Archive for the ‘October 6’ Category

Devotion for Proper 22, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Joseph Reveals His Identity, by Peter von Cornelius

Image in the Public Domain

Inclusion and Exclusion

OCTOBER 6, 2019


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 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


Genesis 45 or Isaiah 56:1-8

Psalm 31:9-18

1 Corinthians 11:17-34

Matthew 18:15-35


Dealing with people can be difficult for various reasons, not the least of which is that some people are difficult.  Many are toxic, emotionally and spiritually.

Consider the family of Jacob, O reader.  The happy turn of events does not negate the perfidy of previous chapters.  Do you not, O reader, know that eventually Jacob confronted those sons of his who had told him years prior that Joseph was dead?  That is not a conversation recorded in Genesis.

Yet forgiveness carried the day.  And why not?  How often have we prayed to God for forgiveness and not been forgiving, of others or ourselves?  The hyperbolic debt of 10,000 talents (150,000 years’ worth of wages for a laborer) was impossible to repay.  Those who have received forgiveness have always incurred the obligation to forgive.  Forgiving others and self has always been the best policy for another reason also; grudges have always hurt those who have nurtured them.

God, in Isaiah 56:1-8, is quite inclusive, abolishing many barriers.  All those who believe in God and keep the divine commandments may participate in the future messianic salvation.  Foreigners may participate.  Eunuchs (excluded in Deuteronomy 23:2) may participate.

But we human beings tend to like exclusionary categories God rejects, do we not?  Divine grace seeks people like us and dissimilar from us.  It welcomes those who, regardless of any one of a set of factors, we might exclude, but whom God also loves.  The standard is a faithful response.

I have long been a churchy person.  Yet I have felt more spiritual kinship with refugees from organized religion than with certain other churchy people.  Many of the former group have been more receptive to grace than many of the latter group, the ones who made them feel unwelcome in the church.  These refugees from church have included homosexuals and people who have asked too many questions.  I, as a churchy heterosexual who enjoys questions, have sat among them and shown them that many Christians harbor attitudes that welcome them.

Eucharist in the Corinthian Church in the 50s C.E. was apparently not always welcoming.  It was a potluck meal upon which many of the poorer members depended.  Yet some of the more prosperous members ate ahead of time, did not contribute to the common meal, and took the occasion to become intoxicated.  All of these practices were abuses.

From the beginning of Christianity the Church has been rife with abuses.  Human nature has not changed over time, after all.  Ecclesiastical partisanship has not ceased.  Exploitation has not ceased.  However, God has not ceased to bely our ecclesiastical sins either.

May we pay closer attention to that last point.









Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 22, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

March on Washington 1963

Above:  The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963

Photographer = Warren K. Leffler

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ds-04411

Looking Upon the Heart

OCTOBER 4, 5, and 6, 2018


The Collect:

Sovereign God, you have created us to live

in loving community with one another.

Form us for life that is faithful and steadfast,

and teach us to trust like little children,

that we may reflect the image of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49


The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 20:1-18 (Thursday)

Genesis 21:22-34 (Friday)

Genesis 23:1-20 (Saturday)

Psalm 8 (All Days)

Galatians 3:23-29 (Thursday)

Romans 8:1-11 (Friday)

Luke 16:14-18 (Saturday)


When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars that you have ordained,

What are mortals, that you should be mindful of them;

mere human beings, that you should seek them out?

You have made them little lower than the angels

and crown them with glory and honour.

–Psalm 8:4-6, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)


The Book of Genesis is honest about the vices and virtues of Abraham and Sarah.  Abraham was a man who valued his relationship with God so much that he acted to the detriment of his family sometimes.  Sarah knew jealousy and acted accordingly.  Abraham, who preferred that people deal honestly with him, dealt dishonestly with others on occasion, telling lies.  These were not the

No, that dress does not make you look fat

variety of lies.  No, these were lies with negative consequences for people.  Yet Abraham and Sarah were instruments of divine grace in their time.  Their legacy has never ceased to exist.

Grace is radical and frequently disturbing.  It ignores human-created distinctions (as in the pericope from Galatians) and calls us to live according to a higher purpose.  We are free from the shackles we have accepted, those which others have imposed upon us, and those we have imposed upon ourselves.  We are free to love God and our fellow human beings as fully as possible, via grace.  We are free to follow Jesus, our Lord and Savior, who taught us via words and deeds how to live according to the Kingdom of God.

Recently I watched a sermon by Michael Curry, soon to become the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church.  He spoke of an incident in the Gospels in which our Lord and Savior’s relatives, convinced that Jesus was crazy, sought to take him away and control him.  Seeking to control Jesus is what much of the Christian Church has sought to do for a long time, Curry stated accurately.  Our Lord and Savior was–and remains–beyond control, fortunately.  Yet elements of institutionalized Christianity have retained human-created distinctions (such as those St. Paul the Apostle listed in the pericope from Galatians) and have labeled doing so orthodoxy.  Fortunately, other elements of institutionalized Christianity have behaved properly in that regard.

Boundaries provide order, hence definition and psychological security.  Some of them are necessary and proper.  Other boundaries, however, exclude improperly, labeling members of the household of God as outsiders, unclean persons, et cetera.  Jesus, as the Gospels present him, defied social conventions and broke down boundaries relative to, among other factors, gender, ritual impurity, and economic status.  Erroneous distinctions regarding gender and economic status remain in societies, of course.  Many of us lack the concept of ritual impurity, but we have probably learned from our cultures or subcultures that certain types of people are somehow impure, that contact with them will defile us.  Often these are racial or ethnic distinctions.

The example of Jesus commands us to, among other things, lay aside erroneous standards of judging and to consider only the proverbial heart.  That is a difficult spiritual vocation, but it is a matter of obedience to God.  It is also possible via grace.









Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 22, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  In Memory of Jonathan Myrick Daniels, Who Gave His Life for Another Human Being Near Selma, Alabama, in 1965

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta


OCTOBER 5 and 6, 2020


The Collect:

Beloved God, from you come all things that are good.

Lead us by the inspiration of your Spirit to know those things that are right,

and by your merciful guidance, help us to do them,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49


The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 19:10-14 (Monday)

Isaiah 27:1-6 (Tuesday)

Psalm 144 (Both Days)

1 Peter 2:4-10 (Monday)

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (Tuesday)


May there be no breaching of the walls, no going into exile,

no wailing in the public squares.

Happy are the people of whom this is so!

happy are the people whose God is the LORD!

–Psalm 144:15-16, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The Old Testament readings use the imagery of vineyards to describe the people of God.  In Ezekiel 19 this is the meaning of that metaphor, with the Kingdom of Judah as a vine therein and the ill-fated King Zedekiah as a stem.  Exile came, of course.   And we read in Isaiah 27 that the future vineyard will be a glorious and Godly one, that redemption will come.  Yet the consequences of sin will stay play out.

Redemption via Christ Jesus is the topic in the readings from 1 Peter 2 and 2 Corinthians 5.  Christ reconciles us to God.  Jesus is the innocent Lamb of God, the cornerstone of faith for Christians and a stumbling block for others.  Our spiritual tasks as the redeemed include functioning as agents of divine reconciliation.  Grace is free, but not cheap.  As I consider the honor roll of reconcilers in the name of Jesus I notice the names of many martyrs and other persecuted people. Jesus is there, of course, as is St. Paul the Apostle.  In recent decades martyred reconcilers have included Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador (died in 1980) and Jonathan Myrick Daniels (died in 1965) and the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. (died in 1968), of the United States.  Others, such as Nelson Mandela (died in 2013) spent long terms in prison then did much to heal the wounds of their societies.

Judgment and mercy coexist in the Bible.  The first comes then the second follows; that is a recurring pattern in the Old and New Testaments.  Reconciling, not seeking revenge, is the way to break the cycle of violence and to start the cycle of love and peace.  Relinquishing our bloodlusts can prove difficult, but the price of not doing so is both avoidable and terrible.

May we reconcile with God and, as much as possible, with each other.  The latter will prove impossible sometimes, due to conditions such as the death, inability, or unwillingness of the other party or parties.  In such cases at least one person can surrender the grudge; that is progress, at least.  And grace enables not only that but reconciliation in other cases.







Devotion for October 6 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments


Above:  Jesus Healing a Paralytic, by Bernhard Rode

Image in the Public Domain

Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part VIII:  False Notions of Holiness



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:

Deuteronomy 5:22-6:9

Psalm 103 (Morning)

Psalms 117 and 139 (Evening)

Matthew 9:1-17


Deuteronomy 5:22-6:9 is a generally positive lection with a dark cloud hanging over it.  We readers know (or at least we should know) that the good intentions will not last long and that the consequences will be dire and predictable.

I suppose that our Lord and Savior’s critics thought that they were on the side of righteousness and that Jesus was not.  Perhaps they thought of the consequences of collective apostasy and in the Hebrew Bible.  Maybe they feared that Jesus was leading people astray.  They were wrong, of course, for they represented a corrupt religious system.  And Jesus, with his authority, challenged theirs.  He also challenged basic assumptions regarding fasting, table fellowship, ritual purity, and the cause of the paralyzed man’s suffering.  He redefined holiness to be more inclusive than exclusive, drawing people into the big tent rather than consigning large populations to the category of the hopelessly lost.

It is easy and frequently tempting to define one’s self as belonging to an elite club of holy people.  To do so is certainly ego-reinforcing. Yet it is a trap for one’s self and a careless disregard for others who bear the image of God.

So I challenge you, O reader, to ask yourself some questions.  Who are the people you blame unjustly for their problems?  Who are the people you exclude unjustly?  Who are the people from whom you keep a distance so that they will not “contaminate” you by their presence?  I ask myself the same questions about how I think of and act toward others.  Yes, we will not get along with all people; that is a morally neutral fact of life.  And we will have little in common with many individuals.  But we must not assume that anyone is hopelessly lost to God.






Proper 22, Year C   10 comments


Above:  A Drawing of a Mulberry Tree, 1919 or 1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-npcc-28990

Increased Faith

The Sunday Closest to October 5

Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost

OCTOBER 6, 2019


The Assigned Readings:

Lamentations 1:1-6 and Lamentations 3:19-26 (as a canticle) or Psalm 137


Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4 and Psalm 37:1-10


2 Timothy 1:1-14

Luke 17:5-10

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Confession:

Prayer of Dedication:


The readings from Habakkuk and Lamentations speak of suffering because of sins.  Thus they reflect a major theological theme of the Hebrew Scriptures.  Yet, amid widespread apostasy, faithful people remain.  And sometimes the faithful suffer because of their piety.  There is more than one cause for suffering.

“Faith” is a word with more than one meaning in the Bible.  In some instances it indicates an intellectual assent to a proposition or to propositions.  Thus, in the Letter of James, where this is the definition, works must accompany faith.  For the Apostle Paul, however, faith was inherently active, so works were already part of the formula and faith sufficed for justification to God.  The Letter to the Hebrews contains a third understanding, one in which faith is

the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

–11:1, New Revised Standard Version

There it is a valid way of knowing that which we can neither confirm nor debunk by another means.

Faith, in Luke 17:5f, follows the Pauline definition.  It must do so, for the Gospels exist to, among other things, encourage discipleship–following Jesus.  The request for increased levels of faith is a prayer to be able to obey God and follow Jesus better.

That is a proper spiritual gift to seek to increase.  It can enable one to survive suffering and hardship falling prey to anger and resentment, thereby poisoning one’s soul.  No, may we avoid poisoning our souls, by faith.  And may we have more of it, by grace.






Week of Proper 22: Monday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 22: Tuesday, Year 2   20 comments

Above:  An Entrance to a Gated Community

Image Source = Pixeltoo

The Universality of the Gospel of Jesus

OCTOBER 5 AND 6, 2020


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.


Sometimes lectionaries, the useful tools that they are, chop up material too much.  The readings for Monday and Tuesday in the Week of Proper 22, Year 1, on the Canadian Anglican lectionary I am following, provide examples to support this generalization.




Galatians 1:1-24 (Revised English Bible):

From Paul, an apostle commissioned not by any human authority or human act, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead.  I and all the friends now with me send greetings to the churches of Galatia.

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, to rescue us out of the present wicked age as our God and Father willed; to him be glory for ever and ever!  Amen.

I am astonished to find you turning away so quickly from him who called you by grace, and following a different gospel; only there are some who unsettle your minds by trying to distort the gospel of Christ.  But should anyone, even I myself or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel of Christ.  But should anyone, even I myself or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel other than the gospel I preached to you, let him be banned!  I warned you in the past and now I warn you again:  if anyone preaches a gospel other than the gospel you received, let him be banned!

Now do I  sound as if I were asking for human approval and not for God’s alone?  Am I currying favour with men?  If I were still seeking human favour, I should be no servant of Christ.

I must make it clear to you, my friends, that the gospel you heard me preach is not of human origin.  I did not take it over from anyone; no one taught it me; I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

You have heard what my manner of life was when I was still a practising Jew:  how savagely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it; and how in the practice of our national religion I outstripped most of my Jewish contemporaries by my boundless devotion to the traditions of my ancestors.  But then in his good pleasure God, who from my birth had set me apart, and who had called me through his grace, chose to reveal his Son in and through me, in order that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles.  Immediately, without consulting a single person, without going up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before me, I went off to Arabia, and afterwards returned to Damascus.

Three years later I did go up to Jerusalem to get to know Cephas, and I stayed two weeks with him.  I saw none of the other apostles, except James, the Lord’s brother.  What I write is plain truth; God knows I am not lying!

Then I left for the regions of Syria and Cilicia.  I was still unknown by sight to the Christian congregations in Judaea; they had simply heard it said,

Our former persecutor is preaching the good news  of the faith which once he tried to destroy,

and they praised God for what had happened to me.


Psalm 111:1-6 (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.


Psalm 139:1-14 (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.

10 If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me,

and the light around me turn to night,”

11 Darkness is not dark to you;

the night is as bright as the day;

darkness and light to you are both alike.

12 For you yourself created my inmost parts;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

13 I will thank you because I am marvelously made;

your works are wonderful, and I know it well.

14 My body was not hidden from you,

while I was being made in secret

and woven in the depths of the earth.


Luke 10:25-42 (The Jerusalem Bible):

There was a lawyer who, to disconcert him [Jesus], stood up and said to him,

Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life.

He said to him,

What is written in the Law”  What do you read there?

He replied,

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.

Jesus said,

You have answered right; do this and life is yours.

But the man was anxious to justify himself and said to Jesus,

And who is my neighbor?

Jesus replied,

A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of brigands; they took all he had, beat him and then made off, leaving him half dead.  Now a priest happened to be travelling down the same road, but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  In the same way a Levite who came to the place saw him, and passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan traveller who came upon him was moved with compassion when he saw him.  He went up and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them.  He then lifted him on to his mount, carried him to the inn and looked after him.  Next day, he took out two denarii and handed them to the innkeeper.  ”Look after him,” he said, “and on my way back I will make good any extra expense you have.”

[Jesus continued,]

Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands’ hands?

He replied,

The one who took pity on him.

Jesus said to him,

Go, and do the same yourself.

In the course of their journey he came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking.  Now Martha who was distracted with all the serving said,

Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself?  Please tell her to help me.

But the Lord answered:

Martha, Martha,

he said,

you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one.  It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.


The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Some  Related Posts:

Week of Proper 22:  Monday, Year 1:

Week of Proper 22:  Tuesday, Year 1:

The Feast of Saints Mary and Martha of Bethany, Friends of Jesus (July 29):


There exists uncertainty as to whether St. Paul wrote the Letter to the Galatians to churches in a region called Galatia (perhaps 49 or 50 C.E.) or to ethnic Galatians, whom he had visited during his second and third missionary journeys, which would date the epistle to circa 55 C.E.  This is a matter for scholars to debate, and it has no bearing on my devotional use of the letter.

What matters is this:  Paul had visited these congregations then moved along.  And Jewish Christians who insisted that Gentiles must follow the Law of Moses–down to males undergoing circumcision–came after Paul and created confusion.  Paul then wrote this epistle, in which he labeled these other teachings

another gospel (1:7).

Those who teach that false gospel, he wrote, should be

banned (1:9),

for Paul understood his gospel as being of divine origin (1:12).  This message came from a man who had been a zealous persecutor of the nascent Jesus movement and a meticulous keeper of the Law of Moses (1:13-15).  But now he was a missionary to the Gentiles (1:16).

Comparing translations helps me understand a text more clearly.  Certainly any text loses something in translation; the Bible is no exception.  Yet consulting a series of versions does reveal a variety of meanings present in the original text.  And some renderings are more lively than others.  One of the better versions is the J. B. Phillips New Testament in Modern English (1972 revision), which refers to the other gospel as

a travesty of the gospel of Christ (1:7).

Indeed, as a Gentile, raised in a faith tradition which draws heavily from Paul’s influence, I am grateful that he won this argument.  Paul was correct; to insist upon imposing the old ways on Gentile believers is a travesty.  It would also have transformed Christianity into a perpetually small and marginal sect.

Challenging old ideas is a theme we find also in Luke 10.  I refer you, O reader, to the links I have provided, for I have covered that material already.  Yet, without repeating myself too much, I can say this:  Samaritans were despised heretics and women were subordinate to men in that society.  Yet Jesus told a story about a compassionate Samaritan and some religious figures who did not help a man in need.  And our Lord welcomed a female disciple.

Faith groups ought not to be gated communities.  Jews, Gentiles, men, women–all can hear the gospel Paul proclaimed.  Galatians is a glorious and justly quoted work, one which we begin to explore with this post.  For now, I offer this take-away message:  May we not, even out of piety, erect obstacles in the paths of those whom God has called.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is universal, so may we refrain from resisting that fact.


Before a Bible Study   Leave a comment

Above:  An Old Family Bible

Image Source = David Ball


God of glory,

as we prepare to study the Bible,

may we approach the texts with our minds open,

our intellects engaged,

and our spirits receptive to your leading,

so that we will understand them correctly

and derive from them the appropriate lessons.

Then may we act on those lessons.

For the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,








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