Archive for the ‘October 17’ Category

Devotion for Thursday Before Proper 24, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

St. Paul Preaching in Athens

Above:   St. Paul Preaching in Athens, by Raphael

Image in the Public Domain

The Age of Divine Patience

OCTOBER 17, 2019


The Collect:

O Lord God, tireless guardian of your people,

you are always ready to hear our cries.

Teach us to rely day and night on your care.

Inspire us to seek your enduring justice for all the suffering world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 54:11-17

Psalm 121

Acts 17:22-34


I lift up my eyes to the hills;

from where is my help to come?

My help comes from the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

–Psalm 121:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The reading from Isaiah 54, echoing Jeremiah 31:33-35 in verse 13, offers high hopes for the future of post-exilic Jerusalem.  Divine anger has come and gone, it says, and the day of extravagant mercy is at hand.  The reality of Jerusalem and Judea after the Babylonian Exile did not match high expectations, as history tells us, but one might hope for that bright future in days to come.

That theme of the balance of divine judgment and mercy continues in Acts 17:29-31.  Mennonite theology has done much with the concept that this is the time of divine patience, with the understanding that such patience, with the understanding that such patience will come to an end.  St. Paul the Apostle, we read, understood the time of divine patience to have ended already and the end times to have begun.  You, O reader, and I know, however, that from the perspective of 2016, nearly 2000 years have transpired since the events of the Acts of the Apostles.  We have nearly 2000 reasons for disagreeing with St. Paul’s assumptions regarding the timing of the parousia.

We live in the age of God’s patience.  May we, by grace, not try or exploit it much more often than we have already.  May our relationship to God be like the one described in Psalm 121 instead.







Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 23, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Rich Man and Lazarus Gustave Dore

Above:  The Rich Man and Lazarus, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

Making a Positive Difference

OCTOBER 15, 16, and 17, 2018


The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, increase in us your gift of faith,

that, forsaking what lies behind and reaching out to what lies ahead,

we may follow the way of your commandments

and receive the crown of everlasting joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50


The Assigned Readings:

Obadiah 1-9 (Monday)

Obadiah 10-16 (Tuesday)

Obadiah 17-21 (Wednesday)

Psalm 26 (All Days)

Revelation 7:9-17 (Monday)

Revelation 8:1-5 (Tuesday)

Luke 16:19-31 (Wednesday)


Give judgment for me, O Lord,

for I have walked with integrity;

I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered.

–Psalm 26:1, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)


Edom, according to the Book of Obadiah, is far more than the nation descended from Esau; it refers to all nations other than Israel.  Edom will fall, the text says.  Edom has trusted erroneously in its terrain and human allies.  It will fall by the hand of God, which will restore Israel and initiate the Kingdom of God on Earth.

That prophecy dates from after the destruction of Jerusalem and the fall of the Kingdom of Judah in 586 B.C.E., a time when that hope seemed no less a pipe dream than it does today.  Over time Jewish reinterpretations of the identity of Edom in the Book of Obadiah came to include the Roman Empire and Christendom.  I, as a Christian, choose not to condemn any who read the prophecy as a denunciation of Christendom, given the indefensible record of persecution of Jews by professing Christians and by Christian institutions.  Such hatred and violence harmed many and brought no glory to God.

Another theme common to the pericopes is suffering.  Some suffering results from sins, but other suffering consists of the temporal consequences of obeying God.  The saints in white robes in Revelation had suffered because of their fidelity to God.  On the other hand, the deceased rich man in Luke never cared about the beggar at his gate.  Divies, as tradition calls that rich man, accepted artificial scarcity, did nothing to help even the poor man at his gate, and thought of that man with disdain.  None of the rich man’s bad attitudes changed after his unpleasant afterlife began.

Yes, the fully realized Kingdom of God remains for the future, but that reality does not absolve any of us of moral responsibility.  Unjust social and political systems and structures exist.  People created them, so people can change or destroy and replace them.  And each of us can, as opportunities present themselves, choose to support injustice by active or passive means or to oppose it.

There are reasons for supporting injustice by active or passive means.  These include:

  1. Moral blindness, due perhaps to socialization;
  2. Laziness,
  3. Apathy, perhaps borne out of hopelessness; and a related issue,
  4. Compassion fatigue.

Nobody can do everything, but most people can do something constructive to oppose some form of injustice and to address some social problem.  We humans have the capacity to leave the world better than we found it, if only we will try.  No effort or project is insignificant toward this end.  Fortunately, many people have lived according to this ethic and a host of them continue to do so.  May their numbers increase.









Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 23, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Paul Writing His Epistles

Above:  Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

Godly Desires

OCTOBER 16 and 17, 2017


The Collect:

Lord of the feast, you have prepared a table before all peoples

and poured out your life with abundance.

Call us again to your banquet.

Strengthen us by what is honorable, just, and pure,

and transform us into a people or righteousness and peace,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 19:7-20 (Monday)

Amos 9:5-15 (Tuesday)

Psalm 34 (Both Days)

Jude 17-25 (Monday)

Philippians 3:13-4:1 (Tuesday)


The troubles of the righteous are many:

but the Lord sets them free from them all.

The Lord guards every bone in the body of the righteous:

and so not one of them is broken.

Evil brings death to the wicked:

and those who hate the righteous are brought to ruin.

–Psalm 34:19-21, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)


Psalm 34 is a prayer of thanksgiving by one whom God had delivered from great difficulty.  Much of the text constitutes timeless truth, but I detect a level of optimism which many people from Jeremiah to Jesus might have called excessive.  I, as one who has studied Christian history, add to that list nearly two thousand years’ worth of suffering Christians, many of them martyrs, from St. Stephen to contemporary martyrs.

Nevertheless, the text does provide the unifying theme for this devotion:

Turn away from evil and do good:

seek peace and steadily pursue it.

–Verse 14, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

The reading from Jude speaks of the duties of love.  Among these is practicing compassion, something one can do only if self does not occupy the throne of one’s life.  In that lesson we read also that there will be mockers who follow their godless desires.  That description fits the rape gang at Sodom in Genesis 19.  Lot, who offers his two virgin daughters to that gang, is also of dubious character.  The reading from Amos reminds us that divine favor does not function as a talisman protecting people from the consequences of their sins.  And St. Paul the Apostle, in Philippians, mentions the suffering of many of the faithful (including himself) and the different fates of the righteous and the unrighteous in the afterlife, thereby bringing the readings back around to Psalm 34, but with a more sober and realistic tone.

 May we, following the Apostle’s advice, stand firm in the Lord, walking compassionately in the way of divine love and disregarding the humiliation which enemies of the cross of Christ heap upon those who are of our Lord and Savior.  And may we strive properly

toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

–Philippians 3:14, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)







Devotion for October 15, 16, and 17 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments


Above:  Landscape with the Parable of the Sower, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder

Image in the Public Domain

Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part XIII:  Loyalty and Identity





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 13:1-18 (October 15–Protestant Versification)

Deuteronomy 13:2-19 (October 15–Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Versification)

Deuteronomy 14:1-2, 22-23; 14:28-15:15 (October 16)

Deuteronomy 15:19-16:22 (October 17)

Psalm 123 (Morning–October 15)

Psalm 15 (Morning–October 16)

Psalm 36 (Morning–October 17)

Psalms 30 and 86 (Evening–October 15)

Psalms 48 and 4 (Evening–October 16)

Psalms 80 and 27 (Evening–October 17)

Matthew 13:1-23 (October 15)

Matthew 13:24-43 (October 16)

Matthew 13:44-58 (October 17)


Here is a summary of the contents of Deuteronomy 13:1-16:22:

  1. Execute any false prophet or dream-diviner.  (13:1-6/2-7)
  2. Execute anyone who entices another person to commit idolatry.  (13:6-11/7-12)
  3. Execute the inhabitants of idolatrous towns, burn those towns, and destroy all spoil.  Do not rebuild at any of those sites.  (13:12-18/13-19)
  4. Avoid mourning rituals associated with pagan peoples.  (14:1-2)
  5. Eat only ritually clean foods.  (14:3-21)
  6. Pay a tenth of your crops and livestock to God.  (14:22-26)
  7. Provide for the needy and the Levites.  (14:27-29)
  8. Provide debts and free slaves every seventh year.  (15:1-18)
  9. Sacrifice all male firstlings born into your flock to God, assuming that it is a proper physical specimen.  (15:19-23)
  10. Keep a detailed festival calendar and the accompanying instructions.  (16:1-17)
  11. Appoint magistrates who will govern honestly and justly, taking no bribes.  (16:18-20)
  12. Erect no posts, as in honor to Astarte.  (16:21-22)

I have mixed feelings about that material.  On one hand, I approve of the social justice imperative parts of it.  I find even the acceptance of any form of slavery offensive and the command to execute people intolerable.  I know that one theme of the Law of Moses is absolute loyalty to God, so idolatry equaled treason, but some commands seem barbaric to me.  So far as dietary laws are concerned, I note that I have never cared about them.  Proper refrigeration negates some health concerns, as does thorough cooking.  One analysis of the forbidden list says that those animals did not fit nearly into certain categories.  Assuming that the analysis is correct, what was the problem?  Besides, I like to eat ham and intend to continue to do so.

In Matthew 13 we read a series of mostly agricultural parables:  the sower and the seed, the darnel and the mustard seed, the treasure in the field, the merchant and the pearls, and the fish of mixed quality.  And, at the end of the chapter, people in Nazareth lack faith him.  Perhaps they know too much to realize even more.

From those parables I glean certain lessons:

  1. One should remain focused on God, not allowing anything or anyone to function as a distraction.
  2. The good and the bad will grow up together and come mixed together.  God will sort everything into the correct categories at the right time.  That task does not fall to us, mere mortals.
  3. Nothing is more important than seeking, finding, and keeping the Kingdom of God.

I detect much thematic overlap between that material and Deuteronomy 13:1-16:22, with the notable absence of commands about when to execute or destroy.  Yes, Matthew is more riveting reading than Deuteronomy.

I read the Law of Moses as a Gentile, specifically an Episcopalian who grew up a United Methodist.  The Law was like a household servant who raised children, St. Paul the Apostle tells us.  Now that Christ has arrived on the scene, I have only two commandments, not over 600.  So, as long as I am growing via grace into loving God fully and my neighbor as myself, that ham sandwich should not bother my conscience.  And I refuse to execute anyone, for I serve an executed and resurrected Lord and Savior.  To him I am loyal.  In him, not a law code, do I find my identity.









Week of Proper 23: Wednesday, Year 2   6 comments

Above:  A Processional Crucifix

Image Source = Andreas Praefcke

The Only Legitimate Boast

OCTOBER 17, 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.


With this post my word-for-word journey through the Letter to the Galatians ends.–KRT


Galatians 5:26-6:18 (Revised English Bible):

We must not be conceited, inciting one another to rivalry, jealous of one another.  If anyone is caught doing something wrong, you, my friends, who live by the Spirit must gently set him right.  Look to yourself, each one of you: you also may be tempted.  Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.

If anyone imagines himself to be somebody when he is nothing, he is deluding himself.  Each of you should examine his achievement by comparing himself with himself and not with anyone else; for everyone has his own burden to bear.

When anyone is under instruction in the faith, he should give his teacher a share of whatever good things he has.

Make no mistake about this:  God is not to be fooled; everyone reaps what he sows.  If he sows in the field of his unspiritual nature, he will reap from it a harvest of corruption; but if he shows in the field of the Spirit, he will reap from it a harvest of eternal life. Let us never tire from doing good, for if we do not slacken our efforts we shall in due time reap our harvest.  Therefore, as opportunity offers, let us work for the good of all, especially members of the household of faith.

Look how big the letters are, now that I am writing to you in my own hand.  It is those who want to be outwardly in good standing who are trying to force circumcision on you; their sole object is to escape persecution for the cross of Christ.  Even those who do accept circumcision are not thoroughgoing observers of the law; they want you to be circumcised just in order to boast of your submission to that outward rite.  God forbid that I should boast of anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world is crucified to me and I to the world!  Circumcision is nothing; uncircumcision is nothing; the only thing that counts is new creation!  All who take this principle for their guide, peace and mercy be upon them, the Israel of God!

In the future let no one make trouble for me, for I bear the marks of Jesus branded on my body.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, my friends.  Amen.

Psalm 32 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

 Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven,

whose sin is put away!

 Happy are they to whom the LORD imputes no guilt,

and in whose spirit there is no guile!

 While I held my tongue, my bones withered away,

because of my groaning all day long.

 For your hand was heavy upon me day and night;

my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.

 Then I acknowledged my sin to you,

and did not conceal my guilt.

 I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.”

Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.

 Therefore all the faithful will make their prayers to you in time of trouble;

when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them.

 You are my hiding-place;

you preserve me from trouble;

you surround me with shouts of deliverance.

9  “I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go;

I will guide you with my eye.

10  Do not be like horse or mule, which have no understanding;

who must be fitted with bit and bridel,

or else they will not stay near you.”

11  Great are the tribulations of the wicked;

but mercy embraces those who trust in the LORD.

12  Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the LORD;

shout for joy, all who are true of heart.

Luke 11:42-46 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Alas for you Pharisees!  You pay tithes of mint and rue and every garden herb, but neglect justice and the love of God.  It is these you should have practised, without overlooking the others.

Alas for you Pharisees!  You love to have the chief seats in synagogues, and to be greeted respectfully in the street.

Alas, alas, you who are like unmarked graves, which people walk over unawares.

At this one of the lawyers said,

Teacher, when you say things like this you are insulting us too.

Jesus rejoined,

Alas for you lawyers also!  You load men with intolerable burdens, and will not lift a finger to lighten the load.


The Collect:

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Week of Proper 23:  Wednesday, Year 1:

Mint, Dill, and Cummin:

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross:

How Wide the Love of Christ:

Thine is the Glory:

Beneath the Cross of Jesus:

My Song is Love Unknown:

In the Cross of Christ I Glory:

My Faith Looks Up to Thee:

For the Cross:


The beginning of Ephesians 6 continues the theme at the end of Chapter 5, so I fixate on a different part of Chapter 6:

God forbid that I should boast of anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ….–6:15a, Revised English Bible

This passage, I think, holds the epistle together.  There is no cause for boasting in keeping the Law of Moses, in observing feasts, fasts, and festivals, or in doing anything good, bad, or neutral. The sole legitimate boast is in the cross, a symbol of what one might best call state-sponsored terrorism.  To die on a cross was, according to conventional wisdom, to indicate shame and a curse.  But the cross became a symbol of something quite different–redemption by the power of God.  Jesus died on a cross, but he did not remain dead.  So the lethal power of the Roman Empire was powerless before God, and this fact became apparent very shortly.

This was God’s doing, not that of any mere mortal.  So may we join Paul in boasting solely of divine redemptive power, giving credit where it is due.


Week of Proper 23: Thursday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain


OCTOBER 17, 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 3:21-31 (Revised English Bible):

But now, quite independent of law, though with the law and the prophets bearing witness to it, the righteousness of God has been made known; it is effective through faith in Christ for all who have such faith–all, without distinction.  For all alike have sinned, and are deprived of the divine glory; and all are justified by god’s free grace alone, through his act of liberation in the person of Christ Jesus.  For God designed him to be the means of expiating sin by his death, effective through faith.  God meant by this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had overlooked the sins of the past–to demonstrate his justice now in the present, showing that he is himself just and also justifies anyone who puts his faith in Jesus.

What room then is left for human pride?  It is excluded.  And on what principle?  The keeping of the law would not exclude it, but faith does.  For our argument is that people are justified by faith quite apart from any question of keeping the law.

Do you suppose that God is the God of the Jews alone?  It he not the God of the Gentiles also?  Certainly, of the Gentiles also.  For if the Lord is indeed one, he will justify the circumcised by their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith.  Does this mean that we are using faith to undermine the law?  By no means:  we are upholding the law.

Psalm 130 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Out of the depths have I called to you, O LORD;

LORD, hear my voice;

let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

2  If you , LORD, were to note what is done amiss,

O Lord, who could stand?

3  For there is forgiveness with you;

therefore you shall be feared.

4  I wait for the LORD; my soul waits for him;

in his word is my hope.

5  My soul waits for the LORD,

more than watchmen in the morning,

more than watchmen in the morning.

6  O Israel, wait for the LORD,

for with the LORD there is mercy;

7  With him there is plenteous redemption,

and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.

Luke 11:47-54 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued, rejoining one of the lawyers:]

Alas, you build monuments to the prophets whom your fathers murdered, and so testify that you approve of the deeds your fathers did; they committed the murders and you provide the monuments.

This is why the Wisdom of God said, “I will send them prophets and messengers; and some of these they will persecute and kill;’ so that this generation will have to answer for the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world; from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who met his death between the altar and the sanctuary.  I tell you, this generation will have to answer for it all.

Alas for you lawyers!  You have taken away the key to knowledge.  You did not go in yourselves, and those who were trying to go in, you prevented.

After he had left the house, the scribes and Pharisees began to assail him fiercely and to ply him with a host of questions, laying snares to catch him with his own words.


The Collect:

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Let us be clear about what Paul means by faith, a concept central to today’s reading from Romans.  Faith, here, as I explained two posts ago, is the acceptance of complete reliance on God’s grace, not our actions. Then there is another term:  justification.  This is a legal term indicating being made right with another in relationship.  So Paul is saying that we have a right relationship with God because God makes it right and we accept it.

There is also much confusion about the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church regarding this matter.  So I have consulted the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Paragraph 1987, which one can find in the article on “Grace and Justification,” reads:

The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us “by the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ” and through Baptism.

Then it quotes Romans 6:8-11.

Paragraph 2018 tells us:

Like conversion, justification has two aspects.  Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, and so accepts forgiveness and righteousness from on high.

Catholic theology, unlike certain Protestant theologies, gives much weight to human free will.  It is important to note that this free will comes from God, so, in Catholic theology, our means of responding favorably to God exists because God has placed it within us.  So everything goes back to God in Catholic theology.

Then there is James 2:24, which, in the Revised English Bible reads,

You see then that it is by action and not by faith alone that a man is justified.

This does not contradict today’s reading from Romans because the author of James understands faith to mean intellectual consent to a proposition.  Both action and intellectual assent are part of Paul’s definition of faith, however.  Read the post from two days ago for more material on this topic.

Neither Paul nor the Roman Catholic Church nor the author of the Letter of James contradict each other on this point.

There is nothing we can do, other than accept grace and our need for it, to have a right relationship with God.  This is not Jesus-and-meism, a selfish form of religion by which one does not care about others and the natural order.  I have spoken with some Jesus-and-me Christians and tried unsuccessfully to dissuade them from their apathy regarding this life.  The world might burn, but they have told me that they do not care.  One such person told me that this planet is just her “vacation home.”  No, we have a calling to be good stewards of this planet, which is our home for as long as we are here.  And the welfare others is ours, too, just as ours is theirs.  Loving one’s neighbor as one’s self entails caring deeply about the injustices in the lives of our neighbors then acting accordingly.

Those whom Jesus chastised at one of the more unpleasant dinner parties in the canonical gospels chose not to amend their ways.  I hope that you, O reader, will not be like them, just as I hope I will not be.