Archive for the ‘John 1’ Tag

Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 22, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Candle Flame

Above:  A Candle Flame

Image in the Public Domain

Unquenchable Love

OCTOBER 7, 2020


The Collect:

Beloved God, from you come all things that are good.

Lead us by the inspiration of your Spirit to know those things that are right,

and by your merciful guidance, help us to do them,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49


The Assigned Readings:

Song of Songs/Song of Solomon 8:5-14

Psalm 144

John 11:45-57


Rescue me from the hurtful sword

and deliver me from the hand of foreign peoples,

Whose mouths speak deceitfully

and whose right hand is raised in falsehood.

–Psalm 144:11-12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The Song of Songs/Song of Solomon/Canticle of Canticles is a composite love poem.  The main characters are two lovers of unmentioned marital status.  Their love has placed them at great physical risk, for some seek to commit violence to end the relationship.  Nevertheless, as we read in 8:7 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989):

Many waters cannot quench love,

neither can floods drown it.

If one offered for love

all the wealth of one’s house,

it would be utterly scorned.

We read of great physical risk in John 11 also.  In that lesson some Temple officials plot to kill Jesus and to scapegoat him for the nation.  They succeeded in killing him, of course, but God resurrected him.  And the scapegoating proved ineffective, as it tends to do time after time.  Some people not only scorned divine love incarnate but tried to quench it.  The flame of love, however, proved to be unquenchable.

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

–John 1:5, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

One way to experience the love of God is via our human beings–friends, neighbors, church members, relatives, spouses, et cetera.  May we extend and receive such divine gifts when God provides the opportunities to do so.  Everyone involved will be better off for it.







Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 8, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment



Above:  Ruins of Capernaum, Between 1898 and 1946

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-10654

Active Love for God

JULY 1, 2020


The Collect:

O God, you direct our lives by your grace,

and your words of justice and mercy reshape the world.

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

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40


The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 18:1-11

Psalm 119:161-168

Matthew 11:20-24


Lord, I have looked for your salvation

and I have fulfilled your commandments.

My soul has kept your testimonies

and greatly have I loved them.

I have kept your commandments and testimonies,

for all my ways are before you.

–Psalm 119:166-168, Common Worship (2000)


The power and mercy of God can be frightening, for they challenge us to examine ourselves spiritually. They make abundantly clear the reality that we, most especially in the light of God, are wanting. We could admit this fact, embrace it, and welcome God’s act of reshaping us—or we could resist in stiff-necked fashion.

The reading for today are generally gloomy. The Psalm is affirmative, but the lections from Matthew and Jeremiah are darker. The Matthew lesson exists in a textual context of conflict. St. John the Baptist is imprisoned and about to die; can Jesus be far behind? A few verses later our Lord and Savior plucks grain and heals a man with a withered hand. Critics note that he does this on the Sabbath. Is Jesus supposed to have gone hungry and to have forgone committing a good deed? Later opponents accuse him of being in league with Satan. Our Lord and Savior’s healings were acts of power and mercy. Yet I read shortly after today’s Matthew lection that some people criticized him for committing such a powerful and merciful act on the Sabbath.

These are the kinds of negative responses to which Matthew 11:20 and 21 refer. The references to Tyre and Sidon reach back to Isaiah 23 and Ezekiel 27-28, where one reads condemnations of those wicked cities. And Jesus’ adopted hometown, Capernaum, is among the places where he experienced rejection. But, we read, even evil Tyre and Sidon will fare better on the day of judgment than will Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum.

He came to his own, and his own people would not accept him.

–John 1:11, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Why do we reject the love of God, which we see manifested around us via a variety of channels? And why do we quibble about when this love pours out generously, albeit inconvenient for us due to a fault within us? There are several reasons, but I choose to focus on one here: our preference for the status quo ante. We tend to prefer the predictable, so certain prompts prove to be threatening, not merely annoying. To acknowledge intellectually that God does not fit into our preferred theological box is one thing, but to experience that fact is another. And admitting error might call our identity into question. Furthermore, for those for whom religion is about certainty, one of the more popular idols, the element of uncertainty is profoundly disturbing.

May we—you and I, O reader—embrace the active love of God, permit it to reshape us, and not find such uncertainty disturbing. No, may we reject certainty in convenient lies and possess faith—active and living faith evident in attitudes, words, and deeds—in God, who refuses to fit into any theological box.









Devotion for Wednesday After Pentecost, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment



Above:  St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Newnan, Georgia, January 26, 2014

My favorite aspect of this arrangement is the centrality of the baptismal font.

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Active Love and Living Water

JUNE 3, 2020


The Collect:

O God, on this day you open the hearts of your faithful people by sending into us your Holy Spirit.

Direct us by the light of that Spirit, that we may have a right judgment in all things

and rejoice at all times in your peace, through Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 36


The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 11:24-30

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

John 7:37-39


When you send forth your spirit, they are created,

and you renew the face of the earth.

–Psalm 104:32, Common Worship (2000)


This devotion owes much to the excellent and scholarly work of the late Father Raymond E. Brown in Volume One (1966) of his commentary on the Gospel of John for The Anchor Bible set of books. He wrote two thick volumes on that Gospel. I am glad that I walked into a certain thrift store on a certain day and purchased those two books.

The Spirit of God fell upon seventy Hebrew elders in Numbers 11. Meat for the masses followed. The liberated people who pined for the food they ate when they were slaves in Egypt had received freedom from the hand of God. Since that freedom was apparently insufficient for many and since God had compassion, God sent quails also. Moses had seventy people with whom to share his burdens. God had provided abundantly.

The Exodus, the central narrative of the Hebrew Bible, informs the Gospel of John also. In the scene from John 7, Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Festival of Tabernacles (or Booths), originally a harvest festival (in September-October on the Gregorian Calendar). The holy time also carried associations with the Exodus and with the Day of the Lord (as in later Jewish prophecy), when, as Bishop N. T. Wright fixates on in books, God would become king in Israel. Thus the festival carried messianic meanings also.

A helpful note in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003) reads:

As part of the celebration of the Tabernacles, the priest poured freshly drawn water on the altar as a libation to God. Just as Jesus is the means of Passover (chap. 6), he is also the life-giving water of Tabernacles (4:10-14; 6:35).

–Page 1922

That living water (yes, a baptismal metaphor in Christian theology) refers to new life in Christ, to divine wisdom (see John 1:1-18), and to the active power of God in the world. (The Church came to call the latter the Holy Spirit.) And, as Father Brown writes,

If the water is a symbol of the revelation that Jesus gives to those who believe in him, it is also a symbol of the Spirit that the resurrected Jesus will give, as v. 39 specifies.

–Page 328

One might also take interest in another detail of John 7:38, the prompt for a lively theological debate. How should one read the Greek text? From whose heart shall the streams of living water flow? Much of Western Christian theology (especially that of the Roman Catholic variety) identifies the heart in question as that of Jesus. (Father Brown argues for this in his commentary.) This position is consistent with the filoque clause of the Nicene Creed: the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Many who maintain that the heart in question is that of Jesus also cite John 14:6 and 26, John 16:17, and John 20:20, in which the Holy Spirit proceeds from God the Father or from Jesus unambiguously.

The Eastern Orthodox, however, use a form of the Creed with omits the filoque clause. The Eastern Church Fathers, consistent with their theology, interpreted the heart in quiestion as that of a believer in Christ. A note in The Orthodox Study Bible (2008) indicates this:

The living water (v. 38) is the gift of the Holy Spirit (v. 39) and the new life that accompanies this gift.

–page 1438

I have noticed that some translations, such as the New Revised Standard Version, render John 7:38 as to support the Eastern Orthodox position.  Gail R. O’Day and Susan E. Hylen, in their volume for John (2006) for the Westminster Bible Companion series (Westminster/John Knox Press) refer to this decision and refer to the linguistic ambiguity in the Greek text of that verse.  They, without dismissing the possibility of the stream of living water coming somehow through the individual believer, note that

…the ultimate source of then living water in John is always Jesus or God.

–Page 86

The ultimate textual context for interpreting a given passage of scripture is the rest of scripture, as I have read in various books about the Bible.  Given this interpretive framework, we ought never to forget that the source of the living water is divine.  The role of the individual in that in John 7:38 is a live theological issue.  Even if the heart in question is that of the individual believer, the living water still comes from God–in this case, via Jesus.

As for filoque, the question of the procession of the Holy Spirit is a recipe for mental gymnastics. How, for example, can the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father and the Son if the Son also proceeded from the Father, especially if the Son has always existed? When, then, did he proceed from the Father? And how does one attempt to untangle details of Trinitarian theology without falling into serious heresy? The question of how the procession of the Holy Spirit works is also an issue irrelevant to salvation.  I am content to say that God is active among us and to leave the details of the procession of the Holy Spirit as a divine mystery.

The contents of these questions do not change a basic point: God, who liberates us (not so we can grumble and be ungrateful), also empowers us to glorify God and to support one another. If we do not love one another, whom we can see, we do not love God, whom we cannot see. This is active love, the kind which resists exploitation and other evils in our midst. This is active love, which builds up the other and thereby improves not only his or her lot in life but the society also. This is active love, by which we help each other bear burdens. This is active love, a mandate from God.








Trinity Sunday, Year C   13 comments

Above:  A Tango Postcard

May God Have This Dance?


JUNE 16, 2019


The Assigned Readings for This Sunday:

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Psalm 8 or Canticle 13 from The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Romans 5:1-5

John 16:12-15

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration for Trinity Sunday:

Prayer of Confession for Trinity Sunday:

Prayer of Dedication for Trinity Sunday:

Alta Trinita Beata:

Trinitarian Benedictions:

Prayer of Confession for Trinity Sunday:

Ancient of Days:

Thou, Whose Almighty Word:


Wisdom literature, from Proverbs to Sirach/Ecclesiasticus and the Wisdom of Solomon, personifies divine wisdom as feminine.  Much of this imagery influenced the prologue to the Gospel of John, in which Jesus is the Logos of God; the Logos resembles divine wisdom.  Thus, in Proverbs 8, we read a premonition of the Second Person of the Trinity.  The  Second and Third Persons come up in Romans 5 and John 16.  And both possible responses address the First Person of the Trinity.

The doctrine of the Trinity is a fine example of theology.  The doctrine has no single, definitive passage of scripture to attest to it.  Rather, it is the product of deep Christian thinkers who pondered a number of passages carefully and put them together.  Some professing Christians disapprove of that process of doctrine-making; it is, to them, like sausage-making in the simile of laws and sausages:  it is better not to know how they are made.  But that comparison does not apply to sound doctrine, a category in which I file the Trinity.  Those who object to the process of sound doctrine-making are living ironies, for they are more attached to such doctrines than I am.  Yet the process by which the Church itself–a human institution–arrived at them–offends such people.  Such doctrines, they prefer to imagine, fall from Heaven fully formed.  Karen Armstrong is correct:

…fundamentalism is ahistorical….

A History of God:  The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), page xx

(I, alas, have had some unfortunate conversations with some rather doctrinaire and less than intellectually and historically inquisitive professing Christians.  They have rendered me even more allergic to Fundamentalism than I already was.)

I propose that the best way to understand as much as possible about God is through poetry and other art forms.  We humans, I have heard, danced our religion before we thought it.  And the doctrine of the Trinity is at least as much artistry as it is theology.  The nature of God is a mystery to embrace and experience, not to attempt to understand.  So, O reader, dance with God, who seeks you as a partner on the dance floor.








Week of Proper 29: Thursday, Year 1   16 comments

Above:  Daniel

Image Source = Urharec

Good Reason for Hope in Dark Times

NOVEMBER 28, 2019


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.



Daniel 6:1-28 (Revised English Bible):

It pleased Darius to appoint a hundred and twenty satraps to be in charge of his kingdom, and over them three chief ministers, to whom the satraps were to submit their reports so that the king’s interests might not suffer; of these three ministers, Daniel was one.  Daniel outshone the other ministers and the satraps because of his exceptional ability, and it was the king’s intention to appoint him over the whole kingdom.  Then the ministers and satraps began to look round for some pretext to attack Daniel’s administration of the kingdom, but they failed to find any malpractice on his part, for he was faithful to his trust.  Since they could discover neither negligence nor malpractice, they said,

We shall not find any ground for bringing a charge against this Daniel unless it is connected with his religion.

These ministers and satraps, having watched for an opportunity to approach the king, said to him,

Long live King Darius!  We, the ministers of the kingdom, prefects, satraps, courtiers, and governors, have taken counsel and are agreed that the king should issue a decree and bring into force a binding edict to the effect that whoever presents a petition to any god or human being rather than the king during the next thirty days is to be thrown into the lion-pit.  Now let your majesty issue the edict and have it put in writing so that it becomes unalterable, for the law of the Medes and the Persians may never be revoked.

Accordingly the edict was signed by King Darius.

When Daniel learnt that this decree had been issued, he went into his house.  It had in the roof-chamber windows open towards Jerusalem; and there he knelt down three times a day and offered prayer and praises to his God as was his custom.  His enemies, on the watch for an opportunity to catch him, found Daniel at his prayers making supplication to his God.  Then they went into the king’s presence and reminded him of the edict.

Your majesty,

they said,

have you not issued an edict that any person who, within the next thirty days, presents a petition to any god or human being other than your majesty is to be thrown into the lion-pit?

The king answered,

The matter has been determined in accordance with the law of the Medes and the Persians, which may not be revoked.

So they said to the king,

Daniel, one of the Jewish exiles, has disregarded both your majesty and the edict, and is making petition to his God three times a day.

When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was greatly distressed; he tried to think of a way to save Daniel, and continued his efforts till sunset.  The men watched for an opportunity to approach the king, and said to him,

Your majesty must know that by the law of the Medes and Persians no edict or decree issued by the king may be altered.

Then the king gave the order for Daniel to be brought and thrown into the lion-pit; but he said to Daniel to be brought and thrown into the lion-pit; but he said to Daniel,

Your God whom you serve at all times, may he save you.

A stone was brought and put over the mouth of the pit, and the king sealed it with his signet and with the signets of his nobles, so that no attempt could be made to rescue Daniel.

The king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no woman was brought to him, and sleep eluded him.  He was greatly agitated and, at the first light of dawn, he rose and went to the lion-pit.  When he came near he called anxiously,

Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you serve continually been able to save you from the lions?

Daniel answered,

Long live the king!  My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths and they have not injured me; he judged me innocent, and moreover I had done your majesty no injury.

The king was overjoyed and gave orders that Daniel should be taken up out of the pit.  When this was done no trace of injury was found on him, because he had put his faith in his God.  By order of the king those who out of malice had accused Daniel were brought and flung into the lion-pit along their children and their wives, and before they reached the bottom the lions were upon them and devoured them, bones and all.

King Darius wrote to all peoples and nations of every language throughout the whole world:

May your prosperity increase!  I have issued a decree that in all my royal domains everyone is to fear and reverence the God of Daniel,

for he is the living God, the everlasting,

whose kingly power will never be destroyed;

whose sovereignty will have no end–

a saviour, a deliverer, a worker of signs and wonders

in heaven and on earth,

who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.

Prosperity attended Daniel during the reigns of Darius and Cyrus the Persian.


Canticle 12, Part I (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

(Part of the Song of the Three Young Men)

Glorify the Lord, you angels and all powers of the Lord,

O heavens and all waters above the heavens.

Sun and moon and stars of the sky, glorify the Lord,

Praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, every shower of rain and fall of dew,

all winds and fire and heat.

Winter and summer, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O chill and cold,

drops of dew and and flakes of snow.

Frost and cold, ice and sleet, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O nights and days,

O shining light and enfolding dark.

Storm clouds and thunderbolts, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.


Psalm 99 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The LORD is King;

let the people tremble;

he is enthroned upon the cherubim;

let the earth shake.

The LORD is great in Zion;

he is high above all peoples.

3 Let them confess his Name, which is great and awesome;

he is the Holy One.

4 “O mighty King, lover of justice,

you have established equity;

you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.”

Proclaim the greatness of the LORD our God

and fall down before his footstool;

he is the Holy One.

Moses and Aaron among his priests,

and Samuel among those who call upon his Name,

they called upon the LORD, and he answered them.

He spoke to them out of the pillar of cloud;

they kept his testimonies and the decree that he gave them.

8 “O LORD our God, you answered them indeed;

you were a God who forgave them,

yet punished them for their evil deeds.”

9 Proclaim the greatness of the LORD our God

and worship him upon his holy hill;

for the LORD our God is the Holy One.


Luke 21:20-28 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

But when you see Jerusalem encircled by armies, then you may be sure that her devastation is near.  Then those who are in Judaea must take to the hills; those who are in the city itself must leave it and those who are out in the country must not return; because this is the time of retribution, when all that stands written is to be fulfilled.  Alas for women with child in those days, and for those who have children at the breast!  There will be great distress in the land and a terrible  judgement on this people.  They will fall by the sword; they will be carried captive into all countries; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by Gentiles until the day of the Gentiles has run its course.

Portents will appear in sun and moon and stars.  On earth nations will stand helpless, not knowing which way to turn from the roar and surge of the sea.  People will faint with terror at the thought of what is coming upon the world; for the celestial powers will be shaken.  Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  When all this begins to happen, stand upright and hold your heads high, because your liberation is near.


The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


I must attend to some history before I get to my main point.  Here is a partial list of Persian kings and other crucial dates, courtesy of The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford University Press, 2004):

  • Reign of Cyrus II (the Great) = 559-530 B.C.E.
  • Capture of Babylon = 539 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Cambyses = 530-522 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Darius I = 522-486 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Xerxes I = 486-465 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Artaxerxes I = 465-424 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Darius II = 423-405 B.C.E.
  • Reign of Artaxerxes II = 405-359 B.C.E.
  • Exiles begin to return from Babylonia in 538 B.C.E.
  • Second Temple completed in 515 B.C.E.

So, given the contents of Daniel 5 and Daniel 6, the king’s name is really Cyrus.

Now, for the substance….

These are troubling readings.  This day’s lesson from Luke 21 is part of the small apocalypse from that gospel.  The horrific images and dark warnings were past tense for the original audience of that book, written after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 C.E.  And, as for Daniel 6, I understand that, according to Deuteronomy 19:16-19, the penalty for bearing false witness is to suffer the same potential fate as the one of whom a person lied, but what did the wives and children do?  Furthermore, Darius/Cyrus was the most powerful man in the empire; he could have lifted the original edict at any time.

Yet there is hope in dark times.  Yes, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 C.E., but the Jews and their religion have survived.  Yes, the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians demolished the Kingdom of Judah in 587 B.C.E., but the Persians conquered them, allowed Jewish exiles to go home, and facilitated the construction of the Second Temple.  Yes, Daniel got in trouble because he did his job better than some jealous peers, who manipulated the king into trying to execute him, but God saved Daniel.  And even when one dies for one’s Christian faith, the blood of the martyrs waters the church.

The readings take a dark turn toward the end of the church year, but the darkness has not extinguished all light.  In a few days I will, God willing, begin writing devotions for Advent.  (I am working a few months ahead of schedule, obviously.)  Advent is about preparing the birth of our Lord Jesus, the Messiah.  As the Revised English Bible (1989) renders John 1:1-5,

In the beginning the Word already was.  The Word was in God’s presence, and what God was, the Word was.  He was with God in the beginning, and through him all things came to be; without him no created thing came into being.  In him was life, and that life was the light of mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never mastered it.