Archive for the ‘July 2’ Category

Devotion for Tuesday and Wednesday After Proper 8, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  Dawn

Image in the Public Domain

Children of the Light

JULY 2, 2019, and JULY 3, 2019


The Collect:

Sovereign God, ruler of all hearts,

you call us to obey you, and you favor us with true freedom.

Keep us faithful to the ways of your Son, that,

leaving behind all that hinders us,

we may steadfastly follow your paths,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41


The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 3:15-18 (Tuesday)

Jeremiah 23:16-22 (Wednesday)

Psalm 140 (Both Days)

Ephesians 5:6-20 (Tuesday)

Matthew 10:16-25 (Wednesday)


Rescue me, Yahweh, from evil men,

protect me from violent men,

whose heart is bent on malice,

day after day they harbour strife;

their tongues as barbed as a serpent’s,

viper’s venom behind their lips.

–Psalm 140:1-3, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


The reading from Jeremiah 3 comes from a section of scripture about repentance.  God is calling a rebellious people to holiness.  One day, the passage says,

They shall no longer follow the willfulness of their evil hearts.

–Jeremiah 3:17c, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

That prophecy had not come true by the end of the first century of the Common Era.  It had not come true by the time of Jeremiah 23, which includes references to false prophets.  That prophecy had not come to fruition by the time of Ephesians 5:6-20, during evil days.  It had not become reality by the time of Matthew 10:16-25, which refers to the persecution of followers of Jesus.

That prophecy has yet to come true, for its fulfillment resides in the future.  Until then the best advice to follow is that we find in the readings for these two days:

  1. Live as children of the light,
  2. Be filled with the Holy Spirit,
  3. Give thanks to God for everything and at all times,
  4. Trust in God during good times and good times, and
  5. Remember that no pupil ranks above his or her master.

God will save the world, but we can leave it better than we found it.  We have a moral obligation to do so.










Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 8, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Good Samaritan

Above:  An Illustration from Ralph Kirby, The Bible in Pictures (1952), Page 82

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

That Which Defiles

JULY 2 and 3, 2018


The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God,

we implore you to hear the prayers of your people.

Be our strong defense against all harm and danger,

that we may live and grow in faith and hope,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41


The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 21:1-15 (Monday)

Leviticus 15:19-31 (Tuesday)

Psalm 88 (Both Days)

2 Corinthians 8:16-24 (Monday)

2 Corinthians 9:1-5 (Tuesday)


But as for me, O LORD, I cry to you for help;

in the morning my prayer comes before you.

–Psalm 88:14, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


What makes one unclean?  What defiles a person?  To use the germane Greek idiom, what makes a person common?

The Law of Moses lists offenses which make a person common.  Today’s readings from Leviticus provide the following causes for defilement:

  1. Menstruation and contact with the discharge;
  2. Contact with discharged blood;
  3. Priestly contact with corpse, except that of a near relative;
  4. Priestly incest;
  5. Certain forms of grooming for priests;
  6. Priestly cutting of his own flesh;
  7. Priestly marriage to a harlot, a divorced woman, or a woman otherwise not a virgin on the day of the wedding to the priest;
  8. A priest’s daughter committing harlotry, thereby defiling her father and warranting her death; and
  9. Priestly baring of his head or rending of vestments.

The Law of Moses does not like female biology, does it?

The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) includes a priest who refused to violate the third item on that list, for fear that the man lying by the side of the road might be dead.  That priest would have become ritually unclean, therefore not fit to perform sacred rituals for a few days, according to Leviticus 21.  The priest was not the hero of our Lord and Savior’s story.

What really makes one unclean, defiled?  Jesus answered that question in Matthew 15:18-19:

But the things that come out of a man’s mouth come from his heart and mind, and it is they that really make a man unclean.  For it is from a man’s mind that evil thoughts arise–murder, adultery, lust, theft, perjury, and slander.

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

Mark 7:15 contains a succinct statement:

There is nothing outside a man which can enter him and make him “common.”  It is the things which come out of a man that make him “common”!

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

The list from Matthew 15 describes how to harm others and oneself in the process.  Building up others (and therefore oneself in the process), as in the readings from 2 Corinthians, does the opposite of defiling one, therefore.  The priest in the Parable of the Good Samaritan should have thought of that.









Devotion for June 30, July 1, and July 2 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  Jericho, 1925-1946

Image Source = Library of Congress

Joshua and Acts, Part IV:  God, Love, Violence, and Moral Responsibility

SUNDAY, JUNE 30, 2019

MONDAY, JULY 1, 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:

Joshua 5:1-6:5 (June 30)

Joshua 6:6-27 (July 1)

Joshua 7:1-26 (July 2)

Psalm 67 (Morning–June 30)

Psalm 51 (Morning–July 1)

Psalm 54 (Morning–July 2)

Psalms 46 and 93 (Evening–June 30)

Psalms 85 and 47 (Evening–July 1)

Psalms 28 and 99 (Evening–July 2)

Acts 10:1-17 (June 30)

Acts 10:18-33 (July 1)

Acts 10:34-48 (July 2)


Much of the Old Testament wearies me with its persistent violence.  The God of Joshua 5-7 is the warrior deity.  Excepting Rahab and her family,

They exterminated everything in the city with the sword:  man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and ass.

–6:21, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Yet, according to the story, Achan, one soldier, took some souvenirs for himself, thereby bringing down divine wrath on the nation and causing about thirty-six men to die.  Everyone was responsible for one man’s fault.

Huh?  And, to my previous point,

Whom would Jesus exterminate?

The cases of Rahab and her family and of Cornelius the Centurion and his household point to one great lesson:  Acceptability in God’s sight has nothing to do with nationality.  Rahab had acknowledged YHWH in Joshua 2, thus the Israelites spared her and her family.  Cornelius was a Roman officer–a centurion–in command of 100 men.  He was also a Gentile.  And, according to tradition, he became host to a house church and the first Bishop of Caesarea.  I wonder what would have happened had St. Simon Peter not received and accepted his new understanding (Acts 10:34-43).

Although the decision of others affect us, we are morally responsible for ourselves unless a severe brain problem renders us incapable of acting responsibly.  Christ calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves and to serve one another, not to exterminate each other in the name of God.  And, in Christ, one spiritual brethren come from a wide variety of backgrounds, some of them surprising to us.  Perfect love casts out fear and violence; may we never forget that great lesson.






Week of Proper 8: Monday, Year 2   1 comment

Above:  The Prophet Amos

Against Economic Exploitation and Other Forms of Cruelty

JULY 2, 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.


Amos 2:6-16 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Thus said the LORD:

For three transgressions of Israel,

For four, I will not revoke it;

Because they have sold for silver

Those whose cause was just,

And the needy for a pair of sandals.

[Ah,] you who trample the heads of the poor

Into the dust of the ground,

And make the humble walk a twisted course!

Father and son go to the same girl,

And therefore profane My holy name.

They recline by every altar

On garments taken in pledge,

And drink in the House of their God.

Wine bought with fines they imposed.

Yet I

Destroyed the Amorite before them,

Whose stature was like the cedar’s

And who was as stout as the oak,

Destroying his boughs above

And his trunk below!

And I

Brought you up from the land of Egypt

And led you through the wilderness forty years,

To possess the land of the Amorite!

And I raised up prophets from among your sons

And nazirites from among your young men.

Is that not so, O people of Israel?

–says the LORD.

But you made the nazirites drink wine

And ordered the prophets not to prophesy.

Ah, I will show your movements

As a wagon is slowed

When it is full of cut grain.

Flight shall fail the swift,

The strong shall find no strength,

And the warrior shall not save his life.

The bowman shall not hold his ground,

And the fleet-footed shall not escape,

Nor the horseman save his life.

Even the most stouthearted warrior

Shall run away unarmed that day

–declares the LORD.

Psalm 50:14-24 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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.

16 But to the wicked God says:

“Why do you recite my statutes,

and take my covenant upon your lips?

17 Since you refuse discipline,

and toss my words behind your back?

18 When you see a thief, you make him your friend,

and you cast in your lot with adulterers.

19 You have loosed your lips for evil,

and harnessed your tongue to a lie.

20 You are always speaking of evil of your brother

and slandering your own mother’s son.

21 These things you have done, and I kept still,

and you thought that I am like you.”

22 “I have made my accusation;

I have put my case in order before your eyes.

23 Consider this well, you who forget God,

lest I rend you and there be none to deliver you.

24 Whoever offers me the sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me;

but to those who keep in my way will I show the salvation of God.”

Matthew 8:18-22 (An American Translation):

Then Jesus, seeing a crowd about him, gave orders to cross over to the other side.  And a scribe came up and said to him,

Master, I will follow you wherever you are going!

And Jesus said to him,

Foxes have holes and wild birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head!

And another of his disciples said to him,

Let me first go, sir, and bury my father.

But Jesus said to him,

Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead!


The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


A Related Post:

Week of Proper 8:  Monday, Year 1:


The Kingdom of Israel was wealthy and militarily strong during the reign of King Jeroboam II (788-747 B.C.E.)  The Assyrian Empire, which would conquer Israel twenty-five years later (722 B.C.E.), was not yet a threat.  It is easy to be strong and prosperous kingdom with expanding borders when one has mostly weak neighbors.

Yet the prosperity coexisted with corruption in the judiciary and exploitation of the poor.  Many of the wealthy were ostentatious; pride flowed through the land like a mighty river.  The prophet Amos, a shepherd and sycamore tree dresser, proclaimed the word of God.  Part of the word he proclaimed was this:  Social justice is an essential part of societal righteousness.  For these sins, Amos said, God promised to destroy Israel, the northern kingdom.

Before this reading in Amos one reads other pronouncements of doom on various nations:  Aram, Philistia, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab, and Judah.  The proclamations condemn the acts of exiling and selling populations into slavery, repressing all pity, ripping open pregnant women of Gilead to expand national territory, burning the bones of the Edomite king to lime, and not observing God’s law.  Then, of course, we have this day’s reading from Chapter 2.

We will always have with us those who profess to follow God yet who act without mercy, slaughter innocents for national and personal glory, sell people into some form of slavery (wage or otherwise), force people out of their homes unjustly and seize the land, or condone one or some or all of these deeds.  They are hypocrites.  There are those among us today who profess to follow God yet trample and exploit others economically and sexually or condone such actions.  They are hypocrites.

Who are these people where you live?  Look around; you can identify them.  Reject their message.  If, for example, they seek to gain or retain political office via wedge issues, such as “I don’t like (insert name of despised group here) either,” the moral choice is to vote for an inclusive candidate.  As a student of Southern U.S. history I can call to mind quickly tales of successful politicians who used racism to win votes from poor whites then instituted or continued policies which hurt the interests of those voters.  And I don’t have to reach back to the aftermath of Bacon’s Rebellion to do this.

The message of Amos, which we will continue to explore for the next five posts in this series, is timeless.  For now focus on how you, O reader, can affirm human dignity, especially that of the vulnerable, properly and most effectively.  (It is vital to do the right thing in the right ways.)  Then put your plan into motion.  Love of one’s neighbors requires nothing less.

Abraham Heschel writes:

There is a living God who cares.  Justice is more than an idea or norm.  Justice is a divine concern.  What obtains between God and His people is not only a covenant of mutual obligations, but also a relationship of mutual concern.  The message of God is not an impersonal accusation, but the utterance of a Redeemer who is pained by the misdeeds, the thanklessness of those whom He has redeemed.  His words are plaintive and disconsolate.  (The Prophets, Volume 1, 1962), page 32

By grace, may God have no cause to look upon our actions then become plaintive and disconsolate.


Week of Proper 8: Tuesday, Year 1   5 comments

Above: The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, by John Martin (1854)

Image in the Public Domain

The Faithfulness of God

JULY 2, 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 19:15-29 (An American Translation):

When dawn appeared, the angels urged Lot on saying,

Bestir yourself; take away your wife, and the two daughters that are at hand, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.

When he hesitated, the men, because of the LORD’s pity on him, seized his hand and those of his wife and his two daughters, and bringing them out, they left him outside the city.  After they had brought them outside, they said,

Fly for your life; do not look behind you, nor stop anywhere in the valley; fly to the hills, lest you be swept away.

Lot said to them,

O no sirs!  Your servant has indeed found favor with you, and great is the kindness that you have done me in saving my life, but I cannot possibly fly to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I perish.  Here is the town near enough to fly to, and quite small; pray, let me fly there (is it not small?) to save my life.

The LORD said to him,

See, I grant you this request as well, in that I will not overthrow the town of which you speak.  Hurry and fly there; for I can do nothing until you reach there.

Thus the name of the town came to be called Zoar [small].

Just as the sun rose over the earth and Lot entered Zoar, the LORD rained sulphur and fire from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah, devastating those cities and all the valley, with all the inhabitants of the cities and the vegetation on the land.  And Lot’s wife looked back, and had become a pillar of salt.

Above:  Lot’s Wife Pillar, Mount Sodom, Israel

Image in the Public Domain

Next morning when Abraham went early to the place where he had stood before the LORD, he gazed toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and all the region of the valley, and he saw smoke from the land rising like smoke from a kiln.

Thus it was that God remembered Abraham when he destroyed the cities of the valley, by sending Lot away from the catastrophe when he devastated the cities where Lot lived.

Psalm 26 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give judgment for me, O LORD,

for I have lived with integrity;

I have trusted in the LORD and have not faltered.

2 Test me, O LORD, and try me;

examine my heart and my mind.

3 For your love is before my eyes;

I have walked faithfully before you.

4 I have not sat with the worthless,

nor do I consort with the deceitful.

5 I have hated the company of evildoers;

I will not sit down with the wicked.

6 I will wash my hands in innocence, O LORD,

that I may go in procession round your altar,

7 Singing aloud a song of thanksgiving

and recounting all your wonderful deeds.

8 LORD, I love the house in which you dwell

and the place where your glory abides.

9 Do not sweep me away with sinners,

nor my life with those who thirst for blood,

10 Whose hands are full of evil plots,

and their right hand full of bribes.

11 As for me, I will live with integrity;

redeem me, O LORD, and have pity on me.

12 My foot stands on level ground;

in the full assembly I will bless the LORD.

Matthew 8:23-27 (An American Translation):

And he [Jesus] got into the boat, and his disciples with him.  And suddenly a terrific storm came up on the sea, so that the waves broke over the boat, but he remained asleep.  And they woke him, saying,

Save us, sir!  We are lost!

And he said to them,

Why are you afraid?  You have so little faith!

Then he got up and reproved the wind and the sea, and there was a great calm.  And the men were amazed and said,

What kind of man is this?  For the very winds and sea obey him!


The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


One of the challenges of following a lectionary can be identifying the common theme present in two or more readings from different parts of the Bible.  After consulting commentaries and pondering all that I have read in the readings and the commentaries, I have found the common thread:  Faithfulness to God is the path to life.  This faithfulness needs only to be present.  However, as Paul wrote in Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is spiritual death.  The wages of sin can also be physical death, and the punishment flows from the sin itself.  In other words, we reap what we sow.  God is faithful to those who are faithful to him.

Let us examine the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah carefully.  In Genesis 19:1-14, two angels arrive at Sodom, where Lot rescues them from would-be gang rapists.  The angels tell Lot that God will destroy Sodom and Gomorrah very shortly because, as Professor Richard Elliott Friedman translates verse 13,  they have “grown big before YHWH’s face.”

I pause at this point to ponder the importance of growing “big before YHWH’s face.”  Later in Chapter 19, YHWH permits Lot and his family to flee to Zoar, which is small, for safety.  (Two angels appear early in Chapter 19, and by chapter’s end, YHWH is there, too.  When did God show up, after disappearing between the end of Chapter 18 and the beginning of Chapter 19?  Following the bouncing ball can be challenging.)  Anyhow, I posit that growing “big before YHWH’s face” indicates spiritual arrogance, a lack of faithfulness.

There is an interesting feature in the Hebrew text of verse 15.  The word for punishment, as in “…or else you will be consumed in the punishment of the city,” means sin as well.  Sin and punishment are the same thing; consequences flow from actions, so we reap what we sow.

Lot is sufficiently hospitable to rescue the angels, strangers in Sodom, and, as Genesis 19:29 indicates, God saves Lot and family out of faithfulness to Abraham.  Indeed, Lot is a disturbing character, one who offers his two virgin daughters to the would-be gang rapists gathered outside his house (verse 8).  Fortunately for the daughters, the men are not interested.

But Lot is kind to the strangers, if not his own daughters, and the angelic guests offer him and his family a safe way out–if only they follow instructions.  Nobody must look back.  I suppose that curiosity about what is happening would inspire one to look back; we are a species of people who stare at the aftermath of car wrecks.

Biblical writers over many generations used Sodom and Gomorrah to demonstrate various points.  These include:

  • Repent, or be destroyed.
  • Sexual immorality (in all its forms) is wrong.  The first explicit link between homosexual acts and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah comes in Jude 7, however.
  • Any town that refuses to heed visitors bearing the word of God will face condemnation.
  • The failure to extend hospitality to strangers will lead to condemnation.
  • The neglect of the poor will lead to condemnation and destruction.

The word “Sodom” appears in the New Revised Standard Version 51 times.  For those of you who wish to follow up, here they are:

  • Genesis 10:19
  • Genesis 13:10, 12, and 13
  • Genesis 14:2, 8, 10-12, 17, 21, 22, and 26
  • Genesis 18:16, 20, and 26
  • Genesis 19:1, 4, 24, and 28
  • Deuteronomy 29:23
  • Deuteronomy 32:32
  • Isaiah 1:9 and 10
  • Isaiah 3:9
  • Isaiah 13:19
  • Jeremiah 23:14
  • Jeremiah 49:18
  • Jeremiah 50:40
  • Lamentations 4:6
  • Ezekiel 16:46, 48, 49, 53, 55, and 56
  • Amos 4:11
  • Zephaniah 2:9
  • 3 Maccabees 2:5
  • 2 Esdras 2:8
  • 2 Esdras 7:106
  • Matthew 10:15
  • Matthew 11:23 and 24
  • Luke 10:12
  • Luke 17:29
  • Romans 9:29
  • 2 Peter 2:6
  • Jude 7
  • Revelation 11:8

The reading from Matthew tells the familiar story of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee.  In all fairness to the Apostles, I would have been afraid, too.  I note also that Jesus said they had little faith, not no faith.  This is a difficult text, one with more possible interpretations than I dreamed possible before reading commentaries.  However, remaining consistent with my methodology of following a common thread between or among lectionary readings, I latch onto the “little faith” comment.  At least the Apostles had some faith.  Are we not like this much, if not most, of the time?  We have some faith and we know that we need more.  We believe, yet we need God to forgive us for our unbelief.  But a little faith is better than none, and from little faith much more can spring.  As the Book of Psalms says, God knows that we are “but dust.”

Reciprocity matters in a healthy relationship with God.  We will get much wrong, for we are fallible.  But, by grace, we can walk in the paths of righteousness more often than not.  We might save not only ourselves, but friends and family members, too.  But are we trying?  That is the first question.  Fortunately, God is faithful to those who are faithful to him.  And let us remember what Mother Teresa of Calcutta said about faithfulness:  God calls us to be faithful, not successful.

Certainly, how we treat others can be an outward sign of faithfulness.  If we love God with our essence and respect ourselves, following the Golden Rule will result in frequent acts of kindness.  To follow up on a previous devotion in this series, Jesus said that “you shall know them by their fruits.”  I add to this thought the entire Letter of James.

May we be faithful to God for the glory of God and out of awe of God and gratitude for all the wonderful deeds God has done.  And why not?  God is faithful.