Archive for the ‘June 26’ Category

Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 7, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Burning Bush

Above:  Burning Bush

Image in the Public Domain


JUNE 26, 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:

Ezekiel 32:1-10

Psalm 64

Luke 9:37-43a


Everyone will be awestruck,

proclaim what God has done,

and understand why he has done it.

The upright will rejoice in Yahweh,

will take refuge in him.

and all the honest will praise him.

–Psalm 64:9-10, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


We read two different accounts of how God’s victory and glory become widespread knowledge.  In Ezekiel 32:1-10 (which I recommend that one read in the vivid language of TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985) God will strike down the Pharaoh of Egypt just a few years after the destruction of the first Temple at Jerusalem.  God will do this in the open, in plain sight, the text indicates.  The Kingdom of Judah may have fallen, but no power has defeated–or can conquer–Yahweh.

In Luke 9, immediately after the revelation of Christ’s glory in the Transfiguration, Jesus heals a boy who most likely suffered from epilepsy.  (The Hellenistic worldview understood the cause of the affliction as demonic possession.)  The Revised English Bible (1989) says of the witnesses to the healing:

And they were all struck with awe at the greatness of God.

–Luke 9:43a

Much of human religion, regardless of labels, consists of attempts to control God.  In Exodus 3:13-15 God’s insistence on providing a non-name, “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh,” testifies to the divine refusal even to seem controllable.  That non-name can mean, among other things, “I Am Who I Am” and “I Will Be What I Will Be.”  God, being uncontrollable, is also unconquerable.  This should not surprise anyone.  It should, however, inspire one to revere God and be awestruck.










Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 7, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Seventh Plague John Martin

Above:  The Seventh Plague, by John Martin

Image in the Public Domain

The Kingdom of This World

JUNE 25 and 26, 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:

Exodus 7:14-24 (Monday)

Exodus 9:13-35 (Tuesday)

Psalm 65 (Both Days)

Acts 27:13-38 (Monday)

Acts 27:39-44 (Tuesday)


You still the roaring of the seas,

the roaring of the waves,

and the clamor of the peoples.

Those who dwell at the ends of the earth

will tremble at your marvelous signs;

you make the dawn and dusk to sing for joy.

–Psalm 65:7-8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


God, the biblical authors affirmed, controls nature.  This theme occurs in the plagues upon Egypt, Jesus walking on water, droughts in ancient Israel and Judah, et cetera.  The pericopes from Exodus, in which the theme of God being in control of nature occur, constitute a narrative which contrasts with the storm at sea then the shipwreck in Acts 27.  Innocent Egyptians suffered and/or died in the plagues, but all hands survived in Acts 27.  The plagues led to the freedom of the Hebrew slaves, but the voyage of the prison ship took St. Paul the Apostle to his trial, house arrest, and execution at Rome.  I can only wonder about the fates of the other prisoners.  Drowning at sea might have been a more merciful way of dying.

The Exodus pericopes remind me that sometimes a divine rescue operation comes with a body count.  When oppressors insist on oppressing the end of their oppression is good news for their victims yet bad news for them.  Sometimes innocent people become casualties in the conflict, unfortunately.

I wish that all were joy, love, and happiness.  I wish that nobody would ever oppress anyone.  Violence would be absent from my utopia.  Yet Utopia is nowhere, potentates are often prideful and not concerned with the best interests of their people, and circumstances escalate to the point that some people will suffer from violence one way or another.  This proves (as if anyone needs confirmation) that the Kingdom of God is not fully realized in our midst.

May we pray for the day that it will become fully realized on this plane of existence.






Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 7, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment



Above:  Marble Street, Ruins of Ephesus, in Turkey, Between 1950 and 1960

Photographer = Osmo Visuri

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-23105

Faith in Time of Adversity

JUNE 26 and 27, 2017


The Collect:

Teach us, good Lord God, to serve you as you deserve,

to give and not to count the cost,

to fight and not to heed the wounds,

to toil and not to seek for rest,

to labor and not to ask for reward,

except that of knowing that we do your will,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40


The Assigned Readings:

Micah 7:1-17 (Monday)

Jeremiah 26:1-12 (Tuesday)

Psalm 6 (Both Days)

Revelation 2:1-7 (Monday)

Revelation 2:8-11 (Tuesday)


Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am weak;

Lord, heal me, for my bones are racked.

–Psalm 6:2, Common Worship (2000)


Faith under pressure can waver, but may it hold until the end.

The assigned readings for these days come from places of difficulty. The audience of the Book of Revelation consisted of persecuted Christians and Christians about to endure persecution. Perhaps the faith of the persecuted Christians at Ephesus had begun to waver. Maybe that was what Revelation 2:4 meant. The prophet Jeremiah faced persecution for prophesying against the officult cult in a vassal kingdom which lacked the separation of religion and state. And the prophet Micah wrote that

The faithful have vanished from the land….

–Micah 7:2a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

then catalogued a variety of offenses, such as murder, corruption, and general dishonesty. Then he continued:

But I shall watch for the LORD,

I shall wait for God my saviour;

my God will hear me.

My enemies, do not exult over me.

Though I have fallen, I shall rise again;

though I live in darkness, the LORD is my light.

Because I have sinned against the LORD,

I must bear his anger, until he champions my cause

and gives judgement for me,

until he brings me into the light,

and with gladness I see his justice.

–Micah 7:7-9, The Revised English Bible (1989)

I understand why faith wavers in the context of great adversity. That is when keeping faith can prove especially difficult. After all, many of us have a certain false notion in our minds. If we do what is right, we will be safe, if not prosperous, we think—perhaps even if we know better. Good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people, we tell ourselves—perhaps even if we know better. When adversity befalls us we might ask what wrong we have done—even when we know better. Reality challenges false assumptions.

But, as I have learned the hard way, faith can also become stronger in times of adversity and enable one to survive them intact, even stronger spiritually. I have alternated between wavering and becoming stronger spiritually during a certain very difficult time in my life, but I emerged stronger—singed, but stronger.

May you, O reader, find adversity—when it comes—a time of spiritual growth overall.









Devotion for June 26 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

Above:  The Divergence of Two Paths

Image Source = Daniel Case

Joshua and Acts, Part I:  Two Paths



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:

Joshua 1:1-18

Psalm 15 (Morning)

Psalms 48 and 4 (Evening)

Acts 8:1-25


Saul of Tarsus, fresh from witnessing the execution of St. Stephen, undertook a persecution of branches of the nascent Church.  The future Apostle seemed to be mired in his own sin.  He was–for the time being–until God called him.  And Simon Magus knew how to work wonders yet lacked the Holy Spirit.  His attempt to buy it, not repent, has given us the word “simony,” the buying and selling of church offices.  He remained mired in his sin despite the opportunity to start a new, better life because of his choice.  The counterpoint to Simon Magus and Saul of Tarsus (pre-conversion) was St. Philip the Evangelist, one of the early deacons.  He did as the Holy Spirit directed him.

Back in Joshua 1, God commissioned Joshua, son of Nun, to lead the Israelites after Moses died.  This commissioning entailed reminding him to obey God’s commandments as revealed to Moses.

Although we human beings will always have sin within us, we need not be bound by it, for the means of liberation is always close to us.  Since one day nearly two thousand days ago, just outside the old walls of Jerusalem, that means has been Jesus.  We cannot purchase this liberation.  No, it is free yet not cheap.  And it requires us to surrender that which would conflict with the costly demands of free grace.  There are no short cuts in Jesus.

Ironically, I have heard works-based piety affirmed in substance yet denied in name in some Protestant congregations.  I have heard people tell children to be good so that they will go to Heaven after they die.  Nevertheless, these same adults have claimed to affirm grace over works in salvation.  They have sent mixed messages, perhaps out of theological laziness or ignorance.  They have denied the reality of the costliness of grace and the relative difficulty of following Jesus.

Two paths lie before us.  One is the road of repentance and of the grace.  The other trail leads to destruction and grief.  The latter is easier yet the former is superior.  The choice of which path to follow remains with each of us.  Although one is on one path, one retains the free will to switch to the other end–for better or for worse.









Week of Proper 7: Tuesday, Year 2   2 comments

Above:  King Hezekiah and the Prophet Isaiah

A Time for Introspection

JUNE 26, 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.


2 Kings 19:9-36 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

But the [king of Assyria] learned that king Tirhakah of Nubia had come out to fight him; so he again sent messengers to Hezekiah, saying,

Tell this to King Hezekiah of Judah:  Do not let your God, on whom you are relying, mislead you into thinking that Jerusalem will not be delivered into the hands of the king of Assyria.  You yourself have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the lands, how they have annihilated them; and can you escape?  Were the nations that my predecessors destroyed–Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the Bethedenites in Telassar–saved by their gods?  where is the king of Hamath?  And the king of Arpad?  And the kings of Lair, Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivvah?

Hezekiah took the letter from the messengers and read it.  Hezekiah then went up to the House of the LORD and spread out before the LORD.  And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD and said,

O LORD of Hosts, Enthroned on the Cherubim!  You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth.  You made the heavens and the earth.  O LORD, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see.  Hear the words that Sennacherib has sent to blaspheme the living God!  True, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have annihilated the nations and their lands, and have committed their gods to the flames and have destroyed them; for they are not gods, but man’s handiwork of wood and stone.  But now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hands, and let all the kingdoms of the earth know that You alone, O LORD, are God.

Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent this message to Hezekiah:

Thus said the LORD, the God of Israel:  I have heard the prayer you have offered to Me concerning King Sennacherib of Assyria.  This is what the word of the LORD has spoken concerning him:

Fair Maiden Zion despises you,

She mocks at you;

Fair Jerusalem shakes

Her head at you.

Whom have you blasphemed and reviled?

Against whom made loud your voice

And haughtily raised your eyes?

Against the Holy One of Israel!

Through your envoys you have blasphemed my Lord.

Because you thought,

“Thanks to my vast chariotry,

It is I who have climbed the highest mountain,

To the remotest parts of Lebanon,

And have cut down its loftiest cedars,

Its choicest cypresses,

And have reached its remotest lodge,

Its densest forest.”

It is I who have drawn and drunk the waters of strangers;

I have dried up with the soles of my feet

All the streams of Egypt.

Have you not heard? Of old

I planned that very thing,

I designed it long ago,

And now I have fulfilled it.

And it has come to pass,

Laying waste fortified towns

In desolate heaps.

Their inhabitants are helpless,

Dismayed and shamed.

They were but grass of the field

And green herbage,

Grass of the roofs that is blasted

Before the standing grain.

I know your stayings

And your goings and comings,

And how you raged against Me.

Because you have raged against Me,

And your tumult has reached My ears,

I will place My hook in your nose

And My bit between your jaws;

And I will make you go back by the road

By which you came.

And this is the sign for you:  This year you eat what grows of itself, and the next year what springs from that; and in the third year, sow and reap, and plant vineyards and eat their fruit.  And the survivors of the House of Judah that have escaped shall regenerate its stock below and produce boughs from above.

For a remnant shall come forth from Jerusalem,

Survivors from Mount Zion.

The zeal of the LORD of Hosts

Shall bring this to pass.

Assuredly, thus said the said the LORD concerning the king of Assyria:

He shall not enter this city;

He shall not shoot an arrow at it,

Or advance upon it with a shield,

Or pile up a siege mound against it.

He shall go back

By the way he came;

He shall not enter this city

–declares the LORD.

I shall protect and save this city for My sake,

And for the sake of My servant David.

That night an angel of the LORD went out and struck down one hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp, and the following morning they were all dead corpses.

So King Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and retreated, and stayed in Nineveh.  While he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sarezer struck him down with the sword.  They fled to the land of Ararat, and his son Esarhaddon succeeded him as king.

Psalm 48 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised;

in the city of our God is his holy hill.

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

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

God is in her citadels;

he is known to be her sure refuge.

Behold, the kings of the earth assembled

and marched forward together.

5 They looked and were astonished;

they retreated and fled in terror.

Trembling seized them there;

they writhed like a woman in childbirth,

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

As we have heard, so have we seen,

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

God has established her for ever.

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

in the midst of your temple.

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

your right hand is full of justice.

10 Let Mount Zion be glad

in the cities of Judah rejoice,

because of your judgments.

11 Make the circuit of Zion;

walk round about her;

count the number of her towers.

12 Consider well her bulwarks;

examine her strongholds;

that you may tell those who come after.

13 This God is our God for ever and ever;

he shall be our guide for ever more.

Matthew 7:6, 12-14 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

Do not give what is sacred to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet and turn and tear you in pieces….Therefore you must always treat other people as you would like them to have them treat you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Go in at the narrow gate.  For the road that leads to destruction is broad and spacious, and there are many who go in by it.  But the gate is narrow the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few that find it.


The Collect:

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; 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 7:  Tuesday, Year 1:

The Remnant:


The Canadian Anglican Lectionary has skipped ahead.  So here is a summary of what you, O reader, have missed:

2 Kings 17 continues by condemning Judah.

The Assyrians resettled Israel, where religious syncretism became commonplace.

King Hezekiah (reigned 727/715-698/687 B.C.E. according to The Jewish Study Bible–dates are uncertain), son of Ahaz, reigned for 29 years.  He abolished shrines and smashed pillars.  The text tells us that

He trusted only in the LORD, the God of Israel; there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those before him. (18:5)

That catches us up to the point of Chapter 19, in which God delivers Judah from an Assyrian invasion.  It is a happy ending for Hezekiah and his kingdom, yet we readers know that, later in 2 Kings, Babylonians will destroy the city.

The books of Samuel and Kings are not primarily historical, and their authors did not pretend that they were.  Indeed, my academic study of history has taught me that objective history is like the Loch Ness Monster; one hears much about it yet hard evidence does not exist.  Two historians can write about the same topic, agree factually, and arrive at different conclusions.  I can think of a few examples of this quite quickly.

The books of Samuel and Kings are theological works using the past to demonstrate certain points.  Among those points is this:  Draw near to God, and God will draw near to you.  We ought not overgeneralize, for the fact of national collapse does not necessarily indicate divine judgment any more than national success indicates divine approval.

But the editors of the final version of Samuel-Kings worked in the context of return from the exile of Judah.  They, like historians at any time, understood the past in the context of their present day.  These editors applied spiritual retrospection to their cultural and national past.

You, O reader, might wonder, “What is the devotional value of this day’s reading from 2 Kings?”  Here is my answer:  Each of us needs, as an individual, to reflect on our relationship with God over time.  What has been right with it?  What has been wrong with it?  And we also need to do the same collectively.  The collective might be a family, a couple, a book group, a Bible study group, or a religious congregation or commune.  After all, the focus in these readings has been collective, not individual, except when the narrator has been discussing monarchs and prophets.  And, when we have prayerfully identified our weak spots, what is the best way to strengthen them?


Week of Proper 7: Wednesday, Year 1   20 comments

Above:  A 2000-Year-Old Olive Tree in Bar, Montenegro

Image Source = Bratislav Tabas

You Can Tell Them By Their Fruit

JUNE 26, 2019


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Genesis 15:1-21 (An American Translation):

After these events the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision,

Do not be afraid, Abram; I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.

But Abram said,

O Lord GOD, what canst thou give me, seeing that I am childless, and that my heir is a Damascene, Eliezer?

Abram said,

Since you have given me no posterity, my household slave will be my heir.

But there came to him this message from the LORD,

No such person is to be your heir, but one born of your own body is to be your heir.

Then he took him outside, and said,

Now, look at the sky, and count the stars if you can.  So shall your descendants be,

he said to him.

And he trusted in the LORD, who counted it to his credit, and said to him,

I am the LORD, who brought you out of the Chaldean city of Ur to give you possession of this land.

But he said,

O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?

So he said to him,

Procure a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old she-goat, a three-year-old he-goat, a dove, and a young pigeon.

Procuring all these, he cut them in two–but not the birds–and placed the pieces opposite each other.  The birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them off.  Then, as the sun was going down, a trance fell on Abram; indeed a great and awful gloom fell upon him.  Then the LORD said to Abram,

Know of a surety that your descendants shall be immigrants in a land not their own, where they shall be slaves, and be oppressed for four hundred years; but I will in turn bring judgment upon the nation that made slaves of them, after which they shall escape with great wealth.  (As for yourself, you shall join your fathers in peace, and be buried at a ripe old age.)  It will only be in the fourth generation, however, that they will return here; for the guilt of the Amorites is not yet complete.

When the sun had set and it was quite dark, there appeared a smoking fire-pot and a blazing torch that passed between the pieces.  That day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying,

To your descendants I give this land, from the River of Egypt as far as the Great River, the river Euphrates–that of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaim, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.

Psalm 47 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Clap your hands, all you peoples;

shout to God with a cry of joy.

2 For the LORD Most High is to be feared;

he is the great King over all the earth.

3 He subdues the peoples under us,

and the nations under out feet.

4 He chooses our inheritance for us,

the pride of Jacob whom he loves.

5 God has gone up with a shout,

the LORD with the shout of the ram’s-horn.

6 Sing praises to God, sing praises;

sing praises to our King, sing praises.

7 For God is King of all the earth;

sing praises with all your skill.

8 God reigns over the nations;

God sits enthroned upon his holy throne.

9 The nobles of the peoples have gathered together

with the people of the God of Abraham.

10 The rulers of the earth belong to God,

and he is highly exalted.

Matthew 7:15-20 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you disguised as sheep but are ravenous wolves underneath.  You can tell them by their fruit.  Do people pick grapes off thorns, or figs off thistles?  Just so any sound tree bears good fruit, but a poor tree bears bad fruit.  No sound tree can bear bad fruit, and no poor tree can bear good fruit.  Any tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and burned.  So you can tell them by their fruit.


The Collect:

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


As I have written before, deeds reveal creeds.

Let us begin with Genesis.  The lectionary skips over Chapter 14, and Chapter 15 begins with, “After these events….”  In Chapter 14, the following events transpired:

  1. The kings of Shinar (a.k.a. Babylon), Ellasar, Elam, and Goiim waged war on the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Adman, Zeboiim, and Bela (a.k.a. Zoar).  The latter alliance, subject to the king of Elam for twelve years, rebelled, so the Elamite king and his allies attacked.
  2. The attacking alliance of four kings conquered Rephaim, Zuzim, Emim, Horites, Amalekites, and Amorites along the way.
  3. The attacking alliance of four kings captured Lot, members of his household, and his possessions, and removed all of them from Sodom.
  4. Abram and members of his household defeated the attacking alliance of four kings and rescued Lot and all members of his household and retrieved Lot’s possessions.
  5. After the battle, Abram met the kings of Sodom and Salem.  Melchizedek, the priest-king of Salem, blessed El Shaddai for delivering Abram.
  6. Abram, consistent with his familial obligations and a promise to his God, declined to keep any of Lot’s possessions, although Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre, who had accompanied Abram, did claim their shares with Abram’s permission.

So, in Chapter 15, God repeated the previously stated promise that Abram would have many descendants.  After an animal sacrifice and advance notice of Hebrew slavery in Egypt, the Exodus, and the wandering in the wilderness, God established a covenant with Abram.  The patriarch trusted that God, whom he knew as El Shaddai, would keep divine promises, that is, Abram believed in God.  There would be rough patches and long, deep valleys, but the promises of God were–and are–trustworthy.

Abram, of course, did not always trust before Genesis 15:1-21 or after.  He was a mortal, not a flawless individual.  But he did well enough for biblical authors to look back on him as a role model of faithfulness.

The metaphor of good and bad trees and fruit is easy to understand.  We cannot hide who we are forever, no matter how good we are at playing parts in public life.  We are as we think, and the truth will emerge in time.  Abram was a good tree.  May we be good trees, too.

The Gospel of Matthew dates to approximately 85 C.E.  The original audience understood prophets well, as such men still roamed the roads and proclaimed messages they claimed came from God.  Some prophets were true; others were false.  The message for the audience in 85 C.E. was plain:  Consider the source.  This is a timeless lesson.  In my North American context, I can think of a murderous false prophet (Jim Jones) and numerous fraudulent false prophets (many televangelists, especially alleged faith healers who “heal” people planted in the audience).  A few years ago I received an unsolicited piece of mail from the Reverend Ike.  There was a paper “prayer cloth” featuring the outline of a hand.  The instructions said to put my hand in that hand, a stand-in for God’s hand, when praying.  I did no such thing.

I regret that many people mistake such confidence men as messengers from God.  Their fraud is well-documented, and they distract spiritually needy people from true shepherds who can provide guidance in person.  When I ponder Karl Marx’s famous statement that religion is the opiate of the masses, I wonder what he would have made of televangelism.

You shall know them by their fruits.

My parting thought is this:  What kind of tree are you?  Considering the reality of human imperfections and thus laying aside illusions of moral perfection, do you bear good fruit?  Do you lead people to God or do you distract them?