Archive for the ‘September 7’ Category

Devotion for Friday and Saturday Before Proper 18, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Creek in Desert

Above:   Creek in Desert

Image in the Public Domain

A Faithful Response

SEPTEMBER 6 and 7, 2019


The Collect:

Direct us, O Lord God, in all our doings by your continual help,

that all our works, begun, continued, and ended in you,

may glorify your holy name; and finally, by your mercy,

bring us to everlasting life, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47


The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 7:12-26 (Friday)

Deuteronomy 29:2-20 (Saturday)

Psalm 1 (Both Days)

Colossians 4:7-17 (Friday)

Matthew 10:34-42 (Saturday)


Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,

nor lingered in the seat of sinners,

nor sat in the seats of the scornful.

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


As I indicated in the previous post, Psalm 1 is overly optimistic.  It is also in the company of many passages of the Hebrew Bible, such as our reading from Deuteronomy 7.  “Obey God and prosper,” they say.  Deuteronomy 29 is correct to remind people of God’s mighty acts.  Such grace requires a faithful response, does it not?  And, in the long view, the good prosper and the wicked perish in the end.  In the meantime, however, we still read of the righteous Job suffering (Job 1 and 2), the persecution of the righteous (Matthew 10:16ff), and the query of the martyrs in heaven, who want to know how long until God avenges them (Revelation 6:10).

If St. Paul the Apostle wrote or dictated the Letter to the Colossians, he produced the document in prison.  Regardless of the reality of the question of authorship, the advice for Archippus applies to all of us:

See that you carry out the duty entrusted to you in the Lord’s service.

–Colossians 4:17b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Grace does, after all, require a faithful response.








Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 18, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Atlas Scan

Above:  Dougherty, Baker, and Mitchell Counties, Georgia

Image Source = Hammond’s Complete World Atlas (1951)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Nobility of Character

SEPTEMBER 6, 7, and 8, 2018


The Collect:

Gracious God, throughout the ages you transform

sickness into health and death into life.

Openness to the power of your presence,

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

through Jesus Christ, our healer and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 30:27-33 (Thursday)

Isaiah 32:1-18 (Friday)

Isaiah 33:1-9 (Saturday)

Psalm 146 (All Days)

Romans 2:1-11 (Thursday)

Romans 2:12-16 (Friday)

Matthew 15:21-31 (Saturday)



Praise the LORD, O my soul!

I will praise the Lord as long as I live;

I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth,

for there is no help in them.

When they breathe their last, they return to the earth,

and in that day their thoughts perish.

Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help:

whose hope is in the LORD their God;

who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;

who keeps faith forever;

who gives justice to those who are oppressed,

and food to those who hunger.

The LORD sets the prisoners free;

the LORD opens the eyes of the blind;

the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;

the LORD loves the righteous

and cares for the stranger;

the LORD sustains the orphan and the widow,

but frustrates the way of the wicked.

The LORD shall reign forever,

your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.


–Psalm 146, The Book of Common Worship (1993)


When I was a graduate student in history at Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia, my thesis director asked me one day to help a friend and colleague of his who lived on the West Coast.  I was glad to do so.  The simple task entailed conducting some research there in town.  I learned what I could about a notorious law enforcement official (John Doe, for the purpose of this post) in an equally notorious county immediately south of Albany, Georgia, from the 1940s through the 1960s.  My answers came quickly.  Doe, whom his white-washed profile in the county history described as a devoted family man, a faithful Christian, and a deacon of the First Baptist Church in the county seat, was the sort of police officer who gave Southern law enforcement a bad name, especially among African Americans.  The federal government investigated him after he threw acid into the face of an African-American man, in fact.  No charges or disciplinary actions resulted, however, and Doe served locally until he retired and won a seat in the state General Assembly.  His offenses never caught up with him in this life.

A few years ago a student told a story in class.  He had been opening doors at his family’s church.  In the process he opened a closet door and found Ku Klux Klan robes.  Older members of the congregation preferred not to discuss why the robes were there.  I know, however, that the Klan had much support from many churchgoers a century ago and more recently than that.

A composite of the readings from Isaiah and Romans says that, among other things, character matters and becomes evident in one’s actions and inactions.  As we think, so we are and behave.  For example, do we really care for the vulnerable people around us, or do we just claim to do so?  To use other examples, do we profess “family values” while practicing serial infidelity or condemn gambling while playing slot machines?  Few offenses are more objectionable than hypocrisy.

Among my complaints about the Bible is the fact that it almost never mentions one’s tone of voice, a detail which can change the meaning of a statement.  Consider, O reader, the exchange between Jesus and the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21-27.  Was he being dismissive of her?  I think not.  The text provides some clues to support my conclusion:

  1. Jesus had entered the region of Tyre and Sidon, Gentile territory, voluntarily.
  2. Later our Lord and Savior expressed his compassion for people outside that region via words and deeds.  Surely his compassion knew no ethnic or geographic bounds.

No, I propose that Jesus responded to the Canaanite woman to prompt her to say what she did, and that he found her rebuttal satisfactory.  Then he did as she requested.

Jesus acted compassionately and effectively.  Hebrew prophets condemned judicial corruption and the exploitation of the poor.  One function of the language of the Kingdom of God (in both Testaments) was to call the attention of people to the failings of human economic and political systems.  That function applies to the world today, sadly.

What does it say about your life, O reader?  In Isaiah 32 the standard of nobility is character, especially in the context of helping the poor, the hungry, and the thirsty–the vulnerable in society, more broadly.  Are you noble by that standard?  Do you love your neighbor as you love yourself?








Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 18, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  Ruins of Ancient Corinth, Between 1898 and 1946

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-07406

Hope for Transformation

SEPTEMBER 7 and 8, 2017


The Collect:

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

Without your help, we mortals will fail;

remove far from us everything that is harmful,

and lead us toward all that gives life and salvation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46


The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 24:1-14 (Thursday)

Ezekiel 24:15-27 (Friday)

Psalm 119:33-40 (Both Days)

2 Corinthians 12:11-21 (Thursday)

Romans 10:15b-21 (Friday)


Turn away the reporach which I dread,

because your judgments are good.

Behold, I long for your commandmetns;

in your righteousness preserve my life.

–Psalm 119:39-40, Book of Common Worship (1993)


The assigned readings from Ezekiel are quite vivid and disturbing. We read an allegory of divine punishment for human sins, such as economic injustice, judicial corruption, and the exploitation of human beings, and the practice of idolatry. And the prophet, as a sign to others, is not even supposed to mourn his wife’s passing. The meaning of this second allegroy is to accept as just the divine punishment and admit complicity in evil deeds. Then transformation will follow and the next phase will ensue.

The yet-unrealized hope of transformation from a bad situation (often of one’s own creation, at least partially) occupies the readings from Romans and 2 Cornithians. God had been stretching out divine hands to

a disobedient and defiant people

–Romans 10:20, The Revised English Bible (1989)

and the Corinthian church had continued to be a troublesome congregation in the lessons, but St. Paul the Apostle persisted in hope of transformation.

May we refrain from abandoning that hope in relation to others and ourselves.








Bloga Theologica version


Devotion for September 6 and 7 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Female Sign

Above:  Female Sign

Image in the Public Domain

2 Kings and Ephesians, Part III:  Building Each Other Up



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 Kings 4:8-22, 32-37 (September 6)

2 Kings 4:38-5:8 (September 7)

Psalm 85 (Morning–September 6)

Psalm 61 (Morning–September 7)

Psalms 25 and 40 (Evening–September 6)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening–September 7)

Ephesians 5:15-33 (September 6)

Ephesians 6:1-24 (September 7)


Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

–Ephesians 5:21, Revised English Bible


That is the verse upon which Ephesians 5:22-6:9 hangs.  To read any portion thereof outside of the context of 5:21 is to distort the meaning of any of those verses.  A common Christian expectation at the time was that Jesus might return next week or next month or next year, so a revolution in social structure or economic realities was not on the table; preparing for the Second Coming took precedence.  Since Jesus has not returned by January 4, 2013, when I type these words, I propose that those are matters worthy of moral and theological consideration.  To do so is to honor the Golden Rule.

I have kept the Ephesians readings together.  In so doing, however, I have divided the story of Naaman.  So be it; I will deal with that story in the next post in this series.  But I have been able to pair advice from Ephesians with miracle stories involving Elisha.  Many of those tales echo Elijah miracle stories, by the way.

I did notice a common thread involving women.  The Shunammite woman needed her son for her financial security in her patriarchal society.  But the text from Ephesians advises the mutual submission of wives and husbands to each other and both of them to Christ.  Wives and husbands have sacred obligations to each other; they belong to each other.  This is a beautiful teaching, even if patriarchy does stain it.

The Letter to the Ephesians, as scholars have noted, displays great unity.  The end follows nicely from what precedes it:  Act for the common good; build each other up.  That was what Elijah did for the Shunammite woman.  That is what we are called to do for each other today, where we are.  The only situational aspect of this ethic is what the details will be.










Week of Proper 17: Thursday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 17: Friday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  A Bullseye

Image Source = Alberto Barbati

A Different Standard

SEPTEMBER 6 and 7, 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 3:1-23 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Make no mistake about it:  if any one of you thinks of himself as wise, in the ordinary sense of the word, then he must learn to be a fool before he can be wise.  Why?  Because the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God.  As scripture says:

The Lord knows wise men’s thoughts:  he knows how useless they are;

or again:

God is not convinced by the arguments of the wise.

So there is nothing to boast about in anything human:  Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life and death, the present and the future, are all your servants; but you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God.


1 Corinthians 4:1-5 (The Jerusalem Bible):

People must think of themselves as Christ’s servants, stewards entrusted with the mysteries of God.  What is expected of stewards is that each one should be found worthy of his trust.  Not that it makes the slightest difference to me whether you, or indeed any human tribunal, find me worthy or not.  I will not even pass judgement on myself.  True, my conscience does not reproach me at all, but that does not prove that I am acquitted:  the Lord alone is my judge.  There must be no passing of premature judgement.  Leave that until the Lord comes:  he will light up all that is hidden in the dark and reveal the secret intentions of men’s hearts.  Then will be the time for each one to have whatever praise he deserves, from God.


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.


Psalm 37:1-12 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Do not fret yourself because of evildoers;

do not be jealous of those who do no wrong.

2 For they shall soon wither like the grass,

and like the green grass they fade away.

3 Put your trust in the LORD and do good,

dwell in the land and feed on its riches.

Take delight in the LORD,

and he shall give you your heart’s desire.

Commit your way to the LORD and put your trust in him,

and he will bring it to pass.

He will make your righteousness as clear as the light

and your just dealing as the noonday.

Be still and wait for the LORD

and wait patiently for him.

8  Do not fret yourselves over the one who prospers,

the one who succeeds in evil schemes.

9  Refrain from anger, leave rage alone;

do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.

10 For evildoers shall be cut off,

but those who wait upon the LORD shall possess the land.

11  In a little while the wicked shall be no more;

you shall search out their place, but they will not be there.

12  But the lowly shall possess the land;

they will delight in abundance of peace.


Luke 5:1-11 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now he was standing one day by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the crowd pressing round him listening to the word of God, when he caught sight of two boats close to the bank.  The fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.  He got into one of the boats–it was Simon’s–and asked him to put out a little from the shore.  Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.

When he had finished speaking he said to Simon,

Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.

Simon replied,

Master, we worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.

And when they had done this they netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear, so they signalled to their companions in the other boat to come and help them; when these came, they filled the two boats to sinking point.

When Simon Peter saw this he fell at the knees of Jesus saying,

Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.

For he and all his companions were completely overcome by the catch they had made; so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners;  But Jesus said to Simon,

Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.

Then, bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him.


Luke 5:33-39 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Then they [the Pharisees and their scribes] said to him [Jesus],

John’s disciples are always fasting and the disciples of the Pharisees too, but yours go on eating and drinking.

Jesus replied,

Surely you cannot make the bridegroom’s attendants fast while the bridegroom is still with them?  But the time will come, the time for the bridegroom to be taken away from them; that will be the time when they will fast.

He also told them this parable,

No one tears a piece from a new cloak to put it on an old cloak; if he does, not only will he have torn the new one, but the piece taken from the new will not match the old.

And nobody puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the new wine will burst the skins and then run out, and the skins will be lost.  No; new wine must be put into fresh skins.  And nobody who has been drinking old wine wants new. “’The old is good” he says.


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.


We human beings are social creatures.  So what others think of us affects us.  Some of us care about these matters more than others do, and I suspect that the person who does not care at all is rare.  If the opinions of certain of our fellow humans are sufficiently negative, we might face criminal sanctions, justifiably or not.  Paul, by 53-54 C.E., had arrived at a spiritual point at which he wrote a text which translates as the following in English:

…the Lord alone is my judge.–1 Corinthians 4:4c

He was still subject to earthly tribunals and penalties, of course, but God alone was the only judge which really mattered.

That is true for each of us, is it not?  If you, O reader, have read continuously in 1 Corinthians to the point of Paul’s line about having only for God for a judge, you should know that it flows naturally and logically from what precedes it.  Human “wisdom” is nothing compared to divine wisdom.  Even divine foolishness is superior to human “wisdom.”  The message of Christ crucified (and resurrected) is therefore either a portal to eternal life or a stumbling block to one, depending on whether one has the mind of Christ.  So yes, it is true that God is the only judge which really matters.

Each of us has secrets.  Each of us commits sins unawares.  Each of us mistakes some activities as being sinful.  Each of us mistakes certain activities as not being sinful.  Often our standards are grounded (at least partially) in our societies, cultures, and subcultures.  And often we miss the mark so much that we are not even close to the bullseye.  Yet with God there is mercy.  There is also judgment, of course.  May we, however, trust God, do the best we can by grace, follow the example of Jesus as best we can by grace, love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and leave the rest to God.

One of the advantages to following a lectionary is that it provides structure to my Bible study.  And one of the joys is that I reread passages I have not encountered in years.  Once, many moons ago, I read every book in the Jewish, Protestant, and Roman Catholic, and Russian Orthodox canons of scripture.  Yet I find myself reading passages now as if it were the first time.  This rediscovery of the Bible is an ongoing process, one which I hope will continue for a long time.  This day’s rediscovered gem comes from 1 Corinthians 4:3.

I will not even pass judgement on myself.

Too often I judge myself, probably more harshly than do many others.  Yet Paul invited the Corinthians to live in liberation from even that verdict.  The invitation stands for us today; dare we accept it?


Week of Proper 17: Saturday, Year 1   14 comments

Above:  Playing Cards

Image in the Public Domain

Compassion is the Trump Card



Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Colossians 1:21-23 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Not long ago, you were foreigners and enemies in the way that you used to think and the evil things that you did; but now he has reconciled you, by his death an in that mortal body.  Now you are able to appear before him holy, pure, and blameless–as long as you persevere and stand firm on the solid base of the faith, never letting yourselves drift away from the hope promised by the Good News, which you have heard, which has been preached to the whole human race, and of which I, Paul, have become the servant.

Psalm 54 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Save me, O God, by your Name;

in your might, defend my cause.

2 Hear my prayer, O God;

give ear to the words of my mouth.

3 For the arrogant have risen up against me,

and the ruthless have sought my life,

those who have no regard for life.

4 Behold, God is my helper;

it is the Lord who sustains my life.

5 Render evil to those who spy on me;

in your faithfulness, destroy them.

6 I will offer you a freewill sacrifice

and praise your Name, O LORD, for it is good.

7 For you have rescued me from every trouble,

and my eye has seen the ruin of my foes.

Luke 6:1-5 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now one sabbath he happened to be taking a walk through the cornfields, and his disciples were picking ears of corn, rubbing them in their hands and eating them.  Some of the Pharisees said,

Why are you doing something that is forbidden on the sabbath day?

Jesus answered them,

So you have not read what David did when he and his followers were hungry–how we went into the house of God, took the loaves which only the priests are allowed to eat?

And he said to them,

The Son of Man is master of the sabbath.


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 law has two components–the spirit and the letter.  It is more important to honor the spirit of the law than its letter.  Besides, one can honor the letter of the law while trampling its spirit.  In the case of the Bible, there are so many contradictory passages that one cannot keep all the commandments while honoring the spirit of the law.  And the spirit of the law of this:  Love God.  Love yourself.  And love your neighbor as yourself.

There were many sabbath laws governing activities on that day, some of them related to food gathering.  But there was also a greater principle:  Breaking any of these laws was acceptable for the purpose of not making a bad situation worse.  The critics of our Lord in Luke 6:1-5 ignored this.

I think of a more recent example of legalism run amok.  Philip Yancey is the only Evangelical writer I read with any regularity.  He grew up in a fundamentalist home in the U.S. South in the 1950s and 196os.  Social justice was not a priority in the religion of his youth.  For example, his Atlanta church decided to open a private school because of the 1954 Brown decision.  And, in the 1960s, Yancey attended a Bible college with strict rules about men’s grooming habits.  Then Yancey noticed something:  “It dawned on me that virtually all portrayals of Jesus, including the Good Shepherd of my Sunday school and the United Nations Jesus of my Bible college, showed him wearing a mustache and beard, both of which were strictly banned from the Bible college.”  (The Jesus I Never Knew, Zondervan, 1995, page 14)

Faith and morality are not matters of nit-picky rules of grooming on any day, food gathering on the sabbath, or anything else.  No, they are matters of attitudes.  And the proper basis for them is that God is love.  So we ought to love God.  So we ought to love ourselves.  So we ought to love each other as we ourselves.  Compassion is the trump card.  The fulfillment of basic human needs matters more than obedience to any legalistic rule.

And Jesus is the ultimate expression of the love of God.  In Jesus there are not friends and enemies, just friends (despite the vindictiveness of the psalm).  In Jesus there are not men and women, just siblings in the family of God.  In Jesus there are not Jews and Gentiles, just people.  In Jesus the labels we use separate ourselves from others melt away.  In Jesus we are able to stand before God.

This is a great hope, which is open to all by either Single Predestination or the witness of the Holy Spirit.  It is a glorious hope.  May we embrace it.