Archive for the ‘July 16’ Category

Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 10, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Traveling Soup Kitchen 1916

Above:  Traveling Soup Kitchen, Berlin, German Empire, 1916

Image Publisher = Bain News Service

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ggbain-25317

Caring for the Vulnerable

JULY 15, 2019

JULY 16, 2019

JULY 17, 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:

Job 24:1-8 (Monday)

Proverbs 19:1-7 (Tuesday)

Ecclesiastes 9:13-18 (Wednesday)

Psalm 25:11-20 (All Days)

James 2:1-7 (Monday)

1 John 3:11-17 (Tuesday)

Matthew 25:31-46 (Wednesday)


Quick, turn to me, pity me,

alone and wretched as I am!

–Psalm 25:16, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


How we treat our fellow human beings, especially those different from ourselves, is a matter of morality.  The author of the Letter of James, thanks to the preservation of his text, reminds us that extending partiality to people based on having more wealth than others in sinful.  Such partiality is human, not divine.  The commandment in 1 John 3:11-17 is to love one another.  Such love begins with attitudes then translates into actions.  As we read in Matthew 25:31-46, how we treat our fellow human beings is how we treat Jesus.

Do we recognize Christ in those around us and those far away from us, especially those who are vulnerable?  To see Jesus in the face of one like us is easy, but doing the same in the face of one different–even scary–is difficult.  Therein lies the challenge, one Christ commands us to undertake.  We can succeed, by grace.








Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 10, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  An Icon of Christ the Merciful

Image in the Public Domain

Defensive Violence

JULY 16, 17, and 18, 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 5:1-9 (Monday)

Amos 9:1-4 (Tuesday)

Amos 9:11-15 (Wednesday)

Psalm 142 (All Days)

Acts 21:27-39 (Monday)

Acts 23:12-35 (Tuesday)

Luke 7:31-35 (Wednesday)


 I cry to the LORD with my voice;

to the LORD I make loud supplication.

I pour out my complaint before you, O LORD,

and tell you all my trouble.

When my spirit languishes within me, you know my path;

in the way wherein I walk they have hidden a trap for me.

I look to my right hand and find no one who knows me;

I have no place to flee to, and no one cares for me.’

I cry out to you, O LORD,

I say, “You are my refuge,

my portion in the land of the living.”

Listen to my cry for help, for I have been brought very low;

save me from those who pursue me,

for they are too strong for me.

Bring me out of the prison, that I may give thanks to your name;

when you have dealt bountifully with me,

the righteous will gather around me.

–Psalm 142, Book of Common Worship (1993)


The Book of Amos, after all of its predictions of destruction, takes a sudden turn at the end and concludes with a promise that God will restore the Hebrew nation.  Hope of restoration was on the minds of many whom Jesus encountered in Roman-occupied Judea.  Many others, however, benefited from that occupation, for they had made their peace with Roman authorities.  Some of these elites plotted to kill Jesus then St. Paul the Apostle, who were indeed threats to their power, although not in ways many people thought and in ways many people did not expect.  Hostility was often inconsistent in its standards:

For John the Baptist came, neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, “He is possessed.”  The Son of Man came, eating and drinking, and you say, “Look at him! A glutton and a drinker, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!”

–Luke 7:33-34, The Revised English Bible (1989)

As a sign I have reads,


The term “Kingdom of God” has more than one meaning in the Bible.  It refers to the afterlife in some passages yet to the reign of God on earth in others, for example.  The latter definition interests me more than does the former.  One function of the latter definition is to criticize human institutions and social structures as falling short of divine standards, which is the definition of sin.  Some people hear criticism and respond by trying to change them for the better.  Others ignore the criticism.  A third group reacts violently in defense of themselves and their beloved institutions and social structures.

Repentance is better than defensive violence.









Devotion for July 14, 15, and 16 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   9 comments

Above:  Statue of Samson

Image in the Public Domain

Judges and Galatians, Part III:  Gentiles and Fidelity

SUNDAY, JULY 14, 2019

MONDAY, JULY 15, 2019

TUESDAY, JULY 16, 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:

Judges 14:1-20 (July 14)

Judges 15:1-16:3 (July 15)

Judges 16:4-30 (July 16)

Psalm 103 (Morning–July 14)

Psalm 5 (Morning–July 15)

Psalm 42 (Morning–July 16)

Psalms 117 and 139 (Evening–July 14)

Psalms 84 and 29 (Evening–July 15)

Psalms 102 and 133 (Evening–July 16)

Galatians 3:1-22 (July 14)

Galatians 3:23-4:11 (July 15)

Galatians 4:12-31 (July 16)


Samson boasted of his own strength, gave God no credit much of the time, and had bad taste in women.  His first love pleased him.  She was, according to the Alexandrian Greek text of Judges 14:1,

…the right one in his eyes.

She was also a Gentile.

The full view of Gentiles in the Hebrew Scriptures is not

Jews good, Gentiles bad.

Rahab the prostitute recognized Yahweh as God, so the Israelite forces spared her and her family.  Later in the Bible, Ruth, a Moabite, became an ancestor of King David.  Both women were, according to the beginning of Matthew 1, ancestors of Jesus.  The reality that most Gentiles would continue in their traditions led to the command for Jews to choose life partners faithful to God.

The Law of Moses defined that fidelity for a long time.  The Law, in Pauline theology, was like a house slave responsible for raising children.  No matter how capable that disciplinarian was, the children outgrew their need for him or her.  And Jesus, in whom there is no longer a distinction between Jew or Greek, has fulfilled the Law.

I do not pretend to understand all the implications of the previous statement, but that is fine.  Reliance on knowledge for salvation is Gnosticism, a grave heresy.  Rather, I accept readily the limits of my understanding and leave the details to God, who does grasp them.

I do know at least one thing, however:  seeking companionship of various forms with people who are faithful to God remains crucial.









Week of Proper 10: Monday, Year 2   10 comments

Above:  A Homeless Man Living in the Sewers of Vienna, Austria-Hungary, 1900

Loving God Most of All

JULY 16, 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.


Isaiah 1:10-17 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Hear the word of the LORD,

You chieftains of Sodom;

Give ear to our God’s instruction,

You folk of Gomorrah!

What need have I of all your sacrifices?

Says the LORD.

I am sated with burnt offerings of rams,

And suet of fatlings,

And blood of bulls;

And I have no delight

In lambs and he-goats.

That you come to appear before Me–

Who asked that of you?

Trample my courts no more;

Bringing oblations is futile,

Incense is offensive to Me.

New moon and sabbath,

Proclaiming of solemnities,

Assemblies with iniquity,

I cannot abide.

Your new moons and fixed seasons

Fill Me with loathing;

They are become a burden to Me,

I cannot endure them.

And when you lift up your hands,

I will turn My eyes away from you;

Though you pray at length,

I will not listen.

Your hands are stained with crime–

Wash yourselves clean;

Put your evil doings

Away from My sight.

Cease to do evil;

Learn to do good.

Devote yourselves to justice;

Aid the wronged.

Uphold the rights of the orphan;

Defend the cause of the widow.

Psalm 50:7-15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hear, O my people, and I will speak:

“O Israel, I will bear witness against you;

for I am God, your God.

8 I do not accuse you because of your sacrifices;

your offerings are always before me.

9 I will take no bull-calf from your stalls,

nor he goats out of your pens;

10 For all the beasts of the forest are mine,

the herds in their thousands upon the hills.

11 I know every bird in the sky,

and the creatures of the fields are in my sight.

12 If I were hungry, I would not tell you,

for the whole world is mine and all that is in it.

13 Do you think I eat the flesh of bulls,

or drink the blood of goats?

14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving

and make good your vows to the Most High.

15 Call upon me in the day of trouble;

I will deliver you, and you shall honor me.

Matthew 10:34-11:1 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I have not come to bring peace but a sword.  For I have come to turn a man against his father and a daughter against her mother and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies will be in his own household.  No one who loves father or mother more than me is worthy of me, and no one who will not take up his cross and follow me is worthy of me.  Whoever gains his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for mysake will gain it.

Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes him who has sent me.  Whoever welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will have the same reward as a prophet, and whoever welcomes an upright man because he is upright will have the same reward as an upright man.  And no one who will give the humblest of my disciples even a cup of cold water because he is my disciple, I tell you, can never fail of his reward.


The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 10:  Monday, Year 1:

O Young and Fearless Prophet:


The Bible, especially the Hebrew Scriptures, spends much time on the topic of economic justice.  It devotes more attention to this than to various sexuality-related issues, yet one (especially in North America, my context) is more likely to hear a hellfire-and-damnation sermon against pre-marital sex, adultery, or homosexuality than against the exploitation of the poor in politics, economics, courts, jails, and prisons.  My theory of why this is true is simple:  It is easier and more comfortable to condemn the physical offenses–real or merely perceived–of others, and therefore to seem righteous, than to confront societal sins in which one might be complicit.

We read in Isaiah 1 that conducting seemingly pious rituals while not confronting the denial of justice to widows and orphans, among the most vulnerable members of Isaiah’s society, does not satisfy God.  Twice–once in the excerpt I typed out–the chapter specifies maltreatment of widows and orphans as the grave offense du chapitre.  God cares deeply about how people treat each other, notably the poor and other vulnerable persons.

Matthew 10:34-41 gives us further advice on how to relate to each other.  Christianity and the message of Jesus have divided families for nearly 2,000 years.  When that happens to one, Jesus says, remember to love him more than one’s family.  Family still matters, of course, but certainly one should remain more loyal to Jesus than to one who disowns or turns a believer over to authorities.  Such rejection by one’s relatives is unfortunate, but there is a spiritual family, some members of which belong to the Church Militant and others to the Church Triumphant.  Many of them have faced similar hardships and heartaches.

The unifying message binding these two passages is that we must love God most of all, and that how we treat others reveals whether or not we do this.  Those rulers who “are rogues and cronies and thieves”  and who are “greedy for gifts” and “do not judge the case of the orphan” or hear “the widow’s cause (Isaiah 1:23, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures) do not love God most of all.  And those fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters who turn against their family members because of the other’s conversion to Christianity do not love God most of all either.


Week of Proper 10: Tuesday, Year 1   11 comments

Above:  Moses Window (By Lawerence Saint) at the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul (Washington National Cathedral), Washington, D.C.

Image in the Public Domain

Which Side Are You On?

JULY 16, 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.


Exodus 2:1-15 (An American Translation):

Now a man belonging to the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi.  The woman conceived and bore a son, and seeing that he was robust, she hid him for three months.  When she could no longer hide him, she procured an ark of papyrus reeds for him, and daubing it with bitumen and pitch, she put the child in it, and placed it among the reeds beside the bank of the Nile.  His sister posted herself some distance away to see what would happen to him.

Presently Pharaoh’s daughter came down to bathe at the Nile, when her maids walked on the bank of the Nile.  Then she saw the ark among the reeds and sent her maid to get it.  On opening it, she saw the child, and it was a boy crying!  She took pity on him, and said,

This is one of the Hebrews’ children.

Thereupon his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter,

Shall I go and summon a nurse for you from the Hebrew women, to nurse the child for you?

Pharaoh’s daughter said to her,


So the girl went and called the child’s mother, to whom Pharaoh’s daughter said,

Take this child away and nurse it for me, and I will pay the wages due you.

So the woman took the child and nursed him; and when the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son.  She called his name Moses [drawn out];


she said,

I drew him out of the water.

It was in those days that Moses, now grown up, went out to visit his fellow countrymen and noted their heavy labor.  He saw an Egyptian kill a Hebrew, one of his own countrymen; so, looking this way and that, and seeing that there was no one in sight, he killed the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.  Another day, when he went out, there were two Hebrews fighting!  So he said to him that was in the wrong,

Why do you strike your companion?

He replied,

Who made you ruler and judge over us?  Are you thinking of murdering me as you did the Egyptian?

Then was Moses afraid.

The incident must surely be known,

he thought.

When Pharaoh heard about the matter, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to the land of Midian, and sat down beside a well.

Psalm 69:1-2, 31-38 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Save me, O God,

for the waters have risen to my neck.

2 I am sinking in deep mire,

and there is no firm ground for my feet.

31 As for me, I am afflicted an in pain;

your help, O God, will lift me up on high.

32 I will praise the Name of God in song;

I will proclaim his greatness with thanksgiving.

33 This will please the LORD more than an offering of oxen,

more than bullocks with horns and hoofs.

34 The afflicted will see and be glad;

you who seek God, your heart shall live.

35 For the LORD listens to the needy,

and his prisoners he does not despise.

36 Let the heavens and the earth praise him,

the seas and all that moves in them;

37 For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah;

they shall live there and have it in possession.

38 The children of his servants will inherit it,

and those who love this Name will dwell therein.

Matthew 11:20-24 (An American Translation):

Then he [Jesus] began to reproach the towns in which most of his wonders had been done, because they did not repent.

Alas for you, Chorazin!  Alas for you, Bethsaida!  For if the wonders that have been done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes long ago!  But I tell you, Tyre and Sidon will fare better on the day of judgment than you will!  And you, Capernaum!  Are you to be exalted to the skies?  You will go down among the dead!  For if the wonders that have been done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have stood until today.  But I tell you that the land of Sodom will fare better than the Day of Judgment than you will!


The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


“Repentance” is a word used often and misunderstood frequently.  It means far more than apologizing for a deed or for deeds; it entails changing one’s mind, literally turning around.  This theme links the readings from Genesis and Matthew.

Moses enters the story in Genesis 2.  His mother and sister arrange for him to enter the Pharonic palace under the care of the Pharaoh’s daughter.  The Pharaoh in question might be Sobekhotep III, who had issued the “kill Hebrew baby boys” order at the end of Chapter 1.  But the princess obviously had some sway with her father.

So Moses grew up in the royal palace.  One day, however, he had to decide which side he was on.  He chose the side of the abused and enslaved.  In the process he killed an abuser, an act for the which the Pharaoh (probably Sobekhotep IV, second Pharaoh to reign after Sobekhotep III) tried to have Moses killed.  But Moses escaped into the land of Midian.

This chapter in the life of Moses the liberator ends with him on the run for murder.  He had turned his back on his comfortable, safe existence, which he could no longer continue because he could no longer be blind to what his adoptive family was doing to his people.

Matthew Chapter 11 begins a section on the rejection of Jesus by people.  This section begins with John the Baptist, languishing in prison, sending messengers to ask Jesus if he (Jesus) is the Messiah.  Jesus provides his answer (in brief, my deeds speak for themselves) then praised his forerunner.  And, as people and rejected and done violence to John the Baptist, the same will happen to Jesus.

Then we come to this day’s reading from Matthew.  Jesus condemned Chorazin and Bethsaida, Galilean cities where Jesus had worked mighty deeds but evidence repentance was impossible to find.  Capernaum, were Jesus lived, was likewise unrepentant.  It will go badly for them on the day of judgment, the author of Matthew quoted Jesus as saying.  Tyre and Sidon were Gentile cities renowned for wickedness, and Sodom was an old example of unrighteousness and a lack of repentance numerous Biblical authors cited.  Such mighty acts would have inspired repentance in these places, so what was wrong with Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum?

While I was in graduate school at Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia (2001-2003), I analyzed some old public school textbooks with regard to several axes, including treatment of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.  The author of a 1957 high school U.S. history textbook wrote,

It is difficult to suddenly change the habits of a lifetime.

This principle holds true in other settings.  Repentance entails changing how one thinks, and thoughts lead to actions.  Patterns of thinking become entrenched in us, and, for many, they become ossified as people become set in their ways.  We human beings have proved our capability to see and hear selectively in ways that justify ourselves to ourselves and those similar to us.  We need to be on guard against this tendency, for it blinds us to what God is saying, which includes notices of our sins.  How can we repent–turn around and change our minds–if we do not recognize that we have a problem?

It is easy to point out the ossification of others but difficult to see in ourselves.  We have spiritual blind spots, but that alone is an insufficient explanation for this phenomenon.  A full explanation must take account of the fact that we like to think of ourselves in positive terms, so our failings–our sins, those things which prevent us from being what we ought to be in God–disturb us.  Sometimes looking upon them is too much for us to bear.  But we must, if we are to live faithfully.

God knows that we have warts in our character, but there is only one perfect person in the Bible.  Look at the others; all of them were flawed.  For example, Jacob was a schemer, Moses and David were murderers, and Rahab was a prostitute.  Yet God used all of them, and the author of the Gospel of Matthew goes out of his way to list Rabab and Bathsheba as ancestors of Jesus.  So there is hope for us all, if only we turn to God and change our minds.  Do we dare to it?


Proper 10, Year A   24 comments

Above:  Soil Profile

Image in the Public Domain

A Call for Righteous Deeds

The Sunday Closest to July 13

The Sixth Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 16, 2017



Genesis 25:19-34 (New Revised Standard Version):

These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. The children struggled together within her; and she said,

If it is to be this way, why do I live?

So she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said to her,

Two nations are in your womb,

and two peoples born of you shall be divided;

the one shall be stronger than the other,

the elder shall serve the younger.

When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.

When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob,

Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!

(Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said,

First sell me your birthright.

Esau said,

I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?

Jacob said,

Swear to me first.

So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

Psalm 119:105-112 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

105 Your word is a lantern to my feet

and a light upon my path.

106 I have sworn and am determined

to keep your righteous judgments.

107 I am deeply troubled;

prserve my life, O LORD, according to your word.

108 Accept, O LORD, the willing tribute of my lips,

and teach me your judgments.

109 My life is always in my hand,

yet I do not forget your law.

110 The wicked have set a trap for me,

but I have not strayed from your commandments.

111 Your decrees are my inheritance for ever;

truly, they are the joy of my heart.

112 I have applied my heart to fulfill your statutes

for ever and to the end.


Isaiah 55:10-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,

and do not return there until they have watered the earth,

making it bring forth and sprout,

giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;

it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

For you shall go out in joy,

and be led back in peace;

the mountains and the hills before you

shall burst into song,

and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;

instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;

and it shall be to the LORD for a memorial,

for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

Psalm 65:(1-8), 9-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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

to you shall vows be performed in Jerusalem.

2 To you that hear prayer shall all flesh come,

because of their transgressions.

3 Our sins are stronger than we are,

but you will blot them out.

4 Happy are they whom you choose

and draw to your courts to dwell there!

they will be satisfied by the beauty of your house,

by the holiness of your temple.

5 Awesome things will you show us in your righteousness,

O God of our salvation,

O Hope of all the ends of the earth

and of the seas that are far away.

6 You make fast the mountains by your power;

they are girded about with might.

7 You still the roaring of the seas,

the roaring of their waves,

and the clamor of the peoples.

8 Those who dwell at the ends of the earth will tremble at your marvelous signs;

you make the dawn and the dusk to sing for joy.

9 You visit the earth and water it abundantly;

you make it very plenteous;

the river of God is full of water.

10 You prepare the grain,

for so you provide for the earth.

11 You drench the furrows and smooth out the ridges;

with heavy rain you soften the ground and bless its increase.

12 You crown the year with your goodness,

and your paths overflow with plenty.

13 May the fields of the wilderness be rich for grazing,

and the hills be clothed with joy.

14 May the meadows cover themselves with flocks,

and the valleys cloak themselves with grain;

let them shout for joy and sing.


Romans 8:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.  For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,  so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law– indeed it cannot,  and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.  Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.  Buf if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your moral bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.


Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying:

Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!

Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.

The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Our sins are stronger than we are,

but you will blot them out….

You visit the earth and water it abundantly;

you make it very plenteous;

the river of God is full of water.

–Psalm 65:3, 9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer)

This Sunday’s readings, taken together, constitute a call for righteous deeds.

One aspect of a righteous deed is that it lacks resentment.  Esau had every right to be resentful.  His brother, Jacob, forced him to sell his birthright.  Jacob was a schemer, and his plots got him into much needless difficulty over the years.  They did reconcile eventually, but not before much family drama played out.

A righteous deed is a faithful response to God.  God has acted.  And God continues to act.  God shows the initiative in Isaiah 55 and Psalm 65.  And God (specifically Jesus) is the sower in Matthew 13.  This chapter is eschatological.  After the Parable of the Sower we have the tares, which resemble wheat.  God will sort out the difference at the time of the harvest, or the final judgment.

With eschatology in mind, the fates of the seeds take on meanings beyond “What kind of soil am I?” in the context of mere daily life.  The author of the Gospel of Matthew expected Jesus to return very shortly, a fact we must consider.  Another relevant detail is the presence of Roman persecutions of Christianity.  So seeds never sprout, others do for a time but do not survive adversity, and still other seeds take root and yield much.  Christians are supposed to yield much, a harvest possible only in God.

The harvest yields are unrealistic in agricultural terms, thus the parable is not agricultural; it is spiritual.  No farmer could expect such yields in First Century C.E. Judea reasonably.  So the yields must be the work of God, in concert with faithful people.  Stakes do not get much higher than eschatological ones, and, if one thinks the schedule is short, yields need to be greater to make up for the lack of time.

That was in 85-90 C.E.  I write these words on Christmas Day in 2010.  Between the 85 and 2010 many have speculated as to when Jesus might return.  They have all been wrong.  I have a 1979 paperback book explaining why Jesus will return by 1988.  That author was incorrect.  There is another date (May 2011) making the rounds as I write these words.  The fact that I am writing a devotion for July 10, 2011, indicates my opinion of that date.  We ought not obsess over dates, which come and go.  No, our mandate is to be faithful Christians who cooperate with God more often than not.  We cannot cooperate with God all the time, due to sin, but, by grace, we can improve spiritually.  The formula is this:  see and hear, understand, then act accordingly.

As for eschatology, God will handle those details.  The human track record on trying to understand it has not proved promising.  So let us focus on what God calls to do:  bear good fruit.  May we sink our roots into the river of God, which always has plenty of water.