Archive for the ‘Deuteronomy 6’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 25, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Feast of Esther, by Jan Lievens

Image in the Public Domain


OCTOBER 29, 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


Esther 7:1-10; 9:20-22 or Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Psalm 35:1-3, 9-18

1 Corinthians 13

Matthew 22:34-46


Today’s readings from the Hebrew Bible reflect danger and divine deliverance.  In Esther and Isaiah the agents of divine deliverance are human beings.

The appeal for divine deliverance is the request for hesed, or loving kindness, steadfast love, keeping of faith.  That is a form of love that is covenantal and beyond sentimentality.  That is the human love in 1 Corinthians 13.  That is the love for God and neighbor in Matthew 22:34-40, quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, and sounding much like the then-fairly recently deceased Rabbi Hillel.

Two words I often hear misused are “love” and “friend.”  I like chocolate, not love it.  In the age of social media “friend” has taken on superficial and shallow connotations.  Regardless of how many “friends” one has on any given social media website, one is fortunate if one has a few friends face-to-face–people who will proverbially go through hell for one.  I mean no disrespect to Joseph Scriven (1820-1886), author of the hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”  Yet the passage,

Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?

Take it to the Lord in prayer!

is inaccurate.  If we define a friend as an individual who behaves as a friend, those alleged friends in the hymn are actually enemies.  If one has “friends” such as those, one joins the company of Job, afflicted by four enemies by the time the final author of that book wrote.

May we be agents of hesed to one another.  May we have hesed for God.  After all, God has hesed for all of us.










Devotion for Thursday Before Proper 20, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:   Scroll

Image in the Public Domain

Go and Learn It

SEPTEMBER 15, 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:

Exodus 23:1-9

Psalm 113

Romans 3:1-8


Who is like the LORD our God, who sits enthroned on high,

but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?

He takes up the weak out of the dust and lifts up the poor from the ashes.

He sets them with the princes, with the princes of his people.

–Psalm 113:5-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures one reads of the importance of obeying divine law faithfully.  God commands obedience to the law and warns of the dire consequences of disobedience.  Two kingdoms fall and, after the fact, the Jewish tradition repeats the theme of the importance of obedience to the law.  I wonder, then, how to read St. Paul the Apostle in his Letter to the Romans.  Perhaps his target was the legalistic interpretation and keeping of the Law of Moses.  In Romans 2, for example, we read of the necessity of the circumcision of the heart.  As a note in The Jewish Annotated New Testament (2011) informs me, that is consistent with Deuteronomy 10:16 and 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4, 9:25-26, and 38:33; and Ezekiel 44:7.

As for the portion of the Law of Moses we find in Exodus 23:1-9, it is timeless, with some culturally specific examples of principles.

  1. One must not bear false witness, commit perjury, or spread false rumors.
  2. One must speak the truth and act impartially, showing deference to nobody because of wealth or the lack thereof.
  3. One must return wandering livestock belonging to an enemy.  (This commandment’s principle extends beyond livestock.)
  4. One must help and enemy raise his beast of burden which has collapsed.  (This commandment’s principle also extends beyond livestock.)
  5. One must not subvert the rights of the poor.
  6. One must not make or support a false allegation.
  7. One must not send the innocent to execution.
  8. One must not accept bribes.
  9. One must not oppress strangers.

These are commandments, not suggestions.

I think of the famous story of Rabbi Hillel (110 B.C.E.-10. C.E.), who summarized the Torah by citing the commandment to love God fully (the Shema, found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5) and the Golden Rule (Leviticus 19:18).  Then he concluded,

The rest is commentary.  Go and learn it.

That statement applies well to Exodus 23:1-9, some of the provisions of which are politically sensitive.  Justice, however, is what it is.  May we learn it and act accordingly.









Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 26, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Moses Pleading with Israel

Above:  Moses Pleading with Israel

Image in the Public Domain

Difficult Obedience to God

NOVEMBER 1 and 2, 2021


The Collect:

Almighty God, you have taught us in your Son that love fulfills the law.

Inspire us to love you with all our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength,

and teach us how to love our neighbors as ourselves,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51


The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 6:10-15 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 28:58-29:1 (Tuesday)

Psalm 51 (Both Days)

Romans 12:17-21; 13:8-10 (Monday)

Acts 7:17-29 (Tuesday)


Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good….Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves has fulfilled the law.

–Romans 12:17-21; 13:1, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)


That is a worthy and difficult standard by which to live.  The advice to remain faithful to God (or else, as in Deuteronomy) functions as a reminder of the consequences of actions; we reap whatsoever we sow.  When we tether ourselves to idols, we enslave ourselves.  Yet, when we obey God, we find liberation to love each other as effectively as possible.

As for me, the passage from Romans I have quoted highlights challenges with which I have struggled and continue to struggle.  The desire for revenge is elemental.  Yet, when one thinks rationally, one will realize that it is counterproductive.  Nevertheless, seeking vengeance is easier to do than to seek justice–even reconciliation–or at least to lay down a grudge or to refrain from carrying one.  As I admit my weakness, I pray in the words of Psalm 51, 3,

For I acknowledge my rebellion:

and my sin is ever before me.

The Alternative Service Book 1980

What about you, O reader?









Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 25, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Ramparts of Constantinople

Above:  Ramparts of Constantinople, Ottoman Empire, Between 1900 and 1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-15141

Spiritual Barriers

OCTOBER 30 and 31, 2023

NOVEMBER 1, 2023


The Collect:

O Lord God, you are the holy lawgiver, you are the salvation of your people.

By your Spirit renew us in your covenant of love,

and train us to care tenderly for all our neighbors,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51


The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 6:1-9, 20-25 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 10:10-22 (Tuesday)

Proverbs 119:41-48 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:41-48 (All Days)

James 2:8-13 (Monday)

James 2:14-26 (Tuesday)

Matthew 19:16-22 (Wednesday)


I shall continue to keep your law;

I shall keep it for ever and ever.

I will walk at liberty,

because I study your commandments.

–Psalm 119:44-45, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


Rabbi Hillel summarized the Law of Moses by quoting the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5), the order to love Yahweh with all one’s heart, soul, and might.  Then he said,

The rest is commentary.  Go and learn it.

We humans require “hooks” onto which to “hang” information.  Hillel pointed to an excellent one.  Much of the information, in the Law of Moses, consists of culturally specific examples of timeless principles.  Many interpreters of that code miss this point, hence continued legalism while missing the point.  Some have become lost in the trees and cannot see the forest.

The readings for these three days combine to reinforce a few theological points:

  1. How we think of God influences how we think of people;
  2. How we think influences how we act;
  3. How we treat people matters to God;
  4. To have only abstract theology is insufficient;
  5. As I heard growing up, “our prayers must have feet;” and
  6. We must eliminate spiritual barriers to trusting God.

These six points overlap, for, if we fear scarcity, for example, we might hoard in our self-interest and thereby deprive others of necessities.  God will notice that reality.

All of us have spiritual barriers.  One barrier for the man in Matthew 19:16-22 was wealth, which has functioned in that capacity for many people for a long time.  Fear of vulnerability is among the most common barriers.  This applies to the rich man in Matthew 19 because his wealth insulated him from certain stresses and other problems.  To overcome this fear is a great challenge, especially if one has acculturated in a setting which encourages rugged individualism.  The truth, of course, is that we all rely on each other and depend entirely on God.  Yet the illusion of independence and self-sufficiency remains as a major obstacle to trusting in God.  May we, by grace, find liberation from all barriers which separate us from a deeper relationship with God.







Spiritual Barriers


Devotion for October 7, 8, and 9 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments


Above:  The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, by John Martin

Image in the Public Domain

Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part IX:  God’s Wrath

OCTOBER 7, 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:

Deuteronomy 6:10-25 (October 7)

Deuteronomy 7:1-19 (October 8)

Deuteronomy 8:1-20 (October 9)

Psalm 5 (Morning–October 7)

Psalm 42 (Morning–October 8)

Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning–October 9)

Psalms 84 and 29 (Evening–October 7)

Psalms 102 and 133 (Evening–October 8)

Psalms 1 and 33 (Evening–October 9)

Matthew 9:18-38 (October 7)

Matthew 10:1-23 (October 8)

Matthew 10:24-42 (October 9)


The God of Deuteronomy 6-8 is a fearsome warrior, one who tells people in stern tones to obey–OR ELSE.  And, to complicate matters further, genocide (allegedly approved of by God) is part of the mix.  So destruction for godless ways is a prominent theme there.  I choose not to repeat my detailed disapproval of such material as being inconsistent with the Golden Rule, for I have written of it many times.

Jesus, in Matthew 9:18-10:42, heals people, raises a girl from the dead, sends his twelve Apostles on a mission (with detailed instructions), and tells them to leave unbelievers to God’s wrath.  I notice that they are not do anything to those who reject them.  And I cannot escape mention of God’s wrath in the material for these days.

Jesus,as I think of him automatically, was a generally jolly fellow who used humor to cope with great stresses and sorrows.  He was fully human, I affirm, and we humans need humor.  So I imagine him and his Apostles sharing jokes, perhaps the following one among them:

Q:  How many Pharisees does it take to change oil lamp?

A:  One one, but he never does it on the Sabbath.

Yet I know that the darker, more serious side of the Gospel message was always there.  I affirm this also, without the genocide and with more forgiveness than in Deuteronomy 6-8.









Devotion for October 6 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments


Above:  Jesus Healing a Paralytic, by Bernhard Rode

Image in the Public Domain

Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part VIII:  False Notions of Holiness

OCTOBER 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 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:

Deuteronomy 5:22-6:9

Psalm 103 (Morning)

Psalms 117 and 139 (Evening)

Matthew 9:1-17


Deuteronomy 5:22-6:9 is a generally positive lection with a dark cloud hanging over it.  We readers know (or at least we should know) that the good intentions will not last long and that the consequences will be dire and predictable.

I suppose that our Lord and Savior’s critics thought that they were on the side of righteousness and that Jesus was not.  Perhaps they thought of the consequences of collective apostasy and in the Hebrew Bible.  Maybe they feared that Jesus was leading people astray.  They were wrong, of course, for they represented a corrupt religious system.  And Jesus, with his authority, challenged theirs.  He also challenged basic assumptions regarding fasting, table fellowship, ritual purity, and the cause of the paralyzed man’s suffering.  He redefined holiness to be more inclusive than exclusive, drawing people into the big tent rather than consigning large populations to the category of the hopelessly lost.

It is easy and frequently tempting to define one’s self as belonging to an elite club of holy people.  To do so is certainly ego-reinforcing. Yet it is a trap for one’s self and a careless disregard for others who bear the image of God.

So I challenge you, O reader, to ask yourself some questions.  Who are the people you blame unjustly for their problems?  Who are the people you exclude unjustly?  Who are the people from whom you keep a distance so that they will not “contaminate” you by their presence?  I ask myself the same questions about how I think of and act toward others.  Yes, we will not get along with all people; that is a morally neutral fact of life.  And we will have little in common with many individuals.  But we must not assume that anyone is hopelessly lost to God.






Proper 26, Year B   25 comments

Above:  Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun and Her Daughter (1789), by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun


The Sunday Closest to November 2

The Twenty-Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

OCTOBER 31, 2021



Ruth 1:1-22 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

In the days when the chieftains ruled, there was a famine in the land; and a man of Bethlehem in Judah, with his wife and two sons, went to reside in the country of Moab.  The man’s name was Elimelech, his wife’s name was Naomi, and his two sons were named Mahlon and Chilion–Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah.  They came to the country of Moab and remained there.

Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left with her two sons.  They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth, and they lived there about ten years.  Then those two–Mahlon and Chilion–also died; so the woman was left without her two sons and without her husband.

She started out with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab; for in the country of Moab she had heard that the LORD had taken note of His people and given them food.  Accompanied by her two daughters-in-law, she left the place where she had been living; and they set out on the road back to the land of Judah.

But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law,

Turn back, each of you to her mother’s house.  May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me!  May the LORD grant that each of you find security in the house of a husband!

And she kissed them farewell.  They broke into weeping, and said to her,

No, we will return with you to your people.

But Naomi replied,

Turn back, my daughters!  Why should you go with me?  Have I any more sons in my body who might be husbands for you?  Turn back, my daughters, for I am too old to be married.  Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I were married tonight, and I also bore sons, should you wait for them to grow up?  Should you on their account debar yourselves from marriage?  Oh no, my daughters!  My lot is far more bitter than yours, for the hand of the LORD has struck out against me.

They broke into weeping again, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law farewell.  But Ruth clung to her.  So she said,

See, your sister-in-law has returned to her people and her gods.  Go follow your sister-in-law.

But Ruth replied,

Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back and not follow you.  For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.  Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.  Thus and more may the LORD do to me if anything but death parts me from you.

When [Naomi] saw how determined she was to go with her, she ceased to argue with her; and the two went on until they reached Bethlehem.

When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole city buzzed with excitement over them.  The women said,

Can this be Naomi?

She replied,

Do not call me Naomi.  Call me Mara, for Shaddai has made my lot very bitter.  I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty.  How can you call me Naomi, when the LORD has brought me back empty.  How can you call me Naomi, when the LORD has dealt harshly with me, when Shaddai has brought misfortune upon me!

Thus Naomi returned from the country of Moab; she returned with her daughter-in-law Ruth the Moabite.  They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.

Psalm 146 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):


Praise the LORD, O my soul!

I will praise the LORD as long as I live;

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

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

for there is not help in them.

When they breathe their last, they return to earth,

and in that day their thoughts perish.

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

whose hope is in the LORD their God;

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

who keeps his promise for ever.

Who gives justice to those who are oppressed,

and food to those who hunger.

The LORD sets the prisoner free;

the LORD opens the eyes of the blind;

the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down.

8 The LORD loves the righteous;

the LORD cares for the stranger;

he sustains the orphan and the widow,

but frustrates the way of the wicked!

The LORD shall reign for ever,

your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.



Deuteronomy 6:1-9 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And this is the commandment, the laws, and the judgments that YHWH, your God, commanded to teach you to do in the land to which you’re crossing to take possession of it, so that you’ll fear YHWH, your God, to observe all His laws and His commandments that I’m commanding you:  you and your child and your child’s child, all the days of your life, and so that your days will be extended.  And you will shall listen, Israel, and and be watchful to it, that it will be good for you and that you’ll multiply very much, as YHWH, your fathers’ God, spoke to you:  a land flowing with milk and honey.

Listen, Israel:  YHWH is our God.  YHWH is one.  And you shall love YHWH, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  And you shall impart them to your children, and you shall speak about them when you sit in your house and when you go in the road and when you lie down and when you get up.  And you shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall become bands between your eyes.  And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and in your gates.

Psalm 119:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Happy are they whose way is blameless,

who walk in the law of the LORD!

Happy are they who observe his decrees

and seek him with all their hearts!

3 Who never do any wrong,

but always walk in his ways.

4 You laid down your commandments,

that we should fully keep them.

Oh, that my ways were made so direct

that I might keep your statutes!

Then I should not be put to shame,

when I regard all your commandments.

I will thank you with an unfeigned heart,

when I have learned your righteous judgments.

I will keep your statutes;

do not utterly forsake me.


Hebrews 9:11-14 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once and for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but not his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.  For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.


Mark 12:28-34 (Revised English Bible):

Then one of the scribes, who had been listening to these discussions and had observed how well Jesus answered, came forward and asked him,

Which is the first of all the commandments?

He answered,

The first is, “Hear, O Israel:  the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”  The second is this:  “You must love your neighbour as yourself.”  No other commandment is greater than these.

The scribe said to him,

Well said, Teacher.  You are right in saying that God is one and beside him there is no other.  And to love him with all your heart, all your understanding, and all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself–that means far more than any whole-offerings and sacrifices.

When Jesus saw how thoughtfully he answered, he said to him,

You are not far from the kingdom of God.

After that nobody dared put any more questions to him.

The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Proper 26, Year A:

Ruth 1:

Deuteronomy 6:

Hebrews 9:

Mark 12:

Matthew 22 (Parallel to Mark 12):

Luke 10 (Parallel to Mark 12):

A Prayer for Compassion:

Prayers for Those Who Suffer:


The context for this Sunday’s reading from Mark is Holy Week; Jesus will die soon.  This places the statement about the greatest commandments in a certain light and helps explain the lectionary committee’s decision to pair Hebrews 9:11-14 with Mark 12:28-34.  And Jesus pulled the two greatest commandments from the Law of Moses–Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18, to be precise.  Our Lord also agreed with his elder (and deceased) contemporary, Rabbi Hillel, on the question of the summary of the Law of Moses.

There are types of love in the Bible, and we see some of the best representatives of love in this Sunday’s readings.  A daughter-in-law remains loyal to her mother-in-law.  We read of the commandments to love God fully and our neighbors as ourselves, and of the depth of God’s love for us.  I must add something else here to augment that thought.  I write devotions in sequence, according to lectionaries (more or less).  Very recently I wrote a devotion on Ephesians 5, which, while discussing marriage, commands the husband to love his wife.  The text speaks of the two as one flesh:

He who loves his wife loves himself.–Ephesians 5:28b, New Revised Standard Version

We will love ourselves most or all of the time, unless we loathe ourselves, as some do.  I suspect, though, that egotism is more rampant than self-loathing.  So the main spiritual task for most of us is to place ourselves in proper context–not superior to others in the eyes of God–and to act compassionately toward others, as if toward ourselves.  We are not isolated from others; what one does affects others.  Yes, we are separate and unique in body and personality, but no, we are not isolated from others even in these matters.  We have the power to build people up or to tear them down; may we, for the common good and the love of God, do the former, not the latter.


Week of Proper 22: Wednesday, Year 2   14 comments

Above:  A Checkmark

Checklists and Life

OCTOBER 5, 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.


I have expanded the first reading to encompass the entire second chapter of Galatians.–KRT


Galatians 2:1-21 (Revised English Bible):

Fourteen years later, I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and we took Titus with us.  I went in response to a revelation from God; I explained, at a private interview with those of repute, the gospel which I preach to the Gentiles, to make sure that the race I had to run and was running should not be in vain.  Not even my companion Titus, Greek though he is, was compelled to be circumcised.  That course was urged only as a concession to certain sham Christians, intruders who had sneaked in to spy on the liberty we enjoy in the fellowship of Christ Jesus.  These man wanted to bring us into bondage, but not for one moment did I yield to their dictation; I was determined that the full truth of the gospel should be maintained for you.

As for those reputed to be something (not that their importance matters to me:  God does not recognize these personal distinctions)–these men of repute, I say, imparted nothing further to me.  On the contrary, they saw that I had entrusted to take the gospel to the Gentiles as surely as Peter had been entrusted to take it to the Jews; for the same God who was at work in Peter’s mission to the Jews was also at work in mine to the Gentiles.

Recognizing, then, the privilege bestowed on me, those who are reputed to be pillars of the community, James, Cephas, and John, accepted Barnabas and myself as partners and shook hands on it:  the agreement was that we should go to the Gentiles, while they went to the Jews.  All they asked was that we should keep in mind the poor, the very thing I have always made it my business to do.

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.  For until some messengers came from James, he was taking his meals with gentile Christians; but after they came he drew back and began to hold aloof, because he was afraid of the Jews.  The other Jewish Christians showed the same lack of principle; even Barnabas was carried away and played false like the rest.  But when I say that their conduct did not square with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas, in front of the whole congregation,

If you, a Jew born and bred, live like a Gentile, and not like a Jew, how can you insist that Gentiles must live like Jews?

We ourselves are Jews by birth, not gentile sinners, yet we know that no one is ever justified by doing what the law requires, but only through faith in Christ Jesus.  So we too have put our faith in Jesus Christ, in order that we might be justified through this faith, and not through actions dictated by law; for no human being can be justified by keeping the law.

If then, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves no less than the Gentiles turn out to be sinners, does that mean that Christ is a promoter of sin?  Of course not!  On the contrary, it is only if I start building up again all I have pulled down that I prove to be one who breaks the law.  For through the law I died to law–to live for God.  I have been crucified with Christ:  the life I now live is not my life, but the life which Christ lives in my me; and my present mortal life is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.  I will not nullify the grace of God; if righteousness comes by law, then Christ died for nothing.

Psalm 117 (Revised English Bible):

Praise the LORD, all nations,

extol him, all you peoples;

for his love protecting us is strong,

the LORD’s faithfulness is everlasting.

Praise the LORD.

Luke 11:1-4 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now once he [Jesus] was in a certain place praying, and when had finished one of his disciples said,

Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.

He said to them,

Say this when you pray:

“Father, may your name be held holy,

your kingdom come;

give us each day our daily bread,

and forgive us our sins,

for we ourselves forgive each one of us who is in debt to us.

And do not put us to the test.”


The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 22:  Wednesday, Year 1:

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


Galatians 2 begins with an account of the Council of Jerusalem.  Paul’s version is older and more pointed than the account one reads in Acts 15:1-29.  The Luke-Acts version postdates Paul’s death by perhaps two decades, a fact I find interesting because of my fascination with history.  As a student and teacher of history, I know well that historical memory is not static.  Obviously, what happened, happened.  Yet how we humans remember it is flexible.  The Bible is a sacred anthology, but it is also a product of human beings.  So yes, one who reads the two accounts of the Council of Jerusalem extremely closely will detect minor discrepancies, but the descriptions are much more similar than not.  Anyhow, the Pauline retelling of that Council brings up the theme of Christian liberty  from certain details of the Law of Moses, such as male circumcision.

I am trying not to get ahead of myself, to let Galatians unfold from chapter to chapter as much as possible.  Yet I must jump ahead a little bit.  We read in Galatians 3:24 that the Law of Moses was a disciplinarian.  The Greek word for disciplinarian indicated a household servant who kept children from getting into trouble.  So the law, to use Paul’s analogy, was in place to keep people in the straight and narrow–certainly a positive role.  But coloring inside the lines cannot give us a right relationship with God.  We can have that state of justification

only through faith in Christ Jesus,

that is, through grace and self-sacrifice, now that Jesus has come.

A well-written checklist can be essential; we all need our “to do” lists.  And knowing what to avoid can be just as valuable.  But these are means to an end, not the end itself.  My reading of late Second Temple Judaism and the Law of Moses tells me that the Law was never meant to become the legalistic tool some people treated it as being.  The Law was supposed to promote social justice, not cover up greed and justify economic injustice.  And it was not intended to constitute a checklist for the checklist’s sake.  Yet that was how some people treated it.

Embedded within the Law of Moses are the commandments to love another as one loves oneself (Leviticus 19:18) and God fully (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).  These are the sources from which Jesus pulled his summary of the Law of Moses in Mark 12:28-31.  And Rabbi Hillel, a contemporary of our Lord, summarized the Law of Moses with a simple formula:

Here, O Israel, the LORD your God is one.  You shall love the LORD your God with all of your heart, and mind, and strength.  And you shall love your neighbor as you love yourself.  Everything else is commentary.  Go and learn it.

Hillel and Jesus agreed on that point.  So may we refrain from stereotyping the Law of Moses and late Second Temple Judaism falsely.

Paul also wrote of faith.  He meant something far more substantial than lip service or intellectual assent to doctrine.  No, for Paul, faith was inherently active.  In contrast, faith in the Letter of James was more intellectualized, hence that epistle’s fixation on justification by works.  Paul and James really agreed, and one ought to realize this fact after reading each in context.  These subtleties matter to me, one who pays close attention to nuances in many settings, especially Biblical texts.

So God has given us guidelines, some of which are culturally conditioned.  Many literal details in the Law Moses have no bearing to me, given the fact that my lifestyle and technology is far removed from that of the ancient Hebrews.  And I refuse to stone anyone or even to remove the blends from my wardrobe, actions which a hyper-literal reading would require of me.  (And, living in football-crazy Athens, Georgia, I note that the Law of Moses forbids touching a pigskin.)  Yet I recognize that the spirit of overall Law of Moses transcends time and circumstances.  Hillel and Jesus got it right:  focus on the love.  And Paul agreed in Romans 13:8-10; loving one’s neighbor fulfills the Law.  Jesus has, by his example, set the bar high.  and he did not die for nothing, as Paul reminds us.  Jesus died for us; may we live for him.  And, if martyrdom is our vocation, may we also die for him.  But, whatever we do, may we do it for him.  In that is life.


Week of Proper 13: Saturday, Year 1   16 comments

Above:  The Shema in Hebrew

Image in the Public Domain

God, Known Through Acts in History

AUGUST 12, 2023


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.


Deuteronomy 6:4-13 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

Listen, Israel:  YHWH is our God.  YHWH is one.  And you shall love YHWH, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  And you shall impart them to your children, and you shall speak about them when you sit in your house and when you go in the road and when you lie down and when you get up.  And you shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall become bands between your eyes.  And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and in your gates.

And it will be when YHWH, your God, will bring you to the land that He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you big and good cities that you didn’t build, and houses filled with everything good that you didn’t fill, and cisterns hewed that you didn’t hew, vineyards and olives that you didn’t plant, and you’ll eat and be satisfied, watch yourself in case you’ll forget YHWH, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from a house of slaves.  It’s YHWH, your God, whom you’ll fear, and it’s He whom you’ll serve, and it in His name that you’ll swear….

Psalm 18:1-2, 48-50 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I love you, O LORD my strength,

O LORD my stronghold, my crag, and my haven.

2 My God, my rock in whom I put my trust,

my shield, the horn of my salvation, and my refuge;

you are worthy of praise.

48 You rescued me from the fury of my enemies;

you exalted me above those who rose against me;

you saved me from my deadly foe.

49 Therefore will I extol you among the nations, O LORD,

and sing praises to your Name.

50 He multiplies the victories of his king;

he knows loving-kindness to his anointed,

to David and his descendants for ever.

Matthew 17:14-20 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

When they returned to the crowd again a man came and knelt in front of Jesus.

Lord, have pity on my son,” he said, “for he is a lunatic and suffers terribly.  He is always falling into the fire or into the water.  I did bring him to your disciples but they couldn’t cure him.

Jesus returned,

You really are an unbelieving and difficult people.  How long must I be with you, and how long must I put up with you?  Bring him here to me!

Then Jesus spoke sternly to the evil spirit and it went out of the boy, who was cured from that moment.

Afterwards the disciples approached Jesus privately and asked,

Why weren’t we able to get rid of it?

Jesus replied,

Because you have so little faith I assure you that if you have faith the size of a mustard-seed you can say to this hill, ‘Up you get and move over there!” and it will move–and you will find nothing is impossible.


The Collect:

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


The reading from Deuteronomy contains the Shema, an oft-quoted passage within the Bible.  Jesus quotes in the canonical Gospels, for example, and pairs it with the command to love one’s neighbor as oneself.  On these two commands, he says, hang all the Law and the Prophets.

Professor Richard Elliott Friedman, in his Commentary on the Torah, says this about the Shema:

In comparing Israel’s monotheism to pagan religion, we must appreciate that the difference between one and many is not the same sort of thing as the difference between two and three or between six and twenty.  It is not numerical.  It is a different concept of what a god is.  A God who is outside of nature, known through acts of history, a creator, unseeable, without a mate, who makes legal covenants with humans, who is one, is a revolution in religious conception. (Page 586)

Even more revolutionary is the Incarnation of Jesus, fully human and fully divine.  This is God in both physical and visible forms, as Messiah, but not according to the prevailing expectations along the lines of national liberation.  This is the one in whom I place faith, and in whom I can do more than many might think possible.

Think about the implications:  God loves us and directs us in paths for our own good and that of those around us.  So we have an obligation to reciprocate and to love our neighbors as ourselves–with great respect.  We need to stand up for and help each other as we are able, and we need to act according to a principle that Martin Luther King, Jr., stated eloquently:  “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.”  We have an obligation to help each other become what God wants each to become.  How we act toward each other is part and parcel of how we respond to God.

So this matter is far from abstract.  Both trust in God and the lack thereof are observable.  Compassion, kindness, and love are far more than warm, fuzzy feelings; they lead to observable deeds.  May we show our love and regard for the God of history through our own actions toward each other.