"The Lord said to My Lord"
Thursday, June 18 -- Week of Proper 6, Year One
Bernard Mizeki, Catechist and Martyr in Rhodesia, 1896
Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 970)
Psalms  or 34 (morning) 85, 86 (evening)
1 Samuel 2:27-36
Luke 20:41 - 21:4
Starting tomorrow I will be on vacation until June 29 and will not be writing Morning Reflections.
"The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool." Psalm 110:1
Although Psalm 110 is not part of our lectionary today, it is quoted in our readings from both Acts and Luke. The first line of Psalm 110 is used in Luke's account of Jesus' dispute with the Sadducees. In Mark's version, this reference to Psalm 110 comes between a cordial conversation with a scribe and a warning to beware of the scribes while Jesus is speaking in the Temple. In Matthew's account, while Jesus is being challenged by the Pharisees, he quotes this passage to defeat them. And in the Acts reading today, Peter uses this verse as the rhetorical conclusion of his Pentecost speech.
It is obvious that the early church used the first line of Psalm 110 as part of its argument in defense of Jesus' identity and authority. Here is the crux of the argument.
The Psalms are attested to David. Tradition holds that King David wrote the collection of Psalms in the Hebrew scripture. The early church read Psalm 110 as a prophecy from David. It opens with the words, "The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool." According to the early church's interpretation, David is saying, "God said to my Lord, 'Sit at my right hand...'" Who is this "Lord" of David who is sitting at the right hand of God?
The early church read Psalm 110 as a prophecy of the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus is David's Lord who has been raised to sit at the right hand of God. This image was so important that it showed up in the Creeds.
Peter in his Pentecost sermon also quoted from Psalm 16 as a prophecy from David concerning the resurrection of the Messiah. "He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption." Peter has already alleged that David has died and was buried, and "his tomb is with us to this day." It is assumed that David's body has decayed that that David has entered Hades, one of the traditional destines presumed of the dead.
When the early church proclaimed Jesus' resurrection to Jewish neighbors, these passages from the Psalms were key points in their argument on behalf of Jesus' identity as the Messiah who was crucified and risen. They claimed that these were prophecies from David about the future Messiah -- prophecies fulfilled by the resurrection of Jesus, whose body did not experience corruption and who was raised to sit at the right hand of God.
It is likely that these proof texts weren't entirely satisfactory to their audiences. Psalm 110 is a royal psalm. It was probably written for a Judean king, possibly for a coronation. They way it reads, the first line would be spoken in the voice of the liturgist who is reading the poem for the King: "The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at my right hand..." In other words, a bard speaks, "God said to my King, 'Sit at my right hand..." The poem implies that the earthly throne which the king is to sit upon is the right hand of God, much like the Temple was seen to be the place where God dwells or an image of God's heavenly throne. A later verse in Psalm 110 gives the king priestly status, like that of the priest-king Melchizedek.
Psalm 110 concludes with a royal expectation that was not part of Jesus' mission: "He will heap high the corpses; he will smash heads over the wide earth." One of the reasons why many did not accept Jesus as Messiah is the quantity of traditional Messianic prophecies that look for the coming Messiah to be a military leader who would defeat Israel's enemies and restore the nation to international power and prominence. Jesus did not fulfill those Messianic expectations.
For some contemporary Christians, the Messianic prophecies about war and genocide are still treasured anticipations for the Messiah, just simply postponed for the second coming of Jesus. For them, Jesus, the compassionate and loving Lamb of God and Prince of Peace who broke the cycle of violence by being its non-violent victim, will come back again, but this time he will wage war and massacres creating rivers of blood to wreak judgment on every human being, except those who have professed Jesus as Lord. (And many of those liberal Christians are probably targeted for hellish revenge just like the heathen). I don't know what the appeal is on behalf of this god of genocide. But if the Jesus who returns is the same Jesus who was raised, our blood-thirsty Christians will be as disappointed as those in the first century who expected a military Messiah.
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About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.
Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html
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