Archive for the ‘1 Corinthians 4’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 13, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Reunion of Esau and Jacob, by Francesco Hayez

Image in the Public Domain

Facing God, Other People, and Ourselves

AUGUST 6, 2023


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 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


Genesis 33:1-11 or Isaiah 17:7-13

Psalm 17:1-8

1 Corinthians 4:1, 9-21

Matthew 10:16-33


One might suffer for any one of a variety of reasons.  One might suffer (as in the case of Damascus, in Isaiah 17) as punishment for idolatry and injustice.  Maybe (as in 1 Corinthians 4 and Matthew 10) one might suffer for the sake of righteousness.  Perhaps one is merely unfortunate.  Or maybe another explanation fits one’s circumstances.

Either way, the commandment to remember, honor, and obey God remains.  Also, judgment for disobedience is both collective and individual.

As worthwhile as those points are, another one interests me more.  Certain verses in Genesis 32 and 33 refer to faces–of Jacob, Esau, and God.  Karen Armstrong, writing in In the Beginning:  A New Interpretation of Genesis (1996), makes a vital point:  they are all the same face.  Jacob, in confronting Esau, also confronts God and himself.

We human beings go to great lengths to avoid facing God, other people, and ourselves.  In the city in which I live, seldom do I enter a store or a restaurant in which music is not playing; silence is apparently anathema.  Unfortunately, the music is almost always bad, especially in one thrift store, the management of which pipes contemporary Christian “seven-eleven” songs over the speakers.  (I avoid that thrift store more often than not.)  Or, if there is no music, a television set is on.  Sensory stimulation is the order of the day.

But when we are alone and silent, we cannot ignore God and ourselves so easily.  And if we cannot face ourselves honestly, we cannot face others honestly either.  If we persist in running away, so to speak, we will cause our own suffering.  It will not be a matter of God smiting us, but of us smiting ourselves.

One would think that silence would be welcome in more churches.  The silence at the end of the Good Friday service in The Episcopal Church is potent, for example.  Yet many churchgoers have an aversion to silence.  And I recall that, one Good Friday, during that potent silence after the service had ended, someone’s cellular telephone rang, causing spiritual and liturgical disruption.

if we are to become the people we are supposed to be in God, we need to take time to turn off the distracting stimulation and face God, others, and ourselves.









Devotion for Proper 8 (Year D)   1 comment


Above: Christ and the Two Blind Men, by Julius Schnorr

Image in the Public Domain

Love, the Rule of Life

JULY 22, 2023


The Collect:

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 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 20:1-21 or Amos 4:1-13 or Malachi 3:5-18; 4:(1-2a) 2b-6

Psalm 56

Matthew 9:27-34 or John 5:31-47

1 Corinthians 3:12-15 (3:16-4:5) 4:6-21 or 2 John 1-13


Do not think that I am sending a new command; I am recalling the one we have had from the beginning:  I ask that we love one another.  What love means is to live according t the commands of God.  This is the command that was given you from the beginning, to be your rule of life.

–2 John 5b-6, The Revised English Bible (1989)


That rule of life includes commandments such as do not be haughty (2 Kings 20), swear falsely, commit adultery or sorcery, deny workers their proper wages, thrust aliens aside, oppress widows and orphans (Malachi 3), rob God (Malachi 4), oppress the poor and the needy (Amos 4), mistake good for evil (Matthew 9) or good for evil (Matthew 9) or become so legalistic as to complain about someone committing good works on the Sabbath, to the point of wanting to kill one who does that (John 5).  This is, of course, a woefully incomplete list.

Sometimes people who violate these and other commandments of God flourish and the righteous suffer.  One finds recognition of this reality in the Bible, which tells us that this might be true temporally, but the picture is more complex than that (see Malachi 4).

Vengeance is properly God’s alone.  Temporal justice, which is, when it is what it ought to be, is not revenge.  Life does not present us with morally complicated situations sometimes, but the commandment to make love the rule of life applies always.  May we, by grace, succeed in living accordingly, to the glory of God and the benefit of our fellow human beings, as well as ourselves.










Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 9, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

March on Washington 1963

Above:  The March on Washington, August 28, 1963

Photographer = Warren K. Leffler

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number =  LC-DIG-ds-04411

Beloved Community

JULY 1-3, 2021


The Collect:

God of the covenant, in our baptism you call us

to proclaim the coming of your kingdom.

Give us the courage you gave the apostles,

that we may faithfully witness to your love and peace

in every circumstance of life,

in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41


The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 7:1-15 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 7:16-26 (Friday)

Jeremiah 7:27-34 (Saturday)

Psalm 123 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 4:8-13 (Thursday)

2 Corinthians 10:7-11 (Friday)

Matthew 8:18-22 (Saturday)


To you I lift up my eyes,

to you that are enthroned in the heavens.

As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,

or the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress.

So our eyes wait upon the Lord our God,

until he have mercy upon us.

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,

for we have had more than enough of contempt.

Our soul has had more than enough of the scorn of the arrogant,

and of the contempt of the proud.

–Psalm 123, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)


The composite of the readings from Jeremiah speaks of the importance of treating people properly and refraining from committing idolatry.  This is a societal, not an individual issue.  The text refers to social institutions, in which individuals are complicit.  The divine call to repentance–one which the text indicates will fall on deaf ears and hard hearts–says that sacred rituals and houses of God do not function as talismans, protecting the society and individuals from the consequences of sinful actions and inactions.  There is nothing wrong with the rituals when people participate in them with reverence, but hiding behind them while committing idolatry and perpetuating or condoning injustice makes a mockery of those rites.

Often certain people suffer because of the sinful actions and/or inactions of others.  That theme exists also in the pericope from 1 Corinthians.  There St. Paul the Apostle wrote from a spiritually healthy attitude:

When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly.

–1 Corinthians 4:12b-13a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

As multiple passages of scripture, not to mention the historical record, attest, following Jesus might, depending on the circumstances, lead to persecution and suffering.  Offering excuses as part of an effort to avoid following Jesus is an inadequate substitute for making a commitment to him.  Our words and deeds, when they are more or less consistent with a Christian pilgrimage (the best we will be able to achieve via grace, given our human nature), will glorify God and draw others to God and improve our societies.

Society is  not an abstraction.  No, it is people.  Societies have become what they have become because of human decisions.  Not only can they change, they have changed and are changing.  May they change to increase justice and decrease injustice.  May rates of discrimination go down and rates of mutual respect go up.  May the shedding of the blood of the innocent cease.  May oppression of the strangers, the orphans, and the widows among us come to an end.  May we put away our idols, which include greed, insensitivity to human needs, and attachments to racial and ethnic prejudices and hatreds.  May we act on the recognition that all of us are in the same boat, therefore whatsoever we do to another, we do to ourselves.

God has the power to save the world, but we can leave it better than we found it.









Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 12, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  The Meeting of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, Circa 1899

Copyright by The U.S. Printing Co.

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC4-5226

The Kingdom of Solomon Versus the Kingdom of God

JULY 27-29, 2023


The Collect:

Beloved and sovereign God,

through the death and resurrection of your Son

you bring us into your kingdom of justice and mercy.

By your Spirit, give us your wisdom,

that we may treasure the life that comes from

 Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43


The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 1:28-37 (Thursday)

1 Kings 1:38-48 (Friday)

1 Kings 2:1-4 (Saturday)

Psalm 119:129-136 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 4:14-20 (Thursday)

Acts 7:44-53 (Friday)

Matthew 12:38-42 (Saturday)


Let your countenance shine upon your servant

and teach me your statutes.

My eyes shed streams of tears

because people do not keep your law.

–Psalm 119:135-136, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


Solomon recurs in the assigned readings for these three days.  Often the references are explicit.  Other times, however, he functions as an unnamed and negative figure of contrast.

We begin in 1 Kings 1 and 2, where we read of Solomon’s accession to the throne of Israel.  This process included scheming and political maneuvering.  Early in Chapter 2 the crown prince, soon to be king, received instructions to follow the Law of Moses.  Later in that chapter the new monarch eliminated political rivals.  Solomon was off to a bad start.  Furthermore, the foundation of his reign was tyranny, including forced labor and high taxes on the poor.  Had not Israelites been slaves in Egypt?  O, the irony!

The Kingdom of God is greater than the kingdom of Solomon.  In the former there is enough for everybody to share the wealth equitably and forced labor is absent.  God, who lives in faithful people and whose law is inscribed on their hearts, calls people to mutual respect and responsibility, not to any form of injustice–judicial, economic, et cetera.  There is no artificial scarcity in the Kingdom of God.  No, there is unbounded abundance of blessings, which exist not for hoarding (as some tried to do with manna), but for the common good.

St. Paul the Apostle wrote:

We [apostles] are fools for Christ’s sake, but you [Corinthians] are wise in Christ.  We are weak, but you are strong.  You are held in honor, but we in disrepute.  To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly clothed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands.   When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the dregs of all things.

–1 Corinthians 4:10-13, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

The greatest one in the Kingdom of God is the servant of all.  Blessed are the poor in the Kingdom of God.  Blessed are those who hunger and those who weep.  Blessed are those whom others revile for the sake of righteousness.  And blessed are those who are poor in spirit–who know their need for God.  Blessed are those who seek righteousness and who make peace.

Solomon’s kingdom did not function on these principles.  Neither do governments in our own day.  I know that people who try to make government look less like Solomon’s kingdom face charges of engaging in class warfare.  The real practitioners of class warfare in these cases are the accusers, of course.

Justice–in the context of the common good–requires some people to surrender or forego certain perks and privileges.  But if we act on the principles that (1) everything belongs to God and (2) we are tenants on this planet and stewards of God’s bounty, we will not insist on gaining or keeping certain perks and privileges at the expense of others.  And we will not think too highly of ourselves and look down upon others.  That is a challenging and tall order, but it is also a good one to pursue.  We can at least approach it, by grace, of course.







The Kingdom of Solomon Versus the Kingdom of God


Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 3, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  Lillies, 1597

Illustrator = John Gerard

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-60476

Confidence, Struggles, and Altruism

MAY 29-31, 2023


The Collect:

God of tender care, like a mother, like a father, you never forget your children,

and you know already what we need.

In all our anxiety give us trusting and faithful hearts,

that in confidence we may embody the peace and justice

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37


The Assigned Readings:

Deuternonomy 32:1-14 (Monday)

1 Kings 17:1-16 (Tuesday)

Isaiah 66:7-13 (Wednesday)

Psalm 104 (All Days)

Hebrews 10:32-39 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 4:6-21 (Tuesday)

Luke 12:22-31 (Wednesday)


O Lord, how manifold are your works!

In wisdom you have made them all;

the earth is full of your creatures.

There is the sea, spread far and wide,

and there move creatures beyond number, both small and great.

There go the ships, and there is that Leviathan

which you have made to play in the deep.

All of these look to you

to give them their food in due season.

When you give it to them, they gather it;

you open your hand and they are filled with good.

When you hide your face they are troubled;

when you take away their breath,

they die and return again to the dust.

When you send forth your spirit they are created,

and you renew the face of the earth.

–Psalm 104:26-32, Common Worship (2000)


Monotheism I affirm while acknowledging a difficulty inherent in it: God is responsible for both good and bad—at least the existence of the bad and the evil as well as the positive. Others—such as polytheists—have no such problem, for they can blame bad deities for evil while affirming the pure goodness of others. But Yahweh is on the hook. That is part of my tradition. This is an issue with which I struggle. Yet an honest theological and spiritual struggle can be a sign of a healthy faith.

We read in the Psalm and in 1 Kings that sometimes God causes misfortunes to happen. Yet they also tells us that God sends aid. Sometimes that help comes via unexpected means, so we ought to avoid becoming fixated on certain criteria.

Another theme unifying these readings is maintaining faithfulness during difficult times. God will provide, we read, so we ought to avoid thinking too much about ourselves and our needs at the expense of other people. And we should recall that which God has done. Sometimes we become so caught up in the moment that we lose perspective, assuming that we ever had any.

I, as a student of history, know that many of the worst instances of human cruelty have come in the context of conflict related to resources. These resources have been either scarce or perceived to be scarce. Other such instances have occurred during times of a threat, real or perceived. In all such circumstances of human cruelty people have harmed each other—sometimes by passive neglect, other times via actions—all while seeking to preserve oneself. Altruism has been absent.

Yet our Lord and Savior told us plainly that, whenever we aid the least of those among us, we do so to him. Likewise the negative form of the previous sentence is true. By our selfishness, fear, and lack of altuism we condemn ourselves. By wise altruism—the variety rooted in confidence in God and in the quest to do for people what they need (not necessarily what they want)–we respond faithfully in difficult times. We thereby function as vehicles of grace to others and act in accordance with the moral mandate to love our neighbors as ourselves.

That can prove quite challenging. It is, actually, possible only via grace. Sometimes merely trying to do the right thing in a difficult circumstance eludes us, so we fail. Yet I know that I ought to try again and that God knows that I am but dust. Moral perfection is not among my goals, but striving for moral improvement is.

As for God being on the hook for the problems of suffering (sometimes) and the existence of evil (always), such matters are too great for me. Perhaps the most to which I can aspire are intellectual and spiritual honesty, as unsatisfactory as they might prove.









Devotion for August 9 and 10 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  Palestinian Barrier

Image Source = Marc Venezia

1 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part III:  Power and the Abuses Thereof

AUGUST 9 AND 10, 2023


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 Samuel 25:1-22 (August 9)

1 Samuel 25:33-44 (August 10)

Psalm 85 (Morning–August 9)

Psalm 61 (Morning–August 10)

Psalms 25 and 40 (Evening–August 9)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening–August 10)

1 Corinthians 3:1-23 (August 9)

1 Corinthians 4:1-21 (August 10)


1 Samuel 25 consists of one story, one which context brings alive.  Saul was killing people who helped David.  The monarch missed some of them, but anyone who aided David risked his or her life.  The kingdom was in a state of civil war.  And Nabal, a rich, churlish, boorish, and disreputable fool, was, according to social conventions, supposed to extend hospitality to David and his men.  Yet, under the threat from Saul, this was a great risk.  And Nabal was a lout anyway.  So he acted like the lout he was.  Abigail, his wife, prevented violence.  And Nabal suffered a stroke and died.  Then Abigail married David, who already had another wife, Ahinoam.

David, of course, had married Michal before any of the events, but Saul, in violation of law, had given his daughter to another man.  Michal, The Jewish Study Bible notes tell me, was the only woman the Hebrew Bible describes as loving a man, in this case, David.

The social status of women is of the essence here.  They were chattel, to be given to men.  Yet Abigail’s shrewdness prevents bloodshed.  She might be chattel, but she is a crucial actor in the story.  And Michal’s mistreatment at the hands of powerful men continues, as it will persist.

Power is necessary in certain concentrations, for, without it, chaos results.  But power can also exist in excessive concentrations; that results in tyranny.  The proper exercise of power lifts up the weak, the marginalized, and those labeled chattel; it does not exploit them.  The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4 that he, working for God, had suffered and was suffering.  Powerful people who abused their authority caused that suffering.  And other people consented to it.

May all of us who claim to be on God’s side aid others to the best of our ability and support those who suffer from abuses of power.  May we side with the victims, not those who victimize them.








Week of Proper 17: Saturday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Died in 1945)

Who Am I?



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 4:6-15 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now in everything I have said here, brothers, I have taken Apollos and myself as an example (remember the maxim:  “Keep to what is written”); it is not for you, so full of your own importance, to go taking sides for one man against another.  In any case, brother, has anybody given you some special right?  What do you have that was not given to you?  And if it was given, how can you boast as though it were not?  Is it that you have everything you want–that you are rich already, in possession of your kingdom, with us left outside?  Indeed I wish you were really kings, and we could be kings with you!  But instead, it seems to me, God has put us apostles at the end of his parade, with the men sentenced to death; it is true–we have put on show in front of the whole universe, angels as well as men.  Here we are, fools for the sake of Christ, while you are the learned men in Christ; we have no power, but you are influential; you are celebrities, we are nobodies.  To this day, we go without food and drink and clothes; we are beaten and have no homes; we work for our living with our own hands.  When we are cursed, we answer with a blessing; when we are hounded, we put with it; we are insulted and we answer politely.  We are treated as the offal of the world, still to this day, the scum of the earth.

I am saying this not just to make you ashamed but to bring you, as my dearest children, to your senses.  You might have thousands of guardians in Christ, but not more than one father and it was I who begot you in Christ Jesus by preaching the Good News.

Psalm 145:14-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

14 The LORD is faithful in all his words

and merciful in all his deeds.

15 The LORD upholds all those who fall;

he lifts up those who are bowed down.

16 The eyes of all wait upon you, O LORD,

and you give them their food in due season.

17 You open wide your hand

and satisfy the needs of every living creature.

18 The LORD is righteous in all his ways

and loving in all his works.

19 The LORD is near to those who call upon him,

to all who call upon him faithfully.

20 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;

he hears their cry and helps them.

21 The LORD preserves all those who love him,

but he destroys all the wicked.

22 My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD;

let all flesh bless his holy Name for ever and ever.

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.


Some Related Posts:

To Be Crafted By Christ:

Be Thou My Vision:

My Faith Looks Up to Thee:

Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated, Lord, to Thee:


Paul has an argument with certain Corinthian Christians.  Yes, he was nice in Chapter 1, but now he has removed his gloves.  He is even sarcastic.  Through it all, Paul reminds the hearers of the true costs of discipleship–in his case, suffering.  Following Jesus is about serving others, not seeking glory.  And the disciple is not above his master.  Consider what happened to Jesus; why should we expect to reign with him without suffering first?

The point of Paul’s tirade was not to tear down the hearers, but to correct their misapprehensions.  This was tough love mixed with disappointment.  Paul had sacrificed much for his Lord, so he took certain offenses personally.  If he erred in his sarcasm, it was understandable.  I take it, however, as entirely justifiable.  Some people had it coming.

Paul was, among other things, a man of passionate convictions.  This comes across clearly in his epistles.  He was brilliant, devout, and prone to outbursts of anger and sarcasm.  Ego struggles marked his spiritual development, so passages about humility meant quite a bit, coming from him.  Paul could be a tempestuous person–on whom I am glad channeled his passions, arguments, and tempests for God.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, while a prisoner of Nazi Germany (until the Nazis hanged him), wrote a famous poem called Who Am I?  In it he wrestled with his own contradictions and doubts.  Then he arrived at this conclusion:

Who am I?  They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.

Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am thine.

(Source = Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, Enlarged Edition, Edited by Eberhard Bethge, Touchstone, 1971, page 348)

Bonhoeffer was Christ’s.  So was Paul.  They were great men and martyrs.  I am also Christ’s, although I do not presume to be worthy of the company of such great men.  Yet I seek to bring all my contradictions to God and to glorify God.  I will succeed by grace.  May you, O reader, join me on this quest, if you have not done so already.  Or maybe I have joined you on the journey.


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 1 and 2, 2022


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?


Proper 3, Year A   10 comments

Above:  The Sermon on the Mount, from Ortesei, Italy

Worries, Arguments, and Struggles

The Sunday Closest to May 25



Isaiah 49:8-16a (New Revised Standard Version):

Thus says the LORD:

In a time of favor I have answered you,

on a day of salvation I have helped you;

I have kept you and given you

as a covenant to the people,

to establish the land,

to apportion the desolate heritages;

saying to the prisoners,

Come out,

to those who are in darkness,

Show yourselves.

They shall feed along the ways,

on all the bare heights shall be their pasture;

they shall not hunger or thirst,

neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them down,

for he who has pity on them will lead them,

and by springs of water will guide them.

And I will turn all my mountains into a road,

and my highways shall be raised up.

Lo, these shall come from far away,

and lo, these from the north and from the west,

and these from the land of Syene.

Sing for joy, O heavens and exult, O earth;

break forth, O mountains, into singing!

For the Lord has comforted his people,

and will have compassion on his suffering ones.

But Zion said,

The LORD has forsaken me,

my Lord has forgotten me.

Can a woman forget her nursing child,

or show no compassion for the child of her womb?

Even these may forget,

yet I will not forget you.

See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.

Psalm 131 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 O LORD, I am not proud;

I have no haughty looks.

2 I do not occupy myself with great matters,

or with things that are too hard for me.

3 But I still my soul and make it quiet,

like a child upon its mother’s breast;

my soul is quieted within me.

4 O Israel, wait upon the LORD,

from this time forth for evermore.

1 Corinthians 4:1-5 (New Revised Standard Version):

Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries.  Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.  But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court.  I do not even judge myself.  I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted.  It is the Lord who judges me.  Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.  Then each one will receive commendation from God.

Matthew 6:24-34 (New Revised Standard Version):

[Jesus continued,]

No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?  And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?  And why do you worry about clothing?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you–you of little faith?  Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?” or ‘What will we drink” or ‘What will we wear?’  For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own.  Today’s trouble is enough for today.

The Collect:

Grant, O Lord, that the course of this world may be peaceably governed by your providence; and that your Church may joyfully serve you in confidence and serenity; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


As verily as God is our Father, so verily God is our Mother; and that shewed He in all, and especially these sweet words where He saith:  “I it am.  It I.  That is to say, I it am, the Might and Goodness of the Fatherhood; I it am, the Wisdom of Motherhood; I it am, the Light and Grace that is all blessed Love; I it am, the Trinity.  I it am, the Unity:  I am the sovereign Goodness in all manner of things.  I am that Maketh thee to love:  I am that maketh thee to long:  I it am, the endless fulfilling of all true desires.”

–From Chapter LIX of Revelations of Divine Love, by Dame Julian of Norwich (lived circa 1342-circa 1413)

I know better than to worry.  Yet I do it anyway.  Worrying accomplishes nothing productive.  It is better to plot and attempt strategies for solving one’s problems than to sit around and fret.  Yet I worry from time to time.

When I do this, I do not trust in God.  And to trust in God is to believe in God, as I use the word “believe,” as in whether one believes in God.  “Creed” comes from the Greek word for “trust.”  So the Apostles’ Creed should begin, “I trust…” and the Nicene Creed ought to start with, “We trust….”  As long as I have been conscious of religion, I have accepted intellectually the proposition that God exists.  But I believe in God only when I trust God.  And I need to believe more often than I do.

A few years ago I heard a radio interview with biologist Robert M. Sapolsky, author of Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.   He pointed out that, from time to time, predators threaten zebras, so the striped creatures are at risk.  But the peril is over very shortly.  Either the zebra lives or dies, but the animal does not dwell on possible worst-case scenarios.  That is why zebras don’t get ulcers.  But we humans do worry, and we do get ulcers.  We do it to ourselves.

Let us return to Chapter LIX of Revelations of Divine Love, in which Dame Julian of Norwich writes of God, who possesses characteristics we think of as paternal, as well as those we categorize as maternal:

Our high Father, God Almighty, which is Being, He knew and loved us from afore any time:  of which knowing, in His marvellous deep charity and foreseeing counsel of all the blessed Trinity, He willed that the Second Person become our Mother.  Our Father willeth, our Mother worketh, our good Lord the Holy Ghost comfirmeth: and therefore it belongeth to us to love our God in whom we have our being:  Him reverently thanking and praising for our making, mightily praying to our Mother for mercy and pity, and to our Lord the Holy Ghost for help and grace.

For in these three is all our life:  Nature, Mercy, Grace:  whereof we have meekness and mildness; patience and joy; and hating of sin and of wickedness,–for it belongeth properly to virtue to hate sin and wickedness.  And thus is Jesus our Very Mother in Nature by virtue of our first making; and He is our Very Mother in Grace, by taking our nature made.  All the fair working, and all the sweet office of dearworthy Motherhood is inpropriated to the Second Person:  for in Him we have this Godly Will whole and safe without end, both in Nature and in Grace, of His own proper Goodness.  I understood three manners of beholding Motherhood in God:  the first is grounded in our Nature’s making; the second is taking our nature,–and there beginneth the Motherhood of Grace; the third is Motherhood of working,–and therein is a forthspreading by the same Grace, of length and breadth and height and of deepness without end.  And all is one Love.

None of this means, of course, that our lives in God will be spiritual easy street.  Study the lives of the saints; many of them are martyrs, and many more suffered for the faith but did not die for it.  And think about Jeusus, and what authorities did to him.  Today’s Gospel reading comes from the Sermon on the Mount.  So does this, which is Matthew 5:10-12:

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for int he same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

So risk comes with the walk of Christian faith, too.  The details vary according to where one is and when one is there.

The reading from Matthew 6 does raise an obvious question, though, does it not?  Why are so many people poorly clothed and/or fed and/or housed?  True, some individuals will make very bad decisions, such as drug use, and wind up on the street.  But many people are born in situations where opportunities to advance themselves are lacking and basic necessities are scarce.  What good is it to have dreams and the willingness to work hard to pursue them but not to have any opportunity to follow through?  This is the reality many of our fellow human beings face daily.  These situations are of human creation, so people in power can change them.  Nevertheless, I consider these realities and detect a disconnect between them and the reading from Matthew 6.  God is very much on the hook for this one, at least with me.

If I were a dualistic Zoroastrian, I could let God (er, Ahura Mazda) off the hook by blaming the evil one (Ahriman) for such matters.  But I am a Monotheist, and so I face the theological problem of God and suffering:  If God is all-powerful, then God is responsible for everything good and everything bad.

And I ponder my daily life and detect many ways I am more fortunate than many of my fellow mortals.  Let us consider some mundane blessings:  I sleep under a good roof each night.  My car takes me from Point A to Point B.  I have indoor plumbing, and can drink the water safely.  And I always know where I will find my next meal.  Why can’t more people make these statements honestly?  God is on the hook in this matter, at least with me.

Nevertheless, I write honestly that I trust in God.  We argue from time to time, but this is consistent with the Bible, especially the Old Testament.  My favorite aspect of Judaism is that it makes room to argue and struggle with God.  And God, who is parental in both maternal and paternal ways, cannot forget us and does not cease to care about us.  The arguments and struggles, handled correctly, only deepen the relationship.  That is a grace.

Thanks be to God!