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Hebrews 13:1-8 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Let brotherly love continue.  Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.  Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them; and those who are ill-treated, since you also are in the body.  Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for God will judge the immoral and adulterous.  Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said,

I will never fail you or forsake you.

Hence we can confidently say,

The Lord is my helper,

I will not be afraid;

what can man do to me?

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.

Psalm 27:1-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom then shall I fear?

the LORD is the strength of my life;

of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When evildoers came upon me to eat up my flesh,

it was they, my foes and my adversaries, who stumbled and fell.

3 Though an army should encamp against me,

yet my heart shall not be afraid;

4 And though war should rise up against me,

yet will I put my trust in him.

5 One thing I asked of the LORD;

one thing I seek;

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

6 To behold the fair beauty of the LORD

and to seek him in his temple.

7 For in the day of trouble he shall keep me safe in his shelter;

he shall hide me in the secrecy of his dwelling

and set me high upon a rock.

8 Even now he lifts up my head

above my enemies round about me.

9 Therefore I will offer in his dwelling an oblation with sounds of great gladness;

I will sing and make music to the LORD.

10 Hearken to my voice, O LORD, when I call;

have mercy on me and answer me.

11 You speak in my heart and say, “Seek my face.”

Your face, LORD, will I seek.

12 Hide not your face from me,

nor turn away your servant in displeasure.

13 You have been my helper;

cast me not away;

do not forsake me, O God of my salvation.

Mark 6:14-29 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known.  Some said,

John the Baptist has been raised from the dead; that is why these powers are at work in him.

But others said,

It is Elijah.

And others said,

It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.

But when Herod heard of it he said,

John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.

For Herod had sent and seized John, and bound him for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife.  And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him.  But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe.  When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly.  But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and the leading men of Galilee.  For when Herodias’ daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl,

Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will grant it.

And he vowed to her,

Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.

And she went out, and said to her mother,

What shall I ask?

And she said,

The head of John the Baptist.

And she came in immediately with haste to the king, and asked, saying,

I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.

And the king was exceedingly sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her.  And immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard and gave orders to bring his head.  He went and beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother.  When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

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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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A link to my thoughts for the Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (August 29):  

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-the-beheading-of-st-john-the-baptist-martyr-august-29/

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The reading from Hebrews is pleasant enough.  It contains sage advice on how we can live together harmoniously in society before it makes the famous statement about the unchanging nature of Christ.  The portion of the psalm is pleasant, also, reinforcing the excerpt from Hebrews.

Then we arrive at the Gospel reading, which tells of disturbing events.  The author of Mark has framed the execution of St. John the Baptist as a flashback.  The present day of the reading has Herod Antipas, the Roman client ruler of the Galilee, hearing about the wonders of Jesus and thinking that St. John the Baptist, whom he has had killed, has risen from the dead.  The flashback part of the story tells of how Herod Antipas had married Herodias, the niece of his late half-brother, Alexander, and former wife of his brother, Philip Herod I.  (Think then, what that makes Salome, the daughter of Herodias, in relation to Herod Antipas, other than daughter-in-law.)  St. John the Baptist is in prison for speaking the truth, which is that this marriage is incestuous.  Herodias is spiteful and capable of murder; Herod Antipas, who leers erotically at Salome’s dancing, is more concerned with notions of public honor than sparing a life; and Salome seems to be a willing pawn in her mother’s plot.

I wonder how much better events would have played out had Herodias, Salome, and Herod Antipas lived in accordance with the advice in Hebrews 13:1-8.  That text did not exist at the time, but the principles did.

The text of Psalm 27 says that God protects the faithful, but St. John the Baptist died the way he did.  What are we supposed to make of this?  The theology in some of the psalms is overly simplistic, if not optimistic, in places:  God will protect the faithful, the righteous will prosper, and the evil will meet their doom.  But have you looked around the world recently or read history?  Liars and cheaters win, courts convict both the innocent and the guilty, both the righteous and the unrighteous prosper and stumble, and dictators execute political prisoners.  Perhaps the most generous assessment of some of the theology of Psalms (and Proverbs) is that it is true in the long term, perhaps even the afterlife.

Back in this life, meanwhile, evil wins much of the time.

But, as Voltaire wrote, “Man is free at the moment he wishes to be.”  Consider the cases of jailed civil rights activists in the Deep South of the United States in the 1960s.  These were nonviolent people who challenged the racial status quo.  For their troubles local authorities arrested and jailed them.  Without resorting to unpleasant and graphic details, I assure you, O reader, that Southern jails, especially in Mississippi, were hellholes and places where guards delighted in humiliating these brave men and women.  Yet faith lifted the spirits of these incarcerated activists.  Many prisoners sang so much and so happily that they irritated and angered those who had jailed them.  They were incarcerated, yet they were free because they chose to be free and because they tapped into their deep faith.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who has retired recently from public life, tells the story of a Nazi guard and a Jew during the Holocaust.  The guard was forcing the Jew to clean an especially disgusting toilet.  “Where is your God now?”  the guard asked the Jew.  “With me in the muck,” the Jew replied.

Where was God when St. John the Baptist was languishing in prison and as he died?  God was with the saint.  And where was God when the guards raped and humiliated civil rights activists during the 1960s?  God was with the activists.  Jesus said that many would suffer for the sake of righteousness, but that they would not be alone.  This promise holds true today, despite any appearances to the contrary.

Here ends the lesson.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/god-is-with-the-righteous-even-when-appearances-seem-to-indicate-otherwise/