Archive for the ‘July 19’ 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 Thursday and Friday Before Proper 11, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

St. Paul Preaching in Athens

Above:  St. Paul Preaching in Athens, by Raphael

Image in the Public Domain

Divine Love, Pursuing Us

JULY 19 and 20, 2018


The Collect:

O God, powerful and compassionate,

you shepherd your people, faithfully feeding and protecting us.

Heal each of us, and make us a whole people,

that we may embody the justice and peace of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42


The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 10:1-16 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 10:17-25 (Friday)

Psalm 23 (Both Days)

Colossians 1:15-23 (Thursday)

Acts 17:16-31 (Friday)


The LORD is my shepherd;

there is nothing I lack.

In green pastures he makes me lie down;

to still waters he leads me;

he restores my soul.

He guides me along the right paths

for the sake of his name.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff comfort me.

You set a table before me

in front of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me

all the days of my life;

I will dwell in the house of the LORD

for endless days.

–Psalm 23, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2010)


Among my favorite quotes is one from Theophrastus (circa 371-circa 287 Before the Common Era), a Greek philosopher:

Superstition is cowardice in face of the divine.

The interlocking pericopes for these two days combine to encourage us to avoid superstition and idolatry.  The readings tell us to follow God, who is faithful to divine promises, who chastises us for the purpose of correction, and who pursues us to bless us.  Divine goodness and mercy do not merely follow us in Psalm 23.  No, they chase after us with the intention of overtaking us.

Perhaps my favorite passage from Colossians is the one assigned for one of these two days.  The crucified and resurrected Christ is the reconciling agent in the created order.  That is a profound theological statement, one which requires more than one blog post to unpack.  Much of that theology exists in the realm of mystery, defying rational statements and related apologetics.  That is fine with me, for I enjoy a divine mystery.  I have spent years with that mystery from Colossians, pondering it and permitting it to seep into my being.  I hope to spend more years on that project.  Certainly the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth (however the mechanics of that worked) was an example of goodness and mercy pursuing humankind.  The chase continues, fortunately.

May you, O reader, embrace God, whose goodness and mercy pursue you to bless you, and continue in a healthy spiritual pilgrimage.









Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 10, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Parable of the Sower

Above:  A Depiction of the Parable of the Sower, Which Precedes Matthew 13:10-17

Image in the Public Domain

Harsh Realities

JULY 19, 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:

Proverbs 11:23-30

Psalm 92

Matthew 13:10-17


LORD, how great are your works!

your thoughts are very deep.

The dullard does not know,

nor does the fool understand,

that though the wicked grow like weeds,

and all the workers of iniquity flourish,

They flourish only to be destroyed for ever;

but you, O LORD, are exalted for evermore.

–Psalm 92:5-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The reading from Matthew 13:10-17 has parallels in Mark 4:10-12 and Luke 8:9-10 while quoting Isaiah 6:9-10.  (Actually, Matthew 13:10-17 quotes the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the original Hebrew text, hence differences in renderings within the same English version.)  The Isaiah, Mark, and Luke texts seem to indicate speaking to people for the purpose of confusing them, not calling them to repentance and thereby preventing the wrath of God from coming to fruition.  Or do these texts speak of consequences as if they were purposes?

I take these as statements of reality, not of purpose, per the presentation in the Gospel of Matthew.  This fits well with the reading from Proverbs 11, which I summarize as

What comes around, goes around.

These are lessons about reality, as grim as that is much of the time.

Behind these verses [in Matthew] is the harsh fact that Jesus came into an alien age.  His teaching, to men of earthly motives, was a riddle.  What could awaken them?  Only his death!…The ultimate truth pierces us from the Cross.

The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VII (1951), page 411-412

May we prove perceptive, so that our hearts will not be dull and so that we will understand and turn, so that God will heal us.  May we succeed in this spiritual endeavor by grace.







Devotion for July 19 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Hophni and Phinehas

Image in the Public Domain

1 Samuel and Acts, Part I:  God’s Favor

FRIDAY, JULY 19, 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 Samuel 2:18-36

Psalm 51 (Morning)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening)

Acts 15:22-41


One of many recurring themes in the Hebrew Scriptures is how God’s grace sometimes defies human preferences for inheritance and/or succession.  The promise passed through the lines of two second sons, Isaac and Jacob.  Eli’s sons did not succeed him; Samuel, who was unrelated to him, did.  David was not the eldest in his family.  And Solomon was not David’s firstborn son.  As I ponder these examples, I conclude that divine favor is the unifying thread.  Jacob was a notorious trickster, and David and Solomon were hardly moral giants.  I care less about the sexual sins of the latter two than about their economically exploitative policies, which affected more people negatively.  But many of my fellow human beings focus so much on matters of sexuality that they overlook or downplay economic exploitation, a topic on which the Bible has much more to say.

But I digress.  Back to my regularly scheduled program….

The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod daily lectionary from the Lutheran Service Book (2006), with these readings, returns to the Acts of the Apostles after a detour through the Letter to the Galatians.  The message from the Council of Jerusalem reminds us that God’s favor crosses other lines and extends to Gentiles.  There are favored Gentiles in the Hebrew Bible, of course; Rahab and Ruth come to mind immediately.  But I detect a new level of this theme in the New Testament.  I, as a Gentile, am grateful.

Where will God’s favor flow next?   I wonder.









Week of Proper 10: Thursday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  The Mythical Phoenix

Rebirth After Disaster

JULY 19, 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 26:8-19 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

For Your just ways, O LORD, we look to You;

We long for the name by which You are called.

At night I yearn for You with all my being,

I seek You with all the spirit within me.

For when Your judgments are wrought on earth,

The inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.

But when the scoundrel is spared, he learns not righteousness;

In a place of integrity, he does wrong–

He ignores the majesty of the LORD.


They see not Your hand exalted.

Let them be shamed as they behold

Your zeal for Your people

And fire consuming Your adversaries.


May you appoint well-being for us,

Since you have also requited all our misdeeds.

O LORD our God!

Lords other than You possessed us,

But only Your name shall we utter.

They are dead, they can never live;

Shades, they can never rise;

Of a truth, You have dealt with them and wiped them out,

Have put an end to the mention of them.

When you added to the nation, O LORD,

When you added to the nation,

Extending all the boundaries of the land,

You were honored.

O LORD!  In their distress, they sought You;

Your chastisement reduced them

To anguished whispered prayer.

Like a woman with child

Approaching childbirth,

Writhing and screaming in her pangs,

So are we because of You, O LORD.

We were with child, we writhed–

It is as though we had given birth to wind;

We have won no victory on earth;

The inhabitants of the world have not come to life!

Oh, let Your dead revive!

Let corpses arise!

Awake and shout for joy,

You who dwell in the dust!–

For Your dew is like the dew on fresh growth;

You make the land of the shades come to life.

Psalm 102:12-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11  My days pass away like a shadow,

and I wither like grass.

12  But you, O LORD, endure for ever,

and your Name from age to age.

13  You will arise and have compassion on Zion,

for it is time to have mercy upon her;

indeed, the appointed time has come.

14  For your servants love her very rubble,

and are moved to pity even for her dust.

15  The nations shall fear your Name, O LORD,

and all the kings of the earth your glory.

16  For the LORD will build up Zion,

and his glory will appear.

17  He will look with favor on the prayer of the homeless;

he will not despise their plea.

18  Let this be written for a future generation,

so that a people yet unborn may praise the LORD.

19  For the LORD looked down from his holy place on high;

from the heavens he beheld the earth;

20  That he might hear the groan of the captive

and set free those condemned to die;

21  That they may declare in Zion the Name of the LORD,

and his praise in Jerusalem;

22  When the peoples are gathered together,

and the kingdoms also, to serve the LORD.

Matthew 11:28-20 (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.


Some Related Links:

Week of Proper 10:  Thursday, Year 1:

A Prayer for Those Who Have Harmed Us:


This day’s reading from Isaiah is part of a plea to God to destroy to destroy the wicked so that the redemption of the righteous may follow soon thereafter.  This projected sequence of events reflects an understanding that difficult times will come, but that circumstances will improve for the righteous afterward.  So, in the midst of impending violence, hope for a better future persists.  God will make this predicted hope a reality, and the children of Israel will weather the storm of exile.  That is the point of this day’s text.

They did weather that storm, of course, and return to their homeland, thanks to God and the Persian Empire.  That covers the historical particulars of this text.  Yet what about contemporary applications?

As I write these words, the global economy is shaky.  This is a time of globalization, so what affects one economy can become an international contagion.  For example, if Nation A in Europe is bankrupt and in need of a bailout, this fact affects the economies of other European nations, due in part to trade and also to the reality of the Euro.  And these effects are evident in international trade with the United States.  Furthermore, troubles in the U.S. economy have affected Europe.  It easy to assign blame, but I prefer that policy makers in various nations find the proper solutions first and foremost.

As for the rest of us, those of us not in the halls of governments, corporate headquarters, and central banks, we ought to look upon these troubled times as an opportunity to sort out our priorities.  How much do we really need?  What is most important?  We cannot take our money and material goods with us when we die; we know that much, do we not?  So, what matters most?  God matters most of all.  The test for loving God entails loving each other.  With that in mind, may we contemplate how God calls each of us to love one another in deeds.  May we build up our human communities, basing them on active compassion.  Social change occurs because enough people change their minds.  And, as we think, so we are; actions flow from attitudes.

This is an opportunity to participate in the remaking of the world, or of parts thereof.  This recreating and remolding is a continuous process.  By grace, may more compassion for each other and deeper, healthier spirituality result.  We can emerge stronger and better on the other side of difficulty.


Week of Proper 10: Friday, Year 1   17 comments

Above: A Flock of Sheep

Image in the Public Domain

A Perfect Sacrifice

JULY 19, 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 11:10-12:14 (An American Translation):

So Moses and Aaron performed all these portents before Pharaoh; but the LORD made Pharaoh stubborn, so that he would not let the Israelites leave his land.

Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt,

This month shall be the first of the months for you; it shall be the first month of the year for you,’ announce to the whole community of Israel; ‘on the tenth day of this month they must provide for themselves one sheep each for their several families, a sheep for each household; if any household is too small for a sheep, it shall provide one along with its neighbor who is nearest to its own household in the number of persons, charging each for the proportionate amount of the sheep that it ate.  Your sheep must be a perfect male, a year old; you may take one of the lambs or goats.  You must keep it until the fourteenth day of this same month, and then the whole assembly of the community of Israel must slaughter it at twilight, and taking some of the blood, they must apply it to the two door-posts and the lintels for the sake of the houses in which they eat it.  That same night they must eat the flesh, eating it roasted, along with unleavened cakes and bitter herbs; do not eat any of it raw, nor cooked in any way with water, but roasted, its head along with its legs and entrails; and you must not leave any of it over until morning; any that might be left over until morning you must burn up.  This is how you are to eat it:  with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; you must eat it in trepidation, since it is a passover to the LORD.  This very night I will pass through the land of Egypt, striking down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast, and executing judgment on all the gods of Egypt, I, the LORD.  The blood will serve as a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood, I will pass by you, so that no deadly plague will fall on you when I smite the land of Egypt.  This day shall be a memorial for you; so you must keep it as a feast to the LORD; throughout your generations you must keep it as a perpetual ordinance….

Psalm 116:10-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

10 How shall I repay the LORD

for all the good things he has done for me?

11 I will lift up the cup of salvation

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

12 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

13 Precious in the sight of the LORD

is the death of his servants.

14 O LORD, I am your servant;

I am your servant and the child of your handmaid;

you have freed me from my bonds.

15 I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

16 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people,

17 In the courts of the LORD’s house,

in the midst of you, O Jerusalem.


Matthew 12:1-8 (An American Translation):

At that same time Jesus walked through the wheat fields, and his disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of wheat and eat them.  But the Pharisees saw it and said to him,

Look!  Your disciples are doing something which it is against the Law to do on the Sabbath!

But he said to them,

Did you ever read what David did, when he and his companions were hungry?  How is it that he went into the House of God and that they ate the Presentation Loaves which it is against the Law for him and his companions to eat, or for anyone except the priests?  Or did you ever read in the Law how the priests in the Temple are not guilty when they break the Sabbath?  But I tell you, there is something greater than  the Temple here!  But if you knew what the saying means,”‘It is mercy, not sacrifice, that I care for,” you would not have condemned  men who are not guilty.  For the Son of Man is master of the Sabbath.


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.


What is a perfect sacrifice?  This question hinges on the word “perfect.”  In the Biblical context it means “suitable for its purpose.”  This is how Matthew 5:48 can quote Jesus as saying,

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect  (New Revised Standard Version).

Our story in Exodus jumps a few chapters from the burning bush incident to the latter stage of the plagues in Egypt.  The blood of a perfect sacrificial lamb smeared on one ‘s doorpost will be the sign of being spared from the death of the first-born.  The blood of the lamb will spare one from the sins of others-namely the Egyptian leadership, not oneself.  This is a vital point to understand, for to make the analogy of Jesus as Passover Lamb cannot support Penal Substitutionary Atonement, the idea that the blood of Jesus saves us from our sins.  No, the Atonement works differently, and blood is involved in it in a way I do not pretend to comprehend.  At St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, when I hold a chalice of wine and say

The blood of Christ, the cup of salvation,

I mean it.  Whenever I say this to one particular gentleman, he says, “Thank God.”  That is an appropriate response.

I write these words on December 29, 2010.  Due to the fact that December 26 was the First Sunday after Christmas, the major feasts (St. Stephen, St. John the Evangelist, and the Holy Innocents) have transferred by one day, falling like dominoes.  So December 29 (not the 28th) is the date for the Feast of the Holy Innocents in 2010.  This commemoration causes me to wonder why there was not passover blood for those little boys.  I have no easy answers.

So the Israelites are spared, but what about the Egyptians?  Are not their lives just as valuable?  I am not shy about arguing with the Biblical texts, for I engage them, not worship them.  The Bible is the most ubiquitous idol within Christianity.  This is not its purpose, but that is what well-intentioned people have made it.

Speaking of accidental idolaters, let us turn to the Pharisees.

Consider this verse:

When you enter another man’s field of standing grain, you may pluck ears with your hand; but you must not put a sickle to your neighbor’s grain.

–Deuteronomy 23:26 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

And, of course, there is Hosea 6:6, also from TANAKH:

For I desire goodness, not sacrifice;

Obedience to God, rather than burnt offerings.

The reference to David comes from 1 Samuel 21:1-6, set during a time when David was on the run from King Saul.  David and his men were hungry, so, with the aid of a priest, Ahimelech, eat the only bread available–consecrated loaves reserved for priests.

Consider the context in Matthew.  Jesus has just completed his “Come to me, all who are heavy-laden” invitation. The day is the Sabbath, and his disciples are hungry.  They obey Deuteronomy 23:26 by reaping with with their hands.  Religious legal codes subsequent to Deuteronomy 23:26 forbade reaping on the Sabbath, and the disciples had violated this law.  Jesus replies by referring to David, whom the Pharisees revered, and to the fact that professional religious people worked at the Temple on the Sabbath legally.  So why is satisfying the basic human need to eat considered improper?

The verses following incident immediately tell of Jesus healing on the Sabbath.  He has to defend himself from criticism then, too.

William Barclay offers the most succinct analysis of the moral of these stories:

The claims of human need took precedence over any ritual custom.  (The Gospel of Matthew, Volume, 2, Philadelphia, PA:  Westminster Press, page 23)

A previous owner of my copy wrote the following comment in the margin:

People more imp. than things!

Indeed, people are more important than things and ritual customs, and goodness and mercy are more valuable than sacrifices and legalistic proscriptions.  To quote Barclay again, this time from page 25:

Jesus insisted that the greatest ritual service is the service of human need.

This statement is so obvious to me that I stand in dismay at someone having to argue for it.  This should be a given, something people assume and to which they stipulate and then act upon.

So the service of human needs is the perfect sacrifice to God.  May we read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest this concept and act accordingly, as our circumstances dictate the particulars.

But lest we pat ourselves on the back and cast historical stones at the Pharisees, we need to examine ourselves spiritually.  The late Shirley C. Guthrie, Jr., a U.S. Presbyterian theologian, offered the following in the first edition of Christian Doctrine:  Teachings of the Christian Church (Richmond, VA:  CLC Press, 1968, pages 247-248):

One danger of the sacrificial imagery is that the significance of Christ’s work can easily be corrupted in the same way the sacrificial system of the Old Testament was corrupted.  It easily becomes a kind of bargaining with God.  A sacrifice has been offered to satisfy his demands and appease him–so now we are free go go on being and doing anything we like without interference from him.  How did the prophets protest against such a perversion of the sacrificial system?  See Isaiah 1:10-31; Amos 5:21-24; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8.  Is the prophetic protest against the misuse of sacrifices relevant also to our understanding of the sacrifice of Christ?  Would the prophets allow the split we sometimes make between preaching concerned with social action and preaching concerned with salvation from sin?

Think about it.  Pray about it.  Learn what God teaches, and act accordingly.