Archive for the ‘2 Thessalonians 2’ Tag

Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 17, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  Civil Rights Memorial, Montgomery, Alabama

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-05791

Christian Liberty to Love Our Neighbors

AUGUST 31, 2023

SEPTEMBER 1 and 2, 2023


The Collect:

O God, we thank you for your Son,

who chose the path of suffering for the sake of the world.

Humble us by his example,

point us to the path of obedience,

and give us strength to follow your commands,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46


The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 14:13-18 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 15:1-9 (Friday)

Jeremiah 15:10-14 (Saturday)

Psalm 26:1-8 (All Days)

Ephesians 5:1-6 (Thursday)

2 Thessalonians 2:7-12 (Friday)

Matthew 8:14-17 (Saturday)


I will wash my hands in innocence, O Lord,

that I may go about your altar,

To make heard the voice of thanksgiving

and tell of all your wonderful deeds.

Lord, I love the house of your habitation

and the place where your glory abides.

–Psalm 26:6-8, Common Worship (2000)


Christian liberty is the freedom to follow Christ without the shackles of legalism.  All the Law of Moses and the Prophets point to the love of God and one’s fellow human beings, our Lord and Savior said.  Rabbi Hillel, dead for about two decades at the time, would have continued that teaching with

Everything else is commentary.  Go and learn it.

Many of those laws contained concrete examples of timeless principles.  A host of these examples ceased to apply to daily lives for the majority of people a long time ago, so the avoidance of legalism and the embrace of serious study of the Law of Moses in historical and cultural contexts behooves one.  St. Paul the Apostle, always a Jew, resisted legalism regarding male circumcision. In my time I hear certain Protestants, who make a point of Christian liberty from the Law of Moses most of the time, invoke that code selectively for their own purposes.  I am still waiting for them to be consistent –to recognize the hypocrisy of such an approach, and to cease from quoting the Law of Moses regarding issues such as homosexuality while ignoring its implications for wearing polyester.  I will wait for a long time, I suppose.

My first thought after finishing the readings from Jeremiah was, “God was mad!”  At least that was the impression which the prophet and his scribe, Baruch, who actually wrote the book, left us.  In that narrative the people (note the plural form, O reader) had abandoned God and refused repeatedly to repent–to change their minds and to turn around.  Destruction would be their lot and only a small remnant would survive, the text said.  Not keeping the Law of Moses was the offense in that case.

The crux of the issue I address in this post is how to follow God without falling into legalism.  Whether one wears a polyester garment does not matter morally, but how one treats others does.  The Law of Moses, when not condemning people to death for a host of offenses from working on the Sabbath to engaging in premarital sexual relations to insulting one’s parents (the latter being a crucial point the Parable of the Prodigal Son/Elder Brother/Father), drives home in a plethora of concrete examples the principles of interdependence, mutual responsibility, and complete dependence on God.  These belie and condemn much of modern economic theory and many corporate policies, do they not?  Many business practices exist to hold certain people back from advancement, to keep them in their “places.”  I, without becoming lost in legalistic details, note these underlying principles and recognize them as being of God.  There is a project worth undertaking in the name and love of God.  The working conditions of those who, for example, manufacture and sell our polyester garments are part of a legitimate social concern.

Abstract standards of morality do not move me, except occasionally to frustration.  Our Lord and Savior gave us a concrete standard of morality–how our actions and inactions affect others.  This is a paraphrase of the rule to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself.  I made this argument in a long and thoroughly documented paper I published online.  In that case I focused on the traditional Southern Presbyterian rule of the Spirituality of the Church, the idea that certain issues are political,  not theological, so the denomination should avoid “political” entanglements.  In 1861 the founders of the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America (the Presbyterian Church in the United States from 1865 to 1983) invoked the Spirituality of the Church to avoid condemning slavery, an institution they defended while quoting the Bible.  By the 1950s the leadership of the PCUS had liberalized to the point of endorsing civil rights for African Americans, a fact which vexed the openly segregationist part of the Church’s right wing.  From that corner of the denomination sprang the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in 1973.  This fact has proven embarrassing to many members of the PCA over the years, as it should.  The PCA, to its credit, has issued a pastoral letter condemning racism.  On the other hand, it did so without acknowledging the racist content in the documents of the committee which formed the denomination.

May we, invoking our Christian liberty, seek to love all the neighbors possible as we love ourselves.  We can succeed only by grace, but our willingness constitutes a vital part of the effort.








Christian Liberty to Love Our Neighbors


Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 6, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  The Civil Rights March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, 1965

Photographer = Peter Pettus

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ6-2329

Righteousness and Results

JUNE 19-21, 2023


The Collect:

God of compassion, you have opened the way for us and brought us to yourself.

Pour your love into our hearts, that, overflowing with joy,

we may freely share the blessings of your realm and faithfully proclaim

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39


The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 1:1-11 (Monday)

1 Samuel 3:1-9 (Tuesday)

Proverbs 4:10-27 (Wednesday)

Psalm 105:1-11, 37-45 (All Days)

1 Thessalonians 3:1-5 (Monday)

2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5 (Tuesday)

Luke 6:12-19 (Wednesday)


Seek the Lord and his strength;

seek his face continually.

–Psalm 105:4, Common Worship (2000)


The Psalm tells us to seek God and divine strength continually. That is good advice at all times and in all places. It is also advice consistent with the rest of the assigned readings.

The lections from Joshua and Proverbs are overly optimistic. They follow a certain formula: Obey God and good results will follow; one will prosper, et cetera. This is the overly optimistic viewpoint which leads to the heresy of Prosperity Theology: love God, do the right things, and get rich.

Tell that to Jesus (crucified), St. Paul the Apostle (beheaded after many years of troubles), and most of the original twelve Apostles (the majority of whom died violently). Tell that to the Thessalonian Christians. Tell that to nearly 2000 years’ worth of Christian martyrs and about 5000 years’ worth of faithful Hebrews.

When we challenge social institutions and systems which violate th law of love we confront powerful forces. In so doing we challenge people who might even cite God in attempts to justify their unjustifiable actions and attitudes. And we place ourselves at great risk. We need divine strength to live faithfully and to avoid the pitfalls of hatred, vengeance, and misdirected anger. We should be angry sometimes, for righteous anger does exist. But we ought to channel it properly, lest it corrupt our cause and compromise us.

We can succeed only by the power of God.









Proper 27, Year C   5 comments


Above:  Salonica, Greece, Between 1910 and 1915

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ggbain-11634

Image Created by the Bain News Service

Vindication by God

The Sunday Closest to November 9

Twenty-Seventh Sunday After Pentecost

NOVEMBER 6, 2022


The Assigned Readings:

Haggai 1:15b-29 and Psalm 145:1-5, 18-22 or Psalm 98


Job 19:23-27a and Psalm 17:1-9


2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17

Luke 20:27-38

The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Dedication:


I know that I have a living Defender

and that he will rise up last, on the dust of the earth.

After my awakening, he will set me close to him,

and from my flesh I shall look on God.

–Job 19:25-26, The New Jerusalem Bible


The root word for “redeem” descends from the Latin verb meaning “to buy.”  Thus, if Christ has redeemed us, he has bought us.

The root word for “vindicate” descends from the Latin word meaning “avenger.”  One definition of “vindicate,” according to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 3d. Ed. (1996), is:

To justify or prove the worth of, especially in the light of later developments.

Job, in the book, which bears his name, had confidence in God’s vindication of him.  The author of Psalm 17 wrote in a similar line of thought.

Sometimes we want God to do for us more than we want to do for God’s glory.  Thus we might neglect a task (such as rebuilding the Temple in Haggai 1).  No surviving Jew about 2500 years ago recalled the splendor of Solomon’s Temple.  It was a splendor created by high taxes and forced labor, but those facts did not occur in writing in Haggai 1.  Nevertheless, the call for a Second Temple remained.  And the Sadducees in the reading from Luke asked an insincere and irrelevant question about levirate marriage and the afterlife.  They sought to vindicate themselves, not find and answer to a query.

Knowing sound teaching can prove difficult.  How much is flawed tradition and how much is sound tradition?  I have been adding many of the sermon outlines of George Washington Barrett (1873-1956), my great-grandfather, at TAYLOR FAMILY POEMS AND FAMILY HISTORY WRITINGS (  According to him, my fondness for rituals detracts from true spirituality, the fact that my Rector is female constitutes a heresy, and even my rare alcoholic drink is sinful.  I label his positions on these matters as of his time and subculture, not of God.  I am myself, not my great-grandfather.  Yet certain basics remain indispensable.  The lordship of Christ is among them.

Cultural and subcultural biases aside, may we cling securely to Jesus, our Redeemer, Defender, and Vindicator, whose Advent we anticipate liturgically and otherwise.  May we want more to do things for his glory than we want him to do for us.








Week of Proper 16: Tuesday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  Dill


AUGUST 23, 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.


2 Thessalonians 2:1-17 (The Jerusalem Bible):

To turn now, brothers, to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we shall all be gathered round him:  please do not get excited too soon or alarmed by any prediction or rumour or any letter claiming to come from us, implying that the Day of the Lord has already arrived.  Never let anyone deceive you in this way.

It cannot happen until the Great Revolt has taken place and the Rebel, the Lost One, has appeared.  This is the Enemy, the one who claims to be so much greater than all that men call ‘god’, so much greater than anything that is worshipped, that he enthrones himself in God’s sanctuary and claims that he is God.  Surely you remember me telling you this when I was with you?  And you know, too, what is still holding back from appearing before his appointed time.  Rebellion is at work already, but in secret, and the one who is holding it back has first to be removed before the Rebel appears openly.  The Lord will kill him with the breath of his mouth and will annihilate him with his glorious appearance at his coming.

But when the Rebel comes, Satan will set to work:  there will be all kinds of miracles and a deceptive show of signs and portents, and everything evil that can deceive those who are bound for destruction because they would not grasp the love of the truth which could have saved them.  The reason why God is sending a power to delude them and make them believe what is untrue is to condemn all who refused to believe in the truth and choose wickedness instead.

But we feel we must be continually thanking God for you, brothers whom the Lord loves, because God chose you from the beginning to be saved by the sanctifying Spirit and by faith in the truth.  Through the Good News that we brought he called you to this so that you should share the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Stand firm, then, brothers, and keep the traditions that we taught you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.  May our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God the Father who has given us his love and, through his grace, such inexhaustible comfort and such sure hope, comfort you and strengthen you in everything good that you do or say.

Psalm 96:7-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 Ascribe to the LORD, you families of the peoples;

ascribe to the LORD honor and power.

Ascribe to the LORD the honor due his Name;

bring offerings and come into his courts.

Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness;

let the whole earth tremble before him.

10 Tell it out among the nations:  ”The LORD is King!

he has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved;

he will judge the peoples with equity.”

11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;

let the sea thunder and all that is in it;

let the field be joyful and all that is therein.

12 Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy

before the LORD when he comes,

when he comes to judge the earth.

13 He will judge the world with righteousness

and the peoples with his truth.

Matthew 23:23-26 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Alas for you , scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who pay tithe of mint and dill and cummin and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law–justice, mercy, good faith!  These you should have practised, without neglecting the others.  You blind guides!  Straining out gnats and swallowing camels!

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who clean the outside of cup and dish and leave the inside full of extortion and intemperance. Blind Pharisee!  Clean the inside of cup and dish first so that the outside may become clean as well.


The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


There are traditions then there are traditions.

Deuteronomy 14:22 and Leviticus 27:30 required the tithing of major edible agricultural products for the support of the Levites, dedicated to religious duties.  Yet Pharisees, just one sect in the diverse landscape of First Century C.E. Palestinian Judaism, applied this rule to garden herbs, such as mind, dill, and cummin.  They were overly meticulous in the letter of the law and insisted on a form of piety most people could not afford to maintain.  Jesus valued “justice, mercy, and good faith” more highly than legalistic minutae.

We–especially those of us with personalities which make us prone to fixate on details–sometimes stare at proverbial trees so much that we forget to look up and think about the forest.  The Levites had to eat, and God had set them apart for full-time religious duties.  So Jesus did not object to the tithe on major crops for their benefit.  Yet the scale of a field is much greater than that of a garden in a small yard.  Herbs were not main crops, so the tithe law did not apply to them.  These Pharisees were fixating on a detail which did not exist as if it did, and simultaneously they failed to give sufficient attention to “justice, mercy, and good faith.”  These were traditions worth keeping.

We read in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 to stand firm in certain traditions.  This exhortation follows a reminder not to commit apostasy–in this case, to follow evil which God will defeat.  Often those who commit deeds think that they are righteous; their actions are malicious and those who commit them are terribly deluded.  Frequently a form of religion provides justification for such evil.  Most of the major religions in the world include the principle we Christians call the Golden Rule:  Do to others as you want them to do to you.  Yet the history of these religions is replete with allegedly sacred violence and holy wars.

The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus occupy the heart of Pauline Christology.  With the resurrection we see God demonstrating the extent of divine power to overcome the works of evil.  People could kill Jesus unjustly, but God could resurrect him.  This ought to indicate the end of “sacred violence” and of scapegoating, but we humans (some of us, anyway) continues these erroneous traditions.  Instead, may we abandon such traditions and practice the traditions of loving one another, comforting each other, giving each other reasons for legitimate hope, and practicing “justice, mercy, and good faith” daily.