Archive for the ‘June 1’ Category

Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 4, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:   The Canaanite Woman

Image in the Public Domain

Faithful Foreigners

JUNE 1, 2016


The Collect:

Merciful Lord God, we do not presume to come before you

trusting in our own righteousness,

but in your great and abundant mercies.

Revive our faith, we pray; heal our bodies, and mend our communities,

that we may evermore dwell in your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 56:1-8

Psalm 5

Mark 7:24-30


But joy for all who take refuge in you,

endless songs of gladness!

You shelter them, they rejoice in you,

those who love your name.

–Psalm 5:11, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


Those who take refuge in God include faithful foreigners.

The main two readings for today include favorable words regarding faithful foreigners.  These are two of many such passages from the canon of scripture, from the entire Book of Ruth to parts of the Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline Epistles.  The context of the reading from Isaiah 56 is the immediate aftermath of the Babylonian Exile.  Returned exiles, in their zeal to live faithfully, ought not to shun Gentiles attracted to Judaism, according to the passage.  All who follow God are acceptable to God, regardless of national origin, the lection says.

Immediately prior to Mark 7:24-30 Jesus declared all food to be ritually clean.  Then he entered Gentile territory voluntarily.  If only the author of the Gospel of Mark had mentioned tones of voice!  Nevertheless, he did provide useful textual context.  Jesus, I surmise from context, uttered that seemingly rude comment about dogs to test the Gentile woman, and she passed, much to his approval.  His hope was that she rebut the original statement.  He found faith in a Gentile, and he praised her for it.

Will we welcome those who follow God yet seem not to belong to the club, so to speak, or will we think of those insiders as outsiders?  In other words, who are our Gentiles?









Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Trinity Sunday, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Holy Trinity Icon--Andrei Rublev

Above:  Icon of the Holy Trinity, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

Discipleship and the Mystery of God

MAY 31, 2021

JUNE 1, 2021


The Collect:

God of heaven and earth,

before the foundation of the universe and the beginning of time

you are the triune God:

Author of creation, eternal Word of creation, life-giving Spirit of wisdom.

Guide us to all truth by your Spirit,

that we may proclaim all that Christ has revealed

and rejoice in the glory he shares with us.

Glory and praise to you,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37


The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 9:15-23 (Monday)

Exodus 25:1-22 (Tuesday)

Psalm 20 (Both Days)

Revelation 4:1-8 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 2:1-10 (Tuesday)


Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses,

but we will call upon the Name of the LORD our God.

They will collapse and fall down,

but we will arise and stand upright.

–Psalm 20:7-8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The doctrine of the Holy Trinity contains much mystery, as it should.  No single passage of scripture teaches the entirety of the doctrine, which theologians cobbled together from verses and interpreted (with much argument) long ago.  Some details remain contentious.  For example, does the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father and the Son or just from the Father?  (This is a difference between Eastern Orthodoxy and most of Western Christianity.)  The answer to that question is irrelevant to me.  Nevertheless, my muscle memory directs me, when reciting the Nicene Creed (even when the ecumenical text omits “and the Son”, to say, “and the Son.”  I am, at least for the purpose of habit, a filioque man.

Perhaps the main purpose of the doctrine of the Trinity (the closest human thought can come to explaining the nature of God) is to discourage explanations.  Maybe the proper response to the doctrine is to accept the mystery inherent in it and to admit that we will never comprehend God fully or anything close to it.

That sense of the mystery of God exists in most of these days’ pericopes.  Although Abraham and God were on a first-name basis in Genesis, according to that book, the depiction of God changed later in the Torah.  In the Book of Exodus God was remote and the holiness of God was lethal to people, according to that text.  We read of God appearing as a cloud and as a pillar of fire.  The Ark of the Covenant, which a pseudo-documentary on the History Channel argued without proof was probably a nuclear reactor, was, according Hebrews scriptures, deadly to anyone who touched it.  And the mystery of God is a topic appropriate for the Apocalypse of John, with its plethora of symbolic language from the beginning to the end.

Jesus, the incarnate form of the Second Person of the Trinity (however the mechanics of that worked; I am preserving the mystery), was approachable, interacting with people and dining in homes.  There was nothing secret about that.  There remains nothing secret about that.  Yet the wisdom of God, manifested in Jesus, remains a secret to many.  Furthermore, many people, including a host of professing Christians, misunderstand that wisdom frequently.  The main reason for this reality, I suspect, is that we humans often see what we want or expect to see, and that God frequently works in ways contrary to our expectations.  The fault is with us, of course, not with God.  Also, the radical message of Jesus, inflammatory nearly 2000 years ago, remains so.  It challenges political, economic, social, and military system.  Many professing Christians are found of these systems and depend upon them.  Following Jesus can be costly, then.

We can know something about the nature of God, but mostly we must embrace the mystery, or else fall into Trinity-related heresies.  Much more important than attempting to explain God is trying to follow God and to act properly in relation to our fellow human beings.  Throughout the pages of the Bible we can find commandments to care for the vulnerable, refrain from exploiting each other, welcome the strangers, love our neighbors as we love ourselves, et cetera.  How human societies would look if more people pursued that agenda is at least as great a mystery as is the Trinity.  We are more likely, however, to find an answer to the former than to the latter in this life.






Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 4, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Draw the Circle Wider

Above:  The Cover of a Small Book the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta Publishes

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Trusting and Obeying God (Or Not)

MAY 31, 2021

JUNE 1, 2021


The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

throughout time you free the oppressed,

heal the sick,

and make whole all that you have made.

Look with compassion on the world wounded by sin,

and by your power restore us to wholeness of life,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 16:13-26 (Monday)

Exodus 16:27-36 (Tuesday)

Psalm 78:1-4, 52-72 (Both Days)

Romans 9:19-29 (Monday)

Acts 15:1-5, 22-35 (Tuesday)


Hear my teaching, O my people;

incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

I will open my mouth in a parable;

I will pour forth mysteries from of old,

Such as we have heard and known,

which our forebears have told us.

We will not hide from their children,

but will recount to generations to come,

the praises of the Lord and his power

and the wonderful works he has done.

–Psalm 78:1-4, Common Worship (2000)


One reads of the sovereignty, mercy, and judgment of God in Psalm 78.  Other assigned passages for these two days pick up these elements.  We read of God’s mercy (in the form of manna) in Exodus 16 and of divine sovereignty and judgment in Romans 9.  We read also of human fickleness and faithlessness in Exodus 16 and of human faithfulness in Acts 15.

Exodus 16’s place in the narrative is within recent memory of the Exodus from slavery in Egypt.  One might think, therefore, that more people would trust God, who was demonstrably faithful to divine promises.  But, no!  Bad mentalities many people had remained, unfortunately.

The Council of Jerusalem addressed the major question of how much the Law of Moses Gentile Christians had to keep.  Did one have to become a Jew in order to be a Christian?  This was a major question of identity for many observant Jewish Christians.  Not keeping the Law of Moses was, according to Jewish scriptures, negative and had led to the downfall of kingdoms.  The final position of the Council of Jerusalem was to require only that Gentile Christians obey Leviticus 17:8-18:30, which applied to resident aliens.  Gentile Christians were to abstain from three categories of behavior which offended Jewish sensibilities:

  1. Eating food sacrificed to idols,
  2. Drinking blood and eating meat from animals not quite drained of blood, and
  3. Engaging in fornication, most rules of which related to sexual relations with near relatives.

Underlying these rules is a sense of respect:

  1. Acting respectfully toward God is a virtue which requires no explanation here.
  2. Blood, according to the assumptions regarding food laws, carries life.  To abstain from consuming blood, therefore, is to respect the life of the source animal.  (Hence the Christian theology of Transubstantiation, foreshadowed in the Gospel of John, is scandalous from a certain point of view.
  3. And, as for sexual relations, one must, to be moral, respect one’s body and the body of any actual or prospective sexual partner.

As generous as the conclusion of the Council of Jerusalem was, it proved insufficient to satisfy the pro-Law of Moses hardliners.  Generosity of spirit, which sets some boundaries while abolishing stumbling blocks, tends not to satisfy hardliners of either the left wing or the right wing.  Yet, as the French say, C’est la vie.  In my Christian tradition hardliners exist, and I am at odds with many of them.  I try to ignore the rest.

Nevertheless, I ask myself if I have become a hardliner of a sort.  If the answer is affirmative, the proper spiritual response is to ask myself whom I am excluding improperly and, by grace, to pursue corrective action–repentance–changing my mind, turning around.

Trusting God can prove difficult, given our negative mentalities.  Seeking to hoard material necessities leads to excess and is one expression of faithlessness.  Another is comforting oneself with false notions of who is “in” and who is “out,” with oneself being part of the “in” crowd, of course.  But what if God’s definition of the “in” crowd is broader than ours.  How does that affect our identity?








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



Above:  One of My Globes

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

The World and the Kingdom of God

JUNE 1-3, 2023


The Collects:

Almighty Creator and ever-living God: we worship your glory, eternal Three-in-One,

and we praise your power, majestic One-in-Three.

Keep us steadfast in this faith, defend us in all adversity,

and bring us at last into your presence, where you live in endless joy and love,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


God of heaven and earth, before the foundation of the universe

and the beginning of time you are the triune God:

Author of creation, eternal Word of salvation, life-giving Spirit of wisdom.

Guide us to all truth by your Spirit, that we may proclaim all that Christ has revealed

and rejoice in the glory he shares with us.

Glory and praise to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37


The Assigned Readings:

Job 38:1-11 (Thursday)

Job 38:12-21 (Friday)

Job 38:22-38 (Saturday)

Psalm 8 (All Days)

2 Timothy 1:8-12a (Thursday)

2 Timothy 1:12b-14 (Friday)

John 14:15-17 (Saturday)


What we do not understand about God and related topics outweighs what we know about them. Why, for example, do good people suffer? The Book of Job tells us that God permitted the suffering of the eponymous character. That is a difficult answer, but it is the one the text provides in Chapters 1 and 2. We know of the reasons for the sufferings of the Apostle Paul; his witness created many enemies. The Gospel of Christ does that frequently. Jesus did, after all, die on a cross—and not for any sin he had committed, for he had committed none.

The glorification of our Lord and Savior in the Fourth Gospel was his crucifixion. This was a twist many people did not expect, for crucifixion was a mode of execution the Roman Empire reserved for those it considered the worst of the worst. It was a mark of shame and public humiliation. And this became Christ’s glorification? The twist was—and remains—a wonderful one.

In the name of that crucified and resurrected Lord and Savior, through whom we have access to the gift of the Holy Spirit—God’s active power on earth—in John 14:16, we can have eternal life in this world and the next one. The same world which did not know Jesus or the Holy Spirit killed him, St. Paul the Apostle, and a great company of martyrs. It continues to make martyrs. Yet the Kingdom of God, like a great week, goes where it will.

So may we say with the author of Psalm 8,

O Lord our governor,

how glorious is your name in all the world.

–Verse 1, Common Worship (2000)









Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 4, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  Bishop Robert C. Wright (Episcopalian) and Archbishop Wilton Gregory (Roman Catholic) at the Good Friday Pilgrimage for Immigrants, April 18, 2014

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Of Externals and Internals

JUNE 1-3, 2023


The Collect:

O God our rock, you offer us a covenant of mercy,

and you provide the foundation of our lives.

Ground us in your word, and strengthen our resolve to be your disciples,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 24:1-8 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 30:1-5 (Friday)

Amos 2:6-11 (Saturday)

Psalm 31:1-5, 19-24 (All Days)

Romans 2:17-29 (Thursday)

Romans 9:6-13 (Friday)

Matthew 7:1-6 (Saturday)


Be my strong rock, a fortress to save me,

for you are my rock and my stronghold;

guide me, and lead me for your name’s sake.

–Psalm 31:3, Common Worship (2000)


One of the faults of certain varieties of Protestantism is overemphasizing the internal and unseen while underemphasizing the external and the seen. Pietists, for example, dismiss “externals” frequentlu, as if “externals” are meaningless. They are not necessarily so.

No, a ritual (such as a sacrifice or circumcision) can matter quite a lot, for we humans need visible signs and rites of passage. How else are we to mark the difference between one stage of life and another or to note a covenant to God? We need externals beause we see, touch, feel, hear, and smell; we are not disembodied sentients. The scriptures command many rituals in particular settings, in fact.

The scriptures also make clear that rituals are not supposed to be talismans which protect us from punishment for sins of which we have not repented, individually or collectively. Rituals one performs piously have meaning, but those one performs while disobeying divine commandments, such as how to treat people, offend God.

For crime after crime of Israel

I shall grant them no reprieve,

because they sell honest folk for silver

and the poor for a pair of sandals.

They grind the heads of the helpless into the dust

and push the humble out of their way.

Father and son resort to the temple girls,

so profaning my holy name.

–Amos 2:6-7, The Revised English Bible

God, the Bible tells us, cares deeply about how we act toward our fellow human beings. We ought to seek God’s best for them, not exploit them for our own gain and pleasure. We should seek to raise the status of the powerless, the less powerful, and the marginalized among us. Each of us bears the image of God and therefore deserves respect. When we seek to do those things may we succeed by grace. And may we engage in rituals which create holy atmospheres for our spiritual benefit and glorify—not mock—God.









Devotion for May 31 and June 1 in Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  A Blind Man, 1914-1918

Image Source = Library of Congress

Ecclesiastes and John, Part V:  Scorned Wisdom

MAY 31 and JUNE 1, 2023


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:

Ecclesiastes 8:1-17 (May 30)

Ecclesiastes 9:1-17 (June 1)

Psalm 36 (Morning–May 30)

Psalm 120 (Morning–June 1)

Psalms 80 and 27 (Evening–May 30)

Psalms 32 and 139 (Evening–June 1)

John 9:1-23 (May 30)

John 9:24-41 (June 1)


A poor man’s wisdom is scorned,

And his words are not heeded.

–Ecclesiastes 9:16b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

That passage fits the experience of the blind man in John 9.  Even with his new vision he understood Jesus more clearly than any of our Lord’s critics.  Their ideology blinded them to reality, for they thought that they knew how God worked, and Jesus, by his life and deeds, contradicted that understanding.  So, like people who did not want to be confused by facts, they doubled down on their ideology.  It was safe and familiar.

Their ferocity in the story reveals something else.  Such meanness and anger indicated that these men were trying to convince themselves of what they said.  They could not pretend for long that what had happened had not occurred, so they looked for alternative explanations.  And they committed injustice in the process.

Among the most dangerous people are defensive ones.  I have learned that lesson by living and by monitoring the news.  And the combination of defensiveness with a disregard for objective reality is more dangerous, especially in the news media and in the corridors of power.  Good decision-making requires, among other things, a firm grounding in objective reality.

As for the rest of us–those not in power–a firm grounding in objective reality matters very much.  And how we treat others–cruelly or not–matters to them.  May we refrain from harming others to make ourselves feel good or better.







Devotion for Wednesday and Thursday in Pentecost Week (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  Pieta, by Michelangelo Buonarroti

Numbers and Luke, Part XI:   Atonement

MAY 31, 2023

JUNE 1, 2023


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:

Numbers 23:4-28 (Wednesday)

Numbers 24:1-25 (Thursday)

Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning–Wednesday)

Psalm 97 (Morning–Thursday)

Psalms 1 and 33 (Evening–Wednesday)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening–Thursday)

Luke 22:47-71 (Wednesday)

Luke 23:1-25 (Thursday)


How can I damn whom God has not damned,

How doom when the LORD has not doomed?

–Numbers 23:8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


It would have been nice (per Numbers 31:16) if Balaam had maintained that attitude.

Balaam, in Numbers 23 and 24, did as God instructed him, to King Balak’s dismay.  This was risky in the short term, I suppose, but the two merely parted company. Thus that part of the story ended.

Among my essential books is A Short History of Christian Thought, Revised and Expanded Edition (Oxford University Press, 1996), by Linwood Urban.  Father/Professor Urban’s volume is a wonderful resource for reading about Christian theological development.  These doctrines which we Christians affirm, refute, or discuss did not fall fully formed from Heaven.  No, theologians wrote and debated.  Bishops gathered at council and synods.  And, more often than not, they got it right.

Urban devotes a chapter to the doctrine of the Atonement.  He contextualizes it in Scripture and theology.  And he traces three understandings of the Atonement in the Bible and the writings of Church Fathers.  To summarize:

Reconciliation or atonement is said to be accomplished by the Incarnation itself, by the sacrificial death of Christ on Calvary, and by the conquest and defeat of the Devil.

–page 106

I recommend reading Urban’s chapter for full citations to the Bible and named Church Fathers.  These are matters of theological history.  Thus the existence of more than one ancient interpretation of the mechanics of the Atonement in Christian theology is a matter of objectively correct and confirmed history, not opinion.  As the late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, everybody is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts.

As for me, I grew up learning St. Anselm of Canterbury’s theory of Penal Substitutionary Atonement.  Jesus took my place on the cross, people told me.  This does not satisfy me, for it makes God seem like a vindictive thug.

I will not be satisfied until I see my son tortured and executed,

I imagine such a deity saying or thinking.  I recognize the Conquest of Satan theory in the Scriptures, and I hear echoes of the Incarnation-as-Atonement in the Gospels before their Passion narratives begin.  But we must come to terms with the death of Jesus.  That even played a vital role in the Atonement process.  Yet me must not stop there, for dead Jesus did not redeem us; resurrected Jesus did.

My conclusion follows:  The entire earthly life of Jesus was necessary for the Atonement to occur.  The Incarnation was vital, as were the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.  And Jesus was one whom God had neither damned nor doomed.  No, his death pointed out the futility and cruelty of scapegoating people.  And his Resurrection from the dead showed God’s power, which God had demonstrated many times.  Now and again, however, we mere mortals seem to need reminders.







Before a Bible Study   Leave a comment

Above:  An Old Family Bible

Image Source = David Ball


God of glory,

as we prepare to study the Bible,

may we approach the texts with our minds open,

our intellects engaged,

and our spirits receptive to your leading,

so that we will understand them correctly

and derive from them the appropriate lessons.

Then may we act on those lessons.

For the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,








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Week of Proper 4: Monday, Year 2   4 comments

Above:  Mother Teresa, Who Loved Her Neighbors

Image Source = Turelio

Piety, Genuine and False

JUNE 1, 2020


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.


2 Peter 1:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

From Simon Peter, servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who share equally with us in the privileges of faith through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace be yours in fullest measure, through knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

God’s divine power has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and true religion, through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  In this way he was given us his promises, great beyond all price, so that through them you may escape this corruption with which lust has infected the world, and may come to share in the very being of God.

With all this in view, you should make every effort to add virtue to your faith, knowledge to virtue, self-control to knowledge, fortitude to self-control, piety to fortitude, brotherly affection to piety, and love to brotherly affection.

If you possess and develop these gifts, you will grow actively and effectively in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Whoever lacks them is willfully blind; he has forgotten that his past sins were washed away.  All the more often, my friends, do your utmost to establish that God has called and chosen you.  If you do this, you will never stumble, and there will be rich provision for your entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Psalm 91 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High,

abides under the shadow of the Almighty.

He shall say to the LORD,

“You are my refuge and my stronghold,

my God in whom I put my trust.”

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.

You shall not be afraid of any terror by night,

nor of the arrow that flies by day;

Of the plague that stalks in the darkness,

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

7  A thousand shall fall at your side

and ten thousand at your right hand,

but it shall not come near you.

8  Your eyes have only to behold

to see the reward of the wicked.

9  Because you have made the LORD your refuge,

and the Most High your habitation,

10  There shall no evil happen to you,

neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.

11  For he shall give his angels charge over you,

to keep you in all your ways.

12  They shall bear you in their hands,

lest you dash your foot against a stone.

13  You shall tread upon the lion and adder;

you shall trample the young lion and the serpent under your feet.

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.

Mark 12:1-12 (Revised English Bible):

He went on to speak to them in parables:

A man planted a vineyard and put a wall round it, hewed out a winepress, and built a watch-tower; then he let it out to the wine-growers and went abroad.  When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce.  But they seized him, thrashed him, and sent him away empty-handed.  Again, he sent them another servant, whom they beat about the head and treated outrageously, and then another, whom they killed.  He sent many others and they thrashed and killed the rest.  He had now no one left to send except his beloved son, and in the end he sent him.  “They will respect my son,” he said; but the tenants said to one another, “This is the heir; come on, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.”  So they seized him and killed him, and flung his body out of the vineyard.  What will the owner of the vineyard do?  He will come and put the tenants to death and give the vineyard to others.

Have you never read this text:  “The stone which the builders rejected has become the main corner-stone.  This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful in our eyes”?

They saw that the parable was aimed at them and wanted to arrest him; but they were afraid of the people, so they left him alone and went away.


The Collect:

O God, who before the passion of your only­begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; 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:

Week of Proper 4:  Monday, Year 1:

Week of Last Epiphany:  Monday, Year 1:

Week of Last Epiphany:  Monday, Year 2:

Mark 12:

Matthew 21 (Parallel to Mark 12):


There is an old, perhaps apocryphal story.  The elderly Apostle John was about to visit a congregation.  The people gathered and anticipated what pearls of wisdom might drop from his lips.  When John arrived, he was so frail that others had to carry him.  Seated in front of the rapt audience, the Apostle said, “My children, love one another.”  Then he summoned the men who had carried him in to carry him out.  One congregation member, disappointed with the brevity of the address, chased after John and said, in so many words, “That’s it?”  John replied, “When you have done that, I will tell you more.”

Too often we Christians misunderstand orthodoxy as merely being correct on doctrinal matters.  As 2 Peter 1 reminds us, there is a lived aspect of orthodoxy.  The most basic test of this is, “Do we love one another?”  The jealous vineyard tenants in our Lord’s parable did not, but perhaps they thought themselves doctrinally orthodox.  The tenants were stand-ins for professional religious people of our Lord’s time and place.  They lived according a version of piety which depended on separation from the great unwashed, a type of piety which the great majority of people could not afford to maintain. So this was a smug, condescending piety–a false piety.

Jesus, of course, scandalized the practitioners of such piety by doing things like dining with tax collectors and speaking with prostitutes.

False piety is more socially respectable, is it not?  And what does tell you, O reader?

May we love one another, however this appears to others.


Published in a nearly identical form as Week of Last Epiphany:  Monday, Year 2, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on July 23, 2011

Week of Proper 3: Friday, Year 2   11 comments

Above:  A Depiction of an Agape Feast from the Roman Catacombs

“Agape cancels a host of sins….”

JUNE 1, 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.


1 Peter 4:7-13 (Revised English Bible):

The end of all things is upon us; therefore to help you pray you must lead self-controlled and sober lives.  Above all, maintain the fervour of your love for one another, because love cancels a host of sins.  Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.  As good stewards of the varied gifts given you by God, let each use the gift he has received in service to others.  Are you a speaker?  Speak as one who utters God’s oracles.  Do you give service?  Give it in the strength which God supplies.  In all things let God be glorified through Jesus Christ; to him belong glory and power for ever and ever.

Dear friends, do not be taken aback by the fiery ordeal which has come to test you, as though it were something extraordinary.  On the contrary, in so far as it gives you a share in Christ’s sufferings, you should rejoice; and then when his glory is revealed, your joy will be unbounded.

Psalm 96:7-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 Ascribe to the LORD, you families of the peoples;

ascribe to the LORD honor and power.

Ascribe to the LORD the honor due his Name;

bring offerings and come into his courts.

Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness;

let the whole earth tremble before him.

10 Tell it out among the nations:  ”The LORD is King!

he has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved;

he will judge the peoples with equity.”

11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;

let the sea thunder and all that is in it;

let the field be joyful and all that is therein.

12 Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy

before the LORD when he comes,

when he comes to judge the earth.

13 He will judge the world with righteousness

and the peoples with his truth.

Mark 11:11-26 (Revised English Bible):

(Note:  Mark 11:1-10 tells of Jesus borrowing a colt and entering Jerusalem.)

He entered Jerusalem and went into the temple.  He looked round at everything; then, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

On the following day, as they left Bethany, he felt hungry, and, noticing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it.  But when he reached it he found nothing but leaves; for it was not the season for figs.  He said to the tree,

May no one ever again eat fruit from you!

And his disciples were listening.

So they came to Jerusalem, and he went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold there.  He upset the tables of the money-changers and the seats of the dealers in pigeons; and he would not allow anyone to carry goods through the temple court.  Then he began to teach them, and said,

Does not scripture say, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations”?

The chief priests and the scribes heard of this and looked for a way to bring about his death; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching.  And when evening came they went out of the city.

Early next morning, as they passed by, they saw that the fig tree had withered from the roots up; and Peter, recalling what had happened, said to him,

Rabbi, look, the fig tree which you cursed has withered.

Jesus answered them,

Have faith in God.  Truly I tell you:  if anyone says to this mountain, “Be lifted from your place and hurled into the sea,” and has no inward doubts, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.  I tell you, then, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.

And when you stand praying, if you have a grievance against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive the wrongs you have done.


The Collect:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 3:  Friday, Year 1:

Week of 8 Epiphany:  Friday, Year 1:

Week of 8 Epiphany:  Friday, Year 2:

Lord, Help Us Walk Your Servant Way:


The reading from 1 Peter occurs in the context of the expectation that Jesus would return very soon.  That nearly two thousand years ago.  Nevertheless, the relevance of what follows the failed prediction remains current.

More than one verse from the Bible teaches that there is a relationship between how we treat others and how God treats us.  Consider the end of the Gospel lection:  We must forgive others if we are to have a reasonable expectation that God will forgive us.   And God will extend to us the same standard we apply to others (Matthew 7:1-5).  The Greek word for “love” in 1 Peter 4:8 is agape.  This is selfless, self-sacrificing, unconditional love, the kind we see Jesus just a few days from demonstrating on the cross in the reading from Mark 11.  Jesus is our model, of course, but we must not lose sight of the fact that 1 Peter 4:7-13 uses agape to refer to how we ought to treat our fellow human beings.

Agape cancels a host of sins,

we read, followed by exhortations to act hospitably and use spiritual gifts for the common good, what Paul called the building up of the body of Christ.  More of this ought to happen among the churched population.  Often branches of the Church hinder their divine mandate by engaging in backstabbing, frontstabbing, bickering, gossiping, fighting needlessly over minor doctrinal disputes, and mistaking orthodoxy for the mere recitation and affirmation of a written confession of faith.  Indeed, much of Protestantism contains an unfortunate and reflexive reaction against anything resembling works-based righteousness.  But then there are books such as James and 1 Peter.

I am sufficiently close to Roman Catholicism to lack an anti-works-based righteousness reflexive kick.  Besides, as I ponder texts and interpretations of them over time, I conclude that there is validity to some degree of works-based righteousness within the context of grace, by which God empowers us to live  faithfully.  A positive response to God does require free will if it is to have any meaning.  Any such response is a work, is it not?  And this free will comes from God.  So everything leads back to God.

Within this context we have the teaching that we, by our actions, can contribute to our own forgiveness by God.  Dare we hear and accept this?  And how much better off would our families, friends and acquaintances networks, neighborhoods, communities, nations, world, congregations, and denominations be if more of us focused on extending agape toward each other instead of pointing fingers and trying to win arguments about theology and social issues?  Such arguments feed the heresy of Donatism, which is destructive.  But agapebuilds up.

May agape mark our individual and common lives.


Published in a nearly identical form as Week of 8 Epiphany:  Friday, Year 2, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on July 16, 2011