Archive for the ‘November 4’ Category

Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 26, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Lot and His Daughters

Above:   Lot and His Daughters, by Lucas van Leyden

Image in the Public Domain

The Good Society

NOVEMBER 4 and 5, 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:

Nehemiah 13:1-3, 23-31 (Monday)

Zechariah 7:1-14 (Tuesday)

Psalm 50 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (Monday)

Jude 5-21 (Tuesday)


“When you see a thief, you make him your friend,

and you cast your lot in with adulterers.

You have loosed your lips for evil,

and harnessed your tongue to a lie.

You are always speaking evil of your brother

and slandering your own mother’s son.

These things you have done, and I kept still,

and you thought that I am like you.”

–Psalm 50:18-21, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The Law of Moses teaches that, among other things:

  1. We humans depend on God for everything,
  2. We depend on each other also,
  3. We have no right to exploit each other,
  4. We are responsible to each other, and
  5. We are responsible for each other.

Thus hospitality is a great virtue, for it can make the difference between someone coming to harm or avoiding harm, as well as the difference between someone dying or living.

My summary of the forbidden behaviors in these days’ readings is that they are generally activities that harm others.  I note that, in post-exilic zeal to obey the Law of Moses, many people went too far with regard to the treatment of foreigners.  The Book of Jonah pushes back against such excesses.  The Book of Ruth, in which a Moabite woman marries a Hebrew man and becomes an ancestor of King David, is probably another protest against such zealousness-turned-xenophobia, such as that praised in Nehemiah 13:1.

As for homosexual behavior (as opposed to homosexuality as a sexual preference, an understanding which did not exist until recent centuries), Jude 7 is the only verse in the Bible to make explicit the link between homosexual conduct and the story of Sodom in Genesis 19.  In that chapter Lot, who has lived in the city since Genesis 13, presumably knows his neighbors well enough to understand what they like.  Lot has taken in two angels.  A mob gathers outside his door and demands that he send them outside to that they can gang rape the angels.  Lot refuses the demands and offers to send his two virgin daughters out instead.  (Bad father!)  Fortunately for Lot’s daughters, the mob is not interested and the angels have a plan to save Lot and his family from the imminent destruction of the city.  In the context of Genesis 19 the planned sexual activity is rape, not anything consensual; may nobody miss that point.  The standard Biblical condemnations of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah are like those in Ezekiel 16:48-50 and 3 Maccabees 2:5-6, where one reads that the cities’ sins were notorious and the people were arrogant and brazen in their iniquity.  Ezekiel 16 adds to that description the neglect of the poor and the hungry–a lack of hospitality.

Zechariah 7:8-14 states that the pre-exilic Kingdoms of Israel and Judah violated the basic requirements of the Law of Moses, and paid the price.  The societies, generally speaking, did not administer true justice and act kindly and compassionately.  No, it oppressed widows, orphans, the poor, and resident aliens.  The societies were unrepentant, and divine patience ran out.

Society is people.  It shapes its members, who also influence it.  May we–you, O reader, and I–influence society for the better–to care for the vulnerable, to resist bullying and corruption, to favor kindness and compassion, and to seek and find the proper balance between individual and collective responsibility.  May we eschew bigotry in all forms, for we have a divine mandate to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  May we seek to love God and each other fully, manifesting respect for the image of God in each other, seeking to build each other up, for that is not only the path to the common good but is also godly.







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 4 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments


Above:  Jeremiah from the Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, by Michelangelo

Image in the Public Domain

Jeremiah and Matthew, Part III:  Putting God to the Test



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 5:1-9

Psalm 5 (Morning)

Psalms 84 and 29 (Evening)

Matthew 22:23-46


Shall I not punish such deeds?

–says the LORD–

Shall I not bring retribution

On a nation such as this?

–Jeremiah 5:9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


For you are God who takes no pleasure in wickedness;

no evil can dwell in you.

–Psalm 5:4, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)


For you are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness:

no one who is evil can be your guest.

–Psalm 5:4, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)


In Jeremiah 5 God defends the impending destruction of Jerusalem.  There is nobody who acts justly and seeks integrity, God says in 5:1.  Not only are people unrighteous, but they are also unrepentant.

That sounds like an accurate description of those who peppered our Lord and Savior with questions while trying to entrap him inside his own words in Matthew 22.  He beat them at their own game, of course.  Whenever someone puts God to the test, God passes with flying colors.

I have tried to read Matthew 22:23-46 as a member of that gospel’s original audience might have done.  That audience consisted of Jewish Christians marginalized from their Hebrew community looking back at the life of Jesus in the context of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple therein at the end of the First Jewish War.  From that position of spiritual and human conflict–resentment even–such an account must have seemed like a prelude to the cataclysmic events of that war and the words from Jeremiah 5 might have echoed in more than one head.  But that is not my perspective.  And I take caution to avoid such a point of view, for I have clear and unpleasant memories of televangelists and others making tacky, insensitive, and judgmental statements of that sort after disasters of both human and natural origins–Hurricane Katrina (2005), the September 11 attacks (2001), etc.  No, my impulse is toward love.  As for judgment, I leave that matter to God, who is infinitely wiser than any human being.









Proper 26, Year B   25 comments

Above:  Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun and Her Daughter (1789), by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun


The Sunday Closest to November 2

The Twenty-Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

NOVEMBER 4, 2018



Ruth 1:1-22 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

In the days when the chieftains ruled, there was a famine in the land; and a man of Bethlehem in Judah, with his wife and two sons, went to reside in the country of Moab.  The man’s name was Elimelech, his wife’s name was Naomi, and his two sons were named Mahlon and Chilion–Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah.  They came to the country of Moab and remained there.

Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left with her two sons.  They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth, and they lived there about ten years.  Then those two–Mahlon and Chilion–also died; so the woman was left without her two sons and without her husband.

She started out with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab; for in the country of Moab she had heard that the LORD had taken note of His people and given them food.  Accompanied by her two daughters-in-law, she left the place where she had been living; and they set out on the road back to the land of Judah.

But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law,

Turn back, each of you to her mother’s house.  May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me!  May the LORD grant that each of you find security in the house of a husband!

And she kissed them farewell.  They broke into weeping, and said to her,

No, we will return with you to your people.

But Naomi replied,

Turn back, my daughters!  Why should you go with me?  Have I any more sons in my body who might be husbands for you?  Turn back, my daughters, for I am too old to be married.  Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I were married tonight, and I also bore sons, should you wait for them to grow up?  Should you on their account debar yourselves from marriage?  Oh no, my daughters!  My lot is far more bitter than yours, for the hand of the LORD has struck out against me.

They broke into weeping again, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law farewell.  But Ruth clung to her.  So she said,

See, your sister-in-law has returned to her people and her gods.  Go follow your sister-in-law.

But Ruth replied,

Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back and not follow you.  For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.  Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.  Thus and more may the LORD do to me if anything but death parts me from you.

When [Naomi] saw how determined she was to go with her, she ceased to argue with her; and the two went on until they reached Bethlehem.

When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole city buzzed with excitement over them.  The women said,

Can this be Naomi?

She replied,

Do not call me Naomi.  Call me Mara, for Shaddai has made my lot very bitter.  I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty.  How can you call me Naomi, when the LORD has brought me back empty.  How can you call me Naomi, when the LORD has dealt harshly with me, when Shaddai has brought misfortune upon me!

Thus Naomi returned from the country of Moab; she returned with her daughter-in-law Ruth the Moabite.  They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.

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.



Deuteronomy 6:1-9 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And this is the commandment, the laws, and the judgments that YHWH, your God, commanded to teach you to do in the land to which you’re crossing to take possession of it, so that you’ll fear YHWH, your God, to observe all His laws and His commandments that I’m commanding you:  you and your child and your child’s child, all the days of your life, and so that your days will be extended.  And you will shall listen, Israel, and and be watchful to it, that it will be good for you and that you’ll multiply very much, as YHWH, your fathers’ God, spoke to you:  a land flowing with milk and honey.

Listen, Israel:  YHWH is our God.  YHWH is one.  And you shall love YHWH, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  And you shall impart them to your children, and you shall speak about them when you sit in your house and when you go in the road and when you lie down and when you get up.  And you shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall become bands between your eyes.  And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and in your gates.

Psalm 119:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Happy are they whose way is blameless,

who walk in the law of the LORD!

Happy are they who observe his decrees

and seek him with all their hearts!

3 Who never do any wrong,

but always walk in his ways.

4 You laid down your commandments,

that we should fully keep them.

Oh, that my ways were made so direct

that I might keep your statutes!

Then I should not be put to shame,

when I regard all your commandments.

I will thank you with an unfeigned heart,

when I have learned your righteous judgments.

I will keep your statutes;

do not utterly forsake me.


Hebrews 9:11-14 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once and for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but not his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.  For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.


Mark 12:28-34 (Revised English Bible):

Then one of the scribes, who had been listening to these discussions and had observed how well Jesus answered, came forward and asked him,

Which is the first of all the commandments?

He answered,

The first is, “Hear, O Israel:  the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”  The second is this:  “You must love your neighbour as yourself.”  No other commandment is greater than these.

The scribe said to him,

Well said, Teacher.  You are right in saying that God is one and beside him there is no other.  And to love him with all your heart, all your understanding, and all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself–that means far more than any whole-offerings and sacrifices.

When Jesus saw how thoughtfully he answered, he said to him,

You are not far from the kingdom of God.

After that nobody dared put any more questions to him.

The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Proper 26, Year A:

Ruth 1:

Deuteronomy 6:

Hebrews 9:

Mark 12:

Matthew 22 (Parallel to Mark 12):

Luke 10 (Parallel to Mark 12):

A Prayer for Compassion:

Prayers for Those Who Suffer:


The context for this Sunday’s reading from Mark is Holy Week; Jesus will die soon.  This places the statement about the greatest commandments in a certain light and helps explain the lectionary committee’s decision to pair Hebrews 9:11-14 with Mark 12:28-34.  And Jesus pulled the two greatest commandments from the Law of Moses–Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18, to be precise.  Our Lord also agreed with his elder (and deceased) contemporary, Rabbi Hillel, on the question of the summary of the Law of Moses.

There are types of love in the Bible, and we see some of the best representatives of love in this Sunday’s readings.  A daughter-in-law remains loyal to her mother-in-law.  We read of the commandments to love God fully and our neighbors as ourselves, and of the depth of God’s love for us.  I must add something else here to augment that thought.  I write devotions in sequence, according to lectionaries (more or less).  Very recently I wrote a devotion on Ephesians 5, which, while discussing marriage, commands the husband to love his wife.  The text speaks of the two as one flesh:

He who loves his wife loves himself.–Ephesians 5:28b, New Revised Standard Version

We will love ourselves most or all of the time, unless we loathe ourselves, as some do.  I suspect, though, that egotism is more rampant than self-loathing.  So the main spiritual task for most of us is to place ourselves in proper context–not superior to others in the eyes of God–and to act compassionately toward others, as if toward ourselves.  We are not isolated from others; what one does affects others.  Yes, we are separate and unique in body and personality, but no, we are not isolated from others even in these matters.  We have the power to build people up or to tear them down; may we, for the common good and the love of God, do the former, not the latter.


Week of Proper 26: Monday, Year 1   15 comments

Above:  A Girl Begging in India

Image Source = Steve Evans

The Divine Preference for the Poor

NOVEMBER 4, 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 11:29-36 (Revised English Bible):

The gracious gifts of God and his calling are irrevocable.  Just as formerly you were disobedient to God, but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so now, because of the mercy  shown to you, they have proved disobedient, but only in order that they too may receive mercy.  For in shutting all mankind in the prison of disobedience, God’s purpose was to show mercy to all mankind.

How deep are the wealth

and the wisdom and the knowledge of God!

How inscrutable his judgements,

how unsearchable his ways!

Who knows the mind of the Lord?

Who has been his counsellor?

Who has made a gift to him first,

and earned a gift in return?

From him and through him and for him all things exist–

to him be glory for ever! Amen.

Psalm 16:5-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

5  O LORD, you are my portion and my cup;

it is you who uphold my lot.

6  My boundaries enclose a pleasant land;

indeed, I have a goodly heritage.

7  I will bless the LORD who gives me counsel;

my heart teaches me, night after night.

8  I have set the LORD always before me;

because he is at my right hand I shall not fall.

9  My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;

my body also shall rest in hope.

10  For you will not abandon me to the grave,

nor let your holy one see the Pit.

11  You will show me the path of life;

in your presence there is fullness of joy,

and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

Luke 14:12-14 (Revised English Bible):

Then he [Jesus] said to his host,

When you are having guests for lunch or supper, do not invite your friends, your brothers or other relations, or your rich neighbours; they will only ask you back again and so you will be repaid.  But when you give a party, ask the poor, the cripples, the lame, and the blind.  That is the way to find happiness, because they have no means of repaying you.  You will be repaid on the day when the righteous rise from the dead.


The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


The brief reading from Luke occurs within the setting a dinner party at the home of a leading Pharisee.  This party occurs on the sabbath, a day on which scandalizes his host by healing a man with dropsy.  Then our Lord cautions against seeking the place of honor.  Now, in verses 12-14, Jesus says that the party guests ought to be the kind of people most of us might prefer to ignore–the poor, marginal, and vulnerable members of society.

In other words, check for the absence of pedigree, not the presence of it, when compiling a guest list.

This is radical material, by the standards of most human societies, yet not in relation to the rest of the Bible.  More than one Hebrew prophet condemned kings and societies for the sin of gross economic inequality and exploitation.  Some of those prophets were also marginal people who acted strangely; Jeremiah comes to mind immediately.  I think also of the story of the rich man and Lazarus, as well as of the first verses of James 2.  (Read them for yourself; you will see what I mean.)  I could continue, but I have made my point sufficiently.

St. Laurence of Rome (died 258 C.E.) understood the meaning of Jesus’ teaching from Luke 14:12-14 well.  Emperor Valerian had ordered the execution of Pope Sixtus II and seven deacons on August 4.   St. Laurence met his own martyrdom four days later.  Laurence, in charge of the church’s relief funds, had given them away to the poor.  When the prefect demanded that St. Laurence demanded information about the church’s treasures, the soon-to-be-martyr pointed to the poor and said (in Latin, of course), “These are the treasures of the Church.”  I will spare you, O reader, the gory details of how the saint died.

Paul wrote of the inscrutable, unsearchable, and deep wisdom and mercy of God.  This mercy applies to all, rich and poor alike.  Perhaps the Bible speaks of showing mercy to the poor so much because they have received so little of it from their fellow human beings.  They make the rest of us uncomfortable because they remind us of how vulnerable we really are.  Sometimes we justify not helping poor people when we can; that bum is undeserving, we tell ourselves.  “Bum” is a word many people use far too often.  Yet God’s economics are not ours, and Jesus’ vision of the ideal dinner party is far removed from any most of us have attended.  God’s thoughts indeed are not ours.

Jesus, by his words and deeds, points out to me where I keep falling short of his standards.  This day’s reading from Luke 14 fits into this category.  If Luke 14:12-14 makes you uncomfortable, O reader, do not flee from the discomfort; embrace it.

In the name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.