Archive for the ‘August 17’ Category

Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 15, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Ark of the Covenant in the Temple of Dagon

Above:  The Ark of the Covenant in the Temple of Dagon

Image in the Public Domain

Keeping Faith

AUGUST 15, 2019

AUGUST 16, 2019

AUGUST 17, 2019


The Collect:

O God, judge eternal, you love justice and hate oppression,

and you call us to share your zeal for truth.

Give us courage to take our stand with all victims of bloodshed and greed,

and, following your servants and prophets, to look to the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,

your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45


The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 7:1, 10-26 (Thursday)

1 Samuel 5:1-12 (Friday)

1 Samuel 6:1-16 (Saturday)

Psalm 82 (All Days)

Hebrews 10:26-31 (Thursday)

Hebrews 10:32-39 (Friday)

Matthew 24:15-27 (Saturday)


God takes his stand in the divine assembly,

surrounded by the gods he gives judgement.

–Psalm 82:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


In 1 Samuel 5 and 6 Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant, which proved to be more than they knew how to handle.  Idols bowed down to the Ark.  The Ashdodites came down with what was most likely venereal disease, although other translations include hemorrhoids and the bubonic plague.  The Philistines returned the Ark promptly.

God is more than we mere mortals can handle or contain.  Some of our theological propositions are true (at least partially), but the combination of these does not equal the truth of God.  There is always a glorious mystery of divinity; one should accept and embrace it.  We ought to persevere in faith and good works, especially when doing so is difficult.  Doing the right thing during good times is easy, and every day is a good day for faith and good works.  Yet keeping faith during challenging times is when, as an old saying tells us, the rubber meets the road.  When we fail, we have an obligation to express remorse and to repent.

Writing these words and creating this post is easy.  Living these words is more difficult, however.  I have to work on that task daily.  The results vary from day to day and from time of day to time of day.  To keep trying is crucial.  To do so while trusting in God, who is always somewhat mysterious, and in the existence of grace makes succeeding more likely.











Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 15, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Stoning of St. Stephen

Above:  The Stoning of St. Stephen, by Paolo Uccello

Image in the Public Domain

Causing Dissensions and Offenses, Part I

AUGUST 16, 17, and 18, 2018


The Collect:

Ever-living God, your Son gives himself as living bread for the life of the world.

Fill us with such knowledge of his presence that we may be strengthened and sustained

by his risen life to serve you continually,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45


The Assigned Readings:

Job 11:1-20 (Thursday)

Job 12:1-25 (Friday)

Job 13:1-19 (Saturday)

Psalm 34:9-14 (All Days)

Acts 6:8-15 (Thursday)

Romans 16:17-20 (Friday)

John 4:7-26 (Saturday)


See that you never say anything wrong;

do not deceive people by telling lies.

Turn from bad behaviour to good,

try your best to live in peace.

–Psalm 34:14-15, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)


One might start by refraining from blaming victims for their plights.

The titular character of the Book of Job, the opening of that composite text informs us, suffered not because of any sin he had committed.  No, God had permitted Satan, then an employee of God in the Hebrew theology of the time, to test the loyalty of Job.  (The adversary did not become God’s rival in Jewish theology until much later.  Many readers miss that point and read the Book of Job anachronistically.)  The primary guilty party in the case of the suffering of the impatient Job, then, was God.  (The expression “the patience of Job” makes no sense to me, based on the text which bears his name.)  Job’s alleged friends, including Zophar the Naamathite, argued however that God, being just, would not permit the innocent to suffer, so Job must have done something wrong.  Job gave as good as he got, as Chapters 12 and 13 indicate:

But you invent lies;

All of you are quacks.

If you would only keep quiet

It would be considered wisdom on your part.

–Job 13:4-5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Nevertheless, much of what Job’s alleged friends said sounds like what one reads elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, especially in the Books of Psalms and Proverbs, stated authoritatively.  (Those books are too naively optimistic in places.  Of course some of those raised to follow God grow up and depart from the proper path, despite Proverbs 22:6, for example.)  These alleged friends were not entirely wrong, but they proceeded from a false assumption, one common in antiquity as well as today.  Old ideas–including demonstrably false ones–persist.  If one’s sins necessarily lead to one’s suffering, how does one explain the crucifixion of Jesus, the living bread, the living water, and the sinless one?  One must also, if one is to be intellectually thorough and honest, contend with the sufferings and martyrdoms of many faithful, mere mortals, from antiquity to current events.

There are, of course, various reasons for suffering.  The Buddhist statement that suffering results from wrong desiring covers much of that territory well.  One might suffer because of the wrong desiring of another person or because of one’s own wrong desiring.  Even that, however, does not account for the suffering one must endure apart from that with causation in wrong desiring.  Why do some children enter the world with terrible diseases with genetic causes, for example?

St. Paul the Apostle, writing in Romans 16:17, urged his audience

to keep an eye on those who cause dissensions and offenses, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

I file Zophar the Naamathite and the false witnesses against St. Stephen in that category.

A complicating factor is that “those who cause dissensions and offenses” usually do not think of themselves as such.  They might even consider themselves as righteous people, or at least as people who perform necessary, if unpleasant, deeds for the greater good.  Furthermore, you, O reader, and I might be among these people, according to others.  The only infallible judge of such matters is God.

We can attempt to act kindly, at least, and to refrain from blaming victims for their afflictions.








This is post #700 of ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS.



Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 15, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Crucifix II July 15, 2014

Above:  One of My Crucifixes

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Suffering and Triumph

AUGUST 17, 18, and 19, 2017


The Collect:

God of all peoples, your arms reach out to embrace all those who call upon you.

Teach us as disciples of your Son to love the world with compassion and constancy,

that your name may be known throughout all the earth,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 45:20-25 (Thursday)

Isaiah 63:15-19 (Friday)

Isaiah 56:1-5 (Saturday)

Psalm 67 (All Days)

Revelation 15:1-4 (Thursday)

Acts 14:19-28 (Friday)

Matthew 14:34-36 (Saturday)


Be gracious to us, O God, and bless us:

and make the light of your face to shine upon us,

that your ways may be known upon earth:

your saving power among all nations.

Let the peoples praise you, O God:

let all the peoples praise you.

–Psalm 67:1-3, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)


Why do people suffer?  The Book of Job refutes one traditional argument, the one that all suffering constitutes the consequences of sin.  Yet that argument remained alive and well in the time of Christ, who fielded questions based on this false assumption.  And that traditional argument lives today.  Often the assumption is that, if we suffer, we must have done something wrong.  The other side of that assumption is that, if we prosper, we must have done something right.  Related to this assumption are Prosperity Theology (an old heresy) and the Positive Thinking Theology (also a heresy) of Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller.  If, as Schuller has said, “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me,” the verdict on those who strive and fail is devastating and judgmental.  No, as Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, God calls us to be faithful, not successful.  To the proponents of these named heresies old and new I say,

Tell that to Jesus and all the faithful martyrs who have suffered and died for the sake of righteousness.  Also tell that, if you dare, to those who have suffered (although not fatally) for the faith.  And stop spouting such false clichés.

Yes, sometimes we suffer because of something or the accumulation of things we have done wrong.  Reality requires a nuanced explanation, however, for circumstances are more complicated than clichés.  Sometimes one suffers for the sake of righteousness as in Acts 14:22 and Revelation 15:1.  On other occasions one is merely at the wrong place at the wrong time, suffering because of the wrong desires of someone or of others who happen to be in the area.  For example, I have read news reports of people dying of gang violence while in their homes, minding their own business.  These were innocent victims not safe from bullets flying through windows.  These were non-combatants stuck in a bad situation.

A timeless message from the Book of Revelation is to remain faithful to God during times when doing so is difficult and costly, even unto death.  When we follow our Lord and Savior, who suffered and died partly because he confronted powerful people and threatened their political-economic basis of power and their social status, we follow in dangerous footsteps.  Yet he triumphed over his foes.  We can also prove victorious via him.  That victory might come at a time and in a manner we do not expect or even desire, but it is nevertheless a positive result.








Devotion for August 17 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Above:  Design Drawing for Stained-Glass Memorial Window “King David” with Jerusalem and Mount Zion

Image Source = Library of Congress

2 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part IV: The Greatest Temple



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:

2 Samuel 7:1-17

Psalm 104 (Morning)

Psalms 118 and 111 (Evening)

1 Corinthians 9:24-10:22


We read two useful lessons today.  And the psalms fit nicely with them.  The readings speak of what God has done, is doing, and will do.  There is no room for boasting in human accomplishments or insisting on human privileges in this context.  No, all is grace, and gratitude is the proper response.  One expression of this gratitude is responding favorably to God by avoiding idolatry and other destructive behaviors.  Good spiritual discipline is a wonderful “Thank you” to God.

David, in 2 Samuel 7, acted out of piety and gratitude.  He wanted to honor God.  That was good.  But God, via the prophet Nathan, sent a different message, which I paraphrase as

Thanks for desiring to build a nice temple for me, but I do not want one.   No, I will make you a founder of a great dynasty.

(I like the literary play on “house” in the passage.  David wanted to build a house for God, but God made a house of David instead.  It is a nice stylistic touch.)

Paul could have insisted on apostolic privileges yet did not do so.  Instead he disciplined himself for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and of other people.  And David also sought to honor God.  The greatest temple to God (not that I oppose glorious architecture) is a holy life.  May your life, O reader, be such a temple, by grace, of course.







Week of Proper 14: Friday, Year 2   1 comment

Above:  A Depiction of the Chaldean/Ne0-Babylonian Destruction of Jerusalem

No More Shame–Just Freedom, Love, and Gratitude

AUGUST 17, 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 16:1-15, 59-63 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The word of the LORD came to me:

O mortal, proclaim Jerusalem’s abominations to her, and say:  Thus said the Lord GOD to Jerusalem:  By origin and birth you are from the land of the Canaanites–your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite.  As for your birth, when you were born your navel cord was not cut, and you were not bathed in water to smooth you; you were not rubbed with salt, nor were you swaddled.  No one pitied you enough to do any one of these things for you out of compassion for you; on the day you were born, you were left lying, rejected, in the open field.  When I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you:  “Live in spite of your blood.”  Yea, I let you grow like the plants of the field; and you continued to grow up until you attained to womanhood, until your breasts became firm and your hair sprouted.

You were still naked and bare when I passed by you [again] and saw that your time for love had arrived.  So I spread My robe over you and covered your nakedness, and I entered into a covenant with you by oath

–declares the Lord GOD;

thus you became Mine.  I bathed you in water, and washed the blood off you, and anointed you with oil.  I clothed you with embroidered garments, and gave you sandals of dolphin leather to wear, and wound fine linen about your head, and dressed you in silks.  I decked you out in finery and put bracelets on your arms and a chain around your neck.  I put a ring in your nose, and earrings in your ears, and a splendid crown on your head.  You adorned yourself with gold and silver, and your apparel was of fine linen, silk, and embroidery.  Your food was choice flour, honey, and oil.  You grew more and more beautiful, and became fit for royalty.  Your beauty won you fame among the nations, for it was perfected through the splendor which I set upon you

–declares the Lord GOD.

But confident in your beauty and fame, you played the harlot:  you lavished your favors on every passerby; they were his.

Truly, thus said the Lord GOD:

I will deal with you as you have dealt, for you have spurned the pact and violated the covenant.  Nevertheless, I will remember the covenant I have made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish it with you as an everlasting covenant.  You shall remember your ways and feel ashamed, when you receive your older sisters and younger sisters, and I gave them to you as daughters, though they are not of your covenant.  I will establish My covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD.  Thus you shall remember and feel shame, and you shall be too abashed to open your mouth again, when I have forgiven you for all that you did

–declares the Lord GOD.


Psalm 11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  In the LORD have I taken refuge;

how then can you say to me,

“Fly away like a bird to the hilltop;

2  For see how the wicked bend the bow

and fit their arrows to the string,

to shoot from ambush at the true of heart.

3  When the foundations are being destroyed,

what can the righteous do?”

4  The LORD is in his holy temple;

the LORD’s throne is in heaven.

5  His eyes behold the inhabited world;

his piercing eye weighs our worth.

6  The LORD weighs the righteous as well as the wicked,

but those who delight in violence he abhors.

7  Upon the wicked he shall rain coals of fire and burning sulphur;

a scorching wind shall be their lot.

8  For the LORD is righteous;

he delights in righteous deeds;

and the just shall see his face.


Canticle 10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Isaiah 55:6-11 plus the Trinitarian formula

Seek the Lord while he wills to be found;

call upon him when he draws near.

Let the wicked forsake their ways

and the evil ones their thoughts;

And let them turn to the Lord, and he will have compassion,

and to our God, for he will richly pardon.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

nor your ways my ways, says the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways,

and my thoughts than your thoughts.

For as rain and snow fall from the heavens

and return not again, but water the earth,

Bringing forth life and giving growth,

seed for sowing and bread for eating,

So is my word that goes forth from my mouth;

it will not return to me empty;

But it will accomplish that for which I have purposed,

and prosper in that for which I sent it.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.


Matthew 19:3-12 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then the Pharisees arrived with a test-question.

Is it right,

they asked,

for a man to divorce his wife on any grounds whatever?

He answered,

Haven’t you read that the one who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the twain shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two separate people but one.  No man therefore must separate what God has joined together.

They retorted,

Then why did Moses command us to give a written divorce notice and dismiss the woman?

He answered,

It was because you knew so little about the meaning of love that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives!  But that was not the original principle.  I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife on any grounds except her unfaithfulness and marries some other woman commits adultery.

His disciples said to him,

If that is a man’s position with his wife, it is not worth getting married!

Jesus replied,

It is not everybody who can accept this principle–only those who have a special gift.  For some are incapable of marriage from birth, some are made incapable by the action of men, and some have made themselves so for the kingdom of Heaven.  Let the man who can accept what I have said accept it.


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.


Some Related Posts:

Regarding Divorce:


The Kingdom of Judah, according to Ezekiel 16, was like an abandoned baby girl.  God had adopted her, raised her to womanhood, adorned her, and treated her like a queen.  Yet she turned to prostitution, that is, entered into alliances with dangerous foreign nations, and even paid her lovers, that is, paid tribute to those nations.  As one continues reading, one reads of the resulting punishment and public humiliation.  And, among her sins, was not supporting the poor and needy (verse 49).  Yet, despite everything, God will establish a covenant with Judah and forgive her:

I will establish My covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD.  Thus you shall remember and feel shame, and you shall be too abashed to open your mouth again, when I have forgiven you for all that you did–declares the Lord GOD.–Ezekiel 16:62-63

Shame is a social construct.  One has only the amount of shame others assign to one.  We humans, being social animals, often internalize such standards.  Thus one must, in order to feel shame, have a sense of honor, another social construct.  Often honor overlaps with a sense of morality, definitions of which owe their shapes partly to social norms.  (In the Antebellum U.S. South, for example, many professing Christians did not consider owning slaves to be immoral.  There was even a prevailing orthodoxy which said that God condoned or commended the practice.)  It is true that sometimes–perhaps much or most of the time–when we sin, we know that we are doing that.  We have our reasons–bad ones, granted–for our actions, but we still know what we are doing.  Or we should know better, if we do not.

There are consequences of actions, but there is also the possibility of forgiveness.  The forgiven should know that they need it.  And there ought to be remorse.  But–here I differ with “Ezekiel”–there is no need to wallow in remorse or shame.  Writing as a Christian, I come from the perspective of one who acknowledges that God has taken the burden of sin away from us.  We impose it on ourselves and each other, but God first took it away from us.

So, liberated from that heavy burden, may we live in freedom and in gratitude to God.  May we love God fully, love our neighbors as ourselves, enjoy God, and glorify our Redeemer.


Week of Proper 14: Saturday, Year 1   14 comments

Above:  Nablus, Palestine, Ottoman Empire, 1898 (Built on the Site of Shechem)

Image in the Public Domain

National Holiness

AUGUST 17, 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.


Joshua 24:14-29 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Joshua said,

Now, therefore, revere the LORD and serve Him with undivided loyalty; put away the gods that your forefathers served beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.  Or, if you are loath to serve the LORD, choose this day which ones you are going to serve–the gods that your forefathers served beyond the Euphrates, or those of the Amorites in whose land you are settled; but I and my household will serve the LORD.

In reply, the people declared,

Far be it from us to forsake the LORD and serve other gods!  For it was the LORD our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, the house of bondage, and who wrought those wondrous signs before our very eyes, and guarded us all along the way we traveled and among all the peoples through whose midst we passed.  And then the LORD drove out before us all the peoples–the Amorites–that inhabited the country.  We too will serve the LORD, for He is our God.

Joshua, however, said to the people,

You will not be able to serve the LORD, for He is a holy God.  He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions and your sins.  If you forsake the LORD and serve alien gods, He will turn and deal harshly with you and make an end of you, after having been gracious to you.

But the people replied to Joshua,

No, we will serve the LORD!

Thereupon Joshua said to the people,

You are witnesses against yourselves that you have left your own act chosen to serve the LORD.

They responded,

Yes, we are!

Joshua replied,

Then put away the alien gods that you have among you and direct your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.

And the people declared to Joshua,

We will serve none but the LORD our God, and we will obey none but Him.

On that day at Shechem, Joshua made a covenant for the people and he made a fixed rule for them.  Joshua recorded all this in a book of divine instruction.  He took a great stone and set it at the foot of the oak in the sacred precinct of the LORD; and Joshua said to all the people,

See, this very stone shall be a witness against us, for it heard all the words that the LORD spoke to us; it shall be a witness against you, lest you break faith with your God.

Joshua then dismissed the people to their allotted portions.

After these events, Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of one hundred and ten years.

Psalm 16:1, 5-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you;

I have said to the LORD, “You are my Lord,

my good above all other.”

5 O LORD, you are my portion and my cup;

it is you who uphold my lot.

6 My boundaries enclose a pleasant land;

indeed, I have a goodly heritage.

7 I will bless the LORD who gives my counsel;

my heart teaches me, night after night.

8 I have set the LORD always before me;

because he is at my right hand I shall not fall.

9 My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;

my body also shall rest in hope.

10 For you will not abandon me to the grave,

nor will your holy one see the Pit.

11 You will show me the path of life;

in your presence there is fullness of joy,

and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

Matthew 19:13-15 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then some little children were brought to him, so that he could put his hands on them and pray for them.  The disciples strongly disapproved of this but Jesus said,

You must let little children come to me, and you must never stop them.  The kingdom of Heaven belongs to little children like these!

Then he laid his hands on them and walked away.


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 Hebrew Bible assumed its current form in stages.  Among these was the editing together of documents (among them J, E, P, and D) into various books, including Joshua.  This process reached completion after the return from the Babylonian Exile, hence the strong foreshadowing in certain books, such as Joshua.  Those who came out of exile and relocated to an ancestral homeland in which they had not lived understood that national apostasy had led to the decline and fall of the Jewish kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

The Enlightenment and U.S. history inform my views on the proper relationship between religion and state.  I know that colonial New England Puritans did not tolerate religious dissent, for the exiled Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson.  They also expelled the Quakers they did not execute.  The Enlightenment value of the separation of church and state is wise.  It also protects the church from state interference and religious dissidents from execution as alleged traitors.

So national holiness is not a matter of theocracy.  It is not so much an issue of policy as it is of personal behavior fostered in community.  The main principle of holiness in a social context is the Golden Rule.  How we treat others reveals much about how we value God and ourselves.  This is an affirmative statement, one intended only to point to the light.  There is no wrong in acting according to the Golden Rule, although obeying it constitutes at least what the Lutheran confessions of faith call civic righteousness, which is good yet cannot save us from ourselves.  Only God can do that, but we have an abiding obligation to serve this deity with undivided loyalty.  May we do so, by grace.

By doing this we will improve our communities, societies, and nations.  National holiness is a matter of attitudes, which translate into actions.  By reforming the way we act toward one another we can change society.  May we do so for the better.  This is what God commands us to do.