Archive for the ‘Exodus 24’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 19, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Elijah Slays the Prophets of Baal

Image in the Public Domain

Uncomfortable and Difficult

SEPTEMBER 13, 2020


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 24:12-18 or 1 Kings 18:1, 17-40

Psalm 58

Hebrews 3

Mark 8:14-21


I teach a Sunday School class in which I cover each week’s readings according to the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL).  The RCL has much to commend it, but it is imperfect.  (Of course, it is imperfect; it is a human creation.)  The RCL skirts many challenging, violent passages of scripture.  This post is is a devotion for a Sunday on an unofficial lectionary, however.  The note on the listing for Psalm 58 reads,

Not for the faint of heart.

Indeed, a prayer for God to rip the teeth from the mouths of one’s enemies is not feel-good fare.  Neither is the slaughter of the prophets of Baal Peor (1 Kings 18:40).

I remember a Sunday evening service at my parish years ago.  The lector read an assigned passage of scripture with an unpleasant, disturbing conclusion then uttered the customary prompt,

The word of the Lord.

A pregnant pause followed.  Then the congregation mumbled its proscribed response,

Thanks be to God.

The theme uniting these five readings is faithfulness to God.  Jesus, we read, was the paragon of fidelity.  We should be faithful, too, and avoid committing apostasy.  We should also pay attention and understand, so we can serve God better.  Hopefully, metaphors will not confuse us.

I perceive the need to make the following statement.  Even a casual study of the history of Christian interpretation of the Bible reveals a shameful record of Anti-Semitism, much of it unintentional and much of it learned.  We who abhor intentional Anti-Semitism still need to check ourselves as we read the Bible, especially passages in which Jesus speaks harshly to or of Jewish religious leaders in first-century C.E. Palestine.  We ought to recall that he and his Apostles were practicing Jews, too.  We also need to keep in mind that Judaism has never been monolithic, so to speak of “the Jews” in any place and at any time is to open the door to overgeneralizing.

To condemn long-dead Jewish religious leaders for their metaphorical leaven and not to consider our leaven would be to miss an important spiritual directive.  To consider our leaven is to engage in an uncomfortable, difficult spiritual exercise.  It does not make us feel good about ourselves.

We also need to ask ourselves if we are as dense as the Apostles in the Gospel of Mark.  To do that is uncomfortable and difficult, also.

Sometimes we need for scripture to make us uncomfortable.






Devotion for Tuesday After Proper 12, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Covenant Confirmed

Above:   The Covenant Confirmed, by John Steeple Davis

Image in the Public Domain

Faith Communities

JULY 27, 2021


The Collect:

Gracious God, you have placed within the hearts of all your children

a longing for your word and a hunger for your truth.

Grant that we may know your Son to be the true bread of heaven

and share this bread with all the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 24:1-11

Psalm 111

Romans 15:22-33



I will acknowledge the LORD with my whole being,

in the assembly, the gathering of honest men.

–Psalm 111:1, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)


St. Paul the Apostle planned to travel to Jerusalem then to Rome then to Spain.  Events of his time in Jerusalem led to his permanent relocation to Rome, where he died, however.

The pericope from Exodus 24 describes part of the ceremony by which the former Hebrew slaves accepted the covenant.  The theology of that text holds that divine holiness was lethal to most mortals (Moses being a notable exception), but that the people saw a reflection of God safely.  God was like the Sun in that way in that passage.  On the other hand, Jesus, as God incarnate, was among people, with many of whom he ate, so the theology of lethal divine holiness did not apply in the Gospels.  Theology changed between the Book of Exodus and the Gospel of Mark.

My main point in this post concerns communities of faith, however.  St. Paul longed to travel to Rome to find spiritual refreshment at the congregation there.  The covenant in Exodus was between God and the people.  Too much emphasis on individualism, an aspect of Western civilization, has long hampered a correct understanding of parts of the Bible in the global West.  Roman Catholicism has understood the focus on faith community well, fortunately, but my encounters with certain fundamentalist Protestants with “Jesus-and-me” theology have proven to be discouraging.

We humans have responsibilities to and for each other.  We also depend on God for everything and rely on each other’s labor.  Nobody is a self-made person, therefore.  These principles apply to faith communities also; we need each other.  May we know this to be true then act accordingly.








Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 4, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  Bishop Robert C. Wright (Episcopalian) and Archbishop Wilton Gregory (Roman Catholic) at the Good Friday Pilgrimage for Immigrants, April 18, 2014

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Of Externals and Internals

JUNE 1-3, 2023


The Collect:

O God our rock, you offer us a covenant of mercy,

and you provide the foundation of our lives.

Ground us in your word, and strengthen our resolve to be your disciples,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 24:1-8 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 30:1-5 (Friday)

Amos 2:6-11 (Saturday)

Psalm 31:1-5, 19-24 (All Days)

Romans 2:17-29 (Thursday)

Romans 9:6-13 (Friday)

Matthew 7:1-6 (Saturday)


Be my strong rock, a fortress to save me,

for you are my rock and my stronghold;

guide me, and lead me for your name’s sake.

–Psalm 31:3, Common Worship (2000)


One of the faults of certain varieties of Protestantism is overemphasizing the internal and unseen while underemphasizing the external and the seen. Pietists, for example, dismiss “externals” frequentlu, as if “externals” are meaningless. They are not necessarily so.

No, a ritual (such as a sacrifice or circumcision) can matter quite a lot, for we humans need visible signs and rites of passage. How else are we to mark the difference between one stage of life and another or to note a covenant to God? We need externals beause we see, touch, feel, hear, and smell; we are not disembodied sentients. The scriptures command many rituals in particular settings, in fact.

The scriptures also make clear that rituals are not supposed to be talismans which protect us from punishment for sins of which we have not repented, individually or collectively. Rituals one performs piously have meaning, but those one performs while disobeying divine commandments, such as how to treat people, offend God.

For crime after crime of Israel

I shall grant them no reprieve,

because they sell honest folk for silver

and the poor for a pair of sandals.

They grind the heads of the helpless into the dust

and push the humble out of their way.

Father and son resort to the temple girls,

so profaning my holy name.

–Amos 2:6-7, The Revised English Bible

God, the Bible tells us, cares deeply about how we act toward our fellow human beings. We ought to seek God’s best for them, not exploit them for our own gain and pleasure. We should seek to raise the status of the powerless, the less powerful, and the marginalized among us. Each of us bears the image of God and therefore deserves respect. When we seek to do those things may we succeed by grace. And may we engage in rituals which create holy atmospheres for our spiritual benefit and glorify—not mock—God.









Week of Proper 11: Saturday, Year 1   12 comments

Above:  Mixed Bag

Image Source =

The Good and the Bad, Mixed Together

JULY 24, 2021


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 24:3-8 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And Moses came and told the people all of YHWH’s words and all the judgments.  And the people answered, one voice, and they said,

We’ll do all the things that YHWH has spoken.

And Moses wrote all of YHWH’s words.  And he got up early in the morning and built an altar below the mountain and twelve pillars for twelve tribes of Israel.  And he sent young men of the children of Israel, and they made peace offerings to YHWH:  bulls.  And Moses took half of the blood and set it in basins and threw half of the blood on the altar.  And he took the scroll of the covenant and read in the people’s ears.  And they said,

We’ll do everything that YHWH has spoken, and we’ll listen.

Psalm 51:11-16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence

and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

14 I shall teach your ways to the wicked,

and sinners shall return to you.

15 Deliver me from death, O God,

and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,

O God of my salvation.

16 Open my lips, O Lord,

and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Matthew 13:24-30 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then he put another parable before them,

The kingdom of Heaven,

he said,

is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.  But while his men were asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.  When the crop came up and began to ripen, the weeds appeared as well.  Then the owner’s servants came up to him and said, “Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field?  Where did all these weeds come from?” “Some enemy of mine has done this,” he replied.  “Do you want us then to go out and pull them all up?” said the servants.  “No” he returned, “if you pull up the weeds now, you would pull up the wheat with them.  Let them both grow together till the harvest.  And at harvest-time I shall tell the reapers, ‘Collect all the weeds first and tie them up in bundles ready to burn, but collect the wheat and store it in my barn.'”


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.


Often people treat the Ten Commandments as if no other commandments follow them immediately.  But reading Exodus 21-23 contains a host of pronouncements the Book of Exodus says come from God.  I am dubious about this claim with regard to certain commandments, such as 21:17, which reads,

And anyone who curses his father and his mother shall be put to death.

This is just one of many death penalty offenses in Chapters 21-23.  Other commandments, such as 21:26, acknowledge the existence of slavery without condemning it.

On the other hand, there is 23:9, which reads,

And you shall not oppress an alien–since you know the alien’s soul, because you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

These chapters also contain great compassion.

How shall one distinguish among the good laws and the bad ones?  I propose a simple standard:  Agape.  This is the unconditional love God extends toward us.  Agape is the word for love in 1 Corinthians 13, which I quote from the Revised Standard Version:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude.  Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends; as for prophesy, it will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man , I gave up childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.  So faith, hope, and love, abide,these three; but the greatest of these is love.

I cannot argue with that.

Love is the law of God.  May we do as God as instructed us; may we love ourselves as God loves us.  Then may we extend this love to all others, seeking the best for them.  By grace, may God’s best for everyone become reality.  And may rejoice in each other’s good fortune and be agents of God in bringing that to fruition, as opportunities to do so present themselves and we are able to participate.

This is the best way I know to differentiate within the mixed bag of commandments.  My guiding principle is to follow Jesus, for I am a Christian.  My history-oriented brain understands that death penalty offenses are numerous in societies with limited resources.  To feed an offender constitutes a drain on scarce supplies.  So I understand the death penalties in the Law of Moses in that context.  But, I ask, what about love and possibility of forgiveness and reform?  Are these not Jewish and Christian virtues?  Of course they are.  So I side with virtue.