Archive for the ‘June 29’ 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 Thursday and Friday Before Proper 8, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  The Roman Empire in 117 C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

Note the location of the Province of Galatia in Asia Minor.

Freedom, Law, and Obedience to God

JUNE 29 and 30, 2017


The Collect:

O God, you direct our lives by your grace,

and your words of justice and mercy reshape the world.

Mold us into a people who welcome your word and serve one another,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40


The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 25:1-7 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 25:8-14 (Friday)

Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18 (Both Days)

Galatians 5:2-6 (Thursday)

Galatians 5:7-12 (Friday)


I will declare that your love is established for ever;

you have set your faithfulness as firm as the heavens.

–Psalm 89:2, Common Worship (2000)


Law, for St. Paul the Apostle, stood in stark opposition to grace. Law spoke of what humans did, but grace indicated what God did. Thus, via Christ and in grace a Christian had freedom, which nobody ought to surrender. The aspect of the Law in question in Galatians 5:2-12 was circumcision, a matter of identity in Judaism to this day. Christianity, not yet separate from Judaism, was open to Gentile converts. Did they have to become Jewish to become Christians? Paul chose the inclusive position: no, which he hung on the hook of the cross of Christ.

I am not entirely unsympathetic with those who disagreed with the Apostle. They recalled passages, such as Jeremiah 25:1-14, in which not keeping the Law led to negative consequences. Circumcision was a physical mark on a Jewish male and an outward sign of an inward and communal covenant with God. This was foundational. And I know that each of us probably clings to some practice we consider essential to our tradition. Maybe we are correct to do so.

But, for the Apostle, trust in and love of Christ, expressed in a life of love, is where one’s emphasis belongs. Faith, in Pauline theology, is inherently active. And so, as Archibald M. Hunter wrote in The Layman’s Bible Commentary, Volume 22 (Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press, 1959), page 37:

The faith that James denounces in his letter is one that does not issue in deeds of love. The faith that Paul praises is one that cannot help expressing itself in love.

Certainly we who claim to follow God can do so without placing impediments in the way of others whom God has called to God’s self. May we do so.









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: Friday, Year 2   2 comments

Above:  Zedekiah Chained

Admitting the Existence of Our Dark Sides

JUNE 29, 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 25:1-12 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.  And in the ninth year of his reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar moved against Jerusalem with his whole army.  He besieged it; and they built towers against it all around.  The city continued in a state of siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah.  By the ninth day [of the fourth month] the famine had become acute in the city; there was no food left for the common people.

Then [the wall of] the city was breached.  All the soldiers [left the city] by night through the gate between the double walls, which is near the king’s garden–the Chaldeans were all about the city; and [the king] set out for the Arabah.  But the Chaldean troops pursued the king, and they overtook him in the steppes of Jericho as his entire force left him and scattered.  They captured the king and brought him before the king of Babylon at Riblah; and they put him on trial.  They slaughtered Zedekiah’s sons before his eyes; then Zedekiah’s eyes were put out.  He was chained in bronze fetters and he was brought to Babylon.

On the seventh day of the fifth month–that was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon–Nebuzaradan, the chief of the guards, an officer of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem.  He burned the House of the LORD, the king’s palace, and all the houses of Jerusalem; he burned down the house of every notable person.  The entire Chaldean force that was with the chief of the guard tore down the walls of Jerusalem on every side.  The remnant of the people that was left in the city, the defectors who had gone over to the king of Babylon–and the remnant of the population–were taken into exile by Nebuzaradan, the chief of the guards.  But some of the poorest in the land were left by the chief of the guards, to be vinedressers and field hands.

Psalm 137 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept,

when we remembered you, O Zion.

2  As for our harps, we hung them up

on the trees in the midst of that land.

3  For those who led us away captive asked us for a song,

and our oppressors called for mirth:

“Sing for us the songs of Zion.”

4  How shall we sing the LORD’s song

upon alien soil?

5  If I forget you, O Jerusalem,

let my right hand forget its skill.

6  Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth

if I do not remember you,

if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.

7  Remember the day of Jerusalem, O LORD,

against the people of Edom,

who said, “Down with it!  even to the ground!”

8  O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,

happy the one who pays you back

for that which you have done to us!

9  Happy shall be he who takes your little ones,

and dashes them against the rock!

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.


A Related Post:

Week of Proper 7:  Friday, Year 1:


The Canadian Anglican Lectionary says to read Psalm 137:106 for this day.  I have chosen, however, to include all nine verses.  The first six verses are mournful; the final three are vengeful.  These are honest and understandable emotions, given the circumstances.

One of the virtues of the Book of Psalms is its honesty.  True, we ought not indulge our feelings of vengeance by encouraging and acting upon them, but neither should we pretend that these emotions do not exist.  “Vindicate me” and “Crush my enemies” are predictable pleas to God.

The good news is that we can take everything to God in prayer.  God already knows us–the good, the bad, and the really ugly–better than we know ourselves.  To be honest with God is a positive sign.  It is better than bottling up the gremlins of our souls or ignoring them.  And, by grace, we can work through our dark sides.


Proper 8, Year A   26 comments

Above: The Sacrifice of Isaac, by Caravaggio (lived 1571-1610)

Image in the Public Domain

(Note the anguish in Isaac’s face.)

An Acceptable Sacrifice

The Sunday Closest to June 29

The Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

JUNE 29, 2017



Genesis 22:1-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

After these things God tested Abraham.  He said to him,


And he said,

Here I am.

He said,

Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.

So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown them.  On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away.  Then Abraham said to his young men,

Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.

Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the wood.  So the two of them walked on together.  Isaac said to his father Abraham,


And he said,

Here I am, my son.

He said,

The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?

Abraham said,

God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.

So the two of them walked on together.

When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order.  He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.  Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son.  But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said,

Abraham, Abraham!

And he said,

Here I am.

He said,

Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.

And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its thorns.  Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place,

The LORD will provide;

as it is said to this day,

On the mount of LORD it shall be provided.

The angel of the LORD called to Abraham, a second time from heaven, and said,

By myself I have sworn, says the LORD: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore.  And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.

So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham lived at Beersheba.

Psalm 13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 How long, O LORD?

will you forget me for ever?

how long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long shall I have perplexity in my mind,

and grief in my heart, day after day?

how long shall my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look upon me and answer me, O LORD, my God,

give light to my eyes, lest I sleep in death;

4 Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”

and my foes rejoice that I have fallen.

5 But I will trust in your mercy;

my heart is joyful because of your saving help.

6 I will sing to the LORD, for he has dealt with me richly;

I will praise the Name of the Lord Most High.


Jeremiah 28:5-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the LORD; and the prophet Jeremiah said,

Amen!  May the LORD do so; may the LORD fulfill the words you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the LORD, and all the exiles.  But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people.  The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms.  As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the LORD has truly sent the prophet.

Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Your love, O LORD, for ever will I sing;

from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness.

2 For I am persuaded that your love is established for ever;

you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens.

3 “I have made a covenant with my chosen one;

I have sworn an oath to David my servant;

4 ‘I will establish your line for ever,

and preserve your throne for all generations.'”

15 Happy are the people who know the festal shout!

the walk, O LORD, in the light of your presence.

16 They rejoice daily in your Name;

they are jubilant in your righteousness.

17 For you are the glory of their strength,

and by your favor our might is exalted.

18 Truly, the LORD is our ruler;

the Holy One of Israel is our King.


Romans 6:12-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.  No longer present your members as sin to instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness.  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

What then?  Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace?  By no means!  Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?  But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.  I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations.  For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.

When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.  So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you are now ashamed?  The end of those things is death.  But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification.  The end is eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Matthew 10:40-42 (New Revised Standard Version):

[Jesus said,]

Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.  Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple–truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.

The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice,

but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.

The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

–Psalm 51:17-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer)

The story of the near killing of Isaac at the hand of his father disturbs me.  God does not command such emotional abuse.  Can you, O reader, imagine the lasting effect this had on Isaac?  I can only imagine the journey of father and son after the incident on Mt. Moriah.  Elie Wiesel, in a televised Bible study, noted that the Bible records no more conversations between Abraham and Isaac after this event.

Pay attention to the reading from Matthew:  Jesus encourages kind treatment of vulnerable and marginal people, including children.

Indeed, one lesson from Genesis 22 is that God does not desire child sacrifice, a custom many people in the region practiced during the time of Abraham.  My God concept comes from Jesus.  And I reject Penal Substitutionary Atonement, the idea that Jesus took my place on the cross.  Ante-Nicene Church Fathers proposed three theories of the Atonement, including Penal Substitution.  My understanding of the Atonement is closest to another one of these, the conquest of evil via the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus.  So I reject the propositions that God ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son and that God sacrificed his Son.  If I did not reject these ideas, I would believe in Gangster God, who is not content except in bloodshed.

As Paul reminds the church at Rome, the death of Christ and his resurrection make possible the death to sin and the end of the overpowering power thereof.  So, through Jesus, we have eternal life.  Indeed, the definition of eternal life in John 17:3 is a relationship with God via Jesus.  Eternal life is in the present tense.  There is no eternity without God, so let us not confuse the concepts of eternal life and everlasting life.  Eternity has nothing to do with time, only quality.

Having eternal life in the present, what should we sacrifice to God?  Let us begin with everything that burdens and distresses us, as in Psalm 51.  It is also possible that we might have to sacrifice careers, relationships, and even life itself, as in the cases of martyrs.  So we ought to be prepared to sacrifice that which is most dear.  But, as Jesus said in the Gospel reading (Matthew 10:34-39) for Proper 7, Year A, we need to value nothing more than him.

The prophet Jeremiah valued fidelity to God above all else.  He suffered many deprivations and taunts.  The reading from Jeremiah is set in a time during which Zedekiah, King of Judah, was a Babylonian puppet and the Babylonians had already exiled many Jews.  The Kingdom of Judah was on its last legs.  Hananiah, a false prophet, prophesied that all would be well within two years  Jeremiah contradicted Hananiah, and history has proven the weeping prophet correct.  Sometimes, as Jeremiah said, the truth is uncomfortable.

So let us also sacrifice our desire for easy, happy, and deceptive answers.

May we die sin and be reborn into eternal life, and stay there.  Eternal life might require us to become sacrificial offerings and so to join the ranks of the martyrs of God.  If so, may we face this reality in faith.  Eternal life will require something of us; it does come at great expense to Jesus and ourselves.  The details of that price will vary from person to person, but this principle remains.  But this is the way to life in God, and its glories are wondrous.

God loves us.  So we ought to love God and each other, if we do not do so already.  In societal terms, we can begin to ceasing to sacrifice each other, metaphorically or otherwise.  We can extend simple kindnesses and great respect to each other; we can treat each other with dignity.  We might not like each other, but we can be civilized to each other.

We can be the face of Christ to one another.  May we do so.


Week of Proper 7: Saturday, Year 1   15 comments

Above:  Terebinth Trees (Such as Those at Mamre)

Image in the Public Doman

Nothing is Too Wonderful for God

JUNE 29, 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.


FIRST READING:  Genesis 18:1-15 (An American Translation):

The LORD appeared to him [Abraham] at the terebinth of Mamre, as he was sitting at the doorway of his tent in the heat of the day.  Raising his eyes, he saw three men standing near him.  On seeing them, he ran from the door of his tent to meet them, and bowing to the earth, said,

O sirs, if perchance I find favor with you, please do not pass by without stopping with your servant.  Let a little water be brought to wash your feet, and stretch yourselves out under the tree, while I fetch a bit of food that you may refresh yourselves.  Afterward you may proceed on your way, since you will then have paid your servant a visit.

They said,

Do as you propose.

So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said,

Quick, three seahs of the best flour!  Knead it, and make it into cakes.

Abraham then ran to the heard, and picked out a bullock, tender and plump, which he gave to a servant, who quickly prepared it.  Then, taking curds and milk and the bullock that he had prepared, he set them before them, and as he waited on them under the tree, they ate.

Where is your wife Sarah?

they said to him.

Inside the tent there,

said he.

Then he said,

I will come back to you at the time for life to appear, when your wife Sarah shall have a son.

Now Sarah was behind the door of the tent listening.  Since both Abraham and Sarah were old, being well advanced in life, and women’s periods had ceased with Sarah, Sarah laughed to herself, saying,

Now that I am worn out and my husband old, can there be marriage pleasure for me?

The LORD said to Abraham,

Why is it that Sarah laughs, saying, ‘Can I really bear a child when I am so old?’  Is anything too wonderful for the LORD?  I will come back to you at the appointed time, at the time for life to appear, and Sarah will have a son.

Because she was afraid, Sarah denied it, saying,

I did not laugh.

He said,

No, but you did laugh.

RESPONSE, OPTION #1:  Canticle 15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

(The Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55)

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed;

the Almighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him

in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and his lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel,

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

The promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

RESPONSE, OPTION #2:  Psalm 123 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 To you I lift up my eyes,

to you enthroned in the heavens.

2 As the eyes of the servants look to the hand of their masters,

and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,

3 So our eyes look to the LORD our God,

until he show us his mercy.

4 Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy,

for we have had more than enough of contempt,

5 Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich,

and of the derision of the proud.

GOSPEL READING:  Matthew 8:5-17 (An American Translation):

When he [Jesus] got back to Capernaum, a Roman captain came up and appealed to him,

My servant, sir, is lying sick with paralysis at my house, in great distress.

He said to him,

I will come and cure him.

But the captain answered,

I am not a suitable person,sir, to have you come under my roof, but simply say the word, and my servant will be cured.  For I am myself under the orders of others and I have soldiers under me, and I tell one to go, and he comes, and my slave to do something, and he does it.

When Jesus heard this he was astonished, and said to his followers,

I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such faith as this.  And I tell you, many will come from the east and from the west and take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the Kingdom of of Heaven, while the heirs to the kingdom will be driven into the darkness outside, there to weep and grind their teeth!

Then Jesus said to the captain,

Go!  You shall find it just as you believe!

And the servant was immediately cured.

Jesus went into Peter’s house, and there he found Peter’s mother-in-law sick in bed with fever.  And he touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and waited on him.


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.


First, a technical note:  There is much similarity between the content of Genesis 17 (from the previous post) and that of Genesis 18 (from this post).  The most likely reason for this is that the two chapters come from different sources.  Professor Richard Elliott Friedman identifies Genesis 17 as coming from the Priestly source and Genesis 18 as having Yahwistic origin.  I have no reason to doubt these conclusions.

But let us not become so preoccupied with higher biblical criticism that we forget to read the Bible for formation, not just information.  The purpose of this post is devotional, after all.  So, without further ado, I turn to my theme for today.  That theme is “Nothing is too wonderful for God.”

In Genesis 18, God, whom Abraham knows as El Shaddai, or God of the Mountains, appears in the flesh.  This is a mysterious incarnation; whether the author (J) means to say that God is all three men or that God and two angels visit, is vague.  Anyhow, God appears to Abraham in the flesh and delivers good news to Abraham and Sarah.  Abraham extends his visitors the hospitality his culture requires, thereby demonstrating great respect.  And Sarah, eavesdropping, laughs when she hears that she will be a mother.  It is a laugh of doubt, one God does not seem to hold against her.

The pairing of the Magnificat with Genesis 18:1-15 is appropriate.  Although Mary and Sarah were at different stages of life, the pregnancy of each was a profound grace for each and for succeeding generations.  Both lives demonstrate the grace is the great leveler, and that God is very generous.

With that thought fresh in mind, let us continue to Matthew 8:5-17.  The Roman Centurion was, by profession, an agent of the oppression and occupation of the Jews.  Yet Jesus found great faith in the man, who asked healing for his paralyzed servant, not for himself.  Then our Lord and Savior healed the mother-in-law of Simon Peter.  Jesus extended grace to Jews and Gentiles alike.  The text does not indicate whether the servant believed in the healing power of Jesus, or if the mother-in-law did.  It does say, however, that the centurion believed and implies that Peter did, also.

Nothing is too wonderful for God.  Sometimes we doubt this, given our circumstances and our interpretation of them.  God can break through our doubts and confirm the faith of others, however.  God’s best plan for us is more wonderful than anything we can imagine.  By grace, may we embrace the divine imagination and dream with God.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.