Archive for the ‘November 2: All Souls’ Category

Devotion for the Feast of All Souls/Commemoration of All Faithful Departed (November 2)   Leave a comment

Above:  All Souls’ Day, by Jakub Schikaneder

Image in the Public Domain

Praying for the Dead

NOVEMBER 2, 2019


The Feast of All Souls originated at the great monastery of Cluny in 998.  The commemoration spread and became an occasion to pray for those in Purgatory.  During the Reformation Era Protestants and Anglicans dropped the feast on theological grounds.  In the late twentieth century, however, the feast–usually renamed the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed–began appearing on Anglican calendars.  The difference between All Saints’ Day and All Faithful Departed, in this context, had become one of emphasis–distinguished saints on November 1 and forgotten saints on November 2.

The idea of Purgatory (a Medieval Roman Catholic doctrine with ancient roots) is that of, as I heard a Catholic catechist, “God’s mud room.”  The doctrine holds that all those in Purgatory will go to Heaven, just not yet, for they require purification.  I am sufficiently Protestant to reject the doctrine of Purgatory, for I believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus constitutes “God’s mud room.”  Purgatory is also alien to Eastern Orthodoxy, which also encourages prayers for the dead.

I pray for the dead, too.  After all, who knows what takes place between God and the departed?





Merciful Father, hear our prayers and console us.

As we renew our faith in your Son, whom you raised from the dead,

strengthen our hope that all our departed brothers and sisters will share in his resurrection,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 or Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 27:1, 4, 7-9, 13-14 or Psalm 103:8, 10, 13-18

Romans 6:3-9 or 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

Matthew 25:31-46 or John 11:17-27

The Vatican II Sunday Missal (1974), 1041-1048


O God, the Maker and Redeemer of all believers:

Grant to the faithful departed the unsearchable benefits of the passion of your Son;

that on the day of his appearing they may be manifested as your children;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 or Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 130 or Psalm 116:6-9

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 or 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

John 5:24-27

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 665


Originally published at SUNDRY THOUGHTS



Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 26, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:   Isaiah

Image in the Public Domain

As One Thinks

NOVEMBER 2, 2019


The Collect:

Merciful God, gracious and benevolent,

through your Son you invite all the world to a meal of mercy.

Grant that we may eagerly follow this call,

and bring us with all your saints into your life of justice and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 1:1-9

Psalm 32:1-7

John 8:39-47


Happy are they to whom the LORD imputes no guilt,

and in whose spirit there is no guile!

–Psalm 32:2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


That description does not apply to the Hebrew nation in Isaiah 1 or to the group of Jews in front of Jesus in John 8.  In both cases their deeds revealed their creeds, and divine authority disapproved of the contents of both categories.

Proverbs 23:7, in the context of a greedy man offering someone food for ulterior motives, says, in most modern translations, something like the wording in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985):

He is like one keeping accounts….

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985) states,

For what he is really thinking about is himself.

The Revised English Bible (1989) uses an idiomatic translation.  The miserly man

will stick in your throat like a hair.

The Authorized (King James) Version offers a different take on the difficult-to-translate verse.  Of the greed man it states,

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he….

I leave questions of the proper translation of Proverbs 23:7 to scholars of the Hebrew Bible.  Nevertheless, I offer one thought relating to that old rendering.

As one thinks in one’s heart, so one is

is an accurate statement.  It applies to the hostile crowd in John 8 and to the idolatrous people in Isaiah 1, as well as to a host of other contexts.  It also applies to you, O reader, and to me.






Devotion for Friday and Saturday Before Proper 26, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Parable of the Good Samaritan

Above:  Parable of the Good Samaritan

Image in the Public Domain

Treating People Properly

NOVEMBER 2 and 3, 2018


The Collect:

Almighty God, you have taught us in your Son that love fulfills the law.

Inspire us to love you with all our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength,

and teach us how to love our neighbors as ourselves,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51


The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 19:32-37 (Friday)

Numbers 9:9-14 (Saturday)

Psalm 119:1-8 (Both Days)

Romans 3:21-31 (Friday)

Luke 10:25-37 (Saturday)


Blessed are those whose way is blameless:

who walk in the law of the Lord.

Blessed are those who keep his commands:

and seek him with their whole heart;

those who do no wrong:

but walk in the ways of our God.

For you, Lord, have commanded us:

to persevere in all your precepts.

If only my ways were unerring:

towards the keeping of your statutes!

Then I should not be ashamed:

when I looked on all your commandments.

I will praise you with sincerity of heart:

as I learn your righteous judgements.

I will keep your statutes:

O forsake me not utterly.

–Psalm 119:1-8, The Alternative Service Book 1980


How we treat each other matters.  The most effective test of our standards in this field is how we treat vulnerable and marginalized people, such as the elderly, strangers, resident aliens, widows, orphans, and the poor.  The readings from the Torah drive this point home well.  My side reading in the Law of Moses led me to related verses, such as Exodus 22:20 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985):

You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

The following verses warn in strong and dire terms against mistreating a widow or an orphan and charging interest on a loan to a poor person.

Yet we human beings know how to create excuses for mistreating each other.  In the Parable of the Good Samaritan alone, ritual purity (in the context of defilement by coming into contact with blood or a corpse), apathy, and fear of robbers hiding nearby are possible reasons for not helping the beaten and bleeding man.  The hero of the parable is an outcast–a Samaritan, to be precise.  His canon was truncated, he was a half-breed, and he did not worship in Jerusalem.  Yet he did what the respectable religious people (in the parable) who worshiped in Jerusalem refused to do.

Exodus 12:43-49 made a big deal about circumcision in relation to the question of who may celebrate the Passover.  In contrast, St. Paul the Apostle, writing in Romans 3:30 and elsewhere, downplayed the issue of circumcision.  It was–and remains–a question of identity, hence its capacity to inspire strong emotions long ago as well as today.  I side with St. Paul, however, for I favor removing barriers to bringing people to God.  If one’s identity depends (even partially) on spiritual elitism, one has a problem.

No, may we welcome the strangers and the marginalized, recognizing the image of God in them.  May we recognize our fellow members of the household of God regardless of any categories we have learned from others and might use to exclude people unjustly.  Who are our Samaritans, people we would be shocked to think of as good?  Our Lord and Savior’s parable challenges us to question our prejudices and love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  Stern commandments from the Law of Moses also remind us of our responsibilities to strangers and other vulnerable people.  Will we make excuses for disobedience or will we seek to love our neighbors as we love ourselves?






Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 26, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Hophni and Phinehas

Above:  Hophni and Phinehas

Image in the Public Domain

Taking God Seriously

NOVEMBER 2, 3, and 4, 2017


The Collect:

O God, generous and supreme, your loving Son lived among us,

instructing us in the ways of humility and justice.

Continue to ease our burdens, and lead us to serve alongside of him,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51


The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 2:27-36 (Thursday)

Ezekiel 13:1-16 (Friday)

Malachi 1:6-2:9 (Saturday)

Psalm 43 (All Days)

Romans 2:17-29 (Thursday)

2 Peter 2:1-3 (Friday)

Matthew 23:13-28 (Saturday)


Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me,

and bring me to your holy hill

and to your dwelling;

That I may go to the altar of God,

to the God of my joy and gladness;

and on the harp I will give thanks to you, O God my God.

–Psalm 43:3-4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


There are at least two ways to be wrong:  sincerely and insincerely.  Certainly there have always been those people who lead others astray knowingly.  The majority of false teachers and prophets over time, I propose, have not known of their error.  They have been the blind leading the blind, with disastrous results for all involved.

A brief catalog of named errors I have compiled from these days’ readings follows:

  1. Fixating on relatively minor points at the expense of relatively major ones,
  2. Acting disrespectfully of sacred rituals, and
  3. Acting disrespectfully of sacred places.

People of good faith disagree about what constitutes an example of the first point.  Is insisting on the circumcision of males an example of it?  St. Paul the Apostle, in his reformed state, thought so.  Yet the practice was a major point in the Old Testament and a mark of Jewish identity.  As you probably know, O reader, identity is a sensitive psychological issue.  That seems to be the reality for Jews of today who fall back upon identity and the theology of covenant when defending the practice against secular critics.  I am somewhat sympathetic to these faithful Jews.

In St. Paul’s day the question focused on the issue of whether a Gentile had to convert to Judaism before becoming a Christian.  At the time Christianity was still a Jewish sect, after all.  Thus issues of identity, inclusion, and exclusion collided.  The Apostle sided with inclusion, as I tend to do.  Reflecting on the readings for the previous post led to me to write about removing barriers to trusting in God, upon whom we depend completely.  In that spirit, then, should we not remove barriers to coming to God, who beckons us?

May we, while taking God and divine commandments seriously, do so in ways which smooth the path to salvation, not construct barriers to it.








Devotion for November 2 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments


Above:  The Prophet Jeremiah, from the Sistine Chapel Ceiling, by Michelango Buonarroti

Image in the Public Domain

Jeremiah and Matthew, Part I:  Those Whom God Has Qualified Then Called




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 1:1-19

Psalm 61 (Morning)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening)

Matthew 21:23-46


So I will always sing praise to your name,

and day by day fulfill my vows.

–Psalm 61:8, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)


So will I always sing praise to your name:

while I daily perform my vows.

–Psalm 61:8, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)


Then Jesus said, “Truly I tell you:  tax-collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.  For when John came to show you the right way to live, you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and prostitutes did; and even when you had seen that, you did not change your minds and believe him.

–Matthew 21:31b-32, The Revised English Bible


Prostitutes were prostitutes.  Tax collectors were people who stole from their fellow countrymen to fund the occupying Roman Empire.  Both were among the “notorious sinners,” many of whom became dining companions of Jesus.  Before that many of them had headed advice from St. John the Baptist.

In contrast, many professional religious people, being invested in the corrupt Temple system, rejected both Jesus and St. John the Baptist.  That system depended on offerings, which were especially onerous burdens imposed on peasants already struggling under Roman taxation.  Jesus, of course, confronted that corrupt Temple system, which constituted part of collaboration with the imperium.

So, in the tradition of the last being first and the first being last, repentant prostitutes and tax collectors preceded many respectable religious professionals in the Kingdom of God.  That statement must have rung harshly in the ears of the respectable religious professionals who heard it.

But, as God told the young Prophet Jeremiah, God does not call the qualified.  No, God qualifies the called.  And, even when one’s mission is to preach the truth to those who will refuse to heed sage words, but will instead plot violence against the one who utters them, God will protect that prophet if his name is Jeremiah.  St. John the Baptist died.  So did Jesus.  The latter arose after a few days, of course.

So, O reader, which spot do you occupy?  Are you a prophet or a repentant prostitute or tax collector, at least metaphorically?  Or are you more like one of the vilified chief priests and Temple elders?  And what is God calling you to become next?









Week of Proper 25: Friday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 25: Saturday, Year 2   10 comments

Above:  Paul Writing His Epistles, a Painting from the 1500s

Words of Encouragement

NOVEMBER 2 and 3, 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.



Philippians 1:1-30 (Revised English Bible):

From Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all God’s people at Philippi, who are incorporate in Christ Jesus, with the bishops and deacons.

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

I thank my God every time I think of you; whenever I pray for you, my prayers are always joyful, because of the part you have taken in the work of the gospel from the first day until now.  Of this I am confident, that he who who started the good work in you will bring it to completion by the day of Christ Jesus.  It is only natural that I should feel like this about you, because I have great affection for you, knowing that, both while I am kept in prison and when I am called on to defend the truth of the gospel, you all share in this privilege of mine.  God knows how I long for you with the deep yearning of Christ Jesus himself.  And this is my prayer, that your love may grow ever richer in knowledge and insight of every kind, enabling you to learn by experience what things really matter.  Then on the day of Christ you will be flawless and without blame, yielding the full harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

My friends, I want you to understand that the progress of the gospel has actually been helped by what has happened to me.  It has become common knowledge throughout the imperial guard, and indeed among the public at large, that my imprisonment is in Christ’s cause; and my being in prison has given most of our fellow-Christians confidence to speak the word of God fearlessly and with extraordinary courage.

Some, it is true, proclaim Christ in a jealous and quarrelsome spirit, but some jealous and do it in goodwill.  These are moved by love, knowing that it is to defend the gospel that I am where I am; the others are moved by selfish ambition and present Christ from mixed motives, meaning to cause me distress as I lie in prison.  What does it matter?  One way or another, whether sincerely or not, Christ is proclaimed; and for that I rejoice.

Yes, and I shall go on rejoicing; for I know well that the issue will be my deliverance, because you are praying for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ is given me for support.  It is my confident hope that nothing will daunt me or prevent me from speaking boldly; and that now as always Christ will display his greatness in me, whether the verdict be life or death.  For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.  If I am to go on living in the body there is fruitful work for me to do.  Which then am I to choose?  I cannot tell.  I am pulled two ways:   my own desire is to depart and be with Christ–that is better by far; but for your sake the greater need is for me to remain in the body.  This convinces me:  I am sure I shall remain, and stand by you all to ensure your progress and joy in the faith, so that on my account you may have even more cause for pride in Christ Jesus–through seeing me restored to you.

Whatever happens, let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether or not I come and see you for myself I may hear that you are standing firm, united in spirit and in mind, side by side in the struggle to advance the gospel faith, meeting your opponents without so much as a tremor.  This is a sure sign to them that destruction is in store for them and salvation for you, a sign from God himself; for you have been granted the privilege not only of believing in Christ but also of suffering for him.  Your conflict is the same as mine; once you saw me in it, and now you hear I am in it still.


Psalm 111 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):


I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,

in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.

Great are the deeds of the LORD!

they are studied by all who delight in them.

3 His work is full of majesty and splendor,

and his righteousness endures for ever.

He makes his marvelous works to be remembered;

the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.

5 He gives food to those who fear him;

he is ever mindful of his covenant.

6 He has shown his people the power of his works

in giving them the lands of the nations.

The works of his hands are faithfulness and justice;

all his commandments are sure.

They stand fast for ever and ever,

because they are done in truth and equity.

He sent redemption to his people;

he commanded his covenant for ever;

holy and awesome is his Name.

10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;

those who act accordingly have a good understanding;

his praise endures for ever.


Psalm 42:2-6 (TANAKH: The Holy Scriptures):

Like a hind crying for water,

my soul cries for You, O God;

my soul thirsts for God, the living God;

O when will I come to appear before God!

My tears have been my food day and night;

I am ever tainted with, “Where is your God?”

When I think of this, I pour out my soul:

how I walked with the crowd, moved with them,

the festive throng, to the House of God

with joyous shouts of praise.

Why so downcast, my soul,

why disquieted within me?

Have hope in God;

I will yet praise Him

for his saving presence.


Luke 14:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

One sabbath he [Jesus] went to have a meal in the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they were watching him closely.  There, in front of him, was a man suffering from dropsy, and Jesus asked the lawyers and the Pharisees:

Is it permitted to heal people on the sabbath or not?

They said nothing.  So he took the man, cured him, and sent him away.  Then he turned to them and said,

If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well, will he hesitate to pull him out on the sabbath day?

To this they could find no reply.

When he noticed how the guests were trying to secure the places of honour, he spoke to them in a parable:

When somebody asks you to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the place of honour.  It may be that some person more distinguished than yourself has been invited; and the host will come to say to you, “Give this man your seat.”  Then you will look foolish as you go to take the lowest place.  No, when you receive the invitation, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he will say, “Come up higher, my friend.”  Then all your fellow-guests will see the respect in which you are held.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled; and who ever humbles himself will be exalted.


The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 25:  Friday, Year 1:

Week of Proper 25:  Saturday, Year 1:


Paul wrote the Letter to the Philippians; there is no reasonable doubt about that fact.  The date of composition was no earlier than 52 and no later than 62 C.E., and the setting of the writing was a prison.  Philippi was a major city in what is now Greece.  Located on a major east-west road, its site was strategic.  The church there faced some problems, notably persecution as well as dissention sown by Judaizers and proto-Gnostics.  Such lack of unity in the face of persecution was troublesome.

Some scholars think that this epistle might actually be two letters mashed up.  If so, this is not the only such case in Pauline literature, for scholars have detected the same issue in Corinthian epistles.  Indeed, St. Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna martyred in 156 C.E., wrote his own epistle to the Philippian church.  He referred to the Pauline letters to that community:

Not that I should be taking on myself to write to you in this way about the life of holiness, my brothers, if you yourselves had not invited me to do so.  For I am as far as anyone else of my sort from having the wisdom of our blessed and glorious Paul.  During his residence with you he gave the men of those days clear and sound instruction in the word of truth, while he was there in person among them; and even after his departure he still sent letters which, if you study them attentively, will enable you to make progress in the faith which was delivered to you.  Faith is the mother of us all; with Hope following in her train, and Love of God and Christ and neighbour leading the way.  Let a man’s mind be wholly bent on these, and he has fulfilled all the demands of holiness; for to possess Love is to be beyond the reach of sin.–Early Christian Writings:  The Apostolic Fathers, Translated by Maxwell Staniforth; Translation revised by Andrew Louth (Penguin Books, 1987), page 120

I have preserved the unity of Chapter 1.  The scope of the chapter becomes apparent this way but would be lost by breaking it into two sections, per the lectionary.  I have examined the whole chapter closely and fixated on Paul’s tone; he, although in prison, rejoices.  He suffers for Christ and considers this a privilege, one in which the Philippian Christians share.  Paul rejoices because he is in Christ.

Paul had come to occupy a spiritual plane I have yet to encounter.  Reading about saints and pouring over the writings of saints encourages me to persevere more and to whine less often.  Those great men and women of the faith have experienced hardships worse than mine and/or dealt successfully with struggles more daunting than mine.  If they can keep the faith, so can I.

Our journey through the Letter to the Philippians has begun.  I plan to type every word of the epistle, an exercise which will bring me into close contact with that text.  We will resume with Monday in the Week of Proper 26, Year 2.


Week of Proper 25: Saturday, Year 1   18 comments

Above:  A Heraldic Chair

Image Source = Rodolph de Salis

Of Humility, Honor, and Shame

NOVEMBER 2, 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.


Romans 11:1-6, 11-12, 25-29 (Revised English Bible):

I ask then:  Has God rejected his people?  Of course not! I am an Israelite myself, of the stock of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.  God has not rejected the people he acknowledge of old as his own.  Surely you know what scripture says in the story of Elijah–how he pleads with God against Israel:

Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have torn down your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.

But what was the divine word to him?

I have left myself seven thousand men who have not knelt to Baal.

In just the same way at the present time a “remnant” has come into being, chosen by the grace of God.  But if it is by grace, then it does not rest on deeds, or grace would cease to be grace.

I ask then:  When they stumbled, was their fall final?  Far from it!  Through a false step on their part salvation has come to the Gentiles, and this in turn will stir them to envy.  If their false step means the enrichment of the world, if their falling short means the enrichment of the Gentiles, how much more will their coming to full strength mean!

There is a divine secret here, my friends, which I want to share with you, to keep you from thinking yourselves wise:  this partial hardening has come on Israel only until the Gentiles have been admitted in full strength; once that has happened, the whole of Israel will be saved, in accordance with the scripture:

From Zion shall come the Deliverer;

he shall remove wickedness from Jacob.

And this is the covenant I will grant them,

when I take away their sins.

Judged by their response to the gospel, they are God’s enemies for your sake; but judged by his choice, they are dear to him for the sake of the patriarchs; for the gracious gifts of God and his calling are irrevocable.

Psalm 94:14-19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

14  For the LORD will not abandon his people,

nor will he forsake his own.

15  For judgment will again be just,

and all the true of heart will follow it.

16  Who rose up for me against the wicked?

who took my part against the evildoers?

17  If the LORD had not come to my help,

I should soon have dwelt in the land of silence.

18  As often as I said, “My foot has slipped,”

your love, O LORD, upheld me.

19  When many cares fill my mind,

your consolations cheer my soul.

Luke 14:1, 7-11 (Revised English Bible):

One sabbath he [Jesus] went to have a meal in the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they were watching him closely.

(sabbath healing–a text for the previous post–here)

When he noticed how the guests were trying to secure the places of honour, he spoke to them in a parable:

When somebody asks you to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the place of honour.  It may be that some person more distinguished than yourself has been invited; and the host will come to say to you, “Give this man your seat.”  Then you will look foolish as you go to take the lowest place.  No, when you receive the invitation, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he will say, “Come up higher, my friend.”  Then all your fellow-guests will see the respect in which you are held.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled; and who ever humbles himself will be exalted.


The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Honor and shame are social concepts, for we have only the amount of each that other assign us.  This fact forms part of the backdrop of the parable from Luke 14.  The fact remains that we are more likely to cause socially awkward situations for ourselves by seeking honor and glory than permitting others to bestow it on us.

But I propose that there is a better way, which is not seeking honor and glory as others define it, but finding them in God.  Each of us in the human race bears the image of God.  Some of us are unaware of this fact, but that does not change our reality.  So, if we play with the metaphors, Yahweh is our father is some ways and our mother in others, Jesus is our brother, and saints (living or dead, canonized or not) are family members.  Jesus died as a criminal, in a way meant to bring dishonor to one.  Before that he left Heaven to become fully human.  (He was already fully divine.)  St. Peter died when crucified upside down, a crown stoned St. Stephen to death, and martyrdoms have continued to the present day.

So, in the Kingdom of God, honor, glory, and shame have very different meanings than they do elsewhere.

St. Paul the Apostle (himself beheaded by order of Emperor Nero) wrote eloquently and at length of the importance of grace.  By grace God has not given up on those–Jews included–who have not recognized Jesus as the Messiah.  And, also by grace, God has grafted Gentiles onto the tree of salvation.  I am a Gentile, so it follows that, by grace, God has grafted me onto the tree of salvation.  Of course, Paul’s definition of faith includes the act of responding positively to God, who has initiated the salvific actions.  This positive response is one of free will, which we have because God has placed it there.  So everything goes back to God.

So Paul’s only spiritual boast was in Christ, as is mine.  This is an attitude of humility, which is quite separate from self-degradation.  Claiming to be lower than pond scum is an example of self-degradation.  No, I am a bearer of the image of God because God has placed it within me.  As a member of the human species, my basic problem is one of sin–pf course–but I am higher than pond scum.  Humility, rather, is having a realistic self-estimate then acting on it.

The proper source of my identity is God.  My honor comes from God and is in and through the same.  I could be in the most degraded hellhole on earth (Fortunately I am far from it.) on the account of Jesus, and I would remain remain undefiled by earthly notions of shame.

Years ago I read an interview with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  He repeated a story about a Jew during the Holocaust.  A Nazi guard forced the Jew to clean the toilets, which were especially disgusting.

Where is your God now?

the Nazi taunted the Jew.

Right here beside me in the muck,

he replied.