Archive for the ‘Isaiah 55’ Tag

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

Above:  The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, by Rembrandt Van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

The Faithfulness and Generosity of God

OCTOBER 1, 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)


Isaiah 55:6-9

Psalm 27:1-13 (LBW) or Psalm 27:1-9 (LW)

Philippians 1:1-5 (6-11), 19-27

Matthew 20:1-16


Lord God, you call us to work in your vineyard

and leave no one standing idle. 

Set us to our tasks in the work of your kingdom,

and help us to order our lives by your wisdom;

through your Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 28


Keep, we pray you, O Lord, your Church with your perpetual mercy;

and because without you we cannot but fall,

keep us ever by your help from all things hurtful

and lead us to all things profitable for our salvation;

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 81-82


Grace does not discriminate based on when one accepts it; all who accept grace receive the same rewards and the same duties to God and other human beings.  The call to repentance from immediately before the end of the Babylonian Exile (Isaiah 55) remains current.  Repentance is an appropriate response to grace.  St. Paul the Apostle’s call for the Philippian congregation always to

behave in a manner that is worthy of the gospel of Christ


remains current for congregations, all levels of the institutional church, and individuals.

Resentment is a motif in some of the parables of Jesus.  Think O reader, of the Prodigal Son’s older brother, for example.  Recall that he honored his father and fulfilled his duty.  So, why was that disrespecful wastrel getting an extravagant party upon returning home?  One may easily identify with the grumbling of laborers who thought they should receive more than a day’s wages because people who started working later in the day also received the promised payment of a denarius.

Are you envious because I am generous?  

–Matthew 15:15b, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

That is God’s question to grumbling, dutiful people today, too.  All people depend completely on grace.  Those who grumble and harbor resentment over divine generosity need to repent of doing so.  To refuse to repent of this is to behave in a manner unworthy of the gospel of Christ.









Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA


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

Above:  Cross and Crown

Image in the Public Domain

A Royal Nation

AUGUST 13, 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)


Isaiah 55:1-5

Psalm 104:25-31 (LBW) or Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26 (LW)

Romans 8:35-39

Matthew 14:13-21


Gracious Father,

your blessed Son came down from heaven

to be the true bread which gives life to the world. 

Give us this bread,

that he may live in us and we in him,

Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.


Almighty God, judge of us all,

you have placed in our hands the wealth we call our own. 

Give us such wisdom by your Spirit

that our possessions may not be a curse in our lives,

but an instrument for blessing;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 26


Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church;

and because it cannot continue in safety without your help,

protect and govern it always by your goodness;

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 73


The story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, present in all four canonical Gospels, is a topic about which I have written many times during the years I have been composing lectionary-based posts.  I refer you, O reader, to those posts for more about that event.

Second Isaiah applied the Davidic Covenant to the people of Judah, delivered from the Babylonian Exile.  He wrote that the Jewish people had royal status, not a human king.  This transformation of the Davidic Covenant accounted for the fall of the Davidic Dynasty in 587/586 B.C.E.  Historically, that dynasty never returned to power.  Second Isaiah, having democratized the Davidic Covenant, did not include an idealized future king–the Messiah–in his theology.  This vision of the future contrasted with Second Zechariah, who wrote of such a Davidic monarch in Zechariah 9:9-12.

God provided for that royal nation.  The authors of Psalms 104 and 136 also understood God as being active in nature and history.  The theme of God feeding people carried over into the Feeding of the Five Thousand.

For I am certain of this:  neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power in the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

–Romans 8:38-39, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

This is excellent news!  Do you, O reader, trust that this is true?

Psalm 23 tells us that divine kindness and faithful love either pursue or accompany (depending on the translation) us, even in the presence of our enemies.  God is on our side.  Are we on God’s side?

The people of God are a royal nation.  May we think and act accordingly, loving God fully and our neighbors (all people) as ourselves.










Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA


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

Above:  St. Paul the Apostle

Image in the Public Domain

The Renewal of All Things

JULY 23, 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)


Isaiah 55:10-11

Psalm 65

Romans 8:18-25

Matthew 13:1-9 (18-23)


Almighty God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your word. 

By your Holy Spirit help us to receive it with joy,

live according to it,

and grow in faith and hope and love;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.


Lord God, use our lives to touch the world with your love. 

Stir us, by your Spirit, to be neighbors to those in need,

serving them with willing hearts;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 25


O almighty and most merciful God,

of your bountiful goodness keep us, we pray,

from all things that may hurt us that we,

being ready in both body and soul,

may cheerfully accomplish whatever things you want done;

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), 69


When reading the assigned lessons in preparation for drafting a post, I often notice that one lesson is an outlier.  Today I choose to focus on the outlier.  The theme of God sowing, complete with the Matthean version of the Parable of the Sower/the Four Soils, is a topic about which I have written and posted more than once.  You, O reader, may access my analysis of that parable by following the germane tags attached to this post.  I also refer you to this post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

Romans 8:18-25 flows from what precedes it immediately:  Christians are heirs–sons, literally–of God, through Jesus, the Son of God.  The gendered language is a reflection of St. Paul the Apostle’s cultural setting, in which sons, not daughters, inherited.  As “sons of God,” we Christians bear witness with the Holy Spirit that we are members of the household of God.

Literally, Christians are “sons of God” or have received the “spirit of sonship” in verses 14, 15, and 23.  We are “children of God” in verses 16, 17, and 21, though.  (I checked the Greek texts.)  These distinctions are obvious in translations that do not neuter the Greek text.  I check genders (male, female, and neuter) via the Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002).  My historical training tells me that before I can interpret a document in context, I must know what the document says.

Romans 8:18-30, from which we extract 8:18-25, tells of the renewal of all things.  In the midst of suffering, the future glory of the human race in God still awaits.  The renewal of creation itself awaits.  The sufferings are birth pangs.  Meanwhile, Christians must wait with patience and expectation.

For obvious reasons, I leave comments about birth pangs to women who have given birth.

St. Paul the Apostle understood suffering for Christ.  St. Paul the Apostle mustered optimism in dark times, by grace.  This has always astounded me.  I, having endured suffering less severe than that of St. Paul the Apostle, have found depression and pessimism instead.

I write this post during dark times for the world.  The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage around the world.  Authoritarian forces endanger representative governments around the world.  Polarization has increased to the point that opposite camps have their own facts.  (Objective reality be damned!)  I have found more causes for depression and pessimism than for optimism.

Yet St. Paul the Apostle, speaking to us down the corridors of time, tells us that these are birth pangs of a better world.  I hope that is correct.  I pray that these are not birth pangs of a dystopia.









Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA


Devotion for Proper 21, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  St. Peter Paying the Temple Tax

Image in the Public Domain

Living in Community

OCTOBER 1, 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 43:1-15, 26-30 or Isaiah 55:1-13

Psalm 28

1 Corinthians 10:19-33

Matthew 17:22-18:5


We have obligations to each other.  Even what we do (or do not do) in private affects other people.  We should, for example, want scoundrels and wicked people to repent (as in Isaiah 55:7), not give up on them (as in Psalm 28:4).  We should seek reconciliation, as Joseph was preparing to instigate, in Genesis 43.  We should not abuse our freedom to the detriment of others.  In Christ we are free to become our best selves.

The story in Matthew 17:24-27 requires unpacking.

The tax in question was the Temple tax of one didrachmon–a half-shekel.  Every Jewish male was to pay it annually, although enforcement was not rigorous.  The scriptural basis of the Temple tax was Exodus 30:13.  It was a controversial tax for more than one reason.  For the poor the tax–two days’ wages of a laborer–was a burden.  Essenes argued that the tax was properly a once-in-a-lifetime payment.  Sadducees thought that the tax should be voluntary.  Jesus, who seemed to have a low opinion of taxation (see also Matthew 22:15-22), nevertheless decided not to cause offense.

I have no difficulty accepting this story as genuine.  Yet it, like so many stories, carries more than one meaning, depending on the time of the reading or hearing of it.  Consider, O reader, the year of the composition of the Gospel of Matthew–85 C.E. or so.

There was no more Temple yet a version of tax remained.  Roman forces had destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 C.E.  A two-drachma tribute to Rome was due annually, and Roman authorities enforced tax laws.  In the Christian context giving to the church was properly voluntary.  For Jewish Christians, marginal within Judaism, their identity remained Jewish; they did not seek to offend.

In my cultural-political setting–North America in 2018–the culture is moving in more than one direction simultaneously.  On one hand politics and culture are coarsening.  On the other hand efforts to avoid causing offense are become more prominent, sometimes to ridiculous extremes.  Meanwhile, people from various points on the spectrum have become more likely to take offense.  “Snowflakes” come in various political stripes.  Everything is controversial; there is probably nothing that does not offend somebody, somewhere.

I, as a human being, have responsibilities to my fellow human beings, who have responsibilities to me.  I, for example, have no moral right to spout racial and ethnic slurs and/or stereotypes, not that I would ever do that.  Quoting them in certain contexts, in which one’s disapproval is plain, is justifiable, however.  I have a responsibility to consider the sensibilities of others–to a reasonable point.  Yet I know that, whatever I do, I will offend someone, for somebody will be of a mind to take offense.  I am responsible for doing my best to be respectful.  I am also responsible to others not to be ridiculously sensitive, thereby doing nothing or too little.

Where should one draw the line separating responsible self-restraint in the name of not offending the consciences of others from overdoing it and still failing in not causing offense because some people are snowflakes?  The answer to that question varies according to circumstances.  One, relying on grace, should do one’s best.  If one needs to do better, one can do that, by grace.  One is not responsible for the thin skins of others.









Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 13, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Church of the Multiplication, Tabgha, Israel

Above:  Church of the Multiplication, Tabgha, Israel

Image in the Public Domain

With God There Are Leftovers

AUGUST 4, 2021


The Collect:

O God, eternal goodness, immeasurable love,

you place your gifts before us; we eat and are satisfied.

Fill us and this world in all its need with the life that comes only from you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 55:1-9

Psalm 107:1-3, 33-43

Mark 8:1-10


Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

and his mercy endures for ever.

Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim

that he rendered them from the hand of the foe.

He gathered them out of the lands;

from the east and from the west,

from the north and from the south.

–Psalm 107:1-3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


Repentance is an option, even late in the game, so to speak.  God, who glorifies the chosen people and remains faithful to divine promises, invites those who need to change their minds and ways to do so.  The more people who are present at the divine banquet, the merrier.

Speaking of banquets, Mark 8:1-10 tells of Jesus feeding 4000 people (not just men) with a few fishes and loaves of bread.  I refuse to try to explain the Feeding of the 4000 and the 5000 (Plus) (Mark 6:30-44) rationally for the same reason, which is that to do so is address the wrong question.  I focus instead on one detail:  there was more afterward than before.

Some people think that they have nothing to offer or that what they have to offer is inadequate, so they do not offer it to God for divine purposes.  God, however, can multiply those gifts and talents, leaving leftovers.  Many people need to repent of their failure to trust in God’s strength instead of their own.  These are not evil people, just weak ones with psychological and emotional issues.  At some point in each of us has been among this population.  Others of us remain in their ranks.

The graciousness of God to the Hebrews in Isaiah 55 benefited the world (verse 5).  God’s blessings to any one of us can and should benefit others.  If we trust God to multiply that which we have to offer, as meager as it might seem, it will enrich the lives of more people than we can imagine, for the glory of God.








Proper 3, Year C   Leave a comment

Above:  A Fire Extinguisher

Image Source = KRoock74

Conversations, Trees, and Fruits

The Sunday Closest to May 25




Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 27:4-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

When a sieve is shaken, the refuse appears;

so do a person’s faults when he speaks.

The kiln tests the potter’s vessels;

so the test of a person is in his conversation.

Its fruit discloses the cultivation of a tree;

so a person’s speech discloses the cultivation of his mind.

Do not praise anyone before he speaks,

for this is the way people are tested.


Isaiah 55:10-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,

and do not return there until they have watered the earth,

making it bring forth and sprout,

giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;

it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

For you shall go out in joy,

and be led back in peace;

the mountains and the hills before you

shall burst into song,

and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;

instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;

and it shall be to the LORD for a memorial,

for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.


Psalm 92:1-4, 11-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  It is a good thing to give thanks to the LORD,

and to sing praises to your Name, O Most High;

2  To tell of your loving-kindness early in the morning

and of your faithfulness in the night season;

3  On the psaltery, and on the lyre

and to the melody of the harp.

4  For you have made me glad by your acts, O LORD;

and I shout for joy because of the works of your hands.

11  The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,

and shall spread abroad like a cedar of Lebanon.

12  Those who are planted in the house of the LORD

shall flourish in the courts of our God.

13  They shall still bear fruit in old age;

they shall be green and succulent;

14  That they may show how upright the LORD is,

my Rock, in whom there is no fault.


1 Corinthians 15:50-58 (New Revised Standard Version):

What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this:  flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  Listen, I tell you a mystery!  We will not all die, but we will be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality.  When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:

Death, has been swallowed up in victory.

Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.


Luke 6:39-49 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] also told a parable to them,

Can one blind man guide another?  Surely both will fall into a pit?  The disciple is not superior to this teacher; the fully trained disciple will always be like his teacher.  Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye,’ when you cannot see the plank in your own?  Hypocrite!  Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter that is in your brother’s eye.

There is no sound tree that produces rotten fruit, nor again a rotten tree that produces sound fruit.  For every tree can be told by its own fruit; people do not pick figs from thorns, nor gather grapes from brambles.  A good man draws what is good from the store of goodness in his heart; a bad man draws what is bad from the store of badness.  For a man’s words from what fills his heart.

Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” and not do what I say?

Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and acts on them–I will show you what he is like.  He is like the man who when he built his house dug, and dug deep, and laid the foundations on rock; when the river was in flood it bore down on that house  but could not shake it, it was so well built.  But the one who listens and does nothing is like the man who built his house on soil, with no foundations:  as soon as the river bore down on it, it collapsed; and what a ruin that house became!

The Collect:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Proper 3, Year A:

Proper 3, Year B:

Isaiah 55:

Luke 6:


My grandfather Taylor, whom I do not remember (He died when I was three years old) said that it was better to be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.  That quote came to mind as I made connections among the readings.  Both “Luke” and Jesus ben Sira apply the metaphor of a tree and its fruits to one’s spiritual life.  And the latter writes of one’s conversations as evidence of

the cultivation of his mind

and as a test.  I thought of our Lord’s later comment that what goes into a person’s mouth does not defile him or her; what comes out of his or her mouth does that.  (Read Matthew 15:10 forward.)  To defile was literally

to make one common,

a meaning the late J. B. Phillips made clear in his translations of the New Testament.  Ritual purity set one apart from the great unwashed mass of people; it was about negative identity:

I am not like them.

I want to be careful here.  Christianity, in its pure form, is not overly individualistic; it is more concerned with the community and the individual in that context.  Yet Christianity, in its pure form, does encourage a vital interior life.  If that is not what it ought to be, one’s behavior (including conversation) will reveal this face.  The spiritual fig will not fall far from the tree.

The tongue, James 3:1-2 tells us, is powerful.  The text contains the metaphor of a large forest fire in reference to the negative effects of improper speech, likened also to poison.  Imagine, therefore, O reader, modern metaphors for proper speech and conversation:  a fire extinguisher, flame retardant, an antidote, et cetera.

Such as one thinks, so one is.  The content of one’s character can change, for many people have changed.  The theological term for that is repentance.  The victory is possible via God, in particular through Jesus.  Thus hope for such victory is not in vain; rather, it is well-placed.







 Modified on June 26, 2012 Common Era

Week of Proper 14: Friday, Year 2   1 comment

Above:  A Depiction of the Chaldean/Ne0-Babylonian Destruction of Jerusalem

No More Shame–Just Freedom, Love, and Gratitude

AUGUST 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.



Ezekiel 16:1-15, 59-63 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The word of the LORD came to me:

O mortal, proclaim Jerusalem’s abominations to her, and say:  Thus said the Lord GOD to Jerusalem:  By origin and birth you are from the land of the Canaanites–your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite.  As for your birth, when you were born your navel cord was not cut, and you were not bathed in water to smooth you; you were not rubbed with salt, nor were you swaddled.  No one pitied you enough to do any one of these things for you out of compassion for you; on the day you were born, you were left lying, rejected, in the open field.  When I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you:  “Live in spite of your blood.”  Yea, I let you grow like the plants of the field; and you continued to grow up until you attained to womanhood, until your breasts became firm and your hair sprouted.

You were still naked and bare when I passed by you [again] and saw that your time for love had arrived.  So I spread My robe over you and covered your nakedness, and I entered into a covenant with you by oath

–declares the Lord GOD;

thus you became Mine.  I bathed you in water, and washed the blood off you, and anointed you with oil.  I clothed you with embroidered garments, and gave you sandals of dolphin leather to wear, and wound fine linen about your head, and dressed you in silks.  I decked you out in finery and put bracelets on your arms and a chain around your neck.  I put a ring in your nose, and earrings in your ears, and a splendid crown on your head.  You adorned yourself with gold and silver, and your apparel was of fine linen, silk, and embroidery.  Your food was choice flour, honey, and oil.  You grew more and more beautiful, and became fit for royalty.  Your beauty won you fame among the nations, for it was perfected through the splendor which I set upon you

–declares the Lord GOD.

But confident in your beauty and fame, you played the harlot:  you lavished your favors on every passerby; they were his.

Truly, thus said the Lord GOD:

I will deal with you as you have dealt, for you have spurned the pact and violated the covenant.  Nevertheless, I will remember the covenant I have made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish it with you as an everlasting covenant.  You shall remember your ways and feel ashamed, when you receive your older sisters and younger sisters, and I gave them to you as daughters, though they are not of your covenant.  I will establish My covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD.  Thus you shall remember and feel shame, and you shall be too abashed to open your mouth again, when I have forgiven you for all that you did

–declares the Lord GOD.


Psalm 11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  In the LORD have I taken refuge;

how then can you say to me,

“Fly away like a bird to the hilltop;

2  For see how the wicked bend the bow

and fit their arrows to the string,

to shoot from ambush at the true of heart.

3  When the foundations are being destroyed,

what can the righteous do?”

4  The LORD is in his holy temple;

the LORD’s throne is in heaven.

5  His eyes behold the inhabited world;

his piercing eye weighs our worth.

6  The LORD weighs the righteous as well as the wicked,

but those who delight in violence he abhors.

7  Upon the wicked he shall rain coals of fire and burning sulphur;

a scorching wind shall be their lot.

8  For the LORD is righteous;

he delights in righteous deeds;

and the just shall see his face.


Canticle 10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Isaiah 55:6-11 plus the Trinitarian formula

Seek the Lord while he wills to be found;

call upon him when he draws near.

Let the wicked forsake their ways

and the evil ones their thoughts;

And let them turn to the Lord, and he will have compassion,

and to our God, for he will richly pardon.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

nor your ways my ways, says the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways,

and my thoughts than your thoughts.

For as rain and snow fall from the heavens

and return not again, but water the earth,

Bringing forth life and giving growth,

seed for sowing and bread for eating,

So is my word that goes forth from my mouth;

it will not return to me empty;

But it will accomplish that for which I have purposed,

and prosper in that for which I sent it.

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.


Matthew 19:3-12 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then the Pharisees arrived with a test-question.

Is it right,

they asked,

for a man to divorce his wife on any grounds whatever?

He answered,

Haven’t you read that the one who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the twain shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two separate people but one.  No man therefore must separate what God has joined together.

They retorted,

Then why did Moses command us to give a written divorce notice and dismiss the woman?

He answered,

It was because you knew so little about the meaning of love that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives!  But that was not the original principle.  I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife on any grounds except her unfaithfulness and marries some other woman commits adultery.

His disciples said to him,

If that is a man’s position with his wife, it is not worth getting married!

Jesus replied,

It is not everybody who can accept this principle–only those who have a special gift.  For some are incapable of marriage from birth, some are made incapable by the action of men, and some have made themselves so for the kingdom of Heaven.  Let the man who can accept what I have said accept it.


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.


Some Related Posts:

Regarding Divorce:


The Kingdom of Judah, according to Ezekiel 16, was like an abandoned baby girl.  God had adopted her, raised her to womanhood, adorned her, and treated her like a queen.  Yet she turned to prostitution, that is, entered into alliances with dangerous foreign nations, and even paid her lovers, that is, paid tribute to those nations.  As one continues reading, one reads of the resulting punishment and public humiliation.  And, among her sins, was not supporting the poor and needy (verse 49).  Yet, despite everything, God will establish a covenant with Judah and forgive her:

I will establish My covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD.  Thus you shall remember and feel shame, and you shall be too abashed to open your mouth again, when I have forgiven you for all that you did–declares the Lord GOD.–Ezekiel 16:62-63

Shame is a social construct.  One has only the amount of shame others assign to one.  We humans, being social animals, often internalize such standards.  Thus one must, in order to feel shame, have a sense of honor, another social construct.  Often honor overlaps with a sense of morality, definitions of which owe their shapes partly to social norms.  (In the Antebellum U.S. South, for example, many professing Christians did not consider owning slaves to be immoral.  There was even a prevailing orthodoxy which said that God condoned or commended the practice.)  It is true that sometimes–perhaps much or most of the time–when we sin, we know that we are doing that.  We have our reasons–bad ones, granted–for our actions, but we still know what we are doing.  Or we should know better, if we do not.

There are consequences of actions, but there is also the possibility of forgiveness.  The forgiven should know that they need it.  And there ought to be remorse.  But–here I differ with “Ezekiel”–there is no need to wallow in remorse or shame.  Writing as a Christian, I come from the perspective of one who acknowledges that God has taken the burden of sin away from us.  We impose it on ourselves and each other, but God first took it away from us.

So, liberated from that heavy burden, may we live in freedom and in gratitude to God.  May we love God fully, love our neighbors as ourselves, enjoy God, and glorify our Redeemer.


Proper 13, Year A   29 comments

Above: Byzantine Mosaic of John the Baptist, from Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Image in the Public Domain

Called to Bring People to God

The Sunday Closest to August 3

The Tenth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 6, 2023



Genesis 32:22-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

The same night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said,

Let me go, for the day is breaking.

But Jacob said,

I will not let you go, unless you bless me.

So he said to him,

What is your name?

And he said,


Then the man said,

You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.

Then Jacob asked him,

Please tell me your name.

But he said,

Why is it that you ask my name?

And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying,

For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.

The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

Psalm 17:1-7, 16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hear my plea of innocence, O LORD;

give heed to my cry;

listen to my prayer, which does not come from lying lips.

2 Let my vindication come forth from your presence;

let your eyes be fixed on justice.

3 Weigh my heart, summon me by night,

melt me down; you will find no impurity in me.

4 I give no offense with my mouth as others do;

I have heeded the words of your lips.

5 My footsteps hold fast to the ways of your law;

in your paths my feet shall not stumble.

6 I call upon you, O God, for you will answer me;

incline your ear to me and hear my words.

7 Show me your marvelous loving-kindness,

O Savior of those who take refuge at your right hand

from those who rise up against me.

16 But at my vindication I shall see your face;

when I awake, I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.


Isaiah 55:1-5 (New Revised Standard Version):

Ho, everyone who thirsts,

come to the waters;

and you that have no money,

come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk

without money and without price.

Why do you spend money for that which is not bread,

and your labor for that which does not satisfy?

Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,

and delight yourselves in rich food.

Incline your ear, and come to me;

listen, so that you may live.

I will make with you an everlasting covenant,

my steadfast, sure love for David.

See, I made him a witness to the peoples,

a leader and commander for the peoples.

See, you shall call nations that you do not know,

and nations that do not know you shall run to you,

because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel,

for he has glorified you.

Psalm 145:8-9, 15-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8 The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

9 The LORD is loving to everyone

and his compassion is over all his works.

15 The LORD upholds all those who fall;

he lifts up those who are bowed down.

16 The eyes of all wait upon you, O LORD,

and you give them their food in due season.

17 You open wide your hand

and satisfy the needs of every living creature.

18 The LORD is righteous in all his ways

and loving in all his works.

19 The LORD is near to those who call upon him,

to all who call upon him faithfully.

20 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;

he hears their cry and helps them.

21 The LORD preserves all those who love him,

but he destroys all the wicked.

22 My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD;

let all flesh bless his holy Name for ever and ever.


Romans 9:1-5 (New Revised Standard Version):

I am speaking the truth in Christ– I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit– I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.


Matthew 14:13-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said,

This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.

Jesus said to them,

They need not go away; you give them something to eat.

They replied,

We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.

And he said,

Bring them here to me.

Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

The Collect:

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


The call of God transformed a schemer named Jacob into a the patriarch Israel.  That mandate was to be a light to the nations, and it applied to the Israelite people as a whole.  (It still does.)  To be set aside as chosen is to receive a great responsibility.  This is a matter of duty, not prestige.

That duty is to bring diverse peoples to God.  Read Matthew 13, which contains parables of inclusion.  The mustard plant was inclusive in so far as animals of various species took shelter within it.  This mustard plant was an allegory for the Kingdom of God.  And, when we turn to the wheat field infected with tares and the net full of good and bad fish, we read that God will sort out the good and the bad, the wheat and the weeds, later.

We read also in Matthew 13 that the Kingdom of God is precious, worthy of single-minded devotion.  Consider the brief parables of the pearl and the treasure.

So here we are in Matthew 14, following those parables and the execution of John the Baptist.  He drew people to God.  But lest we oversimplify, and say that we must always be nice, consider the examples of Jesus and John the Baptist.  They used harsh words when appropriate, and they contributed greatly to these holy men going to their deaths.  Read the prophets, also.  Was Jeremiah habitually polite and respectable?  No, of course not.  All these men suffered because of the ways they brought people to God.

Even being nice scared people and put Jesus at risk.  Few actions are nicer than feeding people.  But this and other miracles scared certain individuals who had the power to execute Jesus or to arrange such a death.

Why do we fear good, holy people at any time, in any place?  Sometimes their examples reveal our own shortcomings.  So, instead of seeking to correct our errors, we react defensively.  Or, in the case of Jeremiah, Jesus, and John the Baptist, they threaten power structures–such as domestic and foreign potentates and religious hierarchies.  And, in a society lacking the separation of religion and state, powerful political figures can label theological dissent as treason, or at least a moral threat to society.  This happened in the Byzantine Empire, too, and, in North America, in colonial New England.  (Puritans hanged Quakers.)

So being a light to the nations is a perilous vocation.  But it is God’s call.  It is the way to life, even if death is a stop along the way.  Countless saints, many of them martyrs, continue to teach this lesson by the example of their lives, even many years after their earthly journeys ended.  And contemporary martyrs and other saints do the same.  Potentates who persecute think that they can eradicate a message they fear.  But, time after time, history proves that the blood of the martyrs waters the church.  Persecution usually has the effect of increasing the brightness of the light the persecutors seek to extinguish.  These persecutors do not learn quickly or at all, do they?

And so the Kingdom of God continues unabated, much like the mustard plant Jesus used as a parable illustration.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

–John 1:5 (Revised Standard Version)


Proper 10, Year A   24 comments

Above:  Soil Profile

Image in the Public Domain

A Call for Righteous Deeds

The Sunday Closest to July 13

The Seventh Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 16, 2023



Genesis 25:19-34 (New Revised Standard Version):

These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac prayed to the LORD for his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. The children struggled together within her; and she said,

If it is to be this way, why do I live?

So she went to inquire of the LORD. And the LORD said to her,

Two nations are in your womb,

and two peoples born of you shall be divided;

the one shall be stronger than the other,

the elder shall serve the younger.

When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy mantle; so they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came out, with his hand gripping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.

When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, living in tents. Isaac loved Esau, because he was fond of game; but Rebekah loved Jacob.

Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was famished. Esau said to Jacob,

Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!

(Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said,

First sell me your birthright.

Esau said,

I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?

Jacob said,

Swear to me first.

So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank, and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

Psalm 119:105-112 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

105 Your word is a lantern to my feet

and a light upon my path.

106 I have sworn and am determined

to keep your righteous judgments.

107 I am deeply troubled;

prserve my life, O LORD, according to your word.

108 Accept, O LORD, the willing tribute of my lips,

and teach me your judgments.

109 My life is always in my hand,

yet I do not forget your law.

110 The wicked have set a trap for me,

but I have not strayed from your commandments.

111 Your decrees are my inheritance for ever;

truly, they are the joy of my heart.

112 I have applied my heart to fulfill your statutes

for ever and to the end.


Isaiah 55:10-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,

and do not return there until they have watered the earth,

making it bring forth and sprout,

giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;

it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

For you shall go out in joy,

and be led back in peace;

the mountains and the hills before you

shall burst into song,

and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;

instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;

and it shall be to the LORD for a memorial,

for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

Psalm 65:(1-8), 9-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 You are to be praised, O God, in Zion;

to you shall vows be performed in Jerusalem.

2 To you that hear prayer shall all flesh come,

because of their transgressions.

3 Our sins are stronger than we are,

but you will blot them out.

4 Happy are they whom you choose

and draw to your courts to dwell there!

they will be satisfied by the beauty of your house,

by the holiness of your temple.

5 Awesome things will you show us in your righteousness,

O God of our salvation,

O Hope of all the ends of the earth

and of the seas that are far away.

6 You make fast the mountains by your power;

they are girded about with might.

7 You still the roaring of the seas,

the roaring of their waves,

and the clamor of the peoples.

8 Those who dwell at the ends of the earth will tremble at your marvelous signs;

you make the dawn and the dusk to sing for joy.

9 You visit the earth and water it abundantly;

you make it very plenteous;

the river of God is full of water.

10 You prepare the grain,

for so you provide for the earth.

11 You drench the furrows and smooth out the ridges;

with heavy rain you soften the ground and bless its increase.

12 You crown the year with your goodness,

and your paths overflow with plenty.

13 May the fields of the wilderness be rich for grazing,

and the hills be clothed with joy.

14 May the meadows cover themselves with flocks,

and the valleys cloak themselves with grain;

let them shout for joy and sing.


Romans 8:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.  For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,  so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.  For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law– indeed it cannot,  and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.  Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.  Buf if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.  If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your moral bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.


Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying:

Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!

Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.

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.


Our sins are stronger than we are,

but you will blot them out….

You visit the earth and water it abundantly;

you make it very plenteous;

the river of God is full of water.

–Psalm 65:3, 9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer)

This Sunday’s readings, taken together, constitute a call for righteous deeds.

One aspect of a righteous deed is that it lacks resentment.  Esau had every right to be resentful.  His brother, Jacob, forced him to sell his birthright.  Jacob was a schemer, and his plots got him into much needless difficulty over the years.  They did reconcile eventually, but not before much family drama played out.

A righteous deed is a faithful response to God.  God has acted.  And God continues to act.  God shows the initiative in Isaiah 55 and Psalm 65.  And God (specifically Jesus) is the sower in Matthew 13.  This chapter is eschatological.  After the Parable of the Sower we have the tares, which resemble wheat.  God will sort out the difference at the time of the harvest, or the final judgment.

With eschatology in mind, the fates of the seeds take on meanings beyond “What kind of soil am I?” in the context of mere daily life.  The author of the Gospel of Matthew expected Jesus to return very shortly, a fact we must consider.  Another relevant detail is the presence of Roman persecutions of Christianity.  So seeds never sprout, others do for a time but do not survive adversity, and still other seeds take root and yield much.  Christians are supposed to yield much, a harvest possible only in God.

The harvest yields are unrealistic in agricultural terms, thus the parable is not agricultural; it is spiritual.  No farmer could expect such yields in First Century C.E. Judea reasonably.  So the yields must be the work of God, in concert with faithful people.  Stakes do not get much higher than eschatological ones, and, if one thinks the schedule is short, yields need to be greater to make up for the lack of time.

That was in 85-90 C.E.  I write these words on Christmas Day in 2010.  Between the 85 and 2010 many have speculated as to when Jesus might return.  They have all been wrong.  I have a 1979 paperback book explaining why Jesus will return by 1988.  That author was incorrect.  There is another date (May 2011) making the rounds as I write these words.  The fact that I am writing a devotion for July 10, 2011, indicates my opinion of that date.  We ought not obsess over dates, which come and go.  No, our mandate is to be faithful Christians who cooperate with God more often than not.  We cannot cooperate with God all the time, due to sin, but, by grace, we can improve spiritually.  The formula is this:  see and hear, understand, then act accordingly.

As for eschatology, God will handle those details.  The human track record on trying to understand it has not proved promising.  So let us focus on what God calls to do:  bear good fruit.  May we sink our roots into the river of God, which always has plenty of water.