Archive for the ‘September 24’ Category

Devotion for Tuesday and Wednesday After Proper 20, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Paul Writing His Epistles

Above:   Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

Freedom in God

SEPTEMBER 24 and 25, 2019


The Collect:

God among us, we gather in the name of your Son

to learn love for one another.  Keep our feet from evil paths.

Turn our minds to your wisdom and our hearts to the grace

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48


The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 17:1-5 (Tuesday)

Proverbs 21:10-16 (Wednesday)

Psalm 12 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (Tuesday)

Luke 20:45-21:4 (Wednesday)


“Because the needy are oppressed,

and the poor cry out in misery,

I will rise up,” says the LORD,

“and give them the help they long for.”

–Psalm 12:5, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


Justice done is a joy to the righteous,

To evildoers, ruination.

–Proverbs 21:15, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)


He who mocks the poor affronts his Maker;

He who rejoices over another’s misfortune will not go unpunished.

–Proverbs 17:5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)


If the reading from Luke 20 and 21 seems familiar, O reader who has also read the last few posts attentively, it is.  That pericope is, in fact, a retelling of Mark 12:38-44.  My comments about the story of the widow’s mite remain unchanged.

As for the reading from 1 Corinthians, St. Paul the Apostle reminds us in Chapter 9 that our freedom in God is for the purposes of God–not to glorify oneself or to obstruct or ignore God.  As my Presbyterian brethren state correctly, the chief and highest end of people is to glorify and enjoy God forever.  How we treat our fellow human beings, especially those who are vulnerable, is telling.  Whenever we help them, we help Jesus.  Whenever we do not help them, we do not help Jesus (Matthew 25:31-46).

How do you, O reader, use your freedom in God?










Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 20, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

House of Naaman, Damascus

Above:  House of Naaman, Damascus, 1900-1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

Humility Before God

SEPTEMBER 24 and 25, 2018


The Collect:

O God, our teacher and guide,

you draw us to yourself and welcome us as beloved children.

Help us to lay aside all envy and selfish ambition,

that we may walk in your ways of wisdom and understanding

as servants of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48


The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 5:1-14 (Monday)

2 Kings 11:21-12:16 (Tuesday)

Psalm 139:1-18 (Both Days)

James 4:8-17 (Monday)

James 5:1-6 (Tuesday)


LORD, you have searched me out and known me;

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

–Psalm 139:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The Temple at Jerusalem was approximately 140 years old.  The Ark of the Covenant was there.  Repairing the structure of the Temple, which, like all buildings, required maintenance, should have been a priority long before King Jehoash made it one.  The lack of upkeep indicated an improper attitude toward God.

The proper attitude toward God includes humility.  God is God; none of us is God.  We depend entirely upon God (and rely upon each other), so any thought to the contrary is mistaken.  Our interdependence and mutual responsibility (to and for each other) leaves no room for sins such as oppression, exploitation, and gossiping.  Our total dependence on God leaves no room for excessive pride.

Naaman learned humility and monotheism.  Unfortunately, the narrative ended with the beginning of his journey back home.  I wonder how the experience at the River Jordan changed him and how that altered reality became manifest in his work and daily life.  I also wonder if that led to any negative consequences for him.

Martin Luther referred to James as an “epistle of straw.”  The letter’s emphasis on works (including justification by them) offended the reformer, who was reacting, not responding, to certain excesses and abuses of the Roman Catholic Church.  The epistle’s emphasis on works was–and remains–necessary, however.  The book’s condemnations of exploitation and hypocrisy have called proper attention to injustices and other sins for millennia.

I am not a wealthy landowner exploiting impoverished workers (James 5:1-6), but part of these days’ composite reading from the epistle speaks to me.  The condemnation of judging others (4:1-11) hits close to home.  My estimate is that judging others is the sin I commit most often.  If I am mistaken, judging others is one of the sins I commit most frequently.  I know better, of course, but like St. Paul the Apostle, I know well the struggle with sin and my total dependence upon God.  Knowing that one has a problem is the first step in the process of resolving it.

Caution against moral perfectionism is in order.  Public statements by relatives of victims of the White supremacist gunman who killed nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, South Carolina, have been impressive.  The capacity for forgiveness has come quickly to some.  I rejoice that divine grace is so richly evident in their lives.  For some of us (including the author), however, the capacity to forgive those who have committed lesser offenses has arrived later rather than sooner.  For others it remains in transit.  In any circumstance may it arrive in God’s time.  May the rest of us refrain from judging those struggling with that (and other) issues.

The Didache, an essential Christian text from the second century of the Common Era, opens with an explanation of the Way of Life (filling a page and a half in my copy) and the Way of Death (just one paragraph–about one-third of a page).  The accent on the positive aspect of morality is laudable.  The section on the two Ways ends with two sentences:

Take care that nobody tempts you away from the path of this Teaching, for such a man’s tuition can have nothing to do with God.  If you can shoulder the Lord’s yoke in its entirety, then you will be perfect; but if that is too much for you, do as much as you can.

Early Christian Writings:  The Apostolic Fathers (Penguin Books, 1987), p. 193

We, to succeed, even partially, depend on grace.  Even so, I am still trying to do as much as I can, to borrow language from the Didache, for human efforts are not worthless.  I am imperfect; there is much room for improvement.  Much has improved already, by grace.  The potential for spiritual growth excites me.  The only justifiable boast will be in God.








Devotion for September 22, 23, and 24 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments


Above:  Ezra

Image in the Public Domain

Nehemiah and 1 Timothy, Part IV:  Performing Good Deeds at Every Opportunity





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:

Nehemiah 7:1-4 (September 22)

Nehemiah 8:1-18 (September 22)

Nehemiah 9:1-21 (September 23)

Nehemiah 9:22-38 (September 24–Protestant Versification)

Nehemiah 9:22-10:1 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Versification)

Psalm 67 (Morning–September 22)

Psalm 51 (Morning–September 23)

Psalm 54 (Morning–September 24)

Psalms 46 and 93 (Evening–September 22)

Psalms 85 and 47 (Evening–September 23)

Psalms 28 and 99 (Evening–September 24)

1 Timothy 5:1-16 (September 22)

1 Timothy 5:17-6:2 (September 23)

1 Timothy 6:3-21 (September 24)


The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

–Psalm 51:18, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


These days’ readings speak of lamenting sins and of vowing to reform errant ways.  They also offer culturally specific advice as to how to do the latter.  I, as a Christian, do not follow the Law of Moses, for Jesus has fulfilled the Law.  And I read 1 Timothy 5-6, my jaw dropping because of the sexism and the failure to condemn slavery.  I, when pondering Old and New Testament moral advice, find the following statements helpful:

Identifying general principles is important because the real purpose of the Law is to inculcate general principles and values and to apply them in specific instances.  This is done by stating general principles and by illustrating, with specific examples, how general principles can be applied in specific cases.

–Richard Bauckham, The Bible in Politics:  How to Read the Bible Politically, 2d. Ed. (Louisville, KY:  Westminster/John Knox Press, 2011, pages 24-25)

The best moral advice I have located in these days’ readings is to preform good deeds

at every opportunity.

–1 Timothy 5:10d, The Revised English Bible

What that looks like depends on the opportunities.  May we focus on that principle and not become bogged down in legalistic details.









Week of Proper 20: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  Sherman Booth, U.S. Abolitionist (Died in 1904)


SEPTEMBER 24, 25, and 26, 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.



Proverbs 3:27-35 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Do not withhold good from one who deserves it

When you have the power to do it [for him].

Do not say to your fellow,

Come back again;

I’ll give it to you tomorrow,

when you have it with you.

Do not quarrel with a man for no cause,

When he has done you no harm.

Do not envy a lawless man,

Or choose any of his ways;

For the devious man is an abomination to the LORD,

But He is intimate with the straightforward.

The curse of the LORD is on the house of the wicked,

But He blesses the abode of the righteous.

At scoffers He scoffs,

But to the lowly He shows grace.

The wise shall obtain honor,

But dullards get disgrace as their portion.


Proverbs 21:1-6, 10-13 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Like channeled water is the mind of the king in the LORD’s hand;

He directs it to whatever He wishes.

All the ways of a man seem right to him,

But the LORD probes the mind.

To do what is right and just

Is more desired by the LORD than sacrifice.

Haughty looks, a proud heart–

The tillage of the wicked is sinful.

The plans of the diligent make only for gain;

All rash haste makes only for loss.

Treasures acquired by a lying tongue

Are like driven vapor, heading for extinction.

The desire of the wicked is set upon evil;

His fellowman finds no favor in his eyes.

When a scoffer is punished, the simple man is edified;

When a wise man is taught, he gains insight.

The Righteous One observes the house of the wicked man;

He subverts the wicked to their ruin.

Who stops his ears at the cry of the wretched,

He too will call and not be answered.


Proverbs 30:5-9 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Every word of God is pure,

A shield to those who take refuge in Him.

Do not add to His words,

Lest He indict you and you be proved a liar.

Two things I ask of you; do not deny them to me before I die;

Keep lies and false words far from me;

Give me neither poverty nor riches,

But provide me with my daily bread,

Les, being sated, I renounce, saying,

Who is the LORD?

Or, being impoverished, I take to theft

And profane the name of my God.


Psalm 15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 LORD, who may dwell in your tabernacle?

who may abide upon your holy hill?

Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right,

who speaks the truth from his heart.

3 There is no guile upon his tongue;

he does no evil to his friend;

he does not heap contempt upon his neighbor.

In his sight the wicked is rejected,

but he honors those who fear the LORD.

5 He has sworn to do no wrong

and does not take back his word.

6 He does not give his money in hope of gain,

nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things

shall never be overthrown.


Psalm 119:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Happy are they whose way is blameless,

who walk in the law of the LORD!

Happy are they who observe his decrees

and seek him with all their hearts!

3 Who never do any wrong,

but always walk in his ways.

4 You laid down your commandments,

that we should fully keep them.

Oh, that my ways were made so direct

that I might keep your statutes!

Then I should not be put to shame,

when I regard all your commandments.

I will thank you with an unfeigned heart,

when I have learned your righteous judgments.

I will keep your statutes;

do not utterly forsake me.


Psalm 24:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it,

the world and all who dwell therein.

For it is who founded it upon the seas

and made it firm upon the rivers of the deep.

“Who can ascend the hill of the LORD?

and who can stand in his holy place?”

“Those who have clean hands and a pure heart,

who have not pledged themselves to falsehood,

nor sworn by what is a fraud.

They shall receive a blessing from the LORD

and a just reward from the God of their salvation.”

Such is the generation of those who seek him,

of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob.


Luke 8:16-18 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

No one lights a lamp to cover it with a bowl or put it under a bed.  No, he puts it on a lamp-stand so that people may see the light when they come in.  For nothing is hidden but it will be made clear, nothing secret but it will be known and brought to light.  So take care how you hear; for anyone who has will be given more; from anyone who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away.


Luke 8:19-21 (The Jerusalem Bible):

His [Jesus’] mother and his brothers came looking for him, but they could not get to him because of the crowd.  He was told,

Your mother and brothers are standing outside and want to see you.

But he said in answer,

My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.


Luke 9:1-6 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.  He said to them,

Take nothing the journey; neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and let none of you take a spare tunic.  Whatever house you enter, stay there; and when you leave, let it be from there.  As for those who do not welcome you, when you leave the town shake the dust from your feet as a sign to them.

So they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the Good News and healing everywhere.


The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


The Feast of Sherman Booth (August 10):


To do what is right and just

Is more desired by the LORD than sacrifice.

–Proverbs 21:3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

As a student of history, I know well that secrets (the documented ones, at least), emerge in time.  Our lives contain patterns, and we will not be able to conceal our true selves forever.  So it is best, from a purely selfish point of view, not to have deep, dark secrets.  Rather, if we are to go down to scorn or risk doing so, may we do so for doing the right thing, for acting justly and righteously.  Then the scorn will reflect harshly on the ones who heap scorn, not on the scorned.

There are many cases of this in the Bible.  A few–Tobit, Jeremiah, Elijah, Jesus, and John the Baptist–come to mind immediately.  A more recent example is Sherman Booth (see a link above), who made himself a criminal to free a fugitive slave.  Booth has obtained honor while those who persecuted (and prosecuted) him him have earned disgrace.  All this is appropriate.

May we–you, O reader, and I–live in such a way as to obtain honor.

The wise shall obtain honor,

But dullards get disgrace as their portion.

–Proverbs 3:35, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


Week of Proper 20: Tuesday, Year 1   6 comments

Above:  Darius I of Persia

Image in the Public Domain

Hearing and Doing

SEPTEMBER 24, 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.


Ezra 6:1-8, 12-18 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Thereupon, at the order of King Darius, they searched the archives where the treasures were stored in Babylon.  But it was in the citadel of Ecbatana, in the province of Media, that a scroll was found in which the following was written:

Memorandum:  In the first year of King Cyrus, King Cyrus issued an order concerning the House of God in Jerusalem:  ‘Let the house be rebuilt, a place for offering sacrifices, with a base built up high.  Let it be sixty cubits high and sixty cubits wide, with a course of unused timber for each three courses of hewn stone.  The expenses shall be paid by the palace.  And the gold and the silver vessels of the House of God which Nebuchadnezzar had taken away from the temple in Jerusalem and transported to Babylon shall be returned, and let each go back to the temple in Jerusalem where it belongs; you shall deposit in in the House of God.’

“Now you, Tannenai, governor of the province of Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai and colleagues, the officials of the province of Beyond the River, stay away from that place.  Allow the work of this House of God to go on; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this House of God:  the expenses are to be paid to these men with dispatch out of the resources of the king, derived from the taxes of the province of Beyond the River, so that the work not be stopped….And may the God who established His name there cause the downfall of any king or nation that undertakes to alter or damage that House of God in Jerusalem.  I, Darius, have issued the decree; let it be carried out with dispatch.”

Then Tattenai, governor of the province of Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and their colleagues carried out with dispatch what King Darius had written.  So the elders of the Jews progressed with the building, urged on by the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah son of Iddo, and they brought the building to completion under the aegis of the God of Israel and by the order of Cyrus and Darius and King Artaxerxes of Persia.  The house was finished on the third of the month of Adar in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.  The Israelites, the priests, and the Levites, and all the other exiles celebrated the dedication of the House of God with joy.  And they sacrificed for the dedication of this House of God one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lamps, and twelve goats as a purification offering for all of Israel, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. They appointed the priests in their courses and the Levites in their divisions for the service of God in Jerusalem, according to the prescription in the Book of Moses.

Psalm 124 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 If the LORD had not been on our side,

let Israel now say,

2 If the LORD had not been on our side,

when enemies rose up against us;

3 Then they would have swallowed us up alive

in their fierce anger toward us;

4 Then would the waters have overwhelmed us

and the torrent gone over us;

5 Then would the raging waters

have gone right over us.

6 Blessed be the LORD!

he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

7 We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler;

the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

8 Our help is in the Name of the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

Luke 8:19-21 (The Jerusalem Bible):

His [Jesus’] mother and his brothers came looking for him, but they could not get to him because of the crowd.  He was told,

Your mother and brothers are standing outside and want to see you.

But he said in answer,

My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.


The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Some dates will prove useful in comprehending the material from Ezra.  So, courtesy of The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford University Press, 2004), here they are:

  • Reign of Cyrus II (the Great) = 559-530 B.C.E.
  • Capture of Babylon = 539 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Cambyses = 530-522 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Darius I = 522-486 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Xerxes I = 486-465 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Artaxerxes I = 465-424 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Darius II = 423-405 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Artaxerxes II = 405-359 B.C.E.
  • Exiles begin to return from Babylonia in 538 B.C.E.
  • Second Temple completed in 515 B.C.E.

“Artaxerxes” is Artaxerxes I, in case you were wondering.

Cyrus II had authorized the rebuilding of the Temple at Jerusalem, but politics stopped the process.  The Assyrians had settled other peoples in Judea, and some of the descendants of these ethnic groups obstructed the effort.  The logjam ended during the reign of Darius I.  Thank goodness for archivists!

There is a plethora of Christian theological writing regarding the will(s) of God and the ability of humans to interfere with it/them.  One of the more accessible works on this subject is The Will of God, by Leslie Weatherhead.  As I have lived, read, and pondered, I have concluded that Weatherhead is correct:  the ultimate will of God will come to pass, regardless of what we mere mortals do.  That said, we have the power, through the abuse of our free will, to derail more than one divine path to fulfilling that ultimate will.  In other words, we can stand in the way of God’s Plan A, and Plan B, and Plan C.  Yet, sooner or later, one way or another, God’s ultimate will is going to come to pass.

We function as obstructions when we fail to be both hearers and doers of God’s word and ultimate will.  Yet, when we hear then do, we act as faithful members of the household of God.  Is not that much better than being stubborn, spiteful, and petty?

So, why are we stubborn, spiteful, and petty?  Some of us might not realize what we are doing.  These are those who are so caught up in themselves that they cannot see the detrimental effects of their actions upon others.  Still others of us, if we do know what we are doing, might have distorted values systems which glorify stubbornness, spitefulness, and pettiness.  Then there are those who try to do the right thing, as they understand it, but get it wrong.  These are not bad people who wake up each day and plot their disobedience.  But perhaps cultural blinders prevent them from seeing clearly.  And, of course, all of us are prone to stubbornness, spitefulness, and pettiness from time to time.  Stubbornness, in the service of a good cause, is persistence, a virtue.  So context matters here.

Sometimes, then, we hear and try to do,  but fail.  Other times we hear and do not try to obey.  Still other times he hear but misunderstand.  And sometimes we do not hear at all, so we cannot obey in such circumstances.  Sometimes instructions from God seem quite clear with the aid of hindsight and tradition.  Yet other times traditions distort those instructions.  What are to do?  How can we know how to discern between correct and distorted messages?

This is not a simple matter, and I have not encountered a burning bush in my life.  I have opinions, many of which I voice on this weblog and others within my blog network.  Yet I try to maintain proper theological humility; I can be wrong.  I stand by my opinions today, but I might change some of them by next year.  I am fallible.

So I try to remain open to God’s leading and the Holy Spirit, to confirm when I am correct and tell me when I am not.  The best I can do is the best I can do.  It is not enough, but it does not have to be, for God is all-powerful.  And, even in my worst moments, the worst I can do is delay the fulfillment of the ultimate will of God.  At best, however, I will be part of the fulfillment of that will.  But God will’s is going to come to fruition, with or without me.  I prefer to be part of the solution, not the problem.  By grace, I will succeed more often than not.


Proper 20, Year A   27 comments

Above:  Map of Ancient Nineveh

Image Source = Fredarch

Scandalous Generosity

The Sunday Closest to September 21

The Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost

SEPTEMBER 24, 2017



Exodus 16:2-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them,

If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

Then the LORD said to Moses,

I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.

So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites,

In the evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your complaining against the LORD. For what are we, that you complain against us?

And Moses said,

When the LORD gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the LORD has heard the complaining that you utter against him– what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the LORD.

Then Moses said to Aaron,

Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, “Draw near to the LORD, for he has heard your complaining.”

And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. The LORD spoke to Moses and said,

I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another,

What is it?

For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them,

It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.

Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of all his marvelous works.

3 Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

4 Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

6 O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

37 He led out his people with silver and gold;

in all their tribes there was not one that stumbled.

38 Egypt was glad of their going,

because they were afraid of them.

39 He spread out a cloud for a covering,

and a fire to give light in the night season.

40 They asked, and quails appeared,

and he satisfied them with bread from heaven.

41 He opened the rock, and water flowed,

so the river ran in the dry places.

42 For God remembered his holy word

and Abraham his servant.

43 So he led forth his people with gladness,

his chosen with shouts of joy.

44 He gave his people the lands of the nations,

and they took the fruit of others’ toil.

45 That they might keep his statutes

and observe his laws.



Jonah 3:10-4:11 (New Revised Standard Version):

When God saw what the people of Nineveh did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD and said,

O LORD! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.

And the LORD said,

Is it right for you to be angry?

Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.

The LORD God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said,

It is better for me to die than to live.

But God said to Jonah,

Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?

And he said,

Yes, angry enough to die.

Then the LORD said,

You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?

Psalm 145:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

1 I will exalt you, O God my King,

and bless your Name for ever and ever.

2 Every day will I bless you

and praise your Name for ever and ever.

3 Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;

there is no end to his greatness.

4 One generation shall praise your works to another

and shall declare your power.

5 I will ponder the glorious splendor of your majesty

and all your marvelous works.

6 They shall speak of the might of your wondrous acts,

and I will tell of your greatness.

7 They shall publish the remembrance of your great goodness;

they shall sing of your righteous deeds.

8 The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,

slow to anger and of great kindness.


Philippians 1:21-30 (New Revised Standard Version):

For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well– since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.


Matthew 20:1-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?” They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.” When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.” When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last.

The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


We like grace when we benefit from it, as in the case of the children of Israel, whom God fed in the wilderness.  Yet often we object when others–especially our enemies and others unlike us–benefit from it, too.

Consider Jonah, one of the most interesting literary creations in the Bible.  He was a satirical figure who epitomized the worst of post-Exilic Judaism, which had a strong dose of exclusivity about it.  So, in the short book bearing the name “Jonah” the titular character receives a mandate from God to offer the people of Nineveh–traditional enemies–a chance to repent.  Jonah runs away, but cannot escape from God.  Finally, Jonah does as God demands, and finds success in this effort disappointing.  Who is he without his traditional enemy?  What is his identity now?  This man cares more for a plant than for fellow human beings who are different from him, but whom God loves and to whom God reaches out.

This not merely about the scandal of grace extended to our enemies.  Jesus told a parable about a vineyard owner who hired people during various times of day then paid everybody the same amount–the standard daily wage at the time and place.  Those who had worked all day were upset, but the vineyard owner had not cheated them.

Why does God’s generosity scandalize us, or at least bother us?  Perhaps we think that we are deserving, but those people over there are not.  I have seen a sticker which reads,


This is supposed to be funny, which is how I interpret it.  But some people believe it.  In reality, however, we are just as deserving as those people are, which is to say that we are not deserving at all.  This, however, is not how many of us like to think of ourselves.

Too often we define ourselves according to what we are not.  We are not like those people.  We are not those people.  We are better than them, we tell ourselves.  In reality, however, my identity, your identity, and the identity of the person least like us all exist in the context of God.  We are children of God, and therefore siblings.  So our quarrels exist within a family context.  God, our Father-Mother (Metaphors relative to God are imperfect, and the Bible contains both masculine and feminine images for God.), loves us and does not give up on any of us.  So we ought not to write anyone off.  Yet we do.

We can be instruments of God voluntarily–like, Moses dealing with the ever-grumbling children of Israel, or Paul, bringing the message of Jesus to the Gentiles–or involuntarily–like Jonah, weeping over a dead plant while bemoaning the repentance of a population.  If divine grace and generosity scandalize us, the fault is with us, not with God.