Saturday June 21, 2008 - Jehoiada's Revenge and the hunt for Mammon  

Posted by siouxbhoney

I'm either starting to catch up a little bit, or these are getting easier.

2 Chronicles 24:17-25

After the death of Jehoiada, the princes of Judah came and paid homage to King Joash, and the king then listened to them. They forsook the temple of the LORD, the God of their fathers, and began to serve the sacred poles and the idols; and because of this crime of theirs, wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem. Although prophets were sent to them to convert them to the LORD, the people would not listen to their warnings. Then the Spirit of God possessed Zechariah, son of Jehoiada the priest. He took his stand above the people and said to them: “God says, ‘Why are you transgressing the LORD’s commands, so that you cannot prosper?Because you have abandoned the LORD, he has abandoned you.’” But they conspired against him, and at the king’s order they stoned him to death in the court of the LORD’s temple. Thus King Joash was unmindful of the devotion shown him by Jehoiada, Zechariah’s father, and slew his son. And as Zechariah was dying, he said, “May the LORD see and avenge.”

At the turn of the year a force of Arameans came up against Joash. They invaded Judah and Jerusalem, did away with all the princes of the people, and sent all their spoil to the king of Damascus. Though the Aramean force came with few men, the LORD surrendered a very large force into their power, because Judah had abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers. So punishment was meted out to Joash. After the Arameans had departed from him, leaving him in grievous suffering, his servants conspired against him because of the murder of the son of Jehoiada the priest. He was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.

So, young King Joash, who we read about yesterday, was made king at seven years old, and was always watched over by Jehoiada. A little before our reading, it describes how Joash was always good when Jehoiada was around, and even built the Lord and his people a new fancy temple. Then Jehoiada goes and dies, and Joash has to stand on his own two feet and make his own moral judgments. Life was rockin' easy when the old mentor was alive to tell him what to do, but the second he's gone, it seems like he falls prey to peer pressure when the princes come around, just like a rebellious teenager, out having wild parties and setting up altars to other gods. Why couldn't anybody in the Old Testament figure out that this is the thing that God hates the most? He was always coming down HARD on guys for this. So he sends in a small invading force to conquer and humiliate, and Joash's servants kill him and bury his body with the common folk. I can hear God talking about it now: "I don't know how many times I need to repeat this, people: NO OTHER GODS."

Matthew 6:24-34

Jesus said to his disciples:“No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”

What is mammon? I know that this is something that every kid in Sunday school probably asks, but I can't remember. My study bible says this: "Mammon: An Aramaic word meaning wealth or property.", and wikipedia says Webster defines 'mammon' as: 1) the false god of riches and avarice. I wonder if Jesus is using an extreme example to just tell people to stop worrying so much about money, or if we are really supposed to live in the fields, and hunt and gather? The bible says a lot about money, and I don't really understand how to mesh it all together, so I feel a little pulled back and forth. My real opinion is our modern day other god really is Mammon, and has been since most of the other gods were banished by the combination of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam taking over the world. God doesn't seem to like us thinking about anything more than we think about him, and probably most of us (certainly me) think about money and security and nicer things WAY more than we think about God. Except of course when we pray "Please God, help me get more money and security and nicer things."

I wanted to end today with a link to a very interesting story that I've been following from the Vatican. Holocaust survivors announce symposium on Pius XII’s work to save Jews during WWII

Friday, June 20, 2008 - High Hollywood Drama and the Simple Life  

Posted by siouxbhoney

Yippee! Today we have another one that I've NEVER heard of! Have I even read the bible?

2 Kings 11:1-4, 9-18, 20
When When Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, saw that her son was dead, she began to kill off the whole royal family. But Jehosheba, daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, took Joash, his son, and spirited him away, along with his nurse, from the bedroom where the princes were about to be slain. She concealed him from Athaliah, and so he did not die. For six years he remained hidden in the temple of the LORD, while Athaliah ruled the land.

But in the seventh year, Jehoiada summoned the captains of the Carians and of the guards. He had them come to him in the temple of the LORD, exacted from them a sworn commitment,and then showed them the king’s son.

The captains did just as Jehoiada the priest commanded. Each one with his men, both those going on duty for the sabbath and those going off duty that week, came to Jehoiada the priest. He gave the captains King David’s spears and shields, which were in the temple of the LORD. And the guards, with drawn weapons, lined up from the southern to the northern limit of the enclosure, surrounding the altar and the temple on the king’s behalf. Then Jehoiada led out the king’s son and put the crown and the insignia upon him. They proclaimed him king and anointed him, clapping their hands and shouting, “Long live the king!”

Athaliah heard the noise made by the people, and appeared before them in the temple of the LORD.When she saw the king standing by the pillar, as was the custom, and the captains and trumpeters near him, with all the people of the land rejoicing and blowing trumpets, she tore her garments and cried out,“Treason, treason!” Then Jehoiada the priest instructed the captains in command of the force:“Bring her outside through the ranks. If anyone follows her,” he added, “let him die by the sword.” He had given orders that she should not be slain in the temple of the LORD. She was led out forcibly to the horse gate of the royal palace, where she was put to death.

Then Jehoiada made a covenant between the LORD as one party and the king and the people as the other, by which they would be the LORD’s people; and another covenant, between the king and the people. Thereupon all the people of the land went to the temple of Baal and demolished it. They shattered its altars and images completely, and slew Mattan, the priest of Baal, before the altars. Jehoiada appointed a detachment for the temple of the LORD. All the people of the land rejoiced and the city was quiet, now that Athaliah had been slain with the sword at the royal palace.

Okay, what?

I can't stop thinking about the stories that my friend Amy always tells me about sitting around in church as a little girl, looking up the sex and violence parts in the bible. I bet she knows all about this one. I'm seriously going to have to open this blog to comments soon, so that someone can tell me what is what. Now I know why my little devotional book only picks one reading per day to comment on. But of course, I love it, it's high drama, it is Old Testament at it's most bloody, and I did a little reading before it, and I think I may have a tiny inking what the story is trying to tell us. The study bible was silent on this one too, so here I am, going out on a limb. The story in the chapter before tells all about Jehu, kicking butt. He even gets rid of the entire rival royal family by sending their servants threatening letters. He does a lot of this to get rid of the idol worship, especially of Baal, but he quietly keeps his own idols, because they were politically advantageous to him. (He told people that they were of the Lord, so that they wouldn't leave his area and go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Neat.) So, this story that we are reading picks up in a weird place, but basically, when this Athaliah finds out that Jehu killed her son, she goes and tries to kill all of Jehu's royal family, but in Old Testament full revenge-of-the-Lord style, the high priest's daughter (Jehosheba) hides the child heir so that they can raise him in the temple until he is old enough to overthrow, then has a big bloody showdown (Where would Hollywood be without the bible?), then finally gets rid of all of the Baal stuff. So, is the entire reading a warning against idol worship? That is all I got.

As a side note, I did read somewhere once (maybe I made it up, who knows?) that one of the reasons that the Jews were so anti-Baal, was that his followers sacrificed babies to him. Makes sense to me. Anyway, you are tired of this, on to the next:

Matthew 6:19-23
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be."

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness. And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.”

Yes, I love my material goods way too much. This morning I was contemplating hiding some of my favorite coffee cups so that no more of them will break and I can have them forever and forever. I knew that this would come up in the reading as soon as I started stroking them and calling them "my precious". I have heard a lot of sermons equating the love of material goods with idol worship, and maybe it is true. Maybe that is the tie-in with both readings. Loving something more than God is damaging to the soul on this life as well as the next.

And I think that we have heard quite enough from me for now...goodbye.

Thursday, June 19 - Warrior Poetry and the Lord's Prayer  

Posted by siouxbhoney

Today's first reading is from Sirach. This book is a part of what Catholics call The "Deutero-canonical" books, and the Protestants call "Apocrypha". In other words, it's in the Catholic bible, but not the Protestant one. So once more (ooh, two days in a row!) we are at a reading that I know NOTHING about. It's a long one, too. Here goes: Sirach 48:1-14
Like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah
whose words were as a flaming furnace.
Their staff of bread he shattered,
in his zeal he reduced them to straits;
By the Lord’s word he shut up the heavens
and three times brought down fire.
How awesome are you, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds!
Whose glory is equal to yours?
You brought a dead man back to life
from the nether world, by the will of the LORD.
You sent kings down to destruction,
and easily broke their power into pieces.
You brought down nobles, from their beds of sickness.
You heard threats at Sinai,
at Horeb avenging judgments.
You anointed kings who should inflict vengeance,
and a prophet as your successor.
You were taken aloft in a whirlwind of fire,
in a chariot with fiery horses.
You were destined, it is written, in time to come
to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD,
To turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons,
and to re-establish the tribes of Jacob.
Blessed is he who shall have seen you
And who falls asleep in your friendship.
For we live only in our life,
but after death our name will not be such.
O Elijah, enveloped in the whirlwind!

Then Elisha, filled with the twofold portion of his spirit,
wrought many marvels by his mere word.
During his lifetime he feared no one,
nor was any man able to intimidate his will.
Nothing was beyond his power;
beneath him flesh was brought back into life.
In life he performed wonders,
and after death, marvelous deeds

This seems to me to be a kind of eulogy-poetry-appreciation for Elijah and Elisha. This is all just about what we read yesterday, which I guess is the tie-in (Good thing I started yesterday and not today!). What I'm hoping is that it is a foreshadow of the old testament readings to come, and a recap of what we just read. It's important to remember the ancient heroes of the bible, and I'm just not so familiar with Elijah and Elisha. This is definitely going to make me go and peruse through Kings later. Although, I did just peek to tomorrow's reading, which is from Kings, and there was no Elijah or Elisha. I think what we are reading here is a re-cap. To me, it feels like the ancient Jewish version of a viking death song. Yes, I did just make that term up, but you know what I mean. I still think it's a marvelous piece of writing, though. Sirach, not me.

On to the next: Matthew 6:7-15
Jesus said to his disciples:“In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“This is how you are to pray:
‘Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.’
“If you forgive others their transgressions,your heavenly Father will forgive you.But if you do not forgive others,neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”

There is a lot of good stuff here.

First of all, this is a part of the whole "don't play it up for the crowds when you are doing right" sermon. So, he's asking us not to "babble like the pagans". My study bible says that this is probably a reference to the pagans listing a long list of divine names, "hoping that one of them will force a response from the deity." I'm using a lot of quotations here. That makes me feel a little better, because more often than not, my prayer is a long babbling conversation on my end, kinda like the main character from Fiddler on the Roof. So, the point here is to not make a big fat deal. Prayer is called for, but nice private time, thank you very much.

Second, this prayer is the most perfectly composed thing I've ever seen in my life. Even in my darkest agnostic days, I always had to admit that (to me) this prayer is proof of some kind of divinity, because never has such a piece of literature or poetry hit the mark as perfectly as this one. For me, there has never been anything that I wanted to say or ask of God that wasn't covered in this one.

The last part of this reading is the scariest part of the whole bible to me. I can only be forgiven if I forgive others? I'd really prefer it if one of the things that I could be forgiven is my personal lack of charity towards others when they tick me off. But no, I'm expected to go and put my big girl pants on and forgive others. I think this is Jesus asking us to strive towards divinity. I don't think we'll ever reach it in this life, but we should try.

Wednesday, June 18 - Elijah and the hidden Jesus  

Posted by siouxbhoney

This is the first reading of the day, 2 Kings 2:1, 6-14: (Yes, I did cut and past this from the provided link) When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind,he and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Please stay here;the LORD has sent me on to the Jordan.”“As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you,” Elisha replied. And so the two went on together. Fifty of the guild prophets followed and when the two stopped at the Jordan, they stood facing them at a distance. Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up and struck the water, which divided, and both crossed over on dry ground. When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha,“Ask for whatever I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha answered, “May I receive a double portion of your spirit.” “You have asked something that is not easy,” Elijah replied. “Still, if you see me taken up from you, your wish will be granted; otherwise not.” As they walked on conversing, a flaming chariot and flaming horses came between them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. When Elisha saw it happen he cried out, “My father! my father! Israel’s chariots and drivers!” But when he could no longer see him, Elisha gripped his own garment and tore it in two. Then he picked up Elijah’s mantle that had fallen from him, and went back and stood at the bank of the Jordan. Wielding the mantle that had fallen from Elijah, Elisha struck the water in his turn and said,“Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?”When Elisha struck the water it divided and he crossed over.

So, I had to go and and read a little around this one. My study bible says that the two books of Kings intend to show "the consecutive history of Israel from the birth of Samuel to the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 b.c."

That didn't explain much about this reading.

I was first confused about this whole "double portion" of Elijah's spirit that Elisha wants. Doesn't our spirit go to God? Then I thought, well, maybe this is early enough in history that the Israelites where just figuring it out. Wrong again. My handy-dandy little study bible told me that what he was asking for was a double portion of the spirit of prophecy, following Jewish law that a first born son inherit a double portion of his father's property (Dt 21, 17). Well, claptrap. I've noticed in the old testament, that God seems to really dig those guys that ask for A LOT. And ask A LOT of questions. So, Elijah tells him "maybe so, kid, maybe not." Then is whisked away bodily by what I assume is some kind of tornado-looking thing. What Elisha gets is the big "maybe so, kid" because he takes up Elijah's mantle (robe?), after tearing his own in grief, and parts the Jordan, like Abraham. I'm not sure what we are learning from this, although I like the story, and I'm gonna give it a shot. I think what we are talking about here is God rewarding us on earth for listening to him. It seems to me that Elisha has tried very hard to follow in his own father's footsteps and preach the word of God and worship accordingly. God rewards him by giving him what he asks for, therefore giving him more power to worship and lead others to worship in the correct ways.

So, here is the gospel for today, and I think I'm getting the tie-in.

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
"Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your alms giving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

Even though this seems to be an opposite example of how to act than what we just read in Kings, I think that it's an expansion on the idea, kind of a modernization for the Jews of the time. Kings tells us that we get an earthly reward for following the laws of God in our hearts, and Matthew tells us that Jesus said "not anymore, gringos". Okay that may not be an EXACT quote. More of a paraphrase. Maybe Jesus saw people talking out of both sides of their mouths just like they have done in every era since the beginning of time. People see other Christians making a really big deal about their "works" and "ministries", and they look for hypocrisies in those other people automatically. And face it, if you look hard enough at anyone, you'll see at least a little hypocrite living in their head. It seems to me that God just wants us to concentrate on what HE wants, ignore other people, and not make such a big deal convincing everyone around us what a good person/christian we are. That is one of the toughest calls in the bible.