Archive for the ‘November 11’ Category

Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 27, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Job and His Alleged Friends

Above:   Job and His Alleged Friends

Image in the Public Domain

Orthodoxy, Heresy, and Compassion

NOVEMBER 11 and 12, 2019


The Collect:

O God, our eternal redeemer, by the presence of your Spirit you renew and direct our hearts.

Keep always in our mind the end of all things and the day of judgment.

Inspire us for a holy life here, and bring us to the joy of the resurrection,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52


The Assigned Readings:

Job 20:1-11 (Monday)

Job 21:1, 17-34 (Tuesday)

Psalm 123 (Both Days)

2 Peter 1:16-21 (Monday)

2 John 1-13 (Tuesday)


Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy,

for we have had more than enough of contempt.

–Psalm 123:4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


With friends such as Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, who needs enemies?  In Job 19:22 the main character laments:

Why do you hound me down like God,

will you never have enough of my flesh?

The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

in response to Bildad.  Then Zophar echoes Bildad in arguing that Job must have sinned and therefore deserve his suffering.  Job replies in part:

So what sense is there in your empty consolation?

What nonsense are your answers!

–Job 21:34, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Refraining from blaming victims is a good start, is it not?  Compassion is a virtue, and tough love is different from abuse.

Turning to the readings from the New Testament, we find defenses of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and of Christian orthodoxy, which was in the early phase of development in the first and second centuries of the Common Era.  The Gospel, consistent with the Hebrew Prophets, comes with eyewitnesses (most of whom had died by the late first century C.E.), we read.  The text of 2 John adds a criticism of Gnostics or proto-Gnostics, who denied the Incarnation.  Indeed, many Gnostic texts have survived and are available in English-language translations.  They are baffling and non-canonical.  Their non-canonical status is appropriate, given that Gnosticism and Christianity are mutually incompatible.

Interestingly, the author of 2 John never accuses these deniers of the Incarnation of being cruel or otherwise mean.  No, they are simply wrong and dangerous, he argues.  One can be compassionate and theologically mistaken just as surely as one can be theologically correct and lacking in compassion.  One can also, of course, lack both compassion and theological correctness.  The optimum state is to be theologically correct and compassionate, is it not?

That leads to another, practical matter.  One might have compassion yet channel it in a way or ways that prove harmful at worst or not helpful at best.  One might read the Book of Job in such a way as to interpret the motivations of the literary characters of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar to be positive–to stage a spiritual intervention.  Yet the theological position of that book (in its final, composite form) is that their orthodoxy was actually heresy.  If one proceeds from a false assumption, one should not be surprised when arriving at an erroneous conclusion.

Each of us is correct in much and erroneous in much else.  May we, by grace, grow in orthodoxy (as God defines it) and effective compassion.










Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 27, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse--Albrecht Durer

Above:  The Four Riders of the Apocalypse, by Albrecht Durer

Image in the Public Domain

Leaving Judgment to God

NOVEMBER 9, 10, and 11, 2017


The Collect:

O God of justice and love,

you illumine our way through life with the words of your Son.

Give us the light we need, and awaken us to the needs of others,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52


The Assigned Readings:

Amos 1:1-2:5 (Thursday)

Amos 3:1-12 (Friday)

Amos 4:6-13 (Saturday)

Psalm 70 (All Days)

Revelation 8:6-9:12 (Thursday)

Revelation 9:13-21 (Friday)

Matthew 24:1-14 (Saturday)


Be pleased, God, to rescue me,

Yahweh, come quickly and help me:

Shame and dismay to those who seek my life!

Back with them! Let them be humiliated

who delight in my misfortunes!

Let them shrink away covered with shame,

those who say, “Aha, aha!”

But joy and happiness in you to all who seek you.

Let them ceaselessly cry, “God is great,”

who love your saving power.

Poor and needy as I am,

God, come quickly to me!

Yahweh, my helper, my Saviour, do not delay!

–Psalm 70, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


As I read the lessons I wondered what I could write that I have not covered many times already.  The tone of the assigned passages fits the them of the church year well, for lectionaries tend to take an apocalyptic turn the last three or four weeks before Advent.  The theme of God destroying the sinful old order before replacing it with the Kingdom of God fully realized is quite old, as is the call to repent.  But how many times can one repeat the theology of repenting–turning around or changing one’s mind–without sounding like the most scratched of records and tiring of saying the same old thing again and again?

Here is something to consider:  we Christians need to accept the reality that Jesus was not always nice.  He seems so nice in illustrations from Bibles for children, but the canonical Gospels attribute many harsh words to him.  And judgment is as much a part of spiritual reality as is forgiveness.  Most of the readings for these days focus on judgment, but the possibility of forgiveness is present in some of them.  A plea for divine judgment against one’s adversaries, such as we find in Psalm 70 and many other psalms, is an understandable and familiar prayer.  I have uttered something like it many times.  Yet such attitudes will not aid or abet the arrival of the fully realized Kingdom of God or the partially realized one.

God is not always nice.  Jesus was not always nice.  And we are not always nice.  Furthermore, we do not understand God or Jesus much of the time, but doing so is not necessary.  We can, however, leave the judging to God and strive, by grace, to live mercifully and compassionately.  That proves quite difficult often, does it not?










Devotion for November 11 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

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Above:  Church of the Common Ground, Atlanta, Georgia, Sunday, May 27, 2013

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Jeremiah and Matthew, Part IX:  Loving God and People Actively



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:

Jeremiah 23:21-40

Psalm 136 (Morning)

Psalms 97 and 112 (Evening)

Matthew 25:31-46


The call to action for God from the previous post continues.  We read of impending disgrace for false prophets in Jeremiah 23; they acted contrary to God.  In Matthew 25 we read a familiar story which provides a concrete standard for acting righteously:  doing practical, constructive good deeds for others in the name of God.  This is a rather Jewish standard, one present in the Law of Moses.  Only here the commandments to stone people do not accompany laws about how to provide for the less fortunate.

When we look at others do we see the Image of God habitually?  When we look at those with whom we disagree profoundly, do we see those whom God loves?  When we look at those whom we really dislike, do we see people for whom Jesus died?  When we look at the merely inconvenient, do we wee people of sacred worth?  When we look at people whom we do not understand because they are so different from us, do see bearers of the Image of God?  How we think about people shapes our attitudes toward them.  This is a great moral lesson, one which I need to ponder along with many other people, perhaps including you, O reader.








Proper 27, Year B   22 comments

Above:  Fresco of the Widow’s Mite

Image Sources = Johannes Bockh and Thomas Mirtsch


The Sunday Closest to November 9

The Twenty-Fifth Sunday After Pentecost

NOVEMBER 11, 2018



Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17 (New Revised Standard Version):

Naomi her mother-in-law said to her,

My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you. Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.

She said to her,

All that you tell me I will do.

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the LORD made her conceive, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi,

Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.

Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying,

A son has been born to Naomi.

They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Psalm 127 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Unless the LORD builds the house,

their labor is in vain who build it.

2  Unless the LORD watches over the city,

in vain the watchman keeps his vigil.

3  It is in vain that you rise so early and go to bed so late;

vain, too, to eat the bread to toil,

for he gives to his beloved sleep.

4  Children are a heritage from the LORD,

and the fruit of the womb is a gift.

5  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior

are the children of one’s youth.

6  Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them!

he shall not be put to shame

when he contends with his enemies in the gate.


1 Kings 17:7-16 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

After some time the wadi dried up, because there was no rain in the land.  And the word of the LORD came to him:

Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon, and stay there; I have designated a widow there to feed you.

So he went at once to Zarephath.  When he came to the entrance of the town, a widow was there gathering wood.  He called out to her,

Please bring me a little water in your pitcher, and let me drink.

As she went to fetch it, he called out to her,

Please bring along a piece of bread for me.

She replied,

As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, nothing but a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug.  I am just gathering a couple of sticks, s that I can go home and prepare it for me and my son; we shall eat it and then we shall die.

Elijah said to her,

Don’t be afraid.  Go and do as you have said; but first make me a small cake from what you have there, and bring it out to me; then make some for yourself and your son.  For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel:  The jar of flour shall not give out and the jug oil shall not fail until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the ground.

She went and did as Elijah had spoken, and she and he and her household had food for a long time.  The jar of flour did not give out, nor did the jug of oil fail, just as the LORD had spoken through Elijah.

Psalm 146 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):


Praise the LORD, O my soul!

I will praise the LORD as long as I live;

I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

2 Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth,

for there is not help in them.

When they breathe their last, they return to earth,

and in that day their thoughts perish.

Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help!

whose hope is in the LORD their God;

Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;

who keeps his promise for ever.

Who gives justice to those who are oppressed,

and food to those who hunger.

The LORD sets the prisoner free;

the LORD opens the eyes of the blind;

the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down.

8 The LORD loves the righteous;

the LORD cares for the stranger;

he sustains the orphan and the widow,

but frustrates the way of the wicked!

The LORD shall reign for ever,

your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.



Hebrews 9:24-28 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

For Christ has entered , not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.  Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the Holy Place yearly with blood not his own; for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world.  But as it is, he has appeared once for all for the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.  And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly awaiting him.


Mark 12:38-44 (Revised English Bible):

There was a large crowd listening eagerly.  As he taught them, he said,

Beware of the scribes, who love to walk up and down in long robes and be greeted respectfully in the street, and to have the chief seats  in synagogues and places of honour at feasts.  Those who eat up the property of widows, while for appearance’s sake they say long prayers, will receive a sentence all the more severe.

As he was sitting opposite the temple treasury, he watched the people dropping their money into the chest.  Many rich people were putting in large amounts.  Presently there came a poor widow who dropped in two tiny coins, together worth a penny.  He called his disciples to him and said,

Truly I tell you:  this poor widow has given more than all those giving to the treasury; for the others who have given had more than enough, but she, with less than enough, has given all that she had to live on.

The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Proper 27, Year A:

Ruth 4:

1 Kings 17:

Hebrews 9:

Mark 12:

Matthew 23 (Parallel to Mark 12):

Luke 20-21 (Parallel to Mark 12):

In Remembrance of Me:


Widows were among the most vulnerable members of society in Biblical times.  Their societies, being patriarchal, placed most women in subservient and economically dependent statuses.  A widow needed a man–perhaps her son or another relative–to care for her.

This Sunday we read two stories of God providing for widows, whether via a man or a direct miracle.  And, in Mark 12, a widow pays an offering she cannot afford.  I have covered that story in a post (a link to which I have provided) already.  So, with a minimum of repetition, I propose that Jesus probably lamented her sacrifice.  That should have been food money, not an offering the Temple authorities would not have missed.  I hope that God provided for that faithful widow.

Consider the scene from Mark 12.  It was Holy Week, so Jesus was a few days away from dying, something he had to do.  The widow did something she thought she had to do because the religious authorities said so.  Yet it was unnecessary, and she did need to eat.  The major difference between the two sacrifices I choose to emphasize now is that our Lord’s sacrifice was necessary; the widow’s was not.  Yet they shared a common factor:  Temple authorities played large role in both of them.

May we read these stories, digest them, and inwardly digest them.  Accordingly, may we help the vulnerable, as we are able, and refrain from imposing needless burdens upon others.


Week of Proper 27: Monday, Year 1   11 comments

Above:  Rays of Light

Image in the Public Domain

There is Good News and There is Bad News–And It is the Same News

NOVEMBER 11, 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.


Wisdom of Solomon 1:1-7 (Revised English Bible):

Love justice, you rulers of the earth; set your mind upon the Lord in the right way, and seek him in singleness of heart; for he is to be found by those who trust him without question, and he makes himself known to those who never doubt him.  Dishonest thinking cuts people off from God, and if fools take liberties with his power he shows them up for what they are.  Wisdom will not enter a shifty soul, nor take her home in a body that is mortgaged to sin.  This holy spirit of discipline will shun falsehood; she cannot stay in the presence of unreason, and will withdraw at the approach of injustice.

The spirit of wisdom is kindly towards mortals, but she will not hold a blasphemer blameless for his words, because God, who sees clearly into his heart and hears every word he speaks, is a witness of his inmost being.  For the spirit of the Lord fills the whole earth, and that which holds all things together knows well everything that is said.

Psalm 139:1-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 LORD, you have searched me out and known me;

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

You trace my journeys and my resting-places

and are acquainted with all my ways.

Indeed, there is not a word on my lips,

but you, O LORD, know it altogether.

You press upon me behind and before

and lay your hand upon me.

5 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

6 Where can I go then from your Spirit?

where can I flee from your presence?

If I climb up to heaven, you are there;

if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

9 Even there your hand will lead me

and your right hand hold me fast.

Luke 17:1-6 (Revised English Bible):

Jesus said to his disciples,

There are bound to be causes of stumbling; but woe betide the person through whom they come.  It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone round his neck than to cause the downfall of one of these little ones.  So be on your guard.

If your brother does wrong, reprove him; and if he repents, forgive him.  Even if he wrongs you seven times in a day and comes back to you seven times saying, “I am sorry,” you are to forgive him.”

The apostles said to the Lord,

Increase our faith;

and the Lord replied,

If you had faith no bigger than a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be rooted up and planted in the sea;’ and it would obey you.


The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


There is good news and there is bad news.  It is all the same news:  God is watching us.

Consider this prayer:

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid:  Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 355

It is indeed daunting to stand in the presence of God, perfect in holiness, who knows us better than we know ourselves.  This is the God in whom judgment and mercy coexist.  This is the God who has overthrown empires and raised up nations.  This is also the God who has offered acted to offer us justification, and therefore the end of condemnation.

God is watching us.  God knows that we will stumble and fall and fail, even when we try not to do so.  It is important, however, to try not to stumble and fall and fail, for this indicates good will on our part.  It is a positive response, albeit a meager one compared to what God has done, to God.  And God accepts it graciously.

God forgives us and lifts us up.  May we therefore, by grace, forgive ourselves and each other, and encourage one another in following our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is very little compared to what God has done and is doing, but it is something–and God accepts it graciously.  Thanks be to God!

Yet let us not forget the other side of equation.  What if we do not try?  Judgment awaits us.  As Paul wrote in Romans, there is no condemnation for the justified.  Yet there is condemnation for those who are not justified.  Nevertheless, this matter falls within God’s domain, not ours.  Jesus prayed for forgiveness for those who crucified him and those who watched the execution approvingly.  They did not know what they were doing, he said.

Where does mercy end and judgment begin?  I do not know; God does.  I pray, anyway, that neither you nor I will wind up on the wrong side of that line.