Archive for the ‘September 3’ Category

Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 17, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  Rehoboam, by Hans Holbein the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

Timeless Principles of Righteousness

SEPTEMBER 2 and 3, 2019


The Collect:

O God, you resist those who are proud and give grace those who are humble.

Give us the humility of your Son, that we may embody

the generosity of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46


The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 12:1-12 (Monday)

Isaiah 2:12-17 (Tuesday)

Psalm 119:65-72 (Both Days)

Hebrews 13:7-21 (Monday)

Titus 1:1-9 (Tuesday)


Teach me judgement and knowledge,

for I rely on your commandments.

–Psalm 119:66, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


Leaders should obey God and be worthy of respect, the readings tell us.  This principle applies to religious leaders in the New Testament lections and to monarchs (in a system lacking the separation of religion and state) in the Old Testament lessons.  In all of the readings the theme of praising humility and condemning hubris, present in previous posts, continues.  As I have noted more than once, one might commit error while trying to obey divine commandments, as one understands them.  Sometimes we mistake God’s voice for our own.

As I have written in the context of the Law of Moses, scripture provides us with timeless principles and culturally specific examples thereof.  The examples fall away, but the principles persist.  Much legalism results from becoming attached to now-irrelevant examples, not the timeless principles behind them.  There is, in contrast, a wonderful Jewish practice of pondering the principles and how to act according to them in current circumstances.

May we, like the author of Psalm 119, rely on divine commandments without fixating on now-irrelevant, culturally specific examples.







Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 17, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Icon of Moses

Above:  Icon of Moses

Image in the Public Domain

Cleansing from Evil that Arises Within Ourselves, Part III

SEPTEMBER 3, 4, and 5, 2018


The Collect:

O God our strength, without you we are weak and wayward creatures.

Protect us from all dangers that attack us from the outside,

and cleanse us from the outside,

and cleanse us from all evil that arises from within ourselves,

that we may be preserved through your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46


The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 4:9-14 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 4:15-20 (Tuesday)

Deuteronomy 4:21-40 (Wednesday)

Psalm 106:1-6, 13-23, 47-48 (All Days)

1 Timothy 4:6-16 (Monday)

1 Peter 2:19-25 (Tuesday)

Mark 7:9-23 (Wednesday)


We have sinned like our forebears;

we have done wrong and dealt wickedly.

–Psalm 106:6, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)


The contents of this post flows naturally from the previous one.  God, whom the Torah depicts vividly as compassionate yet prone to smite faithless people and blame many people for the sins of others, exceeds human comprehension and preconceptions.  Any impression to the contrary is mistaken.  Holding to divine commandments–sometimes despite the discouraging attitudes, words, and deeds of others–is a great virtue.

Yet we mere mortals interpret that law in our cultural contexts, so we excuse the unjustifiable in the name of God sometimes.  In 1 Peter 2:18-25, for example, we find instructions to slaves to obey their masters.  Verse 18, which the lectionary omits, reads:

Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

I refuse to defend such a passage.

Other injustices have been conscious violations of divine law, not ones born out of cultural blindness.  The practice of Corban was the act of donating wealth or property to the religious establishment.  It was innocent and sincere sometimes, but mean-spirited much of the time.  A person, under the cover of holiness, could deprive his family of necessary financial resources.  Jesus knew this, and he said so.  That which defiles one, our Lord and Saviour said, comes from within, not without.  The metaphorical source of defilement is one’s heart, so, as in the previous post, entering the headquarters of Pontius Pilate would have defiled nobody.  No, those who handed Jesus over to Pilate had defiled themselves already.

May we not defile ourselves.  May we love each other as we love ourselves.  May we respect the image of God in others and in ourselves.  May we encourage each other in our vocations from God.  And may we refuse to shift the blame for that for which we are responsible.  Making scapegoats out of people solves no problems, creates more of them, and violates the moral imperative to respect the dignity of every human being.









Devotion for September 1, 2, and 3 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   15 comments

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

Radical Inclusion in Christ





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:

1 Kings 18:1-19 (September 1)

1 Kings 18:20-40 (September 2)

1 Kings 19:1-21 (September 3)

Psalm 110 (Morning–September 1)

Psalm 62 (Morning–September 2)

Psalm 13 (Morning–September 3)

Psalms 66 and 23 (Evening–September 1)

Psalms 73 and 8 (Evening–September 2)

Psalms 36 and 5 (Evening–September 3)

Ephesians 1:1-23 (September 1)

Ephesians 2:1-22 (September 2)

Ephesians 3:1-21 (September 3)


What I have written briefly of this above will explain to you my knowledge of the mystery of Christ.  This secret was hidden to past, generations of mankind, but it has now, buy the Spirit, been made plain to God’s consecrated messengers and prophets.  It is simply this:  that the gentiles are  to be equal heirs with his chosen people, equal members and equal partners in God’s promise given by Christ Jesus through the gospel.

–Ephesians 3:4-6, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)


The account from 1 Kings boils over with peril–for Obadiah, for Elijah, and for all those who worshiped Baal and other false gods.  The body count is staggering–four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal in 18:40 and an undisclosed number of idol worshipers in 19:18.  The underlying reason for hostility to  many Gentiles in the Old Testament was that many Hebrews succumbed to Gentile false gods and cultic practices, thereby ceasing to be a light to the nations.  But was a massacre the right way to shine positive light?  Of course not!

There were, of course, as I have written in other posts, faithful Gentiles.  Ruth comes to mind immediately.  She even became an ancestor of David and Jesus.  But she adopted the Hebrew religion.

That provides a nice segue into Ephesians.  Paul or someone writing as Paul or revising dictations of an imprisoned Paul wrote of unity in Christ.  In Christ God reconciled with people and brought about human unity.  The church was (and is) the chosen instrument of this unity.  In Christ, the great epistle says, all other divisions fall away.  All of us in Christ are children of God, so we will receive a great inheritance.

This is grand and lofty theology.  So why have we of organized Christianity turned on each other so often?  Why have we even slaughtered each other sometimes?  We do not understand.  Or, if we do understand, we reject the message.  We (broadly speaking) use God as a blunt weapon to marginalize those whom God has called “insiders”, so many who have thought of themselves as insiders have betrayed the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Inclusion in Christ  is too radical a notion for many people to accept, for hurdles to jump through make us confortable.  They provide labels which reassure many falsely.  These labels are idols, in fact.  But Jesus jumped through the hurdles and knocked them down; may we cease to re-erect them.










Week of Proper 17: Monday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  View of Nazareth (1842), by David Roberts

The Jesus Who Offends



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 2:1-5 (The Jerusalem Bible):

As for me, brothers, when I came to you, it was not with any show of oratory or philosophy, but simply to tell you what God had guaranteed.  During my stay with you, the only knowledge I claimed to have was about Jesus, and only about him as the crucified Christ.  Far from relying on any power of my own, I came among you in great “fear and trembling” and in my speeches and the sermons that I gave, there were none of the arguments that belong to philosophy; only a demonstration of the power of the spirit.  And I did this so that your faith should not depend on human philosophy but on the power of God.

Psalm 119:97-104 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

97  Oh, how I love your law!

all the day long it is in my mind.

98  Your commandment has made me wiser than my enemies,

and it is always with me.

99  I have more understanding than all my teachers,

for your decrees are my study.

100  I am wiser than the elders,

because I observe your commandments.

101  I restrain my feet from every evil way,

that I may keep your word.

102  I do not shrink from your judgments,

because you yourself have taught me.

103  How sweet are your words to my taste!

they are sweeter than honey to my mouth.

104  Through your commandments I gain understanding;

therefore I hate every lying way.

Luke 4:16-30 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did.  He stood up to read, and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,

for he has anointed me.

He has sent me bring the good news to the poor,

to proclaim liberty to the captives

and to the blind new sight,

to set the downtrodden free,

to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down.  And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him.  Then he began to speak to them,

This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.

And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips.

They said,

This is Joseph’s son, surely?

But he replied,

No doubt you will quote the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”

And he went on,

I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of those; he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town.  And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged.  They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.


The Collect:

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; 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 Saint James of Jerusalem, Bishop and Martyr (October 23):


With this post the Canadian Anglican lectionary leaves the Gospel of Matthew behind, for, if we continue in that book, we will commence the Passion Narrative.  This is Ordinary Time, not the latter part of Lent.  So we begin readings from Luke, another commendable book.  The rejection of Jesus at Nazareth is set at the beginning of his ministry, shortly after the temptation in the wilderness.

It begins well.  Jesus enters the synagogue and reads from Isaiah 61.  Then he announces that the people assembled are witnesses of the fulfillment of that text.  So far, so good.  As verse 22 tells us,

…he won the approval of all.

Yet the approval had a short lifespan.  Some began to murmur; how could Joseph’s boy say such a thing?  Who did he think he was?  Even worse, from a certain point of view, Jesus proceeded to speak kindly of Gentiles.  As we read in verse 28,

…everyone in the synagogue was enraged.

Okay, there is probably some hyperbole here.  It is possible that not everyone approved of Jesus or then became enraged.  One or two people (at least) might have stood out from the crowd.  Yet Jesus did face rejection.

The audience for the Gospel of Luke was Gentile, so it is no accident that, of the three versions of this story (the others being Mathew 13:54-58 and Mark 6:1-6), this is the only one to include the Gentile element.  Its inclusion here testified to the inclusion of faithful Gentiles among God’s redeemed people, a fact which proved quite contentious in the early decades of the Jesus movement.  Our Lord’s brother, St. James of Jerusalem, who became a martyr circa 62 C.E., stirred up much controversy by insisting that Gentile converts to Christianity not have to become Jews first.  He died for this.

We read in 1 Corinthians that the Christian message is about Jesus–not any Apostle or evangelist–and that  it

should not depend on human philosophy but on the power of God.

That power of God encompasses Jews and Gentiles, those who agree with us and those who disagree with us, those we like and those we dislike, heterosexuals and homosexuals, the native-born and the foreign-born.  If that offends us, we need to examine ourselves spiritually.

Have we, who have grown up immersed in Christianity, become so familiar with one overly simplistic, manageable understanding of Jesus that the full reality of our Lord and Savior offends some of our sensibilities?  I am convinced that the Jesus of my childhood Sunday School classes in rural southern Georgia was a domesticated fiction.  The actual Jesus was much more interesting–and even offensive.  That is my Jesus–a Messiah worth following and a character worthy of the title “Savior.”


Week of Proper 17: Tuesday, Year 1   16 comments

Above:  Map of Galilee in the First Century C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

Community Life in Christ



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 Thessalonians 5:1-28 (The Jerusalem Bible):

You will not be expecting us to write anything to you, brothers, about time and seasons, since you know very well that the Day of the Lord is going to come like a thief in the night.  It is when people are saying, “How quiet and peaceful it is that the worst suddenly happens, as suddenly as labour pains come on a pregnant woman; and there will be no way for anybody to evade it.

But it is not as if you live in the dark, my brothers, for that Day to overtake you like a thief.  No, you are like all sons of light and sons of the day:  we do not belong to the night or to darkness, so we should not go on sleeping, as everyone else does, but stay wide awake and sober.  Night is the time for sleepers to sleep and drunkards to be drunk, but we belong to the day and we should be sober; let us put on faith and love for a breastplate, and the hope of salvation for a helmet.  God never meant us to experience the Retribution, but to win salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that, alive or dead, we should live united to him.  So give encouragement to each other, and keep strengthening one another, as you do already.

We appeal to you, my brothers, to be considerate to those who are working amongst you and are above you in the Lord as your teachers.  Have the greatest respect and affection for them because of their work.

Be at peace among yourselves.  And this is what we ask you to do, brothers:  warn the idlers, give courage to those who are apprehensive, care for the weak and be patient with everyone.  Make sure that people do not try to take revenge; you must all think of what is best for each other and for the community.  Be happy at all times; pray constantly; and for all things give thanks to God, because this is what God expects you to do in Christ Jesus.

Never try to suppress the Spirit or treat the gift of prophecy with contempt; think before you do anything–hold on to what is good and avoid every form of evil.

May the God of peace make you perfect and holy; and may you all be kept safe and blameless, spirit, soul, and body, for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God has called you and he will not fail you.

Pray for us, my brothers.

Greet all the brothers with the holy kiss.  My orders, in the Lord’s name, are that this letter is to be read to all the brothers.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Psalm 27:1-6, 17-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom then shall I fear?

the LORD is the strength of my life;

of whom then shall I be afraid?

2 When evildoers came upon me to eat up my flesh,

it was they, my foes and my adversaries, who stumbled and fell.

3 Though an army should encamp against me,

yet my heart shall not be afraid;

4 And though war should rise up against me,

yet I will put my trust in him.

5 One thing I have asked of the LORD;

one thing I seek;

that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life;

6 To behold the fair beauty of the LORD

and to seek him in his temple.

17 What if I had not believed

that I should see the goodness of the LORD

in the land of the living!

18 O tarry and await the LORD’s pleasure;

be strong, and he shall comfort your heart;

wait patiently for the LORD.

Luke 4:31-37 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath.  And his teaching made a deep impression on them because he spoke with authority.

In the synagogue there was a man who was possessed by the spirit of an unclean devil, and it shouted at the top of its voice,

Ha!  What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are:  the Holy One of God.

But Jesus said sharply,

Be quiet!  Come out of him!

And the devil, throwing the man in front of everyone, went out of him without hurting him at all.  Astonishment seized them and they were all saying to one another,

What teaching!  He gives orders to unclean spirits with authority and power and they come out.

And reports of him went all through the surrounding countryside.


The Collect:

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.


The Hellenistic world was a demon-haunted one.  Popular beliefs held that evil spirits caused many unfortunate conditions.  Today we understand these to have down-to-earth causes.  The origins of schizophrenia, multiple personalities, epilepsy, and various mental illnesses are matters of record in the Western world to which I belong.  The Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment inform my thinking in these matters.

Our Lord’s first miracle, according to the Gospel of Luke, was an exorcism.  Today we would use a different term, saying perhaps that the man had epilepsy and maybe an accompanying mental illness, if not a great deal of stress.  The important part of this event was that he found wholeness, and could thus reintegrate into his community.

Paul, in Chapter 5 of 1 Thessalonians, provided an excellent checklist of harmonious Christian community life:

  • Be considerate of whose who are working amongst you and are above you in the Lord as your teachers; respect them for their work.
  • Be at peace among yourselves.
  • Warn those who are so heavenly-minded that they are of little or no earthly good.
  • Give courage to those who are apprehensive.
  • Care for the weak.
  • Be patient with everyone.
  • Make sure that people do not try to take revenge.
  • Think of  what is best for each other and for the community.
  • Be happy at all times.
  • Pray constantly.
  • Give thanks for all things to God.
  • Never try to suppress the Holy Spirit.
  • Never treat the gift of prophecy with contempt.
  • Think before you do anything.
  • Hold on to what is good.
  • Avoid every form of evil.

Some of these are difficult.  But if we fulfill them our lives will become prayer, for prayer is far more than speaking to God.  And if, by grace, we succeed, we will lead holy lives.

I was more individualistic when I was younger.  But as I age I become more communitarian.  All of us rely on God and each other.  Self-sufficiency in all matters is an illusion, for what one person does influences others.  So we need to think beyond ourselves and focus on the common good without falling into the tyranny of majority, which tramples the rights of individuals of minority and dissident status.  The key word here is balance–the balance of the needs of the one and the needs of the community.

Besides, our common and individual identities are in God alone.  May respect for each other and ourselves, all bearers of the image of God, feed a great sense of commonweal.


Proper 17, Year A   33 comments

Above:  The Burning Bush Logo of the Church of Scotland

Image in the Public Domain

The Call of God

The Sunday Closest to August 31

The Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost




Exodus 3:1-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said,

I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.

When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush,

Moses, Moses!

And he said,

Here I am.

Then he said,

Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.

He said further,

I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.

And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the LORD said,

I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.

But Moses said to God,

Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?

He said,

I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.

But Moses said to God,

If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?

God said to Moses,

I AM Who I AM.

He said further,

Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’

God also said to Moses,

Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:

This is my name forever,

and this is my title for all generations.

Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c (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.

23 Israel came into Egypt,

and Jacob became a sojourner in the land of Ham.

24 The LORD made his people exceedingly fruitful;

he made them stronger than their enemies;

25 Whose heart he turned, so that they hated his people,

and dealt unjustly with his servants.

26 He sent Moses his servant,

and Aaron whom he had chosen.

45c Hallelujah!


Jeremiah 15:15-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

O LORD, you know;

remember me and visit me,

and bring down retribution for me on my persecutors.

In your forbearance do not take me away;

know that on your account I suffer insult.

Your words were found, and I ate them,

and your words became to me a joy

and the delight of my heart;

for I am called by your name,

O LORD, God of hosts.

I did not sit in the company of merrymakers,

nor did I rejoice;

under the weight of your hand I sat alone,

for you had filled me with indignation.

Why is my pain unceasing,

my wound incurable,

refusing to be healed?

Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook,

like waters that fail.

Therefore thus says the LORD:

If you turn back, I will take you back,

and you shall stand before me.

If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,

you shall serve as my mouth.

It is they who will turn to you,

not you who will turn to them.

And I will make you to this people

a fortified wall of bronze;

they will fight against you,

but they shall not prevail over you,

for I am with you

to save you and deliver you, says the LORD.

I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,

and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.

Psalm 26:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give judgment for me, O LORD,

for I have lived with integrity;

I have trusted in the LORD and not faltered.

2 Test me, O LORD, and try me;

examine my heart and my mind.

3 For your love is before my eyes;

I have walked faithfully with you.

4 I have not sat with the worthless,

nor do I consort with the deceitful.

5 I have hated the company of evildoers;

I will not sit down with the wicked.

6 I will wash my hands in innocence, O LORD,

that I may go in procession round your altar,

7 Singing aloud a song of thanksgiving

and recounting all your wonderful deeds.

8 LORD, I love the house in which you dwell

and the place where your glory abides.


Romans 12:9-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


Matthew 16:21-28 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying,

God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.

But he turned and said to Peter,

Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.

Then Jesus told his disciples,

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.

The Collect:

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.


The prophet Jeremiah was having a very bad day.  He had been preaching the word of God for awhile.  And, for all his trouble, he had faced rejection and persecution.

Be honest.  Have you not turned to God and complained bitterly?  Have you not accused God of being absent in your time of need?  I have.  So did Jeremiah.  There is nothing wrong with this, for a relationship with God, if it is healthy, is honest.

And God answered Jeremiah’s lament.  Get beyond yourself, God said.  Get busy, God said.  And I will be with you, God said.

This was also God’s message to Moses, a fugitive murderer on the run from Egyptian authorities.  Moses received a straight-forward mandate:  to return to Egypt, speak for God, and play a vital part in the divine plan to liberate the Hebrews from slavery.  This was a daunting task, and Moses was a poor speaker.  But Aaron was a better orator, and God would be with them.

God does not call the qualified; God qualifies the called.

Jeremiah had asked God to undertake vengeance upon his enemies.  Paul, in Romans, reflects the opposite point of view.  Vengeance, he says, is purely a matter for God.  Followers of God are supposed to love their enemies, as well as their friends and other like-minded people.  Vengeance is a natural desire, one I know well.  But it does not help one glorify and enjoy God forever.  Revenge is not Christ-like.

Speaking of Jesus…

Last week,, Peter had just become the first rock of human faith on the rock mass of God, and Jesus had just said how blessed the Apostle was.  Then, in this week’s installment, Jesus predicted his own arrest, torture, execution, and resurrection.  Peter, horrified, protested.  Then Jesus rebuked the man he had just blessed.  Jesus understood his own divine call, which was to atone for sin.  This purpose came at a high cost to him.  The mission of the Apostles was to follow their Lord, and most of them became martyrs.

God challenges us to move beyond ourselves, serve others, love others as ourselves–created in the divine image, and take on difficult tasks for a greater purpose.  This is truly risky business, but Moses, Jeremiah, Jesus, and Simon Peter chose to remain faithful and to endure.  Two of them died for it, one died in exile, and the fourth spent a generation in the Sinai Desert with a horde of grumblers.  And all four are heroes of faith.

Jesus, of course, was and is far more than a hero of faith.  And he calls us to assume risks.  Each of us ought to take up a cross and follow him.  We need to be the best disciples we can be.  That is the call of God.