Archive for the ‘May 26’ Category

Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 4, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Temple of Solomon

Above:   The Temple of Solomon

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Christ, the Temple of Yahweh

MAY 26, 2016

MAY 27, 2016

MAY 28, 2016


The Collect:

Merciful Lord God, we do not presume to come before you

trusting in our own righteousness,

but in your great and abundant mercies.

Revive our faith, we pray; heal our bodies, and mend our communities,

that we may evermore dwell in your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38


The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 6:23-38 (Thursday)

1 Kings 8:14-21 (Friday)

1 Kings 8:31-40 (Saturday)

Psalm 96:1-9 (All Days)

2 Corinthians 5:11-17 (Thursday)

2 Corinthians 11:1-6 (Friday)

Luke 4:31-37 (Saturday)


Great is Yahweh, worthy of all praise,

more awesome than any of the gods.

All the gods of the nations are idols.

–Psalm 96:4-5a, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


King Solomon presided over the construction of the first Temple at Yahweh.  That process entailed forced labor, unfortunately.  That structure functioned both religiously, housing the Ark of the Covenant, and politically, boosting the monarchy.  The crown controlled the place where God dwelt, according to the orthodoxy of the day.  How convenient was that?

Jesus engaged in conflicts with people attached to the successor of Solomon’s Temple.  The Second Temple, expanded by the order of King Herod the Great as a political and self-serving policy, was the seat of collaboration with the occupying Roman forces.  Yes, much of the Jewish populace of Palestine had great respect for the Temple, but the fact of the exploitative system rooted in that place remained.  That Jesus competed with the Temple and the priesthood, healing people and offering reconciliation with God, contributed to animosity between him and people invested in the Temple system financially.

Christ became the new Temple, the figure via whom people can become new creations.  He was the figure whom St. Paul the Apostle proclaimed jealously, defending his version of the Christian gospel.  Christ became the timeless Temple free of corruption, the Temple no power can control or destroy.

May all nations worship God at that Temple.











Devotion for Saturday Before Trinity Sunday, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Little Rock 1959

Above:  A Racist Rally at the State Capitol, Little Rock, Arkansas, August 20, 1959

Photographer = John T. Bledsoe

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-19754

Dressing Up Darkness as Light

MAY 26, 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 5:15-24

Psalm 29

John 15:18-20, 26-27


The voice of the LORD is a powerful voice;

the voice of the LORD is a voice of splendor.

–Psalm 29:4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)



Those who call evil good

And good evil;

Who present darkness as light

And light as darkness;

Who prevent bitter as sweet

And sweet as bitter!

–Isaiah 5:20, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)


I am a student of history, especially that of the ecclesiastical variety.  Much of that content troubles me.  In my library I have documents justifying perfidy in the name of Jesus and more broadly in the name of God.  I think of a sermon, “God the Original Segregationist” (1954), which the minister continued to sell via mail as late as 1971.  I think also of sermons defending chattel slavery while quoting the Bible.  And I own a reprint of an article from the magazine of the National Association of Evangelicals in 1960 arguing that no Roman Catholic should serve as the President of the United States.

I consider my family tree, which includes a slaveholder and Georgia state senator who, in the 1860s, complained in writing to Governor Joseph Brown that the state had drafted his (the senator’s) slaves’ labor yet been slow to compensate the senator for their work.  My relative was a deacon of the Fort Gaines Baptist Church, Fort Gaines, Georgia.  I assume that he thought of himself as a good Christian.

Fortunately, overt racism has fallen out of favor in many quarters, but covert racism remains ubiquitous.  Slavery, furthermore, has few prominent defenders of which I am aware in American Christianity.  Nevertheless, some prominent American Evangelicals defended the Crusades–orgies of violence, religious intolerance, and even some cannibalism–with much energy recently.

Dressing up darkness as light is an ancient sin which remains contemporary.  Even many who condemn slavery commit homophobia.  Some are malevolent, saying openly that homosexuals ought to have fewer civil rights and liberties than heterosexuals.  Certain malevolent homophobes go as far as to advocate executing or imprisoning homosexuals.  Others, however, act out of outdated mindsets based on erroneous assumptions and are not malevolent.  They are still wrong, of course.

The biblical call to justice, present in the works of the prophets and elsewhere requires us to reject the forms of bigotry we have learned from cultures.  To love our neighbors as we love ourselves and act toward them as we would have them behave toward us entails laying aside our negative biases and recognizing the image of God in them then acting accordingly.  This can prove risky when cultures, governments, and social institutions perpetuate bigotry and discrimination.

If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own.  Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world–therefore the world hates you.

–John 15:19, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

I have learned negative biases and unlearned some of them.  The main difficulty when dealing with one’s assumptions is trying to recognize one’s moral blind spots, especially those which are socially unacceptable.  Defense mechanisms interfere with this process, perpetuating the illusion that one is holier than one actually is.  Yet a faithful pilgrimage with God requires that one, by grace, face oneself honestly.  Hopefully this will result in an accurate self-appraisal and lead to repentance, that is, changing one’s mind, turning around.  That can be difficult, but it is possible via the power of 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: Saturday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  Infant Baptism

Image Source = Tom Adriaenssen

Mutual Responsibility

MAY 26, 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 5:13-20 (Revised English Bible):

Is anyone among you in trouble?  Let him pray.  Is anyone in good heart?  Let him sing praises.  Is one of you ill?  Let him send for the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord; the prayer offered in faith will heal the sick man, the Lord will restore him to health, and if he has committed sins they will be forgiven.  Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  A good man’s prayer is very powerful and effective.  Elijah was a man just like us; yet when he prayed fervently that there should be no rain, the land had no rain for three and a half years; when he prayed again, the rain poured down and the land bore crops once more.

My friends, if one of you strays from the truth and another succeeds in bringing him back, you may be sure of this:  the one who brings a sinner back from his erring ways will be rescuing a soul from death and cancelling a multitude of sins.

Psalm 34:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I will bless the LORD at all times;

his praise shall ever be in my mouth.

2 I will glory in the LORD;

let the humble hear and rejoice.

3 Proclaim with me the greatness of the LORD;

let us exult his Name together.

4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me

and delivered me out of all my terror.

5 Look upon him and be radiant,

and let not your faces be ashamed.

6 I called in my affliction and the LORD heard me

and saved me from all my troubles.

The angel of the LORD encompasses those who fear him,

and he will deliver them.

Taste and see that the LORD is good;

happy are they who trust in him.

Mark 10:13-16 (Revised English Bible):

They brought children for him to touch.  The disciples rebuked them, but when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them,

Let the children come to me; do not try to stop them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I tell you:  whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.

And he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.


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:  Saturday, Year 1:

Week of 7 Epiphany:  Saturday, Year 1:

Week of 7 Epiphany:  Saturday, Year 2:

Matthew 19 (Parallel to Mark 10):


The psalm includes the lines

Taste and see that the LORD is good;

happy are they who trust in him.

I recall watching the funeral of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin on WGN in the late 1990s.  The congregation, led by a priest, sang “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord” during the service.  I am sure that, prior to the Cardinal’s death, many people prayed for his healing and recovery.  Yet he died of cancer anyway.  So James has oversimplified a point.

Nevertheless, the readings for this day point toward a timeless truth:  We are all responsible for each other in the church.  God calls us to help each other as possible, especially spiritually.  This ethic is evident is the baptismal rites of The Episcopal Church, my denomination.  Baptism is initiation into the Christian household, not fire insurance.

Much of Western Christianity is overly individualistic, falling into the heresy of Jesus-and-Meism.  I have had discouraging conversations with people who have told me that they do not care what happens to this world or on it, for they are saved, and they will go to Heaven when they die.  They are content to be healthy in a sick system, but Jesus calls us to work toward the healing of the system.  Think about the healing stories involving our Lord; he restored the healed to social wholeness.  Besides, Jesus does not call us to be selfish.  If we do indeed love our neighbors as ourselves, and if we love ourselves properly, as God has us to do, we must care about what happens to the world and on it, what fates befall our neighbors.

This is the ethic of James and Jesus.  It is a wise ethic, one more of us should emulate, for the common good and the glory of God.


Published in a nearly identical form as Week of 7 Epiphany:  Saturday, Year 2, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on July 4, 2011