Archive for the ‘August 28’ Category

Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 16, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  Christ Healing the Man with the Withered Hand

Image in the Public Domain

Compassion and the Sabbath

AUGUST 26, 2019

AUGUST 27, 2019

AUGUST 28, 2019


The Collect:

O God, mighty and immortal, you know that as fragile creatures

surrounded by great dangers, we cannot by ourselves stand upright.

Give us strength of mind and body, so that even when we suffer

because of human sin, we may rise victorious through

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46


The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 20:1-17 (Monday)

Ezekiel 20:18-32 (Tuesday)

Ezekiel 20:33-44 (Wednesday)

Psalm 109:21-31 (All Days)

Hebrews 3:7-4:11 (Monday)

Revelation 3:7-13 (Tuesday)

Luke 6:6-11 (Wednesday)


Let them know that yours is the saving hand,

that this, Yahweh, is your work.

–Psalm 109:27, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


Ezekiel 20 is a stinging indictment of an intergenerational, societal pattern of infidelity to God, who has done so much and required mere obedience in return.  In the Hebrew Bible keeping the Law of Moses is a faithful response to God.  Not observing that code, with its timeless principles and culturally specific applications thereof, leads to negative consequences in the Old Testament.  In contrast to Ezekiel 20 is Revelation 3:7-13, in which the church at Philadelphia has remained faithful in the midst of adversity.  The text encourages that congregation to remain faithful amidst hardship, a message also present in the lection from Hebrews.

Keeping the Sabbath is a related theme in some of these days’ readings.  I covered that topic in the previous post, so I will not repeat myself here.  In Luke 6:6-11 Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath.  Certain critics of our Lord and Savior accused him of having acted inappropriately, given the day.  Jesus replied that all days are good days to commit good deeds.

As I understand Jewish Sabbath laws, Jesus acted consistently with the best spirit of them.  I have heard, for example, of Jewish doctors and nurses whose work in emergency rooms (including on the Jewish Sabbath) is an expression of their faith.  As for the account in Luke 6:6-11, our Lord and Savior’s accusers were especially strict and represented one part of the spectrum of opinion regarding the question of how to keep the Sabbath.  According to a note in The Jewish Annotated New Testament (2011), the Law of Moses forbade work on the Sabbath without defining “work.”  Germane texts were Exodus 20:10; Exodus 31:14-15; and Leviticus 23:3.  Previous study has revealed to me that, at the time of Jesus, strict Jewish Sabbath regulations permitted providing basic first aid and saving a life on that day.  If saving a life was permissible on the Sabbath, why not healing on that day?

I suppose that our Lord and Savior’s accusers in Luke 6:6-11 thought they were holding fast to their obligations to God.  They erred, however, by becoming lost in details and losing sight of compassion and kindness.

May we avoid the opposite errors of caring about the wrong details in the name of piety and of not caring enough or at all.  May we act out of compassion and kindness every day of the week.











Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 16, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

The Flight with the Torah

Above:  The Flight with the Torah (1986), by Willy Gordon, outside the Great Synagogue, Stockholm, Sweden

Image in the Public Domain

Living in Community, Part II:  Peace

AUGUST 27 and 28, 2018


The Collect:

Holy God, your word feeds your people with life that is eternal.

Direct our choices and preserve us in your truth,

that, renouncing what is evil and false, we may live in you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45


The Assigned Readings:

Nehemiah 9:1-15 (Monday)

Nehemiah 9:16-31 (Tuesday)

Psalm 119:97-104 (Both Days)

Ephesians 5:21-6:9 (Monday)

Ephesians 6:21-24 (Tuesday)


How I love your law!

All day long I pore over it.

Psalm 119:97, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)


One reason for the public confession of sin in Nehemiah 9 was that, for a long time, the majority of the Hebrew people had not loved and pored over God’s law.  One principle (with culturally specific examples) of the Law of Moses was that the people had no right to exploit each other.  They were responsible to and for each other, dependent upon each other, and completely dependent upon God.  The testimony of Hebrew prophets confirmed that exploitation and other violations of the Law of Moses occurred frequently.

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

–Ephesians 5:21, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

It is a glorious passage, one which sets the context for 5:22-6:9.  Unfortunately, the author of the Letter to the Ephesians (as did the Law of Moses) accepted patriarchy and slavery.  Over time many people have cited the Law of Moses and parts of Ephesians 5:21-6:9, often quoting them selectively in the service of prooftexting, to justify the morally indefensible.  To be fair, nothing in Ephesians 5:21-6:9 gives anyone carte blanche to abuse anyone.  The opposite is true, actually.  Yet the acceptance of slavery and sexism, although not unexpected, due to the cultural settings from which these writings emerged, contradicts the Golden Rule.

A community will be a peace when its members respect the dignity of each other, acknowledge how much they depend upon each other, and act accordingly.









Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 16, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Anointing of Jesus--Pasolini

Above:  The Anointing of Jesus, from The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)

A Screen Capture via PowerDVD

Kindness, Love, and Gratitude

AUGUST 28, 29, and 30, 2014


The Collect:

O God, with all your faithful followers in every age, we praise you, the rock of our life.

Be our strong foundation and form us into the body of your Son,

that we may gladly minister to all the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45


The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 7:3-13 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 32:18-20, 28-39 (Tuesday)

Isaiah 28:14-22 (Wednesday)

Psalm 18:1-3, 20-32 (All Days)

Romans 2:1-11 (Monday)

Romans 11:33-36 (Tuesday)

Matthew 26:6-13 (Wednesday)


I love you, O Lord my strength.

The Lord is my crag, my fortress and my deliverer,

My God, the rock in whom I take refuge,

my shield, the horn of my salvation and my stronghold.

I cried to the Lord in my anguish

and I was saved from my enemies.

–Psalm 18:1-3, Common Worship (2000)


Each of the four canonical Gospels contains an account of a woman anointing Jesus–Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, Luke 7:36-50, and John 12:1-8.  The versions are sufficiently similar to indicate that they are variations on the same event yet different enough to disagree on certain details, such as chronology, at whose house the anointing happened, which part of his body the woman anointed, and the woman’s background.  These factors tell me that something occurred, but the divergence among the written accounts means that I have no way of knowing exactly what transpired in objective reality.  None of that changes one iota of the spiritual value of the stories, however.

In the Matthew account our Lord and Savior, about to die, is a the home of one Simon the leper in Bethany.  We know nothing about the woman’s background, not even her name.  In the Gospel of Luke she is an unnamed and repentant sinner, in the Gospel of John she is St. Mary of Bethany, and in the Gospel of Mark she is also an unnamed woman of whose background we know nothing.  The importance of her–whoever she was–act was that unselfish love and gratitude motivated it.  This was an extravagant and beautiful deed.  Yes, the poor will always be with us; that is an unfortunate reality.  May, through the creation of more opportunities for advancement, there be as little poverty as possible.  But, as we strive for that goal, may we never fail to recognize and give proper attention to lavish kindness, love, and gratitude.

The woman (whoever she was) had a good attitude and a pure motivation.  Most of the assigned readings for these days, however, speak of people who did not.  Their memorials were wastelands and periods of exile.  The woman’s legacy is an honored one, however.  Her act, as extravagant as it was, was as nothing compared to what God has done, is doing, and will do for all of us.  Even the most lavish act of gratitude–beautiful, to be sure, is inadequate, but God accepts it graciously.









Devotion for August 28 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments


Above:  Yoked Oxen, 1860-1900

Image Source = Library of Congress

1 Kings and 2 Corinthians, Part V: Proper Companions



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 Kings 11:1-26

Psalm 65 (Morning)

Psalms 125 and 91 (Evening)

2 Corinthians 6:1-18


Do not harness yourselves in an uneven team with unbelievers; how can uprightness and law-breaking  be partners, or what can light and darkness have in common?

–2 Corinthians 6:14, The New Jerusalem Bible


Solomon loved many foreign women in addition to Pharaoh’s daughter–Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Phoenician, and Hittite women, from the nations of which the LORD had said to the Israelites, “None of you shall join them and none of them shall join you, lest they turn your heart away to follow their gods.”  Such Solomon clung to and loved.  He had seven hundred royal wives and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned his heart away.

–1 Kings 11:1-3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


Those who study 2 Corinthians closely and honestly–critically, in the highest sense of that word–know that its arrangement is odd; someone or some people cut and pasted at least two epistles and perhaps former parts of 1 Corinthians.  Indeed, 2 Corinthians 6:11-18 is a fine example of this practice, given what precedes and succeeds it.  In fact, those verses fit neatly with 1 Corinthians 7.  A plea for open hearts precedes and follows 2 Corinthians 6:11-18, so this passage seems especially out-of-place.  This matter of cutting and pasting is a worthy matter of academic study of 2 Corinthians.  But this is a devotional blog, not one focused on academic analysis.  I mention this academic matter to indicate that I know of it and accept objective reality.  Now I move along to my main point.

As I plan these devotions, I read the assigned texts and ask one question:

What theme unites these lections?

The answer today is foolish partnerships.  Solomon’s kingdom, in one part of the narrative, of 1 Kings, began to crumble because of his faithlessness, which flowed partially from the influences of pagan, foreign women.  (May we not ignore Solomon’s weaknesses.)  The Hebrew Bible spoke elsewhere of foreign women in favorable terms.  Ruth, for example, adopted the Hebrew religion and became an ancestor of David, Solomon, and Jesus.  But Solomon’s women retained their ways and influenced him negatively.  That was one type of uneven partnership mentioned in 2 Corinthians 6.

Now I will state something obvious:  We human beings influence each other.  We are role models.  We will be role models.  But will we be good or bad ones?  Children influence each other in school.  Coworkers influence each other in offices, et cetera.  Sociologists know that there are some things people are more likely to do in a group context than alone.  The pressure to conform can be very strong, especially at certain ages and upon people with certain personality types.  Many of those who choose to resist these pressures risk bullying by insensitive conformists.

And, in the realm of romance (in which I have limited experience), people certainly influence each other.  One of the key ingredients of a healthy relationship is shared values.  I have paid close attention to relationship advice for long-term married people; they make that point.

We humans are social creatures; may we choose our companions well, so far as we have the power to decide.






Week of Proper 16: Tuesday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  Dill


AUGUST 28, 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.


2 Thessalonians 2:1-17 (The Jerusalem Bible):

To turn now, brothers, to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we shall all be gathered round him:  please do not get excited too soon or alarmed by any prediction or rumour or any letter claiming to come from us, implying that the Day of the Lord has already arrived.  Never let anyone deceive you in this way.

It cannot happen until the Great Revolt has taken place and the Rebel, the Lost One, has appeared.  This is the Enemy, the one who claims to be so much greater than all that men call ‘god’, so much greater than anything that is worshipped, that he enthrones himself in God’s sanctuary and claims that he is God.  Surely you remember me telling you this when I was with you?  And you know, too, what is still holding back from appearing before his appointed time.  Rebellion is at work already, but in secret, and the one who is holding it back has first to be removed before the Rebel appears openly.  The Lord will kill him with the breath of his mouth and will annihilate him with his glorious appearance at his coming.

But when the Rebel comes, Satan will set to work:  there will be all kinds of miracles and a deceptive show of signs and portents, and everything evil that can deceive those who are bound for destruction because they would not grasp the love of the truth which could have saved them.  The reason why God is sending a power to delude them and make them believe what is untrue is to condemn all who refused to believe in the truth and choose wickedness instead.

But we feel we must be continually thanking God for you, brothers whom the Lord loves, because God chose you from the beginning to be saved by the sanctifying Spirit and by faith in the truth.  Through the Good News that we brought he called you to this so that you should share the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Stand firm, then, brothers, and keep the traditions that we taught you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.  May our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God the Father who has given us his love and, through his grace, such inexhaustible comfort and such sure hope, comfort you and strengthen you in everything good that you do or say.

Psalm 96:7-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 Ascribe to the LORD, you families of the peoples;

ascribe to the LORD honor and power.

Ascribe to the LORD the honor due his Name;

bring offerings and come into his courts.

Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness;

let the whole earth tremble before him.

10 Tell it out among the nations:  ”The LORD is King!

he has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved;

he will judge the peoples with equity.”

11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;

let the sea thunder and all that is in it;

let the field be joyful and all that is therein.

12 Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy

before the LORD when he comes,

when he comes to judge the earth.

13 He will judge the world with righteousness

and the peoples with his truth.

Matthew 23:23-26 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Alas for you , scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who pay tithe of mint and dill and cummin and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law–justice, mercy, good faith!  These you should have practised, without neglecting the others.  You blind guides!  Straining out gnats and swallowing camels!

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who clean the outside of cup and dish and leave the inside full of extortion and intemperance. Blind Pharisee!  Clean the inside of cup and dish first so that the outside may become clean as well.


The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


There are traditions then there are traditions.

Deuteronomy 14:22 and Leviticus 27:30 required the tithing of major edible agricultural products for the support of the Levites, dedicated to religious duties.  Yet Pharisees, just one sect in the diverse landscape of First Century C.E. Palestinian Judaism, applied this rule to garden herbs, such as mind, dill, and cummin.  They were overly meticulous in the letter of the law and insisted on a form of piety most people could not afford to maintain.  Jesus valued “justice, mercy, and good faith” more highly than legalistic minutae.

We–especially those of us with personalities which make us prone to fixate on details–sometimes stare at proverbial trees so much that we forget to look up and think about the forest.  The Levites had to eat, and God had set them apart for full-time religious duties.  So Jesus did not object to the tithe on major crops for their benefit.  Yet the scale of a field is much greater than that of a garden in a small yard.  Herbs were not main crops, so the tithe law did not apply to them.  These Pharisees were fixating on a detail which did not exist as if it did, and simultaneously they failed to give sufficient attention to “justice, mercy, and good faith.”  These were traditions worth keeping.

We read in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 to stand firm in certain traditions.  This exhortation follows a reminder not to commit apostasy–in this case, to follow evil which God will defeat.  Often those who commit deeds think that they are righteous; their actions are malicious and those who commit them are terribly deluded.  Frequently a form of religion provides justification for such evil.  Most of the major religions in the world include the principle we Christians call the Golden Rule:  Do to others as you want them to do to you.  Yet the history of these religions is replete with allegedly sacred violence and holy wars.

The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus occupy the heart of Pauline Christology.  With the resurrection we see God demonstrating the extent of divine power to overcome the works of evil.  People could kill Jesus unjustly, but God could resurrect him.  This ought to indicate the end of “sacred violence” and of scapegoating, but we humans (some of us, anyway) continues these erroneous traditions.  Instead, may we abandon such traditions and practice the traditions of loving one another, comforting each other, giving each other reasons for legitimate hope, and practicing “justice, mercy, and good faith” daily.


Week of Proper 16: Wednesday, Year 1   10 comments

Above: Paul Writing His Epistles (1500s)

Image in the Public Domain

A Living Power Among You Who Believe It

AUGUST 28, 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.


1 Thessalonians 2:9-13 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Let me remind you, brothers, how hard we used to work, slaving night and day so as not to be a burden on any one of you while we were proclaiming God’s Good News to you.  You are witnesses, and so is God, that our treatment of you, since you became believers, has been impeccably right and fair.  You can remember how we treated every one of you as a father treats his children, teaching you what was right, encouraging you and appealing to you to live a life worthy of God, who is calling you to share the glory of his kingdom.

Another reason why we constantly thank God for you is that as soon as you heard the message that we brought you as God’s message, you accepted it for what it really is, God’s message and not some human thinking; and it is still a living power among you who believe it.

Psalm 126 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,

then were we like those who dream.

2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy.

3 Then they said among the nations,

“The LORD has done great things for them.”

4 The LORD has done great things for us,

and we are glad indeed.

5 Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the watercourses of the Negev.

6 Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

7 Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,

will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

Matthew 23:27-32 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who are like whitewashed tombs that look handsome on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of corruption.  In the same way you appear to people from the outside like honest men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who build the sepulchres of the prophets and decorate the tombs of holy men, saying, ‘We would never have joined in shedding the blood of the prophets, had we lived in our fathers’ day.’  So!  Your own evidence tells against you!  You are the sons of those who murdered the prophets!  Very well then, finish off the work that your fathers began.


The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Contact with a corpse made one ritually unclean (Numbers 19:16).  So imagine that it is the month of Adar, and that you, O reader, are a pilgrim in Jesus’ day traveling to Jerusalem for the Passover.  You might become ritually unclean, and therefore ineligible to celebrate Passover, if you come into contact with a roadside tomb.  Fortunately for you, people have whitewashed the tombs in advance, so they will stand out, and pilgrims will not become ritually unclean by accident.

This is the reference to whitewashed tombs in Matthew 23.  But Jesus says that hypocritical professional religious people who lay needless burdens on the faithful are the whitewashed tombs; the scribes and Pharisees are themselves unclean.  How is that for a strong condemnation, one that hits home?  And these scribes and Pharisees are the spiritual heirs of those who have persecuted and killed prophets of God.  At this point in Matthew Jesus is nearing his own death, in which professional religious people were complicit.  (But let us not let the Romans off the hook, for the Procurator authorized the execution and soldiers carried it out.)

This day’s reading from 1 Thessalonians begins with Paul defending himself against unfounded criticisms.  Why else would he have pointed to his work ethic and his treatment of others?  Here we have an example of an old truth:  Whatever you do, somebody is likely to criticize you.  But the part of the reading that attracts my attention is verse 13:  God’s message is a living power among those who believe it.  Belief is trust; it indicates an influence in how one lives.  So belief becomes evident in actions.

The fault of the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus criticized was that their belief was self-serving.  It made them look good to themselves and many others, but it was a disguise for spiritual rot.  Jesus calls us not to be tombs or spiritual memorials, but living testimonies to him.  Once in a while we might have to say something, but our actions ought to do most of the talking.

The aspect of evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity that bothers me most is its preoccupation with individual salvation at the expense of the well-being of one’s community and society.  I have had conversations with people possessed of this spiritual understanding.  Many of them do not care if the world burns; they have Jesus.  (Someone expressed this sentiment to me a few years ago, without embarrassment.)  According to this point of view, social justice can take a back seat as long as a man’s hair is not too long, a woman’s skirt is not too short, and someone is learning that he or she will go to Hell unless he or she comes to Jesus.  Without dismissing the necessity of Jesus (I am a Christian.), I prefer a holistic gospel.  It is pointless to cure one person of spiritual sickness and not care about societal ills.  Indeed, we humans are not separate from our societies.  And love of God is more effective than fear of damnation in drawing one into a spiritually healthy relationship with God.

Disclaimer, for the sake of accuracy:  Many evangelical Christians are quite concerned about social justice and responsible ecology.  I applaud them.  Unfortunately, some of their co-religionists criticize them for the breadth of their concerns.

May we–you and I–exhibit the living power of God to all, so that all who seek it and cross paths with us will see it working within us.  And, to borrow a line from St. Francis of Assisi, may we preach the gospel at all times, using words when necessary.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.