Archive for the ‘July 22’ Category

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

Jethro's Visit

Above:  Jethro’s Visit, by Gerard Jollain

Image in the Public Domain

Humility Before God

JULY 22, 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:

Exodus 18:1-12

Psalm 119:97-104

Colossians 1:27-2:7


From your precepts I learn wisdom,

so I hate all deceptive ways.

–Psalm 119:104, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


The liberation of the Israelites from Egypt had occurred in Exodus 14.  (The departure of Abram and Sarai from Egypt in Genesis 12 had foreshadowed that event.)  In Exodus 18 Moses reunited with his father-in-law (Jethro), and his wife (Zipporah), his two sons (Gershom and Eliezer), who left Midian to meet him.  Jethro acknowledged the superiority of YHWH to other deities.  He did not, however, become a monotheist.

This was not unusual.  As the notes in The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) inform me,

The Torah does not expect Gentiles to become monotheists (see Deut. 4.19), only to recognize the LORD’s superiority when he asserts it, as in the case of Egypt.  The idea of universal monotheism first appears in the later classical prophets (Jer. 16.19-20; Zech. 14.9).  Neither the prophets nor Jewish tradition call for Gentiles, even monotheistic ones, to convert to Judaism, though later Jewish tradition–characteristically reading the Bible through the prism of the prophets–believed that Jethro did abandon idolatry (Exod. Rab. 1.32) and, going even further, became a Jew (Tg. Ps.-J. Exod. 18.6, 27; Tanh. Buber Yitro, 5).

–Page 135

St. Paul the Apostle, himself a Jew, expected that Gentile converts to Christianity (A) need not become Jews first, and (B) renounce any allegiances to deities other than God (YHWH).  He recognized no compatibility of Christianity (then a small and young Jewish sect) and idolatry.

Psalm 119 speaks of the Law of Moses, something which did not exist at the time of Exodus 18.  (The Law of Moses began Chapter 20.)  Nevertheless, the timeless principles of the Law of Moses existed prior to that code.  Among these principles was acknowledging the greatness of YHWH then acting accordingly, that is, humbly before God.  That is possible via grace.








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

Crucifix December 6, 2013

Above:  The Crucifix I Wear to Church

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Icons and Idols

JULY 20, 2017

JULY 21, 2017

JULY 22, 2017


The Collect:

Faithful God, most merciful judge,

you care for your children with firmness and compassion.

By your Spirit nurture us who live in your kingdom,

that we may be rooted in the way of your Son,

 Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 41:21-29 (Thursday)

Isaiah 44:9-17 (Friday)

Isaiah 44:18-20 (Saturday)

Psalm 86:11-17 (All Days)

Hebrews 2:1-9 (Thursday)

Hebrews 6:13-20 (Friday)

Hebrews 7:15-20 (Saturday)


Teach me your way, O LORD,

and I will walk in your truth;

knit my heart to you that I may fear your Name.

I will thank you, O LORD my God, with all my heart,

and glorify your Name for evermore.

–Psalm 86:11-12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The readings from Jeremiah speak of idolatry.  Idols are abominations, their works are nothing, and their images are empty wind the lessons (especially 41:21-29) tell us.  Jesus warns against false religious teachers, wolves in sheep’s clothing, in Matthew 7:15-20.  These false teachers, like idols, distract people from God.  And the author of Hebrews points to Christ, through whom we have redemption.


Above:  Part of My Liturgical Library, Decorated by Crucifixes, June 2014

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

I perceive the need to distinguish between icons and idols.  Icons, whether two-dimensional (as in Eastern Orthodoxy) or three-dimensional (as in Roman Catholicism), are objects of reverence through which we see God.  We are, after all, visually oriented creatures.  I have a collection of Madonnas and crucifixes, as well as an Eastern Orthodox-style image of Jesus.  Some would label these idols, but those individuals would be mistaken.  Icons can also be habits, activities, and other objects.  The Bible, for example, is properly an icon.

Idols are whatever stand between one and God.  If one fixates on something–an object, a habit, an activity, et cetera–instead of God, it is, for that person, an idol.  Unfortunately, the Bible functions as an idol in the lies of many people.  This, I am confident, is not what God intends.

May each of us examine self spiritually and, by grace, succeed in identifying all of one’s idols.  And may all of us succeed, also by grace, in resisting the temptation to commit idolatry any longer.







Devotion for July 21, 22, and 23 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Air Views of Palestine.  Air Route Over Cana of Galilee, Nazareth, Plain of Sharon, etc.  Ashdod.  Home of Dagon.  Encroaching Sand Waves in Distance.  1932.

Image Source = Library of Congress

1 Samuel and Acts, Part III:  The Hand of God

SUNDAY, JULY 21, 2019

MONDAY, JULY 22, 2019

TUESDAY, JULY 23, 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 4:1-22 (July 21)

1 Samuel 5:1-6:3, 10-16 (July 22)

1 Samuel 6:19-7:17 (July 23)

Psalm 19 (Morning–July 21)

Psalm 136 (Morning–July 22)

Psalm 123 (Morning–July 23)

Psalms 81 and 113 (Evening–July 21)

Psalms 97 and 112 (Evening–July 22)

Psalms 30 and 86 (Evening–July 23)

Acts 16:23-40 (July 21)

Acts 18:1-11, 23-28 (July 22)

Acts 19:1-22 (July 23)


The Ark of the Covenant was a mysterious and fearsome object.  It was, in the minds of some Israelites, the presence of God made tangible.  So, of course, they reasoned, its presence at a battlefield would guarantee military victory against the Philistine forces.  Wrong!  Yet God was not defeated.  Humiliations befell an idol of Dagon.  And, according to the narrative, Bubonic Plague befell many Philistines.  Eventually the Philistines returned the Ark, but those who had looked into the sacred object died.

This story, which I have kept unified across The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod’s daily lectionary of 2006’s daily divisions, contains some troubling aspects.  Would a loving God give anyone Bubonic Plague?  (The internal evidence, down to tumors and rodents, indicates Bubonic Plague.)  And the element of death for looking into the Ark indicates a God concept foreign to me, a Christian.  God, for me, is approachable; what is more approachable than the Incarnation?  Chronology aside, I reject the idea that God had a personality transplant.  We are, I propose, dealing with changing human understandings.

Speaking of changing human understandings, I have caused some controversy in college classrooms in Georgia (U.S.A.) when teaching World Civilization I by pointing out that lived Judaism used to be polytheistic.  This fact of history should come as no surprise to anyone who has studied the Old Testament (including 1 Samuel 7) and/or biblical archaeology and/or ancient comparative religion.  But some people become irrational, defensive, and oblivious to facts relative to religion; this is an unfortunate tendency.  I have nothing to fear from a verified fact about ancient theology.  Anyhow, Samuel was correct in 1 Samuel 7:3:

If you mean to return to the LORD with all your heart, you must remove the alien gods and the Ashteroth from your midst and direct your heart to the LORD and serve him alone….

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Paul, Silas, and Timothy served God alone.  Along the way they suffered beatings, imprisonments, and a lawsuit.  They also founded churches, converted people, and encountered fellow Christians who helped them.  The hand of God, which the Philistines could not defeat, also triumphed over the forces opposed to Paul and company.

Being on God’s side does not mean that no hardships will befall one.  Eli had to suffer the loss of his sons.  And Paul and company had to cope with the aforementioned difficulties, among others.  Also, not being on God’s side does not mean that one will face an unbroken series of hardships.  But, when one is on God’s side, one will never be alone in those difficulties; the hand of God will never be far away.








Proper 11, Year B   26 comments

Above:  Mosaic of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, from Ravenna, Italy

Beyond Estrangement

The Sunday Closest to July 20

The Ninth Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 22, 2018



2 Samuel 7:1-14a (New Revised Standard Version):

When David, the king, was settled in his house, and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan,

See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.

Nathan said to the king,

Go, do all that you have in mind; for the LORD is with you.

But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan:

Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the LORD: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the LORD of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.

Psalm 89:20-37 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

20  I have found David my servant;

with my holy oil have I anointed him.

21  My hand will hold him fast

and my arm will make him strong.

22  No enemy shall deceive him,

nor any wicked man bring him down.

23  I will crush his foes before him

and strike down those who hate him.

24  My faithfulness and love shall be with him,

and he shall be victorious through my Name.

25  I shall make his dominion extend

from the Great Sea to the River.

26  He will say to you, ‘You are my Father,

my God, and the rock of my salvation.’

27  I will make him my firstborn

and higher than the kings of the earth.

28  I will keep my love for him for ever,

and my covenant will stand firm for him.

29  I will establish his line for ever

and his throne as the days of heaven.”

30  ”If his children forsake my law

and do not walk according to my judgments;

31  If they break my statutes

and do not keep my commandments;

32  I will punish their transgressions with a rod

and their iniquities with the lash;

33  But I will not take my love from him,

nor let my faithfulness prove false.

34  I will not break my covenant,

nor change what has gone out of lips.

35  Once for all I have sworn by my holiness:

‘I will not lie to David.

36  His line shall endure for ever

and his throne as the sun before me;

37  It shall stand fast for evermore like the moon,

the abiding witness in the sky.'”


Jeremiah 23:1-6 (New Revised Standard Version):

Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!

says the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people:

It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the LORD. Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing,

says the LORD.

The days are surely coming,

says the LORD,

when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.”

Psalm 23 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The LORD is my shepherd;

I shall not be in want.

2  He makes me lie down in green pastures

and leads me beside still waters.

3  He revives my soul

and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.

4  Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I shall fear no evil;

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

5  You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me;

you have anointed my head with oil,

and my cup is running over.

6  Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.


Ephesians 2:11-22 (New Revised Standard Version):

Remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision” — a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands– remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.


Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 (New Revised Standard Version):

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them,

Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.

For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

The Collect:

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Proper 11, Year A:

2 Samuel 7:

Jeremiah 23:

Mark 6:

Matthew 14 (Parallel to Mark 6):


The Pauline reading from Ephesians (from perhaps 58-59 C.E.) speaks of reconciliation in Christ between Jews and Gentiles.  Members of the two groups “are no longer strangers and aliens, but…citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.”  It is a beautiful vision.

History, however, tells a different story.  The estrangement between Christians and Jews was unmistakable by 85 C.E., at the composition of the Gospel of Matthew, written to Jewish Christians, marginalized members of the Jewish community.  And, about a decade later, came the Gospel of John, which utilizes invective against Jews.  From there the history of Christian Anti-Semitism spans millennia and includes shameful instances of violence and discrimination.

It did not have to be this way.  Beyond Jewish-Christian relations, there is a long and shameful history of professing Christians justifying and perpetrating racism, xenophobia, nativism, and other forms of hatred toward their fellow human beings.  It did not have to be this way.  It does not have to be this way.  It does not have to continue to be this way.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd of all sheep who will come to him and all whom he draws successfully to himself.  We sheep are Gentiles, Jews, members of various racial and ethnic groups, parts of various cultures and subcultures, heterosexuals and homosexuals.  In Christ there is no hostility among us.  So, if such hostility does exist among us, we are not mutually in Christ, are we?

There is much work to do.  We have communities to build and walls to destroy.  All of this work is in Christ, our Good Shepherd.


Week of Proper 11: Monday, Year 1   17 comments

Above:  The Sinai Peninsula (Gemini 11, 1966)

Image in the Public Domain

The Exodus, Part ISigns

JULY 22, 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 14:5-18 (An American Translation):

When the news was brought to the king of Egypt that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his courtiers changed their minds about the people.

Whatever have we done,

they said,

to let Israel leave our service?

So he hitched the horses to his chariot, and he took his people with him; he took six hundred chariots, picked from all the chariots of Egypt, with charioteers in charge of them all.  The LORD made Pharaoh, king of Egypt, obstinate, so that he pursued the Israelites, as they were going triumphantly out; the Egyptians pursued them, all the Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, this cavalry and infantry, and overtook them, camping by the sea, near Pihahiroth, in front of Baal-Zephon.  As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites raised their eyes, and there were the Egyptians setting out in pursuit of them!  The Israelites were terribly afraid, and cried to the LORD.  And they said to Moses,

Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the desert?  What a way to treat us, bringing us out of Egypt! Isn’t this what we told you in Egypt would happen, when we said, “Leave us alone and let us serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert.”

But Moses said to the people,

Do not be afraid; stand by and see how the LORD is going to save you today; for although you see the Egyptians today, you shall never see them again.  The LORD will fight for you, while you have only to keep still.

Then the LORD said to Moses,

Why do you cry to me?  Tell the Israelites to set forth; and then raise your staff and stretch forth your hand over the sea, and thus divide it in two, so that the Israelites may proceed on dry land right into the sea.  Then I will make the Egyptians obstinate, so that they will go in after them, and thus I will gain honor through Pharaoh and all his infantry, chariotry, and cavalry, so that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD, when I have gained honor through Pharaoh, his chariotry, and cavalry.

Canticle 8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Exodus 15:1-6, 11-13, 17-18 plus the Trinitarian formula

I will sing to the LORD, for he is lofty and uplifted;

the horse and its rider has he hurled  into the sea.

The Lord is my strength and my refuge;

the Lord has become my Savior.

This is my God and I will praise him,

the God of my people and I will exalt him.

The Lord is a mighty warrior;

Yahweh is his Name.

The chariots of Pharaoh and his army has he hurled into the sea,

the finest of those who bear armor have been drowned in the Red Sea.

The fathomless deep has overwhelmed them;

they sank into the depths like a stone.

Your right hand, O Lord, is glorious in might;

your right hand, O Lord, has overthrown the enemy.

Who can be compared with you, O Lord, among the gods?

who is like you, glorious in holiness,

awesome in renown, and worker of wonders?

You stretched forth your right hand;

the earth swallowed them up.

With your constant love you led the people you redeemed;

with your might you brought them to in safety to your holy dwelling.

You will bring them in and plant them

on the mount of your possession,

The resting-place you have made for yourself, O Lord,

the sanctuary, O Lord, that your hand has established.

The Lord shall reign

for ever and ever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.


Psalm 114 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

When Israel came out of Egypt,

the house of Jacob from a people of strange speech,

2 Judah became God’s sanctuary

and Israel his dominion.

3 The sea beheld it and fled;

Jordan turned and went back.

4 The mountains skipped like rams,

and the little hills like young sheep.

5 What ailed you, O sea, that you fled?

O Jordan, that you turned back?

6 You mountains, that you skipped like rams?

you little hills like young sheep?

7 Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,

at the presence of the God of Jacob,

8 Who turned the hard rock into a pool of water

and flint-stone into a flowing spring.

Matthew 12:38-42 (An American Translation):

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees addressed him [Jesus], saying,

Master, we would like to have you show us some sign.

But he answered,

Only a wicked and faithless age insists upon a sign, and no sign will be given it but the sign of the prophet Jonah.  For just as Jonah was in the stomach of the whale for three days and nights, the Son of Man will be three days and nights in the heart of the earth.  Men of Nineveh will rise with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, for when Jonah preached they repented, and there is more than Jonah here!  The queen of the south will rise with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, for she came from the very ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and there is more than Solomon here!


The Collect:

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


We humans like to seek signs, which are plentiful.  But how often do we recognize them?

How about ten plagues?  Nevertheless, this day we read of Israelites, on the cusp of liberation, grumbling and speaking seriously of worst-case scenarios.  This is a foretaste of what they did in the wilderness for a generation.

Historical aside:  Egyptologist David Rohl places the Exodus at the end of the Thirteenth Dynasty, about two centuries prior to the conventional placement, the time of Ramses II.  If Rohl is correct, the events of the Exodus contributed to the collapse of the Thirteenth Dynasty.  A military loss of this magnitude would have weakened the Pharaoh’s position and made easier the rise of the Hyksos, also foreigners, to the control of Egypt.

Jesus is the ultimate sign from God.  As if great works were not enough, there was the greatest one of them all:  the resurrection.  The references to the Queen of Sheba and the people of Nineveh indicate the receptivity of foreigners–Gentiles–to the message of God.  So what is wrong with these scribes and Pharisees standing in front of Jesus and seeking signs?  For that matter, what is wrong with all those who have seen and heard Jesus, but not understood and accepted him?

Communication is a two-way process.  If I send you, O reader, a message, and you receive it then understand it the way I intend, I have communicated with you.  If anything interrupts this process, there is a failure to communicate.  God seems to have been quite clear in the message and the media, so the blame for misunderstanding does not reside there.  So what is wrong with us?

We read, for example, that we are supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves–the height of morality–and yet we hate, slaughter, victimize, and discriminate against each other.  We justify our actions in a variety of ways, including religion, Bible verses, and national security.  But what part of  “Do unto others…” is vague?  Is it ever conditional?  No!  What is wrong with with us?

We see and hear what we want to see and hear.  We justify ourselves to ourselves, at the expense of others.  God seems to agree with our self interests and socio-economic-political goals, including the exploitative ones.  We deceive ourselves because we are deluded and sinful.  The fault is ours, and we need divine mercy to save us from ourselves and each other.

God is patient, of course, but this fact does not mean that consequences fail to come to fruition.