Archive for the ‘September 13’ 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 Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 19, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

The Harlot of Jericho and the Two Spies (James Tissot)

Above:  The Harlot of Jericho and the Two Spies, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

The Faith of Rahab

SEPTEMBER 13, 14, and 15, 2018


The Collect:

O God, through suffering and rejection you bring forth our salvation,

and by the glory of the cross you transform our lives.

Grant that for the sake of the gospel we may turn from the lure of evil,

take up our cross, and follow your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47


The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 2:1-14 (Thursday)

Joshua 2:15-24 (Friday)

Joshua 6:22-27 (Saturday)

Psalm 116 (All Days)

Hebrews 11:17-22 (Thursday)

James 2:17-26 (Friday)

Matthew 21:23-32 (Saturday)


I will walk in the presence of the LORD

in the land of the living.

–Psalm 116:9, Book of Common Worship (1993)


The readings from Joshua tell of Rahab, a prostitute, and her family, all of Jericho.  “Rahab” might not have been her name, as a note from The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) informs me:

Rahab could be an actual name (compare Rehoboam), but probably indicates her profession, the house of Rahab meaning most likely “brothel.”  The Aram. Tg. and most medieval exegetes interpreted “zonah” as innkeeper, from the root “z-w-n,” yet the Rabbis also acknowledge the ordinary meaning, prostitute (b. Zevah. 116.2).

–Page 443

I refer to her as “Rahab,” for that is the label the text provides me.  The story in Joshua 2 and 6 starts with Israelite spies visiting her.  Why not?  Surely, given her profession, Rahab had heard much information the spies needed to know.  She sheltered these spies, helped them escape, and gained safety for herself and her family when the city fell.

Rahab might have seemed like an unlikely heroine, given her profession.  Yet Matthew 1:5 lists her as the mother of Boaz (as in the Book of Ruth) and an ancestor of Jesus.  We know that, given biology, many women were involved in the generations of reproduction which led to the birth of St. Joseph of Nazareth but the genealogy in Matthew 1 identifies only three:

  1. Rahab (1:5),
  2. Ruth (1:5), and
  3. Bathsheba (“Uriah’s wife,” 1:6).

Two of these women were foreigners, and two had questionable sexual reputations.  When we add St. Mary of Nazareth to the list of women in the genealogy of Jesus, we raise the count of women with sexual scandal tied to their lives to three.  Furthermore, Hebrews 11:31 tells us:

By faith the prostitute Rahab escaped the fate of the unbelievers, because she had given the spies a kindly welcome.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

And when we turn to James 2:25, we read:

Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road?

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Our Lord and Savior, whose family tree included, among others, a prostitute, an unfaithful wife, Gentiles, and a young woman tainted by scandal, turned out well.  He was a figure of great authority who challenged the Temple system, which depended and preyed upon those who could least afford to finance it.  The Temple was also the seat of collaboration with the Roman Empire, built on violence and economic exploitation.  So, when Jesus challenged the Temple system, defenders of it, challenged him.  Jesus was, of course, the superior debater.  After trapping them in a question about the source of authority of St. John the Baptist, he went on to entrap them in a question (21:30), the answer of which condemned them.  Then he said to them:

Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.  For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

–Matthew 21:31b-32, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Jesus died a few days later.  Those he confronted had powerful economic reasons to maintain the Temple system, and the annual celebration of the Passover–or national liberation by God–was nigh.  The Roman authorities had law-and-order reasons for crucifying him.  It was a miscarriage of justice, of course.

Those chief priests and elders in Matthew 21 should have had the faith of Rahab, a prostitute.







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 13 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Maps of the World

Above:  Maps of the World 

Maps According to Herodotus, Strabo, Ptolemy, “the Ancients,” and Wind Charts of Aristotle and Vitruvius

From Johann G. Heck, Icongraphic Encyclopedia of Science, Literature, and Art (New York:  Rudolph Garrigue, 1851)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-115363

2 Chronicles and Colossians, Part I:  Tribalism in Religion



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 32:1-22

Psalm 51 (Morning)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening)

Colossians 1:1-23


Sometimes I read the assigned readings and find agreement.  Then there are times such as this one, when I notice contrasts.  The major discrepancy is one between the lessons from Colossians and 2 Chronicles.  The God of 2 Chronicles is a tribal deity who defends the chosen people and smites the others.  But the God of Colossians is a universal deity who seeks reconciliation of peoples.  This the same God concept one finds in Psalm 65.

Tribalism in religion is an unhealthy mindset.  No, God does not help one team win or cause the other to win.  No, God does not love the people of one land more than those of others.  We are all children of God, so God loves all of us dearly.  But how much do we love God?






Week of Proper 18: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Year 2   19 comments

Above:  The Communion of Saints

Role Models

SEPTEMBER 13, 14, and 15, 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 8:1-13 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now about food sacrificed to idols:

We all have knowledge;

yes, that is so, but knowledge gives self-importance–it is love that makes the building grow.  A man may imagine he understands something, but still not understand anything in the way he ought to.  But any man who loves God is known by him.  Well then, about eating food sacrificed to idols:  we know that idols do not really exist in the world and that there is no god but the One.  And even if there were things called gods, either in the sky or on earth–where there certainly seem to be ‘gods’ and ‘lords’ in plenty–still for us there is one God, the Father, from whom all things come and for whom we exist; and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things come and through whom we exist.

Some people, however, do not have this knowledge.  There are some who have been so long used to idols that they eat this food as though it really had been sacrificed to the idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled by it.  Food, of course, cannot bring us in touch with God:  we lose nothing if we refuse to eat, we gain nothing if we eat.  Only be careful that you do not make use of this freedom in a way that proves a pitfall for the weak.  Suppose someone sees you, a man who understands, eating in some temple to an idol; his own conscience, even if it is week, may encourage him to eat food which has been offered to idols.  In this way your knowledge could become the ruin of someone weak, of a brother for whom Christ died.  By sinning in this way against your brothers, and injuring their weak consciences, it would be Christ against whom you sinned.  That is why, since food can be the occasion of my brother’s downfall, I shall never eat meat again in case I am the cause of a brother’s downfall.


1 Corinthians 9:16-27 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Not that I boast of preaching the gospel, since it is a duty which has been laid on me; I should be punished if I did not preach it!  If I had chosen this work myself, I might have been paid for it, but as I have not, it is a responsibility which has been put into my hands.  Do you know what my reward is?  It is this:  in my preaching, to be able to offer the Good News free, and not insist on the rights which the gospel gives me.

So though I am not a slave of any man I have made myself the slave of everyone so as to win as many as I could.  I made myself a Jew to the Jews, to win the Jews; that is, I who am not a subject of the Law made myself subject to the Law.  To those who have no Law, I was free of the Law myself (though not free from God’s Law, being under the Law of Christ) to win those who have no Law.  For the weak I made myself weak.  I made myself all things to all men in order to save some at any cost; and I still do this, for the sake of the gospel, to have a share in its blessings.

All the runners at the stadium are trying to win, but only one of them gets the prize.  You must run in the same way, meaning to win.  All the fighters at the games go into strict training; they do this just to win a wreath which will wither away, but we do it for a wreath that will never wither.  That is how I run, intent on winning; that is how I fight, not beating the air.  I treat my body hard and make it obey me, for, having been an announcer myself, I should not want to be disqualified.


1 Corinthians 10:14-32 (The Jerusalem Bible):

This is the reason, my dear brothers, why you must keep clear of idolatry.  I say to you as sensible people:  judge for yourselves what I am saying.  The blessing-cup that we bless is a communion with the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a communion with the blood of Christ.  The fact that there is only one loaf means that we all have a share in this one loaf.  Look at the other Israel, the race, where those who eat the sacrifices are in communion with the altar.  Does this mean that the food sacrificed to idols has a real value, or that the idol itself is real?  Not at all.  It simply means that the sacrifices they offer they sacrifice to demons who are not God.  I have no desire to see you in communion with demons.  You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons.  You cannot take your share at the table of the Lord and at the table of demons.  Do we want to make the Lord angry; are we stronger than he is?

For me there are no forbidden things,

but not everything does good.  True, there are no forbidden things, but it is not everything that helps the building to grow.  Nobody should be looking for his own advantage, but everybody for the other man’s.  Do not hesitate to eat anything that is sold in butchers’ shops:  there is no need to raise questions of conscience; for the earth and everything that is in it belong to the Lord.  If an unbeliever invites you to his house, go if you want to, and eat whatever is put in front of you, without asking questions just to satisfy conscience.  But if someone says to you,

This food was offered in sacrifice,

then, out of consideration for the man that told you, you should not eat it, for the sake of his scruples; his scruples, you see, not your own.  Why should my freedom depend on somebody else’s conscience?  If I take my share with thankfulness, why should I be blamed for food for which I have thanked God?

Whatever you eat, whatever you drink, whatever you do at all, do it all for the glory of God.  Never do anything offensive to anyone–to Jews or Greeks or to the Church of God….


Psalm 139:1-19, 22, 23 (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.

22 Search me out, O God, and know my heart;

try me and know my restless thoughts.

23 Look well whether there be any wickedness in me

and lead me in the way that is everlasting.


Psalm 84 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts!

My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the LORD;

my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

The sparrow has found her a house

and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young;

by the side of your altars, O LORD of hosts,

my King and my God.

3 Happy are they who dwell in your house!

they will always be praising you.

4 Happy are the people whose strength is in you!

whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.

5 Those who go through the desolate valley will find it a place of springs,

for the early rains have covered it with pools of water.

6 They will climb from height to height,

and the God of gods will reveal himself in Zion.

LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;

hearken, O God of Jacob.

8 Behold our defender, O God;

and look upon the face of your Anointed.

For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room,

and to stand in the threshold of the house of my God

than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.

10 For the LORD is both sun and shield;

he will give grace and glory;

11 No good thing will the LORD withhold

from those who walk with integrity.

12 O LORD of hosts,

happy are they who put their trust in you!


Psalm 116:10-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

10 How shall I repay the LORD

for all the good things he has done for me?

11 I will lift up the cup of salvation

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

12 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

13 Precious in the sight of the LORD

is the death of his servants.

14 O LORD, I am your servant;

I am your servant and the child of your handmaid;

you have freed me from my bonds.

15 I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

16 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

17 In the courts of the LORD’s house,

in the midst of you, O Jerusalem.



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.


Luke 6:39-42 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] also told a parable to them,

Can one blind man guide another?  Surely both will fall into a pit?  The disciple is not superior to this teacher; the fully trained disciple will always be like his teacher.  Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye,’ when you cannot see the plank in your own?  Hypocrite!  Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter that is in your brother’s eye.


Luke 6:43-49 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

There is no sound tree that produces rotten fruit, nor again a rotten tree that produces sound fruit.  For every tree can be told by its own fruit; people do not pick figs from thorns, nor gather grapes from brambles.  A good man draws what is good from the store of goodness in his heart; a bad man draws what is bad from the store of badness.  For a man’s words from what fills his heart.

Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,” and not do what I say?

Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and acts on them–I will show you what he is like.  He is like the man who when he built his house dug, and dug deep, and laid the foundations on rock; when the river was in flood it bore down on that house  but could not shake it, it was so well built.  But the one who listens and does nothing is like the man who built his house on soil, with no foundations:  as soon as the river bore down on it, it collapsed; and what a ruin that house became!


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.


Once, when I was a youth, there was a famous basketball player who recorded a television spot in which he proclaimed that he was not a role model.  I understand his main point, for the fact that one is a talented and recognized athlete ought not to cause others (often young people) to look up to and emulate one.  There is a difference between heroism and athletic prowess.  Parents and/or guardians ought to instill good values in children, and there are plenty of excellent people (living and dead) who are excellent role models.  As a Christian, I look to Jesus of Nazareth.  As an amateur hagiographer, I point to the saints when I seek good examples from mere mortals.

Life in community requires us to accommodate each other.  So, if something otherwise harmless we do harms another person spiritually, we need (within reason, of course) to refrain from such behaviors.  I say “within reason” because anything any of us does might offend or confuse someone else spiritually.  So the principle, applied without reason, leads to us doing nothing.

Each of us is a role model, even if we do not want to be one.  So may we be the best role models we can be.  May we love our enemies, denying them any excuse for hating us.  May we live compassionately, performing as many good deeds as possible and forgiving others.  And may we avoid hypocrisy–all by the grace of God, of course.

God is watching, of course, and that fact matters very much.  And our fellow mere mortals are also watching.  What kind of messages are we sending to them via our deeds, words, and attitudes?


Week of Proper 18: Friday, Year 1   12 comments

Above:  Ephesus on a Map

Image Source =

Spiritual Courage

SEPTEMBER 13, 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.


1 Timothy 1:1-2, 12-14 (The Jerusalem Bible):

From Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope, to Timothy, true child of mine in the faith; wishing you grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, and who judged me faithful enough to call me into his service even though I used to be a blasphemer and did all I could to injure and discredit the faith.  Mercy, however, was shown me, because until I became a believer I had been acting in ignorance; and the grace of our Lord filled me with faith  and with the love that is in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you;

I have said to the LORD, “You are my Lord,

my good above all other.”

2 All my delight is upon the godly that are in the land,

upon those who are noble among the people.

3 But those who run after other gods

shall have their troubles multiplied.

4 Their libations of blood I will not offer,

nor take the names of their gods upon my lips.

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 6:39-42 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] also told a parable to them,

Can one blind man guide another?  Surely both will fall into a pit?  The disciple is not superior to this teacher; the fully trained disciple will always be like his teacher.  Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye,’ when you cannot see the plank in your own?  Hypocrite!  Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter that is in your brother’s eye.


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.


A Related Post:


There is a lively academic debate regarding the authorship of 1 Timothy.  Did Paul write the epistle during his time at Rome, or did someone writing in Paul’s name produce the letter later?  Although very interesting to many people, this issue is irrelevant to my purpose in this post.  I follow Lectio Divino, the Benedictine practice of reading the Bible for spiritual formation, here.

So, regardless of the identity of the author of 1 Timothy, there is nothing in the reading for today that contradict’s Paul’s back story prior to his conversion.  That is the first important fact to consider relative to 1 Timothy 1:1-2, 12-14.  Paul, when Saul of Tarsus, did act out of his spiritual ignorance.  And committed and condoned murders while in this state.  But God did not give up on him.  And Paul became an essential figure in early Christian history.  Those of us who have come into this world and the Christian faith after him stand on his shoulders.

But even those of us within the fold are not free of spiritual blindness.  Paul was not free of such blindness, even after his conversion.   And spiritual vision did not always translate into actions.  Epistles that Paul either wrote or dictated testify to these facts.  We still judge others, do we not?  But Jesus said not to do this.  We do not know all the struggles that any other person faces.  Neither do we understand all that occurs between any other person and God.  For that matter, we tend to notice faults (real or misperceived) in others before we acknowledge them in ourselves.  (When I say “we,” I include myself in “we.”)

Would you have given up on Saul of Tarsus?  Come on, be honest.  I will start; I might have given up on him.  This is a purely hypothetical question, so I can provide only a hypothetical answer.  But God did not.  Ananias of Damascus of Antioch did not give up on Saul/Paul.

Here is the potent question with which I leave you, O reader:  Would have had the spiritual courage to trust and obey God, and therefore act as Ananias did?  It is a purely hypothetical question, but it is useful for spiritual formation.