Archive for the ‘July 8’ Category

Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 9, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  Ephesus

Photographer = Osmo Visuri

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-23106

Spiritual Blindness

JULY 8, 2019, and JULY 9, 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 6:10-19 (Monday)

Jeremiah 8:4-13 (Tuesday)

Psalm 119:73-78 (Both Days)

Acts 19:21-27 (Monday)

Acts 19:28-41 (Tuesday)


Your hands have made me and held me firm,

give me understanding and I shall learn your commandments.

–Psalm 119:73, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


Among the sins of people in Jeremiah 6 and 8 was having an attitude other than that manifested in Psalm 119:73-80.  If they did not know better, they should have.  They lacked any legitimate excuse for their sins, especially those that harmed the vulnerable.  This sinful population reaped what it sowed.

One might wonder if Demetrius, a silversmith of Ephesus, had a way of knowing better.  He profited by making and selling silver shrines of the goddess Artemis, and the spread of Christianity threatened his business.  Demetrius incited violence against traveling companions of St. Paul the Apostle.  Fortunately, the town clerk refused to submit to mob rule.  Judaism was not unknown among Gentile populations in the Hellenistic age, so perhaps that fact deprived Demetrius of an excuse.  Yes, Christianity was young and misconceptions regarding it were commonplace.  Even the Roman historian Tacitus repeated some inaccurate information regarding Christians and Christianity as if it were accurate.  He could have conducted a fact check easily, but he did not.  Likewise, Demetrius could have learned much about Christianity, for there was a church in the city.  He was also without an excuse.

Sometimes we humans become accustomed to certain sets of propositions, even those which are false.  Yet we might not recognize them as being such.  Greed is another spiritually blinding factor, as in Jeremiah 6 and Acts 19.  Righteousness becomes economically inconvenient.  Regardless of the reason(s) for our spiritual blindness, may we repent of it and may God forgive us for it.







Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 9, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  One of My Favorite Books

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Significance and Insignificance

JULY 8, 2017


The Collect:

You are great, O God, and greatly to be praised.

You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

Grant that we may believe in you, call upon you, know you, and serve you,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41


The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 4:1-7

Psalm 145:8-14

Luke 10:21-24


The LORD is faithful in all his words

and merciful in his deeds.

–Psalm 145:14, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


At that moment Jesus exulted in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the wise, and reveal them to the simple.  Yes, Father, such was your choice.”

–Luke 10:21, The Revised English Bible (1989)


Those Hebrews who returned to their ancestral homeland to rebuild their society, Jerusalem, and the Temple during the Persian period had to contend with major obstacles.  These included people who plotted, lied, and otherwise obstructed plans.  And Persian kings and/or certain underlings were not always sympathetic to the Hebrews.  Within this context First Zechariah received a message from God for Zerubbabel, the governor of Davidic descent:

Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the LORD of hosts.

–Zechariah 4:6b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Often that divine spirit falls not upon the prominent and the powerful, but upon the marginalized and other powerless people.  This segue brings me to our Lord and Savior’s prayer in Luke 10:21.  What are we to make of it?

Reinhold Niebuhr, one of the greatest and most influential theologians of the twentieth century, reflected on that prayer in the intellectual autobiography he wrote for the Library of Living Theology volume about his thought (New York:  Macmillan Company, 1961).  He wrote of two dying elderly women who were parishioners at the Bethel Evangelical Church, Detroit, Michigan, which he served fresh out of seminary.  (“Evangelical” here was in the German sense of word, that is Protestant, in this case, a Lutheran-Reformed hybrid.)  The first lady was filled with anxiety and resentment, not serenity, during the illness which took her life.  This woman, Niebuhr wrote,

was too preoccupied with self.

–page 6

The second woman had experienced much difficulty during her life.  She had functioned as both breadwinner and homemaker for her two daughters because her husband, prone to insanity, could not provide for the family.  At the end of the lady’s life, when she was dying of cancer, she was serene and filled with gratitude to God for mercies and her daughters, however.  This contrast, Niebuhr wrote, taught him the meaning of Christ’s prayer.

The major difference between the two women seems to have been the way each approached death and dying.  In that context Niebuhr wrote that

the ultimate problem of human existence is the peril of sin and death in the way that these two perils are so curiously compounded; for we fall into sin by trying to evade or to conquer death  or our own insignificance, of which death is the ultimate symbol.  The Christian faith holds out the hope that our fragmentary lives will be completed in a total and larger plan than any which we control or comprehend, and that a part of the completion is forgiveness of sins, that is the forgiveness of the evils into which we fall by our frantic efforts to complete our own lives or to endow them with significance.

–pages 6 and 7

Then Niebuhr wrote that

we in the churches ought to admit more humbly than is our wont that there is a mystery of grace which no one can fathom.

–page 7

That mystery was available to our Lord and Savior’s Apostles and other disciples, whom N. T. Wright described as

the diverse and motley group

Luke for Everyone (Louisville, KY:  Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), page 125

with whom he had chosen to associate.

May we recognize that our significance resides in God alone and that the greatest in the Kingdom of God is the servant of all.  Then may we, by grace, act on that reality and succeed.









Devotion for July 7 and 8 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  Othneil

Image in the Public Domain

Judges and Acts, Part I:  Identity and Tradition

SUNDAY, JULY 7, and MONDAY, JULY 8, 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:

Judges 2:6-23 (July 7)

Judges 3:7-31 (July 8)

Psalm 110 (Morning–July 7)

Psalm 62 (Morning–July 8)

Psalms 66 and 23 (Evening–July 7)

Psalms 73 and 8 (Evening–July 8)

Acts 13:13-41 (July 7)

Acts 13:42-52 (July 8)


Many of the Israelites had habitually short memories , for they fell back into idolatry.  The prevention of the this was a major reason for repeating the stories of what God had done.  Yet the majority of the people fell into idolatry.  And, according to the Book of Judges, this led to Canaanite oppression of the Israelites. Periodically a judge–a chieftain–arose and delivered the people.  Then the cycle repeated.

Paul, in Acts 13, recounted what God had done.  In so doing he and his missionary companions converted many Jews and Gentiles.  Paul and company also made enemies, so they had to move along.  Those who opposed Paul and his partners probably considered themselves guardians of holy traditions, which their forebears had abandoned long before, in Judges 3.

Traditions can be tricky, for one should neither abandon a healthy tradition lightly nor ossify any tradition.  No, traditions are properly living things.  We human ought to adapt them to new circumstances and distinguish between what has outlived its usefulness and what ought to remain.

Paul challenged a version of Judaism which had adapted to a new reality while not embracing Hellenism.  The precise circumstances which were current when the Law of Moses was new had ceased to exist.  So, scholars asked, how ought Jews to live according to the Law of Moses in changed circumstances?  Paul did not object to adaptation per se; no his innovation was to add atonement and justification via Jesus to the list of God’s mighty acts.

But place yourself, O reader, in the seat of one who opposed Paul’s message.  What did Paul’s theology mean for Jewish identity–one based on remaining distinct–in the Hellenistic context?  In this way Paul’s opponents at Antioch in Pisidia were in tune with the theology of the Book of Judges.

Questions of identity strike at a vulnerable spot for many people, including me.  One can approach these questions positively or negatively, focusing on what and who one is rather than on what and who one is not.

I wonder how I would have responded to Paul and Barnabas had I been an observant Jew at Antioch in Pisidia.  I suspect that I might have sided with my tradition and rejected Paul’s message.  I would have been wrong in such a hypothetical situation.  Where might you, O reader, have stood in this hypothetical situation?  And where might your answer to this question lead you to go spiritually?






Proper 9, Year B   16 comments

Above:  St. Joseph’s Church, Nazareth, Israel

Rejecting and Insulting Prophets

The Sunday Closest to July 6

The Seventh Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 8, 2018



2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said,

Look, we are your bone and flesh. For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The LORD said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.

So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.

David occupied the stronghold, and named it the city of David. David built the city all around from the Millo inward. And David became greater and greater, for the LORD, the God of hosts, was with him.

Psalm 48 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised;

in the city of our God is his holy hill.

2 Beautiful and lofty, the joy of all the earth, is the hill of Zion,

the very center of the world and the city of the great King.

God is in her citadels;

he is known to be her sure refuge.

Behold, the kings of the earth assembled

and marched forward together.

5 They looked and were astonished;

they retreated and fled in terror.

Trembling seized them there;

they writhed like a woman in childbirth,

like ships of the sea when the east wind shatters them.

As we have heard, so have we seen,

in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God;

God has established her for ever.

8 We have waited in silence on your loving-kindness, O God,

in the midst of your temple.

Your praise, like your Name, O God, reaches to the world’s end;

your right hand is full of justice.

10 Let Mount Zion be glad

in the cities of Judah rejoice,

because of your judgments.

11 Make the circuit of Zion;

walk round about her;

count the number of her towers.

12 Consider well her bulwarks;

examine her strongholds;

that you may tell those who come after.

13 This God is our God for ever and ever;

he shall be our guide for ever more.


Ezekiel 2:1-5 (New Revised Standard Version):

The Lord said to me:

O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you.

And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. He said to me,

Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.

Psalm 123 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 To you I lift up my eyes,

to you enthroned in the heavens.

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

and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,

3 So our eyes look to the LORD our God,

until he show us his mercy.

Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy,

for we have had more than enough of contempt,

5 Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich,

and of the derision of the proud.


2 Corinthians 2:1-5 (New Revised Standard Version):

I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven– whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person– whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows– was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.


Mark 6:1-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said,

Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?

And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them,

Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.

And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them,

Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.

So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

 The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Proper 9, Year A:

2 Samuel 5:

2 Corinthians 12:

Mark 6:

Matthew 13 (Parallel to Mark 6):

Luke 9 (Parallel to Mark 6):


We read from 2 Samuel about David victorious.  His rival, Saul’s son Ishbaal dead, David became sole monarch in Israel and made Jerusalem the seat of his power.  The rebellion ended with the rebel leader leading the nation.

That, alas, is the happiest of the readings for this Sunday.  In Ezekiel 2, for example, God commissioned Ezekiel to be a prophet yet warns him that the people have a rebellious past.  But at least they will know that a prophet has been among them.  Jesus, a prophet and more than a prophet, was among the residents of his hometown when they rejected him.  They even raised questions about his paternity and Mary’s sexual history.  Later in the lesson, Jesus sent out his Apostles on a preaching mission with instructions to, among other things, simply leave places where they faced rejection.  This advice reflected what he did at Nazareth.

We read in the Gospels that Jesus moved away from Nazareth and settled in Capernaum.  Maybe one reason for this relocation was to get away such rumors in so small a place.  Jesus was, after all, fully human as well as fully divine.  We like to focus on the fully divine side, do we not?  But may we not minimize or ignore the fully human aspect.  Such rumors (certainly not recent in relation to the events of the Gospel story) and rejection had to hurt him emotionally.  Who wants to hear malicious rumors about one’s parents?  (Joseph did raise Jesus.  That, for me, makes Joseph our Lord’s father in the way which matters most.)

Paul, in his famous excerpt from 2 Corinthians, reported (evasively at first) about a mystical experience.  This is a somewhat amusing reading; I like how Paul began by writing of a man he knew then admitted that he was that man.  Whatever he saw and heard, and whatever caused it, it made quite an impression on him.  But, he wrote, he came away from it with an unidentified affliction.  “A thorn in my side” is the standard English translation from the original Greek.  J. B. Phillips (1972), however, refers to a “stabbing pain.”  Whatever it was, it prevented Paul from becoming too elated.

Yet, Paul learned, divine grace is sufficient and made perfect in weakness, or, as J. B. Phillips (1972) renders one line, “where there is weakness, [God’s] power is shown more completely.”  That power is always present, as is the grace, in some measure.  Yet we notice God’s grace more easily when we are in weakened states.  I know this fact well from experience; you, O reader, might also know it from experience.

The bottom line is this:  Independence and self-reliance, as spiritual values, are false gods and illusions.  To pursue them is to chase after empty shadows and to commit idolatry.  Everyone depends on the grace and power of God.  Prophets have walked among us.  Do we recognize them? Prophets might even have grown up among us.  Do we recognize them, or do we reject and insult them?  How we respond to God and the prophets of God informs how God responds to us.  May God show mercy, as is the divine prerogative.


Week of Proper 9: Monday, Year 1   12 comments

Above: Jacob’s Ladder, by William Blake (Circa 1800)

Image in the Public Domain

God = Hope

JULY 8, 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 28:10-22 (An American Translation):

Leaving Beersheba, Jacob set out for Haran.  Reaching a certain sanctuary, he spent the night there.  He took one of the stones of the sanctuary, and using it for a pillow, he lay down in that sanctuary.  He had a dream in which he saw a ladder set up on the earth, with its top reaching the sky, and angels of God were ascending and descending on it,  Then the LORD stood over him, and said,

I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and of Isaac.  The land on which you are lying, I am going to give to you and your descendants.  Your descendants shall be like the dust on the ground; you shall spread to the west, to the east, to the north, and to the south, so that all the races of the earth will invoke blessings on one another through you and your descendants.  I will be with you, and guard you wherever you go, and bring you back to this land; for I will never forsake you, until I have done what I have promised you.

When Jacob woke from his sleep, he said,

The LORD must surely be in this place–and I did not know it!

He was awe-struck, and said,

What an awesome place this is!  This can be nothing other the house of God, and that the gate of the sky.

Accordingly, he called the name of that sanctuary Bethel [house of God] whereas the earlier name of the city had been Luz.

So when Jacob rose in the morning, he took the stone which he had used as a pillow, and setting it up as a sacred pillar, he poured oil on its top.  Jacob then made this vow:

If God go with me, and watch over me on this journey that I am making, and give me food to eat and clothes to wear, so that I come home safely to my father’s house, then the LORD shall be my God, and this stone which I have set up as a sacred pillar shall be God’s house, and I will give to thee a portion of everything that thou givest me.

Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High,

abides under the shadow of the Almighty.

2 He shall say to the LORD,

“You are my refuge and my stronghold,

my God in whom I put my trust.”

3 He shall deliver you from the snare of the hunter,

and from the deadly pestilence.

4 He shall cover you with his pinions,

and you shall find refuge under his wings.

5 You shall not be afraid of any terror by night,

nor of the arrow that flies by day;

6 Of the plague that stalks in the darkness,

nor of the sickness that lays waste at mid-day.

14 Because he is bound to me in love,

therefore I will deliver him;

I will protect him, because he knows my name.

15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him;

I am with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and bring him to honor.

16 With long life will I satisfy him,

and show him my salvation.

Matthew 9:18-26 (An American Translation):

Just as he [Jesus] said this to them, an official came up to him and bowing down before him said to him,

My daughter has just died.  But come!  Lay your hand on her and she will come to life!

And Jesus got up and followed him with his disciples.  And a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel of his cloak.  For she said to herself,

If I can just touch his cloak, I will get well.

And Jesus turned and saw her, and he said,

Courage, my daughter!  Your faith has cured you!

And from that time the woman was well.

When Jesus reached the official’s house,and saw the flute-players and the disturbance the crowd was making, he said,

Go away, for the girl is not dead; she is asleep.

And they laughed at him.  But when he had driven the people out, he went in and grasped herhand, and the girl got up.  And the news of this spread all over that part of the country.


The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Jacob was a schemer, far from a pillar of faith and integrity.  He had stolen his brother’s Esau birthright and paternal blessing.  And Jacob enjoyed the company of Hittite women, a fact which disturbed Rebekah, his mother.  So he was off (per orders) to visit the household of his kinsman Laban and meet a suitable wife.

Along his way, Jacob had to sleep on a rocky hilltop.  It was a barren, foreboding place, but it was what was available.  There Jacob had a dream; This was a gateway to heaven itself, and he was indeed the heir to God’s promise to Abraham.

This dream impressed Jacob deeply, for it filled him with reverence for God.

God does not call the qualified; God qualifies the called.

God came to Jacob, an unexpected person, in an unusual way.  And God, via Jesus, came to desperate people in ways onlookers did not expect.  The woman with a hemorrhage had a severe physical problem that rendered her ritually unclean and that deprived her of a means of supporting herself.  The physical condition was bad, but the stigma compounded her pain.  She approached Jesus, and he restored her to wholeness, health, and ritual cleanliness.

It makes sense that Jesus had compassion on her.  His existence was a scandal, and if anyone knew the sting of stigma, he did.  Some people did not refer to him as “Son of Joseph,” per the norm in his society, but as “Son of Mary,” slurring his mother’s sexual history and his paternity.  The human potential for cruelty toward the vulnerable, despised, and marginalized was old in Jesus’ time, and he refused to participate in that process.

This is another excellent reason for us to refuse, as well.

The Jewish community elder had a dead daughter.  The desperate father asked Jesus to help her, a request which led to the first instance of a raising from the dead in the Gospel of Matthew.  Of course the claim that the girl was not dead, only sleeping, seemed ridiculous.  But what other hope did the father have?

And what hope of becoming anything other than schemer did Jacob have?  How possible did it seem that, after twelve years, the woman could be healed and restored to society?  They all seemed dim, did they not?

But consider what happened, and become filled with awe.  Then respond accordingly.