Archive for the ‘June 10’ Category

Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 5, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  Jephthah

Image in the Public Domain

Liberty to Love Each Other in God

JUNE 10, 2019, and JUNE 11, 2019


The Collect:

Compassionate God, you have assured the human family of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Deliver us from the death of sin, and raise us to new life,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39


The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 22:1-14 (Monday)

Judges 11:29-40 (Tuesday)

Psalm 68:1-10, 19-20 (Both Days)

Galatians 2:1-10 (Monday)

Galatians 2:11-14 (Tuesday)


The upright rejoice in the presence of God,

delighted and crying out for joy.

Sing to God, play music to his name,

build a road for the Rider of the Clouds,

rejoice in Yahweh, dance before him.

–Psalm 68:3-4, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


Liberty in God is freedom to love God and our fellow human beings, to glorify God and work for the benefit of others, especially the vulnerable, those who need it the most, in society.  We are responsible to and for each other, regardless of whether we acknowledge that fact and behave accordingly.

The readings from Judges 11 and Genesis 22, which concern human sacrifice, are troublesome.  The famous and infamous story of the near-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham, his father, is a tale of a man who interceded on behalf of strangers yet not his son.  Abraham failed the test of faith; he should have argued.  The less well-known story from Judges 11 is the tale of Jephthah, who spoke before he thought.  Thus he ensnared himself in an oath to sacrifice his only child.  He, unlike Abraham, went through with it.  Among the lessons these stories teach is that Yahweh does not desire human sacrifice.

More broadly speaking, God does not desire any form of human exploitation.  Rather, God condemns all varieties of human exploitation.  They are inconsistent with interdependency and responsibility to and for each other.  That is a fine standard by which to evaluate any human or corporate action or policy, is it not?










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

Pentecost Dove May 24, 2015

Above:  Pentecost Dove

Image Source = St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, May 24, 2015

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Listening to the Holy Spirit

JUNE 10 and 11, 2019


The Collect:

God our creator, the resurrection of your Son offers life to all peoples of the earth.

By your Holy Spirit, kindle in us the fire of your love,

empowering our lives for service and our tongues for praise,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 36


The Assigned Readings:

Joel 2:18-29 (Monday)

Ezekiel 11:14-25 (Tuesday)

Psalm 48 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 2:1-11 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 2:12-16 (Tuesday)


We reflect on your faithful love, God,

in your temple!

Both your name and your praise, God,

are over the whole wide world.

–Psalm 48:9-10a, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


I teach a Sunday School class in my parish.  We adults discuss the assigned readings for each Sunday.  I recall that, one day, one of the lections was 1 Corinthians 13, the famous love chapter in which the form of love is agape–selfless and unconditional love.  I mentioned that St. Paul the Apostle addressed that text to a splintered congregation that quarreled within itself and with him.  A member of the class noted that, if it were not for that troubled church, we would not have certain lovely and meaningful passages of scripture today.

That excellent point, in its original form, applies to the lection from 1 Corinthians 2 and, in an altered form, to the readings from Joel and Ezekiel.  A feuding congregation provided the context for a meditation on having a spiritual mindset.  The Babylonian Exile set the stage for a lovely message from God regarding certain people with hearts of stone:

Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

–Ezekiel 11:20b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

As for those who refuse to repent–change their minds, turn around–however,

I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, says the Lord GOD.

–Ezekiel 11:21b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

And, in the wake of natural disaster and repentance new grain, wine, and oil will abound in Joel 2.  Divine mercy will follow divine judgment for those who repent.  That reading from Joel 2 leads into one of my favorite passages:

After that,

I will pour out My spirit on all flesh;

Your sons and daughters shall prophesy;

Your old men shall dream dreams,

And your young men shall see visions.

I will even pour out My spirit

Upon male and female slaves in those days.

–Joel 3:1-2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This is a devotion for the first two days after the day of Pentecost.  The assigned readings fit the occasions well, for they remind us of the necessity of having a spiritual mindset if we are able to perceive spiritual matters properly then act accordingly.  The Holy Spirit speaks often and in many ways.  Are we listening?  And are we willing to act faithfully?








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 8, 9, and 10, 2017


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 June 9, 10, and 11 in Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   11 comments

Above:  St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, Perry, Georgia, January 29, 2012

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Proverbs and John, Part III:  Wisdom and Jesus

MONDAY, JUNE 10, 2019

TUESDAY, JUNE 11, 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:

Proverbs 8:1-21 (June 9)

Proverbs 8:22-38 (June 10)

Proverbs 9:1-18 (June 11)

Psalm 110 (Morning–June 9)

Psalm 62 (Morning–June 10)

Psalm 13 (Morning–June 11)

Psalms 66 and 23 (Evening–June 9)

Psalms 73 and 8 (Evening–June 10)

Psalms 36 and 5 (Evening–June 11)

John 12:36b-50 (June 9)

John 13:1-20 (June 10)

John 13:21-38 (June 11)


I invite you, O reader, to compare and contrast the Proverbs readings to the prologue of the Gospel of John.  You might notice the imagery of divine wisdom (personified as feminine) and how it influenced the imagery of the Word (Logos) of God in the Gospel of John.  There is at least one major difference:  wisdom is a divine creation; the Logos is not.  (I am not an an Arian.)  Yet theological cross-fertilization is evident.

Wisdom raises her voice from the topmost height and calls to all people.  She encourages them to avoid folly and says,

For he who finds me finds life

And obtains favor from the LORD.

But he who misses me destroys himself;

All who hate me love death.

–Proverbs 8:35-36, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

And wisdom has st the table, offering food and wine.  She continues:

The beginning of wisdom is fear of the LORD,

And knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

–Proverbs 9:10, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Meanwhile, in John 12 and 13, Jesus models and encourages an attitude of service to God and of help for each other.  I suspect that he did not intend to inspire an annoying song,

They’ll know we are Christians by our love,

with its few words repeated often, but at least the sentiment holds true.  And the caution in John 12:47-50 sounds very much like Wisdom speaking of those who reject her.

Jesus is about to set a table in the Gospel of John.  The Synoptic Gospels offer details about the Last Supper; the Gospel of John does not.  No, that meal comes and goes early in Chapter 13.  In the Synoptic Gospels the Last Supper is a Passover meal.  Yet, as well-informed students of the New Testament know, the barely-mentioned Last Supper in the Fourth Gospel occurs before Passover.  Jesus dies on Passover, so he is the Passover Lamb.  The food and wine he offers us are his body and blood.  I, as an Episcopalian, accept the language readily.

Wisdom raises her voice and invites all people to follow her precepts.  She also sets a table.  And Jesus offers himself to us and for us.  May we obey, eat, and drink.










Devotion for Monday and Tuesday in Pentecost Week (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Above:  Balaam and the Angel

Numbers and Luke, Part X:   Obedience to Our Sovereign God

MONDAY, JUNE 10, 2019, and TUESDAY, JUNE 11, 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:

Numbers 22:1-20 (Monday)

Numbers 22:21-23:3 (Tuesday)

Psalm 5 (Morning–Monday)

Psalm 42 (Morning–Tuesday)

Psalms 84 and 29 (Evening–Monday)

Psalms 102 and 133 (Evening–Tuesday)

Luke 22:1-23 (Monday)

Luke 22:24-46 (Tuesday)


Parts of the readings from the Book of Numbers prove to be inconsistent with my Western and scientific worldview and mindset, which I have inherited from my post-Enlightenment culture.  What influence might one non-Israelite prophet’s curse have upon them?  And we all know that donkeys lack the capacity for human language.  But these details are trivial matters; the main point of the Balak and Balaam narrative is to affirm the sovereignty of God.  Balaam, hired to curse the Israelites on behalf of Balak, the King of Moab, disobeys God by setting with Balak’s agents.  The the prophet receives divine permission to continue on the journey but only to speak as God, not Balak wishes.

To digress briefly, who stops Balaam and his donkey in their tracks?  The narrative, in 22:22-26, uses a Hebrew term for “the adversary,” or the Satan.  The theology of Satan changed from the beginning of the Bible to the New Testament.  Here, in the Book of Numbers, as in the Book of Job, the Satan was an angel who worked for God.  Free agency, such as we see in the New Testament, came later.  This is a well-documented pattern of facts, one which serious study of the texts reveals.  There are even entire books on just this subject.

While I am wearing my higher criticism hat….

Luke 22:24-27, set immediately after our Lord’s betrayal by Judas Iscariot and the institution of the Holy Eucharist and the Last Supper, bears a striking resemblance to Matthew 20:25-28 and Mark 10:42-45, both of which follow on the heels of James and John, sons of Zebedee, asking for high status for themselves (or their mother, our Lord’s aunt, asking for them, depending on the account one reads) in the Kingdom of God.  And the passages from Matthew and Mark precede the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem almost immediately.  Such discrepancies did not trouble the Church Fathers who approved the New Testament canon, so I will not permit them to disturb me either.  Besides, I know that the Gospels are not documentaries.

Anyhow, the theme of obedience we find in Numbers 22 runs through Luke 22 also.  Jesus obeys God.  Those who defy the Greco-Roman system of age and patronage, a system which oppressed people while impressing them with moments of generosity, obey God.  Those who stand by Jesus obey God.  Even Judas Iscariot played his part in salvation history.  If nobody had betrayed Jesus, would he have suffered, died, and risen?  Again we see the sovereignty of God playing out in the texts.

Sometimes agents in these dramas of the sovereignty of God are less than savory characters.  Consider the Numbers and Luke readings for examples of this, O reader.  Balaam, for example, obeyed God until he did not; consult Numbers 31:16.  And, elsewhere in the Bible, the narrative presents the Assyrians and the Babylonians as agents of divine sovereignty and punishment–agents those texts also condemn.  The fact that you, O reader, and I have roles to play in divine plans does not necessarily bode well for us.  Yet may we be on God’s side.  It is better for us, and I propose that God prefers it.







Proper 5, Year B   18 comments

Above:  Saint Paul Writing His Epistles (1500s Painting)


The Sunday Closest to June 8

The Third Sunday After Pentecost

JUNE 10, 2018



1 Samuel 8:4-11 (12-15), 16-20 (11:14-15) (New Revised Standard Version):

All the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him,

You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.

But the thing displeased Samuel when they said,

Give us a king to govern us.

Samuel prayed to the LORD, and the LORD said to Samuel,

Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. Now then, listen to their voice; only– you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.

So Samuel reported all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. He said,

These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; [and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers.] He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the LORD will not answer you in that day.

But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said,

No! but we are determined to have a king over us, so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.

[Samuel said to the people,

Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.

So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal. There they sacrificed offerings of well-being before the LORD, and there Saul and all the Israelites rejoiced greatly.]

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.


Genesis 3:8-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

The man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him,

Where are you?

He said,

I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

He said,

Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?

The man said,

The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.

Then the LORD God said to the woman,

What is this that you have done?

The woman said,

The serpent tricked me, and I ate.

The LORD God said to the serpent,

Because you have done this,

cursed are you among all animals

and among all wild creatures;

upon your belly you shall go,

and dust you shall eat

all the days of your life.

I will put enmity between you and the woman,

and between your offspring and hers;

he will strike your head,

and you will strike his heel.

Psalm 130 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Out of the depths have I called to you, O LORD;

LORD, hear my voice;

let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

2  If you , LORD, were to note what is done amiss,

O Lord, who could stand?

3  For there is forgiveness with you;

therefore you shall be feared.

4  I wait for the LORD; my soul waits for him;

in his word is my hope.

5  My soul waits for the LORD,

more than watchmen in the morning,

more than watchmen in the morning.

6  O Israel, wait for the LORD,

for with the LORD there is mercy;

7  With him there is plenteous redemption,

and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.


2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1 (New Revised Standard Version):

Just as we have the same spirit of faith that is in accordance with scripture–

I believed, and so I spoke

— we also believe, and so we speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, and will bring us with you into his presence. Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.


Mark 3:20-35 (New Revised Standard Version):

The crowd came together again, so that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat. When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying,

He has gone out of his mind.

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said,

He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.

And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables,

How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin

— for they had said,

He has an unclean spirit.

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him,

Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.

And he replied,

Who are my mother and my brothers?

And looking at those who sat around him, he said,

Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.

The Collect:

O God, from whom all good proceeds: Grant that by your inspiration we may think those things that are right, and by your merciful guiding may do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Some Related Costs:

Proper 5, Year A:

1 Samuel 8:

Genesis 3:

Mark 3:

O Blessed Mother:


Losing heart can be easy.  You, O reader, might know the feeling–I do–the recurring impression that beating one’s head against a wall, although painful and self-injurious, would at least yield observable results, which is more than one can say honestly about one’s current, recent, and long-standing efforts.  Yes, there are valid times to change tactics and therefore to cut one’s losses, and persistence which lasts too long can constitute beating a dead horse.  Yet sometimes one needs to persist longer before seeing positive results.  The problem, of course, is how to know the difference.

Paul faced much opposition to his Christian work and even argued with congregations.  Jesus dealt daily with dense Apostles.  Today I, as a Christian, stand on their shoulders, for the Apostles (minus Judas Iscariot) spread the word far and wide after our Lord’s death and Paul took the message to the Gentiles, of whom I am one.  And, of course, the Pauline tradition accounts for 14 of the 27 books of the New Testament.  Their persistence paid off.

Think about how patient and persistent God must be with you.  (I ponder how patient and persistent God has been and is with me.)  One of the themes in the Bible is focusing more on who one can be rather than who one is.  Simon Peter, an impetuous hothead, became a leader of the early Church.  Paul, once an oppressor of “the Way,” became perhaps its greatest missionary.  David went from tending his father’s flock of sheep to ruling a great kingdom.  Mary, an obscure young woman, became the Mother of God, the woman who had the greatest influence on how Jesus turned out.

May we discern God’s call to us and support each other in our divine vocations.  May we be patient with one another, persist through trials (without beating dead horses), and recognize each other’s potential then nourish it.  May we do all this for the common good and the glory of God.


Week of Proper 5: Monday, Year 1   9 comments

Above: The Decapitation of St. Paul (1887), by Enrique Simonet

Pay It Forward

JUNE 10, 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.


2 Corinthians 1:1-7 (An American Translation):

Paul, by God’s will an apostle of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God that is at Corinth, and all God’s people all over Greece; God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ bless you and give you peace.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the merciful Father, and the God always ready to comfort!  He comforts me in all my trouble, so that I can comfort people who are in any trouble with the comfort with which I myself am comforted by God.  For if I have a liberal share of Christ’s sufferings, through Christ I have a liberal share of comfort too.  If I am in trouble, it is to bring you comfort and salvation, and if I am comforted, it is for the sake of the comfort which you experience when you steadfastly endure such sufferings as I also have to bear.  My hopes for you are unshaken.  For I know that just as surely as you share my sufferings, just so surely you will share my comfort.

Psalm 34:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I will bless the LORD at all times;

his praise shall ever be in my mouth.

2 I will glory in the LORD;

let the humble hear and rejoice.

3 Proclaim with me the greatness of the LORD;

let us exult his Name together.

4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me

and delivered me out of all my terror.

5 Look upon him and be radiant,

and let not your faces be ashamed.

6 I called in my affliction and the LORD heard me

and saved me from all my troubles.

7 The angel of the LORD encompasses those who fear him,

and he will deliver them.

8 Taste and see that the LORD is good;

happy are they who trust in him.

Matthew 5:1-12 (An American Translation):

When Jesus saw the crowds of people he went up on the mountain.  There he seated himself, and when his disciples had come up to him, he opened his lips to teach them.  And he said,

Blessed are those who feel their spiritual need, for the Kingdom of God belongs to them!

Blessed are the mourners, for they will be consoled!

Blessed are the humble-minded, for they will possess the land!

Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for uprightness, for they will be satisfied!

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy!

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God!

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called God’s sons!

Blessed are those who have endured the persecution for their uprightness, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them!

Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you, and falsely say everything bad of you, on my account.  Be glad and exult over it, for you will be richly rewarded in heaven, for that is the way they persecuted the prophets who went before you!


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.


Life contains many persistent questions.  Among them is this one:  Why do good people suffer?  The answer is simple and multifaceted:

  • A certain measure of suffering seems to be part and parcel of living.  Sometimes nobody is to blame.
  • Bad people, who might not know that they are bad, persecute those who are good.
  • Many people decide that inflicting a certain amount of suffering is acceptable, given the alternatives.
  • We humans tend to fear those we do not understand, and to hate and persecute those we fear.
  • We are interconnected, so the actions on one person affect others.  Sometimes innocent parties become caught up in the negative effects of the actions of others.
  • Sometimes we experience the negative consequences of our own actions.

Yet, as Paul, who knew much suffering for his work in the name of God wrote to the Corinthians, adverse circumstances led to him receiving comfort, which he was then able to extend to others, who could comfort others, et cetera.  I know this feeling, for I have suffered, although not for the sake of righteousness.  I was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time.  But I received great comfort, and I feel the obligation to comfort others.  I know that I ought to pay it forward.  Perhaps you, O reader, have the same sense of obligation fueled by gratitude.

And we know, of course, where Paul’s sufferings led him.  The Romans decapitated him.  Until that point, however, the apostle comforted many people.  Fortunately, many of his words survive to this day, and they provide much comfort and inspiration.  His legacy continues via epistles and the fact that I, a Gentile, am a Christian.  His sufferings were not in vain.

On this day the Canadian Anglican lectionary shifts out of Mark and into Matthew, beginning with the Sermon on the Mount.  I chose to change the translation again, as I do periodically, and to switch to the The Complete Bible:  An American Translation (1939), which renders the Beatitudes nicely without clinging to overly traditional language.  Sometimes reading or hearing a passage in familiar language prevents one from really hearing its meanings.  And I hope that you, O reader, read the Beatitudes again and paid close attention to the words, instead of jumping ahead mentally with a “I’ve read this before” mentality.

You might have heard some or all of the following statements, or variations thereof:

  • Blessed are they who expect nothing, for they will not be disappointed.
  • Do unto others before they do unto you.
  • Nice guys finish last.

The Beatitudes contradict all of them.  Jesus was no stranger to suffering, of course.  So let nobody accuse him of being naive.  Rather, let us recognize without words and lives his moral genius and insight.  The Matthew version of the Beatitudes contains a vision of the world as it ought to be and of how the divine order works.  History tells me that too often human authority figures have labeled the way things are as the divinely appointed order.  Therefore questioning authority and trying to reform society became a sin, officially.  And, too often, Christian leaders have supported this position.  Consider pre-Enlightenment Europe, for example.  Those Enlightenment philosophers who rejected organized Christianity were not entirely wrong, for they looked around and saw bishops in the pockets of princes, kings, and emperors, and they recognized that such had been the case for a very long time.

But there is a distinction between Jesus and organized Christianity, at least some of the time.  We of the Church have misunderstood Jesus intentionally or accidentally, and that is to our great discredit.  We have misconstrued popularity as something to desire, but what did Jesus say?  We have condoned allegedly holy wars, but what did Jesus say?  We have been arrogant, but what did Jesus say?  Fortunately, not all of us have erred to this extent; we have always had our share of pure souls in our midst.  The likes of St. Francis of Assisi and Mother Teresa of Calcutta have reminded us of where we ought to stand.

We ought to strive for a better world.  We have made this world what it is, so we can leave it better than we found it.  (That is an Enlightenment attitude.)  But only God can make the world what it ought to to be.  (Now I sound like Reinhold Niebuhr.)  And, by grace, we can comfort each other, which is one vocation God gives to us.

And, in Godly community, may we echo the psalm:

Taste and see that the LORD is good;
happy are they who trust in him.