Archive for the ‘1 Corinthians 9’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 18, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Joseph Interprets Dreams in Prison, by Friedrich Wilhelm Schadow

Image in the Public Domain

God, the Genuine Article

SEPTEMBER 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 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 40 or Isaiah 44:1-8

Psalm 21

1 Corinthians 9:1-16

Matthew 12:38-50


The most succinct summary of the readings from the Hebrew Bible I can muster is that God is the genuine article.  God, who is reliable, mighty, and merciful, is worthy of all praise.  The context in Genesis 40 is the interpretation of dreams of the Pharaoh.  The setting in Isaiah 44 is the prediction of restoration after the Babylonian Exile.  In Psalm 21 a Jewish monarch praises God.

Matthew 12:38-50 has much occurring theologically in it.  The element that attracts my attention today is spiritually fictive kinship (verses 46-50).  This concept comforts many of my fellow Christians, those rejected their relatives.  Matthew 12:38-50 fits neatly with Matthew 10:34-39, among other passages.

It was a kinship in short supply in the Corinthian church and between that congregation and St. Paul the Apostle.  He apparently felt the need to defend himself and his traveling companions against allegations, some of which he might have anticipated.

Personalities and perceptions can be troublesome.  Perceptions can be false yet tenacious.  One might be deeply entrenched in a false religion or mindset that objective reality contradicts.  To quote John Adams,

Facts are stubborn things.

Yet objectively false conclusions are frequently more stubborn.  This is why fact-based arguments fail much of the time.  It would be different if one were debating the great English linguist and moralist Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), but how many of us are in his league?

Then there is truth we cannot prove via Enlightenment Modernism.  This is a major problem with much of Christian apologetics, for work in that field has a flawed methodology.  And, as the great Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998) taught, Jesus of Nazareth is the sole basis of the truth of the Gospel, and to appeal to any outside standard to prove the truth of the Gospel is to make that outside standard more important than the Gospel.

No, God, is the genuine article.  Some truth one must accept on faith, or not at all.  Enlightenment Modernism and the scientific method are valid in many projects; we should embrace them as far as they can take us.  Yet when they run out, there is God, the genuine article.









Devotion for Proper 11 (Year D)   1 comment


Above:  The Testament and Death of Moses, by Luca Signorelli

Image in the Public Domain

The Apocalyptic Discourse, Part II

JULY 23, 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:

Deuteronomy 31:(1-22) 23-29 or Micah 7:1-7 or Daniel (11:40-45) 12:1-13

Psalm 54

Matthew 10:17-22a; 24:9-14 or Mark 13:9-13

1 Corinthians 9:1-15


Human nature is corrupt, we read in Deuteronomy 31 and Micah 7.  We do not require these or any other texts to grasp that truth, do we?  All we need to do is to understand ourselves and follow current events and study the past if we are to be aware of our flawed nature.  As St. Paul the Apostle reminds us down the corridors of time, our only proper basis is in God–Christ Jesus, to be precise.  God will ultimately destroy the corrupt human order, founded on violence and exploitation, and replace it with a just social, economic, and political order.  Certainly we are incapable of accomplishing that goal.

As much as we might seek divine destruction of our enemies, we must be careful not to fall into the trap of living as vengeful people.  As we read in 2 John 5b-6, love is supposed to be our rule of life.  Even during times of persecution love is properly the rule of life.  This is a lofty spiritual goal–one which requires us to resist our nature and to rely on divine grace.  How can we be God’s salt and light in the world if we do otherwise?  We are free in Christ Jesus to glorify God wherever we are, and no matter under what circumstances we live.  May we, in all circumstances, to quote my bishop, love like Jesus, by grace.










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

Paul Writing His Epistles

Above:   Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

Freedom in God

SEPTEMBER 20 and 21, 2022


The Collect:

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

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

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48


The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 17:1-5 (Tuesday)

Proverbs 21:10-16 (Wednesday)

Psalm 12 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (Tuesday)

Luke 20:45-21:4 (Wednesday)


“Because the needy are oppressed,

and the poor cry out in misery,

I will rise up,” says the LORD,

“and give them the help they long for.”

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


Justice done is a joy to the righteous,

To evildoers, ruination.

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


He who mocks the poor affronts his Maker;

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

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


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

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

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









Devotion for August 17 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Above:  Design Drawing for Stained-Glass Memorial Window “King David” with Jerusalem and Mount Zion

Image Source = Library of Congress

2 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part IV: The Greatest Temple

AUGUST 17, 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:

2 Samuel 7:1-17

Psalm 104 (Morning)

Psalms 118 and 111 (Evening)

1 Corinthians 9:24-10:22


We read two useful lessons today.  And the psalms fit nicely with them.  The readings speak of what God has done, is doing, and will do.  There is no room for boasting in human accomplishments or insisting on human privileges in this context.  No, all is grace, and gratitude is the proper response.  One expression of this gratitude is responding favorably to God by avoiding idolatry and other destructive behaviors.  Good spiritual discipline is a wonderful “Thank you” to God.

David, in 2 Samuel 7, acted out of piety and gratitude.  He wanted to honor God.  That was good.  But God, via the prophet Nathan, sent a different message, which I paraphrase as

Thanks for desiring to build a nice temple for me, but I do not want one.   No, I will make you a founder of a great dynasty.

(I like the literary play on “house” in the passage.  David wanted to build a house for God, but God made a house of David instead.  It is a nice stylistic touch.)

Paul could have insisted on apostolic privileges yet did not do so.  Instead he disciplined himself for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and of other people.  And David also sought to honor God.  The greatest temple to God (not that I oppose glorious architecture) is a holy life.  May your life, O reader, be such a temple, by grace, of course.







Devotion for August 16 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Nazis and the Ark of the Covenant, from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

(A Screen Capture)

2 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part III:  God, Undomesticated

AUGUST 16, 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:

2 Samuel 6:1-19

Psalm 51 (Morning)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening)

1 Corinthians 9:1-23


Sometimes I argue with Bible stories.  The Bible, which people wrote, comes from antiquity, a time which predates many of the events which have shaped my world view.  I am, for example, a product of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, and I have access to more knowledge than those who wrote the Bible could ever know about certain topics.  So I reject the idea that demon possession causes epilepsy, for example.

Yet other influences on my thought which cause me to argue with certain Bible stories come from the Bible itself.  God, depending on the part of the Old Testament one reads, is either approachable (as in the case of Abram/Abraham) or fearsome to be near (as in death for touching the Ark of the Covenant).  But God was most approachable in the person of Jesus of Nazareth; people not only touched him but had him over for dinner.

The stories of the power and menace of the Ark of the Covenant speak of God as an undomesticated force.  Jesus died for several reasons, among them the fact that he challenged domesticated views of God.  The study of the past uncovers examples of people who faced violence (often fatal) because they challenged beloved organizing ideas in society.  They include Jesus of Nazareth, Paul of Tarsus, Mohandas Gandhi, and numerous civil rights martyrs in the United States.  Violence, part of the darkness of human nature, rears its ugly head in defense of the indefensible and the merely traditional alike.  But one fact remains unchanged:  We cannot domesticate God.









Week of Proper 18: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Year 2   19 comments

Above:  The Communion of Saints

Role Models

SEPTEMBER 8-10, 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 8:1-13 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now about food sacrificed to idols:

We all have knowledge;

yes, that is so, but knowledge gives self-importance–it is love that makes the building grow.  A man may imagine he understands something, but still not understand anything in the way he ought to.  But any man who loves God is known by him.  Well then, about eating food sacrificed to idols:  we know that idols do not really exist in the world and that there is no god but the One.  And even if there were things called gods, either in the sky or on earth–where there certainly seem to be ‘gods’ and ‘lords’ in plenty–still for us there is one God, the Father, from whom all things come and for whom we exist; and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things come and through whom we exist.

Some people, however, do not have this knowledge.  There are some who have been so long used to idols that they eat this food as though it really had been sacrificed to the idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled by it.  Food, of course, cannot bring us in touch with God:  we lose nothing if we refuse to eat, we gain nothing if we eat.  Only be careful that you do not make use of this freedom in a way that proves a pitfall for the weak.  Suppose someone sees you, a man who understands, eating in some temple to an idol; his own conscience, even if it is week, may encourage him to eat food which has been offered to idols.  In this way your knowledge could become the ruin of someone weak, of a brother for whom Christ died.  By sinning in this way against your brothers, and injuring their weak consciences, it would be Christ against whom you sinned.  That is why, since food can be the occasion of my brother’s downfall, I shall never eat meat again in case I am the cause of a brother’s downfall.


1 Corinthians 9:16-27 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Not that I boast of preaching the gospel, since it is a duty which has been laid on me; I should be punished if I did not preach it!  If I had chosen this work myself, I might have been paid for it, but as I have not, it is a responsibility which has been put into my hands.  Do you know what my reward is?  It is this:  in my preaching, to be able to offer the Good News free, and not insist on the rights which the gospel gives me.

So though I am not a slave of any man I have made myself the slave of everyone so as to win as many as I could.  I made myself a Jew to the Jews, to win the Jews; that is, I who am not a subject of the Law made myself subject to the Law.  To those who have no Law, I was free of the Law myself (though not free from God’s Law, being under the Law of Christ) to win those who have no Law.  For the weak I made myself weak.  I made myself all things to all men in order to save some at any cost; and I still do this, for the sake of the gospel, to have a share in its blessings.

All the runners at the stadium are trying to win, but only one of them gets the prize.  You must run in the same way, meaning to win.  All the fighters at the games go into strict training; they do this just to win a wreath which will wither away, but we do it for a wreath that will never wither.  That is how I run, intent on winning; that is how I fight, not beating the air.  I treat my body hard and make it obey me, for, having been an announcer myself, I should not want to be disqualified.


1 Corinthians 10:14-32 (The Jerusalem Bible):

This is the reason, my dear brothers, why you must keep clear of idolatry.  I say to you as sensible people:  judge for yourselves what I am saying.  The blessing-cup that we bless is a communion with the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a communion with the blood of Christ.  The fact that there is only one loaf means that we all have a share in this one loaf.  Look at the other Israel, the race, where those who eat the sacrifices are in communion with the altar.  Does this mean that the food sacrificed to idols has a real value, or that the idol itself is real?  Not at all.  It simply means that the sacrifices they offer they sacrifice to demons who are not God.  I have no desire to see you in communion with demons.  You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons.  You cannot take your share at the table of the Lord and at the table of demons.  Do we want to make the Lord angry; are we stronger than he is?

For me there are no forbidden things,

but not everything does good.  True, there are no forbidden things, but it is not everything that helps the building to grow.  Nobody should be looking for his own advantage, but everybody for the other man’s.  Do not hesitate to eat anything that is sold in butchers’ shops:  there is no need to raise questions of conscience; for the earth and everything that is in it belong to the Lord.  If an unbeliever invites you to his house, go if you want to, and eat whatever is put in front of you, without asking questions just to satisfy conscience.  But if someone says to you,

This food was offered in sacrifice,

then, out of consideration for the man that told you, you should not eat it, for the sake of his scruples; his scruples, you see, not your own.  Why should my freedom depend on somebody else’s conscience?  If I take my share with thankfulness, why should I be blamed for food for which I have thanked God?

Whatever you eat, whatever you drink, whatever you do at all, do it all for the glory of God.  Never do anything offensive to anyone–to Jews or Greeks or to the Church of God….


Psalm 139:1-19, 22, 23 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 LORD, you have searched me out and known me;

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

You trace my journeys and my resting-places

and are acquainted with all my ways.

Indeed, there is not a word on my lips,

but you, O LORD, know it altogether.

You press upon me behind and before

and lay your hand upon me.

5 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

6 Where can I go then from your Spirit?

where can I flee from your presence?

If I climb up to heaven, you are there;

if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

9 Even there your hand will lead me

and your right hand hold me fast.

22 Search me out, O God, and know my heart;

try me and know my restless thoughts.

23 Look well whether there be any wickedness in me

and lead me in the way that is everlasting.


Psalm 84 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts!

My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the LORD;

my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

The sparrow has found her a house

and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young;

by the side of your altars, O LORD of hosts,

my King and my God.

3 Happy are they who dwell in your house!

they will always be praising you.

4 Happy are the people whose strength is in you!

whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.

5 Those who go through the desolate valley will find it a place of springs,

for the early rains have covered it with pools of water.

6 They will climb from height to height,

and the God of gods will reveal himself in Zion.

LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;

hearken, O God of Jacob.

8 Behold our defender, O God;

and look upon the face of your Anointed.

For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room,

and to stand in the threshold of the house of my God

than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.

10 For the LORD is both sun and shield;

he will give grace and glory;

11 No good thing will the LORD withhold

from those who walk with integrity.

12 O LORD of hosts,

happy are they who put their trust in you!


Psalm 116:10-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

10 How shall I repay the LORD

for all the good things he has done for me?

11 I will lift up the cup of salvation

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

12 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

13 Precious in the sight of the LORD

is the death of his servants.

14 O LORD, I am your servant;

I am your servant and the child of your handmaid;

you have freed me from my bonds.

15 I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

16 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

17 In the courts of the LORD’s house,

in the midst of you, O Jerusalem.



Luke 6:27-38 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

But I say this to you who are listening:  Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly.  To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too; to the man who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic.  Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you.  Treat others as you would like them to treat you.  If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect?  Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what thanks can you expect?  For even sinners do that much.  And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what thanks can you expect?  Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount.  Instead, love your enemies and do good, and lend without any hope of return.  You will have a great reward, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.  Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned.  Give, and there will be gifts for you:  a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.


Luke 6:39-42 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] also told a parable to them,

Can one blind man guide another?  Surely both will fall into a pit?  The disciple is not superior to this teacher; the fully trained disciple will always be like his teacher.  Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye,’ when you cannot see the plank in your own?  Hypocrite!  Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter that is in your brother’s eye.


Luke 6:43-49 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

There is no sound tree that produces rotten fruit, nor again a rotten tree that produces sound fruit.  For every tree can be told by its own fruit; people do not pick figs from thorns, nor gather grapes from brambles.  A good man draws what is good from the store of goodness in his heart; a bad man draws what is bad from the store of badness.  For a man’s words from what fills his heart.

Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,” and not do what I say?

Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and acts on them–I will show you what he is like.  He is like the man who when he built his house dug, and dug deep, and laid the foundations on rock; when the river was in flood it bore down on that house  but could not shake it, it was so well built.  But the one who listens and does nothing is like the man who built his house on soil, with no foundations:  as soon as the river bore down on it, it collapsed; and what a ruin that house became!


The Collect:

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Once, when I was a youth, there was a famous basketball player who recorded a television spot in which he proclaimed that he was not a role model.  I understand his main point, for the fact that one is a talented and recognized athlete ought not to cause others (often young people) to look up to and emulate one.  There is a difference between heroism and athletic prowess.  Parents and/or guardians ought to instill good values in children, and there are plenty of excellent people (living and dead) who are excellent role models.  As a Christian, I look to Jesus of Nazareth.  As an amateur hagiographer, I point to the saints when I seek good examples from mere mortals.

Life in community requires us to accommodate each other.  So, if something otherwise harmless we do harms another person spiritually, we need (within reason, of course) to refrain from such behaviors.  I say “within reason” because anything any of us does might offend or confuse someone else spiritually.  So the principle, applied without reason, leads to us doing nothing.

Each of us is a role model, even if we do not want to be one.  So may we be the best role models we can be.  May we love our enemies, denying them any excuse for hating us.  May we live compassionately, performing as many good deeds as possible and forgiving others.  And may we avoid hypocrisy–all by the grace of God, of course.

God is watching, of course, and that fact matters very much.  And our fellow mere mortals are also watching.  What kind of messages are we sending to them via our deeds, words, and attitudes?


Proper 1, Year B   13 comments

Above:  Elisha Refusing the Gifts of Naaman, by Pieter Fransz de Grebber

Of Skin Conditions, Stigma, Healing, and Humility

The Sunday Closest to May 11



2 Kings 5:1-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Aram.  The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy.  Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife.  She said to her,

If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria!  He would cure him of his leprosy.

So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said.  And the king of Aram said,

Go then, and I will sent along a letter to the king of Israel.

He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments.  He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read,

When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.

When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said,

Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy?  Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.

But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king,

Why have you torn your clothes?  Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.

So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house.  Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying,

Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.

But Naaman became angry and went away, saying,

I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!  Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?  Could I not wash in them, and be clean?

He turned and went away in a rage.  But his servants approached and said to him,

Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it?  How much more, when all he said to you was, “Wash, and be clean”?

So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

Psalm 30 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

 I will exalt you, O LORD,

because you have lifted me up

and have not let my enemies triumph over me.

 O LORD my God, I cried out to you,

and you restored me to health.

 You brought me up, O LORD, from the dead;

you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.

 Sing to the LORD, you servants of his;

give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.

 For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye,

his favor for a lifetime.

6 Weeping may spend the night,

but joy comes in the morning.

 While I felt secure, I said,

“I shall never be disturbed.

You,  LORD, with your favor, made me as strong as the mountains.”

 Then you hid my face,

and I was filled with terror.

 I cried to you, O LORD;

I pleaded with the LORD, saying,

10  “What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit?

will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?

11  Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me;

O LORD, be my helper.”

12  You have turned my wailing into dancing;

you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy.

13  Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing;

O LORD my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (New Revised Standard Version):

Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may win it.  Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one.  So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.

Mark 1:40-45 (New Revised Standard Version):

A leper came Jesus begging him, and kneeling he said to him,

If you choose, you can make me clean.

Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him,

I do choose.  Be made clean!

Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.  After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him,

See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.

But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could not longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and the people came to him from every quarter.

The Collect:

O  God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; 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:

Proper 1, Year A:

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B:

Mark 1:

Matthew 8 (Parallel to Mark 1):

Luke 5 (Parallel to Mark 1):

2 Kings 5:


Leprosy, in the Bible, is a broad term.  It refers to a variety of skin conditions in addition to Hansen’s Disease.  Aside from the physical signs, which could be difficult, there was stigma, which could be harder to handle.

Consider the case of Naaman, a successful military commander in the service of the King of Aram, an enemy of the King of Israel.  The author of 2 Kings 5 tells us that Naaman has won victories over the Israelite army with the help of God.  We also know that Naaman’s forces have kidnapped and enslaved at least one Israelite young woman, whom he has taken into his household as a servant.  We may also conclude that Naaman’s case of leprosy (whatever the modern diagnosis would be) was not severe, for he was still functional as a military commander.  Nevertheless, whatever Naaman had bothered him badly enough that he went to see Elisha.

The prophet Elisha did not stand on ceremony, much to Naaman’s disappointment and ire.  And, instead of staging an elaborate healing ritual, the prophet sent word by a messengerthat Naaman ought to bathe in the humble Jordan River seven times.  One can imagine Naaman thinking in Aramaic, “That’s it!?!”

Note the role of servants in the story.  An enslaved servant girl tell’s Naaman’s wife about Elisha.  Naaman, despite his exalted view of himself, is just a servant of his king, and his success is due entirely to God.  Elisha himself does not speak to Naaman at first, but sends a messenger.

Being proud and mighty does not count for much in 2 Kings 5, does it?

We have another story of a cured leper in Mark 1.  This time the man is anonymous.  All he did to get cured was to ask Jesus, who agreed graciously.  But why did our Lord order the man to stay quiet? Biblical scholars have detected the theme of the Messianic Secret in the Gospel of Mark.  Throughout that book God knows who Jesus is, as do Jesus as well as Satan and any evil spirit whom our Lord encounters.  That, however, was a small circle of the knowledgeable.  No, Jesus had work to do, and that work culminated, in Mark, with his crucifixion, at which point his Messianic identity became plain.  There is also the matter of being able to go from place to place without having encountering thronging crowds.  The leper did not obey our Lord’s injunction to stay quiet, so Jesus had to remain in the hinterlands for a little while, but the crowds came to him.  So much for Plan A!

Divine grace falls upon the already humble and the recently humbled, upon the Jew and the Gentile, upon esteemed and the anonymous.  It arrives via unexpected and seemingly unlikely avenues, and it makes demands upon us.  What happened to the leper Jesus healed in Mark 1?  Maybe he rejoined his family; that is the most likely answer.  But what further impact did the incident have on the man?  The text is silent on that point.  As for Naaman, he renounced his faith in Rimmon, his former deity, and followed Yahweh (verse 18).  As to what that entailed for Naaman, the text is silent.

How will grace come to you this day, the next day, the day after that, et cetera?  And what will it require of you?  Will you do it?


Published in a nearly identical form as Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on June 23, 2012