Archive for the ‘November 15’ Category

Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 28, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Saul Consulting the Spirit of Samuel

Above:   Saul Consults the Spirit of Samuel

Image in the Public Domain

God Concepts and Violence

NOVEMBER 14 and 15, 2019


The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you,

without you nothing is strong, nothing is holy.

Embrace us with your mercy, that with you as our ruler and guide,

we may live through what is temporary without losing what is eternal,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53


The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 28:3-19 (Thursday)

2 Samuel 21:1-14 (Friday)

Psalm 98 (Both Days)

Romans 1:18-25 (Thursday)

2 Thessalonians 1:3-12 (Friday)


In righteousness shall he judge the world

and the peoples with equity.

–Psalm 98:10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


Judgment and mercy exist in balance (as a whole) in the Bible, but God seems bloodthirsty in 1 Samuel 15 and 28 and in 2 Samuel 21.

The divine rejection of Saul, first King of Israel, was due either to an improper sacrifice (1 Samuel 13:8-14) or his failure to kill all Amelikites (1 Samuel 15:2f), depending upon the source one prefers when reading 1-2 Samuel (originally one composite book copied and pasted from various documents and spread across two scrolls).  1 Samuel 28 favors the second story.  In 2 Samuel 21, as we read, David, as monarch, ended a three-year-long drought by appeasing God.  All the king had to do was hand seven members of the House of Saul over to Gibeonites, who “dismembered them before the LORD” on a mountain.

The readings from the New Testament are not peace and love either, but at least they are not bloody.  Their emphasis is on punishment in the afterlife.  In the full context of scripture the sense is that there will be justice–not revenge–in the afterlife.  Justice, for many, also includes mercy.  Furthermore, may we not ignore or forget the image of the Holy Spirit as our defense attorney in John 14:16.

I know an Episcopal priest who, when he encounters someone who professes not to believe in God, asks that person to describe the God in whom he or she does not believe.  Invariably the atheist describes a deity in whom the priest does not believe either.  I do not believe in the God of 1 Samuel 15 and 28 and 2 Samuel 21 in so far as I do not understand God in that way and trust in such a violent deity.  No, I believe–trust–in God as revealed in Jesus of Nazareth, who would not have ordered any genocide or handed anyone over for death and dismemberment.










Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 28, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Parable of the Wicked Servants

Above:  Parable of the Wicked Servants

Image in the Public Domain

Humility and Arrogance

NOVEMBER 15, 16, and 17, 2018


The Collect:

Almighty God, your sovereign purpose bring salvation to birth.

Give us faith amid the tumults of this world,

trusting that your kingdom comes and your will is done

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53


The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 4:4-18 (Thursday)

Daniel 4:19-27 (Friday)

Daniel 4:28-37 (Saturday)

Psalm 16 (All Days)

1 Timothy 6:11-21 (Thursday)

Colossians 2:6-15 (Friday)

Mark 12:1-12 (Saturday)


FYI:  Daniel 4:1-37 in Protestant Bibles equals Daniel 4:1-34 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox translations.


Arrogance can be easy to muster and humility can be difficult to manifest.  I know this well, for

  1. I have been prone to intellectual arrogance, and
  2. humility can be painful.

To be fair, some people I have known have nurtured my intellectual arrogance via their lack of intellectual curiosity and their embrace of anti-intellectualism.  That reality, however, does nothing to negate the spiritual problem.  I am glad to report, however, that it is a subsiding problem, by grace.

The internal chronology of the Book of Daniel defies historical accuracy; I came to understand that fact years ago via close study of the text.  The Book of Daniel is folkloric and theological, not historical and theological.  The folktale for these three days concerns King Nebuchadrezzar II (a.k.a. Nebuchadnezzar II), King of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, who reigned from 605 to 562 B.C.E.  The arrogant monarch, the story tells us, fell into insanity.  Then he humbled himself before God, who restored the king’s reason.

So now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt, and glorify the King of Heaven, all of whose works are just and whose ways are right, and who is able to humble those who behave arrogantly.

–Daniel 4:34, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This is folklore, not history, but the lesson regarding the folly of arrogance is true.

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mark 12:1-12) exists in the context of conflict between Jesus and Temple authorities during the days immediately prior to his death.  In Chapter 11 our Lord and Savior cleansed the Temple and, in a symbolic act, cursed a fig tree as a sign of his rejection of the Temple system.  In Chapters 11 and 12 Temple authorities attempted to entrap Jesus in his words.  He evaded the traps and ensnared his opponents instead.  In this context Jesus told the Parable of the Wicked Tenants.  The vineyard was Israel, the slain slaves/servants were prophets, and the beloved son was Jesus.  The tenants were the religious leaders in Jerusalem.  They sought that which belonged to God, for Christ was the heir to the vineyard.

1 Timothy 6:11-21 continues a thread from earlier in the chapter.  Greed is bad, we read:

But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

–6:9-10, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Faithful people of God, however, are to live differently, pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness (verse 11).  The wealthy are to avoid haughtiness and reliance on uncertain riches, and to trust entirely in God (verse 17).  Further instructions for them include being generous and engaging in good works (verse 18).

Complete dependence upon God is a Biblical lesson from both Testaments.  It is a pillar of the Law of Moses, for example, and one finds it in 1 Timothy 6, among many other parts of the New Testament.  Colossians 2:6-15 drives the point home further, reminding us that Christ has cancelled the debt of sin.

Forgiveness as the cancellation of debt reminds me of the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:23-35).  A king forgave a large debt–10,000 talents–a servant owed to him.  Given that one talent was fifteen years’ worth of wages for a laborer, and that the debt was therefore 150,000 years’ worth of wages, the amount of the debt was hyperbolic.  The point of the hyperbole in the parable was that the debt was impossible to repay.  The king was merciful, however.  Unfortunately, the servant refused to forgive debts other people owed to him, so the king revoked the debt forgiveness and sent the servant to prison.

So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

–Matthew 18:35, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Just as God forgives us, we have a responsibility to forgive others.  Doing so might require us to lay aside illusions of self-importance.  That has proven true in my life.

The path of walking humbly with God and acknowledging one’s total dependence upon God leads to liberation from illusions of grandeur, independence, and self-importance.  It leads one to say, in the words of Psalm 16:1 (Book of Common Worship, 1993):

Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you;

I have said to the LORD, “You are my Lord,

my good above all other.”








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


Above:  A Candle

Image Source = Martin Geisler

A Light to the Nations

NOVEMBER 13, 14, and 15, 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 8:7-14 (Monday)

Joel 1:1-14 (Tuesday)

Joel 3:9-21 (Wednesday)

Psalm 63 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 14:20-25 (Monday)

1 Thessalonians 3:6-13 (Tuesday)

Matthew 24:29-35 (Wednesday)


The hit parade of judgment comes in these days’ readings.  Among the themes therein is the final judgment, which a glorious future for God’s people will follow.  First, however, one must survive the judgment, if one can.

A theme from the New Testament informs the Old Testament lessons nicely.  Faith–by which I mean active faith, in the Pauline sense of the word, not in sense of purely intellectual faith one reads about in the Letter of James–is not just for one’s benefit and that of one’s faith community.  No, faith is for the good of those whom one draws to God and otherwise encourages spiritually.  The people of God have the assignment to function as a light to the nations.  That was the mission in which many Hebrews failed in the days of the Old Testament.  They became so similar to other nations that they could not serve as a light to those nations.  The same holds true for much of Christianity, whether liberal, moderate, or conservative, for organized religion has a knack for affirming certain prejudices while confronting others.  Some denominations, especially in then U.S. South, formed in defense of race-based slavery.  Others, especially in the U.S. North, formed in opposition to that Peculiar Institution of the South.  Many nineteenth-century and twentieth-century U.S. Protestants recycled pro-slavery arguments to defend Jim Crow laws, and one can still identify bastions of unrepentant racism in churches.  Also, mysogyny and homophobia remain entrenched in much of organized Christianity.

To separate divine commandments from learned attitudes and behaviors can prove difficult.  It is, however, essential if one is to follow God faithfully and to function as a light to others.  May those others join us in praying, in the words of Psalm 63:8:

My soul clings to you;

your right hand holds me fast.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979)










Devotion for November 14, 15, and 16 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments


Above:  Ruins of Babylon, 1932

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-13231

Jeremiah and Matthew, Part XI:  Getting On With Life





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 29:1-19 (November 14)

Jeremiah 30:1-24 (November 15)

Jeremiah 31:1-17, 23-24 (November 16)

Psalm 36 (Morning–November 14)

Psalm 130 (Morning–November 15)

Psalm 56 (Morning–November 16)

Psalms 80 and 27 (Evening–November 14)

Psalms 32 and 139 (Evening–November 15)

Psalms 100 and 62 (Evening–November 16)

Matthew 26:36-56 (November 14)

Matthew 26:36-56 (November 15)

Matthew 27:1-10 (November 16)


The Lord is my light and my salvation;

whom then shall I fear?

The Lord is the strength of my life;

of whom then shall I be afraid?

–Psalm 27, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)


The Prophet Jeremiah relayed advice from God to those exiled from the Kingdom of Judah to Chaldea in 597 BCE:  Get on with life.  The wicked will perish, a faithful remnant will see divine deliverance, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem will occur.  None of the members of the original audience lived to see that day, but it did come to pass.

Jeremiah prophesied during dark days which preceded even darker ones.  “Dark days which preceded even darker ones” summarized the setting of the Matthew readings accurately.  But, after the darker days came and went wondrously and blessedly brighter ones arrived.

I know firsthand of the sting of perfidy and of the negative consequences of actions of well-intentioned yet mistaken people.  Sometimes anger is essential to surviving in the short term.  Yet anger poisons one’s soul after remaining too long.  Slipping into vengeful thoughts feels natural.

O daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,

happy the one who repays you

for all you have done to us;

Who takes your little ones,

and dashes them against the rock.

–Psalm 137:8-9, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

Yet such an attitude obstructs the path one must trod when getting on with life and remaining faithful to God therein.  Leaving one’s enemies and adversaries to God for mercy or judgment (as God decides) and getting on with the daily business of living is a great step of faithfulness.







Week of Proper 27: Thursday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  Onesimus

Paying It Forward

NOVEMBER 15, 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.


Philemon 1-25 (Revised English Bible):

From Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and our colleague Timothy, to Philemon our dear friend and fellow-worker, together with Apphia our sister, and Achippus our comrade-in-arms, and the church that meets at your house.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God always when I mention you in my prayers, for I hear of your love and faith towards the Lord Jesus and for all God’s people.  My prayer is that the faith you hold in common with us may deepen your understanding of all the blessings which belong to us as we are brought closer to Christ.  Your love has brought me much joy and encouragement; through you God’s people have been much refreshed.

Accordingly, although in Christ I might feel free to dictate  where your duty lies, yet, because of that same love, I would rather appeal to you.  Ambassador as I am of Christ Jesus, and now his prisoner, I, Paul, appeal to you about my child, whose father I have become in this prison.  I mean Onesimus, once so useless to you, but now useful indeed, both to you and to me.  In sending him back to you I am sending my heart.  I should have liked to keep him with me, to look after me on your behalf, here in prison for the gospel, but I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that your kindness might be a matter not of compulsion, but of your own free will.  Perhaps this is why you lost him for a time to receive him back for good–no longer as a slave, but as more than a slave:  as a dear brother, very dear to me, and still dearer to you, both as a man and as a Christian.

If, then, you think of me as your partner in the faith, welcome him as you would welcome me.  If he did you any wrong and owes you anything, put it down to my account.  Here is my signature:  Paul.  I will repay you–not to mention that you owe me your very self.  Yes, brother, I am asking this favour of you as a fellow-Christian; set my mind at rest.

I write to you confident that you will meet my wishes; I know that you will in fact do more than I ask.  And one last thing:  have a room ready for me, for I hope through the prayers of you all to be restored to you.

Epaphras, a captive of Christ Jesus like myself, sends you greetings.  So do my fellow-workers Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit!

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.


Luke 17:20-25 (Revised English Bible):

The Pharisees asked Jesus,

When will the kingdom of God come?

He answered,

You cannot tell by observation when the kingdom of God comes.  You cannot say, “Look, here it is,” or “There it is!”  For the kingdom of God is among you!

He said to the disciples,

The time will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man and will not see it.  They will say to you, “Look! There!” and “Look! Here!”  Do not go running off in pursuit.  For like a lightning-flash, that lights up the earth from end to end, will the Son of Man be in his day.  But first he must endure suffering and be rejected by this generation.


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:

Week of Proper 27:  Thursday, Year 1:

The Feast of Saint Onesimus, Bishop and Martyr (February 11):


May we, in our consideration of the Letter to Philemon, turn off the proverbial tapes running inside our heads.  Rather, may we take our cues from the text itself; it is our primary source.  As a person trained in historical methods, reading one’s primary sources closely and accurately matters to me greatly.  And, as we engage in this close (and hopefully accurate) reading, may we recall that we are reading just one side of an ancient correspondence.  Paul did not mention certain details because Philemon already knew what they were.  I suspect that the Apostle did not imagine that people would read this letter in translation nearly two thousand years later.  If he had thought otherwise, he might have added more details.

So, what can we know, according to the text?  We can know the following:

  1. Paul wrote from prison, distant from where Philemon lived.
  2. Philemon, Paul’s friend, hosted a congregation in his home.
  3. Onesimus, who owed Philemon a debt, had spent an undefined period of time with Paul, to the Apostle’s delight.
  4. Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon with this letter, in which he (Paul) offered to pay the debt and asked Philemon to take Onesimus back “as a brother.”

Widely accepted assumptions include that Onesimus was a slave–and a fugitive who had stolen from Philemon.  I thought that until earlier today, when I poured over commentaries, most of which reflected the received wisdom.  But what if the received wisdom is wrong?  Professor Allan Callahan, writing in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (Nashville, TN:  Abingdon Press, 2003), argues that the text does not support the received wisdom.  He points to verse 16, which, in English translation, asks Philemon to received Onesimus

…no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother….

Callahan points out the following:

Just as Paul says that the Galatians are no longer slaves but sons in the family of God (Gal. 4:7), so also Paul insists here that Onesimus be received as though he were no longer as a slave but a brother in Philemon’s family of faith; as has the force of “as if” or “as though.”

So Onesimus might not have been a slave.  If this is true, almost two thousand years of Christian interpretation of this epistle has been mostly wrong.  If so, so be it.  Tradition can be mistaken.

Tradition can also be correct.  We read in the hagiographies that both Philemon and Onesimus became bishops and martyrs.  The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople lists Onesimus as Bishop of Byzantium from 54 to 68 C.E., and therefore a predecessor of the current Ecumenical Patriarch.

This is a story about redemption and the good for many that flows from it.  Paul redeemed Onesimus, through whom many people found faith in Jesus.  Paul, in turn, was able to do this because of a direct action by God.  So, when God acts in our lives, may we embrace the responsibility, to help others directly, to pay it forward, and so to aid still others indirectly.


Week of Proper 27: Friday, Year 1   8 comments

Above:  Judgment Day May 21 Vehicle

Image Source = Bart Everson

Longing For the End of Days is Counterproductive

NOVEMBER 15, 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 13:1-10 (Revised English Bible):

What born fools were all who lived in ignorance of God!  From the good things before their eyes they could not learn to know him who is , and failed to recognize the artificer though they observed his handiwork!  Fire, wind, swift air, the circle of the starry signs, rushing water, or the great lights in heaven that rule the world–these they accounted gods.  It was through delight in the beauty of these things that people supposed them gods, they ought to have understood how much better is the Lord and Master of them all; for it was by the prime author of all beauty they were created.  It was through astonishment at their power and influence, people should have learnt from these how much more powerful is he who made them.  For the greatness and beauty of created things give us a corresponding idea of their Creator.  Yet these people are not greatly to be blamed, for when they go astray they may be seeking God and really wishing to find him.  Passing their lives among his works and making a close study of them, they are persuaded by appearances because of the beauty of what they see.  Yet even so they do not deserve to be excused, for with enough understanding to speculate about the universe, why did they not sooner discover its Lord and Master?

Psalm 19:1-4 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the firmament shows his handiwork.

2  One day tells its tale to another,

and one night imparts knowledge to another.

3  Although they have no words or language,

and their voices are not heard,

4  Their sound has gone out into all lands,

and their message to the ends of the world.

Luke 17:26-37 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus said to his disciples,]

As it was in the days of Noah, will it be in the days of the Son of Man.  They ate and drank and married, until the day that Noah went into the ark and the flood came and made an end of them all.  So too in the days of Lot, they ate and drank, they bought and sold, they planted and built; but on the day that Lot left Sodom, fire and sulphur rained from the sky and made an end of them all.  it will be like that on  the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

On that day if anyone is on the roof while his belongings are in the house, he must not go down to fetch them; and if anyone is in the field, he must not turn back.  Remember Lot’s wife.  Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life will gain it.

I tell you, on that night there will be two people in one bed:  one will be taken, the other left.  There will be two women grinding corn:  one will be taken, the other left.

When they heard this they asked,

Where, Lord?

He said,

Where the carcass is, there will the vultures gather.


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.


Consider this:

Ah, you who wish

For the day of the LORD!

Why should you want

The day of the LORD?

It shall be darkness, not light!–

As if a man should run from a lion

And be attacked by a bear;

Or if he got indoors,

Should lean his hand on the wall

And be bitten by a snake!

Surely the day of the LORD shall be

Not light, but darkness,

Blackest night without a glimmer.

–Amos 5:18-20, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Here I am, following a lectionary and writing nearly six months ahead of schedule.  And, on May 20, 2011, one day before the alleged Judgment Day Harold Camping has announced, news of which I cannot evade, I get this reading from Luke 17.  The dark and apocalytic reading is appropriate for late Ordinary Time, near the First Sunday in Advent, during which many Lutherans, depending on their denominational affiliation, identify as either a sub-season (Propers 26-29, the four Sundays before Advent), as the Missouri Synod does, or the End Time Season (Reformation Sunday-Last Judgment-Saints Triumphant-Christ the King), as the Wisconsin Synod does.  Indeed, this Canadian Anglican lectionary in Year 1 will end with the apocalyptic Luke 21 and readings from Daniel.

The reading from the Wisdom of Solomon speaks of idolatry.  I am convinced that longing for the apocalyptic end constitutes a form of idolatry, for an idol is anything that distracts us from God.  An icon, on the other hand, is something through which we see God.  We are here on planet Earth to be good stewards of it, to love God fully, and love ourselves and each other as we love God–in other words, to live the Golden Rule, and to glorify and enjoy God.  We ought not give up on the world.  Yet those who have given up on the world, who have abandoned hope, are often likely to long for the dreaded day of judgment.

God is in charge of such matters, and I have neighbors to love.  That will occupy my time quite sufficiently, with no space left over for longing for the apocalypse.  No, I need to look around more often and see Christ in those around me and feel God in the breeze.  Count me among the optimists.  God is in charge; I need not concern myself with many details.