Archive for the ‘July 24’ Category

Devotion for Tuesday and Wednesday After Proper 11, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Holy Innocents December 20, 2015

Above:  Holy Innocents Episcopal Church, Atlanta, Georgia, December 20, 2015

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

The Bread and Blood of Life

JULY 23 and 24, 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:

Proverbs 9:1-18 (Tuesday)

Deuteronomy 12:1-12 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:97-104 (Both Days)

1 John 2:1-6 (Tuesday)

John 6:41-51 (Wednesday)


How I love your Law!

I ponder it all day long.

–Psalm 119:97, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


The assigned readings for these two days instruct us to choose divine wisdom, not human folly.  The former is holy, but the latter resembles a prostitute.  One is also supposed to worship God alone, not practice idolatry.  Furthermore, we read about the importance of worshiping God properly, out of respect and humility.  Out of the humility by which we acknowledge our sinfulness we follow God–in Christ, in particular.

In my tradition all of these components come together in the Holy Eucharist, which my church tells me is the body and blood of Jesus somehow, by which I understand to be so via Transubstantiation.  If I am what I eat and drink, I hope that the sacrament will make me a better person, one who follows Jesus more closely.








Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 11, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Good Shepherd

Above:   Christ, the Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain

Sheep and Shepherds

JULY 23, 24, and 25, 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 50:1-7 (Monday)

Zechariah 9:14-10:2 (Tuesday)

2 Samuel 5:1-12 (Wednesday)

Psalm 100 (All Days)

Hebrews 13:17-25 (Monday)

Acts 20:17-38 (Tuesday)

Luke 15:1-7 (Wednesday)


Shout joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;

serve the LORD with gladness;

come before him with joyful song.

Know that the LORD is God,

he made us, we belong to him,

we are his people, the flock he shepherds.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

his courts with praise.

Give thanks to him, bless his name;

good indeed is the LORD,

his faithfulness lasts through every generation.

–Psalm 100, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2010)


All of the assigned readings for these three days speak of sheep and shepherds:

  1. God is the shepherd in Psalm 100.
  2. God is the shepherd-divine warrior who will end the Babylonian Exile in Jeremiah 50:1-7 and Zechariah 9:14-10:2.
  3. David, a troublesome character, is the shepherd-king in 2 Samuel 5:1-12.
  4. Jesus is the Good Shepherd in Luke 15:1-7.
  5. St. Paul the Apostle is the shepherd warning of “fierce wolves” in Acts 20:17-38.
  6. Faithful church leaders are the shepherds worthy of obedience in Hebrews 13:17-25.

Now I proceed to unpack some themes:

  1. The core of church doctrine, as in the question of the nature of Christ, developed over centuries, during which debates, arguments, and street brawls, and knife fights occurred in the name of sorting out proper theology.  Much of what we Christians take for granted these days came about over five centuries, give or take a few years.  Even the latest book in the New Testament did not exist until the end of the first century of the Common Era, and consensus regarding canonical status required more time to form.  In that context obeying orthodox bishops made a great deal of sense, although the definition of orthodoxy shifted over time.  Origen, for example, was orthodox in his day yet heterodox ex post facto.
  2. The parable from Luke 15:1-7 assumes a team of shepherds, so one shepherd could leave to seek a lost sheep without fear of losing more animals.
  3. That parable tells us that all people matter to Jesus.  They should, therefore, matter to us also.
  4. One metaphor for kings in the Bible is shepherds.  Some shepherds are good, but others are bad, unfortunately.  Good kings do what is best for all the people, especially the vulnerable ones.
  5. God is the best shepherd, protecting the flock, seeking an unbroken and unforgotten covenant with it, and searching for the lost sheep.  The flock can be bigger, and we can, by grace, function well as junior shepherds, subordinate to God, the senior shepherd.

I notice the community theme inherent in the metaphor of the flock.  We depend upon God, the ultimate shepherd, and upon the other shepherds in the team.  We also depend upon and bear responsibilities toward each other, for we follow the lead of others–often the lead of fellow sheep.  Sometimes this is for better, but often it is for worse.  Sticking together and following the proper leader is essential for group survival and for individual survival.

May we, by grace, recognize the voice of God, our ultimate shepherd, and follow it.








Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 11, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Last Judgment

Above:  The Last Judgment

Image in the Public Domain

Freedom and Judgment

JULY 24, 2017

JULY 25, 2017

JULY 26, 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:

Nahum 1:1-13 (Monday)

Zephaniah 3:1-3 (Tuesday)

Daniel 12:1-13 (Wednesday)

Psalm 75 (All Days)

Revelation 14 (Monday)

Galatians 4:21-5:1 (Tuesday)

Matthew 12:15-21 (Wednesday)


“I will appoint a time,” says God;

“I will judge with equity.

Though the earth and all its inhabitants are quaking,

I will make its pillars fast.

I will say to the boasters, ‘Boast no more,’

and to the wicked, ‘Do not toss your horns;

Do not toss your horns so high,

nor speak with a proud neck.'”

For judgment is neither from the east nor from the west,

nor yet from the wilderness or the mountains.

–Psalm 75:2-6, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The readings for these three days speak of freedom, judgment, and mercy.  In Nahum 1 mercy for the Israelites was judgment upon the Assyrians.  Judgment upon Jerusalem came in Zephaniah 3.  The authors of Daniel 12 and Revelation 14 wrote of an eschatological judgment, something one reads about (sort of) in Matthew 12.  Condemnation resulted from the abuse of freedom.

The late C. H. Dodd summarized a vital lesson in these readings better than my ability to paraphrase.  The Kingdom of God, Dodd wrote, is nearer to or further away only from a human, temporal perspective.

There are particular moments in the lives of men and in the history of mankind when what is permanently true (if largely unrecognized) becomes manifestly and effectively true.  Such a moment is reflected in the gospels….But when a person (or a society) has been presented with such a challenge and declines it is not just where he was before.  His position is the worse for the encounter.  It is this that gives point to the tremendous warnings that Jesus is reported to have uttered about the consequences of rejection….Whatever possibility of disaster may lurk within the choice which is offered, the facing of the choice, in the freedom which the Creator allows to his creatures, in itself raises life to greater intensity.  The coming of the kingdom meant the open possibility of enhancement of life; it also meant the heightening of moral responsibility.

The Founder of Christianity (New York, NY:  Macmillan Publishing Company, 1970), pages 57-58

May we exercise our freedom to become better people, build up our neighborhoods and society, lift each other up, seek the common good, and glorify God.  May our love for God and each other be active and contagious.  And may our words, even if they are impressive in the service of God, be far less eloquent than our actions in the same cause.  May all of this prove to be true because righteousness is good and we seek that which is good.  And may we succeed by grace and be among God’s faithful servants.







Devotion for July 24, 25, and 26 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  A Crown

Image Source = Library of Congress

1 Samuel and Acts, Part IV:  Positive and Negative Identity



FRIDAY, JULY 26, 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 8:1-22 (July 24)

1 Samuel 9:1-27 (July 25)

1 Samuel 10:1-27 (July 26)

Psalm 15 (Morning–July 24)

Psalm 36 (Morning–July 25)

Psalm 130 (Morning–July 26)

Psalms 48 and 4 (Evening–July 24)

Psalms 80 and 27 (Evening–July 25)

Psalms 32 and 139 (Evening–July 26)

Acts 21:15-36 (July 24)

Acts 21:37-22:16 (July 25)

Acts 22:17-29 (July 26)


Central to the narrative of 1 Samuel 8-10 is the idea that Israelites were properly different from other nations.  Their neighbors had human kings yet the Israelites had God as monarch; “judges,” or chieftains, provided human governance.  So the demand for a human king constituted a rejection of God.  The people got what they requested, although the beginning of Saul’s reign was promising.  In the long term, however, monarchy turned out as Samuel predicted it would.

In the Acts of the Apostles we read of the other, dark side of not being like other nations:  It can become a matter of hubris, that which goeth before the fall.  Paul worked among Gentiles, to whom he did not apply the Law of Moses.  Yet, contrary to rumor, he did not tell Jews to disobey that code, in particular relative to circumcision.  But objective reality did not prevent him from getting into trouble.

I propose that an element crucial to understanding the theme of being different is considering that the Jews were a minority population, heirs of a monotheistic tradition in a sea of polytheism.  How a member of a minority identifies oneself flows from that minority status.  So a certain element of negative identity (“I am not a/an _______.”) is inevitable.  But positive identity (“I am a/an ________.”) is preferable.

I, as a nonconformist, often by who the fact of who I am and frequently by choice, understand both forms of identity.   I am usually clueless regarding many popular culture-related topics of conversations, for

  1. I have other interests, and
  2. I choose not not to consume most popular media.  The “join the bandwagon” advertising approach has less of an effect on me than on many other people.  I tend to turn away unless I am already interested.

My favorite Fifties music comes from the 1750s and the 1850s, from the European classical tradition, unless one speaks of certain jazz of the 1950s.  I am an unapologetic musical snob; somebody has to be.  And, if many people go out of the way to be like others and to subsume their identities into the collective, somebody has to go out of his or her way to stand out.

But none of that justifies spreading rumors, threatening innocent people with violence, and rejecting God.  None of that makes right writing off most of the human race and contenting oneself with a “God-and-me” relationship.

Speaking of positive identity, each of us, regardless of labels, background, and circumstances, can claim one status with honesty:

I am a bearer of the image of God.

May we think of each other and ourselves accordingly.  As we think so we act and are.







Week of Proper 11: Tuesday, Year 2   6 comments

Above:  The Arch at The University of Georgia, Across from Downtown Athens, Georgia

(I live a few miles from this site.  UGA is the professional home of several people who have harmed me.)

Image Source = Josh Hallett

Life Goes On, and So Must We

JULY 24, 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.


Micah 7:14-20 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Oh, shepherd Your people with Your staff,

Your very own flock.

May they who dwell isolated

In a woodland surrounded by farmland

Graze Bashan and Gilead

As in olden days.

I will show him wondrous deeds

As in the days when You sallied forth from the land of Egypt.

Let nations behold and be ashamed

Despite all their might;

Let them put hand to mouth;

Let their ears be deafened!

Let them lick dust like snakes,

Like crawling things on the ground!

Let them come trembling out of their strongholds

To the LORD our God;

Let them fear and dread You!

Who is a God like You,

Forgiving iniquity

And remitting transgression;

Who has not maintained His wrath forever

Against the remnant of His own people,

Because He loves graciousness!

He will take us back in love;

He will cover up our iniquities,

You will hurl all our sins

Into the depths of the sea.

You will keep faith with Jacob,

Loyalty to Abraham,

As you promised an oath to our fathers

In days gone by.

Psalm 85:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  You have been gracious to your land, O LORD,

you have restored the good fortune of Jacob.

2  You have forgiven the iniquity of your people

and blotted out all their sins.

3  You have withdrawn all your fury

and turned yourself from your wrathful indignation.

4  Restore us then, O God our Savior,

let your anger depart from us.

5  Will you be displeased with us for ever?

will you prolong your anger from age to age?

6  Will you not give us life again,

that your people may rejoice in you?

7 Show us your mercy, O LORD,

and grant us  your salvation.

Matthew 12:46-50 (An American Translation):

While he was still speaking, his mother and his brothers came up and stood outside the crowd, wanting to speak to him.  But he said to the man who told him,

Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?

And he pointed to his disciples and said,

Here are my mother and my brothers!  For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!


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:

Week of Proper 11:  Tuesday, Year 1:

A Prayer for Those Who Have Harmed Us:


The lectionary I am following for Monday-Saturday readings omits the two vengeful verses in Micah 7, but I have included them.  In the Old Testament even expressions of hope and gratitude come mixed with anger much of the time.  Consider many of the psalms when searching for other examples of this pattern.  Such vengeful thoughts might not seem holy to certain sensibilities, but they are human, and the Bible is a product of human beings.

The reading, from the end of Micah’s book, speaks of God taking back the chosen people and forgiving them.   There will be a second exodus, this time from exile, the reading says.  And there was.  The beautiful poetry speaks of God throwing all the sins of the Jews “into the depths of the sea.”  Divine wrath, we read, will not last forever.

Yet the author wants divine wrath to fall on the foreign powers, namely oppressors, and to last forever.  I know, on the personal level, the desire for vengeance and vindication.  My cause was just, my oppressor’s was not, and he got away with what he did to me.  Who was I, after all?  I was a lowly graduate student; he was (and is) a prominent professor.  So he got away with what he did to me.  Anger, however, is a spiritual toxin, one which becomes more poisonous the longer one nurtures and imbibes it.  Yes, I remain convinced that I was a victim, but I refuse to define myself as such.  There might not be justice for me in this life, but I have come around to not objecting to forgiveness for my oppressor in this life or the next one.

Life goes on, and so must we.




Forgiveness occurred some time ago.  I became conscious of it only after the fact.








Week of Proper 11: Wednesday, Year 1   15 comments

Above:  Sinai Desert

Image in the Public Domain


JULY 24, 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 16:1-5, 9-15, 19, 20 (An American Translation):

Setting out from Elim, the whole Israelite community came to the desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt.

Then the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the desert.

O that we would have died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of flesh and had plenty of food to eat,” the Israelites said to them; “for you you have brought us into this desert, to make this whole crowd die of famine.

Then the LORD said to Moses,

I am going to rain food out of the sky for you, but the people are to go out and gather only a day’s ration each day, in order that I may test them to see whether they will follow my instructions or not.  On every sixth day, however, when they measure what they bring home, it shall be twice as much as what they gather from day to day.

Then Moses said to Aaron,

Say to the whole Israelite community, “Present yourselves before the LORD; for he has heard your grumbling.”

When Aaron said this to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, whereupon the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.

Then the LORD said to Moses,

I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites; say to them, “At twilight you shall have flesh to eat, and in the morning plenty of bread to satisfy you; and thus shall you know that I am the LORD your God.”

So it came about at evening that quails came up and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a fall of dew around the camp; when the fall of dew evaporated, there, on the surface of the desert, there was a fine scaly substance, as fine as hoar-frost on the ground!  When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another,

What is it?

–for they did not know what it was.

Then Moses said to them,

That is the bread which the LORD is giving you to eat….

Then Moses said to them,

No one is to leave any of them over until morning.

But they did not obey Moses; certain ones left some it over until morning, as it bred maggots and became foul.  So Moses became angry with them.

Psalm 78:18-29 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

18 They tested God in their hearts,

demanding food for their craving.

19 They railed against God and said,

“Can God set a table in the wilderness?”

20 True, he struck the rock, the waters gushed out, and the gullies overflowed;

but is he able to give bread

or to provide meat for his people?”

21 When the LORD heard this, he was full of wrath;

a fire was kindled against Jacob,

and his anger mounted against Israel;

22 For they had no faith in God,

nor did they put their trust in his saving power.

23 So he commanded the clouds above

and opened the doors of heaven.

24 He rained down manna upon them to eat

and gave them grain from heaven.

25 So mortals ate the bread of angels;

he provided for them food enough.

26 He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens

and led out the south wind by his might.

27 He rained down flesh upon them like dust

and winged birds like the sand of the sea.

28 He let it fall in the midst of their camp

and round about their dwellings.

29 So they ate and were well filled,

for he gave them what they craved.

Matthew 13:1-9 (An American Translation):

That same day Jesus went out of his house and was sitting on the seashore.  And such great crowds gathered about him that he got into a boat and sat down in it, while all the people stood on the shore.  And he told them many things in figures, and said to them,

A sower went to sow, and as he was sowing, some of the seed fell by the path and the birds came and ate it up, and some fell on rocky ground where there was not much soil and it sprang up at once, because the soil was not deep, but when the sun came up it was scorched and withered up, because it had no root.  And some of it fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it out.  And some fell on good soil, and yielded some a hundred, some sixty, and some thirty-fold.  Let him who has ears listen!


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.


A desert can be a forbidding place.  Saints have gone into them to test their spiritual mettle and their willingness to rely on God.  Some of the more famous people of this sort are John the Baptist, Antony of Egypt, John Climacus, and, of course, Jesus of Nazareth.

Realization and acceptance of one’s reliance on God, a virtue, can terrify us.  This is especially true if one’s culture places great value on self-reliance, thereby stigmatizing dependency.  Yet we are all God’s dependents, and self-reliance is an illusion.

With all this mind, let us consider the reading from Exodus.

About a month has passed since the Exodus.  The great Israelite throng is in the desert, and the period of praising God for deliverance from slavery has ended.  Walter Brueggemann, in The New Interpreter’s Bible, provides an excellent analysis.  The plenteous, piled-up food in Egypt was the bread of coercion distributed according to the will of the Pharaoh.  Yet the manna and quail in the desert come from God, and the distribution is equitable.  There is just one caveat:  No hoarding is allowed.

This is God’s economy:  There is enough for everyone to have enough, but not an excessive amount.  Really, how much does one person need?  This lesson contradicts much of Western society and politics, not to mention the basest varieties of capitalism.  Human economies experience booms and busts, and rely on inequality in distribution of food and other necessities.  This is sinful.  So I prefer God’s economy.

So, due to God’s mercy, a forbidding wilderness becomes a place where there is enough.  People will neither starve nor grow fat on what is available.  This is not so bad, is it?

I love puns.  So imagine my delight in reading that the Hebrew text for “What is it?” is identical to that for “It is manna.”  Professor Richard Elliott Friedman, in his Commentary on the Torah, likens this exchange in Exodus 16:15 to Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” routine.  The Bible contains much humor in the original languages and certain scenarios; may we not be so serious-minded that we cannot recognize this fact and enjoy the Scriptures in this way.

What was manna?  (Be prepared for a gross-out moment.)  It was almost certainly honey dew, the excretions of scale insects and plant lice who had injested sap of tamarisk trees then left “souvenirs” onto branches.  The “souvenirs” then crystalized and fell to the ground.  Bedouins use this as a sweetener, according to a note from The Jewish Study Bible.

There is a certain squeamishness about eating certain food, especially if one knows what it is.  On the other hand, ignorance is culinary bliss.  The Israelites had not seen manna before, so they did not know that it was solidified and crystalized insect excretions.  Yet it was enough, and it was good for the people.

The Israelites had begun to grumble really early, even immediately before the Exodus itself.  Then they continued.  They sound like the seed that fell among thorns in the Parable of the Sower; concerns choked off faith.  This might be my story or your tale, too.  May it not be so.  Rather, may as many people as possible be like the seed in fertile soil.