Archive for the ‘July 30’ Category

Devotion for Tuesday After Proper 12, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther

Above:  Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Esther VI:  Whom to Glorify

JULY 30, 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 6:1-7:6

Psalm 55:16-23

Romans 9:30-10:4


They attack those at peace with them,

going back on their oaths;

though their mouth is smoother than butter,

enmity is in their hearts;

their words more soothing than oil,

yet sharpened like swords.

–Psalm 55:20-21, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


Our journey through the Book of Esther takes us through the sixth chapter and part of the seventh.  Ahasuerus, finally growing some part of a spine, recalls that Mordecai had saved his life in Chapter 2.  The monarch asks if the loyal courtier has received a reward for such fidelity and learns that the answer is negative.  Ahasuerus plans to reward Mordecai properly as Haman, who seeks to have the monarch send Mordecai to die, enters the royal presence.  Haman never has the opportunity to say what is on his mind, for Ahasuerus asks him what should happen to the man the monarch wishes to honor.  Haman, imagining that Ahasuerus means to honor him, explains details of an impressive ceremony.  The monarch turns the tables on Haman by instructing him to make those arrangements for Mordecai.  Haman, now in a desperate situation, is about to be in a worse situation, for Ahasuerus responds favorably to Queen Esther’s request for the deliverance of the Jews.  The monarch is angry to learn that Haman has manipulated him into nearly committing genocide.  Haman cringes in terror before the king and queen consort.

I propose that, as one reads that story from the Bible, one should imagine tones of voice and facial expressions.  Doing so makes the account come to life.

I have spent much time contemplating the Law of Moses recently.  Pondering timeless principles illustrated by culturally specific laws which assume a certain level of technology and other factors no longer applicable to many of us today has increased my regard for those principles, such as the truths that we human beings are completely dependent upon God, are responsible for each other, and are responsible to each other.  Obeying divine law is properly a matter of obedience to God, not works-based righteousness.  As Jesus says in John 14:15 (The New Jerusalem Bible, 1985),

If you love me you will keep my commandments.

I suppose, then, that St. Paul the Apostle objected not to the Law of Moses itself but to the misuse of it.  He favored focusing on what God has done, not what we mere mortals have done.  St. Paul was especially fond of fixating on what Jesus has done.

Haman, a proud, spiteful, and amoral man, sought to destroy innocent others to promote himself in the royal court.  Although he was a fictional character, real-life scoundrels who have been willing to sacrifice others (innocent or not) for their own glorification have populated seats of power throughout time.  They have not practiced righteousness, much less works-based righteousness.

May we seek to glorify God, not ourselves.  May we seek to love our fellow human beings as we love ourselves.  May we choose the higher path.







Devotion for Monday After Proper 12, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Abraham and the Three Angels

Above:   Abraham and the Three Angels, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

God’s Surprises

JULY 30, 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:

Genesis 18:1-15

Psalm 111

Philippians 4:10-20


Reverence for the LORD is the first step to wisdom,

good success comes to all who obey his laws.

His people will never stop praising him.

–Psalm 111:10, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)


Sometimes, however, distress comes to those who obey God’s laws.  Consider, O reader, St. Paul the Apostle, who suffered death threats, incarceration, beatings, a shipwreck, and an execution.  Consider also, O reader, the church he planted at Philippi.  That congregation had to contend with internal and external threats, from anti-Christian authorities to Gnostics.  Yet the Philippian church, for all its struggles, was generous of spirit and helped St. Paul in tangible ways.

Depending on our expectations, some of God’s methods might surprise us.  One might expect a persecuted and struggling community to be preoccupied with its own troubles.  And, as for Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 18, a pregnancy certainly falls into the category of the unexpected.  The spiritual lesson I offer based on these readings is that we ought to open our minds and move beyond our usual expectations regarding what God might do and how God might do it.  We have certainly missed some blessings because we have not been looking in the right place at the right time.









Devotion for July 28, 29, and 30 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  Antonius Felix

1 Samuel and Acts, Part VI:  Rejection and Violence

Image in the Public Domain

SUNDAY, JULY 28, 2019

MONDAY, JULY 29, 2019

TUESDAY, JULY 30, 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 13:1-18 (July 28)

1 Samuel 14:47-15:9 (July 29)

1 Samuel 15:10-35 (July 30)

Psalm 67 (Morning–July 28)

Psalm 51 (Morning–July 29)

Psalm 54 (Morning–July 30)

Psalms 46 and 93 (Evening–July 28)

Psalms 85 and 47 (Evening–July 29)

Psalms 28 and 99 (Evening–July 30)

Acts 23:12-35 (July 28)

Acts 24:1-23 (July 29)

Acts 24:24-25:12 (July 30)


In 1 Samuel we read two accounts of how Samuel and Saul fell out with each other. (These things happen in parts of the Hebrew Scriptures due to the editing together of different sources.)  The first story tells of Saul making an offering Samuel should have performed.  The other version entails Samuel and his soldiers not killing enough people and livestock.  How making an offering or not killing more people and livestock is supposed to offend God eludes me beyond a purely historical-literary critical level of understanding texts and traditions, for I am a liberal Christian and a generally peaceful person.  Violence offends me and ritual sacrifices are foreign to me.

But the rejection of Saul by God occupies the readings from 1 Samuel.  The story of Saul, which ended badly, began with Samuel warning the people that they really did not want a monarch.  Saul’s reign seems to have proven Samuel’s case.  And the reigns of subsequent kings did likewise.

Rejection and violence also figure prominently in the Acts lessons.  Paul evaded plots on his life yet remained in custody for two years.  His offense was, as The New Jerusalem Bible translates part of 24:5, being

a perfect pest.

That did not justify such extreme measures, though.

Rejection and violence unify the sets of readings.  The God of these lessons is, in the words of Psalm 99:4 (The New Jerusalem Bible), one who

loves justice

and has

established honesty, justice and uprightness.

I recognize that description in Acts 23-25 but not in 1 Samuel 13-15.  That does not indicate a fault within me.








Week of Proper 12: Monday, Year 2   Leave a comment

Above:  Ancient Linen

“But they would not obey.”

JULY 30, 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 13:1-11 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Thus the LORD said to me:

Go buy yourself a loincloth made of linen, and put it around your loins, but do not dip it into water.

So I bought the loincloth in accordance with the LORD’s command, and put it about my loins.  And the word of the LORD came to me a second time:

Take the loincloth, which you bought, which is about your loins, and go at once to Perath and cover it up there in a cleft of the rock.

I went and buried it at Perath, as the LORD had commanded me.  Then, after a long time, the LORD said to me,

Go at once to Perath and take there the loincloth which I commanded you to bury there.

So I went to Perath and dug up the loincloth from the place where I had buried it; and found the loincloth ruined; it was not good for anything.

The word of the LORD came to me:

Thus said the LORD:  Even so will I ruin the overwheening pride of Judah and Jerusalem.  This wicked people who refuse to heed My bidding, who follow the willfulness of their own hearts, who follow other gods and serve them and worship them, shall become like that loincloth, which is not good for anything.  For as the loincloth clings to the loins of a man, so I brought close to Me the whole House of Israel and the whole House of Judah

–declares the LORD–

that they might be My people, for fame, and praise, and splendor.  But they would not obey.

Psalm 95 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Come, let us sing to the LORD;

let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving

and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.

3 For the LORD is a great God,

and a great King above all gods.

In his hand are the caverns of the earth,

and the heights of the hills are his also.

5 The sea is his, for he made it,

and his hands have molded the dry land.

Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee,

and kneel before the LORD our Maker.

7 For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

8 Harden not your hearts,

as your forebears did in the wilderness,

at Meribah, and on that day at Massah,

when they tempted me.

They put me to the test,

though they had seen my works.

10 Forty years long I detested that generation and said,

“This people are wayward in their hearts;

they do not know my ways.”

11 So I swore in my wrath,

“They shall not enter into my rest.”

Matthew 13:31-35 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then he put another parable before them,

The kingdom of Heaven is like a tiny grain of mustard-seed which a man took and sowed in his field.   As a seed it is the smallest of them all, but it grows to be the biggest of all plants.  It becomes a tree, big enough for birds to come and nest in its branches.

This is another of the parables he told them:

The kingdom of Heaven is like yeast, taken by a woman and put into three measures of flour until the whole had risen.

All these things Jesus spoke to the crowd in parables, and he did not speak to them at all without using parables–to fulfil the prophecy:

I will open my mouth in parables;

I will utter things hidden from the foundation of the world.


The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; 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 12:  Monday, Year 1:


Jeremiah was a priest, so he wore a uniform.  His wardrobe consisted entirely of linens, down to his loincloth.  This manner of dress signified his Levitical purity, especially given the fact that these garments had to be clean.  This context is crucial to an accurate understanding of the symbolic act in Jeremiah 13:1-11.  Judah had lost its purity by committing idolatry and practicing and condoning rampant social injustice, especially that of the economic sort.  So the people were like a dirty, worthless loincloth.  This was not not God’s plan, but “they would not obey.”

I am of an age such that I understand an old cliche:  “He sounds like a broken record.”  The Monday-Saturday lectionary I have been following has been taking me on a grand tour through the writings of and attributed to prophets.  Along the way I have read of certain themes again and again.  Among the practices the prophets decried was disobedience to God, usually via idolatry, economic injustice, and judicial corruption.  These are old themes which remain current today; just follow the news closely.

If I write much more, I will sound even more like a broken record than I do already.  So I leave you, O reader, with two thoughts:

  1. The message of the reading from Jeremiah speaks for itself.
  2. God still objects strenuously to idolatry, economic injustice, and judicial corruption.


Week of Proper 12: Tuesday, Year 1   11 comments

Above:  Moses

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

JULY 30, 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 33:7-11; 34:5-10, 27-28 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And Moses would take the tent and pitch it outside of the camp, going far from the camp, and he called it the Tent of Meeting.  And it would be:  everyone seeking YHWH would to out to the Tent of Meeting, which was outside of the camp.  And it would be, when Moses would go out to the Tent, all the people would get up, and they would stand up, each one at the entrance of the tent, and they would look after Moses until he came to the Tent.  And it would be, when Moses came to the Tent, the column of cloud would come down, and it would stand at the entrance of the Tent, and He would speak with Moses.  And all the people would see the column of cloud standing at the entrance of the Tent, and all the people would get up and bow, each at the entrance of his tent.  And YHWH would speak to Moses face-to-face, the way a man speaks to his fellow man.  And he would come back to the camp.  And his attendant, Joshua, son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from inside the Tent.

And YHWH came down in a cloud and stood before him there, and he invoked the name YHWH.  And YHWH passed in front of him and called,

YHWH, YHWH, merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in kindness and faithfulness, keeping kindness for thousands, bearing crime and offense and sin; though not making one innocent; reckoning fathers’ crimes on children and on children’s cildren, on third generations and on fourth generations.

And Moses hurried and knelt on the ground and bowed, and he said,

If I’ve found favor in your eyes, my Lord, may my Lord go among us, because it is a stiff-necked people, and forgive our crime and our sin, and make us your legacy.

And He said,

Here, I am making a covenant.  Before all your people I’ll do wonders that haven’t been created in all the earth and among all the nations; and all the people whom you’re among will see YHWH’s deeds, because that which I’m doing with you is awesome….

And YHWH said to Moses,

Write these words to yourself, because I’ve made a covenant with you and with Israel based on these words.

And he was there with YHWH forty days and forty nights.  He did not eat bread, and he did not drink water.  And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.

Psalm 103:5-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

5 He satisfies you with good things,

and your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.

6 The LORD executes righteousness

and judgment for all who are oppressed.

7 He made his ways known to Moses

and his works to the children of Israel.

8 The LORD is full of compassion and mercy,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

9 He will not always accuse us,

nor will he keep his anger for ever.

10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,

nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

11 For as the heavens are as high above the earth,

so is his mercy great upon those who fear him.

12 As far as the east is from the west,

so far has he removed our sins from us.

13 As a father cares for his children,

so does the LORD care for those who fear him.

Matthew 13:36-43 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Later, he left the crowds and went indoors, where his disciples came and said,

Please explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.

Jesus replied,

The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.  The field is the whole world.  The good seed?  That is the sons of the kingdom, while the weeds are sons of the evil one of this world.  The enemy who sowed them is the devil.  The harvest is the end of this world.  The reapers are angels.

Just as weeds are gathered up and burned in the fire so will it happen at the end of the world.  The Son of Man will send out his angels and they will uproot from the kingdom everything that is spoiling it, and all those who live in defiance of its laws, and will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be tears and bitter regret.  Then the good will shine out like the sun in their Father’s kingdom.  The man who has ears should use them!


The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Sometimes I feel like a broken record, or at least Mojo Jojo from The Powerpuff Girls; I keep repeating myself.  I have an excellent reason for my repetition:  the texts keep saying the same things over and over again.  So here I am, again, writing that divine judgment and mercy are intertwined.

One point does bear elaboration before I proceed.  Consider Exodus 34:6-7, which speak of the passing down of sins through the generations.  Richard Elliott Friedman makes the following comment about it on page 291 of his Commentary on the Torah:

…Third, psychologically one can observe traits persevering through that many [four] generations.  I have personally observed ongoing dynamics within my family through four generations.   This does not mean that an individual’s bad deed will be duplicated by his or her children and grandchildren.  But it may recognize that such deeds have consequences, for better or worse (pride and embarrassment, stigmas, reactions, conscious or unconscious imitation), that persist through generations.

Consequences constitute the crux of the issue.  Deeds have consequences, and often divine punishment is merely permitting consequences to play out.  Much of the time this for disciplinary reasons, so that we will learn our lessons.  Responsible parents do not always shield their children from the consequences of bad actions.  This is for the good of the children.  Since the parental role (often paternal, but sometimes maternal, too) is one Biblical writers applied to God, this analogy works well.  Furthermore, forgiveness of sin does not erase the consequences of it.  Roman Catholic theology reflects a deep understanding of this fact, hence the teaching on Purgatory, which many people misunderstand.

The God of the Old Testament is merely a vengeful deity, contrary to the oft-repeated stereotype.  There is much mercy there, too, as the excerpts from Genesis indicate.  This is God, who loves the Israelites enough to liberate them.  They can never pay him back, but they can worship only him, demonstrate gratitude for provisions, and obey some commandments.  Is this too much to ask?  No!  But do they do that much?  No!  Why should God not be angry and disappointed?  But does God give up on them?  No!

This is God, who speaks to Moses personally in the leader’s own tent for a few chapters in Exodus (until Chapter 40).  But God continues to speak to Moses, who is faithful, and who even argues with him from time to time.  This is God, who demonstrates caring and much involvement with the Israelites, although mostly by dealing with Moses, who functions as an intermediary.

Yet, as Jesus reminds us in Matthew 13:36-43, there is still judgment for unrepentant.  And it will be terrifying.

My note of caution is to repent not out of fear of damnation, but out of love, respect, and awe for God and divine mercy.  A relationship built on terror of Hell is one with a father figure whom one thinks might be abusive.  That is a dysfunctional spiritual relationship.  No, may we love God, who loves us.  And may we bear fruits consistent with righteousness.  This is possible, by grace.


Proper 12, Year A   28 comments

Above: Paul Writing His Epistles, a Painting from the 1500s

Image in the Public Domain

Single Predestination

The Sunday Closest to July 27

The Eighth Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 30, 2017



Genesis 29:15-28 (New Revised Standard Version):

Laban said to Jacob,

Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?

Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. Jacob loved Rachel; so he said,

I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.

Laban said,

It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.

So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

Then Jacob said to Laban,

Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.

So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her.  (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban,

What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?

Laban said,

This is not done in our country– giving the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.

Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.

Psalm 105:1-11, 45b (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of all his marvelous works.

3 Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

4 Search for the LORD and his strength

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

6 O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob has chosen.

7 He is the LORD our God;

his judgments prevail in all the world.

8 He has always been mindful of his covenant,

the promise he made for a thousand generations.

9 The covenant he made with Abraham,

the oath that he swore to Isaac,

10 Which he established as a statute for Jacob,

an everlasting covenant for Israel,

11 Saying, “To you will I give the land of Canaan

to be your allotted inheritance.”

45b Hallelujah!


Psalm 128 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Happy are they all who fear the LORD,

and who follow in his ways!

2 You shall eat the fruit of your labor;

happiness and prosperity shall be yours.

3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house,

your children like olive shoots round about your table.

4 The man who fears the LORD

shall thus indeed be blessed.

5 The LORD bless you from Zion,

and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.

6 May you live to see your children’s children;

may peace be upon Israel.


1 Kings 3:5-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said,

Ask what I should give you.

And Solomon said,

You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him,

Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.

Psalm 119:129-136 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

129 Your decrees are wonderful;

therefore I obey them with all my heart.

130 When your word goes forth it gives light;

it gives understanding to the simple.

131 I open my mouth and pant;

I long for your commandments.

132 Turn to me in mercy,

as you always do to those who love your Name.

133 Steady my footsteps in your word;

let no iniquity have dominion over me.

134 Rescue me from those who oppress me,

and I will keep your commandments.

135 Let your countenance shine upon your servant

and teach me your statutes.

136 My eyes shed streams of tears,

because people do not keep your law.


Romans 8:26-39 (New Revised Standard Version):

The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,

For your sake we are being killed all day long;

we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus put before the crowds another parable:

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.

He told them another parable:

The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Have you understood all this?

They answered,


And he said to them,

Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.

The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

–Romans 8:28-30 (New Revised Standard Version)

I consider myself a serious student of the Bible–a student, not a teacher or scholar.  There is always something more for me to learn, and what I do know about the Bible outweighs my accumulated learning concerning it.  So I have no problem admitting freely that there are certain passages and verses I have not really read for years.  I have read the words, but I have moved along.

Romans 8:28-30 is one such passage.  Yes, I knew 8:28, but focused on that, not 8:29-30.  I began to focus on this passage in late 2008.  My methodology was quite Episcopalian; I examined the scriptures carefully, read what Christian theologians have made of these verses, and employed my reason in pondering all this information.  The preponderance of scripture, tradition, and reason has convinced me to be become and remain a Single Predestinarian:  God has predestined some people to Heaven, but nobody to Hell.  The witness of the Holy Spirit and the missions efforts of the Church are available to invite all others into the path leading to eternal life in this life and the next.

Being raised United Methodist, I imbibed deeply of free will and the rejection of any form of predestination.  The Methodist concept of salvation available to all according to all, with only the free will choice to reject it standing in the way, is a democratic theology consistent with the American ethos.  It is a powerful idea which has affected U.S. history and culture, helping to liberate women and slaves spiritually while negating social hierarchies.  Despite these positive contributions, it is a flawed idea.

Calvinism, in any form, is a textured and subtle theological system, one which does not lend itself to bumper sticker statements. This confusion is mildly amusing when it becomes the fodder for jokes, but does not aid in spiritual contemplation.

The good news is that the wisdom that Solomon sought is available to all by grace, either in the form of predestination or the witness of the Holy Spirit; that the extremely valuable Kingdom of God is within the grasp of all, either in the form of predestination or the witness of the Holy Spirit.  The mustard seed grows into a giant shrub that goes where it will.  Yeast, traditionally associated with corruption in Judaism, becomes a symbol of extravagant grace.  The pearls are extremely valuable; the pursuit of them indicates single-minded devotion.  The parable of the fish in the net is akin to that of the mustard seed, for both contain the good and the bad, the pure and the impure; God will sort out everything at the end.

The mustard plant provides shelter for many varieties of animal life.  Some of the neighbors do not get along, but there they are, together.  And Jesus says this is a metaphor for the Kingdom of God.  The net collects the good fish along with the rotten ones.  Who is a good fish?  Who is a rotten one?  Do you not get along with your neighbor species in the mustard bush?  Leaving decisions as to who is pure and who is impure, who is good and who is rotten, to God is the better part of wisdom.  We might even be confused about our proper classification.

Fortunately, grace is present, in one form or another, and there is hope for us yet.