Archive for the ‘September 12’ Category

Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 19, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Sky with Rainbow

Above:   Sky with Rainbow

Image in the Public Domain

Redemption and Related Responsibilities

SEPTEMBER 12, 2019

SEPTEMBER 13, 2019

SEPTEMBER 14, 2019


The Collect:

O God, overflowing with mercy and compassion,

you lead back to yourself all those who go astray.

Preserve your people in your loving care,

that we may reject whatever is contrary to you

and may follow all things that sustain our life in

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47


The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 6:1-6 (Thursday)

Genesis 7:6-10; 8:1-5 (Friday)

Genesis 8:20-9:7 (Saturday)

Psalm 51:1-10 (All Days)

1 Timothy 1:1-11 (Thursday)

2 Peter 2:1-10a (Friday)

John 10:11-21 (Saturday)


Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth,

a sinner from my mother’s womb.

–Psalm 51:6, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The comedian Lewis Black told a joke explaining why God seems more violent in the Hebrew Bible than in the New Testament.  Having a son calmed him down.  That is, of course, bad theology, for it falls under the heading of the Arian heresy.  Furthermore, the God of the Book of Revelation is not the deity of “Kum ba Yah,” a song I despise for several reasons.  The Smiter-in-Chief is in full form in the composite story of Noah, based on older stories.

Rewritten folklore and mythology in the Bible presents us with the opportunity to ponder profound theology.  We might think that we know a particular tale better than we actually do, so we ought to avoid switching on the automatic pilot.  Human immorality saddens God’s heart in Genesis 6:6, but Noah has found favor with God.  “Noah,” in Hebrew, is “favor” spelled backward.  A note in The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) tells me that this

indicates that human perversion and divine grief will not be the last word.

–page 19

Furthermore, the Hebrew word for the ark occurs in just one other story in the Hebrew Bible.  It applies also to the basket containing young Moses in Exodus 2.  Again The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) helps me dig deeper into the scriptures:

Noah foreshadows Moses even as Moses, removed from the water, foreshadows the people Israel, whom he leads to safety through the death-dealing sea that drowns their oppressors (Exod. chs 14-15).  The great biblical tale of redemption occurs first in a shorter, universal form, then in a longer, particularistic one.

–page 20

The author of Psalm 51 (traditionally King David, but knows for sure?) understood human sinfulness well.  So did the author of 1 Timothy, writing under the name of St. Paul the Apostle.  Laws, he noted,

are not framed for people who are good.

–1:9, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

That statement applies to divine law, certainly.  Indeed, in context, it pertains to the Law of Moses.  That code, containing timeless principles and culturally specific examples thereof, sometimes becomes a confusing array of laws.  Many people mistake culturally specific examples for timeless principles, thereby falling into legalism.  The pillars of that code are:

  1. We mere mortals are totally dependent on God,
  2. We humans depend upon each other also,
  3. We humans are responsible for each other, and
  4. We humans are responsible to each other.

Turning to John 10, we read of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.  The sheep need the shepherd, who protects them and lays down his life for them.  The sheep also know the shepherd’s voice.  I, as a Christian, am one of the sheep.  I know my need for God and the ease with which I yield to many temptations.  The laws of God exist for people such as me.  Divine guidance and redemption play out in my life.

The individual part of religion is important, of course, but it is hardly everything.  The collective aspect is crucial also.  This truth is especially evident in Judaism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Roman Catholicism.  Much of Protestantism, however, has gone overboard with regard to individualism.  Redemption is not just my story or your story.  No, it is our story as we relate to God and God relates to us.  Society exerts a powerful influence upon our notions of morality and reverence; it shapes us, just as we influence it.  May we be salt and light, shaping society according to the four pillars of the Law of Moses and according to the unconditional and free (yet not cheap) love of God.








Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 18, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  Exorcising a Boy Possessed by a Demon

Image in the Public Domain

Glorifying God, Not Ourselves

SEPTEMBER 12, 2018


The Collect:

Gracious God, throughout the ages you transform

sickness into health and death into life.

Openness to the power of your presence,

and make us a people ready to proclaim your promises to the world,

through Jesus Christ, our healer and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47


The Assigned Readings:

Judges 15:9-20

Isaiah 38:10-20

Matthew 17:14-21


The LORD is at hand to save me;

so let the music of our praises resound

all our life long in the house of the LORD.

–Isaiah 38:20, The Revised English Bible (1989)


The story in Isaiah 38 is that God has extended the life of King Hezekiah of Judah by fifteen years.  The monarch, grateful that he is no longer at death’s door, writes a poem (the end of which I have quoted above).  Unfortunately, in the next chapter, he shows off to an emissary of the king of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire (not yet a threat to Judah), prompting the ire of God and Isaiah:

Isaiah said to Hezekiah:  “Hear the word of the LORD of Hosts:  The time is coming, says the LORD, when everything is your palace, and all that your forefathers have amassed till the present day, will be carried away to Babylon; not a thing will be left.  And some of your sons, your own offspring, will be taken to serve as eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”  Hezekiah answered, “The word of the LORD is good,” for he was thinking to himself that peace and security would last his lifetime.

–Isaiah 39:5-8, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The Book of Judges speaks of Samson’s connection to God.  The vivid translation in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) refers to the spirit of the LORD gripping him immediately prior to a feat of physical strength.  Such is the case in Judges 15:9-20.  The spirit of the LORD grips Samson in verse 14.  Samson kills a thousand Philistine men with the jawbone of an ass in verse 15.  In verse 16, however, Samson fails to give credit to God:

Then Samson said:

“With the jaw of an ass,

Mass upon mass!

With the jaw of an ass

I have slain a thousand men.”

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Samson was, as the Book of Judges presents him, a dolt who lived to satisfy his id.  Nevertheless, God worked through him, and he was aware of that reality.  Would giving credit to God when credit was due have been so difficult?

The pericope from Matthew 17 became more interesting the deeper I delved into its background.  The Gospel of Mark is the oldest of the canonical Gospels, dating to no earlier than 67 C.E.  It is one of the sources for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, both of which contain the “Markan spine,” elaborate upon it, and add material from other sources.  Thus a version of a story from Mark is usually pithier than a version of the same story from Matthew or Luke.  That statement does not apply to Matthew 17:14-21, which is abbreviated from Mark 9:14-29.  It is as if the author of Matthew wanted to get to the point.  He has also changed the meaning of the story from a statement to Christology to the background for a pronouncement regarding the power of faith, faith meaning trust in divine power, in this case.

The pericope from Matthew 17 indicates that the Apostles could not heal the boy, whom the culture said was moonstruck, or afflicted by the moon goddess Selene, because they had insufficient trust in the power of God, which was available to them.  They could have done more, via divine power, of course, had they been more confident in God.

Martin Luther, a morally troublesome character in many ways, was correct much of the time.  For example, his advice when baptized people questioned their salvation was to trust in the faithfulness of God.  That counsel applies to other circumstances also.  And, as we trust in divine faithfulness, may we glorify God, not ourselves.







Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 18, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  A Visual Protest Against Police Brutality and Corruption, June 11, 1887

Artist = Eugene Zimmerman (1862-1935)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC4-4792

Good Trees for God

SEPTEMBER 11, 12, and 13, 2017


The Collect:

O Lord God, enliven and preserve your church with your perpetual mercy.

Without your help, we mortals will fail;

remove far from us everything that is harmful,

and lead us toward all that gives life and salvation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46


The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 4:27-31; 5:14-16 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 17:2-13 (Tuesday)

Leviticus 16:1-5, 20-28 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:65-72 (All Days)

1 Peter 2:11-17 (Monday)

Romans 13:1-7 (Tuesday)

Matthew 21:18-22 (Wednesday)


These readings present us with some difficult material.  In the Torah an animal sacrifice atoned for unintentional sins, offering an unauthorized sacrifice led to death, and idolatry carried the death penalty.

So you shall purge evil from your midst.

–Deuteronomy 17:7b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Also, in the readings from Romans and 1 Peter, resisting authority is a sin, regardless of the nature of that government.    I will address these matters in order.


One was supposed to keep a distance from the holy and approach God in a certain way in the Law of Moses.  Thus one had instructions to offer sacrifices just so, for example.  And touching the Ark of the Covenant was deadly.  In contrast, Jesus, God incarnate, ate with people, many of whom had dubious moral histories and bad reputations.  I side with Jesus in this matter.


One ought to be very careful regarding instructions to kill the (alleged) infidels.  Also, one should recognize such troublesome passages in one’s own scriptures as well as in those of others, lest one fall into hypocrisy regarding this issue.  Certainly those Puritans in New England who executed Quakers in the 1600s thought that they were purging evil from their midst.  Also, shall we ponder the Salem Witch Trials, in which paranoid Puritans trapped inside their superstitions and experiencing LSD trips courtesy of a bread mold, caused innocent people to die?  And, not that I am equating Puritans with militant Islamists, I have no doubt that those militant Islamists who execute Christians and adherents to other religions think of themselves as people who purge evil from their midst.  Violence in the name of God makes me cringe.

When does one, in the name of purging evil from one’s midst, become that evil?


Speaking of removing evil from our midst (or at least trying to do so), I note that Dietrich Bonhoeffer, after struggling with his conscience, participated in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.  I let that pass, for if one cannot kill (or at least plan to kill) a genocidal dictator in the name of morality….Sometimes life presents us with bad decisions and worse ones.  Choose the bad in very such circumstance, I say.  In the Hitler case, how many lives might have continued had he died sooner?


Christianity contains a noble and well-reasoned argument for civil disobedience.  This tradition reaches back to the Early Church, when many Christians (some of whom became martyrs) practiced conscientious objection to service in the Roman Army.  The tradition includes more recent figures, such as many heroes of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.  Many of those activists suffered and/or died too.  And, in the late 1800s, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, hardly a bastion of liberalism at any point in its history, declared that the Ottoman imperial government, which had committed violence against the Armenian minority group, had no more moral legitimacy or right to rule.  Yet I read in the October 30, 1974, issue of The Presbyterian Journal, the midwife for the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in 1973, that:

When a Herod or a Hitler comes into power, we must thereby assume this is the Lord’s plan; He will use even such as these to put His total plan into effect for the good of His people here on earth.

–page 11

That was an extreme law-and-order position the editor affirmed in the context of reacting against demonstrations of the 1960s and early 1970s.  A few years later, however, the PCA General Assembly approved of civil disobedience as part of protests against abortions.


If one assumes, as St. Paul the Apostle and much of the earliest Church did, that Jesus would return quite soon and destroy the sinful world order, preparation for Christ’s return might take priority and social reform might move off the list of important things to accomplish.  But I am writing in 2014, so much time has passed without the Second Coming having occurred.  Love of one’s neighbors requires us to act and even to change society and/or rebel against human authority sometimes.


The barren fig tree in Matthew 21:18-22 was a symbol of faithless and fruitless people.  If we know a tree by its fruits and we are trees, what kind of trees are we?  May we bear the fruits of love, compassion,and mere decency.  May our fruits be the best they can be, albeit imperfect.  May we be the kind of trees that pray, in the words of Psalm 119:68 (The Book of Common Prayer, 1979):

You are good and you bring forth good;

instruct me in your statutes.





Bloga Theologica version


Devotion for September 11 and 12 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  A Crucifix

Image Source = Benutzer HoKaff

Hatred and Violence



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:

2 Chronicles 29:1-24 (September 11)

2 Chronicles 31:1-21 (September 12)

Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning–September 11)

Psalm 97 (Morning–September 12)

Psalms 1 and 33 (Evening–September 11)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening–September 12)

Philippians 3:1-21 (September 11)

Philippians 4:1-23 (September 12)


The 2006 Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod Daily Lectionary has led me through Philippians for a few posts, ending with this one.  Thus time the other main readings come from 2 Chronicles.  I have combined these lections because

  1. They seem repetitive to me, and
  2. They abound with mind-numbing details which seem meaningless to me in the context of the cross of Christ.

As much as I reject the idea that God smote nations for idolatry and sent them into exile, I also reject Penal Substitutionary Atonement.  I reject both for the same reason:  They make God look like a thug.  I do not worship a thug.

Yet turning back to God is always positive.  That was what King Hezekiah did.  And that was what Paul encouraged, even if he did resort to invective, calling advocates of circumcision “dogs” in Philippians 3:2.

The God of my faith is the one who, in the Resurrection of Jesus, demonstrated the power to thwart evil plans.  The God of my faith is the one who hears prayer requests and who

will supply all your needs out of the magnificence of his riches in Christ Jesus.

–Philippians 4:19, Revised English Bible

The God of my faith is the one whose servant St. Paul the Apostle urged his friends at Philippi to focus on

…all that is true, all that is noble, all that is just and pure, all that is lovable and attractive, whatever is excellent and admirable….

–Philippians 4:8, Revised English Bible

That is excellent advice everyday, but especially on and around September 11, now the anniversary of a date which will live in infamy. Violence in the name of God is not sacred, for the love of God is incompatible with “sacred” violence.  Yes, self-defense is necessary sometimes, but let us never mistake such a sad and imposed duty for a sacred task.  What will it profit a person to return hatred for hatred?  He or she will lose his or her soul and not bring glory the executed and resurrected Lord and Savior, who overcame hatred and violence with divine power and love.









Week of Proper 18: Tuesday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 18: Wednesday, Year 2   9 comments

Above:  A Gavel

Image Source = Jonathunder

To Build Up, Not to Tear Down

SEPTEMBER 11 and 12, 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.



1 Corinthians 6:1-11 (The Jerusalem Bible):

How dare one of your members take up complaint against another in the lawcourts of the unjust instead of before the saints?  As you know, it is the saints who are to ‘judge the world’; and if the world is to be judged by you, how can you be unfit to judge trifling cases?  Since we are also to judge angels, it follows that we can judge matters of everyday life; but when you have had cases of that kind, the people you appointed to try them were not even respected in the Church.  You should be ashamed; is there really not one reliable man among you to settle differences between brothers and so one brother brings a court case against another in front of unbelievers?  It is bad enough for you to have lawsuits at all against one another:  oughtn’t you to let yourselves be wronged, and let yourselves be cheated?  But you are doing the wronging and the cheating, and to your own brothers.

You know perfectly well that people who do wrong will not inherit the kingdom of God:  people of immoral lives, idolaters, adulterers, catamites, sodomites, thieves, usurers, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers will never inherit the kingdom of God.  These are the sort of people some of you were once, but you have been washed clean, and sanctified, and justified through the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and through the Spirit of our God.


1 Corinthians 7:25-31 (The Jerusalem Bible):

About remaining celibate, I have no directions from the Lord but give my own opinion as one who, by the Lord’s mercy, has stayed faithful.  Well then, I believe that in these present times of stress this is right:  that it is good for a man to stay as he is.  If you are tied to a wife, do not look for freedom; if you are free of a wife, then do not look for one.  But if you marry, it is no sin, and it is not a sin for a young girl to get married.  They will have their troubles, though, in their married life, and I should like to spare you that.


Psalm 149:1-5 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Sing to the LORD a new song;

sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful.

Let Israel rejoice in his Maker;

let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.

Let them praise his Name in the dance;

let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.

For the LORD takes pleasure in his people

and adorns the poor with victory.

5 Let the faithful rejoice in triumph;

let them be joyful on their beds.


Psalm 47 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Clap your hands, all you peoples;

shout to God with a cry of joy.

For the LORD Most High is to be feared;

he is the great King over all the earth.

3 He subdues the peoples under us,

and the nations under out feet.

4 He chooses our inheritance for us,

the pride of Jacob whom he loves.

5 God has gone up with a shout,

the LORD with the shout of the ram’s-horn.

Sing praises to God, sing praises;

sing praises to our King, sing praises.

7 For God is King of all the earth;

sing praises with all your skill.

God reigns over the nations;

God sits enthroned upon his holy throne.

9 The nobles of the peoples have gathered together

with the people of the God of Abraham.

10 The rulers of the earth belong to God,

and he is highly exalted.


Luke 6:12-19 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now it was about this time that he [Jesus] went out into the hills to pray; and he spent the whole night in prayer to God.  When day came he summoned his disciples and picked out twelve of them; the called them “apostles”:  Simon, whom he called Peter, and his brother, Andrew; James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon called the Zealon, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot who became a traitor.

He then came down with them and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of his disciples with a great crowd of people from all parts of Judaea and from Jerusalem and from the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon who had come to hear him and to be cured of their diseases.  People tormented by unclean spirits were also cured, and everyone in the crowd was trying to touch him because power came out of him that cured them all.


Luke 6:20-26 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Then fixing his eyes on his disciples he [Jesus] said:

How happy are you who are poor; yours is the kingdom of God.

Happy are you who are hungry now; you shall be satisfied.

Happy are you who weep now; you shall laugh.

Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, for then your reward will be great in heaven.  This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

But alas for you who are rich; you are having your consolation now.

Alas for you who have your fill now; you shall go hungry.

Alas for you who laugh now; you shall mourn and weep.

Alas for you when the world speaks well of you!  This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.


The Collect:

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; 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:

Feasts of Apostles:


The main idea of the reading from 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 is simple:  Live according to a standard higher than those of the litigious, dishonest, and sexually exploitative society of ancient Corinth.  The same principle, minus the geographical and temporal qualification, applies to today’s North America, my location.

Certain behaviors build up, but others tear down.  It is better to resolve one’s disputes outside a court, not to mention less expensive and less time-consuming.  And pedophilia is always destructive, adultery wrecks relationships, slander ruins reputations, thieves and swindlers damage lives, usurers exploit people for their selfish gain, and drunkards affect the lives of many others negatively.  Idolatry is a frequently-mentioned sin in the Bible, and some authors in that sacred anthology blame the demise of two Israelite kingdoms.  The Greek word usually translated as “homosexuals” or “sodomites” has several meanings, including sexual perverts broadly.  Let us remember also that Paul preferred celibacy, if at all possible, giving marriage between a man and a woman the faint praise that it (A) is not sinful and (B) is better than fornication.  He favored what he understood as spiritual pursuits, especially given the fact that he expected Jesus to return within his lifetime.  So sensual matters were, according to Paul, distractions from more urgent business.  Even heterosexual marriage was fraught with problems, Paul wrote, and he wished to spare people such difficulties.

And there is, of course, the matter of the obligation of the Corinthian Christians to care for each other and treat each other respectfully, not sue each other and exploit each other economically and/or sexually or victimize one’s family members and/or friends with one’s drinking problem and its related vices.  Such behaviors are wrong in any context.

My North American society is overly litigious, as pointless dislaimers and warnings attest.  Such excessive litigiousness also increases the costs of consumer goods.  Anther economic sin is usury, upon which many financial institutions rely for their profit margins.  Theft, whether on a small scale or a grand one, such as massive corporate fraud, also continues.

Beyond those matters, drunkenness and its accompanying offenses, including domestic violence, persist.  Slander has never gone away.  Idolatry assumes many forms, not just outwardly religious ones.  (Consider how many people regard sports, for example.)  Pedophilia is in the news quite a bit, as are sex scandals involving adultery and/or prostitution.

Human nature is a constant.  We have appetites, such as those for gratification via food, alcohol, money, and sex.  But we need to manage them, not they us.  Jesus did not return when Paul thought he would, but the Apostle was correct:  We have work to do, and we need to be spiritually minded.  We need to build each other up, not tear each other down.  We need to love and care for each other, not exploit, abuse, and victimize each other.

Speaking of caring for each other…

The sequence in the Gospel of Luke takes us into the Sermon on the Plain, the Lukan counterpart to the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew.  First, however, Jesus cured many  people who had sought him out.  The crowds dis tire and harry Jesus sometimes; Gospel writers tell us this.  Our Lord was fully divine, but he was also fully human.  He knew stress and fatigue.  And frequent giving of oneself does deplete one’s emotional and spiritual resources if one does not replenish them sufficiently.  Fortunately, Jesus prayed and sought out quite time.

There is a basic lesson here:  We must not neglect ourselves while supporting each other.  There is nothing selfish about filling our own cups, to speak.  If we are to fill the proverbial cups of others, we need to have something to give.  And we are also important.  This is a question of perspective:  I am important, and so are you, O reader.  We are both children of God and bearers of the divine image.  So my importance does not grant me the right to exploit or otherwise harm you.  And your needs ought not prevent me from tending to my necessities.   So, as we navigate our lives in our social contexts, may we take care of ourselves and each other properly as we continue on our respective pilgrimages.


Week of Proper 18: Thursday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:  Archbishop Desmond Tutu Breaking Down at a Hearing of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, April 1996

Image Source = Sunday Times

Love and Forgiveness, Whether Mutual or Not

SEPTEMBER 12, 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.


Colossians 3:12-17 (The Jerusalem Bible):

You are God’s chosen race, his saints; he loves you, and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins.  The Lord has forgiven you; now must do the same.  Over all these clothes, to keep them together and complete them, put on love.  And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were called together as parts of one body.  Always be thankful.

Let the message of Christ, in all its riches, find a home with you.  Teach each other, and advise each other, in all wisdom.  With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms and hymns and inspired songs to God; and never say or do anything except in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Psalm 150 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Praise God in his holy temple;

praise him in the firmament of his power.

2 Praise him for his mighty acts;

praise him for his excellent greatness.

3 Praise him with the blast of the ram’s-horn;

Praise him with lyre and harp.

4 Praise him with timbrel and dance;

praise him with strings and pipe.

5 Praise him with resounding cymbals;

praise him with loud-clanging cymbals.

6 Let everything that has breath

praise the LORD.


Luke 6:27-38 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

But I say this to you who are listening:  Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly.  To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too; to the man who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic.  Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you.  Treat others as you would like them to treat you.  If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect?  Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what thanks can you expect?  For even sinners do that much.  And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what thanks can you expect?  Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount.  Instead, love your enemies and do good, and lend without any hope of return.  You will have a great reward, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.  Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned.  Give, and there will be gifts for you:  a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.


The Collect:

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


The excerpts from Luke and Colossians fit together well.  Both teach the Golden Rule.  This is an oft-quoted maxim.  Many people confess it with their lips then do not try to honor it with their lives.  And many of us who praise the Golden Rule with our words and try to live it discover quickly how difficult the follow-through can be.  We need to confess our failure to God, who is ready to forgive us.  Then we need to forgive ourselves for our weaknesses and others for theirs.  Together, ever striving to do better and trusting in God, we need to support each other in our struggles to do to others as we want them to treat us.

Sometimes this love and this compassion are mutual.  This was the vision of Jesus and Paul.  But human nature being what it is, such love and compassion are frequently one-sided.  When this is true, the person who does more than law and convention require does so as a free man or woman.  When there is dishonor, it belongs not to the inconvenienced and and wronged party, but to the one who inconveniences and wrongs.  Doing the right thing for the right reason places one on the moral high ground.

Consider examples of nonviolent action.  In my nation, the United States, in the 1960s, many civil rights activists engaged in sit-ins at segregated establishments.  They faced verbal and physical abuse, but did not resist.  In so doing, they denied their attackers any semblance of an excuse or justification.  What kind of person beats up a man or woman who refuses to fight back?  And what must the assaulter think about him or herself, assuming he or she has a conscience?  Furthermore, Mohandas K. Gandhi employed nonviolent tactics and buckets full of shame to liberate India from the British Empire.  He was a moral giant.

And what about forgiveness?  The Apartheid regime of South Africa perpetrated atrocities against dissidents.  But the Mandela Administration began a process of reconciliation, dependent on the telling of truth, of course.  It was a difficult process, but it helped to begin the healing process.  Jesus would approve, based on passages such as those from Luke for this day.

A fight grows larger, longer, and worse when more parties consent to it.  But what happens when someone opts out?  This principle informs my self-discipline.  Thus I prefer to avoid many arguments, especially when the other person is shouting at me.  I refuse to shout back or to react physically.  This prevents the situation from becoming worse.  Besides, two people yelling at each other is worse than one person shouting at the one who is silent.  Self-discipline is the wisest choice in such an occasion.   Often it angers the other person, but that is not my intention; it is merely an unintended consequence over which I have no control.  I am responsible for control of my own emotions, not those of another person.

This post marks my departure from Colossians for now.  The lectionary moves along to 1 Timothy, a very good book, too.  So a summary of the highlights of Colossians 3:18-4:18 follows:

  • 3:18-4:1 is a frequently proof-texted passage.  Wives and husbands, parents, and children, slaves and masters have obligations to each other.  Reading one verse, say 3:18 but not 3:19 distorts the meaning 3:18.  In 3:18-4:1 Paul does not recognizes anyone’s right to lord it over anyone.  Mutual respect is the overarching principle here.
  • Paul recognized the existence of slavery but did not challenge it.  He thought that he was living in the End Times, so social reform took a backseat to personal holiness in anticipation of the Second Coming of Jesus.  But the Golden Rule requires some social reform, does it not?  I side with Jesus, not Paul, in this regard.
  • Those who believe differently than I do are not my enemies because they disagree with me.  But what Paul writes about how to deal with them is consistent with our Lord’s command to love one’s enemies.  Consider Colossians 3:5-6:  “Be tactful with those who are not Christians and be sure you make the best of your time with them.  Talk to them agreeably and with a flavour of wit, and try to fit your answers to the needs of each one.”

Love, whether mutual or one-sided, is always better than hatred.  Antipathy enslaves us in resentment, but love liberates us to live compassionately.  What others think is of little consequence relative to what God commands.  God is love, and Jesus is the greatest indication of this truth.  So may we walk in love, with God’s help.