Archive for the ‘Galatians 5’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 6, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The U.S. $100 Bill

Image in the Public Domain

Faithful Servants of God, Part IV

JUNE 18, 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


Ecclesiastes 9:1-12 or Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

Psalm 9:11-20

Galatians 5:1-26

Matthew 6:22-34


For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

–Galatians 5:14-15, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)


As I write repeatedly, the Law of Moses contains both timeless principles and culturally specific examples thereof.  One of these timeless principles is the Golden Rule.  It is short, sweet, and to the point.  One might, with verbosity, attempt to work around it, but the Golden Rule remains golden and wonderfully succinct.  It is also difficult to live up to much of the time.

Another timeless principle of the Law of Moses is that all of us depend entirely on God and partially on each other.  We are therefore interdependent and responsible both to and for each other, as well as to God.  These points underpin much of the content of scripture assigned for this Sunday.

Often we violate the Golden Rule in the name of looking out for ourselves.  We imagine vainly that we must and can rely on our own resources.  That attitude is the origin of much evil.  But, in Christ, we are free, by grace, to become people who uphold a high standard of radical love–even sacrificial love.  The servant is not greater than the master, after all.

May we, while seeking to follow God, care more about being loving and compassionate than about confirming our biases.  May we seek to love, not to be right in our own eyes, with their frequently defective moral vision.








Adapted from this post:


Devotion for Proper 7 (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:   Give Us This Our Daily Bread Print, Currier & Ives, 1872

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC2-2453

Spiritual Nutrition

JUNE 25, 2023


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


Genesis 41:9-40

Psalm 37:23-28a

Acts 6:1-7

Mark 8:14-21


Depart from evil, and do good,

so you shall abide forever.

For the LORD loves justice;

he will not forsake his faithful ones.

The righteous shall be kept safe forever,

but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.

–Psalm 37:27-28, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)


David Ackerman omits the second part (the passage contrasting the righteous and the children of the wicked) in Beyond the Lectionary (2013).

On another topic, the Psalmist might not have seen the children of the righteous begging for bread, but I have.  I am not alone in this.

The Joseph of the Book of Genesis bears little resemblance to the figure of whom I have read in many a book of Bible stories retold for children.  I read Genesis 37 and 39-50 (the Joseph Epic) and encounter a spoiled brat who grew up because he had no choice.  I also meet an interpreter of dreams who rose to a position of prominence, reunited his family, and in Chapter 47, fed the Egyptian population during a time of severe drought by returning their food (which he had ordered confiscated) to them in exchange for serfdom.   Joseph is an imperfect protagonist.

The surviving Apostles (plus St. Matthias) feed the hungry then decide to focus on preaching and teaching.  So they appoint deacons to wait tables.  This is the origin of the Christian diaconate.  There is no insistence upon serfdom here.  No, we find quite the opposite.

When we turn to the reading from Mark 8 it is useful to understand that we pick up immediately following Jesus feeding “about four thousand people” with seven loaves and a few small fish.  There are many leftovers.  Then some Pharisees demand, of all things, a sign.  Jesus warns his Apostles against the yeast–a metaphor for diffused or veiled evil (see Luke 12:1; 1 Corinthians 5:6; and Galatians 5:9) of the Pharisees.  The literal-minded Apostles, confused, think that Christ refers to bread.  Jesus is angry with them.

The depiction of the Apostles in the Gospel of Mark is interesting and part of a larger theme.  The earliest canonical Gospel argues that those who think they are insiders might not be that.  There are the condemnations of the religious establishment, of course.  Furthermore, those closest to Jesus do not understand him.  To the contrary, evil spirits recognize him immediately.  This depiction of the twelve Apostles as being clueless is stronger in Mark than in Luke-Acts, for narrative reasons.

A sufficient supply of food is essential to sustaining life.  Too little food leads to starvation, just as an excess of it leads to obesity.   Furthermore, the wrong type of food leads to health problems.  Likewise, improper spiritual nutrition leads to negative consequences.  Do we not yet understand this?









Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 11, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Last Judgment

Above:  The Last Judgment

Image in the Public Domain

Freedom and Judgment

JULY 24-26, 2023


The Collect:

Faithful God, most merciful judge,

you care for your children with firmness and compassion.

By your Spirit nurture us who live in your kingdom,

that we may be rooted in the way of your Son,

 Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43


The Assigned Readings:

Nahum 1:1-13 (Monday)

Zephaniah 3:1-3 (Tuesday)

Daniel 12:1-13 (Wednesday)

Psalm 75 (All Days)

Revelation 14 (Monday)

Galatians 4:21-5:1 (Tuesday)

Matthew 12:15-21 (Wednesday)


“I will appoint a time,” says God;

“I will judge with equity.

Though the earth and all its inhabitants are quaking,

I will make its pillars fast.

I will say to the boasters, ‘Boast no more,’

and to the wicked, ‘Do not toss your horns;

Do not toss your horns so high,

nor speak with a proud neck.'”

For judgment is neither from the east nor from the west,

nor yet from the wilderness or the mountains.

–Psalm 75:2-6, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The readings for these three days speak of freedom, judgment, and mercy.  In Nahum 1 mercy for the Israelites was judgment upon the Assyrians.  Judgment upon Jerusalem came in Zephaniah 3.  The authors of Daniel 12 and Revelation 14 wrote of an eschatological judgment, something one reads about (sort of) in Matthew 12.  Condemnation resulted from the abuse of freedom.

The late C. H. Dodd summarized a vital lesson in these readings better than my ability to paraphrase.  The Kingdom of God, Dodd wrote, is nearer to or further away only from a human, temporal perspective.

There are particular moments in the lives of men and in the history of mankind when what is permanently true (if largely unrecognized) becomes manifestly and effectively true.  Such a moment is reflected in the gospels….But when a person (or a society) has been presented with such a challenge and declines it is not just where he was before.  His position is the worse for the encounter.  It is this that gives point to the tremendous warnings that Jesus is reported to have uttered about the consequences of rejection….Whatever possibility of disaster may lurk within the choice which is offered, the facing of the choice, in the freedom which the Creator allows to his creatures, in itself raises life to greater intensity.  The coming of the kingdom meant the open possibility of enhancement of life; it also meant the heightening of moral responsibility.

The Founder of Christianity (New York, NY:  Macmillan Publishing Company, 1970), pages 57-58

May we exercise our freedom to become better people, build up our neighborhoods and society, lift each other up, seek the common good, and glorify God.  May our love for God and each other be active and contagious.  And may our words, even if they are impressive in the service of God, be far less eloquent than our actions in the same cause.  May all of this prove to be true because righteousness is good and we seek that which is good.  And may we succeed by grace and be among God’s faithful servants.






Freedom and Judgment


Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 8, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  The Roman Empire in 117 C.E.

Image in the Public Domain

Note the location of the Province of Galatia in Asia Minor.

Freedom, Law, and Obedience to God

JUNE 29 and 30, 2023


The Collect:

O God, you direct our lives by your grace,

and your words of justice and mercy reshape the world.

Mold us into a people who welcome your word and serve one another,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40


The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 25:1-7 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 25:8-14 (Friday)

Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18 (Both Days)

Galatians 5:2-6 (Thursday)

Galatians 5:7-12 (Friday)


I will declare that your love is established for ever;

you have set your faithfulness as firm as the heavens.

–Psalm 89:2, Common Worship (2000)


Law, for St. Paul the Apostle, stood in stark opposition to grace. Law spoke of what humans did, but grace indicated what God did. Thus, via Christ and in grace a Christian had freedom, which nobody ought to surrender. The aspect of the Law in question in Galatians 5:2-12 was circumcision, a matter of identity in Judaism to this day. Christianity, not yet separate from Judaism, was open to Gentile converts. Did they have to become Jewish to become Christians? Paul chose the inclusive position: no, which he hung on the hook of the cross of Christ.

I am not entirely unsympathetic with those who disagreed with the Apostle. They recalled passages, such as Jeremiah 25:1-14, in which not keeping the Law led to negative consequences. Circumcision was a physical mark on a Jewish male and an outward sign of an inward and communal covenant with God. This was foundational. And I know that each of us probably clings to some practice we consider essential to our tradition. Maybe we are correct to do so.

But, for the Apostle, trust in and love of Christ, expressed in a life of love, is where one’s emphasis belongs. Faith, in Pauline theology, is inherently active. And so, as Archibald M. Hunter wrote in The Layman’s Bible Commentary, Volume 22 (Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press, 1959), page 37:

The faith that James denounces in his letter is one that does not issue in deeds of love. The faith that Paul praises is one that cannot help expressing itself in love.

Certainly we who claim to follow God can do so without placing impediments in the way of others whom God has called to God’s self. May we do so.









Devotion for July 17 and 18 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   11 comments

Above:  Hannah Presenting Her Son Samuel to the Priest Eli, by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout

Image in the Public Domain

Building Each Other Up

JULY 17 and 18, 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:

1 Samuel 1:1-20 (July 17)

1 Samuel 1:21-2:17 (July 18)

Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning–July 17)

Psalm 97 (Morning–July 18)

Psalms 1 and 33 (Evening–July 17)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening–July 18)

Galatians 5:1-26 (July 17)

Galatians 6:1-18 (July 18)


Hannah’s worth as a human being and as a woman had nothing to do with her reproductive system.  Yet at least one other person (Peninnah) thought that it did, and the stress of the situation affected Hannah negatively.  That spiritual crisis was real.  That emotional pain was real.  And God relieved both.

My brief summary of Galatians 5 and 6 follows:

Christian liberty carries with it the obligation to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself:  to think of others more than oneself (without harming oneself needlessly), to seek the common good, to help others shoulder their burdens, to relieve others of other burdens, to practice to fruit of the Holy Spirit, which The New Jerusalem Bible, in 5:22-23, lists as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

I prefer to focus on the positive (the “you shall” list) rather than on the negative (the “you shall not” list) for three reasons:

  1. Listing what is forbidden does not necessarily indicate what is allowed;
  2. Focusing on the negative portrays morality in a bad light; and
  3. Focusing on the positive fills one’s time with good attitudes and deeds.

The positive deeds we are free to do entail building each other up, not tearing each other down.  In contrast, Peninnah tore Hannah down.  Then God built her up.

Sometimes it is easier to say that one ought to be gentle than it is to be gentle, for some human beings (often unintentionally) make that difficult.  I have faced this challenge and not always done as well as I should.  Yet I remain mindful of the goal, toward which I continue to press, by grace.









Proper 8, Year C   14 comments

Above:  An Arab Plowing (1898-1946)–See Luke 9:62

Image Source = Library of Congress

Servanthood in Christ

The Sunday Closest to June 29

Third Sunday After Pentecost

JUNE 26, 2022


The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14 and Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20


1 Kings 19:15-16, 19-21 and Psalm 16


Galatians 5:1, 13-25

Luke 9:51-62

The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Confession:

Prayer of Dedication:

2 Kings 2:

1 Kings 19:

Galatians 5:

Luke 9:


Jesus modeled servanthood, which, according to Galatians 5, is the proper use of Christian liberty.  Our Lord, as the author of the Gospel of Luke put it poetically, turned his face toward Jerusalem.  Jesus rejected excuses for not following the difficult path he proclaimed, the path which led to his crucifixion.  Following God can put one at risk, he said.  The examples of Elijah, once on the run from Queen Jezebel, and Elisha, whose path led to the fomentation of a palace coup, testified to the truth of that statement.

Do we think of our fellow human beings as people to serve or to exploit?  A barrage of news stories regarding skulduggery in very large banks reveals that some people prefer the latter option.  The manipulation of interest rates,  the foreclosing on homes without checking whether the homeowners have made payments recently and consistently, et cetera do not indicate an ethos of mutual servanthood.

In the Kingdom of God, Jesus said, the first will be last, the last will be first, and the servant of all will be the greatest.  Our worth flows from who we are and whose we are, not how much we have.  In the Kingdom of God he who dies with the most toys does not win and greed is not good.  The Kingdom of God turns power, wealth, and prestige on their heads.  It is properly subversive of the human-created socio-economic realities.  Why, then, do not more churches proclaim the kingdom?  Why do so many function as apologists for an exploitative system?









Week of Proper 23: Wednesday, Year 2   6 comments

Above:  A Processional Crucifix

Image Source = Andreas Praefcke

The Only Legitimate Boast

OCTOBER 12, 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.


With this post my word-for-word journey through the Letter to the Galatians ends.–KRT


Galatians 5:26-6:18 (Revised English Bible):

We must not be conceited, inciting one another to rivalry, jealous of one another.  If anyone is caught doing something wrong, you, my friends, who live by the Spirit must gently set him right.  Look to yourself, each one of you: you also may be tempted.  Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.

If anyone imagines himself to be somebody when he is nothing, he is deluding himself.  Each of you should examine his achievement by comparing himself with himself and not with anyone else; for everyone has his own burden to bear.

When anyone is under instruction in the faith, he should give his teacher a share of whatever good things he has.

Make no mistake about this:  God is not to be fooled; everyone reaps what he sows.  If he sows in the field of his unspiritual nature, he will reap from it a harvest of corruption; but if he shows in the field of the Spirit, he will reap from it a harvest of eternal life. Let us never tire from doing good, for if we do not slacken our efforts we shall in due time reap our harvest.  Therefore, as opportunity offers, let us work for the good of all, especially members of the household of faith.

Look how big the letters are, now that I am writing to you in my own hand.  It is those who want to be outwardly in good standing who are trying to force circumcision on you; their sole object is to escape persecution for the cross of Christ.  Even those who do accept circumcision are not thoroughgoing observers of the law; they want you to be circumcised just in order to boast of your submission to that outward rite.  God forbid that I should boast of anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world is crucified to me and I to the world!  Circumcision is nothing; uncircumcision is nothing; the only thing that counts is new creation!  All who take this principle for their guide, peace and mercy be upon them, the Israel of God!

In the future let no one make trouble for me, for I bear the marks of Jesus branded on my body.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, my friends.  Amen.

Psalm 32 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

 Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven,

whose sin is put away!

 Happy are they to whom the LORD imputes no guilt,

and in whose spirit there is no guile!

 While I held my tongue, my bones withered away,

because of my groaning all day long.

 For your hand was heavy upon me day and night;

my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.

 Then I acknowledged my sin to you,

and did not conceal my guilt.

 I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.”

Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.

 Therefore all the faithful will make their prayers to you in time of trouble;

when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them.

 You are my hiding-place;

you preserve me from trouble;

you surround me with shouts of deliverance.

9  “I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go;

I will guide you with my eye.

10  Do not be like horse or mule, which have no understanding;

who must be fitted with bit and bridel,

or else they will not stay near you.”

11  Great are the tribulations of the wicked;

but mercy embraces those who trust in the LORD.

12  Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in the LORD;

shout for joy, all who are true of heart.

Luke 11:42-46 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Alas for you Pharisees!  You pay tithes of mint and rue and every garden herb, but neglect justice and the love of God.  It is these you should have practised, without overlooking the others.

Alas for you Pharisees!  You love to have the chief seats in synagogues, and to be greeted respectfully in the street.

Alas, alas, you who are like unmarked graves, which people walk over unawares.

At this one of the lawyers said,

Teacher, when you say things like this you are insulting us too.

Jesus rejoined,

Alas for you lawyers also!  You load men with intolerable burdens, and will not lift a finger to lighten the load.


The Collect:

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Week of Proper 23:  Wednesday, Year 1:

Mint, Dill, and Cummin:

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross:

How Wide the Love of Christ:

Thine is the Glory:

Beneath the Cross of Jesus:

My Song is Love Unknown:

In the Cross of Christ I Glory:

My Faith Looks Up to Thee:

For the Cross:


The beginning of Ephesians 6 continues the theme at the end of Chapter 5, so I fixate on a different part of Chapter 6:

God forbid that I should boast of anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ….–6:15a, Revised English Bible

This passage, I think, holds the epistle together.  There is no cause for boasting in keeping the Law of Moses, in observing feasts, fasts, and festivals, or in doing anything good, bad, or neutral. The sole legitimate boast is in the cross, a symbol of what one might best call state-sponsored terrorism.  To die on a cross was, according to conventional wisdom, to indicate shame and a curse.  But the cross became a symbol of something quite different–redemption by the power of God.  Jesus died on a cross, but he did not remain dead.  So the lethal power of the Roman Empire was powerless before God, and this fact became apparent very shortly.

This was God’s doing, not that of any mere mortal.  So may we join Paul in boasting solely of divine redemptive power, giving credit where it is due.


Week of Proper 23: Tuesday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  St. Nicholas Episcopal Church, Hamilton, Georgia, June 19, 2011

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Building Up the Body of Christ (I)

OCTOBER 11, 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.


Lately I have been extending readings and even combining days’ worth of assigned devotional readings to preserve the unity of chapters in Galatians as much as possible.  I learn more from the texts when I type them out word for word.  I have, over time, typed out the Gospel lessons and the psalms, so I can copy and paste them from other blog posts I have produced, with just a few exceptions now and again.  But now, that I am focusing on the First Reading, I have decided to reproduce the full text of the Letter to the Galatians, despite the toll this effort takes on my fingers.  I can compensate for that (by spacing out the times I type out of a Bible and my notes in a composition book), and the cost, a mild one, is worth it.  Pondering, planning, and producing these posts constitute devotional acts themselves, and I hope, O reader, that you derive some benefit from them.–KRT


Galatians 5:1-25 (Revised English Bible):

It is for freedom that Christ set us free.  Stand firm, therefore, and refuse to submit again to the yoke of slavery.

Mark my words:  I, Paul, say to you that if you get yourself circumcised Christ will benefit you no more.  I will impress on you once again that every man who accepts circumcision is under obligation to keep the entire law.  When you seek to be justified by way of law, you are cut off from Christ:  you have put yourselves outside God’s grace.  For it is by the Spirit and through faith that we hope to attain that righteousness which we eagerly await.  If we are in union with Christ Jesus, circumcision makes no difference at all, nor does the lack of it; the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

You were running well; who was it hindered you from following the truth?  Whatever persuasion was used, it did not come from God who called you.

A little leaven,


leavens all the dough.

The Lord gives me confidence that you will not adopt the wrong view; but whoever is unsettling your minds must bear God’s judgement.  As for me, my friends, if I am still advocating circumcision, then why am I still being persecuted?  To do that would be to strip the cross of all offence.  Those agitators had better go the whole way and make eunuchs of themselves!

You, my friends, were called to be free; only beware of turning your freedom into licence for you unspiritual nature.  Instead, serve one another in love; for the whole law is summed up in a single commandment:

Love your neighbor as yourself.

But if you go on fighting one another, tooth and nail, all you can expect is mutual destruction.

What I mean is this:  be guided by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of your unspiritual nature.  That nature sets its desires against the Spirit, while the Spirit fights against it.  They are in conflict with one another so that you cannot do what you want.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to law.

Anyone can see the behaviour that belongs to the unspiritual nature:  fornication, indecency, and debauchery; idolatry and sorcery; quarrels, a contentious temper, envy, fits of rage, selfish ambitions, dissensions, party intrigues, and jealousies; drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I warned you before, that no one who behaves like that will ever inherit the kingdom of God.

But the harvest of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness, and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the old nature with its passions and desires.  If the Spirit is the source of our life, let the Spirit also direct its course.

Psalm 119:41-48 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

41  Let your loving kindness come to me, O LORD,

and your salvation, according to your promise.

42  Then shall I have a word for those who taunt me,

because I trust in your words.

43  Do not take the word of truth out of my mouth,

for my hope is in your judgments.

44  I shall continue to keep your aw;

I shall keep it for ever and ever.

45  I will walk at liberty,

because I study your commandments.

46  I will tell of your decrees before kings

and will not be ashamed.

47  I delight in your commandments,

which I have always loved.

48  I will lift up my hands to your commandments,

and I will meditate on your statutes.

Luke 11:37-41 (Revised English Bible):

When he [Jesus] had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to a meal, and he came in and sat down.  The Pharisee noticed that he had not begun by washing before the meal.  But the Lord said to him,

You Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and plate; but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.  You fools!  Did not he who made the outside make the inside too?  But let what is inside be given to charity, and all is clean.


The Collect:

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; 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:

Week of Proper 23:  Tuesday, Year 1:

In Remembrance of Me:

Hostility Fractures the Body:

A Prayer to Embrace Love, Empathy, and Compassion, and to Eschew Hatred, Invective, and Willful Ignorance:

I Come with Joy to Meet My Lord:


I belong to a Historical Jesus reading group.  Thus I am almost finished with The Founder of Christianity, by C. H. Dodd, in which Dodd makes the following point:  For many Palestinian Jews at the time of Christ, keeping the minutae of the Law of Moses formed the basis of their identity.  The keeping of the minutae of the Law defined them as not being Gentiles (especially Romans).  So, when Jesus said and did much of what he said and did, he questioned the basis of their identity.  This helps to explain why our Lord stirred up so much animosity in religious circles.  Religion had become mixed up in identity politics so much that simple calls to act compassionately–even on the Sabbath–became occasions for controversy.

This helps to explain much opposition to Paul, as well as Paul’s opposition to Judaizers.  Dodd’s analysis provides a useful societal backdrop to the Pauline epistles, not just the Gospels.  Keep that in mind as I proceed.

Love of one’s neighbor, we read, fulfills the Law of Moses.  (I have covered this idea in a previous post:  If we love our neighbors as we love ourselves, we will act toward them properly, avoiding deeds which exploit them and tear them down.  And we will exhibit actions which help them and build them up.  Trademarks of these deeds are

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness, and self-control. –5:23, Revised English Bible

Here I must reiterate the theme of Christian liberty to fulfill one’s spiritual potential.  This potential is not individual and separate from others.  We rise and fall together, for what one person does affects others.  To borrow an analogy from elsewhere in the Pauline epistles, we are individually body parts, and the building up of the body is crucial.

May we show

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness, and self-control

to each other for the common good, our own good, and (most importantly) for the glory of God.


Week of Proper 23: Monday, Year 2   11 comments

Above:  A Chart of the Western Christian Year

Image Source = Patnac

Rituals and Their Value

OCTOBER 10, 2022


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Galatians 4:1-5:1 (Revised English Bible):

This is what I mean:  so long as the heir is a minor, he is no better off than a slave, even though the whole estate is his; he is subject to guardians and trustees until the date set by his father.  So it is with us:  during our minority we were slaves, subject to the elemental spirits of the universe, but when the appointed time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to buy freedom for those who were under the law, in order that we might attain the status of sons.

To prove that you are sons, God has sent into our hearts the Spirit of his Son, crying,

Abba, Father!

You are therefore no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, an heir by God’s own act.

Formerly, when you did not now God, you were slaves to gods to gods who are not gods at all.  But now that you do acknowledge God–or rather, now that he has acknowledged you–how can you turn back to those feeble and bankrupt elemental spirits?  Why do you propose to enter their service all over again?  You keep special days and months and seasons and years.  I am afraid that all my hard work on you may have been wasted.

Put yourselves in my place, my friends, I beg you, as I put myself in yours.  You never did me any wrong:  it was bodily illness, as you will remember, that originally led to my bringing you the gospel, and you resisted any temptation to show scorn or disgust at my physical condition; on the contrary you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as you might have welcomed Christ Jesus himself.  What has become of the happiness you felt then?  I believe you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me, had that been possible!  Have I now made myself your enemy by being frank with you?

Others are lavishing attention on you, but without sincerity:  what they really want is to isolate you so that you may lavish attention on them.  To be the object of sincere attentions is always good, and not just when I am with you.  You are my own children, and I am in labour with you all over again until you come to have the form of Christ.  How I wish I could be with you now, for then I could modify my tone; as it is, I am at my wits’ end with you.

Tell me now, you that are so anxious to be under the law, will you not listen to what the law says?  It is written there that Abraham had two sons, the one by a slave, the other by a free-born woman.  The slave’s son was born in ordinary course of nature, but the free woman’s through God’s promise.  This is an allegory:  the two women stand for two covenants.  The one covenant comes from Mount Sinai; that is Hagar, and her children are born into slavery.  Sinai is a mountain in Arabia and represents the Jerusalem of today, for she and her children are in slavery.  But the heavenly Jerusalem is a free woman; she is our mother.  For scripture says,

Rejoice, O barren woman who never bore a child; break into a shout of joy, you who have never been in labour; for the deserted wife will have more children than she who lives with her husband.

Now you, my friends, like Isaac, are children of God’s promise, but just as in those days the natural-born son persecuted the spiritual son, so it is today.  Yet what does the scripture say?

Drive out the slave and her son, for the son of the slave shall not share the inheritance with the son of the free woman.

You see, then, my friends, we are no slave’s children; our mother is the free woman.  It is for freedom that Christ set us free.  Stand firm, therefore, and refuse to submit to the yoke of slavery.

Psalm 138 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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

before the gods I will sing your praise.

I will bow down toward your holy temple

and praise your Name,

because of your love and faithfulness;

3 For you have glorified your Name

and your word above all things.

4 When I called, you answered me;

you increased my strength within me.

All the kings of the earth will praise you, O LORD,

when they have heard the words of your mouth.

They will sing of the ways of the LORD,

that great is the glory of the LORD.

7 Though the LORD be high, he cares for the lowly;

he perceives the haughty from afar.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe;

you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies;

your right hand shall save me.

9 The LORD will make good his purpose for me;

O LORD, your love endures for ever;

do not abandon the works of your hands.

Luke 11:29-32 (Revised English Bible):

With the crowds swarming round him [Jesus] he went on to say:

This is a wicked generation.  It demands a sign, and the only sign that will be given it is the sign of Jonah.  For just as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man to this generation.  The queen of the south will appear in court when the men of this generation are on trial, and ensure their condemnation; for she came up from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and what is here is greater than Solomon.  The men of Nineveh will appear in court when this generation is on trial, and ensure its condemnation; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and what is here is greater than Jonah.


Christian liberty is a theme which runs through the Letter to the Galatians.  This liberty frees us to fulfill our spiritual potential as heirs, not servants, and as children of God.  That is the context for Paul’s words which follow:

Your religion is beginning to be a matter of observing special days and months and seasons and years.–Galatians 4:10, The New Testament in Modern English, J. B. Phillips, 1972

Paul referred to the legalistic observance of Jewish fasts and feasts, as well as to certain Gentile (Pagan) celebrations.  The key word in the previous sentence is “legalistic.”  Many rituals are inherently neutral; the good or bad of them comes from those who observe them.

I am an Episcopalian and an unrepentant ritualist.  I remember a conversation from the early 1990s.  Some students from the Baptist Student Union at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Tifton, Georgia, criticized formal worship, saying that it consisted of merely going through the motions.  The wording they used suggested that they understood the most sincere worship to be the simplist worship.  They did not grasp that one can go through the motions regardless of whether one has two or thirty-two of them.  And, as Father Peter Ingeman, Rector of Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia, has said correctly, a liturgy is simply an agreed-upon, regular, and predictable pattern of worship.  So anyone who attends a church with an agreed-upon, regular, and predictable pattern of worship goes to a liturgical church.

There is a story, which might be true.  The pastor of First Baptist Church in a county seat town in the U.S. South hosted a community Thanksgiving service.  The local Episcopal priest participated.  At the appointed time, the host pastor introduced the priest:

Now Father Jones from the Episcopal Church will say one of his…written prayers.

The priest walked to the pulpit and said,

Let us pray.  Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name….

Paul did not write that Christians should no longer observe festivals and keep the Sabbath, although an inaccurate reading of the passage can point in that direction.  Indeed, the interpretation of Galatians 4:9-11 has led to the condemnation of the religious observance of Christmas and Easter.  A textbook example of one variety of Calvinist Jure Divino theology is the following resolution, which the 1899 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, the old “Southern Presbyterian Church,” passed:

There is no warrant for the observance of Christmas and Easter as holy days, but rather contrary (see Galatians iv.9-11; Colossians ii.16-21), and such observance is contrary to the principles of the Reformed faith, conducive to will-worship, and not in harmony with the simplicity of the gospel in Jesus Christ.

The Journal of the General Assembly, 1899, page 430

Rituals mark time and transitions.  This time differs from that time, and a certain ritual divides them.  One can argue convincingly, for example, that a couple is (or ought to be) spiritually married prior to the marriage ceremony, but the ritual does define the moment they become married in the eyes of the church, the state, or both.  This is an important distinction in law and society.  And I had become a de facto Episcopalian prior to my confirmation, but now I have a date to observe every year.  (The anniversary of my confirmation is December 22.)  Rituals help with regard to social cohesion.  What separates boys from men, informal couples from married people, lay people from clergy, and students from graduates?  Rituals.  And what gives unique characters to the seasons of Advent, Christmas, the Season after Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and the Season after Pentecost?  Rituals.

Paul meant that one ought not observe certain days then think that one has fulfilled one’s duties.  Religion ought not to consist entirely of such occasions, but they can enrich it.