Archive for the ‘June 28’ 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 Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 8, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Question Mark

Above:  A Question Mark

Image in the Public Domain

More Questions Than Answers

JUNE 28, 29, and 30, 2018


The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God,

we implore you to hear the prayers of your people.

Be our strong defense against all harm and danger,

that we may live and grow in faith and hope,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41


The Assigned Readings:

Lamentations 1:16-22 (Thursday)

Lamentations 2:1-12 (Friday)

Lamentations 2:18-22 (Saturday)

Psalm 30 (All Days)

2 Corinthians 7:2-16 (Thursday)

2 Corinthians 8:1-7 (Friday)

Luke 4:31-37 (Saturday)


Weeping may spend the night,

but joy comes in the morning.

While I felt secure I said,

“I shall never be disturbed.

You, LORD, with your favor, made me as strong as the mountains.”

Then You hid your face,

and I was filled with fear.

–Psalm 30:6-8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition (1996) defines theodicy as

A vindication of God’s goodness and justice in the face of the existence of evil.

Defenses of divine goodness and justice also occur in the context of misfortune attributed to God’s judgment of sinful people.  It is present in the readings from Lamentations and in Psalm 30, for example.  The anonymous authors of Lamentations wept over sins, wrote bitterly that the foe had triumphed, and thought that God had acted as a foe.  Yet the book ends:

Take us back, O LORD, to Yourself,

And let us come back;

Renew our days as of old!

–Lamentations 5:22b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The titular character in the Book of Job says of God:

He may well slay me; I may have no hope;

Yet I will argue my case before Him.

In this too is my salvation:

That no impious man can come into His presence.

–Job 13:15-16, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Modern translations of the Bible, with some exceptions, depart from the King James rendering, which is:

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him….,

which comes from a marginal note in the Masoretic Text.  Saying

I may have no hope

differs from uttering

yet I will trust in him,

at least superficially.  The first translation fits Job 13:15 better than does the second rendering, but pressing the lawsuit against God indicates some hope of victory.

But I know that my Vindicator lives;

In the end He will testify on earth–

This, after my skin will have been peeled off.

But I would behold God while still in my flesh.

I myself, not another, would behold Him;

Would see with my own eyes:

My heart pines within me.

–Job 19:25-27, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Job, in that passage, speaks of a divine hearing within his lifetime.  During that proceeding a defender (presumably not a relative, since his sons had died and his surviving kinsmen had abandoned him) will speak on his behalf.  The translation of this passage from The Jerusalem Bible gets more to the point, for it has an Avenger, not a Vindicator.  These rendering differ from the familiar King James text, which George Frederick Handel set to music in The Messiah (1742) as a reference to Jesus:

For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth….

We who claim to follow God ought to proceed carefully when defending God.  First, God does not require the defenses which mere mortals provide.  Second, many human defenses of God depict God erroneously, as either a warm fuzzy on one hand or a cosmic bully or thug on the other hand.  Often our attempts to justify God to ourselves and others obstruct a healthy relationship with God and dissuade others from following God.  We need to question inadequate God concepts.

The God of Luke 4:31-37, who, through Jesus, delivers people from illnesses allegedly caused by demonic possession is the same God who has blessings and woes just two chapters later (Luke 6:20-26).  This is the same God who encourages repentance–the act of turning around or changing one’s mind.  Apologizing for one’s sins is a fine thing to do, but repentance must follow it if one is to follow God.

I do not pretend to have worked out all or even most of the answers to difficult and uncomfortable questions regarding God and human-divine relationships.  No, I acknowledge that my doubts and unanswered questions in these realms outnumber my answers.  Furthermore, some of my answers are certainly wrong.  I am, however, comfortable with this reality.  I can repent of my errors, by grace, and progress spiritually.  Besides, knowledge is not the path to salvation, as in Gnosticism.  No, grace is the path to salvation.  God has the answers.  That is fine with me.  I remain inquisitive, however, for the journey itself has much merit.

I pray that my conduct of my spiritual journey will encourage others in their pilgrimages with God and prompt others to begin, not have a negative affect on anyone.









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


Above:  The Quaker Mary Dyer Being Led to Execution on Boston Common, 1 June 1660

Image in the Public Domain

Victims and Religious Persecution

JUNE 28, 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:

Jeremiah 38:1-13

Psalm 6

Matthew 10:5-23


Some Related Posts:


My eyes are wasted with grief

and worn away because of all my enemies.

–Psalm 6:7, Common Worship (2000)


Follow God and face persecution.

How is that for a message to use when recruiting and seeking to retain servants of God? Ebed-melech the Ethiopian risked his life to save the life of the prophet Jeremiah, who had sunk into the mud in a cistern. Jesus and most of the original twelve Apostles died violently and suffered before that happened. Nearly two millennia have passed since the time of Christ. During that span countless numbers of Christians have suffered for the faith. Many have become martyrs.

I am among the fortunate Christians who have not faced any form of persecution, partially because of the freedom of religion and the separation of religion and state. But I know that persecution and martyrdoms continue. Cases of them do not always make headlines, but they persist, unfortunately. And the blood of the martyrs continues to water the church.

Perversely, many people who make others martyrs do so in the name of God; they believe that they are acting righteously. This has been the case in the past and remains so in the present. Puritans who hanged Quakers in colonial New England in the 1600s thought they acted righteously to defend their community from a great threat—pacifistic egalitarians in a hierarchical society, actually. (People who kill pacifists do not impress me.)  In parts of the world Islamic extremists attack Christian churches, but many other Muslims defend their Christian neighbors’ houses of worship. And the shameful track record of anti-Semitism in Christian history, from merely bad attitudes to small-scale attacks to large-scale pogroms, needs no further comment here. May we criticize the extremists and mistake them as true representatives of entire faith systems.

One lesson to draw from such cases is, in the name of Christ, to act compassionately toward others, especially those with whom we disagree theologically. Torturing, imprisoning, and killing others in the name of Jesus, himself an innocent victim of capital punishment, is wrong, regardless of one’s concept of God. Yes, sometimes life brings us to some unpleasant circumstances with only bad choices—such as violent ones as the means of survival—but there is a difference between self-defense and religious intolerance acted out. I am not naïve about that reality.

Yet the definition of freedom includes liberty to those who differ from and with us. And moral absolutes do exist. Among them are the immoral natures of torture and religious persecution, terms one should never apply when they are not applicable. May we stand with the victims, not those who victimize them. And may we certainly never victimize anyone in the name of God or any other name.









Devotion for June 28 and 29 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  The Conversion of St. Paul, by Luca Giordano

Joshua and Acts, Part III:  Ideals, Reality, and Influence

FRIDAY, JUNE 28, and SATURDAY, JUNE 29, 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:

Joshua 3:1-7 (June 28)

Joshua 4:1-24 (June 29)

Psalm 130 (Morning–June 28)

Psalm 56 (Morning–June 29)

Psalms 32 and 139 (Evening–June 28)

Psalms 100 and 62 (Evening–June 29)

Acts 9:1-22 (June 28)

Acts 9:23-43 (June 29)


Some Related Posts:

Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle (January 25):

“Lord, What Wilt Thou Have Me to Do?”:


One of the themes present in the Book of Joshua yet developed more fully elsewhere in the Jewish Bible is the dissonance between the ideal and reality.  The ideal was very much on display at the crossing of the River Jordan.  The journey is a generation had ended yet the hardest work lay ahead.  For the moment, however, the news was happy.

When the ideal and the real differ one can harmonize the two by changing one of them to match the other.  God offered Saul of Tarsus an opportunity to embrace a new reality and sent human helpers, including Ananias and Barnabas.  Peter, once a man rarely capable of choosing the right words, became a great Apostle.  The time and effort which Jesus had invented in him paid off.

Interdependence is human reality, as is total dependence on God.  God is the source of everything.  And we need each other to succeed.  I, as a Gentile, owe much to St. Paul, who relied upon others, including Ananias and Barnabas.  Their reach extends to the present day.  How far will your influence, O reader, reach into the future?









Week of Proper 7: Thursday, Year 2   1 comment

Above:  King Zedekiah

What’s in a Name?

JUNE 28, 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 24:8-17 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem; his mother’s name was Nehushta daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem.  He did what was displeasing to the LORD, just as his father had done.  At that time, the troops of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon marched against Jerusalem, and the city came under siege.  King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon advanced against the city while his troops  were besieging it.  Thereupon King Jehoiachin of Judah, along with his mother, courtiers, commanders, and officers, surrendered to the king of Babylon.  The king of Babylon took him captive in the eighth year of his reign.  He carried off from Jerusalem all the treasures of the House of the LORD and the treasures of the royal palace; he stripped off all the golden decorations in the Temple of the LORD–which King Solomon of Israel had made–as the LORD had warned.  He exiled all of Jerusalem; all the commanders and all the warriors–ten thousand exiles–as well as the craftsmen and smiths; only the poorest people in the land were left.  He deported Jehoiachin to Babylon; and the king’s wives and officers and the notables of the land were brought as exiles from Jerusalem to Babylon.  All the able men, to the number of seven thousand–all of them warriors, trained for battle–and a thousand craftsmen and smiths were brought to Babylon as exiles by the king of Babylon.  And the king of Babylon appointed Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, king in his place, changing his name to Zedekiah.

Psalm 79 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  O God, the heathen here come into your inheritance;

they have profaned your holy temple;

they have made Jerusalem a heap of rubble.

2  They have given the bodies of your servants as food for the birds of the air,

and the flesh of your faithful ones to the beasts of the field.

3  They have shed their blood like water on every side of Jerusalem,

and there was no one to bury them.

4  We have become a reproach to our neighbors,

an object of scorn and derision to those around us.

5  How long will you be angry, O LORD?

will your fury blaze like fire for ever?

6  Pour out your wrath upon the heathen who have not known you

and upon kingdoms that have not called upon your Name.

7  For they have devoured Jacob

and made his dwelling a ruin.

Remember not our past sins;

let your compassion be swift to meet us;

for we have been brought very low.

Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your Name;

deliver us and forgive us our sins, for your Name’s sake.

10 Why should the heathen say, “Where is their God?”

Let it be known among the heathen and in our sight

that you avenge the shedding of your servant’s blood.

11 Let the sorrowful sighing of the prisoners come before you,

and by your great might spare those who are condemned to die.

12 May the revilings with which they reviled you, O Lord,

return seven-fold into their bosoms.

13 For we are your people and the sheep of your pasture;

we will give you thanks for ever

and show forth your praise from age to age.

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.


A Related Post:

Week of Proper 7:  Thursday, Year 1:


Since we left off in 2 Kings…

Jehoahaz/Shallum, son of Josiah, reigned for three months in 609 B.C.E.  The text tells us that he displeased God.  Pharaoh Neco, who had killed Josiah, deposed and imprisoned Jehoahaz/Shallum and forced Judah to pay an indemnity.

Eliakim became the vassal King of Judah as Jehoiakim.  He reigned for eleven years (608-598 B.C.E.).  The vassal king served not only Egypt but Babylon.

Then, in today’s reading, Jehoiachin/Jeconiah reigned for three months before King Nebuchadnezzar captured him, installed uncle Mattaniah as King Zedekiah, and began the process of exiling selected subjects of Judah.  Zedekiah’s eleven-year reign (597-586 B.C.E.) was quite difficult.

There had been a long period of sunshine during the reign of Josiah.  But he died at the hand of Pharaoh Neco, so the final stage of national decline began.  There were four more kings in 23 years.  Foreign powers chose three of those monarchs and rename two of them.  Darkness had fallen.

When a foreign power dictates a royal name, the sovereign carries a daily reminder of his subjugation to that power.

What’s in a name?  It carries the meaning we humans attach to it.  My parents chose to give me a distinguished name, one which works well in adulthood.  “Kenneth ” is a Gaelic name meaning “born of fire.”  (Make of that, O reader, what you will.)  I have identified three Scottish kings, one Scottish saint, and a Welsh saint named “Kenneth.”  It is a good name.  “Randolph” is my uncle’s first name.  As a young child, I dreaded the moment during each grade level when the teacher read my full name aloud, for my secret was out and many of my classmates mocked me by singing “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”  They were idiots.

There are various venerable traditions for naming a child.  To name a child after a saint is a Roman Catholic custom.  Or one might name a child after one or more family members or after a historical figure.  My paternal great-grandfather was George Washington Barrett.  My favorite example of deriving a name from the past is Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar.

Among monarchs and pontiffs there is a tradition of regnal names.   Hence Joseph Ratzinger is also Pope Benedict XVI.   And King Haakon VII of Norway (reigned 1905-1957), one of my favorite historical figures, was born in Denmark as Christian Frederik Carl Georg Valdemar Axel Oldenburg, or Prince Carl for short.

Identity is precious.  Who defines us? Do our enemies define us and our names?  If they do, they have power over us.  Most of us do not choose or change our names but, if we are fortunate, those who named us did so very well.  Regardless of who named us, may we own our names and know that we do not even own ourselves, for we all belong to God.  And the divine name for each of us is “beloved.”


Week of Proper 7: Friday, Year 1   16 comments

Above:  Jesus Healing a Leper

God Seeks To Be Gracious

JUNE 28, 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 17:1, 9-10, 15-22 (An American Translation):

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him,

…You on your part must keep my covenant, and likewise your descendants after you throughout all generations.  The covenant between myself and you and your descendants is this:  everyone of your males must be circumcised….As for your wife Sarai, you are not to call her Sarai, but Sarah.  I will bless her, and furthermore, I will give you a son by her; I will bless her, so that she shall become the mother of nations, with kings of peoples coming from her.

Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, saying to himself,

Can one who is one hundred years old become a father, or can Sarah at the age of ninety bear a child?

So Abraham said to God,

May Ishmael live in thy favor!

But God said,

No, it is a fact; your wife Sarah is to bear you a son, and you are to call his name Isaac [laughter]; I will establish my covenant with his descendants after him.  With reference to Ishmael, I have heard you, and will indeed bless him; I will make him prolific, and will make him grow more and more numerous; he shall be the ancestor of twelve princes; I will make a great nation of him.  I will likewise establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.

Having finished speaking with him, God left Abraham.

Psalm 128 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Happy are they who all fear the LORD,

and who follow in his ways!

2 You shall eat the fruit of your labor;

happiness and prosperity shall be yours.

3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house,

your children like olive shoots round about your table.

4 The man who fears the LORD

shall thus be blessed.

5 The LORD bless you from Zion,

and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.

6 May you live to see your children’s children;

may peace be upon Israel.

Matthew 8:1-4 (An American Translation):

When Jesus came down from the mountain, great crowds of people followed him.  And a leper came up to him and fell on his knees before him, saying,

If you only choose, sir, you can cure me!

So he stretched out his hand and touched him, saying,

I do choose!  Be cured!

And his leprosy was immediately cured.  Then Jesus said to him,

See that you tell nobody, but go!  Show yourself to the priest, and in proof of your cure, offer the gift that Moses prescribed.


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.


God seeks to be gracious.  Consider the previous day’s reading from Genesis and the lections for this day, for example.  In Genesis so far in this Monday-Saturday series, God has promised Abram a future status as the father of many nations.  In this day’s readings God changes Abram’s name to Abraham and Sarai’s name to Sarah.  These are slight name changes from one variant to another, but the change of names is important.  It symbolizes a change of status.  Members of monastic orders receive new names, for example.  A person with a new name is a new creation, and God does the re-creating in Genesis 17.

The sign of the Abrahamic Covenant is circumcision, a potent reminder that God is the source of life.  The yet-unborn Isaac will become Abraham’s heir and Ishmael (about 13 years old by the time of Genesis 17) will have his own destiny, according to God.  Both sons are meant to fulfill their divinely-granted destinies.  Everyone has a role to play, and nobody needs to feel excluded.  Life for all is the divine plan.  But, to hint at events after Genesis 17, exclusion will come by human actions.  But this is not God’s plan in the narrative.

The term leprosy, in the biblical sense, applies to a variety of skin conditions, as well as Hansen’s Disease.  The physical conditions labeled leprosy carried a strong social stigma in the time of Jesus.  So the diagnosis of leprosy made one a pariah.  This was difficult to take.  Such a man calls out to Jesus in desperation in Matthew 8:1-4.  The man does not presume; he asks.  And he trusts that Jesus can heal him.  Jesus does heal him, thereby restoring the man to society.  Our Lord and Savior was most gracious to the leper.

We who claim to follow God incur the obligation to act accordingly more often than not.  So, if God is love, and if God seeks to be gracious, we ought to love ourselves and others in the name of God and to be gracious toward our fellow human beings in the name of God.  The God of my faith is the God best understood in human theology as the Holy Trinity.  So it is the name of the Trinity that I perform good deeds and pursue beauty and intellectual knowledge.  I know that my actions affect others, and the deeds of others affect me.

May we be gracious to one another, in the name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.