Archive for the ‘August 30’ Category

Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 17, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  Vegetables

Image in the Public Domain

Nobility and Love

AUGUST 29 and 30, 2019


The Collect:

O God, you resist those who are proud and give grace those who are humble.

Give us the humility of your Son, that we may embody

the generosity of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46


The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 15:13-17 (Thursday)

Proverbs 18:6-12 (Friday)

Psalm 112 (Both Days)

1 Peter 3:8-12 (Thursday)

1 Peter 4:7-11 (Friday)


How blessed is anyone who fears Yahweh,

who delights in his commandments!

–Psalm 112:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


These days’ readings, taken together, extol humility, love, and recognition of complete dependence upon God.  As one saying from Proverbs states eloquently,

Better a meal of vegetables where there is love

Than a flattened ox where there is hate.

–15:17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Like unto that is the commandment to

maintain constant love for one another

–1 Peter 4:8a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989),

which is consistent with the ethic of human responsibilities to and for each other, as in the Law of Moses.

Pride (hubris) goes before the fall.  Humility is frequently difficult also, but it is the better path.  Yes, each of us bears the image of God, but each of us also carries an imperfect nature.  Depravity is not even an article of faith for me, for I have evidence for it, and therefore require no faith to recognize the reality of it.  Nevertheless, as I heard growing up, God did not make any garbage.  Yes, we humans are equally capable of both nobility and depravity, of love and of death.  May we, by grace, succeed more often than not in following the paths of nobility and love.

St. Paul the Apostle offered timeless wisdom in his Letter to the Romans:

Never pay back evil for evil.  Let your aims be such as all count honourable.  If possible, so far as it lies with you, live at peace with all.  My dear friends, do not seek revenge, but leave a place for divine retribution; for there is a text which reads, “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will repay.”  But there is another text:  “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; by doing so you will heap live coals on his head.”  Do not let evil conquer you, but use good to conquer evil.

–12:17-21, The Revised English Bible (1989)

That passage cites Leviticus 19:18 and Proverbs 25:21-22.  It is also compatible with Matthew 5:43-48.

St. Paul summarized an essential part of Christian ethics better than my capacity to paraphrase it.  For that reason I leave you, O reader, with those noble words.











Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 17, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  The Adoration of the Golden Calf, by Nicolas Poussin

Image in the Public Domain

Cleansing from Evil that Arises Within Ourselves, Part I

AUGUST 30 and 31, 2018


The Collect:

O God our strength, without you we are weak and wayward creatures.

Protect us from all dangers that attack us from the outside,

and cleanse us from the outside,

and cleanse us from all evil that arises from within ourselves,

that we may be preserved through your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 32:1-14 (Thursday)

Exodus 32:15-35 (Friday)

Psalm 15 (Both Days)

James 1:1-8 (Thursday)

James 1:9-16 (Friday)


Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle?

Who may rest upon your holy hill?

Whoever leads an uncorrupt life

and does the thing that is right;

Who speaks the truth from the heart

and bears no deceit on the tongue;

Who does no evil to a friend

and pours no scorn on a neighbour;

In whose sight the wicked are not esteemed,

but who honours those who fear the Lord.

Whoever has sworn to a neighbour

and never goes back on that word;

Who does not lend money in hope of gain,

nor takes a bribe against the innocent;

Whoever does these things shall never fall.

–Psalm 15, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)


The theme of this post comes from the collect.  May God cleanse us from all evil that arises from within ourselves.  This evil manifests itself in many forms, such as greed, exploitation, needless violence, callousness to the lack of necessities, et cetera.  The author of the Letter of James encouraged people to endure doubt and temptation.  Doubts arise from within, and temptations come from many points of origin.  How one deals with temptations points to one’s inner life, however.

Today’s example of that principle comes from Exodus 32.  The purpose of the golden calf was to replace Moses, not God.  Moses had been away on the mountain so long that many people feared that they had lost their conduit to God.  That conduit was Moses.  He returned, of course, and was livid because of what he saw, as he should have been.  The slave mentality thrived in the recently liberated people.  Theology of God has changed from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation, a fact which explains many otherwise confusing purposes and incidents.  I admit that reality while I affirm that the full revelation of God is the one we have received via Jesus of Nazareth, God incarnate, fully human and fully divine.  Yes, we humans use mortal and immortal intercessors–even in Christianity.  I have, for example, asked people I know to pray for me, family members, et cetera.  I have even asked Mother Mary to intercede.  (And I grew up as a good United Methodist boy!)  No, I do not need any intercessor apart from Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but I like the other intercessors also.

The Hebrews in Exodus 32 did not need Moses, any other mortal, a golden calf, or anything else to function as a conduit to God for them.  They needed no conduit at all.  No, they needed to approach God humbly as free people, not as slaves in their minds, murmuring and rebelling often.  From faithful confidence they would have gained endurance during difficult times.  Then they would have resisted temptations more easily.









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 30 and 31 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments


Above:  Design Drawing for Stained-Glass Window with Elijah

Image Source = Library of Congress

1 Kings and 2 Corinthians, Part VII:  The Face of God

FRIDAY, AUGUST 30, 2019, and SATURDAY, AUGUST 31, 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 Kings 12:20-13:5, 33-34 (August 30)

1 Kings 16:29-17:24 (August 31)

Psalm 86 (Morning–August 30)

Psalm 122 (Morning–August 31)

Psalms 6 and 19 (Evening–August 30)

Psalms 141 and 90 (Evening–August 31)

2 Corinthians 8:1-24 (August 30)

2 Corinthians 9:1-15 (August 31)


The political narratives of the royal houses of Israel and Judah continue in 1 Kings 12-16.  In the northern Kingdom of Israel, as the story goes, old habits of faithlessness continued and dynasties came and went.  One of the more common means of becoming king was assassinating the previous one.

The narratives build up to the Omri Dynasty and the stories of the prophet Elijah.  Today’s Elijah story concerns a drought, a desperately poor widow, and the raising of her son from the dead.  God, via Elijah, provided for the widow.  That story dovetails nicely with 2 Corinthians 8-9, with its mention of fundraising for Jerusalem Christians and exhortation to generosity, cheerful giving, and trusting in God to provide that which one can give to help others.  In other words, we are to be the face of God to each other.  When God helps others, one of us might be a vehicle for that aid.

To whom is God sending you, O reader?  And which person or persons is God sending to you?






Week of Proper 16: Thursday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  Second Coming Icon

Great Expectations

AUGUST 30, 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.


1 Corinthians 1:1-9 (The Jerusalem Bible):

I, Paul, appointed by God to be an apostle, together with brother Sosthenes, send greetings to the church of God in Corinth, to the holy people of Jesus Christ, who are called to take their place among the saints everywhere who pray to our Lord Jesus Christ; for he is their Lord no less than ours.  May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send you grace and peace.

I never stop thanking God for all the graces you have received through Jesus Christ.  I thank him that you have been enriched in so many ways, especially in your teachers and preachers; the witness to Christ has indeed been strong among you so that you will not be without any of the gifts of the Spirit while you are waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed; and he will keep you steady and without blame until the last day, the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, because God by calling you has joined you to his Son, Jesus Christ; and God is faithful.

Psalm 145:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

I will exalt you, O God my King,

and bless your Name for ever and ever.

Every day I will bless you

and praise your Name for ever and ever.

3 Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;

there is no end to his greatness.

4 One generation shall praise your works to another

and shall declare your power.

I will ponder the glorious splendor of your majesty

and all your marvelous works.

They shall speak of the might of your wondrous acts,

and I will tell of your greatness.

They shall publish the remembrance of your great goodness;

they shall sing of your righteous deeds.

Matthew 24:42-51 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

So stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming.  You may be quite sure of this that if the householder had known at what time of the night the burglar would come, he would have stayed awake and would not have allowed anyone to break through the wall of his house.  Therefore, you too must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

What kind of servant, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give him their food at the proper time?  Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment.  I tell you solemnly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the dishonest servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time,” and sets about beating his fellow servants and drinking with drunkards, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know.  The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as hypocrites, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.


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.


Some Related Posts:

O Lord, You Gave Your Servant John:

Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life:


The sources I have consulted date the composition of 1 Corinthians to Fall 53-Winter 54 C.E.  Paul and many other early Christians expected that Jesus would return very shortly–probably within their lifetimes.  This fact functions as invaluable context for much of the Pauline tradition.  Why did Paul not advocate the abolition of slavery, for example?  Maybe it was because of the expectation that God would take care of such details quite soon.

Paul did, however, advocate remaining active in communal life (1 Thessalonians 5:14) while living in watchfulness for the parousia of Jesus.  Furthermore, as we read in the introduction to 1 Corinthians, Paul encouraged his fellow Christians to be “steady and without blame until the last day, the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Jesus had not returned by 85 C.E.  The first generation of Christians was almost entirely dead, the Temple at Jerusalem was gone, and the Roman Empire was firmly in control.  Old expectations had not predicted the new reality.  In that context, “Matthew” told his congregation that

the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

So one ought not, “Matthew” says, mistake the Lord’s perceived tardiness as an excuse to shirk one’s duty.

As I write these words in late 2011, expect to die (whenever that will happen) without witnessing the parousia.  It has been almost two thousand years since the original expectations.  Yet the advice from Paul and “Matthew” remain germane to me:  I have work to do–skills and talents to use for the common good and  a life to live for the glory of God.  There are people to whom I ought to reach out.  God will attend to matters of prophesy; I have people to love int he name of God.  This is the work of all of us who claim the label “Christian.”  May we never shirk that duty.


Week of Proper 16: Friday, Year 1   12 comments

Above: The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (1838-1842), by Friedrich Wilhelm Schadow (1788-1862)

Image in the Public Domain

Individual Faith, in Community Context

AUGUST 30, 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 4:1-8 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Finally, brothers, we urge you and appeal to you in the Lord Jesus Christ to make more and more progress in the kind of life that you are meant to live:  the life that God wants, as you learnt from us, and as you are already living it.  You have not forgotten the instructions that we gave you on the authority of the Lord Jesus.

What God wants is for you all to be holy.  He wants you to keep away from fornication, and each one of you to know how to use the body that belongs to him in a way that is holy and honourable, not giving way to selfish lust like the pagans who do not know God.  He wants nobody to at all ever to sin by taking advantage of a brother in these matters; the Lord always punishes sins of that sort, as we told you before and assured you.  We have been called by God to be holy, not to be immoral; in other words, anyone who objects is not objecting to a human authority, but to God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.

Psalm 97 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The LORD is King;

let the earth rejoice;

let the multitude of the isles be glad.

2 Clouds and darkness are round about him,

righteousness and justice are the foundations of his throne.

3 A fire goes before him

and burns up his enemies on every side.

4 His lightnings light up the world;

the earth sees it and is afraid.

5 The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the LORD,

at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.

6 The heavens declare his righteousness,

and all the peoples see his glory.

7 Confounded be all who worship carved images

and delight in false gods!

Bow down before him, all you gods.

8 Zion hears and is glad, and the cities of Judah rejoice,

because of your judgments, O LORD.

9 For you are the LORD,

most high over all the earth;

you are exalted far above all gods.

10 The LORD loves those who hate evil;

he preserves the lives of the saints

and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

11 Light has sprung up for the righteous,

and joyful gladness for those who are truehearted.

12 Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous,

and give thanks to his holy Name.

Matthew 25:1-13 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Jesus said,

Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this:  Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish and five sensible:  the foolish ones did take their lamps, but they brought no oil, whereas the sensible ones took flasks of oil as well as their lamps.  The bridegroom was late, and they all grew drowsy and fell asleep.  But at midnight there was a cry.  ‘The bridegroom is here!  Go out and meet him.’  At this, all those bridesmaids woke up and trimmed their lamps, and the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some of your oil:  our lamps are going out.’  But they replied, ‘There may not be enough for us and for you; you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves.’  They had gone off to buy it when the bridegroom arrived.  Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding hall and the door was closed.  The other bridesmaids arrived later.  ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us.’  But he replied, ‘I tell you solemnly, I do not know you.’  So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.


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.


This day’s readings flow naturally from those for the previous day; the theme continues to have an eschatological root.

The wedding custom to which Jesus refers in Matthew 25 is one in which a wedding was a week-long event.  Bridesmaids kept the bride company until the bridegroom arrived.  But nobody knew when the bridegroom would arrive, so the wise bridesmaid was prepared with a lit lamp and spare oil.  And nobody was allowed to process to the wedding without a lit lamp.  Once the doors closed, those who were in were in and those were outside were outside.

Jesus, of course, is the bridegroom, and each of us is a bridesmaid.  The oil stands in for a right relationship with God.  Nobody can borrow this from anyone else.  This relationship with God is in faith community; it is not hyper-individualistic.  But each person must take responsibility for his or her faith life.  Hence the Church has incorporated the balance of individual and community into its rites for baptism, confirmation, and reaffirmation of faith.

The reading from 1 Thessalonians also pertains to marriage.  Paul cautions the recent converts to Christianity to avoid promiscuity, which was apparently common among many pagans.  The reference to taking advantage of a brother refers to wrecking his marriage by luring his wife away from him, hence leading to divorce, or by merely committing adultery with his wife.  Either way, the result was negative.

The subtext is this:  What we do affects others.  All that we do, for good or for ill, we do in community.  And we are how we think; our attitudes influence our actions.  So proper regard for each other is the first link in a chain that leads to a healthy community and society.  We cannot borrow this attitude from anyone else; we must take responsibility for it ourselves.

And who are our neighbors, brothers, and sisters?  All persons are our neighbors, brothers, and sisters.  On that day when God asks us if we have loved them as ourselves, may we be able to say honestly that we have tried more often than not.  Until then, imagine what the world would like if more people followed this ethic.  Then try to make it look more like that.