Archive for the ‘Good Shepherd’ Tag

Devotion for the Last Sunday After Pentecost: Christ the King Sunday/the Last Sunday in the Church Year: The Sunday of the Fulfillment, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain


NOVEMBER 26, 2023


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


Ezekiel 34:11-16, 23-24 (LBWLW) or Isaiah 65:17-25 (LW)

Psalm 95:1-7a (LBW) or Psalm 130 (LW)

1 Corinthians 15:20-28 (LBWLW) or 2 Peter 3:3-4, 8-10a, 13 (LW)

Matthew 25:31-46 (LBWLW) or Mathew 25:1-13 (LW)


Almighty and everlasting God,

whose will it is to restore all things to your beloved Son,

whom you anointed priest forever and king of all creation;

Grant that all the people of the earth,

now divided by the power of sin,

may be united under the glorious and gentle rule

of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 30


Lord God, heavenly Father, send forth your Son, we pray,

that he may lead home his bride, the Church,

that we with all the redeemed may enter into your eternal kingdom;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 94


I wrote about Matthew 25:31-46 in the previous post in this series and about Matthew 25:1-13 here.

We–you, O reader, and I–have arrived at the end of Year A of the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship Lectionary (1973).

This journey concludes on divine judgment and mercy, ever in balance and beyond human comprehension.  Much of this divine judgment and mercy exists in the context of impending apocalypse, in certain readings.  Maintaining hope can prove challenging to maintain during difficult times, but that is another motif.  Apocalypse offers hope for God’s order on Earth.

  1. We read of YHWH as the Good Shepherd (in contrast to bad shepherds–Kings of Israel and Judah) in Ezekiel 34, during the Babylonian Exile.
  2. Third Isaiah (in Isaiah 65) offered comfort to people who had expected to leave the Babylonian Exile and to return to a verdant paradise.  Instead, they returned to their ancestral homeland, which was neither verdant nor a paradise.
  3. Psalm 130 exists in the shadow of death–the depths of Sheol.
  4. Even the crucifixion of Jesus became a means of bestowing hope (1 Corinthians 15).

So, may we all cling to hope in God.  The lectionary omits the parts of Psalm 95 that recall the faithlessness in the desert after the Exodus.  No, we read the beginning of Psalm 95; we read an invitation to trust in the faithfulness of God and to worship sovereign YHWH.  We read that we are the sheep of YHWH’s pasture (see Ezekiel 34, too).

We are sheep prone to stray prone to stray.  We have a Good Shepherd, fortunately.

If You keep account of sins, O LORD,

Lord, who will survive?

Yours is the power to forgive

so that You may be held in awe.

–Psalm 130:3-4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Hope always exists in God.  So, are we mere mortals willing to embrace that hope?

As I type these words, I know the struggle to maintain hope.  For the last few years, current events have mostly driven me to despair.  Know, O reader, that when I write about trusting and hoping in God, I write to myself as much as I write to you.  I am no spiritual giant; I do not have it all figured out.  Not even spiritual giants have it all figured out; they know this.  They also grasp that no mere mortal can ever figure everything out anyway.

God has figured everything out.  That must suffice.





Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA


Devotion for Proper 29, Year C (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Tribute Money, by Titian

Image in the Public Domain

Images of Gods

NOVEMBER 21, 2021


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


Jeremiah 23:1-6

Psalm 100

Colossians 1:11-20

Luke 20:20-26


The application of imagery reserved for YHWH in the Hebrew Bible to Jesus in the New Testament makes sense, given Trinitarian theology.  Psalm 100 lauds God (YHWH), the Good Shepherd.  YJWH is the Good Shepherd in Jeremiah 23:1-6.  Jesus is the self-identified Good Shepherd in John 10, not one of today’s assigned readings.  Jesus, like YHWH in various Psalms, has primacy in creation, according to Colossians 1:15.

I will turn to the Gospel reading next.

This reading, set early in Holy Week, is one in which Jesus evades a trap:

Is it permissible for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?

–Luke 20:23b, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

“Yes” and “no” were dangerous answers.  If Jesus had replied, “no,” he would have made himself a target for Romans, who were swarming in Jerusalem that week.  On the other hand, if Jesus had responded, “yes,” he would have offended those who interpreted the Law of Moses to read that paying such taxes was illegal.

Jesus evaded the trap and ensnared those trying to ensnare him.  Why did the spies carry Roman denarii into the Temple complex?  A denarius, an idol, technically.  That year, the image on the coin was that of Emperor Tiberius.  The English translation of the Latin inscription was,

Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus, Augustus.

Jesus asked a seemingly obvious question with a straight-forward answer.

Show me a denarius.  Whose head and name are on it?

–Luke 20:25, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

The answer was obvious.  Our Lord and Savior’s answer was one for the ages:

Well then, give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar–and to God what belongs to God.

–Luke 20:25, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

The coin bore the image of Tiberius Caesar.  He was welcome to have it back.

Each of us bears the image of God.  Each of us belongs to God.  Each of us has a mandate to be faithful to God in all matters.  All areas of human life fall under divine authority.  Human, temporal authority is limited, though.

One of the features of segments of Christianity in the United States of America that disturbs me is the near-worship (sometimes worship) of the nation-state.  I refer not exclusively to any given administration and/or nation-state.  Administrations come and go.  Nation-states rise and fall.  The principle of which I write remains constant.  In my North American context, the Americanization of the Gospel in the service of a political program and/or potentate dilutes and distorts the Gospel.  The purposes of the Gospel include confronting authority, not following it blindly.  True Judeo-Christian religion has a sharp prophetic edge that informs potentates how far they fall short of God’s ideals and that no nation-state is the Kingdom of God.

We have only one king anyway.  That monarch is YHWH, as N. T. Wright correctly insists in Jesus and the Victory of God (1996).  Jesus defies human definitions of monarchy.  This is a prominent theme in the Gospel of John.  Yet the theme of Christ the King Sunday is timeless.  Despite appearances to the contrary, God remains sovereign.










Devotions for Friday and Saturday Before Proper 29, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:   Jehoiakim

Image in the Public Domain

Good and Bad Shepherds

NOVEMBER 18 and 19, 2022


The Collect:

O God, our true life, to serve you is freedom, and to know you is unending joy.

We worship you, we glorify you, we give thanks to you for your great glory.

Abide with us, reign in us, and make this world into a fit habitation for your divine majesty,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53


The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 11:1-17 (Friday)

Jeremiah 22:18-30 (Saturday)

Psalm 46 (Both Days)

1 Peter 1:3-9 (Friday)

Luke 18:15-17 (Saturday)


God is our refuge and our strength,

a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved,

and though the mountains be toppled into the depths of the sea;

Though its waters rage and foam,

and though the mountains tremble at its tumult.

The LORD of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

–Psalm 46:1-4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The reading from Second Zechariah is an allegory of a selfish and foolish shepherd who, instead of protecting the sheep of his flock, sells them to their slaughterer for the sum of thirty shekels of silver.  The identification of the shepherd (code for political leader) is open-ended, and the price for which he sells the sheep of his flock to their doom is the same amount Judas Iscariot went on to receive for betraying Jesus in Matthew 26:14-16.  One might surmise correctly that many members of Matthew’s audience, being Jews familiar with their scriptural heritage, would have recognized the echo of Zechariah 11.

Perhaps Second Zechariah was thinking of monarchs such as Jehoiakim (reigned 608-598 B.C.E.), of whom one can read in Jeremiah 22:13-19, 2 Kings 23:36-24:7, and 2 Chronicles 36:5-8, and of his son, Jeconiah/Jehoiachin (reigned 597 B.C.E.), of whom one can read in Jeremiah 22:20-30, 2 Kings 24:8-17, and 2 Chronicles 36:9-10.  Jehoiachin was the penultimate King of Judah, and, by the time of his deposition by a foreign potentate, the realm Kingdom of Judah was obviously independent in name only.

Of Jehoiakim, father of Jehoiachin, Jeremiah 22 says in part:

Woe to him who builds his house on wrong,

his terraces on injustice;

Who works his neighbor without pay,

and gives him no wages.

Who says, “I will build myself a spacious house,

with airy rooms,”

Who cuts out windows for it,

panels it with cedar,

and paints it with vermillion.

–Verses 13-14, The New American Bible (1991)

Such shepherds abound, unfortunately.  I refer not to those who strive to do the right thing for their populations yet fail to accomplish their goals, but to those to operate not out of any sense of seeking the common good but out of greed, self-aggrandisement, and indifference toward justice, especially that of the economic variety.

Among the most familiar images of Jesus in the Gospels is that of the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-21), who not only watches his flock attentively but lays down his life for it.  The Good Shepherd is the polar opposite of the shepherd in Zechariah 11.  The Good Shepherd is Jesus in 1 Peter 1 and the figure who points to powerless children as spiritual models in Luke 18.  The Good Shepherd is one consistent with the description of God in Psalm 46.

To be a sheep in the flock of the Good Shepherd is wonderful indeed.









Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 19, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Sky with Rainbow

Above:   Sky with Rainbow

Image in the Public Domain

Redemption and Related Responsibilities

SEPTEMBER 8-10, 2022


The Collect:

O God, overflowing with mercy and compassion,

you lead back to yourself all those who go astray.

Preserve your people in your loving care,

that we may reject whatever is contrary to you

and may follow all things that sustain our life in

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47


The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 6:1-6 (Thursday)

Genesis 7:6-10; 8:1-5 (Friday)

Genesis 8:20-9:7 (Saturday)

Psalm 51:1-10 (All Days)

1 Timothy 1:1-11 (Thursday)

2 Peter 2:1-10a (Friday)

John 10:11-21 (Saturday)


Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth,

a sinner from my mother’s womb.

–Psalm 51:6, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The comedian Lewis Black told a joke explaining why God seems more violent in the Hebrew Bible than in the New Testament.  Having a son calmed him down.  That is, of course, bad theology, for it falls under the heading of the Arian heresy.  Furthermore, the God of the Book of Revelation is not the deity of “Kum ba Yah,” a song I despise for several reasons.  The Smiter-in-Chief is in full form in the composite story of Noah, based on older stories.

Rewritten folklore and mythology in the Bible presents us with the opportunity to ponder profound theology.  We might think that we know a particular tale better than we actually do, so we ought to avoid switching on the automatic pilot.  Human immorality saddens God’s heart in Genesis 6:6, but Noah has found favor with God.  “Noah,” in Hebrew, is “favor” spelled backward.  A note in The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) tells me that this

indicates that human perversion and divine grief will not be the last word.

–page 19

Furthermore, the Hebrew word for the ark occurs in just one other story in the Hebrew Bible.  It applies also to the basket containing young Moses in Exodus 2.  Again The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) helps me dig deeper into the scriptures:

Noah foreshadows Moses even as Moses, removed from the water, foreshadows the people Israel, whom he leads to safety through the death-dealing sea that drowns their oppressors (Exod. chs 14-15).  The great biblical tale of redemption occurs first in a shorter, universal form, then in a longer, particularistic one.

–page 20

The author of Psalm 51 (traditionally King David, but knows for sure?) understood human sinfulness well.  So did the author of 1 Timothy, writing under the name of St. Paul the Apostle.  Laws, he noted,

are not framed for people who are good.

–1:9, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

That statement applies to divine law, certainly.  Indeed, in context, it pertains to the Law of Moses.  That code, containing timeless principles and culturally specific examples thereof, sometimes becomes a confusing array of laws.  Many people mistake culturally specific examples for timeless principles, thereby falling into legalism.  The pillars of that code are:

  1. We mere mortals are totally dependent on God,
  2. We humans depend upon each other also,
  3. We humans are responsible for each other, and
  4. We humans are responsible to each other.

Turning to John 10, we read of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.  The sheep need the shepherd, who protects them and lays down his life for them.  The sheep also know the shepherd’s voice.  I, as a Christian, am one of the sheep.  I know my need for God and the ease with which I yield to many temptations.  The laws of God exist for people such as me.  Divine guidance and redemption play out in my life.

The individual part of religion is important, of course, but it is hardly everything.  The collective aspect is crucial also.  This truth is especially evident in Judaism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Roman Catholicism.  Much of Protestantism, however, has gone overboard with regard to individualism.  Redemption is not just my story or your story.  No, it is our story as we relate to God and God relates to us.  Society exerts a powerful influence upon our notions of morality and reverence; it shapes us, just as we influence it.  May we be salt and light, shaping society according to the four pillars of the Law of Moses and according to the unconditional and free (yet not cheap) love of God.







Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 12, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

St. Edward's, Lawrenceville

Above:  St. Edward’s Episcopal Church, Lawrenceville, Georgia, October 19, 2014

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Four Banquets

JULY 28, 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:

Isaiah 25:6-10a

Psalm 111

Mark 6:35-44


He has provided food for his worshippers;

he remembers his covenant for ever.

–Psalm 111:5, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)


This is a post about four banquets:  the divine coronation feast in Isaiah 25:6-10a, the sordid feast of Herod Antipas in Mark 6:14-29, the Feeding of the 5000 (Plus) in Mark 6:30-44, and the Holy Eucharist.

The reading from Isaiah 25 speaks of a time immediately after Yahweh has defeated pride, evil, and sorrow, and established the Kingdom of God, in its fullness, on the Earth.  This is a time in our future.  All people are welcome at Yahweh’s coronation feast, to take place on Mount Zion, in Jerusalem.  All is well, except for those whom God has vanquished, namely the Moabites (25:10).

Our next two banquets, which stand is stark contrast to each other, come from Mark 6.  The first is a sordid event, with Herod Antipas lusting after the seductive Salome (whose name and image come to us via archaeology, not the Bible) and making a hasty promise which leads to the execution of St. John the Baptist.  The Herodian family tree was complicated, for both Herodias and her daughter, Salome, were granddaughters of Herod the Great via different women.  Herod Antipas, a son of Herod the Great via a third woman, married Herodias, who had been the wife of a half-brother of Herod Antipas.  Thus Salome was the step-daughter and a cousin of Herod Antipas.

I will not attempt to explain the Feeding the 5000 (Plus) rationally, for doing that constitutes seeking an answer to the wrong question.  (And I am more of a rationalist than a mystic.)  Neither will I try to explain Jesus walking on water (next in Mark 6) logically, for the same reason.  No, I am interested in answering the question which compelled one of my spiritual mentors whenever he studied any passage of scripture:

What is really going on here?

The Markan account of the Feeding of the 5000 men (no word about the number of women and children) uses imagery from elsewhere in the Bible.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd feeding the flock.  His feeding of the multitude exceeds Elisha’s feeding of 100 men (2 Kings 4:42-44) and Elijah’s miracle of the refilling jug of oil (1 Kings 17:8-16).  The messianic banquet, an echo of Isaiah 25:6-10a, recurs in the wilderness motif in subsequent pseudipigraphal works, such as in 2 Baruch 29:4 and 4 Ezra 6:52.  Two main ideas stand out in my mind:

  1. Jesus is greater than Elijah and Elisha (see Mark 6:15, in which some people thought that Jesus was Elijah), and
  2. Nothing we bring to Jesus is inadequate in his capable hands.  There will be leftovers after he has finished working with it.  We are insufficient by ourselves yet more than sufficient in Christ.  That is what grace can effect.

The eucharistic imagery in Mark 6 points to the fourth banquet, which I, as an Episcopalian, celebrate at least once weekly.  The Holy Eucharist has constituted the core of my spiritual life since childhood.  One reason I left the United Methodism of my youth was to have the opportunities to partake of the sacrament more often.  In the Holy Eucharist I meet Jesus in the forms of bread and wine and swear loyalty to him again.  No, I am not worthy on my merit (such as it is) to do this, but I rely on his merits to make me worthy to do so.  The first step to becoming worthy is acknowledging one’s unworthiness.

The contrast between human systems built on the foundation of violence, exploitation, and oppression on one hand and the Kingdom of God on the other hand is clear.  Injustice and artificial scarcity characterize the former, but justice and abundance for all distinguish the latter.  We can experience a foretaste of the Kingdom of God, which is partially present already, but we await the fullness of the Kingdom.  Until then we can, at least, leave the world better off than we found it.  No effort toward this goal is too little in Christ’s capable hands.








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

Good Shepherd

Above:   Christ, the Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain

Sheep and Shepherds

JULY 19-21, 2021


The Collect:

O God, powerful and compassionate,

you shepherd your people, faithfully feeding and protecting us.

Heal each of us, and make us a whole people,

that we may embody the justice and peace of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42


The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 50:1-7 (Monday)

Zechariah 9:14-10:2 (Tuesday)

2 Samuel 5:1-12 (Wednesday)

Psalm 100 (All Days)

Hebrews 13:17-25 (Monday)

Acts 20:17-38 (Tuesday)

Luke 15:1-7 (Wednesday)


Shout joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;

serve the LORD with gladness;

come before him with joyful song.

Know that the LORD is God,

he made us, we belong to him,

we are his people, the flock he shepherds.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

his courts with praise.

Give thanks to him, bless his name;

good indeed is the LORD,

his faithfulness lasts through every generation.

–Psalm 100, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2010)


All of the assigned readings for these three days speak of sheep and shepherds:

  1. God is the shepherd in Psalm 100.
  2. God is the shepherd-divine warrior who will end the Babylonian Exile in Jeremiah 50:1-7 and Zechariah 9:14-10:2.
  3. David, a troublesome character, is the shepherd-king in 2 Samuel 5:1-12.
  4. Jesus is the Good Shepherd in Luke 15:1-7.
  5. St. Paul the Apostle is the shepherd warning of “fierce wolves” in Acts 20:17-38.
  6. Faithful church leaders are the shepherds worthy of obedience in Hebrews 13:17-25.

Now I proceed to unpack some themes:

  1. The core of church doctrine, as in the question of the nature of Christ, developed over centuries, during which debates, arguments, and street brawls, and knife fights occurred in the name of sorting out proper theology.  Much of what we Christians take for granted these days came about over five centuries, give or take a few years.  Even the latest book in the New Testament did not exist until the end of the first century of the Common Era, and consensus regarding canonical status required more time to form.  In that context obeying orthodox bishops made a great deal of sense, although the definition of orthodoxy shifted over time.  Origen, for example, was orthodox in his day yet heterodox ex post facto.
  2. The parable from Luke 15:1-7 assumes a team of shepherds, so one shepherd could leave to seek a lost sheep without fear of losing more animals.
  3. That parable tells us that all people matter to Jesus.  They should, therefore, matter to us also.
  4. One metaphor for kings in the Bible is shepherds.  Some shepherds are good, but others are bad, unfortunately.  Good kings do what is best for all the people, especially the vulnerable ones.
  5. God is the best shepherd, protecting the flock, seeking an unbroken and unforgotten covenant with it, and searching for the lost sheep.  The flock can be bigger, and we can, by grace, function well as junior shepherds, subordinate to God, the senior shepherd.

I notice the community theme inherent in the metaphor of the flock.  We depend upon God, the ultimate shepherd, and upon the other shepherds in the team.  We also depend upon and bear responsibilities toward each other, for we follow the lead of others–often the lead of fellow sheep.  Sometimes this is for better, but often it is for worse.  Sticking together and following the proper leader is essential for group survival and for individual survival.

May we, by grace, recognize the voice of God, our ultimate shepherd, and follow it.








Devotion for June 2 in Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Design Drawing for Stained-Glass Window Showing Cross with Crook and Lambs with Text, ” I am the Good Shepherd”

Image Source = Library of Congress

Ecclesiastes and John, Part VI:  Jesus or Koheleth?

JUNE 2, 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:

Ecclesiastes 10:1-20

Psalm 67 (Morning)

Psalms 46 and 93 (Evening)

John 10:1-21


Some Related Posts:

Litany of the Good Shepherd:

O Thou Who Art the Shepherd:

Shepherd of Tender Youth:

Very Bread, Good Shepherd, Tend Us:

Shepherd of Souls:

The King of Love My Shepherd Is:


Ecclesiastes 10 consists of assorted sayings regarding various topics.  One set (verses 5-7) considers disregard of hierarchy an “evil.”  Koheleth’s denunciation of disregard for hierarchy provides the link between Ecclesiastes 10 and John 10.  The Incarnation meant (and continues to mean) a great deal, but certainly (yet not exclusively)  the disregard of hierarchy.

The Son of Man came to serve and not to be served….


The shepherd lays down his life for his sheep….

These are not the sayings of one who insisted on his rights and privileges as part of a hierarchy.  After all, the greatest among us must be the servant of all, as the youngest, and therefore the one with the least power, if any.

Jesus or Koheleth?  I choose Jesus.






Week of Proper 14: Tuesday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  A Shepherd

There is Hope Yet

AUGUST 9, 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.


Ezekiel 2:8-3:4 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

[And He said to me,]–per 2:1

And you, mortal, heed what I say to you:  Do not be rebellious like that rebellious breed.  Open your mouth and eat what I am giving you.

As I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me, holding a written scroll.  He unrolled it before me, and it was inscribed on the front and the back; on it were written lamentations, dirges, and woes.

He said me,

Mortal, eat what is offered you; eat this scroll, and go speak to the House of Israel.

So I opened my mouth, and He gave me this scroll to eat, as He said to me,

Mortal, feed your stomach and fill your belly with this scroll that I give you.

I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey.

Then He said to me,

Mortal, go to the House of Israel and repeat My very words to them…..

Psalm 119:65-72 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

65  O LORD, you have dealt graciously with your servant,

according to your word.

66  Teach me discernment and knowledge,

for I have believed in your commandments.

67  Before I was afflicted I went astray,

but now I keep your word.

68  You are good and you bring forth good;

instruct me in your statutes.

69  The proud have smeared me with lies,

but I will keep your commandments with my whole heart.

70  Their heart is gross and fat,

but my delight is in your law.

71  It is good for me that I have been afflicted,

that I might learn your statutes.

72  The law of your mouth is dearer to me

than thousands in gold and silver.

Matthew 18:1-6, 10-14 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

It was at this time that the disciples came to Jesus with the question,

Who is really greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?

Jesus called a little child to his side and set him on his feet in the middle of them all.

Believe me,

he said,

unless you change your whole outlook and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.  It is the man who can be as humble as this little child who is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven.

Anyone who welcomes one child like this for my sake is welcoming me.  But if anyone leads astray one of these little children who believe in me he would be better off thrown into the depths of the sea with a mill-stone round his neck!…

Be careful that you never despise a single one of these little ones–for I tell you that they have angels who see my Father’s face continually in Heaven.

What do you think?  If a man has a hundred sheep and one wanders away from the rest, won’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hill-side and set out to look for the one who has wandered away?  Yes, and if he should chance to find it I assure you he is more delighted over that one than he is over the ninety-nine who never wandered away.  You can understand then that it is never the will of your Father in Heaven that a single one of these little ones should be lost.


The Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


The unifying theme for this day is hope.  In Ezekiel, God commissions the prophet to preach to a rebellious people.  The people might be rebellious, but they are not beyond repentance and forgiveness.  There is hope yet.  And the lost sheep is valuable to the shepherd.  There is hope yet.

In Handel’s Messiah, in the chorus, “For we, like sheep, have gone astray,” the voice parts wander and roam at the word “astray.”  It is a nice touch in that oratorio.  When we, as individuals, have gone astray, God seeks us out.  When we, as groups of various sizes, have gone astray, God seeks us out.  It is not too late to return.

The reading from Ezekiel does contain a fascinating detail, one worth exploring here.  The words of God were “lamentations, dirges, and woes,” yet Ezekiel reports that they “tasted as sweet as honey.”  My mind turns from this point to Psalm 19:9-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold,

more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey,

than honey in the comb.

By them is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

Psalm 19:9-11 complements Ezekiel 2:8-3:4 nicely.

We might not understand the decrees of God.  And, if we do, we might find them (or at least some of them) shocking and uncomfortable.  If so, may we become like Ezekiel, who considered them “as sweet as honey.”  Then, by words and deeds, may we proclaim the means of repentance and forgiveness to others.  There is hope yet.


Proper 11, Year B   26 comments

Above:  Mosaic of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, from Ravenna, Italy

Beyond Estrangement

The Sunday Closest to July 20

The Eighth Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 18, 2021



2 Samuel 7:1-14a (New Revised Standard Version):

When David, the king, was settled in his house, and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan,

See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.

Nathan said to the king,

Go, do all that you have in mind; for the LORD is with you.

But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan:

Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the LORD: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the LORD of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.

Psalm 89:20-37 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

20  I have found David my servant;

with my holy oil have I anointed him.

21  My hand will hold him fast

and my arm will make him strong.

22  No enemy shall deceive him,

nor any wicked man bring him down.

23  I will crush his foes before him

and strike down those who hate him.

24  My faithfulness and love shall be with him,

and he shall be victorious through my Name.

25  I shall make his dominion extend

from the Great Sea to the River.

26  He will say to you, ‘You are my Father,

my God, and the rock of my salvation.’

27  I will make him my firstborn

and higher than the kings of the earth.

28  I will keep my love for him for ever,

and my covenant will stand firm for him.

29  I will establish his line for ever

and his throne as the days of heaven.”

30  ”If his children forsake my law

and do not walk according to my judgments;

31  If they break my statutes

and do not keep my commandments;

32  I will punish their transgressions with a rod

and their iniquities with the lash;

33  But I will not take my love from him,

nor let my faithfulness prove false.

34  I will not break my covenant,

nor change what has gone out of lips.

35  Once for all I have sworn by my holiness:

‘I will not lie to David.

36  His line shall endure for ever

and his throne as the sun before me;

37  It shall stand fast for evermore like the moon,

the abiding witness in the sky.'”


Jeremiah 23:1-6 (New Revised Standard Version):

Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!

says the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people:

It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the LORD. Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing,

says the LORD.

The days are surely coming,

says the LORD,

when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The LORD is our righteousness.”

Psalm 23 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The LORD is my shepherd;

I shall not be in want.

2  He makes me lie down in green pastures

and leads me beside still waters.

3  He revives my soul

and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.

4  Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I shall fear no evil;

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

5  You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me;

you have anointed my head with oil,

and my cup is running over.

6  Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.


Ephesians 2:11-22 (New Revised Standard Version):

Remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called “the uncircumcision” by those who are called “the circumcision” — a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands– remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.


Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 (New Revised Standard Version):

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them,

Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.

For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

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.


Some Related Posts:

Proper 11, Year A:

2 Samuel 7:

Jeremiah 23:

Mark 6:

Matthew 14 (Parallel to Mark 6):


The Pauline reading from Ephesians (from perhaps 58-59 C.E.) speaks of reconciliation in Christ between Jews and Gentiles.  Members of the two groups “are no longer strangers and aliens, but…citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.”  It is a beautiful vision.

History, however, tells a different story.  The estrangement between Christians and Jews was unmistakable by 85 C.E., at the composition of the Gospel of Matthew, written to Jewish Christians, marginalized members of the Jewish community.  And, about a decade later, came the Gospel of John, which utilizes invective against Jews.  From there the history of Christian Anti-Semitism spans millennia and includes shameful instances of violence and discrimination.

It did not have to be this way.  Beyond Jewish-Christian relations, there is a long and shameful history of professing Christians justifying and perpetrating racism, xenophobia, nativism, and other forms of hatred toward their fellow human beings.  It did not have to be this way.  It does not have to be this way.  It does not have to continue to be this way.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd of all sheep who will come to him and all whom he draws successfully to himself.  We sheep are Gentiles, Jews, members of various racial and ethnic groups, parts of various cultures and subcultures, heterosexuals and homosexuals.  In Christ there is no hostility among us.  So, if such hostility does exist among us, we are not mutually in Christ, are we?

There is much work to do.  We have communities to build and walls to destroy.  All of this work is in Christ, our Good Shepherd.