Archive for the ‘July 18’ Category

Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 11, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Parable of the Sower

Above:  The Parable of the Sower

Image in the Public Domain

Grace and Character Flaws

JULY 18, 2019

JULY 19, 2019

JULY 20, 2019


The Collect:

Eternal God, you draw near to us in Christ, and you make yourself our guest.

Amid the cares of our lives, make us attentive to your presence,

that we may treasure your word above all else,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43


The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 12:10-20 (Thursday)

Genesis 13:1-18 (Friday)

Genesis 14:1-16 (Saturday)

Psalm 15 (All Days)

Hebrews 5:1-6 (Thursday)

Ephesians 3:14-21 (Friday)

Luke 8:4-10 (Saturday)


Yahweh, who can find a home in your tent,

who can dwell on your holy mountain?

Whoever lives blamelessly,

who acts uprightly,

who speaks the truth from the heart,

who keeps the tongue under control,

who does not wrong a comrade,

who casts no discredit on a neighbour,

who looks with scorn on the vile,

but honours those who fear Yahweh,

who stands by an oath at any cost,

who asks no interest on loans,

who takes no bribe to harm the innocent.

No one who so acts can ever be shaken.

–Psalm 15, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


Abram (later Abraham) was a fascinating, contradictory, and frequently puzzling figure, for he was a human being.  In Genesis 12-14 alone he pretended that Sarai (his wife) was his sister, lied to the Pharaoh (who, unlike Abram, suffered because of the lie), prospered (in large part due to that lie), remained in Canaan and engaged in warfare while Lot, his nephew, moved to Sodom.  At the end of Chapter 14 Abram encountered Melchizedek, hence one reason for the reading from Hebrews 5, I suppose.

The traditional name of the reading from Luke 8 is the Parable of the Sower.  Nevertheless, the emphasis in the story is the soils, so, as some commentators I have read have argued, we should refer to the Parable of the Four Soils.  Each of us is, under the best circumstances, good soil, albeit not entirely so.  That is a fact of human nature.  Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah had serious defects of character, as did St. Paul the Apostle.  Likewise, you, O reader, and I have character flaws.  Nevertheless, may the lovely prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21 be others’ prayer for us and our prayer for others.








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 Monday and Tuesday After Proper 10, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  A Boomerang

Image in the Public Domain

A Better Society

JULY 17 and 18, 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:

Leviticus 26:3-20 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 28:1-14 (Tuesday)

Psalm 92 (Both Days)

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 (Monday)

Ephesians 4:17-5:2 (Tuesday)


Those who are planted in the house of the LORD

shall flourish in the courts of our God;

They shall still bear fruit in old age;

they shall be green and succulent;

That they may show how upright the LORD is,

my Rock, in whom there is no fault.

–Psalm 92:12-14, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


What we do to others we do to ourselves.  This is a timeless truth which the readings for these two days affirm.  The lessons from Leviticus and Deuteronomy speak of obedience to the Law of Moses as the prerequisite to prosperity and security in the land of Canaan.  The best of the Law of Moses rests partially on an ethic of mutuality.  People, when not stoning others for any of a host of offenses (from committing blasphemy to having premarital sex to working on the Sabbath to being disrespectful to parents) were not supposed to exploit each other.  By harming others they injured themselves and damaged their society.  That reality informed the Pauline readings.  How we treat others in a variety of ways–in attitudes, speech, sexual acts, et cetera–matters, St. Paul the Apostle said accurately.  Why?

…for we are all parts of the same body.

–J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

Thus whatever we do to another we do also to ourselves.  If we love our neighbors in need, we benefit ourselves.  If we seek to enrich ourselves to the detriment of others, we deprive ourselves in the long term and injure ourselves spiritually in the short, medium, and long terms.  Those who make others victims of violence (even that which might prove necessary to a higher purpose) become victims of their own violence.  It is a law of the universe.

The world is a messed-up place.  Often we must engage in or become complicit in bad just to commit some good.  I wish that this were not true, but it is.  We must work within the reality in which we find ourselves, but may we seek to transform it for the positive, so that more people may share in a better society.







Devotion for July 17 and 18 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   11 comments

Above:  Hannah Presenting Her Son Samuel to the Priest Eli, by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout

Image in the Public Domain

Building Each Other Up



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 Samuel 1:1-20 (July 17)

1 Samuel 1:21-2:17 (July 18)

Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning–July 17)

Psalm 97 (Morning–July 18)

Psalms 1 and 33 (Evening–July 17)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening–July 18)

Galatians 5:1-26 (July 17)

Galatians 6:1-18 (July 18)


Hannah’s worth as a human being and as a woman had nothing to do with her reproductive system.  Yet at least one other person (Peninnah) thought that it did, and the stress of the situation affected Hannah negatively.  That spiritual crisis was real.  That emotional pain was real.  And God relieved both.

My brief summary of Galatians 5 and 6 follows:

Christian liberty carries with it the obligation to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself:  to think of others more than oneself (without harming oneself needlessly), to seek the common good, to help others shoulder their burdens, to relieve others of other burdens, to practice to fruit of the Holy Spirit, which The New Jerusalem Bible, in 5:22-23, lists as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

I prefer to focus on the positive (the “you shall” list) rather than on the negative (the “you shall not” list) for three reasons:

  1. Listing what is forbidden does not necessarily indicate what is allowed;
  2. Focusing on the negative portrays morality in a bad light; and
  3. Focusing on the positive fills one’s time with good attitudes and deeds.

The positive deeds we are free to do entail building each other up, not tearing each other down.  In contrast, Peninnah tore Hannah down.  Then God built her up.

Sometimes it is easier to say that one ought to be gentle than it is to be gentle, for some human beings (often unintentionally) make that difficult.  I have faced this challenge and not always done as well as I should.  Yet I remain mindful of the goal, toward which I continue to press, by grace.









Week of Proper 10: Wednesday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  A Map of the Neo-Assyrian Empire

Against “Majestic Pride and Overbearing Arrogance”

JULY 18, 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 10:5-16 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):


Assyria, rod of My anger,

In whose hand, as a staff, is My fury!

I send him against him an ungodly nation,

I charge him against a people that provokes Me,

To take its spoil and to seize its booty

And to make it a thing trampled

Like the mire of the streets.

But he has evil designs;

For he means to destroy,

To wipe out nations, not a few.

For he thinks,

After all, I have kings as my captains!

Was Calno any different from Carchemish?

Or Hamath from Arpad?

Or Samaria from Damascus?

Since I was able to seize

The insignificant kingdoms,

Whose images exceeded

Jerusalem’s and Samaria’s,

Shall I not do to Jerusalem and her images

What I did to Samaria and her idols?

But when my Lord has carried out all his purpose on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, He will punish the majestic pride and overbearing arrogance of the king of Assyria.  For he thought,

By the might of my hand I have wrought it,

By my skill, for I am clever:

I have erased the borders of peoples;

I have plundered their treasures,

And exiled their vast populations.

I was able to seize, like a nest,

The wealth of peoples;

As one gathers abandoned eggs,

So I gathered all the earth:

Nothing so much as flapped a wing

Or opened a mouth to peep.

Does an ax boast over him who hews with it,

Or a saw magnify itself above him who wields it?

As though the rod raised him who lifts it,

As though the staff lifted the man!

Psalm 94:5-15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

5  They crush your people, O LORD,

and afflict your chosen nation.

6  They murder the widow and the stranger,

and put the orphans to death.

7  Yet they say, “The LORD does not see,

the God of Jacob takes no notice.”

8  Consider well, you dullards among the people;

when will you fools understand?

9  He that planted the ear, does he not hear?

he that formed the eye, does he not see?

10  He who admonishes the nations, will he not punish?

he who teaches all the world, has he no knowledge?

11 The LORD knows our human thoughts;

how like a puff of wind they are.

12  Happy are those whom you instruct, O Lord!

whom you teach out of your law;

13  To give them rest in evil days,

until a pit is dug for the wicked.

14  For the LORD will not abandon his people,

nor will he forsake his own.

15  For judgment will again be just,

and all the true of heart will follow it.

Matthew 11:25-27 (An American Translation):

At that time Jesus said,

I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding all this from the learned and the intelligent and revealing it to children.  Yes, I thank you, Father, for choosing to have it so.  Everything has been handed over to me by my Father, and no one understands the Son but the Father, nor does anyone understand the Father but the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.


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.


A Related Post:

Week of Proper 10:  Wednesday, Year 1:


The Assyrian Empire was brutal, a regime built on force, coercion, and violence.  There were, in fact, successive Assyrian Empires, so I must be precise in my language.  Mesopotamia has been home to neighboring civilizations and a succession of empires since ancient times.  Keeping track of them can be challenging.  The Assyrian Empire of this day’s text from Isaiah was the Neo-Assyrian Empire.  It had begun to expand its borders and influence by 856 B.C.E.  All of the hard work of conquering and oppressing people ended by 605 B.C.E., with the division of the empire between the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians, the next great empire in that region, and the Medes, who, along with their senior partners, the Persians, eventually conquered the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians and formed an even greater empire.

Empires rise and fall, but life goes on, as does the work of God.  And, for us, living daily should constitute far more than merely completing a succession of tasks, errands, and chores; it should be prayer and a series of acts of worship.  This thought has been on my mind recently, as I have watched the video Canadian politician Jack Layton’s funeral repeatedly.  Layton’s pastor quoted the late leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition as saying that he (Layton) considered how he spent each day as an act of worship.  Such living leaves no room for the ruthless violence for which the Assyrians were notorious.

The text does require some explanation.  First, Calno, Carchemish, Hamath, Arpad, Samaria, and Damascus were cities the Assyrians had conquered.  And there is a bilingual pun in the text.  (I adore plays on words!)  We read “I have kings as my captains!” in verse 8.  The note in The Jewish Study Bible explains:

Heb[rew] “sar” is cognate to the Akkadian word for king.  Vassal kings did serve the Assyrian king as military commanders or captains.

Double entendres aside, the point of the reading is that hubris led to the fall of Assyria.  Hubris, of course, is that which goes before the fall.  It puffs one up unduly and leads one to become and remain overconfident.  It is something to guard against in the life of any empire or nation-state.

We, as individuals, ought also to avoid hubris.  We all need God; if we are wise, we will acknowledge and accept this without hesitation.  Jesus went to those who were ready to accept him and to embrace his message.  Pride did not hold them back, so they benefited from him.  More could have done the same if they just surrendered their hubris.

Pride can be difficult to surrender.  Sometimes circumstances leave us no choice, but it is better to live simply, humbly, and in the light of God voluntarily.


Week of Proper 10: Thursday, Year 1   17 comments

Above:  Moses and the Burning Bush, from St. Isaac’s Cathedral, St. Petersburg, Russia

Divine Power Revealed in Caring

JULY 18, 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 3:13-20 (An American Translation):


said Moses to God,

in case I go the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they say, “What is his name?” what am I to say to them?

God said to Moses,

I am who I am.

Then he said,

Thus you shall say to the Israelites:  ‘”I am” has sent me to you.’

God said further to Moses,

Thus you shall say to the Israelites:

“Yahweh [the LORD], the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has sent me to you.” This has always been my name, and this shall remain my name throughout all the ages.  Go and assemble the elders of Israel, and say to them, “The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have given careful heed to you and your treatment in Egypt, and I have resolved to bring you up out of your tribulation in Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivvites, and Jebusites, to a land flowing with milk and honey.”‘  They will heed your appeal, and then you and the elders of Israel shall come to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has paid us a visit; so now, let us make three days’ journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God.’  I know, however, that the king of Egypt will not let you go without the use of force; so I will stretch out my hand and smite Egypt with all the marvels that I shall perform in it; after that he will let you go.”

Psalm 105:1-15 (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 all 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 children of Jacob his chosen.

7 He is the LORD our God;

his judgments prevail in all the world.

8 He has always been mindful of his covenant,

the promise he made for a thousand generations:

9 The covenant he made with Abraham,

the oath that he swore to Isaac,

10 Which he established as a statute for Jacob,

an everlasting covenant for Israel,

11 Saying, “To you will I give the land of Canaan

to be your allotted inheritance.”

12 When they were few in number,

of little account, and sojourners in the land,

13 Wandering from nation to nation

and from one kingdom to another,

14 He let no one oppress them

and rebuked kings for their sake,

15 Saying, “Do not touch my anointed

and do my prophets no harm.”

Matthew 11:28-30 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

Come to me, all of you toil and learn from me, and I will let you rest.  Let my yoke be put upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble-minded, and your hearts can find rest, for the yoke I offer you is a kindly one, and the load I ask you to bear is light.


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.


Moses said to God, “When I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?”  And God said to Moses, “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh.”  He continued, “Thus shall you say to the Israelites, “Ehyeh sent me to you.'”

–Exodus 3:13-14, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

The account of what happened when Moses saw the burning bush at Midian continues in Exodus 3:13-20.  Moses asks an understandable and predictable question:  What is your name?  God answers “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh” in Hebrew.  This is a fascinating reply that TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures transliterates.  A note from The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford University Press, 2004, page 111 explains:

Meaning of Heb. uncertain; variously translated: “I Am That I Am’; “I Am Who I Am”; “I Will Be What I Will Be”; etc.

In verse 15 God uses the name “YHWH,” or “Yahweh.”  Professor Richard Elliott Friedman writes in his Commentary on the Torah that this name is a verb whose imperfect tense is not limited to “a past, present, or future time.”  The closest translation, Friedman writes, is “He Causes To Be.”

There is a great mystery about all this, and that is as matters should be.  God refuses to fit into human categories, even temporal ones.  Translation:  God exists beyond human control and understanding.  May we stand in awe of the mysterious grandeur of God.

This God, self-identified as YHWH and Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh manifests concern for the oppressed Hebrews of Egypt and commands Moses to lead them out of slavery.  God will liberate the Hebrews, but there must be a human leader of the Exodus.  Most importantly, though, God cares and acts mightily in accordance with this attitude.

The benighted man thinks,

“God does not care.”

–Psalm 14:1 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

The standard English translation of Psalm 14:1 is that a foolish person thinks, “There is no God.”  (A nearly identical verse occurs in Psalm 10:4.)  But, as The Jewish Study Bible notes point out, some form of theism was a universal assumption at the time of the writing the psalms.  As I have written elsewhere, for God to exist is for God to care.  That is a God whose face and strength I can seek without reservation.

Jesus, in Matthew 11, summons people to come to him and take on a spiritual discipline.  We need rules to establish order and direct our energies.  We ought also to choose only the proper rules, of course.  There are negative rules, those which exclude people inappropriately while stroking the egos of insiders.  The best disciplines, however, are those which transform us into what we ought to be and are based on love–of God, others, and ourselves.

The existence of Jesus is itself an indicator of God’s care for people.  So why not take up Jesus on his invitation?  He has the bona fides.