Archive for the ‘May 22’ Category

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

Metropolis Tower of Babel

Above:  The Ruins of the Tower of Babel, from Metropolis (1927)

A Screen Capture via PowerDVD

Unity in God

MAY 21 and 22, 2018


The Collect:

Mighty God, you breathe life into our bones,

and your Spirit brings truth to the world.

Send us this Spirit,

transform us by your truth,

and give us language to proclaim your gospel,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 36


The Assigned Readings:

Joel 2:18-29 (Protestant versification)/Joel 2:18-3:2 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox versification) (Monday)

Genesis 11:1-9 (Tuesday)

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 12:12-27 (Tuesday)


May the glory of the LORD endure for ever;

may the LORD rejoice in all his works.

–Psalm 104:32, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The story of the Tower of Babel is a myth, a fictitious tale which contains much truth.  In the brief narrative all humans speak one language and live in one city, which they consider to be impressive.  Hubris is ubiquitous, but God is so far above (literally and figuratively) that God must descend to see the city.  The divine will is that people spread out across the planet and not seek to glorify themselves.  God, therefore, causes languages to arise and people to disperse.  Their vainglorious goal becomes a dashed hope.

One of the principles of the Law of Moses is that people depend upon God for everything and upon each other.  Teachings regarding human dependence on God and about interdependence contradict cherished American cultural ideas about self-made people and leave no room for human boasting.  As St. Paul the Apostle wrote, the only proper boast is in God.

Placing the pericope from Genesis 11 on the day after Pentecost Sunday makes sense, for the narrative regarding that day in the Acts of the Apostles, with all of its poetic language (the sort of language best suited to convey the truth of day’s events), speaks of the reversal of the curse at the end of the Tower of Babel story.  People remained scattered across the face of the planet, but they can understand the message of God in their languages.  The multitude of languages persists, but confusion (at least on that day in Jerusalem) ends.  And all this happens for the glory of God, not people.

The author of the Book of Joel, writing in the Persian period of Hebrew history, predicted a time when God would cease to send punishments and would extend extravagant mercy on the people of Judah again.  Shame among the nations of the Earth would end and the divine spirit would fall upon all flesh.  It is a promise not yet fully realized, but hopes for it are valid.  Such unity in God remains for the future; Pentecost is just the beginning.









Devotion for May 22 and 23 in Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Above:  William Lloyd Garrison, Abolitionist

Image Source = Library of Congress

Song of Songs and Gospel of John, Part III:  Violating Social Norms



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:

Song of Songs 6:4-7:5 (May 22)

Song of Songs 7:6-8:14 (May 23)

Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning–May 22)

Psalm 97 (Morning–May 23)

Psalms 1 and 33 (Evening–May 22)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening–May 23)

John 6:22-40 (May 22)

John 6:41-59 (May 23)


The Song of Songs ends with a note consistent with the rest of the book:  this love violates social norms.  To consumate it is risky, and the lovers must be prepared for a risky parting or a flight together; the Hebrew text is ambiguous regarding whether the lovers will remain in each other’s company.

Speaking of violating social norms, the discourse of eating the flesh of the Son of Man and drinking his blood violated Jewish social norms.  Such potent language offended sensibilities.  It sounds like cannibalism, does it not?  And more is happening in the narrative.  The Greek text in John 6 echoes the Greek text of the Septuagint in reference to grumbling Israelites in the desert after the Exodus.  So those who complained regarding Jesus received especially negative press.  And Jesus was (and remains) far more than manna.

In my North American context celebrations of the Holy Eucharist are routine, with no legal attention paid to them.  Yet, a few centuries ago, Roman Catholic priests risked their lives to say the Mass in England.  Following Jesus violated social and norms at that time and place.

Sometimes I think that following Jesus has become too respectable, not that I favor religious persecution.  Early Christianity, like the love in the Song of Songs, had an edge an element of risk to it.  And it had value.  As Thomas Paine wrote,

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly:  ‘Tis dearness only that gives everything its value.

The American Crisis, Number 1, December 23, 1776

And, when religion becomes respected–the establishment even–it loses its prophetic edge.  I think of the uses of Christianity in  U.S. history to justify slavery then segregation and to criticize prostitutes while affirming the sexism and patriarchy which pushed many women into that situation.  Such hypocrisy, in the case of these women, blamed the victims.  Simply put, Jesus did not die because he was respectable and affirmed social injustice.  No, he died because Roman imperial officials considered him a threat to Pax Romana, a desert called peace, as Tacitus referred to it.

Respectability is overrated.







Week of Proper 2: Tuesday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Image Source = Turelio

True Greatness = Serving Others

MAY 22, 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.


James 4:1-12 (Revised English Bible):

What causes fighting and quarrels among you?  Is not their origin the appetites that war in your bodies?  You want what you cannot have, so you murder; you are envious, and cannot attain your ambition, so you quarrel and fight.  You do not get what you want, because you pray from the wrong motives, in order to squander what you get on your pleasures.  Unfaithful creatures!  Surely you know that love of the world means enmity to God?  Whoever chooses to be the world’s friend makes himself God’s enemy.  Or do you suppose that scripture has not point when it says that the spirit which God implanted in us is filled with envious longings?  But the grace he gives is stronger; thus scriptures says,

God opposes the arrogant and gives grace to the humble.

Submit then to God.  Stand up to the devil, and he will turn and run.  Come close to God, and he will draw close to you.  Sinners, make your hands clean; you whose motives are mixed, see that your hearts are pure.  Be sorrowful, mourn, and weep.  Turn your laughter into mourning and your gaiety into gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Friends, you must never speak ill of one another.  He who speaks ill of a brother or passes judgement on him speaks ill of the law and judges the law.  But if you judge the law, you are not keeping it but sitting in judgment upon it.  There is only one lawgiver and judge:  he who is able to save life or destroy it.  So who are you to judge your neighbour?

Psalm 51:11-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence

and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

14 I shall teach your ways to the wicked,

and sinners shall return to you.

15 Deliver me from death, O God,

and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,

O God of my salvation.

16 Open my lips, O Lord,

and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

17  Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice,

but you take no pleasure in burnt-offerings.

18  The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;

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

Mark 9:30-37 (Revised English Bible):

They left that district and made their way through Galilee.  Jesus did not want anyone to know, because he was teaching his disciples, and telling them,

The Son of Man is now to be handed over into the power of men, and they will kill him; and three days after being killed he will rise again.

But they did not understand what he said, and were afraid to ask.

So they came to Capernaum; and when he had gone indoors, he asked them,

What were you arguing about on the way?

They were silent, because on the way they had been discussing which one of them was the greatest.  So he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,

If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself the last of all and servant of all.

Then he took a child, set him in front of them, and put his arm round him.

Whoever receives a child like this in my name,

he said,

receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.


The Collect:

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 2:  Tuesday, Year 1:

Week of 7 Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 1:

Week of 7 Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 2:

Matthew 17 and 18 (Parallel to Mark 9):

Luke 9 (Parallel to Mark 9):

A Germane Hymn Text:


Humility is a topic I have covered in other devotional posts, for many passages of scripture address it.  So most of what I write here duplicates the essence of what I have written elsewhere.

True greatness comes in service to others.  Jesus modeled this behavior, and some of the Apostles did not learn the lesson immediately.  But the life of Mother Teresa of Calcutta exemplified the principle of service which our Lord taught by his words and deeds.  Not everyone has a vocation to help the poor of Calcutta, but every person does have a calling to help others as able.  Given the variety of needs, there is a wide range of ways to help others.

Sometimes we judge others, claiming that they do not do enough.  But we have limited knowledge of the circumstances they must face and the resources they have at their disposal.  And maybe they are doing certain good works anonymously.  Furthermore, God knows better than we do how others ought to help.

Mother Teresa said at least once that God calls us to be faithful, not successful.  Of all the messages contained in these readings and this devotional, that might be the most counter-cultural, the one we need to hear the most.  In faithfulness we will find true greatness, that is, greatness as God defines it.  May we succeed in that, by grace.


Published originally in a nearly identical form as Week of 7 Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 2, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on July 1, 2011