Archive for the ‘Genesis 18’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 15, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Christ Walking on the Sea, by Amédée Varint

Image in the Public Domain

The Presence of God

AUGUST 16, 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 17:1-7 or 1 Kings 2:13, 10-12; 3:3-14

Psalm 54

2 Corinthians 11:18-33

Mark 6:45-56


Those compulsively protected from risk do not grow strong in faith.

Origenes Adamantius, a.k.a. Origen (185-254)


The way of proper faith is not Easy Street.  No, the path leads through peaks and valleys on its way to union with God.  The way of proper faith includes storms, too, but one need not endure them alone.  The presence of God may seem more obvious during times of difficulty, actually.

I attest, O reader, that times spiritual darkness and turbulence, regardless of what triggered them, are opportunities for spiritual growth.  Perhaps you, O reader, know this from experience, too.

One detail from the Gospel reading caught my attention this time, the umpteenth time I have read the story.  I focused on Jesus, walking on the water of the stormy Sea of Galilee, intending to pass by the boat carrying the Apostles.  This was no casual detail.  No, it was an allusion to the presence of YHWH passing before Moses in Exodus 33:19-22.  Furthermore, in Mark 6:50, the words of Jesus,

It is I,

echo the great


from Exodus 3:13f.

When we encounter the presence of God in a way out of the ordinary for us, how do we respond?  Do we fall into sin?  Do we remain somewhat oblivious, as the Apostles did for a while?  Do we laugh (Genesis 17:17 and 18:12) because divine promises seem absurd?  Or do we respond faithfully?









Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 14, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Sacrifice of Isaac--Caravaggio

Above:  The Sacrifice of Isaac, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

Active Faith

AUGUST 12 and 13, 2019


The Collect:

Almighty God, you sent your Holy Spirit to be the life and light of your church.

Open our hearts to the riches of your grace,

that we may be ready to receive you wherever you appear,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44


The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 33:1-17 (Monday)

2 Chronicles 34:22-33 (Tuesday)

Psalm 89:1-18 (Both Days)

Hebrews 11:1-7 (Monday)

Hebrews 11:17-28 (Tuesday)


How blessed the nation that learns to acclaim you!

They will live, Yahweh, in the light of your presence.

–Psalm 89:15, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


That is the theology in the accounts of Kings Manasseh and Josiah of Judah.  We read of Manasseh (reigned 698/687-642 B.C.E.) in 2 Chronicles 33:1-20 and 2 Kings 21:1-18.  The story in 2 Kings is more unflattering than the version in 2 Chronicles, for the latter mentions his repentance.  Manasseh’s grandson, Josiah (reigned 640-609 B.C.E.) is on the scene in 2 Chronicles 34-35 and 2 Kings 22:1-23:30.  His fidelity to the Law of Moses delays the destruction of Judah, we read.

Hebrews 11 focuses on faith.  Verse 1 defines faith as

the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

In context this definition of faith is consistent with the understanding of St. Paul the Apostle, for whom faith was inherently active, hence the means of one’s justification with God.  In the Letter of James, however, faith is intellectual, so justification comes via works.  This is not a contradiction, just defining “faith” differently.  Active faith is the virtue extolled consistently.

I argue with Hebrews 11:17-20.  The near-sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22) was a form of child abuse.  There was no way it did not damage the father-son relationship.  Earlier in Genesis Abraham had interceded on behalf of strangers in Sodom (Chapter 18).  Yes, he had relatives there (see Genesis 13, 14, and 19), but he argued on behalf of strangers.  In Chapter 22 he did not do that for his son, Isaac.  God tested Abraham, who failed the test; he should have argued.

Did I understand you correctly?

would have been a good start.

May we have the active faith to follow God.  May we know when to question, when to argue, and when to act.  May we understand the difference between an internal monologue and a dialogue with God.  Out of faith may we act constructively and thereby leave the world better than we found it.










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

Abraham and the Three Angels

Above:   Abraham and the Three Angels, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

God’s Surprises

JULY 26, 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:

Genesis 18:1-15

Psalm 111

Philippians 4:10-20


Reverence for the LORD is the first step to wisdom,

good success comes to all who obey his laws.

His people will never stop praising him.

–Psalm 111:10, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)


Sometimes, however, distress comes to those who obey God’s laws.  Consider, O reader, St. Paul the Apostle, who suffered death threats, incarceration, beatings, a shipwreck, and an execution.  Consider also, O reader, the church he planted at Philippi.  That congregation had to contend with internal and external threats, from anti-Christian authorities to Gnostics.  Yet the Philippian church, for all its struggles, was generous of spirit and helped St. Paul in tangible ways.

Depending on our expectations, some of God’s methods might surprise us.  One might expect a persecuted and struggling community to be preoccupied with its own troubles.  And, as for Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 18, a pregnancy certainly falls into the category of the unexpected.  The spiritual lesson I offer based on these readings is that we ought to open our minds and move beyond our usual expectations regarding what God might do and how God might do it.  We have certainly missed some blessings because we have not been looking in the right place at the right time.









Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 14, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Job and God

Above:  God Speaking to Job; from a Byzantine Manuscript

Image in the Public Domain

Arguing Faithfully With God

AUGUST 10-12, 2020


The Collect:

O God our defender, storms rage around and within us and cause us to be afraid.

Rescue your people from despair, deliver your sons daughters from fear,

and preserve us in the faith of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44


The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 7:11-8:5 (Monday)

Genesis 19:1-29 (Tuesday)

Job 36:24-33; 37:14-24 (Wednesday)

Psalm 18:1-19 (All Days)

2 Peter 2:4-10 (Monday)

Romans 9:14-29 (Tuesday)

Matthew 8:23-27 (Wednesday)


Faithful and pure, blameless and perfect–

yet to the crooked you show yourself shrewd.

Your holy light shines on my darkness;

my steps are guided, my vigor renewed.

Your law will shape my heart and my mind,

letting me find richest blessing.

–Martin Leckebusch, Verse 3, “Refuge and Rock,” a paraphrase of Psalm 18 in Psalms for All Seasons:  A Complete Psalter for Worship (2012)


Elihu, in the Book of Job, was a pious idiot.  He condemned Job for challenging God and was sure that the titular character of the text must have done something wrong, for surely a just deity would not permit the innocent to suffer.

The Almighty–we cannot find him;

he is great in power and justice,

and abundant righteousness he will not violate.

Therefore mortals fear him;

he does not regard any who are wise in their conceit.

–Job 37:23-24, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The Book of Job 1 and 2, had established, however, that God had permitted this suffering as a test of loyalty.  And, starting in Chapter 38, when God spoke to Job, one of the most impatient people in the Bible (despite the inaccurate cliché about the “patience of Job”), the divine reply contained no apology.

(Yes, I know of the layers of composition in the Book of Job, that Elihu’s section was not part of the original text and that the prose wraparounds came later, but I am, in this post, treating the book as a whole, as we have received the final version.)

The readings from Genesis contain parts of accounts of divine destruction of the wicked and sparing of some people in the process.  The men of Sodom were as anxious to rape women as they were to violate angels, so their issue was not homosexual orientation or practice but violence against almost anyone on two legs.  Their sin involved the opposite of hospitality in a place and at a time when the lack of hospitality could prove fatal for guests or world-be guests.  Lot was morally troublesome, for he offered his virgin daughters to the rape gang.  Those same daughters got him drunk and committed incest with him later in the chapter.  Abraham had at least negotiated with God in an attempt to save lives in Genesis 18:20-33, but Noah did nothing of the sort in his time, according to the stories we have received.

Sometimes the faithful response to God is to argue, or at least to ask, “Did I hear you right?”  The Bible contains references to God changing the divine mind and to God holding off judgment for a time.  I am keenly aware of the unavoidable anthropomorphism of the deity in the Bible, so I attempt to see through it, all the way to the reality behind it.  That divine reality is mysterious and ultimately unfathomable.  The titular character of the Book of Job was correct to assert his innocence, which the text had established already, but, in the process of doing so he committed the same error as did Elihu and the three main alleged friends; he presumed to think to know how God does or should work.

This occupies my mind as I read elsewhere (than in the mouth of Elihu or one of the three main alleged friends of Job) about the justice, judgment, and mercy of God.  I recall that the prophet Jeremiah argued with God bitterly and faithfully–often for vengeance on enemies.  I think also of the repeated cries for revenge and questions of “how long?” in the Book of Psalms and the placement of the same lament in the mouths of martyrs in Heaven in the Book of Revelation.  And I recall how often God has extended mercy to me in my ignorance, faithlessness, and panic-driven errors.  I conclude that I must continue to seek to embrace the mystery of God, rejecting temptations to accept false and deceptively easy answers as I choose the perhaps difficult alternative of a lack of an answer or a satisfactory reply instead.  God is God; I am not.  That much I know.  Nevertheless, some more answers from God might be good to have.  May the faithful argument continue.








Proper 12, Year C   9 comments

Above:  The Missal, by John William Waterhouse

Judgment, Mercy, and Deliverance

The Sunday Closest to July 27

Seventh Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 28, 2019


The Assigned Readings:

Hosea 1:2-10 and Psalm 85


Genesis 18:20-32 and Psalm 138


Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)

Luke 11:1-13

The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; 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 Dedication:


For though the LORD is high,

he regards the lowly;

but the haughty he perceives from far away.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,

you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies;

you stretch out your hand,

and your right hand delivers me.

–Psalm 138:6-7, New Revised Standard Version


Except when it does not.

Focusing mainly on examples from this Sunday’s readings, I write about the following.

  1. In Genesis 18 Abram talked God down to a minimum number of righteous inhabitants of Sodom to stave off divine destruction of that city.  Yet, a few chapters later, the patriarch did not argue for the life of his own son.  He argued for the lives of strangers but not that of his own son.  Sodom, of course, faced destruction; there were too few righteous people in a city with many equal-opportunity rapists.  And God did spare Isaac in Genesis 22.
  2. What did Hosea’s children do to deserve such names?  Jezreel means “God sows.”  Lo-ruhamah translates as “Not pitied.”  And Lo-ammi means “Not my people.”  Their names were, of course, symbolic of divine rejection of a people who had turned their backs on God.  Destruction of the unfaithful and the wicked is a biblical theme.  But I wonder what psychological harm the children of Hosea and Gomer suffered.
  3. There are, of course, numerous instances of martyrdoms and genocides from ancient times to current events.  Many of those who perished were righteous.  Often they died because of their fidelity to God.  And what about Jesus, sinless yet crucified?
  4. The Book of Job refutes (correctly) the simplistic formula whereby suffering results from one’s own sin and God spares all the righteous from harm.  The example of Jesus confirms this.

Speaking of Jesus, we read in Colossians that he overrides our assumptions regarding a number of issues.  Some of them do not apply one with a Western scientific worldview in the twenty-first century.  I do not, for example, share the Hellenistic assumption (referenced in Colossians) that elemental spirits govern the world.  No, I am a product of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment.  But other worldviews persist and I carry my own assumptions in my head.  Christ, we read in Colossians, overrides much–from schools of philosophy to erroneous cosmology.  It is Christ who, as we read in Luke 11, spoke of prayer and God’s attentiveness.

There is also judgment, of course.  That abounds in both Testaments.  So one ought not to focus so much on mercy and judgment as to minimize or ignore its opposite.  Besides, mercy for one party does mean judgment for another much of the time.  So, if one perceives that God has not delivered one, one might be in the wrong camp.  Or one might be impatient.  Or one might have a legitimate complaint against God.








Proper 11, Year C   18 comments

Above:  Convent at Mamre Near Hebron, Palestine (Abraham’s Oak), 1944

Image Source = Library of Congress

Divine Promises

The Sunday Closest to July 20

Sixth Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 21, 2019


The Assigned Readings:

Amos 8:1-12 and Psalm 52


Genesis 18:1-10a and Psalm 15


Colossians 1:15-28

Luke 10:38-42

The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; 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:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Confession:

Prayer of Dedication:


Divine promises turn our worlds upside-down and defy expectations.

Reconciliation, in Colossians 1, is related to justification, a legal concept.  So God is the judge, each of us is the accused, and Jesus is the defense attorney.  These are inexact metaphors, for

  1. Elsewhere in the New Testament the Holy Spirit is the defense attorney, and
  2. The judge is in cahoots with the defense attorney.

But there is more.  In Christ our estrangement from God ends.  And we have an avenue via Christ to end our estrangements from one another.  Why not?  If we love God, whom we cannot see, how then ought we to think about our fellow human beings, whom we can see?  This is a noble and high vocation, one attainable by grace.  And, if we strive yet fall short, God knows that we are but dust.

Such divine generosity requires an affirmative response.  St. Mary of Bethany understood this, as did Abraham and Sarah (although the latter needed a little time to grasp it) before her.  And one cannot respond affirmatively to God while exploiting people economically.  Although Colossians 1 contains a promise of deliverance from sins via God, Amos 8 tells us of doom because of the sin of economic exploitation.  The Law of Moses condemned such practices and mandated ways of helping the poor, yet some people manipulated it to make their exploitative deeds seem respectable and proper.

The Bible says more about money, greed, and economic exploitation than about sexual activities, yet many professing Christians are quicker to condemn aspects of the latter than of the former.  I have also noticed that condemnations of the latter tend to be more vocal and visible than those of the former.  If we who call ourselves Christians are to avoid rank hypocrisy, we ought to realize that many of us are invested in economic realities which place many others at an undue disadvantage.  We ought to ask God to help us see or blind spots.  We ought to be willing to confront the social structures which grant us advantages at the expense of others.  And we ought not to settle for condemning just (or primarily) the low-hanging fruit.  Then we will hear what God tells us because we will listen closely.  And something unexpected will be born to us via divine power and bring us closer to God, the main agent of bringing about this reconciliation and justification.








Week of Proper 8: Monday, Year 1   9 comments

Above: Abraham and the Three Angels (1865), by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

Honesty, Mercy, and Judgment

JUNE 28, 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.


Genesis 18:16-33 (An American Translation):

Setting out from there, the men directed their steps toward Sodom, while Abraham went with them to see them off.  Then the LORD thought,

Shall I hide what I am about to do from Abraham, seeing that Abraham is bound to become a great a powerful nation, and through him all the nations of the earth will invoke blessings on one another?  No, I will make it known to him, in order that he may give instructions to his sons and his family after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is good and right, so that the LORD may fulfill for Abraham what he promised them.

So the LORD said,

Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and their sin is very grace, I must go down and see whether or not their conduct entirely answers to the outcry against them that has reached me; I would know.

So the men departed from there, and went off to Sodom, while the LORD remained standing before Abraham.  Abraham then went up to him, and said,

Wilt thou really sweep away good along with bad?  Suppose there are fifty good men in the city, wilt thou really sweep it away, and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty good men that are in it?  Far be it from thee to do such a thing as this, to make the good perish along with the bad, so that good and bad fare alike!  Far be it from thee!  Shall not the judge of the whole earth himself act justly?

So the LORD said,

If I find in Sodom fifty good men, within the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.

Abraham rejoined,

Here I am venturing to speak to the LORD, and I mere dust ashes!  Suppose there are five short of the fifty good men; wouldst thou destroy the whole city by reason of the five?

He replied,

I will not destroy it, if I find forty-five there.

Once more he said to him,

Suppose only forty are to be found there?

He replied,

I will not do it for the sake of the forty.

Then he said,

Pray, let not my Lord be angry if I should say:  suppose only thirty are to be found there?

He said,

I will not do it, if I find thirty there.

He said,

Here I am venturing to speak to the LORD; suppose only twenty are to be found there?

He said,

I will not destroy it for the sake of the twenty.

Then he said,

Pray, let not my Lord be angry if I should speak just once more; suppose only ten are to be found there?

He said,

I will not destroy it for the sake of the ten.

As soon as he finished speaking to Abraham, the LORD went away, while Abraham returned home.

Psalm 103:1-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits.

3 He forgives all your sins

and heals all your infirmities;

4 He redeems your life from the grave

and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness;

5 He satisfies you with good things,

and your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.

6 The LORD executes righteousness

and judgment for all who are oppressed.

7 He made his ways known to Moses

and all his works to the children of Israel.

8 The LORD is full of compassion and mercy,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

9 He will not always accuse us,

nor will he keep his anger for ever.

10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,

nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

Matthew 8:18-22 (An American Translation):

Then Jesus, seeing a crowd about him, gave orders to cross over to the other side.  And a scribe came up and said to him,

Master, I will follow you wherever you are going!

And Jesus said to him,

Foxes have holes and wild birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head!

And another of his disciples said to him,

Let me first go, sir, and bury my father.

But Jesus said to him,

Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead!


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 to 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.


Divine judgment and mercy are intertwined, and an honest response to God is essential for a healthy relationship with God.  This is my theme for this post.

There is an oft-repeated stereotype about God, as depicted in the Old Testament:  This is a vengeful, angry deity.  A stereotype is, by definition, an overgeneralization.  A certain statement is true sometimes, perhaps much of the time, but not all of the time.  So God does destroy Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 (the next chapter) but not before Abraham, who has come to realize to whom he is speaking (El Shaddai), and convinces God not to destroy Sodom if twenty righteous men live there.  So actions have consequences, but grace is still present.

In the Gospel of Matthew, with Jesus have finished healing several people, our Lord and Savior is preparing to get away from the crowd.  A scribe addresses him respectfully, saying “Master, I will follow you wherever you are going!”  Jesus replies honestly that he has “nowhere to lay his head.”  The cost of discipleship can be high, and Jesus is honest about this fact.  A second man says that he must bury his father, in accordance with an obligation sacred in Judaism.  Jesus rebuffs him.  What are we supposed to make of this?

Commentaries disagree.  Was the man sincere or not?  Had his father just died or was the man saying that he would follow Jesus in a few years, after his father had died and he had buried him?  Or did the man have to bury his father or just see to it that someone buried his father?  I posit that the text is vague on all these points.  Nevertheless, I propose that it is wise to interpret this exchange in the context of Matthew 10:37-39:

No one who loves father or mother more than me is worthy of me, and no one who will not take up his cross and follow me is worthy of me.  Whoever gains his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will gain it.

How is that for honesty?

Without pretending to have God in a box I can understand completely (for nobody does), I propose that honesty is the best policy with God.  May we approach the throne of grace with our intercessions, concerns, doubts, fears, and thanksgivings.  Consider the Book of Job; God speaks to only one character, Job, who is the only person who asks God questions.  Earlier in Genesis 18, Sarah denies having laughed, and God says matter-of-factly that yes, she did.  Yet she still becomes a mother.  If we cannot be ourselves with God, with whom can be genuine?


Week of Proper 7: Saturday, Year 1   15 comments

Above:  Terebinth Trees (Such as Those at Mamre)

Image in the Public Doman

Nothing is Too Wonderful for God

JUNE 26, 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.


FIRST READING:  Genesis 18:1-15 (An American Translation):

The LORD appeared to him [Abraham] at the terebinth of Mamre, as he was sitting at the doorway of his tent in the heat of the day.  Raising his eyes, he saw three men standing near him.  On seeing them, he ran from the door of his tent to meet them, and bowing to the earth, said,

O sirs, if perchance I find favor with you, please do not pass by without stopping with your servant.  Let a little water be brought to wash your feet, and stretch yourselves out under the tree, while I fetch a bit of food that you may refresh yourselves.  Afterward you may proceed on your way, since you will then have paid your servant a visit.

They said,

Do as you propose.

So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said,

Quick, three seahs of the best flour!  Knead it, and make it into cakes.

Abraham then ran to the heard, and picked out a bullock, tender and plump, which he gave to a servant, who quickly prepared it.  Then, taking curds and milk and the bullock that he had prepared, he set them before them, and as he waited on them under the tree, they ate.

Where is your wife Sarah?

they said to him.

Inside the tent there,

said he.

Then he said,

I will come back to you at the time for life to appear, when your wife Sarah shall have a son.

Now Sarah was behind the door of the tent listening.  Since both Abraham and Sarah were old, being well advanced in life, and women’s periods had ceased with Sarah, Sarah laughed to herself, saying,

Now that I am worn out and my husband old, can there be marriage pleasure for me?

The LORD said to Abraham,

Why is it that Sarah laughs, saying, ‘Can I really bear a child when I am so old?’  Is anything too wonderful for the LORD?  I will come back to you at the appointed time, at the time for life to appear, and Sarah will have a son.

Because she was afraid, Sarah denied it, saying,

I did not laugh.

He said,

No, but you did laugh.

RESPONSE, OPTION #1:  Canticle 15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

(The Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55)

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed;

the Almighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him

in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and his lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel,

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

The promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

RESPONSE, OPTION #2:  Psalm 123 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 To you I lift up my eyes,

to you enthroned in the heavens.

2 As the eyes of the servants look to the hand of their masters,

and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,

3 So our eyes look to the LORD our God,

until he show us his mercy.

4 Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy,

for we have had more than enough of contempt,

5 Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich,

and of the derision of the proud.

GOSPEL READING:  Matthew 8:5-17 (An American Translation):

When he [Jesus] got back to Capernaum, a Roman captain came up and appealed to him,

My servant, sir, is lying sick with paralysis at my house, in great distress.

He said to him,

I will come and cure him.

But the captain answered,

I am not a suitable person,sir, to have you come under my roof, but simply say the word, and my servant will be cured.  For I am myself under the orders of others and I have soldiers under me, and I tell one to go, and he comes, and my slave to do something, and he does it.

When Jesus heard this he was astonished, and said to his followers,

I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such faith as this.  And I tell you, many will come from the east and from the west and take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the Kingdom of of Heaven, while the heirs to the kingdom will be driven into the darkness outside, there to weep and grind their teeth!

Then Jesus said to the captain,

Go!  You shall find it just as you believe!

And the servant was immediately cured.

Jesus went into Peter’s house, and there he found Peter’s mother-in-law sick in bed with fever.  And he touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and waited on him.


The Collect:

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


First, a technical note:  There is much similarity between the content of Genesis 17 (from the previous post) and that of Genesis 18 (from this post).  The most likely reason for this is that the two chapters come from different sources.  Professor Richard Elliott Friedman identifies Genesis 17 as coming from the Priestly source and Genesis 18 as having Yahwistic origin.  I have no reason to doubt these conclusions.

But let us not become so preoccupied with higher biblical criticism that we forget to read the Bible for formation, not just information.  The purpose of this post is devotional, after all.  So, without further ado, I turn to my theme for today.  That theme is “Nothing is too wonderful for God.”

In Genesis 18, God, whom Abraham knows as El Shaddai, or God of the Mountains, appears in the flesh.  This is a mysterious incarnation; whether the author (J) means to say that God is all three men or that God and two angels visit, is vague.  Anyhow, God appears to Abraham in the flesh and delivers good news to Abraham and Sarah.  Abraham extends his visitors the hospitality his culture requires, thereby demonstrating great respect.  And Sarah, eavesdropping, laughs when she hears that she will be a mother.  It is a laugh of doubt, one God does not seem to hold against her.

The pairing of the Magnificat with Genesis 18:1-15 is appropriate.  Although Mary and Sarah were at different stages of life, the pregnancy of each was a profound grace for each and for succeeding generations.  Both lives demonstrate the grace is the great leveler, and that God is very generous.

With that thought fresh in mind, let us continue to Matthew 8:5-17.  The Roman Centurion was, by profession, an agent of the oppression and occupation of the Jews.  Yet Jesus found great faith in the man, who asked healing for his paralyzed servant, not for himself.  Then our Lord and Savior healed the mother-in-law of Simon Peter.  Jesus extended grace to Jews and Gentiles alike.  The text does not indicate whether the servant believed in the healing power of Jesus, or if the mother-in-law did.  It does say, however, that the centurion believed and implies that Peter did, also.

Nothing is too wonderful for God.  Sometimes we doubt this, given our circumstances and our interpretation of them.  God can break through our doubts and confirm the faith of others, however.  God’s best plan for us is more wonderful than anything we can imagine.  By grace, may we embrace the divine imagination and dream with God.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.


Proper 6, Year A   30 comments

Above:  Terebinth Trees (Such as Those at Mamre)

The Juxtaposition of Mercy and Judgment

The Sunday Closest to June 15

The Second Sunday After Pentecost

JUNE 14, 2020



Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7) (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.  He looked up and saw three men standing near him.  When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground.  He said,

My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant.  Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.  Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on–since you have come to your servant.

So they said,

Do as you have said.

And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said,

Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.

Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it.  Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

They said to him,

Where is your wife Sarah?

And he said,

There, in the tent.

Then one said,

I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah will have a son.

And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him.  Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.  So Sarah laughed to herself, saying,

After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?

The LORD said to Abraham,

Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I have indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too wonderful for the LORD?  At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.

But Sarah denied, saying,

I did not laugh;

for she was afraid.  He said,

Oh yes, you did laugh.

The LORD dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as he had promised.  Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him.  Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him.  And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.  Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.  Now Sarah said,

God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.

And she said,

Who would ever said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children?  Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.

Psalm 116:1, 10-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I love the LORD, because he has heard the voice of my supplication,

because he has inclined his ear to me whenever I call upon him.

10 How shall I repay the LORD

for all the good things he has done for me?

11 I will lift up the cup of salvation

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

12 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

13 Precious in the sight of the LORD

is the death of his servants.

14 O LORD, I am your servant,

I am your servant and the child of your handmaid;

you have freed me from my bonds.

15 I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

16 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people,

17 In the courts of the LORD’s house,

in the midst of you, O Jerusalem.



Exodus 19:2-8a (New Revised Standard Version):

They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain.  Then Moses went up to God; the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying,

Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites:  You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.  Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples.  Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.  These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.

So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him.  The people all answered,

Everything that the LORD has spoken we will do.

Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD.  Then the LORD said to Moses,

I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after.

Psalm 100 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands;

serve the LORD with gladness

and come before his presence with a song.

2 Know this:  The LORD himself is God;

he himself has made us, and we are his;

we are the sheep of his pasture.

3 Enter his gates with thanksgiving;

go into his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and call upon his name.

4 For the LORD is good;

his mercy is everlasting;

and his faithfulness endures from age to age.


Romans 5:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.  And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.  But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.


Matthew 9:35-10:8 (9-23) (New Revised Standard Version):

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples,

The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.  These are names of the twelve apostles:  first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus; Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions:

Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the Gentiles, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.   As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of God has come near.”  Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.  You received without payment, give without payment. (Take no gold, or silver, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food.  Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave.  As you enter the house, greet it.  If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.  If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.  Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.  Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles.  When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who will speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.  Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved.  When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.)

The Collect:

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.


Nothing is too wonderful or difficult for God, who is faithful to promises, even though we are not always mindful of ours or or God.  Therein lies the juxtaposition of mercy and judgment.  This is my theme for this devotional writing.

Let us begin with the reading from Genesis.  Abraham welcomes three visitors and extends to them full hospitality, according to his culture.  The patriarch does not know that one of them is YHWH, who has come to make a shocking announcement.  Sarah is post-menepausal, or as the formal euphemism states, “it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.”  Yet she will have a son, which is what she and her husband have wanted for years and thought impossible by now.  She laughs incredulously and silently to herself when she overhears the prophesy, but laughs with delight when she sees her newborn son.  She names him Yitzhak, or Isaac in English.  This names means, “He will laugh.”  And now others will laugh with Sarah.

Sometimes laughter of joy is appropriate after considering what God has done.  In the case of Sarah, God was merciful, and the laughter constituted high praise.  And although God refused to accept Sarah’s denial that she had laughed, God did not seem to hold either the initial laugh or her lie against her.  Really, who could blame Sarah?  Had anyone ever heard of such a thing as a woman of her years giving birth?

God was faithful in Genesis 18 and 21.  And, in Exodus 19, God (via Moses) challenged the Israelites to obey divine commandments.  They said they would, but their subsequent actions belied their words.  God did not destroy them (That was merciful.), but God did not permit them to enter Canaan.  (That was judgment.)  The next generation entered the Promised Land.  Read the accounts of the wanderings in the wilderness, if you have not done so already.  And if you have, you might want to read them again.  It is no wonder that Moses and God became angry with such behaviors as many Israelites exhibited.

Jesus and Paul remind us of suffering for the sake of righteousness.  The manners of their deaths give their words credibility:  The Roman Empire beheaded Paul and crucified Jesus.  And almost all of the twelve Apostles died as martyrs.  The incarnation of Jesus was itself an indication of great mercy, the message of which Paul took to the Gentile world.  Empires have executed messengers of the Kingdom of God, which had “come near” with Jesus, but the work of God is unstoppable.  Those who persecute such messengers will face judgment, but the faithful–those who endure–will live with God, regardless of what anyone does to their bodies.

I grew up in a Christian home.  This fact contributes greatly to the fact that I remain a Christian.  But other factors have contributed to this choice.  Among these factors is the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  Read ancient comparative religion; few claims are original to Christianity.  Older religions featured a Son of God who died for the sins of the world, for example.  But these alleged Sons of God never walked the face of the earth; they were figments of imaginations.  Jesus was real, however.  He was, as I say, the genuine article.

God has come near.  The Kingdom of God has come near.  We have seen it in human flesh, in the form of Jesus.  And, in his own way, Abraham had an incarnational experience.  God seems to like us, sometimes despite ourselves.   Divine mercy does not preclude us suffering consequences of our actions, however.  But judgment does not necessarily connote divine hostility, for discipline is part of love.

Not only does God seem to like us, God loves us.  Should we not love God back?  Should we not laugh in delight for God has done, is doing, and will do out of love for us?