Archive for the ‘June 27’ Category

Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 8, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  Fire

Image in the Public Domain

A Consuming Fire

JUNE 27, 2019

JUNE 28, 2019

JUNE 29, 2019


The Collect:

Sovereign God, ruler of all hearts,

you call us to obey you, and you favor us with true freedom.

Keep us faithful to the ways of your Son, that,

leaving behind all that hinders us,

we may steadfastly follow your paths,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41


The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 9:22-10:11 (Thursday)

2 Kings 1:1-16 (Friday)

Deuteronomy 32:15-27, 39-43 (Saturday)

Psalm 16 (All Days)

2 Corinthians 13:5-10 (Thursday)

Galatians 4:8-20 (Friday)

Luke 9:21-27 (Saturday)


To Yahweh I say, “You are my Lord,

my happiness is in none of the sacred spirits of the earth.”

–Psalm 16:2-3a, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


St. Paul the Apostle was perplexed with the Galatian Church.  Many members of it had reverted to idolatry or to the Law of Moses, both of which he considered to be forms of spiritual slavery.  As he instructed the Corinthian Church, the proper course of action was to pass the test and remember that they carried Jesus Christ inside them.  In Christ, according to St. Paul, was liberation, although not to engage in negative activities, but to build up the faith community, and to pursue virtue (2 Corinthians 12:19-21).

The theme of rebelling against God unites these days’ readings.  Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, laid incense upon their fire pans in violation of divine instructions.  This constituted sacrilege and an attempt to control God.

Further, the sin of the two brothers was not simply that they went too far in their super-piety.  Rather, they acted in utter disregard for the deity.  God intended that the manifestation of His Presence would ignite the altar fire, marking His acceptance of His people’s devotion.  Their intent was for the divine fire to ignite their own pans; that is, they were attempting to arrogate control of the deity for themselves.

The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), page 216

Divine fire consumed the two priests.

Disregard for God was present in the population as a whole.  Idolatry and arrogance were difficult habits to break.  This was true in Biblical times, as in the days of Elisha.  It was true in the time that Jesus of Nazareth walked the face of the earth.

It remains true today, for human nature is a constant factor.

God is a consuming fire.  Fire is a destructive force, reducing much to ashes.  Yet destruction is frequently part of a creative process, as in the renewal of ecosystems in forests.  Divine fire destroys the corrupt and idolatrous, and arrogant so that seeds of fidelity, justice, and humility may germinate.

Jesus faced a difficult decision, and he resolved to take up his cross.  His challenge to the Apostles to do likewise has applied to members of generations for nearly 2000 years.  Will we be faithful or will we seek the easy way out?  Will we turn away from the truth, or will we act as people with Jesus Christ in them?  Will we follow the fire of the Holy Spirit or will we risk the fire of divine punishment?

The choice is ours.










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

Christ Walking on the Sea

Above:  Christ Walking on the Sea, by Amedee Varint

Image in the Public Domain

Do Not Be Afraid

JUNE 27, 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:

Joshua 10:1-14

Psalm 65

Mark 6:45-52


Awesome things will you show us in your righteousness,

O God of our salvation,

O Hope of all the ends of the earth

and of the seas that are far away.

–Psalm 65:5, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.

–Jesus in Mark 6:50b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)


Among the repeated themes in the Bible is that God is on the side of the righteous.  This might prove difficult to see sometimes, given persecutions and other hard times, but texts acknowledge this reality.  The composite theme holds that being on God’s side does not automatically mean that life will be prosperous, healthy, and easy, but that God will be present with one during good times as well as bad times.  Sometimes, in fact, one will suffer for being on God’s side.

I have had difficulty reconciling the God of battles in Joshua 10 with the God of Jesus, but I must, in all honesty, acknowledge that Revelation is not the most peaceful of books in the Bible and that its depiction of God is not pacifistic.  The truth is that we mortals can never, as much as we might try, remove our biases from our quest to understand God as much as we can, which is quite partially.  May we, therefore, consider our God concepts with humility, recognizing that we are all partially mistaken.

Fortunately, God remains faithful to divine promises and accepts with much kindness that which we offer sincerely.  Mercy flows abundantly.  We come to God with our fears, hopes, preconceptions, and the desire to obey divine commandments, but often our spiritual blind spots prevent us from understanding those commandments fully and recognizing many of our sins.  As in the story preceding the pericope from Mark, we bring all we have–a few loaves and fishes, to speak–and God transforms that which is inadequate into that which is more than sufficient.  May we take comfort in that reality.






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 27 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  The Baptism of the Eunuch, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Joshua and Acts, Part II:  Religion and Nationalism



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 2:1-24

Psalm 36 (Morning)

Psalms 80 and 27 (Evening)

Acts 8:26-40


Among the few named women in the Matthew version of our Lord’s family tree is Rahab, a prostitute of Jericho.  Danna Nolan Fewell, in her chapter on the Book of Joshua (pages 63-66) from The Woman’s Bible Commentary (1992), edited by Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe, makes much of Rahab’s marginal status.  Yet the prostitute recognized Yahweh’s power, and thereby became an insider.  Four chapters later, she and her family found refuge in the midst of slaughter.

The notes on page 466 of The Jewish Study Bible (2004) explain how Jewish and Christian interpreters have dealt with a Bible story in which a prostitute is a heroic figure.  One tradition says that she converted, married Joshua, and became the mother of prophets.  Or perhaps, some have said, she was an innkeeper, not a harlot.  They point to the linguistic similarity between two Hebrew words.  Yet I think that the scandal of the story is something to accept, not from which to flee.

Another outsider who became an insider was the Ethiopian eunuch who struggled with Isaiah 53 until St. Philip the Evangelist, one of the early deacons, helped him to understand.  Of St. Philip we know little, but he did obey God and aid the eunuch in coming to Christ.

These stories point toward the universality of God’s call to we human beings.  The old (and yet current) notion of a tribal deity who favors just one nation or country is both inadequate and inaccurate.  Unfortunately, that tribal God notion pervades the Book of Joshua, which also contains the Rahab story, which offers a different vision.  The concept of a tribal God can prove quite appealing and comforting, for we assume quite often that God is on our side.  If, for example, God favors the State of Israel, what about the oppressed Palestinians? (They are people too.)  When does one cross a dangerous line and erect a national religion?  I am an American.  Is God always on the my country’s side in wars?  No!  My leaders, like those of all other countries, are mere mortals.

In my country’s past the Confederate States of America (CSA) fought for, among other things, the preservation of slavery; its founders said so before they claimed otherwise after the Civil War.  The CSA understood God to be on its side.  This was a great misapprehension.  I have read postwar church documents from the South.  In late 1865, for example, the newly-renamed Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS), founded four years earlier as the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America (PCCSA), expressed official shock and confusion over Confederate defeat.  God could not have been angry about the existence of slavery, for the Bible condoned and commanded that institution, they reasoned.  So maybe Southerners had not managed the institution properly, they said.  They misunderstood the situation.  As Abraham Lincoln said, the real question is not whether God is on our side but whether we are on God’s side.

May we–you, O reader, and I–be on guard against religious nationalism, which misrepresents God.









Week of Proper 7: Wednesday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  King Josiah

The Inevitable is Still Inevitable

JUNE 27, 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 22:8-13; 23:1-3 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Then the high priest Hilkiah said to the scribe Shaphan,

I have found the scroll of the Teaching in the House of the LORD.

And Hilkiah gave the scroll to Shaphan, who read it.  The scribe Shaphan then went to the king and reported to the king:

Your servants have melted down the silver that was deposited in the House, and they have delivered it to the overseers of the work who are in charge at the House of the LORD.

The scribe also told the king,

The high priest Hilkiah has given me a scroll;

and Shaphan read it to the king.

When the king heard the words of the scroll of the Teaching, he rent his clothes.  And the king gave orders to the priest Hilkiah, and to Ahikam son of Shaphan, Achbor son of Michaiah, the scribe Shaphan, and Asaiah the king’s minister:

Go, inquire of the LORD on my behalf, and on behalf of the people, and on behalf of all Judah, concerning the words of this scroll that has been found.  For great indeed must be the wrath of the LORD that has been kindled against us, because our fathers did not obey the words of this scroll to do all that has been prescribed for us.

At the king’s summons, all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem assembled before him.  The king went up to the House of the LORD, together with all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the priests and prophets–all the people, young and old.  And he read to them the entire text of the covenant scroll which had been found in the House of the LORD.  The king stood by the pillar and solemnized the covenant before the LORD; that they would follow the LORD and observe His commandments, His injunctions, and His laws with all their heart and soul; that they would fulfill all the terms of this covenant as inscribed upon the scroll.  And all the people entered into the covenant.

Psalm 119:33-40 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

33 Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes,

and I shall keep it to the end.

34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep your law;

I shall keep it with all my heart.

35 Make me go in the path of your commandments,

for that is my desire.

36 Incline my heart to your decrees

and not to unjust gain.

37 Turn my eyes from watching what is worthless;

give me life in your ways.

38 Fulfill your promise to your servant,

which you make to those who fear you.

39 Turn away the reproach which I dread,

because your judgments are good.

40 Behold, I long for your commandments;

in your righteousness preserve my life.

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.


A Related Post:

Week of Proper 7:  Wednesday,  Year 1:


Since our last reading in 2 Kings…

God healed the dying Hezekiah.  Isaiah predicted the Babylonian Exile/Captivity.  Hezekiah died eventually.

Manasseh, Hezekiah’s son, succeeded him as king.  The years of Manasseh’s reign (55 years) are uncertain; The Jewish Study Bible lists his regnal dates as 698/687-632 B.C.E.)  The text explains that Manasseh displeased God.   It reads in part:

…he erected altars for Baal and made a sacred post, as King Ahab of Israel had done.  (21:3)

Manasseh also rebuilt the altars and shrines which his father had destroyed.

Moreover, Manasseh put so many innocent persons to death that he filled Jerusalem [with blood] from end to end–besides the sin he committed in causing Judah to do what was displeasing to the LORD.  (21:16)

Amon, Manasseh’s son, reigned for two years (641-640 B.C.E.).  The text says that he forsook God and that courtiers assassinated them.  The assassins died shortly thereafter.

Then Josiah succeeded his father and began a 31-year reign (640-609 B.C.E.).  Of Josiah the text says:

He did what was pleasing to the LORD and he followed all the ways of his ancestor David; he did not deviate to the right or to the left.  (22:2)

Josiah ordered a renovation of the Temple.  During that process people found a scroll containing part or all of Deuteronomy.

That catches us up.

We read after the assigned lessons from 2 Kings that Josiah extended the life of his kingdom yet could not prevent the collapse of the nation.

The tone of 2 Kings is generally somber.  The kingdoms will fall; the observant reader knows this.  So one treads through much grim material while the narrator’s voice repeats warnings against committing idolatry.  Then there are bright spots, such as the reign of Josiah of Judah, who postponed the destruction of his kingdom without being able to prevent it.  And what happened to this monarch whom the narrator admired?  The Pharaoh Neco slew him in battle (2 Kings 23:29).

It is almost too much to bear.  The gloom and doom gather, people continue to sin, and a bad fate awaits a good king.  Unfortunately, the events get worse after the death of Josiah.

As we proceed toward the inevitable end of the Kingdom of Judah, may we remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  There is life after conquest, and there is a return from this exile.  Hope need not die.  But that depends greatly on the attitudes upon which we act.


Week of Proper 7: Thursday, Year 1   9 comments

Above:  A Dutch House Subsiding Because of An Inadequate Foundation

Image Source = Vincent van Zeijst

Declaring the Mighty Acts of God–Or Not

JUNE 27, 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 16:1-12, 15-16 (An American Translation):

Abram’s wife Sarai had borne him no children, but she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar.  So Sarai said to Abraham,

Seeing now that the LORD has prevented me from having children, suppose you marry my maid; I might perhaps build up a family through her.

Abram agreed to the suggestion of Sarai; so Abram’s wife Sarai took Hagar, her Egyptian maid (it was after Abram had been living in the land of Canaan for ten years), and gave her in marriage to her husband Abram.  He had intercourse with Hagar, and she had conceived.  When she found that she had conceived, she looked with disdain upon her mistress.  So Sarai said to Abram,

May the wrong done me fall on you.  It was I who put my maid in your arms, but when she found that she had conceived, she looked with disdain upon me.  May the LORD judge between you and me!

Abram said to Sarai,

Your maid is in your power; do what you like with her.

Then Sarai treated her so cruelly that she ran away from her.  But the angel of the LORD came upon her beside a spring in the desert (the spring on the road to Shur) and said,

Hagar, maid of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?

She said,

I am running away from my mistress Sarai.

The angel of the LORD said to her,

Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.

Further, the angel of the LORD said to her,

I will make your descendants so numerous that they will be too many to count.

The angel of the LORD also said to her,

You are with child, and are going to bear a son; you are to call his name Ishmael [God heard], because the LORD has heard of your ill-treatment.  He shall be a wild-ass of a man, with his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him; he shall live on the outskirts of all his kindred.

So Hagar bore a son to Abram, and Abram gave the name of Ishmael to his son, whom Hagar bore.  Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to him.

Psalm 106:1-5 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

for his mercy endures for ever.

2 Who can declare the mighty acts of the LORD

or show forth all his praise!

3 Happy are those who act with justice

and always do what is right!

4 Remember me, O LORD, with the favor you have for your people,

and visit me with your saving help;

5 That I may see the prosperity of your elect

and be glad with the gladness of your people,

that I may glory with your inheritance.

Matthew 7:21-29 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

It is not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ who will get into the Kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father in heaven.  Many will say to me on that Day, ‘Lord! Lord!  Was it not in your name that we prophesied, and by your name that we drove out demons, and by your name that we did many mighty acts?’  Then I will say to them plainly, ‘I never knew you!  Go away from me, you who do wrong!’

Everyone, therefore, who listens to this teaching of mine and acts upon it, will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock.  And the rain fell, and the rivers rose, and the winds blew, and beat about that house, and it did not go down, for its foundations were on rock.  And anyone who listens to this teaching of mine and does not act upon it, will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  And the rain fell, and the rivers rose, and the winds blew and beat down that house, and it went down, and its downfall was complete.

When Jesus had finished this discourse, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them like one who had authority and not like their scribes.


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.


And Peter opened his mouth and said:  “Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him….”

–Acts 10:34-35 (Revised Standard Version)

Deeds reveal creeds, but good deeds can reveal more than one creed.  This is one lesson from the finale of the Sermon on the Mount.  Let us look up and read Acts 10:34-35 again; one must act properly and fear, that is, have awe for, God in on order to be acceptable to God.  So, by the proper combination of words and deeds, one declares the mighty acts of God.  The ultimate goal for one’s life should be that it, by grace, will become prayer.

Consistent with this thought, one needs to build on a solid foundation.  As a Christian, I state that the solid foundation is God, specifically Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnated Second Person of the Trinity and the Word of God.  What greater authority can there be?  He did not need to cite learned scholars of the Hebrew Scriptures as authorities, for he predated the book.

Speaking of that sacred anthology, it is brutally honest about the shortcomings of heroes of faith.  Consider Abram and Sarai, for example.  For a season they did not trust God to fulfill the divine promise to make Abram the origin of a great nation.  So they took matters into their own hands.  Sarai became jealous of Hagar after Abram did what she (Sarai) had suggested, so she (Sarai) abused Hagar, her maid servant now pregnant with Abram’s (firstborn) child.  So Hagar ran away, only to receive divine assurance of favor and a promise parallel to that God had made to Abram.  God heard Hagar, who never asked for any of her afflictions to come upon her, yet remained faithful to Abram and Sarai.  Grace flows where it will.

This story is only part of the Abraham saga, of course, so we ought to read and ponder it within that context.  One lesson I derive by doing this and placing the reading from Genesis next to the end of the Sermon on the Mount is that our lives, warts and all, can declare the mighty acts of God (to steal a phrase from the psalm) by grace.  The operative question here is: What is the dominant pattern of our lives?  Moral perfection is impossible in this life, but that is no excuse for not trying more often than not to do the right thing and to live in an awestruck relationship with God, who knows that we are “but dust.”  Between single predestination and the witness of the Holy Spirit everyone has an opportunity to declare the mighty acts of God in words and deeds.  Will the dominant pattern in our lives indicate a positive or a negative reply?