Archive for the ‘September 17’ Category

Devotion for Tuesday After Proper 19, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Jonah Preaching to the Ninevites

Above:   Jonah Preaching to the Ninevites, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

The Call to Repent

SEPTEMBER 17, 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:

Jonah 3:1-10

Psalm 73

2 Peter 3:8-13


When my mind became embittered,

I was sorely wounded in my heart.

–Psalm 73:21, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


To alter a familiar quote slightly, I have resembled that remark.  So did the authors of many of the Psalms, such as number 137:

Remember the day of Jerusalem, O LORD, against the people of Edom,

who said, “Down with it! down with it! even to the ground!”

O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,

happy the one who pays you back for what you have done to us!

Happy shall he be who takes your little ones,

and dashes them against the rock!

–Psalm 137:7-9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

That remark from Psalm 73 also described Jonah, a fictional and satirical character who wanted to see the great enemy of his nation destroyed by God, not to repent–to turn around, literally.  He was the most reluctant of prophets.  Jonah did not understand that, in the words of 2 Peter 3:9b,

It is not his [God’s] will that any should be lost, but that all should come to repentance.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

The rest of the story is that Jonah completed his mission successfully, against his will and to his consternation.  (Read Chapter 4.)  He went off to sulk and became fond of a plant that provided shade.  God killed the plant, making Jonah even more unhappy.  Then God chastised him for caring about the plant yet not the people of Nineveh.

That is how the book ends–on an ambiguous note.  The story invites us to ask ourselves if we are like Jonah and tells us, if we are, to repent.  Not all of us will, unfortunately, but at least we have the opportunity to do so.  That is evidence of grace.










Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 19, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Jeroboam I

Above:  King Jeroboam I of Israel

Image in the Public Domain

Obeying Divine Instructions

SEPTEMBER 17 and 18, 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:

1 Kings 13:1-10 (Monday)

1 Kings 13:11-25 (Tuesday)

Psalm 119:169-176 (Both Days)

Romans 3:9-20 (Monday)

Colossians 3:1-11 (Tuesday)


Let my cry come before you, O LORD;

give me understanding, according to your word

–Psalm 119:169, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The anonymous man of God in 1 Kings 13 did well for a while.  He denounced King Jeroboam I of Israel to his face for erecting an altar at Bethel as an alternative to the Temple at Jerusalem.  The man of God also refused offers to eat and drink before returning to Judah.  Then he accepted and offer to do so.  The prediction that the altar at Bethel would become unsuitable for use came true, however.

One lesson of that story is the importance of obeying divine instructions.  Speaking of divine instructions, let us return to the law, which defines our actions and inactions as right and wrong.  The law convicts us of our sins.  Even Gentiles, who are outside the Law of Moses, have done much that is laudable and much that is worthy of condemnation.  Thus all people stand together under wrath.  The way out is via Jesus:

In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.

–Colossians 3:11, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That is a profound statement, one which I suspect is deeper than any human being knows.  I dare not attempt to define the limits of divine mercy and judgment, or where the former ends and the latter begins.  I do affirm, however, that my measuring stick when I seek to determine whether something is holy is Jesus, whom I attempt to follow, with mixed results.  I trust in his faithfulness, not my own.  That is how I try to obey divine instructions.







Devotion for September 15, 16, and 17 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

King Josiah

Above:  King Josiah

Image in the Public Domain

2 Chronicles and Colossians, Part III:  Suffering and the Glory of God





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 34:1-4, 8-11, 14-33 (September 15)

2 Chronicles 35:1-7, 16-25 (September 16)

2 Chronicles 36:1-23 (September 17)

Psalm 19 (Morning–September 15)

Psalm 136 (Morning–September 16)

Psalm 123 (Morning–September 17)

Psalms 81 and 113 (Evening–September 15)

Psalms 97 and 112 (Evening–September 16)

Psalms 30 and 86 (Evening–September 17)

Colossians 2:8-23 (September 15)

Colossians 3:1-25 (September 16)

Colossians 4:1-18 (September 17)


In the readings from 2 Chronicles we find good news followed by bad news succeeded by worse news followed by good news again.  The tradition which produced those texts perceived a link between national righteousness and national strength and prosperity.  That sounds too much like Prosperity Theology for my comfort, for, as other passages of the Bible (plus the record of history) indicate, good things happen to bad people, bad things happen to good people, good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people.  The fictional character of Job, in the book which bears his name, suffered, but not because of any sin he had committed.  And Jesus, being sinless, suffered, but not for anything he had done wrong.

Many of the instructions from Colossians are comforting and not controversial–or at least should not be.  Living according to

…compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience

–3:12, Revised English Bible

seems like something almost everyone would applaud, but it did lead to controversies during our Lord and Savior’s lifetime and contribute to his execution.  I, as a student of history, know that many people have suffered for following that advice.  When society favors the opposite,

compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience

lead to trouble for those who enact them.

Other advice is culturally specific.  Colossians 2:16-21 comes to mind immediately.  It, taken outside of its context, becomes a distorted text.  In 1899, for example, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS), the old Southern Presbyterian Church, cited it to condemn observing Christmas and Easter as holy occasions:

There is no warrant for the observance of Christmas and Easter as holy days, but rather contrary (see Galatians iv. 9-11; Colossians ii. 16-21), and such observance is contrary to the principles of the Reformed faith, conducive to will-worship, and not in harmony with the simplicity of the gospel in Jesus Christ.

Journal of the General Assembly, page 430

Still other advice should trouble us.  I will not tell a slave to obey his or her master, for no form of slavery should exist.  And I, as a feminist, favor the equality of men and women.  So 3:18-25 bothers me.  4:1 does, however, level the slave-master playing field somewhat, however.

Suffering flows from more than one cause.  If we are to suffer, may we do so not because of any sin we have committed.  No, may we suffer for the sake of righteousness, therefore bringing glory to God.  May virtues define how we love, bringing glory to God in all circumstances.  And may we not become caught up in the legalistic minutae of theology and condemn those who seek only to glorify God.









Week of Proper 19: Monday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 19: Tuesday, Year 2   10 comments

Above:  A Table Set for the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist

Image Source = Jonathunder

Bad Corinthians!

SEPTEMBER 17 and 18, 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 11:17-28, 33 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now that I am on the subject of instructions, I cannot say that you have done well in holding meetings that you do more harm than good.  In the first place, I hear that when you all come together as a community, there are separate factions among you, and I half believe it–since there must no doubt be separate groups among you, to distinguish those who are to be trusted.  The point is, when you hold these meetings, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you are eating, since when the time comes to eat, everyone is in such a hurry to start his own supper that one person goes hungry while another is getting drunk.  Surely you have homes for eating and drinking in?  Surely you have enough respect for the community of God not to make poor people embarrassed?  What am I to say to you?  Congratulate you?  I cannot congratulate you on this.

For this is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you:  that on the same night that he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it, and he said,

This is my body, which is for you; do this as a memorial of me.

In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said,

This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.

Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death, and so anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be behaving unworthily towards the body and blood of the Lord.

Everyone is to recollect himself eating this bread and drinking this cup….

So, to sum up, my dear brothers, when you meet for the Meal, wait for one another….


1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27-31 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because of all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ.  In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and the one Spirit was given to us all to drink.

Nor is the body to be identified with any one of its member parts.

Now you together are Christ’s body; but each of you is a different part of it.  In the Church, God has given the first place to apostles, the second to prophets, the third to teachers; after them, miracles, and after them the gift of healing; helpers, good leaders, those with many languages.  Are all of them apostles, or all of them prophets, or all of them teachers?  Do they all have the gift of miracles, or all have the gift of healing?  Do all speak strange languages, and all interpret them?

Be ambitious for the higher gifts.  And I am going to show you a way that is better than any of them.


Psalm 40:8-12 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8  Burnt-offering and sin-offering you have not required,

and so I said, “Behold, I come.

9  In the roll of the book it is written concerning me:

‘I love to do your will, O my God;

your law is deep in my heart.’”

10  I proclaimed righteousness in the great congregation;

behold, I did not restrain my lips;

and that, O LORD, you know.

11  Your righteousness have I not hidden in my heart;

I have spoken of your faithfulness and your deliverance;

I have not concealed your love and faithfulness from the great congregation.

12  You are the LORD;

do not withhold your compassion from me;

let your loving and your faithfulness keep me safe for ever.


Psalm 100 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands;

serve the LORD with gladness

and come before his presence with a song.

Know this:  The LORD himself is God;

he himself has made us, and we are his;

we are the sheep of his pasture.

3 Enter his gates with thanksgiving;

go into his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and call upon his name.

4 For the LORD is good;

his mercy is everlasting;

and his faithfulness endures from age to age.


Luke 7:1-10 (The Jerusalem Bible):

When he [Jesus] had come to the end of all he wanted the people to hear, he went into Capernaum.  A centurion there had a servant, a favourite of his, who was sick and near death.  Having heard  about Jesus he sent some Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his servant.  When they came to Jesus they pleaded earnestly with him.

He deserves this of you,

they said,

because he is friendly towards our people; in fact, he is the one who built the synagogue.

So Jesus went with them, and was not very far from the house when the centurion sent word to him by some friends:


he said,

do not put yourself to trouble; because I am not worthy to have you under my roof; and for this same reason I did not presume to come to you myself; but give the word and let my servant be cured.  For I am under authority myself, and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man:  Go, and he goes; to another:  Come here, and he comes; to my servant:  Do this, and he does it.

When Jesus heard these words he was astonished at him and, turning around, said to the crowds following him,

I tell you, not even in Israel have I found faith like this.

And when the messengers got to the house they found the servant in perfect health.


Luke 7:11-17 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now soon afterwards he [Jesus] went to a town called Nain, accompanied by his disciples and a great number of people.  When he was near the gate of the town it happened that a dead man was being carried out for burial, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.  And a considerable number of the townspeople were with her.  When the Lord saw her he felt sorry for her.

Do not cry

he said.  Then he went up and put his hand on the bier and the bearers stood still, and he said,

Young man, I tell you to get up.

And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him to his mother.  Everyone was filled with awe and praised God saying,

A great prophet has appeared among us; God has visited his people.

And this opinion of him spread throughout Judaea and all over his countryside.


The Collect:

O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; 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:

Only Begotten, Word of God Eternal:

Bread of Heaven, On Thee We Feed:

Thanksgiving after Communion, 1917:

At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing:

Glory, Love, and Praise, and Honor:

Humbly I Adore Thee, Verity Unseen:

Deck Thyself, With Joy and Gladness:

I Come with Joy to Meet My Lord:

Here, O My Lord, I See Thee Face to Face:

Become to Us the Living Bread:

Very Bread, Good Shepherd, Tend Us:

Body of Jesus, O Sweet Food!:

Shepherd of Souls:

Let Thy Blood in Mercy Poured:

The King of Love My Shepherd Is:

I Am the Bread of Life:

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for the Holy Eucharist:

Prayer of Humble Access:

Break Thou the Bread of Life:

After Receiving Communion:

Before Receiving Communion:

Novena Prayer in Honor of the Blessed Sacrament:

O Bread of Life:

A Eucharistic Blessing:


The Corinthian church seems to have been a troubled congregation full of people who behaved quite badly.  Anyone who has read 1 Corinthians consecutively should know much of the contents of the catalog of sins, including backbiting, committing idolatry, failing to control one’s sexual impulses, and engaging in predatory sexual practices (sometimes with minors).  Why would anyone not already Christian become one of the faithful, based on these bad examples and role models?  As Ron Popeil says,

But wait, there’s more.

Instead of a rotisserie chicken machine or a nifty knife set, however, we get drunkenness at the Holy Eucharist and excessive pride in one’s own spiritual gifts combined with a dismissive attitude toward the spiritual gifts of others.

Our unity is in Christ, from whom we derive the label “Christian.”  Mutual support was supposed to mark the Corinthian church, but the opposite did.  Mutual support is supposed to mark us in the Christian Church today.  Sometimes it does.  I belong to a congregation where I feel accepted, but I have firsthand knowledge of some where I have not.

Now, to change the subject….

My usual purpose in these posts is to maintain a devotional tone and ponder practical lessons from readings.  Yet now I turn into a teacher.  There is a well-supported hypothesis which holds that the authors of the three Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Luke, and Matthew) drew from various sources, including Q, a collection of Jesus sayings.  Paul’s writing on the Holy Eucharist, in which he quotes Jesus, confirms that there was some source of Jesus sayings, for Paul could not have quoted any of the four canonical Gospels.  He died in 64, prior to the composition of Mark, the earliest of that genre in the canon of scripture.

Speaking of the Holy Eucharist…

Indeed, the altar is the table of God, and nobody ought to abuse its sacred elements or take it lightly.  Paul, writing regarding food sacrificed to imaginary deities, claimed that

Food, of course, cannot bring us in touch with God:  we lose nothing if we refuse to eat, we gain nothing if we eat.–1 Corinthians 8:8, The Jerusalem Bible

Here I must argue with Paul.  I have come in close contact with God at Holy Eucharist since I was a child.  My only complaint when I was growing up in rural United Methodist congregations in the South Georgia Conference was that I had these opportunities too infrequently.  Now, as an Episcopalian, that is no longer a problem.  Eucharist is, as The Book of Common Prayer (1979) tells us,

the central act of Christian worship.

So one should partake of it as frequently as possible, always with reverence.

God calls a wide variety of people with diverse spiritual gifts to form and maintain Christian communities in which people love and support each other.  We all have our foibles and other failings, so patience is a great virtue.  But together we can support each other in righteousness and be visible faces of Christ to each other.  That is our calling; may we embrace it and continue to do so.


Week of Proper 19: Tuesday, Year 1   10 comments

Above:  French Suffragettes in 1935

Image in the Public Domain

Gender Equality in Jesus Via the Holy Spirit

SEPTEMBER 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.


1 Timothy 3:1-13 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Here is a saying that you can rely on:  To want to be a presiding elder is to want to do a noble work.  That is why the president must have an impeccable character.  He must not have been married more than once, and he must be temperate, discreet and courteous, hospitable and a good teacher; not a heavy drinker, nor hot-tempered, but kind and peaceable.  He must not be a lover of money.  He must be a man who manages his own family well and brings his children up to obey him and be well-behaved:  how can any man who does not understand how to manage his own family have responsibility for the church of God?  He should not be a new convert, in case pride might turn his head and then he might be condemned as the devil was condemned.  It is also necessary that people outside the church should speak well of him, so that he never gets a bad reputation and falls into the devil’s trap.

In the same way, deacons must be respectable men whose word can be trusted, moderate in the amount of wine they drink and with no squalid greed for money.  They must be conscientious believers in the mystery of the faith.  They are to be examined first, and only admitted to serve as deacons if there is nothing against them.  In the same way, the women must be respectable, not gossips but sober and quite reliable.  Deacons must not have been married more than once, and must be men who manage their children and families well.  Those of them who carry out their duties well as deacons will earn a high standing for themselves and be rewarded with great assurance in their work for the faith in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 101 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I will sing of mercy and justice;

to you, O LORD, will I sing praises.

2 I will strive to follow a blameless course;

oh, when will you come to me?

I will walk with sincerity of heart within my house.

3 I will set no worthless thing before my eyes;

I hate the doers of evil deeds;

they shall not remain with me.

4 A crooked heart shall be far from me;

I will not know evil.

5 Those who in secret slander their neighbors I will destroy;

those who have a haughty look and a proud heart I cannot abide.

6 My eyes are upon the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me,

and only those who lead a blameless life shall be my servants.

7 Those who act deceitfully shall not dwell in my house,

and those who tell lies shall not continue in my sight.

8 I will soon destroy all the wicked in the land,

that I may root out all evildoers from the city of the LORD.

Luke 7:11-17 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now soon afterwards he [Jesus] went to a town called Nain, accompanied by his disciples and a great number of people.  When he was near the gate of the town it happened that a dead man was being carried out for burial, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.  And a considerable number of the townspeople were with her.  When the Lord saw her he felt sorry for her.

Do not cry

he said.  Then he went up and put his hand on the bier and the bearers stood still, and he said,

Young man, I tell you to get up.

And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him to his mother.  Everyone was filled with awe and praised God saying,

A great prophet has appeared among us; God has visited his people.

And this opinion of him spread throughout Judaea and all over his countryside.


The Collect:

O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Consider the following:

All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus.  Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised.

–Galatians 3:28 (The Jerusalem Bible)

1 Timothy can be a troublesome book, for it contains a mixture of culturally-conditioned and locally-specific gender attitudes (in this day’s reading and in 2:9-15) as well as garden-variety sexism.  But a survey of the epistles we know that Paul wrote reveals great openness to a prominent place for women in the church.  And then there is Galatians 3:28.

A few days ago I read a New York Times story about the difficulty that many unmarried (and presumably chaste; I have no reason to suspect otherwise) evangelical ministers in the United States have securing pastorates.  I assume that interpretations of passages, such as those from 1 Timothy for this day, account for part of the cause of this difficulty.  But, as Matthew 19:12 quotes Jesus speaking affirmatively, there are those who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven.  Besides, marriage is not a universal vocation.  Furthermore, speaking as a recovering Preacher’s Kid, there is much virtue in certain proportion of the clergy being voluntarily celibate, for the lack of a family life enables them to devote more time to serving God via the church.

Gender roles in the Bible vary according to time and place.  Many laws regarding women in the Hebrew Scriptures assume that females are property of men.  So, for example, premarital sexual relations become a property crime–against her father, no less.  The man makes restitution by marrying the woman he has deflowered.  However, if one cannot prove that the man deflowered her, she is to die by stoning.  (Deuteronomy 22:13-21)  And adultery, in the Ten Commandments, is a property crime against the husband.  (See Exodus 20:17)

And, in the Hellenistic world, most women depended on men financially.  This fact helps explain our Lord’s condemnations of divorce without serious cause.  It was convenient for the husband, but placed the ex-wife at great risk.  And a widow needed a male relative–in the case of the woman from Luke, a son, to protect her.

Fortunately, there is equality through the Holy Spirit.  If our societies and institutions (especially religious ones) do not recognize this reality, they err in so far as they deviate from this high standard.  But a society is not an abstraction, for it consists of people.  Societies change over time as attitudes shift.  Sometimes this is positive; other times it is not.  Yet gender equality is good.

So, where do you stand?  And how will you act to make the world, or just your corner of it, a more equitable place, for the benefit of all?


Proper 19, Year A   21 comments

Above: Forgiveness

Image Source = AK Pastor

Forgiveness, the Way of Peace and Freedom

The Sunday Closest to September 14

The Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost

SEPTEMBER 17, 2017



Exodus 14:19-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them. It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night.

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers. At the morning watch the LORD in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said,

Let us flee from the Israelites, for the LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.

Then the LORD said to Moses,

Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers.

So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the LORD tossed the Egyptians into the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained. But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.

Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great work that the LORD did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the LORD and believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.

Psalm 114 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

When Israel came out of Egypt,

the house of Jacob from a people of strange speech,

2 Judah became God’s sanctuary

and Israel his dominion.

3 The sea beheld it and fled;

Jordan turned and went back.

4 The mountains skipped like rams,

and the little hills like young sheep.

5 What ailed you, O sea, that you fled?

O Jordan, that you turned back?

6 You mountains, that you skipped like rams?

you little hills like young sheep?

7 Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,

at the presence of the God of Jacob,

8 Who turned the hard rock into a pool of water

and flint-stone into a flowing spring.

Or this alternative to Psalm 114:

Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously;

horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.

The LORD is my strength and my might,

and he has become my salvation;

this is my God, and I will praise him,

my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

The LORD is a warrior;

the LORD is his name.

Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he cast into the sea;

his picked officers were sunk in the Red Sea.

The floods covered them;

they went down into the depths like a stone.

Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power–

your right hand, O LORD, shattered the enemy.

In the greatness of your majesty you overthrew your adversaries;

you sent out your fury, it consumed them like stubble.

At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up,

the floods stood up in a heap;

the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.

The enemy said,

I will pursue, I will overtake,

I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.

I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.

You blew with your wind, the sea covered them;

they sank like lead in the mighty waters.

Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods?

Who is like you, majestic in holiness,

awesome in splendor, doing wonders?

Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing.  And Miriam sang to them:

Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously;

horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.


Genesis 50:15-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said,

What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?

So they approached Joseph, saying,

Your father gave this instruction before he died, “Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.” Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.

Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said,

We are here as your slaves.

But Joseph said to them,

Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.

In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.

Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits.

3 He forgives all your sins

and heals all your infirmities;

4 He redeems your life from the grave

and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness;

5 He satisfies you with good things,

and your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.

6 The LORD executes righteousness

and judgment for all who are oppressed.

7 He made his ways known to Moses

and his works to the children of Israel.

8 The LORD is full of compassion and mercy,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

9 He will not always accuse us,

nor will he keep his anger for ever.

10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,

nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,

so is his mercy great upon those who fear him.

12 As far as the east is from the west,

so far has he removed our sins from us.

13 As a father cares for his children,

so does the LORD care for those who fear him.


Romans 14:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written,

As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,

and every tongue shall give praise to God.

So then, each of us will be accountable to God.


Matthew 18:21-35 (New Revised Standard Version):

Peter came and said to Jesus,

Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?

Jesus said to him,

Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.” Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, `Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

The Collect:

O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Sometimes the readings for any given Sunday, according to the Revised Common Lectionary, fit together smoothly.  Other times, however, they do not.  This happens most often during the Season after Pentecost.  The readings from Genesis, Romans, and Matthew mesh well, for they pertain to forgiveness.  But where is the forgiveness (especially for the Egyptians) in the Exodus lections?

I have written on the subject of forgiveness at least several times on my devotional blogs, for the lectionaries I have chosen to follow touch on this subject again and again.  What I have written stands; this is difficult for me.  Here is a prayer I wrote on February 27, 2011:

Gracious God, why is forgiving so difficult?

I know what I need to do, and I want to do it–

except when I do not want to do it.

Forgive me for this sin, I ask you,

and bestow grace upon me sufficient to enable me

to forgive others and myself,

so to live in Godly liberation with you and my fellow human beings.


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On a different aspect, however…

Yesterday I taught another session of my World Civilization II course for Gainesville State College.  I spent most of the time discussing Islam, the Ottoman Empire, the Safavid Empire, and Western imperialism in the Middle and Near East, as well as indigenous reactions and responses to it.  One of the reactions was Wahhabism, the legacy of which includes the attacks of September 11, 2001.  I told the gathered students that resentments which flow from being on the colonial end of imperialism are understandable, but that resentment which festers for too long turns poisonous.  It devours the person who harbors the resentment(s) and therefore affects those around him or her.  And sometimes, as in the case of the Islamic Republic of Iran, it it consumes a nation.  And, in the case of 9/11, it strikes far overseas.  How much better would world history have played out had more people combined forgiveness with their nationalism, instead of mixing militant religion with it?

But two wrongs do not make a right, and one person’s intolerance does not excuse corresponding intolerance.  The proper extinguishing agents for hatred are love and forgiveness, for they break the cycle.  If we do not break the cycle of hatred and violence, it will break us.  God offers us freedom in forgiveness; may we accept it and extend it ourselves and each other.