Archive for the ‘August 14’ Category

Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 14, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

Waiting for God, Part II

AUGUST 14, 2019


The Collect:

Almighty God, you sent your Holy Spirit to be the life and light of your church.

Open our hearts to the riches of your grace,

that we may be ready to receive you wherever you appear,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44


The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 33:14-26

Psalm 89:1-18

Luke 12:41-48


I shall sing the faithful love of Yahweh for ever,

from age to age my lips shall declare your constancy,

for you have said:  love is built to last for ever,

you have fixed your constancy firm in the heavens.

–Psalm 89:1-2, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


The theme of waiting for God overlaps with the theme of keeping the covenant.  Violating the covenant has dire consequences for the people of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah in the Hebrew Bible.  We read the Book of Jeremiah in the knowledge that his warnings fell mostly on deaf ears.  One obstacle to keeping the covenant is the perception that God’s timing is delayed.  Some might think that God will never keep divine promises.

Why keep divine commandments?,

they might wonder.  From that thought flows disobedience.

Such impatience is a spiritual weakness.  God (A) is never late and (B) relates to time differently than we do.  I, as a mere mortal, am unqualified to know exactly how God relates to time.  In that respect God is other and unknowable.  If God seems late, the problem is with our perception and expectations, not with God.

Learning to trust in God, often despite all we do not know, is challenging.  I do not pretend to have mastered it, for I struggle with it often.  Even the reality of those struggles is positive, for it indicates a constructive engagement with God.  It is something, at least, and something is more than nothing.  God can work with something and multiply it.











Devotion for Tuesday After Proper 14, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

The Gleaners--Gustave Dore

Above:  The Gleaners, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

Building Up Our Neighbors, Part V

AUGUST 14, 2018


The Collect:

Gracious God, your blessed Son came down from heaven

to be the true bread that gives life to the world.

Give us this bread always,

that he may live in us and we in him,

and that, strengthened by this food,

may live as his body in the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44


The Assigned Readings:

Ruth 2:1-23

Psalm 81

2 Peter 3:14-18


For this is a statute for Israel,

a law of the God of Jacob.

–Psalm 81:4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


Among the principles in the Law of Moses, alongside stoning people for a variety of offenses, from insulting parents strongly to working on the Sabbath, is providing for the poor.  Thus there is a commandment to leave some crops unharvested in one’s fields, so that poor people may acquire food.  We read in Ruth 2 that Boaz obeyed this commandment and exceeded it.  In this context we find the theme of the Book of Ruth in 2:12:  Those who seek shelter with God will find it.

2 Peter 3:14-18, the end of that epistle, exists in the context of the expectation of the Second Coming of Jesus, something which has yet to occur as of the drafting and typing of this post.  Divine patience, or waiting, the author wrote between 80 and 90 C.E., is an indication of blessing, not faithlessness.

…and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.

–2 Peter 3:15a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

As my Anabaptist brethren say, this is the age of God’s patience.  May we, therefore, occupy ourselves with the work God has assigned to us, which is, one way or another, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and to leave the world better than we found it.  May we, by grace, complete our individual parts of this great vocation (a long-term, collective effort) to the satisfaction of God, for divine glory, and for the benefit of others.








Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 14, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Job and God

Above:  God Speaking to Job; from a Byzantine Manuscript

Image in the Public Domain

Arguing Faithfully With God

AUGUST 14, 15, and 16, 2017


The Collect:

O God our defender, storms rage around and within us and cause us to be afraid.

Rescue your people from despair, deliver your sons daughters from fear,

and preserve us in the faith of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44


The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 7:11-8:5 (Monday)

Genesis 19:1-29 (Tuesday)

Job 36:24-33; 37:14-24 (Wednesday)

Psalm 18:1-19 (All Days)

2 Peter 2:4-10 (Monday)

Romans 9:14-29 (Tuesday)

Matthew 8:23-27 (Wednesday)


Faithful and pure, blameless and perfect–

yet to the crooked you show yourself shrewd.

Your holy light shines on my darkness;

my steps are guided, my vigor renewed.

Your law will shape my heart and my mind,

letting me find richest blessing.

–Martin Leckebusch, Verse 3, “Refuge and Rock,” a paraphrase of Psalm 18 in Psalms for All Seasons:  A Complete Psalter for Worship (2012)


Elihu, in the Book of Job, was a pious idiot.  He condemned Job for challenging God and was sure that the titular character of the text must have done something wrong, for surely a just deity would not permit the innocent to suffer.

The Almighty–we cannot find him;

he is great in power and justice,

and abundant righteousness he will not violate.

Therefore mortals fear him;

he does not regard any who are wise in their conceit.

–Job 37:23-24, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The Book of Job 1 and 2, had established, however, that God had permitted this suffering as a test of loyalty.  And, starting in Chapter 38, when God spoke to Job, one of the most impatient people in the Bible (despite the inaccurate cliché about the “patience of Job”), the divine reply contained no apology.

(Yes, I know of the layers of composition in the Book of Job, that Elihu’s section was not part of the original text and that the prose wraparounds came later, but I am, in this post, treating the book as a whole, as we have received the final version.)

The readings from Genesis contain parts of accounts of divine destruction of the wicked and sparing of some people in the process.  The men of Sodom were as anxious to rape women as they were to violate angels, so their issue was not homosexual orientation or practice but violence against almost anyone on two legs.  Their sin involved the opposite of hospitality in a place and at a time when the lack of hospitality could prove fatal for guests or world-be guests.  Lot was morally troublesome, for he offered his virgin daughters to the rape gang.  Those same daughters got him drunk and committed incest with him later in the chapter.  Abraham had at least negotiated with God in an attempt to save lives in Genesis 18:20-33, but Noah did nothing of the sort in his time, according to the stories we have received.

Sometimes the faithful response to God is to argue, or at least to ask, “Did I hear you right?”  The Bible contains references to God changing the divine mind and to God holding off judgment for a time.  I am keenly aware of the unavoidable anthropomorphism of the deity in the Bible, so I attempt to see through it, all the way to the reality behind it.  That divine reality is mysterious and ultimately unfathomable.  The titular character of the Book of Job was correct to assert his innocence, which the text had established already, but, in the process of doing so he committed the same error as did Elihu and the three main alleged friends; he presumed to think to know how God does or should work.

This occupies my mind as I read elsewhere (than in the mouth of Elihu or one of the three main alleged friends of Job) about the justice, judgment, and mercy of God.  I recall that the prophet Jeremiah argued with God bitterly and faithfully–often for vengeance on enemies.  I think also of the repeated cries for revenge and questions of “how long?” in the Book of Psalms and the placement of the same lament in the mouths of martyrs in Heaven in the Book of Revelation.  And I recall how often God has extended mercy to me in my ignorance, faithlessness, and panic-driven errors.  I conclude that I must continue to seek to embrace the mystery of God, rejecting temptations to accept false and deceptively easy answers as I choose the perhaps difficult alternative of a lack of an answer or a satisfactory reply instead.  God is God; I am not.  That much I know.  Nevertheless, some more answers from God might be good to have.  May the faithful argument continue.








Devotion for August 13 and 14 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  Mountains of Gilboa

Image Source = Library of Congress

1 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part VI:  Self-Control

2 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part I:  Self-Control

TUESDAY, AUGUST 13, 2019, and WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 14, 2019


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


The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 31:1-13 (August 13)

2 Samuel 1:1-27 (August 14)

Psalm 42 (Morning–August 13)

Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning–August 14)

Psalms 102 and 133 (Evening–August 13)

Psalms 1 and 33 (Evening–August 14)

1 Corinthians 7:1-24 (August 13)

1 Corinthians 7:25-40 (August 14)


Paul expected Jesus to return quite soon.   So, regarding marriage and sexuality, he advised people to remain as they were–single or married–and to place matters of God above those of the desires of one’s spouse or body.  He advised self-control while acknowledging the goodness of sexuality.  But even a good thing, not controlled, can become a distraction.

Along the way Paul wrote a number of statements one will not hear at a wedding ceremony.

To the unmarried and to widows I say this:  it is a good thing if like me they stay as they are; but if they lack self-control, they should marry.  It is better to be married than to burn with desire.

–Verses 8-9, Revised English Bible

In other words,

Marriage:  At least it is not fornication.

And we read at the end of the chapter:

Thus he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who does not marry does better.

–Verse 38, Revised English Bible

The main idea, that one must not become and/or remain distracted from God’s call on one’s life, unites the chapter.  And sexuality is a powerful human drive; it does ensure the continuation of the species and provide much pleasure.  But it, like so much else, can become a distraction from one’s divine vocation(s).

The theme of self-control continues in 1 and 2 Samuel.  Saul had tried more than once to kill David.  And the monarch had ordered the killing of people who had helped the former shepherd.  Yet David had refused to kill Saul when he had opportunities to do so.  He even lamented not only his friend, Jonathan, but Saul, after they died.  David’s self-control relative to Saul was remarkable.  It is a model to emulate.








Week of Proper 14: Tuesday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  A Shepherd

There is Hope Yet

AUGUST 14, 2018


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.


Ezekiel 2:8-3:4 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

[And He said to me,]–per 2:1

And you, mortal, heed what I say to you:  Do not be rebellious like that rebellious breed.  Open your mouth and eat what I am giving you.

As I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me, holding a written scroll.  He unrolled it before me, and it was inscribed on the front and the back; on it were written lamentations, dirges, and woes.

He said me,

Mortal, eat what is offered you; eat this scroll, and go speak to the House of Israel.

So I opened my mouth, and He gave me this scroll to eat, as He said to me,

Mortal, feed your stomach and fill your belly with this scroll that I give you.

I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey.

Then He said to me,

Mortal, go to the House of Israel and repeat My very words to them…..

Psalm 119:65-72 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

65  O LORD, you have dealt graciously with your servant,

according to your word.

66  Teach me discernment and knowledge,

for I have believed in your commandments.

67  Before I was afflicted I went astray,

but now I keep your word.

68  You are good and you bring forth good;

instruct me in your statutes.

69  The proud have smeared me with lies,

but I will keep your commandments with my whole heart.

70  Their heart is gross and fat,

but my delight is in your law.

71  It is good for me that I have been afflicted,

that I might learn your statutes.

72  The law of your mouth is dearer to me

than thousands in gold and silver.

Matthew 18:1-6, 10-14 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

It was at this time that the disciples came to Jesus with the question,

Who is really greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?

Jesus called a little child to his side and set him on his feet in the middle of them all.

Believe me,

he said,

unless you change your whole outlook and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.  It is the man who can be as humble as this little child who is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven.

Anyone who welcomes one child like this for my sake is welcoming me.  But if anyone leads astray one of these little children who believe in me he would be better off thrown into the depths of the sea with a mill-stone round his neck!…

Be careful that you never despise a single one of these little ones–for I tell you that they have angels who see my Father’s face continually in Heaven.

What do you think?  If a man has a hundred sheep and one wanders away from the rest, won’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hill-side and set out to look for the one who has wandered away?  Yes, and if he should chance to find it I assure you he is more delighted over that one than he is over the ninety-nine who never wandered away.  You can understand then that it is never the will of your Father in Heaven that a single one of these little ones should be lost.


The Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


The unifying theme for this day is hope.  In Ezekiel, God commissions the prophet to preach to a rebellious people.  The people might be rebellious, but they are not beyond repentance and forgiveness.  There is hope yet.  And the lost sheep is valuable to the shepherd.  There is hope yet.

In Handel’s Messiah, in the chorus, “For we, like sheep, have gone astray,” the voice parts wander and roam at the word “astray.”  It is a nice touch in that oratorio.  When we, as individuals, have gone astray, God seeks us out.  When we, as groups of various sizes, have gone astray, God seeks us out.  It is not too late to return.

The reading from Ezekiel does contain a fascinating detail, one worth exploring here.  The words of God were “lamentations, dirges, and woes,” yet Ezekiel reports that they “tasted as sweet as honey.”  My mind turns from this point to Psalm 19:9-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever,

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold,

more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey,

than honey in the comb.

By them is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

Psalm 19:9-11 complements Ezekiel 2:8-3:4 nicely.

We might not understand the decrees of God.  And, if we do, we might find them (or at least some of them) shocking and uncomfortable.  If so, may we become like Ezekiel, who considered them “as sweet as honey.”  Then, by words and deeds, may we proclaim the means of repentance and forgiveness to others.  There is hope yet.


Week of Proper 14: Wednesday, Year 1   14 comments

Above:  Statue of Reconciliation, Coventry Cathedral, England

Image Source = Rebecca Kennison

Judgment and Mercy

AUGUST 14, 2019


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.


Deuteronomy 34:1-12 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, the top of Pisgah, which is facing Jericho.  And YHWH showed him all of the land, Gilead to Dan, and all of Naphtali and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh and all the land of Juday to the far sea, and the Negeb and the plain, the valley of Jericho, city of palms, to Zoar.

And YHWH said to him,

This is the land that I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I’ll give it to your seed.’  I’ve caused you to see it with your eyes, but you won’t pass there.

And Moses, YHWH’s servant, died there in the land of Moab by YHWH’s mouth, and He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth Peor.  And no man knows his burial place to this day.  And Moses was a hundred twenty years old at his death.  His eye was not dim, and his vitality had not fled.

And the children of Israel mourned Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days.  And the days of weeping, the mourning of Moses, ended.  And Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him, and the children of Israel listened to him.  And they did as YHWH commanded Moses.

And a prophet did not rise again in Israel like Moses, whom YHWH knew face-to-face, with all the signs and the wonders that YHWH sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, and with all the strong hand and with all the great fear that Moses made before the eyes of all Israel.

Psalm 66:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Be joyful in God, all you lands;

sing the glory of his Name;

sing the glory of his praise.

2 Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!

because of your great strength your enemies cringe before you.

3 All the earth bows down before you,

sings to you, sings out your Name.”

4 Come now and see the works of God,

how wonderful he is in his doing toward all people.

5 He turned the sea into dry land,

so that they went through the water on foot,

and there we rejoiced in him.

6 In his might he rules for ever;

his eyes keep watch over the nations;

let no rebel rise up against him.

7 Bless our God, you peoples;

make the voice of his praise to be heard;

8 Who holds our souls in life,

and will not allow our feet to slip.

Matthew 18:15-20 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

[Jesus continued,]

But if your brother wrongs you, go and have it out with him at once–just between the two of you.  If he will listen to you, you have won him back as your brother.  But if he will not listen to you, take one or two others with you so that everything that is said may have the support of two or three witnesses.  And if he still won’t pay attention, tell the matter to the church.  And if he won’t even listen to the church then he must be to you like a pagan–or a tax-collector!

Believe me, whatever you forbid upon earth will be what is forbidden in Heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be what is permitted in Heaven.

And I tell you once more that if two of you on earth agree in asking for anything it will be granted to you by my Heavenly Father.  For wherever two or three people have come together in my name, I am there, right among them!


The Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


A balanced reading of the lesson from Matthew must consider the following text:

What causes wars, and what causes fightings among you?  Is it not your passions that are at war in your members?  You desire and do not have; so you kill.  And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war.  You do not have, because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions….Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind.  Be wretched and mourn and weep.  Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to dejection.  Humble yourselves before the Lord and will exalt you.

Do not speak evil against one another, brethren.  He that speaks evil against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law.  But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.  There is one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy.  But who are you that you judge your neighbor?

James 4:1-3, 8-12 (Revised Standard Version)

The reading from Matthew concerns how to deal with what Volume VIII of  The New Interpreter’s Bible calls “dangerously errant members” of congregations.  The advice placed in the mouth of Jesus is quite practical, granting the “dangerously errant member” opportunities at repentance and reconciliation.  As in many other places in the Bible, judgment and mercy coexist.  One needs look no farther than Matthew 18.  The chapter also includes Jesus exalting the humility of children and telling a parable of a shepherd finding a lost sheep before this day’s reading.  Afterward, the chapter contains a commandment to forgive frequently and a parable about the necessity of forgiveness and the judgment one brings on oneself by refusing to forgive.

So it is vital to find one’s center in God and to remain there, living in love for God, oneself, and one’s fellow human beings.  Therein one finds peace with all three.  That, as a spiritual mentor of mine years ago might say now, is what is really going on here.

I conclude this devotion with a prayer by Jonathan Montaldo, from Lent and Easter Wisdom from Thomas Merton:  Daily Scripture and Prayers Together with Thomas Merton’s Own Words (Liguori, MO:  Liguori, 2007), page 65:

Reconcile my heart.

Give me the grace to ask forgiveness of those I have offended

and to forgive those who have offended me.

If I cannot at least pray for everyone,

I cannot be your disciple.

What you ask of me, Lord,

is a life’s work of reconciliation.

Let me at least begin to labor at forgiveness.