Archive for the ‘May 30’ Category

Devotion for Monday After Proper 4, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Baptism of the Eunuch--Rembrandt

Above:   The Baptism of the Eunuch, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Comfort and Discomfort with Divine Love

MAY 30, 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:

Jonah 4:1-11

Psalm 5

Acts 8:26-40


The lection from the Book of Jonah challenges audiences.  The main character is a fool who resists God’s call on a part of his life–to give Assyria, the archenemy, one last chance to repent.  Jonah, of course, cannot flee from God (Who can?), and he eventually accepts the vocation reluctantly.  He succeeds, much to his dismay.  He, like the author of Psalm 5, wants the evil to suffer for their sins.  Yet God loves the Assyrians also, and chastises Jonah.  The Book of Jonah.  The Book of Jonah ends without revealing the reluctant prophet’s reply to God.  The ambiguous ending of the great work of religious satire challenges all of us who like to think of ourselves as godly while clinging to resentments.

St. Philip the Deacon (not the apostle) became an instrument in the life of the Ethiopian eunuch, who desired to understand the Bible yet lacked a good teacher.  St. Philip, unlike Jonah, answered the call of God obediently and readily.  To do just that is a challenge for each of us.  Will we answer and act affirmatively or will we prefer that those hostile to us perish than repent?










Devotion for Wednesday After Trinity Sunday, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Slum DC 1937

Above:  A Slum in Washington, D.C., November 1937

Photographer = John Vachon

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USF33-T01-001048-M3

Reaping What One Sows

MAY 30, 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:

Numbers 6:22-27

Psalm 20

Mark 4:21-25


Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses,

but we will call upon the Name of the LORD our God.

They will collapse and fall down,

but we will arise and stand upright.

–Psalm 20:7-8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The rich rule the poor,

And the borrower is a slave to the lender.

He who sows injustice shall reap misfortune;

His rod of wrath shall fail.

The generous man is blessed,

For he gives of his bread to the poor.

–Proverbs 22:7-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)


The rich get richer while the poor get poorer.  That statement applies today; it has done so since antiquity.  This is not a matter as simple as hard work leading to prosperity and sloth leading to poverty, for some of the hardest workers have been and are poor.  No, certain rich people have developed and maintained systems which perpetuate income inequality and favor some people yet not most.

In the Kingdom of God, however, spiritual principles work differently than much of human economics:

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.  If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.  So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.  So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

–Galatians 6:7-10, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Present conduct determines the future.  A positive relationship with God is a wonderful thing, but sitting on it, as if one has a “Jesus and me” relationship, is negative.  Sharing one’s faith is the only way to gain more, but hoarding it will lead to losing it.  In other words, the more one gives away spiritually, the more one will receive.

A related text comes from 2 Esdras 7:21-25:

For the Lord strictly commanded those who come into the world, when they come, what they should do to live, and what they should do to avoid punishment.  Nevertheless they were not obedient and spoke against him:

they devised for themselves vain thoughts,

and proposed to themselves wicked frauds;

they even declared that the Most High does not exist,

and they ignored his ways.

They scorned his law,

and denied his covenants;

they have been unfaithful to his statutes,

and have not performed his works.

That is the reason, Ezra, that empty things are for the empty, and full things are for the full.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The atheism mentioned in the passage is practical atheism, that which acknowledges the existence of God while rejecting the ideas that God has an active and effective role in the world and that God’s commandments should have any influence on one’s life.  It is, quite simply, Deism.  Atheism, in the sense that one hears of it frequently in modern Western societies, was rare in antiquity.  That which Reza Aslan calls anti-theism, or hostility to theism (not just the rejection of it), was even more rare.  Thus, when we consider Psalm 14, the most accurate rendering of the opening lines is not that fools say “there is no God” (the standard English translation), but that fools say, “God does not care,” as TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) renders the passage.

For more verses about the consequences of disobedience, consult Matthew 13:12 and Luke 8:18.

The Aaronic Blessing (Numbers 6:24-26), a familiar text and an element of many liturgies, precedes an important verse:

Thus they shall link My name with the people of Israel, and I will bless them.

–Numbers 6:27, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Receiving blessings from God obligates one to function as a vehicle for others to receive blessings from God.  Grace is free (for us), but never cheap.  In the context of Numbers 6, there is also a mandate to obey the Law of Moses, which contains an ethic of recognizing one’s complete dependence on God, one’s dependence upon other human beings, one’s responsibility to and for others, and the absence of the right to exploit anyone.

Thus the conclusion of this post echoes the beginning thereof.  We have a mandate to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  Obeying that commandment can prove to be difficult and will lead us to change some of our assumptions and related behaviors, but that is part of the call of God upon our lives.  We ought to respond positively, out of love for God and our neighbors, but the principle that our present conduct will determine our future hangs over us.






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

Preaching of St. John the Baptist

Above:  The Preaching of St. John the Baptist, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, 1566

Image in the Public Domain

Clinging to the Faithfulness of God

MAY 30, 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:

Isaiah 62:1-5

Psalm 45:6-17

John 3:22-36


Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever,

a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your reign;

you love righteousness and hate iniquity.

–Psalm 45:6-7a, Book of Common Worship (1993)


I have no idea who is speaking in John 3:31-36.  Father Raymond E. Brown’s Anchor Bible volume on John 1-12 (538 pages long!) claims that Jesus is the speaker and offers much textual evidence for that assertion.  John 3:31-36, Brown writes, is an isolated discourse of Jesus which the Evangelist placed behind the scene with St. John the Baptist to interpret it.  Brown might be correct.  Or the speaker might be St. John the Baptist, for there is thematic consistency in 3:22-30 and 3:31-36.  On a third hand, 3:31-36 might be in the voice of the Evangelist, addressing the audience directly.  I leave that dispute to New Testament scholars, for this is a devotional weblog.

Regardless of the identity of the speaker, John 3:31-36 exists in a theological context of living in exile in one’s homeland.  So does Isaiah 62:1-5, for life in the homeland after the Babylonian Exile was far from the idealized scenes some canonical texts predicted.  Judea was a backwater province in one empire after another for successive centuries, except for the period of the Hasmonean theocracy.

Yet the hopes for a bright future persisted.  Was Jesus the one to inaugurate that future?  Was the Messiah a political-military figure?  Many thought so, although Palestinian Jews were not of one mind regarding the nature of Messiahship, much less whether there would be a Messiah.  And Jesus became caught up in politics, which was intertwined with economics and religion.  The Roman Empire crucified him, so certain imperial authorities must have thought of him as a threat to law and order.

The throne of David remained vacant after exiles began to return to their ancestral homeland.  The revival of the Davidic Dynasty, as predicted in Hosea 3:5, never happened.  The Roman Empire crucified Jesus, but God resurrected him.  Nevertheless, the Roman Empire remained in power.  Hoped-for happy futures remain unrealized dreams of better times.  Yet we must, if we are to persevere faithfully, trust that God will remain faithful.  Perhaps we have misunderstood.  Maybe we are simply impatient.  But God is faithful and reliable.









Devotion for May 28, 29, and 30 in Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   11 comments

Above:  Fresco of King Solomon, Elmali Kilise, Cappodocia, Turkey, 1935

Image Source = Library of Congress

Ecclesiastes and John, Part IV:  Hypocrisy



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 5:1-20/4:17-5:19 (May 28)

Ecclesiastes 6:1-7:10 (May 29)

Ecclesiastes 7:11-29 (May 30)

Psalm 123 (Morning–May 28)

Psalm 15 (Morning–May 29)

Psalm 36 (Morning–May 30)

Psalms 30 and 86 (Evening–May 28)

Psalms 48 and 4 (Evening–May 29)

Psalms 80 and 27 (Evening–May 30)

John 8:1-20 (May 28)

John 8:21-38 (May 29)

John 8:39-59 (May 30)



Ecclesiastes 4:17-5:19 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox) = 5:1-20 (Protestant).


 Koheleth, in Ecclesiastes, was King Solomon, at least according to tradition.  If Solomon did not write these words someone intended readers to think that he did.  Either day, the text of Ecclesiastes 5-7 seems ironic, coming from Solomon or jut placed in his voice.  He would have fared better had he followed the advice contained therein.

In John 8, the unity of which I have maintained, Jesus faced critics who clung to a holy label yet behaved in a contrary manner.  Their deeds, informed by their attitudes, belied their words.  Trying to kill a man over a theological dispute seems unjustifiable to me.  Of course, the offenders in John 8 would have cited the death penalty for blasphemy in the Law of Moses to justify their actions.  But there was much in the Law of Moses they did not keep strictly, so they were hypocrites on that front also.

Few offenses disturb me more than hypocrisy.  Of course, I realize immediately my need to examine myself spiritually for just that violation.  At least knowing that a problem exists increases the probability of addressing it successfully; that is sufficient grounds for some optimism.







Week of Proper 3: Wednesday, Year 2   10 comments

Above:  Christ Carrying the Cross, by El Greco

Love and Service, Not Status Seeking

MAY 30, 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.


1 Peter 1:17-2:1 (Revised English Bible):

If you say “Father” to him who judges everyone impartially on the basis of what they have done, you must live in awe of him during your time on earth.  You know well that it was nothing of passing value, like silver or gold, that bought your freedom from the futility of your traditional ways.  You were set free by Christ’s precious blood, blood like that of a lamb without mark or blemish.  He was predestined before the foundation of the world, but in this last period of time he has been revealed for your sake.  Through him you have come to trust in God who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, and so your faith and hope are fixed on God.

Now that you have been purified your souls by obedience to the truth until you feel sincere affection towards your fellow-Christians, love one another wholeheartededly with all your strength.  You have been born again, not of mortal but of immortal parentage, through the loving and enduring word of God.  As scripture says:

All mortals are like grass;

all their glory like the flower of the field;

the grass withers, the flower falls;

but the word of the Lord endures for evermore.

And this “word” is the gospel which we preached to you.

Then away with all wickedness and deceit, hypocrisy and jealousy and malicious talk of any kind!

Psalm 147:13-21 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

13  Worship the LORD, O Jerusalem;

praise your God, O Zion;

14  For he has strengthened the bars of your gates;

he has blessed your children within you.

15  He has established peace on your borders;

he satisfies you with the finest wheat.

16  He sends out his command to the earth,

and his word runs very swiftly.

17  He gives snow like wool;

he scatters hoarfrost like ashes.

18  He scatters his hail like bread crumbs;

who can stand against his cold?

19  He sends forth his word and melts them;

he blows with his wind, and the waters flow.

20  He declares his word to Jacob,

his statutes and his judgments to Israel.

21  He has not done so to any other nation;

to them he has not revealed his judgments.


Mark 10:32-45 (Revised English Bible):

They were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was leading the way; and the disciples were filled with awe, while those who followed behind were afraid.  Once again he took the Twelve aside and began to tell them what was going to happen to him.

We are now going up to Jerusalem,

he said,

and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes; they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles.  He will be mocked and spat upon, and flogged and killed; and three days afterwards, he will rise again.

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached him and said,

Teacher, we should like you to do us a favour.

He asked,

What is it you want me to do for you?

They answered,

Allow us to sit with you in your glory, one at your right hand and the other at your left.

Jesus said to them,

You do not understand what you are asking.  Can you drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?

They answered,

We can.

Jesus said,

The cup that I drink you shall drink, and the baptism that I am baptized with shall be your baptism; but to sit on my right or on my left is not for me to grant; that honour is for those to whom it has already been assigned.

When the other ten heard this, they were indignant with James and John.  Jesus called them to him and said,

You know that among the Gentiles the recognized rulers lord it over their subjects, and the great make their authority felt.  It shall not be so with you; among you whoever wants to be great must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all.  For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.


The Collect:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.


A Related Post:

Week of Proper 3:  Wednesday, Year 1:

Week of 8 Epiphany:  Wednesday, Year 1:

Week of 8 Epiphany:  Wednesday, Year 2:


The reading from 1 Peter builds up to a great moral lesson:

Then away with all wickedness and deceit, hypocrisy and jealousy and malicious talk of any kind.

What would U.S. talk radio sound like without malicious talk?  How about the landscape of news channels on cable television?  On a more local level, how much better would relationships and congregational life be without wickedness, deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and malicious talk?

The path of discipleship is one of love and service, not living to argue and gain status.  Every other human being is a person God loves, one for whom Christ our Lord was born, lived, and died.  Every man is my brother, every woman my sister.  It is easy to despise those we do not understand, those from different cultures, those who follow a different religious tradition or none at all, and those with very different politics.  Yet God calls us to love each other as we love ourselves; this applies to everybody.

I need to hear and obey this command at least as much as any other person.  I have had only a handful of enemies, but they have been formidable.  Their actions have wrought havoc in my life. But even they (all men) have been my brothers in God.  By grace, may I think of them as such.  That is the only possible way I can succeed.


Published in a nearly identical form as Week of 8 Epiphany:  Wednesday, Year 2, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on July 12, 2012