Archive for the ‘July 27’ Category

Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 12, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Esther--John Everett Millais

Above:  Esther, by John Everett Millais

Image in the Public Domain

Esther IV:  Fear Itself

JULY 27, 2019


The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you are always more ready than we are to pray,

and you gladly give more than we either desire or deserve.

Pour upon us your abundant mercy.

Forgive us those things that weigh on our conscience,

and give us those good things that come only through your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43


The Assigned Readings:

Esther 4:1-17

Psalm 138

Luke 8:22-25


Though I live surrounded by trouble

you give me life–to my enemies’ fury!

You stretch out your right hand and save me,

Yahweh will do all things for me.

Yahweh, your faithful love endures for ever,

do not abandon what you have made.

–Psalm 138:7-8, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


The story in the Book of Esther resumes with the fourth chapter and includes the Greek addition The New American Bible labels Chapter C.  Mordecai and Esther digest the royal decree of genocide against the Jews.  Mordecai is not safe; neither is Esther, although she is the queen consort.  If she goes to visit Ahasuerus without him summoning her first, she risks death.  And if he does not order her death for that reason, he might have her killed for being Jewish.  In Chapter C Mordecai prays for God to deliver the Jews and Esther prays for guidance and for deliverance from fear.

Deliverance from fear occupies the core of Luke 8:22-25, in which Jesus calms a storm.  Although I affirm the proposition that he could have done that, I find the metaphor in the story helpful and the question of the literal story irrelevant to this post.  We experience storms in life.  Sometimes God delivers us from them.  On other occasions, however, God accompanies us through them and delivers us from fear instead.

Esther was correct to know fear.  Ahasuerus had probably ordered the death of Queen Vashti, whose offense had been to refuse to degrade herself.  He was also an easily manipulated monarch through whom others, especially Haman, governed.  Ahasuerus was not powerless, however, for he had the authority to order the execution of someone who went to him uninvited.  Furthermore, he had just ordered genocide against Esther’s people, the Jews.  She could have yielded to fear and laid low.  Esther could have preserved herself at the expense of her fellow Jews, but she found her courage and prayed,

O God, whose power is over all, hear the voice of those in despair.  Save us from the power of the wicked, and deliver me from my fear.

–Esther C:30, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

On March 4, 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said,

…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself–nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

Out of fear we human beings become more stingy and selfish.  Out of fear we think and act hatefully toward others or merely condone the hateful actions of others.  Out of fear we retreat into passivity when the occasion demands courageous actions.  Out of fear we violate the Golden Rule, often while assuring ourselves of our imagined righteousness.

May we trust in God and act courageously, according to the Golden Rule.







Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 12, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:   The Prophet Elisha

Image in the Public Domain

The Will of God and Morality

JULY 26, 27, and 28, 2018


The Collect:

Gracious God, you have placed within the hearts of all your children

a longing for your word and a hunger for your truth.

Grant that we may know your Son to be the true bread of heaven

and share this bread with all the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43


The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 19:19-21 (Thursday)

2 Kings 3:4-20 (Friday)

2 Kings 4:38-41 (Saturday)

Psalm 145:10-18 (All Days)

Colossians 1:9-14 (Thursday)

Colossians 3:12-17 (Friday)

John 4:31-38 (Saturday)


All you have made will confess you, LORD,

those devoted to you will give you thanks.

They will speak of your royal glory

and tell of your mighty deeds,

Making known to all mankind your mighty deeds,

your majestic royal glory.

–Psalm 145:10-12, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)


Certain stories of Elisha resemble those of his mentor, Elijah, as an observant reader of the Books of Kings knows.  And, as an observant reader of the Gospels and the Books of Kings knows, some of the miracle stories of Jesus echo certain accounts of incidents from the lives of Elijah and Elisha.  Examples of these include raising people from the dead and feeding a multitude with a small amount of food.  Those stories indicate, among other things, that the heroes were close to God and were able to meet the needs of people.

The Elisha stories for these days have him leave home, participate in helping his kingdom win a war against Moab, and render dangerous food safe.  They portray him as an agent of the will of God.

The “will of God” is a phrase many people use improperly, even callously.  I, as a student of history, know that various individuals have utilized it to justify the murder of priests of Baal (by the order of Elijah, in 1 Kings 18:40), blame innocent victims of natural disasters exasperated by human shortsightedness (such as God allegedly sending Hurricane Katrina to New Orleans or a devastating earthquake to Haiti, supposedly to smite evildoers in those places), et cetera.  These misuses of the concept of the will of God offend my morality and make God seem like a thug at best.

We ought to exercise great caution using the phrase “the will of God,” for we might speak or write falsely of God and drive or keep people away from a Christian pilgrimage.  This is a topic to approach seriously, not lightly.  Among the most thoughtful treatments is Leslie D. Weatherhead’s The Will of God (1944), which speaks of three wills of God:  intentional, circumstantial, and ultimate.  That is deeper than some professing Christians want to delve into the issue, however.

I do not pretend to be an expert on the will of God, but I do attempt to be an intellectually honest Christian.  I, as a Christian, claim to follow Jesus.  To ask what he would do or would not do, therefore, is a relevant question when pondering issues of morality and the will of God.  The four canonical Gospels are useful for these and other purposes.  I conclude, therefore, that Jesus would not have ordered the deaths of priests of Baal or resorted to homophobia to explain the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.  And I cannot conceive of Jesus agreeing with George Zimmerman that the death of Trayvon Martin was part of God’s plan and that wishing that Martin were alive is almost blasphemous.  Zimmerman is a bad theologian.

Living according to compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, and love, per Colossians 3:12-14, is the best way to proceed.  Doing so increases the probability that one will live as an agent of the will of God, whose love we see epitomized in Jesus.  It is better to live rightly than to seek to be right in one’s opinion of oneself.








Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 12, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  The Meeting of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, Circa 1899

Copyright by The U.S. Printing Co.

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC4-5226

The Kingdom of Solomon Versus the Kingdom of God

JULY 27, 2017

JULY 28, 2017

JULY 29, 2017


The Collect:

Beloved and sovereign God,

through the death and resurrection of your Son

you bring us into your kingdom of justice and mercy.

By your Spirit, give us your wisdom,

that we may treasure the life that comes from

 Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43


The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 1:28-37 (Thursday)

1 Kings 1:38-48 (Friday)

1 Kings 2:1-4 (Saturday)

Psalm 119:129-136 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 4:14-20 (Thursday)

Acts 7:44-53 (Friday)

Matthew 12:38-42 (Saturday)


Let your countenance shine upon your servant

and teach me your statutes.

My eyes shed streams of tears

because people do not keep your law.

–Psalm 119:135-136, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


Solomon recurs in the assigned readings for these three days.  Often the references are explicit.  Other times, however, he functions as an unnamed and negative figure of contrast.

We begin in 1 Kings 1 and 2, where we read of Solomon’s accession to the throne of Israel.  This process included scheming and political maneuvering.  Early in Chapter 2 the crown prince, soon to be king, received instructions to follow the Law of Moses.  Later in that chapter the new monarch eliminated political rivals.  Solomon was off to a bad start.  Furthermore, the foundation of his reign was tyranny, including forced labor and high taxes on the poor.  Had not Israelites been slaves in Egypt?  O, the irony!

The Kingdom of God is greater than the kingdom of Solomon.  In the former there is enough for everybody to share the wealth equitably and forced labor is absent.  God, who lives in faithful people and whose law is inscribed on their hearts, calls people to mutual respect and responsibility, not to any form of injustice–judicial, economic, et cetera.  There is no artificial scarcity in the Kingdom of God.  No, there is unbounded abundance of blessings, which exist not for hoarding (as some tried to do with manna), but for the common good.

St. Paul the Apostle wrote:

We [apostles] are fools for Christ’s sake, but you [Corinthians] are wise in Christ.  We are weak, but you are strong.  You are held in honor, but we in disrepute.  To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly clothed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands.   When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the dregs of all things.

–1 Corinthians 4:10-13, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

The greatest one in the Kingdom of God is the servant of all.  Blessed are the poor in the Kingdom of God.  Blessed are those who hunger and those who weep.  Blessed are those whom others revile for the sake of righteousness.  And blessed are those who are poor in spirit–who know their need for God.  Blessed are those who seek righteousness and who make peace.

Solomon’s kingdom did not function on these principles.  Neither do governments in our own day.  I know that people who try to make government look less like Solomon’s kingdom face charges of engaging in class warfare.  The real practitioners of class warfare in these cases are the accusers, of course.

Justice–in the context of the common good–requires some people to surrender or forego certain perks and privileges.  But if we act on the principles that (1) everything belongs to God and (2) we are tenants on this planet and stewards of God’s bounty, we will not insist on gaining or keeping certain perks and privileges at the expense of others.  And we will not think too highly of ourselves and look down upon others.  That is a challenging and tall order, but it is also a good one to pursue.  We can at least approach it, by grace, of course.








Devotion for July 27 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  The Sanhedrin

Image in the Public Domain

1 Samuel and Acts, Part V:  Hindsight



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 12:1-25

Psalm 56 (Morning)

Psalms 100 and 62 (Evening)

Acts 22:30-23:11


Courage!  You have borne witness to me in Jerusalem, now you must do the same in Rome.

–Acts 23:11b, The New Jerusalem Bible


We humans write of the past through the lens of hindsight.  How can we not?  No matter how accurate our retelling of previous events might be, the prism of current and recent events shapes our narratives.  How can this not be true?  “Luke,” author of Luke-Acts, wrote decades after Paul’s death.  And Samuel’s farewell discourse lived in oral tradition before it entered the first phase of written transmission.  By the time it arrived in its current form and literary context Jews were returning from the Babylonian Exile.  The response of many such Jews at the time must have been something like:

That was when our nation took its terminal wrong turn.  And we are living with the consequences of our ancestors’ actions!

Another consistent thread running through 1 Samuel and Acts is one of faithfulness to God.  Samuel and Paul spoke the truth as they understood it until the end.  Sometimes people listened.  Many of those people were violently hostile.  At Samuel’s end people agreed that he was honest yet disregarded his warnings against an absolute monarchy.  Hindsight has vindicated both men.  May we of today draw courage from their examples and bear faithful witness to God where we are and where God will send us.







Week of Proper 11: Friday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  A Shepherd

Hope in God

JULY 27, 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.


Jeremiah 3:14-18 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Turn back, rebellious children–

declares the LORD.

Since I have espoused you, I will take you, one from a town and two from a clan, and bring you to Zion.  And I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will pasture you with knowledge and skill.

And when you increase and are fertile in the land, in those days

–declares the LORD–

men shall no longer speak of the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD, nor shall it come to mind.  They shall not mention it, or miss it, or make another.  At that time, they shall call Jerusalem “Throne of the LORD,” and all nations shall assemble there, in the name of the LORD, at Jerusalem.  They shall no longer follow the willfulness of their evil hearts.  In those days, the House of Judah shall go with the House of Israel; they shall come together from the land of the north to the land I gave your fathers as a possession.

Psalm 121 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  I lift up my eyes to the hills;

from where is my help to come?

2  My help comes from the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

3  He will not let your foot be moved

and he who watches over you will not fall asleep.

4  Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel

shall neither slumber nor sleep;

5  The LORD himself watches over you;

the LORD is your shade at your right hand,

6  So that the sun shall not strike you by day,

nor the moon by night.

7  The LORD shall preserve you from all evil;

it is he who shall keep you safe.

8  The LORD shall watch over your going out and your coming in,

from this time forth for evermore.

Matthew 13:18-23 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

[Jesus continued,]

Now listen to the parable of the sower.  When a man hears the message of the kingdom and does not grasp it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.  This is like the seed sown by the road-side.  The seed sown on the stony patches represents the man who hears the message and eagerly accepts it.  But it has not taken root in him and does not last long–the moment trouble or persecution arises through the message he gives up his faith at once.  The seed sown among the thorns represents the man who hears the message, and then the worries of this life choke it to death and so it produces no “crop” in his life.  But the seed sown on good soil is the man who both hears and understands the message.  His life shows a good crop, a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.


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 Related Post:

Week of Proper 11:  Friday, Year 1:


I have pondered the reading from Jeremiah 3 and sought something new to say.  What can I write that I have not written four or more times already?  Jeremiah speaks of the future return of the Jews from exile and their abandonment of idolatry.  There will be judgment, but mercy will follow.  I have written this many times already.

We read that YHWH has espoused the chosen people.  This speaks of a marital relationship.  Yet the chosen people are also likened to children.  Prophets mixed their metaphors.  I have also tilled this ground.

On a historical level, I note that the Ark of the Covenant was missing from Jerusalem by the final years of the Kingdom of Judah.  But that does not make for a useful devotional point, at least not today.

So I emphasize the hopeful nature of the reading from Jeremiah 3.  There is hope in God.  There is restoration–and better than that–in God.  This is the Lord’s doing.  May we respond to such great love and return that affection as best we can.


Week of Proper 11: Saturday, Year 1   12 comments

Above:  Mixed Bag

Image Source =

The Good and the Bad, Mixed Together

JULY 27, 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 24:3-8 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And Moses came and told the people all of YHWH’s words and all the judgments.  And the people answered, one voice, and they said,

We’ll do all the things that YHWH has spoken.

And Moses wrote all of YHWH’s words.  And he got up early in the morning and built an altar below the mountain and twelve pillars for twelve tribes of Israel.  And he sent young men of the children of Israel, and they made peace offerings to YHWH:  bulls.  And Moses took half of the blood and set it in basins and threw half of the blood on the altar.  And he took the scroll of the covenant and read in the people’s ears.  And they said,

We’ll do everything that YHWH has spoken, and we’ll listen.

Psalm 51:11-16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence

and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

14 I shall teach your ways to the wicked,

and sinners shall return to you.

15 Deliver me from death, O God,

and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,

O God of my salvation.

16 Open my lips, O Lord,

and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Matthew 13:24-30 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then he put another parable before them,

The kingdom of Heaven,

he said,

is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.  But while his men were asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.  When the crop came up and began to ripen, the weeds appeared as well.  Then the owner’s servants came up to him and said, “Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field?  Where did all these weeds come from?” “Some enemy of mine has done this,” he replied.  “Do you want us then to go out and pull them all up?” said the servants.  “No” he returned, “if you pull up the weeds now, you would pull up the wheat with them.  Let them both grow together till the harvest.  And at harvest-time I shall tell the reapers, ‘Collect all the weeds first and tie them up in bundles ready to burn, but collect the wheat and store it in my barn.'”


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.


Often people treat the Ten Commandments as if no other commandments follow them immediately.  But reading Exodus 21-23 contains a host of pronouncements the Book of Exodus says come from God.  I am dubious about this claim with regard to certain commandments, such as 21:17, which reads,

And anyone who curses his father and his mother shall be put to death.

This is just one of many death penalty offenses in Chapters 21-23.  Other commandments, such as 21:26, acknowledge the existence of slavery without condemning it.

On the other hand, there is 23:9, which reads,

And you shall not oppress an alien–since you know the alien’s soul, because you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

These chapters also contain great compassion.

How shall one distinguish among the good laws and the bad ones?  I propose a simple standard:  Agape.  This is the unconditional love God extends toward us.  Agape is the word for love in 1 Corinthians 13, which I quote from the Revised Standard Version:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude.  Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends; as for prophesy, it will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man , I gave up childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.  So faith, hope, and love, abide,these three; but the greatest of these is love.

I cannot argue with that.

Love is the law of God.  May we do as God as instructed us; may we love ourselves as God loves us.  Then may we extend this love to all others, seeking the best for them.  By grace, may God’s best for everyone become reality.  And may rejoice in each other’s good fortune and be agents of God in bringing that to fruition, as opportunities to do so present themselves and we are able to participate.

This is the best way I know to differentiate within the mixed bag of commandments.  My guiding principle is to follow Jesus, for I am a Christian.  My history-oriented brain understands that death penalty offenses are numerous in societies with limited resources.  To feed an offender constitutes a drain on scarce supplies.  So I understand the death penalties in the Law of Moses in that context.  But, I ask, what about love and possibility of forgiveness and reform?  Are these not Jewish and Christian virtues?  Of course they are.  So I side with virtue.