Archive for the ‘June 21’ Category

Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 7, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Stone Retaining Wall

Above:  Stone Retaining Wall, October 1979

Photographer = Carl Fleischhauer

Image Source = Library of Congress


JUNE 20, 2019

JUNE 21, 2019

JUNE 22, 2019


The Collect:

O Lord God, we bring before you the cries of a sorrowing world.

In your mercy set us free from the chains that bind us,

and defend us from everything that is evil,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 56:9-12 (Thursday)

Isaiah 57:1-13 (Friday)

Isaiah 59:1-8 (Saturday)

Psalm 22:19-28 (All Days)

Romans 2:17-19 (Thursday)

Galatians 3:15-22 (Friday)

Matthew 9:27-35 (Saturday)


Yahweh, do not hold aloof!

My strength, come quickly to my help,

rescue my soul from the sword,

the one life I have from the grasp of the dog!

Save me from the lion’s mouth,

my poor life from the wild bulls’ horns!

–Psalm 22:19-21, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


No, the LORD’s arm is not too short to save,

Or His ear too dull to hear;

But your iniquities have been a barrier

Between you and your God,

Your sins have made Him to turn His face away

And refuse to hear you.

–Isaiah 59:1-2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)


That passage from Isaiah goes on to say that God will

…repay fury to His foes;

He shall make requital to His enemies,

Requital to the distant lands.

–Isaiah 59:18b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Then justice and righteousness will prevail, and the words of God will be in the mouths of the people

from now on, for all time.

–Isaiah 59:21d, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

God establishes no barriers between himself and us.  No, we erect and maintain such walls.  We even become attached to them and defend some of them as righteous.  Our moral blind spots prevent us from recognizing every example of this in which we have participated and take part.  Therefore sometimes we mistake the work of God for evil, or at least as negative.  There is frequently an element of the self-defensive in such reactions, for recognizing acts of God as what they are would require us to admit that we are not as holy as we imagine ourselves to be.  It would also require us to question certain “received wisdom,” to which we have become attached and by which we define ourselves.

We would do much better to embrace divine offers of love and reconciliation, and to accept the freedom Christ brings, as well as the accompanying demands of grace upon our lives.  Grace is free, but not cheap.










Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 7, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Beheading of St. Paul

Above:  The Beheading of St. Paul, by Enrique Simonet

Image in the Public Domain

The Problem of Suffering

JUNE 21 and 22, 2018


The Collect:

O God of creation, eternal majesty,

you preside over land and sea, sunshine and storm.

By your strength pilot us,

by your power preserve us,

by your wisdom instruct us,

and by your hand protect us,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40


The Assigned Readings:

Job 29:1-20 (Thursday)

Job 29:21-30:15 (Friday)

Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32 (Both Days)

Acts 20:1-16 (Thursday)

Acts 21:1-16 (Friday)


Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

and his mercy endures for ever.

Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim

that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.

–Psalm 107:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


Placing that Psalm in the lectionary for these two days seems ironic, especially when considering the other two pericopes.

The titular character of the Book of Job suffered, but not because of any sin he committed.  Compounding his plight was the fact that he had to endure alleged friends, who blamed him for his plight.  They insisted that, since God does not punish the innocent, Job must have sinned, thus prompting his extreme suffering.  They advised him to repent of his sins, therefore.  Actually, the text tells us, God permitted the suffering as a test of loyalty.  Job protested his innocence and lamented his fate.  Anyone who speaks of the “patience of Job,” as if he had any, ought to pay better attention to the story.

Meanwhile, in the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul the Apostle was traveling to Jerusalem.  He hoped to arrive in time for the first day of Pentecost.  At Caesarea the Apostle learned that his journey would take him to a bad fate.  He accepted the prophecy calmly, saying,

…I am ready not only to be bound but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.

–Acts 21:13c, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

He went on to die for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ at Rome “off-camera,” so to speak, after the end of the Acts of the Apostles.

The alleged friends of Job thought that suffering resulted necessarily from sins.  Yet St. Paul the Apostle suffered for the sake for the sake of righteousness.

Nevertheless, the assumption that we suffer solely or primarily because of our wrongdoing persists.  Also commonplace is a related assumption which says that, if we live righteously, we will prosper and be safe and well.  This is the heresy of Prosperity Theology.

Tell that heresy to Jesus and to the Christian martyrs, if you dare,

I say.  I conclude that false ideas live on because too many people pay little or no attention to the evidence around them.  Perhaps these individuals are merely incurious.  (Many people are not very inquisitive, intellectually or otherwise.)  Or maybe they are distracted among the other details of life.  Regardless of the reason(s), they need to pay better attention and respond to the situation that is, not the situation they imagine exists.

To claim that God never punishes the innocent or permits them to suffer is to make a pious comment–one which is false.  What is the functional difference between permitting innocent people to suffer and punishing them?  I recognize none.  One is passive and the other is active, but the results are the same.  The problem of suffering is complicated for we monotheists, for we lack the luxury of blaming an evil deity for misfortune while letting a good deity off the hook.  Yes, how we live on this plane of reality affects the afterlife, but the rain still falls on the just and on the unjust in this life.  Wicked people still prosper and righteous people still suffer on this side of Heaven.  All of this can be difficult to reconcile with the idea of a loving and just God, hence bad theology in defense of God.  I prefer an honest question to a false certainty, however.









Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 6, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  The Civil Rights March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, 1965

Photographer = Peter Pettus

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ6-2329

Righteousness and Results

JUNE 19, 2017

JUNE 20, 2017

JUNE 21, 2017


The Collect:

God of compassion, you have opened the way for us and brought us to yourself.

Pour your love into our hearts, that, overflowing with joy,

we may freely share the blessings of your realm and faithfully proclaim

the good news of your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39


The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 1:1-11 (Monday)

1 Samuel 3:1-9 (Tuesday)

Proverbs 4:10-27 (Wednesday)

Psalm 105:1-11, 37-45 (All Days)

1 Thessalonians 3:1-5 (Monday)

2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5 (Tuesday)

Luke 6:12-19 (Wednesday)


Seek the Lord and his strength;

seek his face continually.

–Psalm 105:4, Common Worship (2000)


The Psalm tells us to seek God and divine strength continually. That is good advice at all times and in all places. It is also advice consistent with the rest of the assigned readings.

The lections from Joshua and Proverbs are overly optimistic. They follow a certain formula: Obey God and good results will follow; one will prosper, et cetera. This is the overly optimistic viewpoint which leads to the heresy of Prosperity Theology: love God, do the right things, and get rich.

Tell that to Jesus (crucified), St. Paul the Apostle (beheaded after many years of troubles), and most of the original twelve Apostles (the majority of whom died violently). Tell that to the Thessalonian Christians. Tell that to nearly 2000 years’ worth of Christian martyrs and about 5000 years’ worth of faithful Hebrews.

When we challenge social institutions and systems which violate th law of love we confront powerful forces. In so doing we challenge people who might even cite God in attempts to justify their unjustifiable actions and attitudes. And we place ourselves at great risk. We need divine strength to live faithfully and to avoid the pitfalls of hatred, vengeance, and misdirected anger. We should be angry sometimes, for righteous anger does exist. But we ought to channel it properly, lest it corrupt our cause and compromise us.

We can succeed only by the power of God.









Devotion for June 21 and 22 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   8 comments

Above:  Pilgrims at the Edicule, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, 1941

Image Source = Library of Congress

Proverbs and John, Part VIII:  The Violence of the Wicked

FRIDAY, JUNE 21, and SATURDAY, JUNE 22, 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 24:1-22 (June 21)

Proverbs 25:1-22 (June 22)

Psalm 51 (Morning–June 21)

Psalm 104 (Morning–June 22)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening–June 21)

Psalms 118 and 111 (Evening–June 22)

John 19:1-22 (June 21)

John 19:23-42 (June 22)


Proverbs 24 speaks of the violence which the wicked plot and perpetrate.  They will meet their ultimate fate, it says.  And they will, but why do so many of them prosper for so long on the earth?  I wonder about that point as I read John 19, which contains an account of our Lord’s crucifixion.  The Roman Empire persisted in some form or another until 1453.  Even after it became officially Christian, it was a state founded on violence.  Then it fell to another state founded on violence.  The Ottoman Empire arrived at its end only after World War I.

One lesson I draw from history in general and the life of Jesus in particular is that the violence of wicked flows from a place of fear and insecurity.  A scared dictator or agent thereof persecutes and/or executes those who call the legitimacy of the state founded on violence into question.  Jesus, by his talk of the Kingdom of God, had described the opposite of the Roman Empire and questioned its legitimacy.  And he had not kept a low profile during the last Passover week, for he had confronted the Temple leadership, composed of collaborators.

A fearful and nervous government authorizes torture, denies civil liberties, and rules by intimidation.  This is an old truth, one as germane today and it was in antiquity.  The fact that this truth remains relevant concerns me greatly, for we humans should have learned more than we have.








Week of Proper 6: Thursday, Year 2   1 comment

Above:  Elisha

“Your Kingdom Come!”

JUNE 21, 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.


Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 48:1-14 (An American Translation):

Then the prophet Elijah arose like fire,

And his word burned like a torch;

He brought a famine upon them,

And made them few by his zeal,

By the word of the Lord he shut up heaven;

In the same way, he brought down fire three times.

How glorified you were, Elijah, in your wonderful acts,

And who can glory like you?

You who raised one who was dead, from death,

And from Hades, by the word of the Most High;

Who brought kings down to destruction,

And distinguished men from their beds.

Who heard rebukes at Sinai,

And judgments of vengeance at Horeb;

Who anointed kings to exact retribution,

And prophets to succeed him;

Who were taken up in a whirlwind of fire,

In a chariot with fiery horses;

Who, it is written, is to come in rebuke at the appointed time,

To quiet anger before it becomes wrath,

To turn the heart of the father to his son,

And to reform the tribes of Jacob.

Happy are those who saw you,

And those who fell asleep in love;

For we will surely live.

When Elijah was sheltered by the whirlwind,

Elisha was filled with his spirit.

In all his days he was not shaken by any ruler

And no one overmastered him.

Nothing was too wonderful for him,

And when he had fallen asleep, his body prophesied.

In life he did signs,

And after his death he worked wonders.

Psalm 97 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The LORD is King;

let the earth rejoice;

let the multitude of the isles be glad.

2 Clouds and darkness are round about him,

righteousness and justice are the foundations of his throne.

A fire goes before him

and burns up his enemies on every side.

4 His lightnings light up the world;

the earth sees it and is afraid.

The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the LORD,

at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.

The heavens declare his righteousness,

and all the peoples see his glory.

Confounded be all who worship carved images

and delight in false gods!

Bow down before him, all you gods.

Zion hears and is glad, and the cities of Judah rejoice,

because of your judgments, O LORD.

For you are the LORD,

most high over all the earth;

you are exalted far above all gods.

10 The LORD loves those who hate evil;

he preserves the lives of the saints

and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

11 Light has sprung up for the righteous,

and joyful gladness for those who are truehearted.

12 Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous,

and give thanks to his holy Name.

Matthew 6:7-15 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,] “And when you pray, do not repeat empty phrases as the heathen do, for they imagine that their prayers will be heard if they use words enough.  You must not be like them.  For God, who is your Father, knows what you need before you ask him.  This, therefore, is the way you are to pray:

Our Father in heaven,

Your name be revered!

Your kingdom come!

Your will be done

On earth as well as in heaven!

Give us today bread for the day,

And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.

And do not subject us to temptation,

But save us from the evil one.

For if you forgive others when they offend you, your heavenly Father will forgive you too.  But if you do not forgive others when they offend you, your heavenly Father will not forgive you for your offenses.”


The Collect:

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.


A Related Post:

Week of Proper 6:  Thursday, Year 1:


There is a famous roll call of faith in the Epistle to the Hebrews.  Many of my coreligionists might not know, however, that Sirach/Ecclesiasticus offers a more extensive and an older honor roll of the righteous, beginning in Chapter 44 and terminating in Chapter 50.  There we read summaries of the careers of Elijah and Elisha, praised for bringing glory to God, even though idolatry persisted in the land.  That, however, was not their fault.

I have found this recent line of Old Testament lessons increasingly tedious.  “More Baal worshipers are dead?  This is old news.  Same song, fifth verse!” I exclaim to myself within my cranium.  The only way I can make any spiritually helpful sense of all this is focusing now on this day’s reading from Sirach/Ecclesiasticus and connecting it to Matthew 6:9:

Our Father in heaven,

Your name be revered!

Your kingdom come!

Elijah and Elisha had their faults, as all of us do.  Yet they served YHWH, the only deity.  They sought, albeit unsuccessfully, to end the worship of other gods so that people in the Kingdom of Israel would worship only YHWH.  We must not bow down to idols and imaginary gods, which distract us from God.  May anyone who takes note of us say that we worship God alone, love God fully, and love our neighbors as ourselves.  That is a difficult calling, one we can accomplish by grace.


Week of Proper 6: Friday, Year 1   6 comments

Above:  Paul Writing His Epistles (A 16th-Century Painting)

Our Lives Belong to God

JUNE 21, 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 11:18, 21b-30 (An American Translation):

Since many are so human as to boast, I will do it also….But whatever anyone else dares to boast of–I am playing the part of a fool–I will dare to boast of too.  If they are Hebrews, so am I!  If they are Israelites, so am I!  If they are descended from Abraham, so am I!  If they are Christian workers–I am talking like a madman!–I am a better one! with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, vastly worse beatings, and in frequent danger of death.  Five times I have been given one less than forty lashes, by the Jews.  I have been beaten three times by the Romans, I have been stoned once, I have been shipwrecked three times, a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; with my frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from the heathen, danger in the city, danger in the desert, danger at sea, danger from false brothers, through toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, through hunger and thirst, often without out food, and exposed to cold.  And besides everything else, the thing that burdens me every day is my anxiety about all the churches.  Who is weak without being weak?  Whose conscience is hurt without my being fired with indignation?  If there must be boasting, I will boast of the things that show my weakness!

Psalm 34:1-6 (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 exalt 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.

Matthew 6:19-23 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,] “Do not store up your riches on earth, where moths and rust destroy them, and where thieves break in and steal them, but store up your riches in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy them, and where thieves cannot break in and steal them.  But wherever your treasure is, your heart will be also.  The eye is the lamp of the body.  So if your eye is sound, your whole body will be light, but if your eye is unsound, your whole body will be dark.  If, therefore, your very light is darkness, how deep the darkness will be!”


The Collect:

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.


Almost never do I watch television, as I have chosen to live without cable TV service.  If I do not pay for that utility, I do not receive it.  And I live better without it, doing more reading and writing than I would otherwise.  Also, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio offers much wonderful cultural and news programming.  Giving up cable television has not been a real sacrifice for me; I have traded up.

Yet I do sit a house sit from time to time, and I find cable TV there.  Once, during such a job, I found a Hoarders marathon on A&E.  Each hour follows an intervention in the life of a person with the mental illness called hoarding.  These individuals live in needlessly dirty and cluttered homes, which have health risks (such as mold) frequently.  Yet these hoarders cling emotionally and psychologically to their possessions, most of which they have no way of accessing due to the clutter.  They become anxious when someone throws away a three-year-old jar of a condiment, for example.

Hoarding, being a mental illness, is treatable.  So I leave it, an extreme version of materialism, in the realm of professionals.  Run-of-the mill materialism, however, falls into the category of sin.  I read a few years ago about the increasing popularity of three-car garages in the United States.  The extra space is for storage, not a third vehicle.  I write these words early in the Christmas shopping season of 2010.  Very little is more materialistic than the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day in the United States.

I am not cranky about this, for crankiness does not become me.  No, it is possible to stand firmly for one’s principles without resorting to a bad attitude and becoming unpleasant company.  Without trying to seem self-righteous, I state simply that I do all or most of my Christmas shopping (what little I do) at thrift stores, and hope that people perceive that statement with the matter-of-fact way I intend it.

As I write these words, I am in my sixth year in Athens, Georgia, and the fourth year in the same apartment.  This is the longest period of time I have spent in one town.  I was mobile as a youth, given the frequent moves I made with my family, due to my father’s transfers from one United Methodist parsonage to another.  I learned along the way that moving many possessions is no fun.  So, to this day, I ask myself one question before buying something durable:  “Do I want to move with this?”  I maintain a large private library, which I use, and resign myself to the occasional pain of packing, moving, unpacking, and reshelving it according to the organizational plan only I understand.  But, like Thomas Jefferson, I cannot live without books.

But, as Jesus says in Luke 12:15 (New Revised Standard Version):

Take care!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”

Edgar J. Goodspeed’s An American Translation gets to the point with slightly different wording:

Take care! You must be on your guard against every form of greed, for a man’s life does not belong to him, no matter how rich he is.

Goodspeed’s translation, by eschewing the traditional language, cuts to the chase and bares the point of the teaching.  Materialism is an attempt to control one’s life, but all life is from God in the presence of God, so nobody’s life is his or her own.  Any idea to the contrary is mistaken.  Paul of Tarsus understood that his life was in God, and, after listing his hardships, he boasted only in God.  In God he found peace, frequently in a prison cell and occasionally in a wrecked hull.  Despite it all, he was able, in the words of the psalm, to look upon God and be radiant.

How many material possessions does one really need?  There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.  I enjoy and use my library, which feeds the life of my mind.  Anyone who tells me that I do not need books does not understand me properly.  But I know that my life is not my own, and that it does not consist of my library holdings.  The problem with the rich man who came to Jesus in Mark 10:17-22 was that he clung to his wealth, not that he had it.  His money and possessions constituted his security blanket, if you will permit me to use a Peanuts allusion.  We are supposed to have only one security blanket:  God.

All else decays in time.  And what does not decay before our demise we cannot take with us anyway.  May we cling to God alone, placing all else in this context, the only proper one.  St. Laurence of Rome (died in 258) understood that the poor were the treasures of the Church.  And St. Giuseppe Moscati used his wealth to enable himself to serve the poor.  The service of others and the glory of God are the proper uses of all forms of wealth.