Archive for the ‘Exodus 20’ Tag

Devotion for the Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  A Vineyard

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Individual and Collective Responsibility

OCTOBER 8, 2023


According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)


Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

Psalm 25:1-9 (LBW) or Psalm 27:1-10 (LW)

Philippians 2:1-5 (6-11)

Matthew 21:28-32


God of love, you know our frailties and failings. 

Give us your grace to overcome them;

keep us from those things that harm us;

and guide us in the way of salvation;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 28


O God, the Strength of all who put their trust in you;

mercifully accept our prayer,

and because through the weakness of our mortal nature

we can do no good thing without your aid,

grant us the help of your grace that,

keeping your commandments,

we may please you in both will and deed;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 83


Ezekiel 18 is one of the texts (along with Ezekiel 3:16-21; 14:12-23; 33:30, beyond others outside Ezekiel) that teach individual responsibility before God, therefore divine reward and punishment for how one has acted.  These texts contradict Exodus 20:5 and Deuteronomy 5:9, which teach intergenerational reward and punishment.

The theme of collective responsibility occurs in the readings from Philippians and Matthew.  This theme and individual responsibility before God are mutually consistent.

A man had two sons.

–Matthew 21:28, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

A careful reader of the Hebrew Bible should read or hear those words and think,


Such a person will start with Cain and Abel then take the grand tour of stories of feuding brothers in the Hebrew Bible.

Deeds matter more than intentions.  Deeds reveal creeds.  Rather than condemn some long-dead Pharisees and feel spiritually smug, I acknowledge an uncomfortable truth.  I admit that I, as one of the churchiest people alive, have more in common with the Pharisees than not.  I confess to uncertainty whether, had I been a Palestinian Jew during the time of Christ, I would have followed him.  The parable, transferred to contemporary times, confronts me.

Clarence Jordan (1912-1969), in his Cotton Patch Version of Matthew, set the parable in a peach orchard.  Jesus decreed tat

the hippies and the whores

would take precedence in that version.

If you, O reader, were to update Matthew 21:31, which group would you substitute for tax collectors? Make it a shocking, scandalous reference.

The Parable of the Two Sons warns against spiritual complacency.  The textual context of the parable is early in the week of Passover, shortly prior to the crucifixion of Jesus.  This setting helps to explain why the tone is so intense.  Anyway, warnings against spiritual complacency–whether individual or collective–may need to be intense to attract our attention sometimes.

In the 1990s, I read an editorial in U.S. Catholic magazine.  The title was,

Get Off Your Values and Get to Work.

The point was that people should minimize statements of principles and maximize living those principles.  This cogent lesson remains relevant sadly.  Politicians who have the power to act constructively after a preventable mass shooting or other unfortunate event yet content themselves to offer “thoughts and prayers” engage in copping out.  I recall a lesson my father taught me:  we need to put feet to our prayers.

That is hard work.  So be it.









Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA


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

Above:  Elijah Resuscitating the Son of the Widow of Zarephath, by Louis Hersent

Image in the Public Domain

God of the Jews and the Gentiles



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


Exodus 20:1-20 or 1 Kings 17:8-24

Psalm 57

Hebrews 1:1-2:12

Mark 8:1-13


Scholars of the Hebrew Bible debate whether the commandment,

You shall have no other god besides me,

in its original context, refutes the existence of other gods or merely places them off limits to Hebrews.  Subsequent monotheistic developments point to refutation of other gods in today’s context, though.

Scholars of the Hebrew Bible agree, however, that Canaanite religion influenced Hebrew religion in more than one way.  The Bible tells us that polytheism influenced Hebrew folk religion, much to the consternation of the orthodox.  We also detect linguistic influences of Canaanite religion in certain names of God, as in Psalm 57.  Furthermore, some of the Psalms are rewritten Canaanite texts.

Three of the assigned readings pertain to Gentiles.

  1. The widow of Zarephath and her son were Gentiles.
  2. The 4000 or so people Jesus fed in Mark 8:1-13 were Gentiles.
  3. The audience for the so-called Epistle to the Hebrews (not an epistle) consisted of Gentiles.

I, as a Gentile, find this comforting.

How likely are we to write off populations as being beyond hope, help, salvation, et cetera?  Take courage; God has not, does not, and will never write you, O reader, off.  But will you write yourself off?  I pray that you will not.






Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 16, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  Christ Healing the Man with the Withered Hand

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Compassion and the Sabbath

AUGUST 22-24, 2022


The Collect:

O God, mighty and immortal, you know that as fragile creatures

surrounded by great dangers, we cannot by ourselves stand upright.

Give us strength of mind and body, so that even when we suffer

because of human sin, we may rise victorious through

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46


The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 20:1-17 (Monday)

Ezekiel 20:18-32 (Tuesday)

Ezekiel 20:33-44 (Wednesday)

Psalm 109:21-31 (All Days)

Hebrews 3:7-4:11 (Monday)

Revelation 3:7-13 (Tuesday)

Luke 6:6-11 (Wednesday)


Let them know that yours is the saving hand,

that this, Yahweh, is your work.

–Psalm 109:27, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


Ezekiel 20 is a stinging indictment of an intergenerational, societal pattern of infidelity to God, who has done so much and required mere obedience in return.  In the Hebrew Bible keeping the Law of Moses is a faithful response to God.  Not observing that code, with its timeless principles and culturally specific applications thereof, leads to negative consequences in the Old Testament.  In contrast to Ezekiel 20 is Revelation 3:7-13, in which the church at Philadelphia has remained faithful in the midst of adversity.  The text encourages that congregation to remain faithful amidst hardship, a message also present in the lection from Hebrews.

Keeping the Sabbath is a related theme in some of these days’ readings.  I covered that topic in the previous post, so I will not repeat myself here.  In Luke 6:6-11 Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath.  Certain critics of our Lord and Savior accused him of having acted inappropriately, given the day.  Jesus replied that all days are good days to commit good deeds.

As I understand Jewish Sabbath laws, Jesus acted consistently with the best spirit of them.  I have heard, for example, of Jewish doctors and nurses whose work in emergency rooms (including on the Jewish Sabbath) is an expression of their faith.  As for the account in Luke 6:6-11, our Lord and Savior’s accusers were especially strict and represented one part of the spectrum of opinion regarding the question of how to keep the Sabbath.  According to a note in The Jewish Annotated New Testament (2011), the Law of Moses forbade work on the Sabbath without defining “work.”  Germane texts were Exodus 20:10; Exodus 31:14-15; and Leviticus 23:3.  Previous study has revealed to me that, at the time of Jesus, strict Jewish Sabbath regulations permitted providing basic first aid and saving a life on that day.  If saving a life was permissible on the Sabbath, why not healing on that day?

I suppose that our Lord and Savior’s accusers in Luke 6:6-11 thought they were holding fast to their obligations to God.  They erred, however, by becoming lost in details and losing sight of compassion and kindness.

May we avoid the opposite errors of caring about the wrong details in the name of piety and of not caring enough or at all.  May we act out of compassion and kindness every day of the week.










Devotion for Monday After Proper 11, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Jethro's Visit

Above:  Jethro’s Visit, by Gerard Jollain

Image in the Public Domain

Humility Before God

JULY 18, 2022


The Collect:

Eternal God, you draw near to us in Christ, and you make yourself our guest.

Amid the cares of our lives, make us attentive to your presence,

that we may treasure your word above all else,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 18:1-12

Psalm 119:97-104

Colossians 1:27-2:7


From your precepts I learn wisdom,

so I hate all deceptive ways.

–Psalm 119:104, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


The liberation of the Israelites from Egypt had occurred in Exodus 14.  (The departure of Abram and Sarai from Egypt in Genesis 12 had foreshadowed that event.)  In Exodus 18 Moses reunited with his father-in-law (Jethro), and his wife (Zipporah), his two sons (Gershom and Eliezer), who left Midian to meet him.  Jethro acknowledged the superiority of YHWH to other deities.  He did not, however, become a monotheist.

This was not unusual.  As the notes in The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) inform me,

The Torah does not expect Gentiles to become monotheists (see Deut. 4.19), only to recognize the LORD’s superiority when he asserts it, as in the case of Egypt.  The idea of universal monotheism first appears in the later classical prophets (Jer. 16.19-20; Zech. 14.9).  Neither the prophets nor Jewish tradition call for Gentiles, even monotheistic ones, to convert to Judaism, though later Jewish tradition–characteristically reading the Bible through the prism of the prophets–believed that Jethro did abandon idolatry (Exod. Rab. 1.32) and, going even further, became a Jew (Tg. Ps.-J. Exod. 18.6, 27; Tanh. Buber Yitro, 5).

–Page 135

St. Paul the Apostle, himself a Jew, expected that Gentile converts to Christianity (A) need not become Jews first, and (B) renounce any allegiances to deities other than God (YHWH).  He recognized no compatibility of Christianity (then a small and young Jewish sect) and idolatry.

Psalm 119 speaks of the Law of Moses, something which did not exist at the time of Exodus 18.  (The Law of Moses began Chapter 20.)  Nevertheless, the timeless principles of the Law of Moses existed prior to that code.  Among these principles was acknowledging the greatness of YHWH then acting accordingly, that is, humbly before God.  That is possible via grace.







Devotion for Thursday Before Proper 26, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

High Priest and Levite

Above:  A Jewish High Priest and a Levite

Image in the Public Domain

The Old and the New

OCTOBER 28, 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:

Exodus 22:1-15

Psalm 119:1-8

Hebrews 9:1-12


Blessed are those whose way is blameless:

who walk in the law of the Lord.

Blessed are those who keep his commands:

and seek him with their whole heart;

those who do no wrong:

but walk in the ways of our God.

For you, Lord, have commanded us:

to persevere in all your precepts.

If only my ways were unerring:

towards the keeping of your statutes!

Then I should not be ashamed:

when I looked on all your commandments.

I will praise you with sincerity of heart:

as I learn your righteous judgements.

I will keep your statutes:

O forsake me not utterly.

–Psalm 119:1-8, The Alternative Service Book 1980


The pericope from Exodus 22 comes from a section of the Law of Moses regarding offenses against property.  One reads of restitution again and again.  Unfortunately, women count as property, as they do in the Ten Commandments, just two chapters earlier.

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews argued that the new covenant in Jesus, simultaneously blameless victim and eternal high priest, is superior to the old system, with its animal sacrifices.  The new covenant, the author wrote, is available to Jews and Gentiles alike, for, as St. Simon Peter said in Acts 10:34b-35 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989):

I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

Women are people, not property.  Jesus, simultaneously spotless victim and eternal high priest, does what mortal priests cannot do.  Sometimes the new is superior to the old.






Devotion for October 5 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

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Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part VII:  Loyalty and Discipleship

OCTOBER 5, 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 5:1-21

Psalm 61 (Morning)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening)

Matthew 8:18-34


I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with my whole heart;

before the gods will I sing praise to you.

I will bow down toward your holy temple and praise your name,

because of your love and faithfulness;

for you have glorified your name and your word above all things.

In the day I called to you, you answered me;

you put new strength in my soul.

–Psalm 138:1-3 (The Book of Common Prayer, 2004)


I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart:

before the gods I will sing your praises.

I will bow down toward your holy temple,

and give thanks because of your love and faithfulness:

for you have exalted your name and your word above all things.

On the day I called, you answered me:

and put new strength within me.

–Psalm 138:1-3 (A New Zealand Prayer Book, 1989)


You shall not have other gods before my face.

–Deuteronomy 5:7 (Richard Elliott Friedman, Commentary on the Torah)


Scholars of the Hebrew Scriptures argue whether Deuteronomy 5:7 and its counterpart, Exodus 20:3, are monotheistic statements.  Does the command mean to worship only YHWH yet to acknowledge the existence of other deities?  Or does it mean that one should worship only YHWH because there is only YHWH?  In other words, is it monotheistic (as Richard Elliott Friedman insists) or monolatric (as The Jewish Study Bible and The New Interpreter’s Study Bible argue).  The Bible is an anthology of texts from various periods and perspectives, so if it did indicated monolatry (my historical position) could it not mean monotheism now?  The widespread practice of monotheism did come relatively late (about 25,000 years ago) to the Hebrew people.  The theology existed long before that, of course, but the widespread practice, as the texts of the Hebrew Bible attest, came fairly late.

Psalm 138 seems to be the work of an Israelite (perhaps King David) present where people worship heathen deities.  He affirms his loyalty to YHWH.

Jesus, in Matthew 8:18-34, performs mighty acts and demands total loyalty.  He did have a house at Capernaum, but frequently lacked a place to lay his head; he did travel often.

There is only one deity, the one I know as God, YHWH, Adonai, etc.  Human theology on that topic has changed yet the reality has remained constant.  And Christian discipleship is following Jesus, not just affirming his ethics.  The demand from YHWH in Deuteronomy 5 and from Jesus in Matthew 8 is the same:  follow me.  That is a call to do something active.  May we obey it.  And, if we have begun to do so, may we remain on that spiritual path.






Proper 22, Year A   32 comments

Above:  A Vineyard

Image in the Public Domain

Expectations, Realities, and Consequences

The Sunday Closest to October 5

The Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost

OCTOBER 8, 2023



Exodus 20:1-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Then God spoke all these words:

I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation to those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work.  But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work–you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.  For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses,

You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.

Moses said to the people,

Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.

Psalm 19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the firmament shows his handiwork.

2  One day tells its tale to another,

and one night imparts knowledge to another.

3  Although they have no words or language,

and their voices are not heard,

4  Their sound has gone out into all lands,

and their message to the ends of the world.

5  In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun;

it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;

it rejoices like a champion to run its course.

6  It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens

and runs about to the end of it again;

nothing is hidden from its burning heat.

The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever,

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends?

cleanse me from my secret faults?

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;

let them not get dominion over me;

then shall I be whole and sound,

and innocent of a great offense.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.


Isaiah 5:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

Let me sing for my beloved

my love-song concerning his vineyard:

My beloved had a vineyard

on a very fertile hill.

He dug it and cleared it of stones,

and planted it with choice vines;

he built a watchtower in the midst of it,

and hewed out a wine vat in it;

he expected it to yield grapes,

but it yielded wild grapes.

And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem

and people of Judah,

judge between me

and my vineyard.

What more was there to do for my vineyard

that I have not done in it?

When I expected it to yield grapes,

why did it yield wild grapes?

And now I will tell you

what I will do to my vineyard.

I will remove its hedge,

and it shall be devoured;

I will break down its wall,

and it shall be trampled down.

I will make it a waste;

it shall not be pruned or hoed,

and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;

that they rain no rain upon it.

For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts

is the house of Israel,

and the people of Judah

are his pleasant planting;

he expected justice,

but saw bloodshed;


but heard a cry!

Psalm 80:7-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

7  Restore us, O God of hosts;

show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

8  You have brought a vine out of Egypt;

you cast out the nations and planted it.

9  You prepared the ground for it;

it took root and filled the land.

10  The mountains were covered by its shadow

and the towering cedar trees by its boughs.

11  You stretched out its tendrils to the Sea

and its branches to the River.

12  Why have you broken down its wall,

so that all who pass by pluck off its grapes?

13  The wild boar of the forest has ravaged it,

and the beasts of the field have grazed upon it.

14  Turn now, O God of hosts, look down from heaven;

behold and tend this vine;

preserve what your right hand has planted.


Philippians 3:4b-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.


Matthew 21:33-46 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, `They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, `This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.

Jesus said to them,

Have you never read in the scriptures:

‘The stone that the builders have rejected

has become the cornerstone;

this was the Lord’s doing,

and it is amazing in our eyes’?

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.

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.


These readings seem familiar, do they not?  Thus they are the kind of lections we need to read very carefully again, if not for the first time.  I have dealt with the Ten Commandments and the parable already within this blog network, so I refer you, O reader to the links above for certain thoughts while I pursue another thread.

…he expected justice,

but saw bloodshed;

[he expected] righteousness,

but heard a cry!

Isaiah 5:7c-d reads.  Thus, in Isaiah 5:1-7, God vows to make the vineyard a “waste.”  The vineyard in that reading is the people of Israel, and the laying waste refers to the Babylonian Exile.

The vineyard theme recurs in the reading from Matthew.  The writing of the Gospels took place in the shadow of the Jewish War, which ended with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 C.E.  So my historical-critical eyes detect animosity toward the mainstream Jewish community from the marginalized Christian Jews in Matthew’s audience.

Nevertheless, I also detect a universal and timeless lesson:  The wages of sin is death.  Yet, as Paul reminds us, keeping the Law scrupulously is insufficient, lest we boast in what we have done.  Rather, the

surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus

makes the difference.  “Knowing” is about far more than acknowledging him intellectually; it is about following him–as individuals and as faith communities.  Jesus is the trump card.

I write these words on Easter Sunday 2011, so this is an especially opportune time to quote the motto of the Moravian Church:

Our lamb has conquered; let us follow him.


Week of Proper 11: Friday, Year 1   19 comments

Above:  The Ten Commandments in Hebrew

Image in the Public Domain

Great Wisdom, Combined with Troubling Insensitivity

JULY 28, 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.


Exodus 20:1-17 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And God spoke all these words, saying:

I am YHWH, your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt, from a house of slaves.

You shall have no other gods before my face.

You shall not make a statue or any form that is in the skies above, or that is in the earth below or that is in the water below the earth.  You shall not bow to them, and you shall not serve them.  Because I, YHWH, your God, am a jealous God, counting parents’ crime on children, on the third generation, and on the fourth generation of those who hate me, but practicing kindness thousands for those who observe my commandments.

You shall not bring up the name of YHWH your God, for a falsehood, because YHWH will not make one innocent, who will bring up His name for a falsehood.

Remember the Sabbath day, to make it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, and the seventh day is a Sabbath to YHWH, your God.  You shall not do any work, you and your son and your daughter, your servant and your maid and your animal and your alien who is in your gates.  Because for six days YHWH made the skies and the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day.  On account of this, YHWH blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days will be extended on the land that YHWH, your God, is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not testify against your neighbor as a lying witness.

You shall not covet your neighbors’s house.  You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his servant or his maid or his ox or his ass or anything that your neighbor has.

Psalm 19:7-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

9 The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever;

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold,

more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey,

than honey in the comb.

Matthew 13:18-23 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

[Jesus continued,]

Now listen to the parable of the sower.  When a man hears the message of the kingdom and does not grasp it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.  This is like the seed sown by the road-side.  The seed sown on the stony patches represents the man who hears the message and eagerly accepts it.  But it has not taken root in him and does not last long–the moment trouble or persecution arises through the message he gives up his faith at once.  The seed sown among the thorns represents the man who hears the message, and then the worries of this life choke it to death and so it produces no ‘crop’ in his life.  But the seed sown on good soil is the man who both hears and understands the message.  His life shows a good crop, a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.


The Collect:

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


I write these words on the First Sunday After Epiphany, the Baptism of Our Lord, Year A.  This morning, in church, the liturgy entailed the reaffirmation of the Baptismal Covenant found on pages 304-305 in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  One question stands out in my mind this day, in light of news of the January 8, 2011, shooting in Tucson, Arizona:

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

The reply is,

I will, with God’s help.

The Ten Commandments begin with YHWH saying that the Israelites shall have no other gods.  This statement does not deny the existence of other gods, for polytheism was nearly universal at the time.  It means that YHWH shall be the only deity for the Hebrews.  They did not obey this command for centuries, and successive prophets railed against the people due to their continued polytheism.

These commandments mean more than many people think.  The prohibition against swearing refers to attempts to manipulate God, for example, and the Sabbath is meant as a gift, not a burden.  The Hebrews did not get a day off when they were slaves in Egypt.  A free man or woman is one with a day off from work.

Obviously, murdering, bearing false witness, and stealing hurt others.  How much better would the U.S. economy be in January 2011 if many people had not coveted what belonged to another, if they had been content with a simpler lifestyle?  Also, within the previous week, I heard a news story about a man in Texas who served thirty years in prison on a charge of rape.  DNA evidence has proved his evidence.  The jury convicted him on the basis of erroneous eyewitness testimony.  In another case, a man in Tucson killed people, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl, yesterday, and shot a member of Congress in the head.

Yet the Ten Commandments catalog women and slaves–human beings all–as property, along with livestock and inanimate objects.  Many Antebellum U.S. advocates of slavery quoted the Ten Commandments to justify the damnable Peculiar Institution when using the Bible to make their case.  And I am sufficiently liberal to object to thinking of women as anything less than equal to men.

I challenge all of us–beginning with myself–to look around and ponder those we dislike, those with whom we disagree profoundly, and those we do not understand because they are so different from us.  Do we, in the words of the Prayer Book, respect their dignity?  This can be hard, especially when members of the Westboro Baptist Church, Topeka, Kansas, protest funerals for people ranging from soldiers to Elizabeth Edwards, but even these individuals, who deny the dignity of the mourners and the deceased, have human dignity.

Earlier this day, when updating my GATHERED PRAYERS blog, I focused on basic human decency and grief with regard to the victims of the Tucson shootings.  Basic compassion has guided my response.  I do not care about being right or wrong, only about being kind.  So I typed in parts of the Prayer Book related to death.  The URLs are here:

May we love one another, and seek to live at peace with each other and God.

Pax vobiscum,