Archive for the ‘May 25’ Category

Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 3, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Salt Shaker

Above:   Salt Shaker

Image Source = Dubravko Sorić

Salt of the Earth

MAY 25, 2016


The Collect:

O God our rock, your word brings life to the whole creation

and salvation from sin and death.

Nourish our faith in your promises, and ground us in your strength,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38


The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 5:1-23

Psalm 1

Luke 14:35-35


The wicked man will be trapped in his iniquities;

He will be caught up in the ropes of his sin.

He will die for lack of discipline,

Infatuated by his great folly.

–Proverbs 5:22-23, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)


The brief lection from Luke 14 is about salt:

“Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?  It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; they throw it away.  Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

–Verses 34-35, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Salt is indeed good.  It is also bad in excess.  Likewise, too little salt proves harmful also.  Salt is a preservative and an agent for amplifying favor.  It is an appropriate choice of material for a parable about what people of God are supposed to be and do.  They are here on the planet to add flavor, neither to shirk their responsibilities nor to get in God’s way.  Doing too little and too much are both negative.

Making those assertions is easy.  Recognizing the difference between enough and too little on one hand and enough and too much on the other hand, however, is more difficult.  May we, by grace, know what to do in each circumstance.  May we know what to do, and when to do it.  May we know when to act as God’s instruments of healing in the world and when to back off and get out of God’s way.  May we lead spiritually disciplined lives that bring glory to God and benefit our fellow human beings.










Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Trinity Sunday, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Swords Into Plowshares

Above:  Swords into Plowshares

Image in the Public Domain

Righteousness from God

MAY 24 and 25, 2018


The Collect:

God of heaven and earth,

before the foundation of the universe and the beginning of time

you are the triune God:

Author of creation, eternal Word of creation, life-giving Spirit of wisdom.

Guide us to all truth by your Spirit,

that we may proclaim all that Christ has revealed

and rejoice in the glory he shares with us.

Glory and praise to you,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 1:1-4, 16-20 (Thursday)

Isaiah 2:1-5 (Friday)

Psalm 29 (Both Days)

Romans 8:1-8 (Thursday)

Romans 8:9-11 (Friday)


The LORD shall give strength to his people;

the LORD shall give his people the blessing of peace.

–Psalm 29:11, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


St. Paul the Apostle, at the end of Romans 7, lamented that, although he often knew right from wrong and wanted to act properly, he behaved sinfully much of the time.  He lived in a “body of death,” he wrote, and his deliverance from it came via Jesus Christ.

The conclusion that we humans are slaves to the law of God in our minds yet slaves to the law of sin in our flesh precedes the “therefore” clause in Romans 8:1:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Christ,  St. Paul the Apostle wrote, has freed us from the law of sin and death.  Yes, there remains the dichotomy of the Spirit (God) and the flesh (all that pertains to human beings).  Yes, we are all “in the flesh,” during this life, but we need not live “according to the flesh,” which sin has compromised.  Righteousness comes from God.

We, turning to the Isaiah pericopes, find human disobedience, a divine call for obedience and social justice, a reminder of how much better the situation can become, a statement of how bad it can become, and a vision of what the future will entail when the Kingdom of God has become fully realized on Earth.  In Isaiah, as in Romans, righteousness comes from God and we mere mortals fall far short of that divine standard.

None of this negates the importance of free will, for the desire to obey God and act justly matters greatly.  It is a positive development and something with which God can work–multiply like loaves and fishes.  A faithful response to God is, in itself, inadequate, but it is something, at least.  And we rely on God’s strength, not ours.  Martin Luther, who knew much firsthand about the conflict between the higher and lower natures, affirmed correctly the principle of relying on the faithfulness of God.  I am content  to do as he advised in that matter, for the alternatives lead me to negative spiritual destinations, which range from hopelessness to a lack of any spirituality to the vain and frustrating quest for moral perfection or something approximate to it in this life (hence my strong objections to Pietism).

We are all broken and in need of God, so why pretend to the contrary?  A healthy spiritual quest begins where one is.  I prefer to acknowledge that point of origin without excuses, delusions, or self-recrimination.  Acknowledging one’s sin and confessing it need not turn into spiritual self-flagellation.  I have learned that admitting the reality of my spiritual state, with all its negatives and positive aspects, refraining from berating myself yet handing the burdens over to God instead is a good way to begin.  This life is short, anyway, so I seek to spend as much of it as possible enjoying and glorifying God.






Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 3, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ and the Woman Taken In Adultery

Above:  Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery, by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (Guercino), 1621

Image in the Public Domain

Divine Faithfulness, Judgment, and Mercy

MAY 24, 2018

MAY 25, 2018

MAY 26, 2018


The Collect:

 Loving God, by tender words and covenant promise

you have joined us to yourself forever,

and you invite us to respond to your love with faithfulness.

By your Spirit may we live with you and with one another

in justice, mercy, and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37


The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 16:1-14 (Thursday)

Ezekiel 16:44-52 (Friday)

Ezekiel 16:53-63 (Saturday)

Psalm 103:1-13, 22 (All Days)

Romans 3:1-8 (Thursday)

2 Peter 1:1-11 (Friday)

John 7:53-8:11 (Saturday)


The LORD is full of compassion and mercy,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

The LORD will not always accuse us

nor remain angry forever.

The LORD has not dealt with us according to our sins,

nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

–Psalm 103:8-10, Book of Common Worship (1993)


Yet we read elsewhere:

Because you did not remember the days of your youth, but infuriated Me with all those things, I will pay you back for your conduct–declares the LORD God.

–Ezekiel 16:43, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

That statement is consistent with Ezekiel’s position that God deals with each person according to his or her actions, in other words, that God does not punish anybody for the sin of an ancestor.

The related themes of judgment and mercy reside at the heart of the complex of pericopes for these days.

Ezekiel 16 weaves a metaphorical narrative regarding Jerusalem and its people.  God showered extravagant mercy upon them, but they rebelled against God instead.  They will face the consequences of their actions, but God will renew the covenant and forgive them.  That covenant requires the people to remember the mighty and faithful works of God, to remember human sins, and to respond to God faithfully.  Caring for the less fortunate constitutes part of responding to God faithfully.  And the only acceptable boast is in God’s grace.

Ezekiel 16 meshes well with Romans 3:1-8, a text one ought never to twist into Anti-Semitism.  (I condemn all -isms, phobias, and other attitudes which denigrate any of my fellow human beings.)  God’s judgment is just, St. Paul the Apostle insists, and no amount of human faithfulness can nullify the faithfulness of God.  Furthermore, the Apostle writes, the Jews might have the Law of Moses, but Gentiles can fulfill it also, for they can perceive the commandments of God too.  Thus, according to this line of reasoning, God has placed Jews and Gentiles on a level playing field, and human actions, no matter how pious they are, can function as protective talismans against the consequences of sins.  Faith, the Apostle understood, is inherently active, hence his theology of faith, works, and justification by the former, not the latter.  Thus, if good works flow from faith as a matter of course (unlike as in the Letter of James, due to a different definition of faith there, hence that text’s theology of justification by works), we have no right to boast of our good deeds because they cannot save us from judgment.  They are, as Lutheran confessions of faith state, laudable yet insufficient for salvation.  Only grace can save us.  And grace comes from God.

Moving along, we arrive at 2 Peter 1:1-11.  The text reminds us that we depend on the faithfulness of God to divine promises.  Thus our only boasts should be in God.  And grace is free for us (but not for God; ask Jesus) yet not cheap.  It requires much of those of us who receive it.  Grace mandates ethical, compassionate living.  Perceived doctrinal purity alone is insufficient, for orthodoxy and orthopraxy should be like two sides of the same coin.  (I sound like the Letter of James now.  Actually, St. Paul and the author of the Letter of James arrived at the same conclusion, just with different definitions of faith.  Their two positions differ only on a semantic level.)  I recall the narrative of an African-American slave who, with help, escaped to freedom in Canada in the 1800s.  His master, a Simon Legree-kind of person, was a Baptist deacon.  The former slave wrote that the deacon died and that he (the former slave) did not know if the deacon went to Heaven or to Hell.  The freedman did know, however, that he did not want to go to the same destination as the deacon.

John 7:53-8:11 is a floating pericope of Synoptic origin which landed in the Johannine Gospel.  The pericope fits well between 7:52 and 8:12, but one can skip over it and follow the original Johannine narrative without missing a beat.  The scribes and Pharisees in question have used the woman to set a trap for Jesus.  They do not even care that they have allowed the man to get away.  (One cannot commit adultery alone.)  Jesus, being perceptive, reverses the trap  and reminds them subtly that, if she dies for having committed adultery, the Law of Moses states that they should die also for their related offense.  Thus they are not without sin in this case and have no right to cast the first stone.  Her accusers leave, and Jesus forgives the woman.

The Law, St. Paul the Apostle reminds us, convicts us of our sins by establishing rules and categories.  The Law calls for judgment and provides guidelines (often culturally and historically specific applications of timeless and universal principles) for ethical living.  Obeying the Law can be positive, but it cannot deliver us from the consequences of our sins.  Only God can do that.  Fortunately, God seems to be more merciful than many human beings much of the time.  I recognize that both judgment and mercy exist relative to God.  I also notice that God is more prone to mercy in some biblical texts and more inclined toward judgment in others.  The biblical authors were people, so some of these texts include human projections onto the nature of God.  That is something I take as a given.  Something else I take as a given is that we mere mortals cannot grasp the entirety of the nature of God.  Thus some of what we say and write about God will be wrong, but much will be correct.  Thus theological humility is appropriate.  As for me, I hope that God is at least as merciful as Jesus in John 7:53-8:11 and that the author of Psalm 103:8-10 is closer to the truth than the author of Ezekiel 16:43.









Devotion for May 25 and 26 in Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Above:  The Right Reverend Keith Whitmore, Assistant Bishop of Atlanta, with Three Parishioners at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Newnan, Georgia, July 1, 2012

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Ecclesiastes and John, Part II:  Heirs



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:

Ecclesiastes 2:1-26 (May 25)

Ecclesiastes 3:1-22 (May 26)

Psalm 104 (Morning–May 25)

Psalm 19 (Morning–May 26)

Psalms 118 and 33 (Evening–May 25)

Psalms 81 and 113 (Evening–May 26)

John 7:1-13 (May 25)

John 7:14-31 (May 26)


A wise person and a fool share the same fate:  death.  And, even if one is wise, there is no guarantee that one’s heirs will not be foolish.  One’s actions in life cancel each other out, but at least one can enjoy one’s own work, even if that work is futile.  Such was Koheleth’s perspective in Ecclesiastes 2 and 3.

I perceive in the Gospels many occasions on which Jesus could have felt that this words and deeds were futile.  The Apostles failed to understand–again.  He faced opposition yet again for committing a good deed on the Sabbath.  People kept plotting to kill him.  Followers deserted him after hearing difficult teaching.  I have no doubt that he felt discouraged at times; he was fully human.

But his heirs of a sort started something which has flourished.  So today I am a Christian because of a chain of faith which reaches back to those Apostles.  I am an heir of a sort.  May I be, by grace, a wise one.  And so may you, O reader.







Week of Proper 2: Friday, Year 2   2 comments

Above:  Mercy and Truth


MAY 25, 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 5:7-12 (Revised English Bible):

You must be patient, my friends, until the Lord comes.  Consider:  the farmer looking for the precious crop from his land can only wait in patience until the early and late rains have fallen.  You too must be patient and stout-hearted, for the coming of the Lord is near.  My friends, do not blame your troubles on one another, or you will fall under judgement; and there at the door stands the Judge.  As a pattern of patience under ill-treatment, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.  We count those happy who stood firm.  You have heard how Job stood firm, and you have seen how the Lord treated him in the end, for the Lord is merciful and compassionate.

Above all things, my friends, do not use oaths, whether “by heaven” or “by earth” or by anything else.  When you say “Yes” or “No,” let it be plain Yes or No, for fear you draw down judgement on yourselves.

Psalm 103:1-4, 8-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits.

3 He forgives all your sins,

and heals all your infirmities;

4 He redeems your life from the grave

and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness.

The LORD is full of compassion and mercy,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

He will not always accuse us,

nor will he keep his anger for ever.

10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,

nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

11 For as the heavens are as high above the earth,

so is his mercy great upon those who fear him.

12 As far as the east is from the west,

so far has he removed our sins from us.

13 As a father cares for his children,

so does the LORD care for those who fear him.

Mark 10:1-12 (Revised English Bible):

On leaving there he came into the regions of Judaea and Transjordan.  Once again crowds gathered round him, and he taught them as was his practice.  He was asked,

Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?

The question was put to test him.  He responded by asking,

What did Moses command you?

They answered,

Moses permitted a man to divorce his wife by a certificate of dismissal.

Jesus said to them,

It was because of your stubbornness that he made this rule for you.  But in the beginning, at the creation “God made them male and female.” ‘That is why a man leaves his father and mother, and is united to his wife, and the two become one flesh.’  It follows that they are no longer two individuals:  they are one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together, man must not separate.

When they were indoors again, the disciples questioned him about this.  He said to them,

Whoever divorces his wife and remarries commits adultery against her; so too, if she divorces her husband and remarries, she commits adultery.


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:  Friday, Year 1:

Week of 7 Epiphany:  Friday, Year 1:

Week of 7 Epiphany:  Friday, Year 2:

Matthew 19 (Parallel to Mark 10):


A common expectation among early Christians was that they would witness the Second Coming of Jesus.  This sense of anticipation informs the reading from James.  History, of course, records, that such expectations did not come true.   Nevertheless, the exhortations to live in faithfulness with one another, to be patient with each other, and to have a stout heart are sage in any situation.

God’s timing is not ours.  When we ask for X, X being something good and noble, perhaps even necessary, we might hope to receive X from God’s hand according to our schedule.  Yet maybe God has something better for us.  Perhaps God will deliver what we have requested, but by a different and unexpected mode.  Stout-hearted faithfulness is a virtue, especially in such circumstances.

As for oaths, many people made meaningless oaths by the earth, the stars, the sky, et cetera.  ”Just say yes or no,” James told his audience.  In other words, we ought to avoid semantic games and be genuine.

To review:  If more of us were to avoid semantic games, be merely genuine with each other, be patient with other, and avoid scapegoating each other, how much better would our world and many corners of it be?  I cannot force others to act in these positive ways, but I can, by grace, live accordingly.  And so can you, O reader.  We, you and I, might have more influence than we guess.  Let us find out, for the common good and for the glory of God.

May God, who both judges and forgives, help us.


Published in a nearly identical form as Week of 7 Epiphany:  Friday, Year 2, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on July 3, 2011