Archive for the ‘July 13’ Category

Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 10, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Nicodemus and Jesus on a Rooftop

Above:  Jesus and Nicodemus on a Rooftop, by Henry Ossawa Tanner

Image in the Public Domain

Timeless Principles

JULY 13, 2019


The Collect:

O Lord God, your mercy delights us, and the world longs for your loving care.

Hear the cries of everyone in need, and turn our hearts to love our neighbors

with the love of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42


The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 19:1-4, 32-37

Psalm 25:1-10

John 3:16-21


Direct me in your paths, Yahweh,

and teach me your paths.

Encourage me to walk in your truth and teach me

since you are the God who saves me.

–Psalm 25:4-5, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


The lection from Leviticus 19 commands the keeping of all of God’s laws.  The specific orders in the designated verses are:

  1. To belong to God (literally, to be holy),
  2. To honor one’s parents,
  3. To keep the Sabbath,
  4. To refrain from idolatry,
  5. To respect the elderly,
  6. To love strangers as one loves oneself, and
  7. To deal honestly in business.

In other words, God should be in all that one does.  These are some examples of how to live according to that principle, how to walk in the light, not the darkness.

Some people accused Jesus of violating the first and third items on the list above.  According to some, our Lord and Savior was in league with evil forces and committed blasphemy.  Furthermore, Jesus allegedly violated the Sabbath when he gathered food or healed someone on that day.  Were hunger and illness holy!

Timeless principles have culturally specific examples.  A common exegetical error is to confuse an example for a principle.  Legalism takes hold needlessly and unfortunately.  The grand organizing principles to follow are:

  1. Everybody depends on God completely,
  2. We depend on each other,
  3. We are responsible to each other,
  4. We are responsible for each other, and
  5. We have no right to exploit each other.

All of those principles are compatible with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Fulfilling a goal as lofty as obeying God’s laws is impossible by human power alone.  Fortunately, we do not need to rely on our own power, for we have access to grace.  May we accept that grace and its accompanying obligations relative to other people.








Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 10, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Amos and Obadiah

Above:  An Icon of the Prophets Amos and Obadiah

Image in the Public Domain

The Call of God, With All Its Responsibilities

JULY 12, 13, and 14, 2018


The Collect:

O God, from you come all holy desires,

all good counsels, and all just works.

Give to us, your servants, that peace which the world cannot give,

that our hearts may be set to obey your commandments,

and also that we, being defended from the fear of our enemies,

may live in peace and quietness,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42


The Assigned Readings:

Amos 2:6-16 (Thursday)

Amos 3:1-12 (Friday)

Amos 4:6-13 (Saturday)

Psalm 85:8-13 (All Days)

Colossians 2:1-5 (Thursday)

Colossians 4:2-18 (Friday)

Luke 1:57-80 (Saturday)


I will listen, O LORD God, to what you are saying,

for you are speaking peace to your faithful people

and those who turn their hearts to you.

Truly, your salvation is very near to those who fear you,

that your glory may dwell in our land.

Mercy and truth have met together;

righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Truth shall spring up from the earth,

and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

O LORD, you will indeed grant prosperity,

and our land will yield its increase.

Righteousness shall go before you,

and peace shall be a pathway for your feet.

–Psalm 85:8-13, Book of Common Worship (1993)


At the risk of sounding like Peter Parker’s uncle Ben, I repeat the old statement that great responsibility accompanies great ability.  In the Book of Amos the Hebrew nation had squandered opportunities to be a light to the nations.  They had fallen into idolatry, economic injustice, and attempts to stifle prophecy, among other sins.  As Amos announced, God was quite upset:

Hear this word, O people of Israel,

That the LORD has spoken concerning you,

Concerning the whole family that I brought up from the land of Egypt:

You alone have I singled out

Of all the families of the earth–

That is why I call you to account

For all your iniquities.

–Amos 3:1-2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The hope which Psalm 85:8-13 expressed seemed far removed from reality.

Turning to the pericopes from the New Testament, St. Paul the Apostle, St. Mary of Nazareth, and St. John the Baptist lived up to their responsibilities.  St. Paul (who might have even written or dictated the Letter to the Colossians) and St. John the Baptist gave their lives for God.  Our Blessed Mother raised the Son of God properly with the able help of St. Joseph and experienced great heartache prior to her Assumption into Heaven.

The call of God, with all its responsibilities, carries great risks, joys, sorrows, and rewards.  I, as a Christian, follow Jesus, who gave everything.  Dare I shirk my responsibilities and offer excuses instead?









Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 10, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Cyrus II

Above:  King Cyrus II of Persia

Image in the Public Domain

Divine Judgment and Mercy

JULY 13 and 14, 2017


The Collect:

Almighty God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your word.

By your Holy Spirit help us to receive it with joy,

live according to it, and grow if faith and love,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 48:1-5 (Thursday)

Isaiah 49:6-11 (Friday)

Psalm 65:[1-8], 9-13 (Both Days)

Romans 2:12-16 (Thursday)

Romans 15:14-21 (Friday)


You are to be praised, O God, in Zion;

to you shall vows be performed in Jerusalem.

To you that hear prayer shall all flesh come,

because of their transgressions.

Our sins are stronger than we are,

but you will blot them out.

–Psalm 65:1-3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


I recall a hypothetical situation I heard while growing up:  There is a man whom God is drawing to God’s self.  This man responds positively to these summons, but he dies before he can make a profession of Christian faith, much less accept baptism.  Where does he spend his afterlife?

One’s answer reveals quite a bit about one’s theology.  I, unlike, certain others, refuse to relegate the man to Hell.  He was, after all, responding faithfully to God.  The man might not have been able to provide their proper answers according to a catechism, but he was not rebelling against God.  Would not God be faithful to the man who had obeyed him each step along the way?  And, as the author of the Letter of James would confirm, not everybody who can give the correct catechetical answer will make the heavenly cut.  I recall that from Matthew 25:31-46 also.

In God abide both judgment and mercy.  The combined reading from Isaiah 48 makes this point succinctly.  St. Paul the Apostle agrees.  And, regarding the centrality of Christ to salvation for Gentiles, I agree while being reluctant to make sweeping and probably inaccurate judgments.  No, I prefer to err on the side of mercy if I must be wrong.  Besides, that decision rests with God alone, not with any of us, mere mortals.

I find, as is so often true in my experience, that The Book of Common Prayer (1979) provides helpful prayers and theology.  The Good Friday service includes this on page 279 of the Prayer Book:

Let us pray for all who have not received the Gospel of Christ;

For those who have never heard the word of salvation

For those who have lost their faith

For those hardened by sin or indifference

For the contemptuous and the scornful

For those who are enemies of the cross of Christ and persecutors of his disciples

For those who in the name of Christ have persecuted others

That God will open their hearts to the truth, and lead them to faith and obedience.

Then, on the next page, we find this:

Let us commit ourselves to our God, and pray for the grace of a holy life, that, with all who have departed this world and have died in the peace of Christ, and those whose faith is known to God alone, we may be accounted worthy to enter into the fullness of the joy of our Lord, and receive the crown of life in the day of resurrection.

May we, without mistaking Universalism for reality, never give short shrift to divine mercy.  Likewise, may we avoid the same error regarding divine judgment.







Devotion for July 13 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  Saint Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

Judges and Galatians, Part II:  Obligations



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:

Judges 13:1-25

Psalm 61 (Morning)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening)

Galatians 2:1-21


The call of God on one’s life imposes some obligations and lifts others.  This theme plays out in Judges 13, the account which culminates in the birth of the judge Samson, designated to end the Philistine oppression of the Israelites.  He was supposed to obey rules governing hair and wine.  Yet the lifting of the obligation of male circumcision is a prominent part of Galatians 2.  The mandate to care for the poor remains, however.  Our justification is in Christ, Paul wrote, so “saving justice” does not come from the Law of Moses.  This principle did not apply to Samson for reasons of chronology.

We are not our own; no, we belong to God. Sometimes God’s call on our lives requires us to abandon certain traditions, such as the prohibition against table fellow ship with Gentiles in Galatians 2.  Yet, when one reads the other account of the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, one finds some old rules which continue to apply:

…to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from illicit marriages.

–Acts 15:29, The New Jerusalem Bible

But circumcision ceases to be obligatory.

As I have written already, male circumcision is a traditional part of Jewish identity.  Recent (as of 2012) international disputes regarding the practice reinforce this point.  But an outward sign which few people will see is not more important than public acts of compassion, such as caring effectively for the poor in the name of God.  A hokey song whose music and shallow, repetitive words I despise does at least convey a simple truth nevertheless:

They’ll know we are Christians by our love.







Week of Proper 9: Thursday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 9: Friday, Year 2   4 comments

The Return of the Prodigal Son

Image Source = FranzMayerstainedglass

Divine Love

JULY 12 and 13, 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.


I have decided to combine the posts for Thursday and Friday, Year 2, of the Week of Proper 9 because, upon reading and considering the texts for Friday, I have concluded that I have nothing new to say about them.  The biblical themes keep repeating themselves.



Hosea 11:1-11 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

I fell in love with Israel

When he was still a child;

And I have called [him] My son

Ever since Egypt.

Thus were they called,

But they went their own way;

They sacrifice to Baalim

And offer to carved images.

I have pampered Ephraim,

Taking them in My arms;

But they have ignored

My healing care.

I drew them with human ties,

With cords of love;

But I seemed to them as one

Who imposed a yoke on their jaws,

Though I was offering them food.


They return to the land of Egypt,

And Assyria is their king.

Because they refuse to repent,

A sword shall descend upon their towns

And consume their limbs

And devour [them] because of their designs.

For My people persists

In its defection from Me;

When it is summoned upward,

It does not rise at all.

How can I give you up, O Ephraim?

How surrender you, O Israel?

How can I make you like Admah,

Render you like Zeboiim?

I have had a change of heart,

All My tenderness is stirred.

I will not act on My wrath,

Will not turn to destroy Ephraim.

For I am God, not man,

The Holy One in your midst:

I will not come in fury.

The LORD will roar like a lion,

And they shall march behind Him;

When he roars, His children shall come

Fluttering out of the west.

They shall flutter from Egypt like sparrows,

From the land of Assyria like doves;

And I will settle them in their homes

–declares the LORD.


Hosea 14:2-10 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God,

For you have fallen because of your sin.

Take words with you

And return to the LORD.

Say to Him:

Forgive all guilt

And accept what is good;

Instead of bulls we will pay

[The offering of] our lips.

Assyria shall not save us,

No more will we ride on steeds,

Nor ever again will we call

Our handiwork our god,

Since in You alone orphans find pity!

I will heal their affliction,

Generously will I take them back in love;

For My anger has turned away from them.

I will be to Israel like dew;

He shall blossom like the lily,

He shall strike root like a Lebanon tree.

His boughs shall spread out far,

His beauty shall be like the olive tree’s,

His fragrance like that of Lebanon.

They who sit in his shade shall be revived:

They shall bring to life new grain,

They shall blossom like the vine;

His scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

Ephraim [shall say]:

What more have I to do with idols?

When I respond and look to Him,

I become like a verdant cyprus.

Your fruit is provided by Me.

He who is wise will consider these words,

He who is prudent will take note of them.

For the paths of the LORD are smooth;

The righteous can walk on them,

While sinners stumble on them.


Psalm 80:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock;

shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.

2  In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh,

stir up your strength and come to help us.

3  Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

4  O LORD God of hosts,

how long will you be angered

despite the prayers of your people?

5  You have fed them with the bread of tears;

you have given them bowls of tears to drink.

6 You have made us the derision of our neighbors,

and our enemies laugh us to scorn.

7  Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.


Psalm 51:1-12 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness;

in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

2 Wash me through and through from my wickedness

and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you only have I sinned

and done what is evil in your sight.

5 And so you are justified when you speak

and upright in your judgment.

Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth,

a sinner from my mother’s womb.

7 For behold, you look for truth deep within me,

and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure;

wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

Make me hear of joy and gladness,

that the body you have broken may rejoice.

10 Hide your face from my sins

and blot out all my iniquities.

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence

and take not your holy Spirit from me.


Matthew 10:7-23 (An American Translation):

[Jesus said to his disciples,]

And as you go about, preach and say, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”  Cure the sick, raise the dead, heal lepers, drive out demons.  Give without payment, just as you received without payment.  Do not take gold or silver or copper money in your purses, and do not take a bag for your journey, nor two shirts, nor shoes, nor a staff, for the workman deserves his food!  Whatever town or village you come to, inquire for some suitable person, and stay with him till you leave the place.  And as you go into his house, wish it well.  If the house deserves it, the peace you wish it will come over it, but if it does not deserve it, let your blessing come back upon yourselves.  And where no one will welcome you, or listen to you, leave that house or town and shake off its very dust from your feet.  I tell you, the land of Sodom and Gomorrah will fare better on the Day of Judgment than that town.

Here I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  So you must be wise as serpents, and guileless like doves.  But be on your guard against men, for they will give you up to their courts, and have you flogged in their synagogues, and you will be brought before governors and kings on my account, to bear your testimony before them and the heathen.  But when they give you up, you must have no anxiety about how to speak or what to say, for you will be told at the very moment what you ought to say, for it is not you who will speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father that will speak through you.  One brother will give up another to death, and a father his child, and children will turn against their parents, and have them put to death.  You will be hated by everybody on my account, but the man who holds out to the very end will saved.  But when they persecute you in one town, make your escape to another, for I tell you, you will have not gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man arrives.


The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; 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:

Week of Proper 9:  Thursday, Year 1:

Week of Proper 9:  Friday, Year 1:


In Hosea we have another metaphor for the relationship between God and the rebellious people:  parent and child.  Despite the ingratitude on one side and anger on the other, divine love remains.  Elsewhere in Hosea we read of God as the jilted husband.  The constant factor, however, is divine love.

So the rebellious people must face the consequences of their actions yet will not face annihilation.  This stands in contrast to other groups, which perished utterly.  As a Christian, I accept that God loved them also.  Yes, the violent depictions of God in the Bible disturb me; I will neither excuse nor ignore them.  My understanding of God comes from the person of Jesus, who said to love one’s enemies and to pray for one’s persecutors.

Nevertheless the main point remains the love of God (expressed via various metaphors) for us.  May we reciprocate.  May we love the image of God in our fellow human beings. This is often difficult, for anger is a powerful emotion.  Yet love is more powerful, not to mention much healthier.

I can think of a few people I need to contemplate in compassionate and loving ways, not with wrath and indignation.  You, O reader, can probably do the same within your context.  Empowered by grace, may we love not only God and those we like, but also those we dislike, perhaps intensely.  God is also their parent.

I think also of the Prodigal Son’s father.  The father, a stand-in for God, permits the foolish son to make his mistakes then to come home.  The father watches for his son, whom he welcomes back into the fold.  Then the other son, the dutiful one who stayed home, did not welcome his brother back, however.  Who are you in this story?  Are you resentful, not greeting those who have amended their ways?  Or have you come to your senses and corrected your ways?  Maybe the parental role fits better.

Divine love does not prevent us from making mistakes or suffering certain consequences of our misdeeds, but it does welcome us home.  May we, who have benefited from such love, extend it to others.


Week of Proper 9: Saturday, Year 1   6 comments

Above: Jacob Blessing His Sons, by Francois Maitre

Image in the Public Domain

Do Not Worry

JULY 13, 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.


Genesis 49:29-33 (An American Translation):

Then he [Jacob/Israel] gave them a charge.

I am about to be gathered to my fathers,

he said to them;

bury me with my fathers in the cave which is the field of Ephron, the Hittite, the cave in the field of Machpelah, which faces Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which along with the field Abrahm bought from Ephron, the Hittite, for use as a burial-ground of his own.  It was there that Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried; it was there that Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried; it was there that I buried Leah–the field with the cave in it having been purchased from the Hittites.

After Jacob had finished giving his instructions to his sons, he drew his feet into the bed, breathed his last, and was gathered to his fathers.

Psalm 105:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of his marvelous works.

3 Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

4 Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done;

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

6 O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O childrenof Jacob his chosen.

7 He is the LORD our God;

his judgments prevail in all the world.

Matthew 10:24-33 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued instructing his disciples,]

A pupil is not better than his teacher, nor a slave better than his master.  A pupil should be satisfied to come to be like his teacher, or a slave, to come to be like his master.  If men have called the head of the house Beelzebub, how much worse names will they give to the members of his household!  So do not be afraid of them.  For there is nothing covered up that is not going to be uncovered, nor secret that is going to be known.  What I tell you in the dark you must say in the light, and what you hear whispered in your ear, you must proclaim from the housetops.  Have no fear of those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul.  You had better be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in the pit.  Do not sparrows sell two for a cent?  And yet not one of them can fall to the ground against your Father’s will!  But the very hairs of your heads are all counted.  You must not be afraid; you are worth more than a great many sparrows!  Therefore everyone who will acknowledge me before men I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven, but anyone who disowns me before men, I will disown before my Father in heaven.


The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Jacob, after a lifetime of strife, much of which he brought on himself by scheming, died in peace, surrounded by family members.  He met a good end, thanks to God.  And the instructions from Jesus, as reported by the author of the Gospel of Matthew, include good news and bad news.  Bad News:  There are very real physical (even lethal) and spiritual threats.  One might even die for one’s faith.  Good News:  Stick close to God, and find a spiritual home in Heaven.  So do not be afraid of the merely physical threats, just the spiritual ones.

I add the following:  Do not worry.  There are legitimate reasons for concern, but concern, channeled properly, has the potential to lead to good solutions.  But what can worry accomplish, other than such negative consequences as ulcers, stress, high blood pressure, shorter lifespan, and a diminished quality of life?  If we are on God’s side, God is for us.  So let us eschew worrying.

This is easier said than done, and I write from experience when typing these words.  But worrying also makes one unpleasant, a fact which affects others negatively.  And who enjoys the company of a negative person?  God is good, as is the created order.  May we focus on the positive habitually, thank God more often than we complain, and lay worrying aside.  Until we can lay worrying aside, may we worry less and less often and be thankful more and more often.  Most importantly, may we trust God, who loves us.