Archive for the ‘Philippians 1’ Tag

Devotion for Thanksgiving Day (U.S.A.), Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Statue of Liberty

Image in the Public Domain

What Thanksgiving Day Means to Me

NOVEMBER 26, 2020


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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Psalm 126

Philippians 1:3-11

Mark 10:28-31


Torah piety teaches the following, among other truths:

  1. We depend entirely on God.
  2. We depend on each other.
  3. We are responsible to each other.
  4. We are responsible for each other.
  5. We have no right to exploit each other.

The selection of readings indicates the immigrant experience in the United States of America, going back to colonial times.  In the United States, we are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants.  Even indigenous people descend from those who, long ago, in prehistory, migrated to the what we now call the Americas.  I descend primarily from people who left the British Isles.  My family tree also includes Germans, French Protestants, and Oklahoma Cherokees.  The Cherokee DNA is outwardly more obvious in other members of my family.  Nevertheless, I hear occasionally from people who say I look Greek, Jewish, or somewhat Native American.

I have hopes and dreams for my country.  I want polarization to end.  I want the politics of bigotry to become unacceptable, as measured via votes in elections and legislatures.  I want us, individually and collectively, to be compassionate.  I want high principles to define both ideals and policies.  I want the rhetoric of religion to justify the best of human conduct and government policy, not the worst of both.

That is what Thanksgiving Day means to me.









Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 21, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Paul Writing His Epistles

Above:  Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

Propagating the Gospel

SEPTEMBER 28-30, 2020


The Collect:

God of love, giver of life, you know our frailties and failings.

Give us your grace to overcome them,

keep us from those things that harm us,

and guide us in the way of salvation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48


The Assigned Readings:

Judges 14:1-20 (Monday)

Judges 16:1-22 (Tuesday)

Judges 16:23-31 (Wednesday)

Psalm 28 (All Days)

Philippians 1:3-14 (Monday)

Philippians 1:15-21 (Tuesday)

Mathew 9:2-8 (Wednesday)


A thoroughly unoriginal statement tells us that great responsibility accompanies great blessings.  Grace, although free, is not cheap.  It cost Jesus his life.  It led to multiple imprisonments of St. Paul the Apostle and finally his execution by beheading.  Jesus healed people, proclaimed the good news, and aroused much opposition.  Paul preached Christ crucified and got into much trouble also.  Through them and many others the Gospel has prospered, however.

The story of Samson is a cautionary tale.  He was intellectually dense and prone to revenge.  Samson also had poor judgment, especially regarding women.  His actions and bad judgment created needless and difficult circumstances, such as the one in which he died.  And his last act, not quite triumphant, was one of revenge.  Samson ruined his life.

How one spends life matters.  May we spend it creating a legacy of love, kindness, and reconciliation.  (This is possible only via grace, of course.)  May we succeed in that which is eternal–of God (per John 17:2)–and help the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  May we abet this propagation of the Gospel as a matter of goal and consequence, not, as many have, in spite of themselves, while attempting to suppress it.  The fact that those who oppose the Gospel wind up becoming vehicles of its spread comforts me, but is not seeking to propagate it then succeeding better?







Devotion for September 9 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   7 comments


Above:  An Ax

Image Source = b.gliwa

2 Kings and Philippians, Part II:  Conduct Worthy of the Gospel



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:

2 Kings 6:1-23

Psalm 5 (Morning)

Psalms 84 and 29 (Evening)

Philippians 1:21-2:11


Whatever happens, let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ….

–Philippians 1:27, Revised English Bible


The miracle stories regarding Elijah and Elisha violate the standards of credulity which I, as a product of the Enlightenment, accept.  But, when I look beneath the surface, I find timeless lessons.  For example, I read of Elijah making an iron ax head float then utilizing his clairvoyance and deceiving an invading force with the help of God via a blinding light.  But these texts from 2 Kings predate scientific thinking, so getting into the spirit of them unlocks meanings.

In learn, for example, that iron was precious–therefore expensive–and that most members of Elisha’s band of prophets were poor.  So the prophet who borrowed the ax head needed to recover it so that he could return it and avoid financial hardship.  We should help others as we are able.

And leading an enemy army into hostile territory then treating the members thereof to a banquet is one way of deterring war.  Loving one’s enemies is sound moral teaching.

I criticized Elisha for cruelty and insensitivity in the previous post in this series, but I have no such cause today  The verse from Philippians which I have highlighted summarizes Elisha’s behavior in 2 Kings 6 well if one substitutes Yahweh for Christ.  May we who call ourselves Christians behave consistently in ways which are worthy of the gospel of Christ, for we might be the most influential emissaries of Jesus some people will encounter.









Devotion for September 8 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   8 comments

Elisha Refusing Gifts from Naaman

Above:  Elisha Refusing Gifts from Naaman, by Pieter de Grebber

Image in the Public Domain

2 Kings and Philippians, Part I:  For the Glory of God



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:

2 Kings 5:9-27

Psalm 103 (Morning)

Psalms 117 and 139 (Evening)

Philippians 1:1-20


The story of Naaman continues in 2 Kings 5.  Yes, Naaman overcomes his prejudices, regains his health and status, and praises God.  That is positive.  But Elisha pronounces the scourge of leprosy upon Gehazi, the deceptive servant who had made him appear as one who required payment for healing.  That is a difficult passage to read.

Paul had founded the church at Philippi.  He was on friendly terms with that congregation, one which had to contend with difficulties from inside and outside.  The Apostle wrote from prison, so he knew of hardship for the sake of the Gospel.  Yet, as he observed, this incarceration had enabled the spread of Christianity in another place; God worked in many circumstances.  Even though being an Apostle did not enrich Paul or make his life easier–in fact it caused him much difficulty–he embraced his calling.

Each of us has a set of vocations from God.  All of these fall under the umbrella of enjoying and glorifying God yet are varied in their details.  That is appropriate, for I have gifts and opportunities in combinations others do not and visa versa.  May all of us work for God faithfully where we are, not seeking to exploit our vocations for our benefit.  And may we be kinder than Elisha was to Gehazi.








This is post #500 at this weblog.



Week of Proper 25: Friday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 25: Saturday, Year 2   10 comments

Above:  Paul Writing His Epistles, a Painting from the 1500s

Words of Encouragement

OCTOBER 28 and 29, 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.



Philippians 1:1-30 (Revised English Bible):

From Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all God’s people at Philippi, who are incorporate in Christ Jesus, with the bishops and deacons.

Grace to you and peace from our God and Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God every time I think of you; whenever I pray for you, my prayers are always joyful, because of the part you have taken in the work of the gospel from the first day until now.  Of this I am confident, that he who who started the good work in you will bring it to completion by the day of Christ Jesus.  It is only natural that I should feel like this about you, because I have great affection for you, knowing that, both while I am kept in prison and when I am called on to defend the truth of the gospel, you all share in this privilege of mine.  God knows how I long for you with the deep yearning of Christ Jesus himself.  And this is my prayer, that your love may grow ever richer in knowledge and insight of every kind, enabling you to learn by experience what things really matter.  Then on the day of Christ you will be flawless and without blame, yielding the full harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

My friends, I want you to understand that the progress of the gospel has actually been helped by what has happened to me.  It has become common knowledge throughout the imperial guard, and indeed among the public at large, that my imprisonment is in Christ’s cause; and my being in prison has given most of our fellow-Christians confidence to speak the word of God fearlessly and with extraordinary courage.

Some, it is true, proclaim Christ in a jealous and quarrelsome spirit, but some jealous and do it in goodwill.  These are moved by love, knowing that it is to defend the gospel that I am where I am; the others are moved by selfish ambition and present Christ from mixed motives, meaning to cause me distress as I lie in prison.  What does it matter?  One way or another, whether sincerely or not, Christ is proclaimed; and for that I rejoice.

Yes, and I shall go on rejoicing; for I know well that the issue will be my deliverance, because you are praying for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ is given me for support.  It is my confident hope that nothing will daunt me or prevent me from speaking boldly; and that now as always Christ will display his greatness in me, whether the verdict be life or death.  For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.  If I am to go on living in the body there is fruitful work for me to do.  Which then am I to choose?  I cannot tell.  I am pulled two ways:   my own desire is to depart and be with Christ–that is better by far; but for your sake the greater need is for me to remain in the body.  This convinces me:  I am sure I shall remain, and stand by you all to ensure your progress and joy in the faith, so that on my account you may have even more cause for pride in Christ Jesus–through seeing me restored to you.

Whatever happens, let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether or not I come and see you for myself I may hear that you are standing firm, united in spirit and in mind, side by side in the struggle to advance the gospel faith, meeting your opponents without so much as a tremor.  This is a sure sign to them that destruction is in store for them and salvation for you, a sign from God himself; for you have been granted the privilege not only of believing in Christ but also of suffering for him.  Your conflict is the same as mine; once you saw me in it, and now you hear I am in it still.


Psalm 111 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):


I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,

in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.

Great are the deeds of the LORD!

they are studied by all who delight in them.

3 His work is full of majesty and splendor,

and his righteousness endures for ever.

He makes his marvelous works to be remembered;

the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.

5 He gives food to those who fear him;

he is ever mindful of his covenant.

6 He has shown his people the power of his works

in giving them the lands of the nations.

The works of his hands are faithfulness and justice;

all his commandments are sure.

They stand fast for ever and ever,

because they are done in truth and equity.

He sent redemption to his people;

he commanded his covenant for ever;

holy and awesome is his Name.

10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;

those who act accordingly have a good understanding;

his praise endures for ever.


Psalm 42:2-6 (TANAKH: The Holy Scriptures):

Like a hind crying for water,

my soul cries for You, O God;

my soul thirsts for God, the living God;

O when will I come to appear before God!

My tears have been my food day and night;

I am ever tainted with, “Where is your God?”

When I think of this, I pour out my soul:

how I walked with the crowd, moved with them,

the festive throng, to the House of God

with joyous shouts of praise.

Why so downcast, my soul,

why disquieted within me?

Have hope in God;

I will yet praise Him

for his saving presence.


Luke 14:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

One sabbath he [Jesus] went to have a meal in the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they were watching him closely.  There, in front of him, was a man suffering from dropsy, and Jesus asked the lawyers and the Pharisees:

Is it permitted to heal people on the sabbath or not?

They said nothing.  So he took the man, cured him, and sent him away.  Then he turned to them and said,

If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well, will he hesitate to pull him out on the sabbath day?

To this they could find no reply.

When he noticed how the guests were trying to secure the places of honour, he spoke to them in a parable:

When somebody asks you to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the place of honour.  It may be that some person more distinguished than yourself has been invited; and the host will come to say to you, “Give this man your seat.”  Then you will look foolish as you go to take the lowest place.  No, when you receive the invitation, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he will say, “Come up higher, my friend.”  Then all your fellow-guests will see the respect in which you are held.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled; and who ever humbles himself will be exalted.


The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; 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:

Week of Proper 25:  Friday, Year 1:

Week of Proper 25:  Saturday, Year 1:


Paul wrote the Letter to the Philippians; there is no reasonable doubt about that fact.  The date of composition was no earlier than 52 and no later than 62 C.E., and the setting of the writing was a prison.  Philippi was a major city in what is now Greece.  Located on a major east-west road, its site was strategic.  The church there faced some problems, notably persecution as well as dissention sown by Judaizers and proto-Gnostics.  Such lack of unity in the face of persecution was troublesome.

Some scholars think that this epistle might actually be two letters mashed up.  If so, this is not the only such case in Pauline literature, for scholars have detected the same issue in Corinthian epistles.  Indeed, St. Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna martyred in 156 C.E., wrote his own epistle to the Philippian church.  He referred to the Pauline letters to that community:

Not that I should be taking on myself to write to you in this way about the life of holiness, my brothers, if you yourselves had not invited me to do so.  For I am as far as anyone else of my sort from having the wisdom of our blessed and glorious Paul.  During his residence with you he gave the men of those days clear and sound instruction in the word of truth, while he was there in person among them; and even after his departure he still sent letters which, if you study them attentively, will enable you to make progress in the faith which was delivered to you.  Faith is the mother of us all; with Hope following in her train, and Love of God and Christ and neighbour leading the way.  Let a man’s mind be wholly bent on these, and he has fulfilled all the demands of holiness; for to possess Love is to be beyond the reach of sin.–Early Christian Writings:  The Apostolic Fathers, Translated by Maxwell Staniforth; Translation revised by Andrew Louth (Penguin Books, 1987), page 120

I have preserved the unity of Chapter 1.  The scope of the chapter becomes apparent this way but would be lost by breaking it into two sections, per the lectionary.  I have examined the whole chapter closely and fixated on Paul’s tone; he, although in prison, rejoices.  He suffers for Christ and considers this a privilege, one in which the Philippian Christians share.  Paul rejoices because he is in Christ.

Paul had come to occupy a spiritual plane I have yet to encounter.  Reading about saints and pouring over the writings of saints encourages me to persevere more and to whine less often.  Those great men and women of the faith have experienced hardships worse than mine and/or dealt successfully with struggles more daunting than mine.  If they can keep the faith, so can I.

Our journey through the Letter to the Philippians has begun.  I plan to type every word of the epistle, an exercise which will bring me into close contact with that text.  We will resume with Monday in the Week of Proper 26, Year 2.


Proper 20, Year A   27 comments

Above:  Map of Ancient Nineveh

Image Source = Fredarch

Scandalous Generosity

The Sunday Closest to September 21

The Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost

SEPTEMBER 20, 2020



Exodus 16:2-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them,

If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

Then the LORD said to Moses,

I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.

So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites,

In the evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your complaining against the LORD. For what are we, that you complain against us?

And Moses said,

When the LORD gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the LORD has heard the complaining that you utter against him– what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the LORD.

Then Moses said to Aaron,

Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, “Draw near to the LORD, for he has heard your complaining.”

And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. The LORD spoke to Moses and said,

I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another,

What is it?

For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them,

It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.

Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of all his marvelous works.

3 Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

4 Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

6 O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

37 He led out his people with silver and gold;

in all their tribes there was not one that stumbled.

38 Egypt was glad of their going,

because they were afraid of them.

39 He spread out a cloud for a covering,

and a fire to give light in the night season.

40 They asked, and quails appeared,

and he satisfied them with bread from heaven.

41 He opened the rock, and water flowed,

so the river ran in the dry places.

42 For God remembered his holy word

and Abraham his servant.

43 So he led forth his people with gladness,

his chosen with shouts of joy.

44 He gave his people the lands of the nations,

and they took the fruit of others’ toil.

45 That they might keep his statutes

and observe his laws.



Jonah 3:10-4:11 (New Revised Standard Version):

When God saw what the people of Nineveh did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD and said,

O LORD! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.

And the LORD said,

Is it right for you to be angry?

Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.

The LORD God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said,

It is better for me to die than to live.

But God said to Jonah,

Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?

And he said,

Yes, angry enough to die.

Then the LORD said,

You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?

Psalm 145:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

1 I will exalt you, O God my King,

and bless your Name for ever and ever.

2 Every day will I bless you

and praise your Name for ever and ever.

3 Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;

there is no end to his greatness.

4 One generation shall praise your works to another

and shall declare your power.

5 I will ponder the glorious splendor of your majesty

and all your marvelous works.

6 They shall speak of the might of your wondrous acts,

and I will tell of your greatness.

7 They shall publish the remembrance of your great goodness;

they shall sing of your righteous deeds.

8 The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,

slow to anger and of great kindness.


Philippians 1:21-30 (New Revised Standard Version):

For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well– since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.


Matthew 20:1-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?” They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.” When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.” When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last.

The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


We like grace when we benefit from it, as in the case of the children of Israel, whom God fed in the wilderness.  Yet often we object when others–especially our enemies and others unlike us–benefit from it, too.

Consider Jonah, one of the most interesting literary creations in the Bible.  He was a satirical figure who epitomized the worst of post-Exilic Judaism, which had a strong dose of exclusivity about it.  So, in the short book bearing the name “Jonah” the titular character receives a mandate from God to offer the people of Nineveh–traditional enemies–a chance to repent.  Jonah runs away, but cannot escape from God.  Finally, Jonah does as God demands, and finds success in this effort disappointing.  Who is he without his traditional enemy?  What is his identity now?  This man cares more for a plant than for fellow human beings who are different from him, but whom God loves and to whom God reaches out.

This not merely about the scandal of grace extended to our enemies.  Jesus told a parable about a vineyard owner who hired people during various times of day then paid everybody the same amount–the standard daily wage at the time and place.  Those who had worked all day were upset, but the vineyard owner had not cheated them.

Why does God’s generosity scandalize us, or at least bother us?  Perhaps we think that we are deserving, but those people over there are not.  I have seen a sticker which reads,


This is supposed to be funny, which is how I interpret it.  But some people believe it.  In reality, however, we are just as deserving as those people are, which is to say that we are not deserving at all.  This, however, is not how many of us like to think of ourselves.

Too often we define ourselves according to what we are not.  We are not like those people.  We are not those people.  We are better than them, we tell ourselves.  In reality, however, my identity, your identity, and the identity of the person least like us all exist in the context of God.  We are children of God, and therefore siblings.  So our quarrels exist within a family context.  God, our Father-Mother (Metaphors relative to God are imperfect, and the Bible contains both masculine and feminine images for God.), loves us and does not give up on any of us.  So we ought not to write anyone off.  Yet we do.

We can be instruments of God voluntarily–like, Moses dealing with the ever-grumbling children of Israel, or Paul, bringing the message of Jesus to the Gentiles–or involuntarily–like Jonah, weeping over a dead plant while bemoaning the repentance of a population.  If divine grace and generosity scandalize us, the fault is with us, not with God.