Archive for the ‘July 5’ Category

Devotion for Friday and Saturday Before Proper 9, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Ruins of Corinth, 1898

Above:  Ruins of Corinth, Greece, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-07406

Generosity and Grace

JULY 5, 2019, and JULY 6, 2019


The Collect:

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus,

you are the city that shelters us, the mother who comforts us.

With your Spirit accompany us on our life’s journey,

that we may spread your peace in all the world,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41


The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 51:47-58 (Thursday)

Zechariah 14:10-21 (Friday)

Psalm 66:1-9 (Both Days)

2 Corinthians 8:1-7 (Thursday)

Luke 9:1-6 (Friday)


Nations, bless our God,

let the sound of his praise be heard;

he brings us to life

and keeps our feet from stumbling.

–Psalm 66:8-9, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


That is the vision in Zechariah 14.  God is the king of the earth in that vision, but many people continue to resist.  Their fate, which verses 12-14 describe vividly, will be unpleasant.  Yet those who follow God will have a different fate.  Judgment and mercy exist in balance in this reading, as well as in Jeremiah 51:47-58, which predicted God’s judgment on the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire for its idolatry, violence, and hubris yet deliverance for exiles.

Certain judgments always remain in the purview of God, who knows far more than any of we mere mortals can ever aspire to comprehend.  Our Lord and Savior instructed his Apostles to leave places where they encountered rejection, for God would handle the situation from that time forward.  That advice applies to messengers of God today.  We should proclaim the good news of Christ.  Those who reject this message of grace are worse off for the rejection, but that is a matter for God to handle.  We have good news to proclaim; may we focus on that task, wherever it takes us.

As St. Francis of Assisi said, “Proclaim the gospel at all times; use words when necessary.”  One way of preaching grace is demonstrating it, as in 2 Corinthians 8:1-7.  There was a collection for the church at Jerusalem.  Macedonian churches, afflicted with poverty, had given generously.  The challenge to the Corinthian church was to give generously also.  Doing so would prove the genuineness of their love for strangers and fellow Christians.

I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their want, so that their abundance may supply your want, that there may be equality.  As it is written, “He who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered had no lack.”

–Chapter 8, verses 13-15, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

Hubris goes before the fall, but active compassion builds up others.  There is more than enough for everyone to have enough; scarcity is a human creation.  In the divine order abundance, not scarcity, is the rule.  Grace, for example, is abundant.  Do we really affirm that truth?  If we do, we will not seek to horde it for ourselves, but we will share it selflessly, and we will find that we always have more to give, for the glory of God and the benefit of others.







Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 9, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

March on Washington 1963

Above:  The March on Washington, August 28, 1963

Photographer = Warren K. Leffler

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number =  LC-DIG-ds-04411

Beloved Community

JULY 5, 6, and 7, 2018


The Collect:

God of the covenant, in our baptism you call us

to proclaim the coming of your kingdom.

Give us the courage you gave the apostles,

that we may faithfully witness to your love and peace

in every circumstance of life,

in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41


The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 7:1-15 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 7:16-26 (Friday)

Jeremiah 7:27-34 (Saturday)

Psalm 123 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 4:8-13 (Thursday)

2 Corinthians 10:7-11 (Friday)

Matthew 8:18-22 (Saturday)


To you I lift up my eyes,

to you that are enthroned in the heavens.

As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,

or the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress.

So our eyes wait upon the Lord our God,

until he have mercy upon us.

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,

for we have had more than enough of contempt.

Our soul has had more than enough of the scorn of the arrogant,

and of the contempt of the proud.

–Psalm 123, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)


The composite of the readings from Jeremiah speaks of the importance of treating people properly and refraining from committing idolatry.  This is a societal, not an individual issue.  The text refers to social institutions, in which individuals are complicit.  The divine call to repentance–one which the text indicates will fall on deaf ears and hard hearts–says that sacred rituals and houses of God do not function as talismans, protecting the society and individuals from the consequences of sinful actions and inactions.  There is nothing wrong with the rituals when people participate in them with reverence, but hiding behind them while committing idolatry and perpetuating or condoning injustice makes a mockery of those rites.

Often certain people suffer because of the sinful actions and/or inactions of others.  That theme exists also in the pericope from 1 Corinthians.  There St. Paul the Apostle wrote from a spiritually healthy attitude:

When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly.

–1 Corinthians 4:12b-13a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

As multiple passages of scripture, not to mention the historical record, attest, following Jesus might, depending on the circumstances, lead to persecution and suffering.  Offering excuses as part of an effort to avoid following Jesus is an inadequate substitute for making a commitment to him.  Our words and deeds, when they are more or less consistent with a Christian pilgrimage (the best we will be able to achieve via grace, given our human nature), will glorify God and draw others to God and improve our societies.

Society is  not an abstraction.  No, it is people.  Societies have become what they have become because of human decisions.  Not only can they change, they have changed and are changing.  May they change to increase justice and decrease injustice.  May rates of discrimination go down and rates of mutual respect go up.  May the shedding of the blood of the innocent cease.  May oppression of the strangers, the orphans, and the widows among us come to an end.  May we put away our idols, which include greed, insensitivity to human needs, and attachments to racial and ethnic prejudices and hatreds.  May we act on the recognition that all of us are in the same boat, therefore whatsoever we do to another, we do to ourselves.

God has the power to save the world, but we can leave it better than we found it.









Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 8, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment



Above:  Ruins of Capernaum, Between 1898 and 1946

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-10654

Active Love for God

JULY 5, 2017


The Collect:

O God, you direct our lives by your grace,

and your words of justice and mercy reshape the world.

Mold us into a people who welcome your word and serve one another,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40


The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 18:1-11

Psalm 119:161-168

Matthew 11:20-24


Lord, I have looked for your salvation

and I have fulfilled your commandments.

My soul has kept your testimonies

and greatly have I loved them.

I have kept your commandments and testimonies,

for all my ways are before you.

–Psalm 119:166-168, Common Worship (2000)


The power and mercy of God can be frightening, for they challenge us to examine ourselves spiritually. They make abundantly clear the reality that we, most especially in the light of God, are wanting. We could admit this fact, embrace it, and welcome God’s act of reshaping us—or we could resist in stiff-necked fashion.

The reading for today are generally gloomy. The Psalm is affirmative, but the lections from Matthew and Jeremiah are darker. The Matthew lesson exists in a textual context of conflict. St. John the Baptist is imprisoned and about to die; can Jesus be far behind? A few verses later our Lord and Savior plucks grain and heals a man with a withered hand. Critics note that he does this on the Sabbath. Is Jesus supposed to have gone hungry and to have forgone committing a good deed? Later opponents accuse him of being in league with Satan. Our Lord and Savior’s healings were acts of power and mercy. Yet I read shortly after today’s Matthew lection that some people criticized him for committing such a powerful and merciful act on the Sabbath.

These are the kinds of negative responses to which Matthew 11:20 and 21 refer. The references to Tyre and Sidon reach back to Isaiah 23 and Ezekiel 27-28, where one reads condemnations of those wicked cities. And Jesus’ adopted hometown, Capernaum, is among the places where he experienced rejection. But, we read, even evil Tyre and Sidon will fare better on the day of judgment than will Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum.

He came to his own, and his own people would not accept him.

–John 1:11, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Why do we reject the love of God, which we see manifested around us via a variety of channels? And why do we quibble about when this love pours out generously, albeit inconvenient for us due to a fault within us? There are several reasons, but I choose to focus on one here: our preference for the status quo ante. We tend to prefer the predictable, so certain prompts prove to be threatening, not merely annoying. To acknowledge intellectually that God does not fit into our preferred theological box is one thing, but to experience that fact is another. And admitting error might call our identity into question. Furthermore, for those for whom religion is about certainty, one of the more popular idols, the element of uncertainty is profoundly disturbing.

May we—you and I, O reader—embrace the active love of God, permit it to reshape us, and not find such uncertainty disturbing. No, may we reject certainty in convenient lies and possess faith—active and living faith evident in attitudes, words, and deeds—in God, who refuses to fit into any theological box.









Devotion for July 5 and 6 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  King Herod Agrippa I

Image in the Public Domain

Joshua and Acts, Part VII:  Giving Glory to God



Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 23:1-16 (July 5)

Joshua 24:1-31 (July 6)

Psalm 86 (Morning–July 5)

Psalm 122 (Morning–July 6)

Psalms 6 and 19 (Evening–July 5)

Psalms 141 and 90 (Evening–July 6)

Acts 12:1-25 (July 5)

Acts 13:1-12 (July 6)


Joshua’s farewell, with its emphasis on keeping the covenant with God (or else…), sets up the Book of Judges and summarizes the theology of much of the Old Testament.  I admit to continuing to struggle with this God concept, which depicts God as one of whom to be terrified and not with whom to have a positive relationship.  “Fear of God,” a healthy attitude, is one of awestruck respect, not terror.  Despite my struggles with a certain God concept, I grasp the point that, by keeping the covenant, people were glorifying God.  So, by doing the opposite, they were not glorifying God.

Herod Agrippa I (lived 110 BCE-44 CE, reigned 37-44 CE) was a mean person.  He, a grandson of the infamous Herod the Great, was also a client ruler for the Roman Empire.  Agrippa I was also a close friend of Emperor Caligula and an energetic persecutor of Christianity.  (My source = The Oxford Companion to the Bible, 1993, page 283)

Acts 12 confirms a negative portrait of Herod Agrippa I.  He ordered the execution of the prison guards whom God had thwarted.  And he ordered the beheading of James Bar-Zebedee, brother of St. John the Apostle and first cousin of Jesus.  And who knows what Agrippa I might have done to Peter?

The Romans and their allies, for all the persecution they unleashed on the church, could not kill it?  Successive waves of persecution elsewhere have also failed.  In fact, persecution has usually backfired, leading to more conversions.  Herod Agrippa I and his ilk failed.  For that I give glory to God.







Week of Proper 8: Thursday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  King Jeroboam II

Righteous Judgments and Mercies

JULY 5, 2018


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Amos 7:1-17 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

This is what my Lord GOD showed me:  He was creating [a plague of] locusts at the time when the late-sown crops were beginning to sprout–the late-sown crops after the king’s reaping.  When it had finished devouring the herbage in the land, I said,

O Lord GOD, pray forgive.  How will Jacob survive?  He is so small?

The LORD relented concerning this.

It shall not come to pass,

said the LORD.

This is what the Lord GOD showed me.  Lo, my Lord GOD was summoning to contend by the fire which consumed the Great Deep and was consuming the fields.  I said,

Oh, Lord GOD, refrain!  How will Jacob survive?  He is so small.

The LORD relented concerning this.

That shall not come to pass, either,

said my Lord GOD.

This is what He showed me:  He was standing on a wall checked with a plumb line and He was holding a plumb line.  And the LORD asked me,

What do you see, Amos?

I replied,

A plumb line.

And my Lord declared,

I am going to apply a plumb line to My people Israel; I will pardon them no more.  The shrines of Isaac shall be laid waste, and the sanctuaries of Israel reduced to ruins; and I will turn upon the House of Jeroboam with the sword.

Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent this message to King Jeroboam of Israel:

Amos is conspiring against you within the House of Israel.  The country cannot endure the things he is saying.  For Amos has said, “Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall be exiled from its soil.”

Amaziah also said to Amos,

Seer, off with you to the land of Judah!  Earn your living there, and do your prophesying there.  But don’t ever prophesy again at Bethel; for it is a king’s sanctuary and a royal palace.

Amos answered Amaziah:

I am not a prophet, and I am not a prophet’s disciple.  I am a cattle breeder and a tender of sycamore figs.  But the LORD took me away from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, “Go prophesy to My people Israel.”  And so, hear the word of the LORD.  You say I must not prophesy about the House of Israel or preach about the House of Isaac; but this, I swear, is the the LORD said:  Your wife shall play the harlot in the town, your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be divided up with a measuring line.  And you yourself shall die on unclean soil; for Israel shall be exiled from its soil.

Psalm 19:7-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever,

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

Matthew 9:1-8 (An American Translation):

So he [Jesus] got into the boat and crossed the sea, and returned to his own city.

Some people came bringing to him on a bed a man who was paralyzed.  Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic,

Courage, my son!  Your sins are forgiven.

Some of the scribes said to themselves,

This man is talking blasphemy!

Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he said,

Why do you have such wicked thoughts in your hearts?  For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and walk”?  But would you know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth.

Then he said to the paralytic,

Get up, pick up your bed, and go home!

And he got up and went home. And when the crowd saw it, they were filled with awe, and praised God for giving such power to men.


The Collect:

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


A Related Post:

Week of Proper 8:  Thursday, Year 1:


Sometimes the words and deeds of God offend or otherwise disturb us.  How we deal with such cognitive dissonance speaks to our spiritual state.

The Kingdom of Israel had run out of forgiveness.  Amos, as we have read in previous posts in this series, announced God’s impending judgment for a variety of sins, economic exploitation among them.  The religious establishment close to King Jeroboam II commanded Amos to leave the kingdom for his homeland, for his words did not affirm the ruling class.

Forgiveness and healing, not judgment, got Jesus into trouble with his critics in today’s reading from Matthew.  There can be many causes for paralysis, as medical science tells us these days.  But religious orthodoxy in Judea understood the paralytic to be paralyzed because of sin.  This theology, which the Book of Job contradicts, blamed the victims.  (True, much suffering results from one’s sins, but much does not.  Sometimes one’s suffering results from the sins of others or another.  And, at other times, suffering has no cause one can understand.)

The paralyzed man, who does not speak in this narrative, probably believed in “sin leads to suffering” theology.  It was what his culture told him.  He probably lived with needless guilt, a burden members of his community (excluding some kind friends) imposed upon him.  Jesus removed that burden from the paralytic, giving him spiritual wholeness.

Some commentators have suggested that the man’s paralysis was psychosomatic.  So, they say, of course the man could walk again after Jesus forgave his sins.  This might be accurate.  Whatever caused the physical paralysis, Jesus took that away from the man.

Yet our Lord faced criticism for forgiving the man.  Was this blasphemy?  No, it was mercy.

When God says and/or does something hard for us digest, we can humble ourselves before God graciously, in the spirit of Psalm 19:

…the judgments of the LORD are righteous and true altogether.

We might not like, agree with, or understand these judgments, but we can at least not oppose them.  Or we can react defensively, trying to silence an annoying prophet or condemning a merciful man.  But God will still be be God regardless of what we do.


Week of Proper 8: Friday, Year 1   13 comments

Above: Rebecca and Eliezar, by Bartolome Esteban Perez Murillo (1600s)

Image in the Public Domain

Proper Forms of Inclusion

JULY 5, 2019


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Genesis 23:1-4, 19; 24:1-8, 62-67 (An American Translation):

The length of Sarah’s life was one hundred and twenty-seven years.  Sarah died at Kirjath-arba (that is, Hebron), in the land of Canaan, and Abraham proceeded to wail and weep for Sarah.  Rising from the side of his dead, Abraham said to the Hittites,

Since I am an immigrant and a serf under you, give me some property with you as a burial ground, that I may inter my dead.

Following that Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave in the field of Machpelah, facing Mamre (that is Hebron), in the land of Canaan.

Now that Abraham was old and well advanced in life, having been blessed by the LORD in all things, Abraham said to the oldest slave of his household, who had charge of everything that belonged to him,

Put your hand under my thigh, while I make you swear by the LORD, the God of the heavens and the earth, that you will not marry my son to a daughter of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but that you will go to my own land and kindred to get a wife for my son Isaac.

The son said to him,

Suppose the woman is unwilling to follow me to this land; am I to take your son back to the land that you left?

Abraham said to him,

See to it that you do not take my son back there!  It was the LORD, the God of the heavens, who took me from my father’s home and the land of my birth, who spoke to me and made this promise, ‘It is to your descendants that I am going to give this land’–it is he who will send his angel ahead of you, so that you shall get a wife for my son there.  But if the woman should be unwilling to follow you, then you will be absolved from this oath to me; only you must never take my son back there.

Now Isaac had moved from the neighborhood of Beer-lahai-roi, and was living in the land of the Negeb.  One evening Isaac went out to stroll in the fields, and raising his eyes, he saw camels coming.  Rebekah too raised her eyes, and seeing Isaac, she dismounted from her camel, saying to the slave,

Who is the man yonder that is walking through the field toward us?

The slave said,

He is my master.

Then she took her veil, and covered herself.

The slave told Isaac all that he had done; so Isaac brought her into his tent.  He married Rebekah and she became his wife; and in loving her, Isaac found consolation for the death of his mother.

Psalm 78:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hear my teaching, O my people;

incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

2 I will open my mouth in a parable;

I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.

3 That which we have heard and known,

and what our forefathers have told us,

we will not hide from their children.

4 We will recount to generations to come

the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the LORD,

and the wonderful works he has done.

5 He gave his decrees to Jacob

and established a law for Israel,

which he commanded them to teach their children;

6 That the generations to come might know,

and the children yet unborn;

so that they in their turn might tell it to their children;

7 So that they might put their trust in God,

and not forget the deeds of God,

but keep his commandments;

8 And not be like their forefathers,

a stubborn and rebellious generation,

a generation whose heart was not steadfast,

and whose spirit was not faithful to God.

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

Afterward, as Jesus was passing along from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tollhouse, and he said to him,

Follow me!

And he got up and followed him.

While Jesus was at home at table, a number of tax-collectors and irreligious people came in joined Jesus and his disciples at table.  And the Pharisees observed it, and they said to his disciples,

Why does your master eat with tax-collectors and irreligious people?

But he heard it, and said,

It is not the well but the sick who have to have the doctor!  Go and learn what the saying means, ‘It is mercy, not sacrifice, that I care for.’  I did not come to invite the pious but the irreligious.


The Collect:

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


The two readings for this day address the difficult issue of inclusion.

Abraham arranges the marriage of nearly forty-year-old son by sending Eliezar of Damascus to find a female cousin, who turns out to be Rebekah.  Abraham is clear in his instructions; the marriage must not be a religiously mixed one, with the other side being Canaanite.

Yet Abraham is living as foreigner among Hittites, with whom he has respectful relationships, so he is not xenophobic.

Meanwhile, in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus dines with irreligious people and Jewish collaborators of the Roman Empire, thereby causing a scandal.  Eating with such people was not respectable, yet there Jesus was, in their company.

Nobody is beyond the reach of mercy, and many of those we consider outsiders are or can be insiders, according to God’s definition.

But where ought we to draw the line between including people, and in which social relationships?

I am single, never having married.  This is my preferred state.  So far be it from me to give marital advice to anyone.  But I know that if I were to marry, I would seek certain points of compatibility in the woman.  Among these would be spiritual and religious.  In other words, I would seek a wife with whom I could attend church comfortably and with whom I could engage in excellent religious discussion.  So Abraham’s choice makes sense to me.

One purpose of a home, as I understand it, is to propagate faith.  This has been my experience, and I am grateful for it.  So I argue affirmatively for marriage within a religion.

I also defend Jesus’ choice to associate repeatedly with the allegedly unclean, such as Gentiles, apostates, and collaborators, for nobody is beyond grace.  One never knows who can bring to God if one does not try. More people than we might suspect are insiders, according to the divine standard.  May we not judge them as being outsiders unjustly.