Archive for the ‘June 6’ Category

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


Above:  Priests Replacing the Showbread

Image in the Public Domain

Compassion and Identity

JUNE 6, 2018


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:

1 Samuel 21:1-6

Psalm 78:1-4, 52-72

John 5:1-18


Yet still they tested God Most High and rebelled against him,

and would not keep his commandments.

–Psalm 78:56, Common Worship (2000)


Falling into legalism is at least as bad as having disregard for divine law.  Both errors arrive at the same destination:  missing the mark, which is the definition of sin.

One must, if one is to be thorough, read the Gospel of John in the context of its composition:  rising tensions between Jews and Christians.  Many of the latter category were also Jews, but they had become marginalized within Judaism.  Thus invective infected the text of the Johannine Gospel.  The “scribes and Pharisees” of the Synoptic Gospels became “the Jews.”  Jews were labeling other Jews “the Jews.”

That does not mean, however, that the Johannine Gospel contains no history.  We ought, however, to read it with an awareness and understanding of the filters.

The story in John 5:1-18, as we have received it, is one of Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath, identifying God as his (Jesus’s) father, and contending with plots because of these actions and words.  According to the Law of Moses, the penalty for profaning the Sabbath is death, as is the punishment for committing blasphemy.  These were the charges against our Lord and Savior in the story.  The man Jesus healed even had to contend with charges of carrying his mat on the Sabbath (John 5:10).  He got off, though, for accusers found a “juicier” target.

Legalism–born out of respect for divine commandments–is misguided because it transforms the laws into idols.  A legalist is so lost among the proverbial trees that he or she cannot contextualize them within the forest.  Often attitudes and actions lacking compassion flow from legalism, as in the pericope from John 5.  Was joy that a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years was now able-bodied too much to muster?

Part of the socio-economic-political context of the story is the central role of Sabbath keeping in defining Jewish community, especially while living under Roman occupation.  Indeed, the importance of keeping the Sabbath as a way of setting the Hebrew community apart from its neighbors and its recent plight in slavery in Egypt forms part of the background of the Sabbath laws in Exodus 31:12-18.  I am not a rugged individualist, for I affirm that we humans depend entirely on God and rely upon each other and each other’s labor.  Others assembled the car I drive and paved the roads I paved the roads I travel on the way to work, for example.  A community focus in society can be positive, for we are all responsible to and for each other.  But community ought never to crush an individual.

Our Lord and Savior did more than heal on the Sabbath.  He and his twelve Apostles, for example, also gleaned food from fields, for they were hungry.  Some people criticized them for doing that too.  Jesus, in Matthew 12:3-4, Mark 2:25-26, and Luke 6:3-4, cited the precedent of David in 1 Samuel 21:1-6.  David, then fighting a civil war against King Saul, was hungry one day.  He acquired food by lying (claiming to be on a secret mission for Saul) to a priest, who gave him the Bread of the Presence, which only priests were supposed to eat.  To consume that bread was to commune with God, according to theology at the time.  The author of that story did not condemn David, but Saul condemned the priest to death for aiding an enemy.

Our Lord and Savior’s purpose in citing that precedent was to say that breaking ritual law in a time of need is permissible.  If saving a life, according to that standard, how is healing a man paralyzed for 38 years beyond the pale?  And how does anyone have so little compassion (if any) as to complain about the day of the week on which someone commits a good deed?

Identity matters a great deal, but compassion is more important.








Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 5, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  Jesus Heals Two Blind Men, by Julius Schnorr

Image in the Public Domain

Divine Judgment and Mercy



The Collect:

O God, you are the source of life and the ground of our being.

By the power of your Spirit bring healing to this wounded world,

and raise us to the new life of your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38


The Assigned Readings:

Lamentations 1:7-11 (Thursday)

Lamentations 3:40-58 (Friday)

Exodus 34:1-9 (Saturday)

Psalm 50:7-15 (All Days)

2 Peter 2:17-22 (Thursday)

Acts 28:1-10 (Friday)

Matthew 9:27-34 (Saturday)


Hear, O my people, and I will speak:

“I will testify against you, O Israel;

for I am God, your God….”

–Psalm 50:7, Common Worship (2000)


The assigned readings for these three days juxtapose divine judgment and mercy. The metaphors for the consequences of sin are quite graphic. They do not make for good mealtime conversation, but at least they convey the point well.

There is also extravagant mercy with God. In Matthew 9:27-34, for example, Jesus healed two blind men and a mute whom others in his culture considered a demoniac. I, being a product of the Scientific Revolution and the subsequent Enlightenment, reject the Hellenistic notion that demonic possession causes muteness. No, I seek psychological explanations. None of that changes the reality of restoration to community. Those three men were marginal prior to their healing. The blind men might have even accepted the commonplace assumption that someone’s sin had caused their lack of vision. The lifting of that spiritual burden must have been wonderful also.

We must exercise caution to avoid becoming trapped in a simplistic and false concept of God. Such a false concept is an idol, for it occupies the place God should fill. With God there are great depths of mercy yet also the reality of potential judgment. As a prayer for Good Friday from The Book of Common Prayer (1979) reads:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, we pray you to set your passion, cross, and death between your judgment and our souls, now and in the hour of our death. Give mercy and grace to the living; pardon and rest to the dead; to your holy Church peace and concord; and to us sinners everlasting life and glory; for with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

–Page 282









Devotion for June 5 and 6 in Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  The Resurrection of Lazarus, by Vincent Van Gogh

Proverbs and John, Part I:  Excessive Optimism



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:

Proverbs 1:8-33 (June 5)

Proverbs 3:5-24 (June 6)

Psalm 65 (Morning–June 5)

Psalm 143 (Morning–June 6)

Psalms 125 and 91 (Evening–June 5)

Psalms 81 and 116 (Evening–June 6)

John 11:17-37 (June 5)

John 11:38-57 (June 6)


The readings from Proverbs offer useful advice, including counsel not to join a violent gang.  Yet Proverbs 3 is overly optimistic; following divine wisdom does not always lead to safety.  Consider John 11, for example; Jesus was in real peril, and he would die violently a few days later.

Varying perspectives within the Bible constitute old news.  The Torah emphasizes divine revelation yet Proverbs places great trust in human reason.  Ecclesiastes contradicts the optimistic tone of much of Proverbs.  And Ecclesiastes disagrees with itself as to whether a woman is, for a man, a legitimate source of pleasure or a gateway to sin.  None of this troubles me, for I know that the Bible comes from a variety of voices and sources.  The inspiration of Scripture does not indicate internal and universal consistency, for it is an anthology with a strong human element.

Yet the Gospels override when an inconsistency occurs.  The example of Jesus overrules the optimism of Proverbs 3.  I am a Christian–a follower of Jesus Christ, after all.  What else am I supposed to affirm?










Devotion for Saturday in Pentecost Week (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, by David Roberts; Lithograph from 1842-1845

Image Source = Library of Congress

Numbers and Luke, Part XIII:  Allegedly Sacred Violence



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 32:1-6, 16-27

Psalm 104 (Morning)

Psalms 118 and 111 (Evening)

Luke 24:1-27


…your sin will overtake you….

–Numbers 32:23b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


Just when I begin to like the Torah I read something like Numbers 31, a chapter over which the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod Daily Lectionary from the Lutheran Service Book (2006) skips.  (Sometimes skipping is necessary, and the text always remains available for reading.)  The editor or editors of the Torah after the Babylonian Exile wove together various documents; sometimes the seams jump out at a person who reads the texts carefully.  Numbers 31 picks up a thread left dangling at the end of Chapter 25.  In both chapters killing people seems to be answer to idolatry.  And the violence in Chapter 31 is allegedly God-sanctioned war in retribution for the events early in Numbers 25.  In 31:15b we read of Moses saying disapprovingly,

You have spared every female!

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

He goes on to order the death of

every male among the children.

–32:17a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

After that the settlement of the Transjordan begins in Chapter 32.

The lectionary, by pairing Numbers 32, which occurs in the context of the previous chapter, with Luke 24:1-27, begs me to read the Old Testament lessons in the context of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.  Can you, O reader, imagine Jesus ordering the execution of young men and condemning people for sparing every female of a particular population?  Neither can I.  The recently resurrected Jesus, with fresh memories of his death, certainly would not have done so.

There has been far too much killing already in the Bible and beyond its pages.  Too many people (one would be too many) have died because of theological disputes.  May neither you, O reader, nor I be responsible for any such killing.  Rather, may we function as agents of divine love and reconciliation.  Then the prediction of Numbers 32:23b, that our sin will overtake us if we disregard God’s commandments, will not come to fruition for us.

If x, then y

is a logical progression.  So, if x does not occur, neither does y.  And what is more godly than love, the blood-soaked parts of the Hebrew Scriptures notwithstanding?







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 9: Monday, Year 2   1 comment

Orthodox Icon of the Prophet Hosea

God, Who Takes Us Back

JULY 6, 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.


Hosea 2:16-25 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):


I will speak to her

And lead her through the wilderness

And speak to her tenderly.

I will give her her vineyards from there,

And the Valley of Achor as a plowland of hope.

There she shall respond as in the days of her youth,

When she came up from the land of Egypt.

And in that day

–declares the LORD–

You will call [Me] Ishi,

And no more will you call Me Baali.

For I will remove the names of the Baalim from her mouth,

And they shall nevermore be mentioned by name.

In that day, I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; I will also banish bow, sword, and war from the land.  Thus I will let them lie down in safety.

And I will espouse you forever:

I will espouse you with righteousness and justice,

And with goodness and mercy,

And I will espouse you with faithfulness;

Then you shall be devoted to the LORD.

In that day,

I will respond

–declares the LORD–

I will respond to the sky,

And it shall respond to the earth;

And the earth shall respond

With new grain and wine and oil,

And they shall respond to Jezreel.

I will sow her in the land as My own;

And take Lo-ruhamah back in favor;

And I will say to Lo-ammi, “You are my people,”

And he will respond, “[You are] my God.”

Psalm 138 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with my whole heart;

before the gods I will sing your praise.

I will bow down toward your holy temple

and praise your Name,

because of your love and faithfulness;

3 For you have glorified your Name

and your word above all things.

4 When I called, you answered me;

you increased my strength within me.

All the kings of the earth will praise you, O LORD,

when they have heard the words of your mouth.

They will sing of the ways of the LORD,

that great is the glory of the LORD.

7 Though the LORD be high, he cares for the lowly;

he perceives the haughty from afar.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe;

you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies;

your right hand shall save me.

9 The LORD will make good his purpose for me;

O LORD, your love endures for ever;

do not abandon the works of your hands.

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.


A Related Post:

Week of Proper 9:  Monday, Year 1:


The prophesies contained in the Book of Hosea speak of events from the 700s B.C.E.  Israel, the northern kingdom, is still strong, and Jeroboam II occupies its throne.  In the south, in the Kingdom of Judah, Uzziah/Amaziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah ruled in succession, sometimes with overlapping reigns between two of them.  There will be punishment for the persistent idolatry, God says through Hosea, but God will take his people back afterward.

The book uses adultery as a metaphor for idolatry.  So God, metaphorically speaking, is the cuckolded husband while the faithless population is the adulterous wife.  God, in the first part of Chapter 2, comes across as a violent husband.  Such a metaphor does offend many modern sensibilities regarding domestic violence, as it should.  I am not here to make excuses for biblical authors, and I do not feel obligated to pretend that parts of the Bible are not genuinely disturbing in a bad way.

But may we continue to read.

The abusive, cuckolded husband portion of Chapter 2 (verses 3-15) gives way to a lovely passage about reconciliation.  All will be forgiven, and idolatry will become a thing of the past.

Each person is more than the worst thing he or she has done.  True, certain actions carry dire consequences, but there can be forgiveness with God.  Do we seek it?

The end of Chapter 2 applies the names of Hosea’s children to Israel.  God had commanded the prophet to marry Gomer, “a wife of whoredom.”  He did, and they had three children.  The first was a son, Jezreel, which means “God sows.”  This personal name is a reference to a plain and a city on said plain, as well as the murder of Naboth, whose vineyard King Ahab had coveted.  Then came a daughter, Lo-ruhamah, which means “Unpitied.”  Finally, there was a second son, Lo-ammi, or “not my people.”

That was then. We read in verses 24 and 25 that the earth will respond to Jezreel with new grain, wine, and oil; God will sow, as in scattering the seeds.  And God will take the unpitied daughter, no longer unpitied, “back in favor.”  Furthermore, those whom God has renounced will again be his people, and they will respond in kind.

I am careful to focus on the main idea, not become distracted by less important issues.  If you, O reader, seek from me a definitive answer to how judgment and mercy balance each other in the Bible (especially the Hebrew Scriptures), you are looking in the wrong place.  Yet I do offer this nugget of what I hope is wisdom:  both exist, side by side.  There is discipline, but there is also forgiveness.  May we, by grace, live so that we do not grieve God, but gladden the divine heart (metaphorically speaking) instead.


Week of Proper 4: Saturday, Year 2   12 comments

Above:  The Apostle Paul, by Rembrandt van Rijn


JUNE 6, 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 Timothy 4:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

Before God, and before Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, I charge you solemnly by his coming appearance and his reign, proclaim the message, press it home in season and out of season, use argument, reproof, and appeal, with all the patience that teaching requires.  For the time will come when people will not stand sound teaching, but each will follow his own whim and gather a crowd of teachers to tickle his fancy.  They will stop their ears to the truth and turn to fables.  But you must keep your head whatever happens; put up with hardship, work to spread the gospel, discharge all the duties of your calling.

As for me, my life is already being poured out on the altar, and the hour for my departure is upon me.  I have run the great race, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.  And now there awaits me the garland of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on the great day, and not to me alone, but to all who have set their hearts on his coming appearance.

Psalm 71:8-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8  Let my mouth be full of your praise

and your glory all the day long.

9  Do not cast me off in my old age;

forsake me not when my strength fails.

10  For my enemies are talking against me,

and those who lie in wait for my life take counsel together.

11  They say, “God has forsaken him;

go after him and seize him;

because there is none who will save.”

12  O God, be not far from me;

come quickly to help me, O my God.

13  Let those who set themselves against me to put to shame and be disgraced;

let those who seek to do me evil be covered with scorn and reproach.

14  But I shall always wait in patience,

and shall praise you more and more.

15  My mouth shall recount your mighty acts

and saving deeds all the day long;

though I cannot know the number of them.

16  I will begin with the mighty works of the Lord GOD;

I will recall your righteousness, yours alone.

17  O God, you have taught me since I was young,

and to this day I tell of your wonderful works.

Mark 12:38-44 (Revised English Bible):

There was a large crowd listening eagerly.  As he taught them, he said,

Beware of the scribes, who love to walk up and down in long robes and be greeted respectfully in the street, and to have the chief seats  in synagogues and places of honour at feasts.  Those who eat up the property of widows, while for appearance’s sake they say long prayers, will receive a sentence all the more severe.

As he was sitting opposite the temple treasury, he watched the people dropping their money into the chest.  Many rich people were putting in large amounts.  Presently there came a poor widow who dropped in two tiny coins, together worth a penny.  He called his disciples to him and said,

Truly I tell you:  this poor widow has given more than all those giving to the treasury; for the others who have given had more than enough, but she, with less than enough, has given all that she had to live on.


The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; 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:  Saturday, Year 1:

 Luke 21 (Parallel to Mark 12):

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross:


Paul could have had a comfortable life until the end.  He had that kind of life when he persecuted the nascent Jesus movement.  But, when he changed the direction of his life after God intervened, he embarked on a path which entailed spending time in and out of various jails and prisons.   The end came via beheading.

The widow made a great sacrifice of a different sort.  Was her sacrifice necessary?  No.  Did Jesus praise or lament her offering?  As I discuss in the post on the Lukan parallel, I think that he lamented it.  But at least the widow was faithful.

Out of faithfulness people make sacrifices.  So those who tell them to do so have the obligation not to exploit the less fortunate and the the less educated.  Yet the piety of those who make these sacrifices is at least honest, which is more than I can say about the motivation of those who tell them that these sacrifices are necessary and proper.

As for martyrdom, this is the logical result of the combination of certain circumstances and faithful people.  Given the Roman imperial politics of the 60s C.E., Paul’s life could not have ended any other way.  Nero was seeking scapegoats, which he found in the form of Christians.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Father (now Saint) Maximilian Kolbe, by virtue of their active faith , were bound to run afoul of the Nazis in the 1940s.  Jonathan Myrick Daniels, an Episcopal seminarian taking a break from his studies to work for civil rights in Alabama in 1965, took a bullet and gave his life for an African-American young woman he did not know.  His love of God and his neighbors dictated nothing less in that circumstance.

Then there is the example of Jesus, who died on a cross.  “Take up your cross and follow me,” he said.  That was what Paul, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Father (Saint) Maximilian Kolbe, and Jonathan Myrick Daniels did.  It is what God calls us to do, each in the way(s) appropriate to our circumstances, to do.  Grace is free to us, but not cheap.