Archive for the ‘Philippians 2’ Tag

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

Above:  A Vineyard

Image in the Public Domain

Individual and Collective Responsibility

OCTOBER 8, 2023


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


Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

Psalm 25:1-9 (LBW) or Psalm 27:1-10 (LW)

Philippians 2:1-5 (6-11)

Matthew 21:28-32


God of love, 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 your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 28


O God, the Strength of all who put their trust in you;

mercifully accept our prayer,

and because through the weakness of our mortal nature

we can do no good thing without your aid,

grant us the help of your grace that,

keeping your commandments,

we may please you in both will and deed;

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), 83


Ezekiel 18 is one of the texts (along with Ezekiel 3:16-21; 14:12-23; 33:30, beyond others outside Ezekiel) that teach individual responsibility before God, therefore divine reward and punishment for how one has acted.  These texts contradict Exodus 20:5 and Deuteronomy 5:9, which teach intergenerational reward and punishment.

The theme of collective responsibility occurs in the readings from Philippians and Matthew.  This theme and individual responsibility before God are mutually consistent.

A man had two sons.

–Matthew 21:28, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

A careful reader of the Hebrew Bible should read or hear those words and think,


Such a person will start with Cain and Abel then take the grand tour of stories of feuding brothers in the Hebrew Bible.

Deeds matter more than intentions.  Deeds reveal creeds.  Rather than condemn some long-dead Pharisees and feel spiritually smug, I acknowledge an uncomfortable truth.  I admit that I, as one of the churchiest people alive, have more in common with the Pharisees than not.  I confess to uncertainty whether, had I been a Palestinian Jew during the time of Christ, I would have followed him.  The parable, transferred to contemporary times, confronts me.

Clarence Jordan (1912-1969), in his Cotton Patch Version of Matthew, set the parable in a peach orchard.  Jesus decreed tat

the hippies and the whores

would take precedence in that version.

If you, O reader, were to update Matthew 21:31, which group would you substitute for tax collectors? Make it a shocking, scandalous reference.

The Parable of the Two Sons warns against spiritual complacency.  The textual context of the parable is early in the week of Passover, shortly prior to the crucifixion of Jesus.  This setting helps to explain why the tone is so intense.  Anyway, warnings against spiritual complacency–whether individual or collective–may need to be intense to attract our attention sometimes.

In the 1990s, I read an editorial in U.S. Catholic magazine.  The title was,

Get Off Your Values and Get to Work.

The point was that people should minimize statements of principles and maximize living those principles.  This cogent lesson remains relevant sadly.  Politicians who have the power to act constructively after a preventable mass shooting or other unfortunate event yet content themselves to offer “thoughts and prayers” engage in copping out.  I recall a lesson my father taught me:  we need to put feet to our prayers.

That is hard work.  So be it.









Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA


Devotion for the Feast of the Holy Cross (September 14)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Crucifixion and the Way of the Holy Cross, June 9, 1887

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-00312

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross


The Feast of the Holy Cross commemorates two events–The discovery of the supposed true cross by St. Helena on September 14, 320, and the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, on that day in 335, on the anniversary of the dedication of the First Temple in Jerusalem.  In the Eastern Orthodox Church the corresponding commemoration is the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

The Feast of the Holy Cross has had an interesting history.  It existed in Constantinople in the 600s and in Rome in the 800s.  The feast did not transfer into Anglicanism initially.  It did become a lesser feast–a black-letter day–in The Book of Common Prayer in 1561.  In The Church of England The Alternative Service Book (1980) kept Holy Cross Day as a black-letter day, but Common Worship (2000) promoted the commemoration to a major feast–a red-letter day.  The Episcopal Church dropped Holy Cross Day in 1789 but added it–as a red-letter day–during Prayer Book revision in the 1970s.  The feast remained outside the mainstream of U.S. and Canadian Lutheranism until the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and its variant, Lutheran Worship (1982).

Without getting lost in the narrative weeds (especially in Numbers 21), one needs to know that God chastises Jews and Christians for their sins yet does not destroy them, except when He allegedly sends poisonous snakes to attack them.  Then God provides a healing mechanism.  We should look up toward God, not grumble in a lack of gratitude.  Isaiah 45:21-25, set toward the end of the Babylonian Exile, argues that God is the master of history, and that the vindication of the former Kingdom of Judah will benefit Gentiles also, for Gentiles will receive invitations to worship the one true God.  Many will accept, we read.  In the Gospel of John the exaltation of Jesus is his crucifixion.  That is counter-intuitive; it might even be shocking.    If so, recall 1 Corinthians 1:23–Christ crucified is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.  God frequently works in ways we do not understand.  John 12 mentions some God-fearers, Gentiles who worshiped YHWH.  This reference picks up from Isaiah 45:21-25.  It also fits well with the Pauline mission to Gentiles and emphasis on Christ crucified.

As for God sending poisonous snakes to bite grumbling Israelites, that does not fit into my concept of God.  My God-concept encompasses both judgment and mercy, but not that kind of behavior.

The choice of the cross as the symbol of Christianity is wonderfully ironic.  The cross, an instrument of judicial murder and the creation of fear meant to inspire cowering submission to Roman authority, has become a symbol of divine love, sacrifice, and victory.  A symbol means what people agree it means; that is what makes it a symbol.  Long after the demise of the Roman Empire, the cross remains a transformed symbol.

The Episcopal collect for Holy Cross Day invites us to take up a cross and follow Jesus.  In Cotton Patch Gospel (1982), the play based on Clarence Jordan‘s The Cotton Patch Version of Matthew and John, Jesus, says that a person not willing to accept his or her lynching is unworthy of Him.

That is indeed a high standard.





Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross

that he might draw the whole world to himself:

Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption,

may take up our cross and follow him;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Isaiah 45:21-25

Psalm 98 or 8:1-4

Philippians 2:5-11 or Galatians 6:14-18

John 12:31-36a

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 581


Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross

that he might draw the whole world to himself.

To those who look upon the cross, grant your wisdom, healing, and eternal life,

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

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

Numbers 21:4b-9

Psalm 98:1-4 or 78:1-2, 34-38

1 Corinthians 1:18-24

John 3:13-17

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 57


Numbers 21:4-9

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

John 12:20-33

Lutheran Service Book (2006), xxiii


Originally published at SUNDRY THOUGHTS


Devotion for Proper 4 (Year D)   1 comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  The Exorcism

Image in the Public Domain

Faithfulness and Faithlessness

JUNE 3, 2018


The Collect:

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


The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 31:30-32:27 or Isaiah 5:8-17

Psalm 142

Matthew 17:9-20 or Mark 9:9-29 or Luke 9:18-27 (28-36) 37-45

Philippians 2:14-30


A typically Jewish way of speaking and writing about God is to recall what God has done.  After all, God is like what God has done.  Furthermore, we are like what we have done, although we are far more than the worst deeds we have committed.  The relevant issue is the pattern of what we have done and of what we are doing.  Repentance is possible, after all, and the past is not necessarily accurate in predicting the future.

Consider with me, O reader, the assigned readings for this Sunday.  The two options for the First Reading proclaim divine judgment upon the faithless, for whom God has done much.  The faithless should know better.  Perhaps they do know better, but they are not acting as if they do.  The lection from Isaiah 5 follows the famous passage likening rebellious Israel to a well-tended vineyard that yields wild grapes.  God will judge that vineyard, we read.  Likewise, we read of faithless Israel in Deuteronomy.  If Richard Elliott Friedman is correct, lurking in the background of the text is a condemnation of polytheism.  God is, after all, insistent upon monotheism in the Hebrew Bible.  If Dr. Friedman is correct, faithlessness to YHWH entails turning to supposedly subordinate deities, members of the divine council–a concept Hebrew prophets opposed vigorously.

In contrast to those lections we read Psalm 142, the lament of a dying man whom other mortals have abandoned.  This man, contemplating the imminent unknown, turns to God alone.  One may assume safely that God is faithful to those who demonstrate fidelity.

The passage from Philippians belongs to a section of that epistle in which one finds advice regarding how to live faithfully in community.  People are to think about each other and model their lives after Jesus, whose humility and selflessness is certainly challenging to emulate.  In this context the customary verses about people with polysyllabic names take on more importance than they might otherwise; these verses model the attitudes and behaviors the preceding verses extol.  People are like what they do.

The three options for the Gospel reading are parallel versions of the same story, set immediately after the Transfiguration of Jesus.  One might fixate on the typically Hellenistic diagnosis of epilepsy as demonic possession, but to do so would be to miss the point.  In the narrative the Apostles have just learned of Christ’s true identity in all of its glory, yet they have not grasped this revelation, and were therefore ineffective.  The lesson for we who read these stories thousands of years later is to ponder whether we grasp who Jesus is and whether we are as effective as we can be in our discipleship.

Our challenge in this regard is to render proper thanksgiving to God in our lives.  We can do this only be grace, of course, but our desire to pursue this course of action is also essential.  Obstacles include laziness, fear, selfishness, cultural conditioning, the pressure to conform, and simple obliviousness.  If we are to grow into our full spiritual stature, however, we must seek to follow and honor God and to trust in divine grace.










Devotion for Thursday After Proper 18, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Paul the Apostle

Above:  St. Paul, by Lucas van Leyden

Image in the Public Domain

In Honor of Epaphroditus



The Collect:

Direct us, O Lord God, in all our doings by your continual help,

that all our works, begun, continued, and ended in you,

may glorify your holy name; and finally, by your mercy,

bring us to everlasting life, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47


The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 39:1-23

Psalm 1

Philippians 2:25-30


Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,

nor lingered in the seat of sinners,

nor sat in the seats of the scornful.

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


Psalm 1 is overly optimistic, for it says of the righteous in verse 3 that

everything they do shall prosper.

St. Paul the Apostle spent much time in prison and died as a martyr.  Joseph son of Jacob was in prison for a crime he did not commit.  As other portions of scripture (including certain psalms) indicate, sometimes the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper.

I think of a story Archbishop Desmond Tutu told.  During the Holocaust a Nazi guard was taunting a Jew who had to clean especially disgusting toilets.

Where is your God now?

the guard taunted the Jew, who replied,

Right here, beside me in the muck.

God was beside Joseph in the Egyptian prison and St. Paul in the prison (wherever it was) when Epaphroditus, sent by the church at Philippi, was there to tend to the Apostle’s needs.  Epaphroditus almost died performing that duty.  God was present with St. Paul directly and indirectly.

I have learned via experience that grace seems more evident during times of crisis than during good times.  Perhaps grace is in greater supply during the dark times; perhaps not.  That is a matter for God to know and for me to ponder.  What I know for sure is that grace seems more evident in difficult times, much as a light is more obvious in a dark room than in a well-lit one.  Like Joseph and St. Paul, I have experienced grace directly and indirectly (via people) during dark times.  I have also rejoiced and felt worthy simultaneously.

Has God called you, O reader, to be Epaphroditus to someone experiencing great hardship, for the sake of righteousness or another reason?  Or has someone been Epahproditus to you?







Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 22, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Kingdoms of Judah and Israel

Above:  Map of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel

Image in the Public Domain

Apostasy and Idolatry

OCTOBER 5-7, 2023


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:

Jeremiah 2:14-22 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 2:23-37 (Friday)

Jeremiah 6:1-10 (Saturday)

Psalm 80:7-15 (All Days)

Colossians 2:16-23 (Thursday)

Philippians 2:14-18; 3:1-4a (Friday)

John 7:40-52 (Saturday)


Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

–Psalm 80:7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The reading for these three days overlap nicely, focusing on the themes of idolatry and apostasy.  To commit apostasy is to fall away from grace.  (Thus grace is not irresistible.  Strict Calvinism is therefore mistaken about that fifth of the TULIP formula.  I am also dubious of the Perseverance of the Saints, which relates to Irresistible Grace.)  An idol is anything which takes the place of God in one’s life.  Thus an idol might be a false deity, an activity, or even a sacred text.  Function in one’s life determines that thing’s status relative to idolatry.  Among the most popular idols is the Bible, which is supposed to function instead as an icon–through which people see God.  But, if one treats it as an idol, that is what it is for that person.

The lessons from Jeremiah condemn idolatry which has led to national apostasy, evident in ill-advised alliances with foreign, predatory empires.

What then do you gain by going to Egypt,

to drink the waters of the Nile?

or what do you gain by going to Assyria,

to drink the waters of the Euphrates?

Your wickedness will punish you,

and your apostasies will convict you.

Know and see that it is evil and bitter

for you to forsake the LORD your God;

the fear of me is not in you,

says the LORD GOD of hosts.

–Jeremiah 2:18-19, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

From the gloom of Jeremiah 2 and 6 we turn to the Pauline tradition, which emphasizes Christ crucified and resurrected.  St. Paul the Apostle rejects, among other things, Gnostic asceticism, a form of Jewish ritualism, and the practice of worshiping angels as methods as obtaining the spiritual upper hand.  Christ is sufficient, the ever-Jewish Paul tells us through the ages.

I understand the Apostle’s objection to Gnosticism, with its reliance on secret knowledge and belief that matter is evil.  If salvation comes from having secret knowledge, as Gnostics insisted, the death and resurrection of Jesus were pointless.  In fact, in Gnostic thought, he did not die because he was not even corporeal, for, in Gnosticism, he could not have had a body, a body being material and therefore evil.  Thus Gnosticism was not Christian.  The exclusion of Gnostic texts from the Bible was not, as some “documentaries” on the History Channel claim, a conspiracy of Church leaders to suppress truth and crush dissent.  No, it was a proper course of action.

As for rituals (especially Jewish ones), I approach the text from Colossians differently than do the authors of some of the commentaries I consulted.  A high proportion of these writers were Presbyterians with little use for ritual.  Their paragraphs screamed between the lines “This is why I am not a Papist!”  I, as an Episcopalian, know the value of ritual and of approaching it properly.  It should be an icon, not an idol, although it functions as the latter for many people.  But so does the Bible, and I do not heap scorn on that sacred anthology either.

Apostasy, a theme from the Jeremiah readings, recurs in John 7.  Temple officials accuse some Temple policemen of it for refusing to arrest Jesus, who had impressed them.  These officials also accuse Nicodemus of the same offense.  I realize that much of the Gospel of John reflects late first-century C.E. Jewish Christian invective, for Jewish Christians had found themselves marginalized within Judaism.  Nevertheless, the stories in John 7:40-52 have the ring of truth, for fearful people in positions of power have attempted to retain it in many places and at numerous times.

Idols come in many varieties, shapes, sizes, and ages.  As I have written in this post, function in one’s life determines status relative to idolatry in that life.  Among the more common idols is attachment to the status quo ante, especially if one benefits from it.  Thus we become upset when God does something we do not expect.  This might threaten just our sense of order (hardly a minor issue), but also our identity (also a major consideration) and socio-economic-political or socio-economic standing (of which we tend to be quite protective).  But when was religion supposed to function as a defense against God?






Apostasy and Idolatry


Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 3, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  St. Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

Showing the Way



The Collect:

God of tender care, like a mother, like a father, you never forget your children,

and you know already what we need.

In all our anxiety give us trusting and faithful hearts,

that in confidence we may embody the peace and justice

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37


The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 12:22-28 (Thursday)

Isaiah 26:1-6 (Friday)

Psalm 131 (Both Days)

Philippians 2:19-24 (Thursday)

Philippians 2:25-30 (Friday)


O Lord, I am not proud;

I have no haughty looks.

I do not occupy myself with great matters,

or with things that are too hard for me.

But I still my soul and make it quiet,

like a child upon its mother’s breast;

my soul is quieted within me.

O Israel, wait upon the LORD,

from this time forth forevermore.

–Psalm 131, Book of Common Worship (1993)


If anyone had good reasons for being concerned and worried, St. Paul the Apostle did. He experienced beatings, a shipwreck, and incarcerations. Yet he was not worried about himself in Philippians 2. He was concerned, however, about the congregation at Phiippi. That assembly had to contend with a host of local opponents.

Timothy, the great Apostle wrote, was not like the others around the imprisoned Paul. They were

all wrapped up in their own affairs

and did

not really care for the cause of Jesus Christ.

–Philippians 2:21, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition, 1972

Yet Timothy, like Paul, cared about the Philippian Christians. So Paul sent Timothy to them, to encourage them in their faith.

The ability to get outside oneself is the essence of compassion. To care about the other more than for onselef is a great moral state in which to reside. Furthermore, having confidence that God will stand with the oppressed people who trust in God helps one to care more about others when one is among the oppressed righteous population. This helps one to say, in the words of Isaiah 26:4 (The New Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition):

Trust in the LORD forever,

for in the LORD GOD

you have an everlasting rock.

And having such confidence helps one live according to the statement in Proverbs 12:26 (The New Jerusalem Bible):

The upright shows the way to a friend;

the way of the wicked leads them astray.

Challenges remain for churches. These challenges have existed since the birth of the Christian movement, in fact. They come from within and without. Positive challenges—to abandon prejudices, which injure others spiritually—often meet with strong opposition. But, to quote a frequently used statement,

I believe in the separation of church and hate.

Sometimes this opposition has proved sufficient to divide congregations and denominations, thereby weakening the body of Christ. It still does.

Other challenges have resulted from open hostility to the church from quarters outside it. Sometimes this has led to martyrdom and less extreme methods of persecution. Yet, as an old saying tell us,

The blood of the martyrs waters the church.

Then there have been the challenges which indifference has wrought and continues to create. In my nation-state, the United States of America, the fastest growing religious affiliation is none. This fact causes me great concern, but I know that the church has survived and re-emerged in the face of more daunting circumstances during its long history. After all, the Kingdom of God, Jesus said, is like a really big and persistent weed, for it will go where it will. The church might live underground for periods of time in certain places, but it will survive.

So I am confident that God will prevail despite all that we humans—apathetic, hostile, or misdirected yet well-intentioned—have done, do, and will do. And I hope that I am among those walking faithfully in the way of righteousness—at least more often than not—and that I am not leading anyone astray.









Devotion for September 10 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments


Above:  Jehu

Image in the Public Domain

2 Kings and Philippians, Part III:  Violence in the Name of God

SEPTEMBER 10, 2023


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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 9:1-13; 10:18-29

Psalm 42 (Morning)

Psalms 102 and 133 (Evening)

Philippians 2:12-30


For the whole house of Ahab shall perish:  and I will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel….

–II Kings 9:9, Authorized Version


A few years ago someone showed me a YouTube video of a portion of a sermon from an Independent Baptist church in Arizona.  The minister quoted the above part of 2 Kings 9 and, instead of focusing on the narrative context of the verse, fixated on the word “pisseth” and preached about the meaning of manhood.  Apparently this meaning, according the reverend, involved urinating while standing up.  The sermon excerpt has, for me, functioned as comic relief (pun intentional).  I, unlike that preacher, have a college degree-three of them, in fact.  Yet one does not need formal education to read the Bible and place its passages in narrative context.

The violence ascribed to God’s command to Jehu in the fall of the House of Ahab troubles me.  In the previous post in this series sworn foreign enemies received kind treatment.  Those aliens went home safely after enjoying good food.  Did God cease to be merciful in 2 Kings 9 and 10?  The narrative of those chapters is inconsistent with the ethic of Philippians 2:15-16a:

Show yourselves innocent and above reproach, faultless children of God in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in a dark world and proffer the word of life.

–Revised English Bible

May we be as stars, not as Jehus.









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.









Week of Proper 26: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, Year 2   13 comments

Above:  St. James Episcopal Church, Cedartown, Georgia, May 1, 2011

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

“At the Name of Jesus….”

OCTOBER 31, 2022

NOVEMBER 1 and 2, 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 2:1-3:1a (Revised English Bible):

If then our common life in Christ yields anything to stir the heart, any consolation of love, any participation in the Spirit, any warmth of affection or compassion, fill up my cup of happiness by thinking and feeling alike, with the same love for one another and a common attitude of mind.  Leave no room for selfish ambition and vanity, but humbly reckon others better than yourselves.  Look to each other’s interests and not merely to your own.

Take to heart among yourselves what you find in Christ Jesus:

He was in the form of God; yet he laid no claim to equality with God, but made himself nothing, assuming the form of a slave.  Bearing the human likeness, sharing the human lot, he humbled himself, and was obedient, even to the point of death, death on a cross!  Therefore God raised him to the heights and bestowed on him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow–in heaven, on earth, and in the depths–and on every tongue acclaim, “Jesus Christ is Lord,” the glory of God the Father.

So you too, my friends, must be obedient, as always; even more, now that I am absent, than when I was with you.  You must work out your own salvation in fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you, inspiring both the will and the deed, for his own chosen purpose.

Do everything without grumbling or argument.  Show yourselves innocent and above reproach, faultless children of God in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in a dark world and proffer the word of life.  Then you will be my pride on the day of Christ, proof that I did run my race in vain or labour in vain.  But if my lifeblood is to be poured out to complete  the sacrifice and offering up of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.  You too must rejoice and share your joy with me.

I hope, in the Lord Jesus, to send Timothy to you soon; it will cheer me up to have news of you.  I have no one else here like him, who has a genuine concern for your affairs; they are all bent on their own interests, not on those of Christ Jesus.  But Timothy’s record is known to you:  You know that he has been at my side in the service of the gospel like a son working under his father.  So he is the one I mean to send as soon as I see how things go with me; and I am confident, in the Lord, that I shall be coming myself before long.

I have decided I must also send our brother Epaphroditus, my fellow-worker and comrade, whom you commissioned to attend to my needs.  He has been missing you all, and was upset because you heard he was ill.  Indeed he was dangerously ill, but God was merciful to him; and not only to him but to me, to spare me one sorrow on top of another.  For this reason I am all the more eager to send him and give you the happiness of seeing him again; that will relieve my anxiety as well.  Welcome him then in the fellowship of the Lord with wholehearted delight.  You should honour people like him; in Christ’s cause he came near to death, risking his life to render me the service you could not give.  And now, my friends, I wish you joy in the Lord.


Psalm 131 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

O LORD, I am not proud;

I have no haughty looks.

I do not occupy myself with great matters,

or with things that are too hard for me.

But I still my soul and make it quiet,

like a child upon its mother’s breast;

my soul is quieted within me.

O Israel, wait upon the LORD,

from this time forth for evermore.


Psalm 22:22-28 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

22 Praise the LORD, you that fear him;

stand in awe of him, O offspring of Israel;

all you of Jacob’s line, give glory.

23 For he does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty;

neither does he hide his face from them;

but when they cry to him he hears them.

24 My praise is of him in the great assembly;

I will perform my vows in the presence of those who worship him.

25 The poor shall eat and be satisfied,

and those who seek the LORD shall praise him:

“May your heart love for ever!”

26 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD,

and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.

27 For kingship belongs to the LORD;

he rules over the nations.

28 To him alone who sleep in the earth bow down in worship;

all who go down to the dust fall before him.


Psalm 62:6-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

6  For God alone my soul in silence waits;

truly, my hope is in him.

7  He alone is my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.

8  In God is my safety and my honor;

God is my strong rock and my refuge.

9  Put your trust in him always, O people,

pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.

10  Those of high degree are but a fleeting breath,

even those of low estate cannot be trusted.

11  On the scales they are lighter than a breath,

all of them together.

12  Put no trust in extortion;

in robbery take no empty pride;

though wealth increases, set not your heart upon it.

13  God has spoken once, twice have I heard it,

that power belongs to God.

14  Steadfast love is yours, O Lord,

for you repay everyone according to his deeds.


Luke 14:12-33 (Revised English Bible):

Then he [Jesus] said to his host,

When you are having guests for lunch or supper, do not invite your friends, your brothers or other relations, or your rich neighbours; they will only ask you back again and so you will be repaid.  But when you give a party, ask the poor, the cripples, the lame, and the blind.  That is the way to find happiness, because they have no means of repaying you.  You will be repaid on the day when the righteous rise from the dead.

Hearing this one of the company said to Jesus,

Happy are those who sit at the feast in the kingdom of God!

Jesus answered,

A man was giving a big dinner party and had sent out many invitations.  At dinner-time he sent his servant to tell his guests, “Come please, everything is now ready.”   One after another they all sent excuses. The first said, “I have bought a piece of land, and I must go and inspect it; please accept my apologies.”  The second said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am on my way to try them out; please accept my apologies.”  The next said, “I cannot come; I have just got married.”  When the servant came back he reported this to his master.  The master of the house was furious and said to him, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town, and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.”  When the servant informed him that his orders had been carried out and there was still room, his master replied, “Go out on the highways and compel them to come in; I want my house full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited shall taste my banquet.”

Once when great crowds were accompanying Jesus, he turned to them and said:

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, even his own life, he cannot be a disciple of mine.  No one who does not carry his cross and come with me can be a disciple of mine.  Would any of you think of building a tower without first sitting down and calculating the cost, to see whether he could afford to finish it?  Otherwise, if he has laid its foundation and then is unable to complete it, everyone who sees it will laugh at him.  ”There goes the man,” they will say, “who started to build and could not finish.”  Or what king will march to battle against another king, without first sitting down to consider whether with ten thousand men he can face an enemy coming to meet him with twenty thousand?  If he cannot, then, long before the enemy approaches, he sends envoys and asks for terms.  So also, if you are not prepared to leave all your possessions behind, you cannot be my disciples.


The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 26:  Monday, Year 1:

Week of Proper 26:  Tuesday, Year 1:

Week of Proper 26:  Wednesday, Year 1:


1.  At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,

every tongue confess him King of glory now;

’tis the Father’s pleasure we should call him Lord,

who from the beginning was the mighty Word.

2.  Humbled for a season, to receive a name

from the lips of sinners unto whom he came,

faithfully he bore it, spotless to the last,

brought it back victorious when from death he passed.

3.  Bore it up triumphant with its human light,

through the ranks of creatures to the central height,

to the throne of Godhead, to the Father’s breast;

filled it with the glory of that perfect rest.

4.  In your hearts enthrone him; there let him subdue

all that is not holy, all that is not true.

Crown him as your captain in temptation’s hour;

let his will enfold you in its light and power.

–Caroline M. Noel, 1870

Philippians 2:5-11 forms the basis of the great 1870 hymn, “At the Name of Jesus.”  I do not recall ever singing it prior to attending an Episcopal church.  The 1965 Methodist Hymnal and the 1989 United Methodist Hymnal contain the hymn, so it was at least a hypothetical option in the rural United Methodist congregations I attended as a youth.  More importantly, however, this hymn was not in the Cokesbury Worship Hymnal, so I guess that “At the Name of Jesus” did not pass muster for that reason.  Some of the churches I had to attend when young had quite limited knowledge of hymns, restricted mostly to the Cokesbury Worship Hymnal.  At least I am in a better place now.

The words of the glorious hymn speak of the humility of Jesus.  This theme echoes in Philippians 2,  of course.  And, if one reads the composite lesson from Luke 14, one finds Jesus teaching about humility.  True humility is knowing who one is and being comfortable with that.  Love, like humility, does insist on its own way; it is considerate of others and leads to self-sacrifice.

Take up your cross and follow me,

Jesus says.  These words fit nicely with Paul’s description of Jesus in Philippians 2.  (I adore how lectionaries work very well much of the time!)

I notice also the concern for the Philippians in the epistle.  Epaphroditus, when quite ill, was more concerned about the Philippians’ fears for him than about the fact he was seriously ill.  And Paul sought news from that church, saying that the updates would delight him.  Based on these readings, I propose that the first sacrifices we ought to make to God are apathy and anger toward one another, so that we will have only concern for each other.  That would be a wonderful way to live and become a walking billboard for Jesus.

In your hearts enthrone him; let him there subdue

all that is not holy, all that is not true.

Crown him as your captain in temptation’s hour;

let his will enfold you in its light and power.


Proper 21, Year A   23 comments

Above:  Saint Francis of Assisi Kneeling (1635-1639), Painted by Francisco de Zubaran

Image in the Public Domain

Against All Pretenses

The Sunday Closest to September 28

The Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost

OCTOBER 1, 2023



Exodus 17:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said,

Give us water to drink.

Moses said to them,

Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?

But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said,

Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?

So Moses cried out to the Lord,

What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.

The Lord said to Moses,

Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.

Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying,

Is the Lord among us or not?

Psalm 78:1-14, 12-16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Hear my teaching, O my people;

incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

2  I will open my mouth in a parable;

I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.

3  That which we have heard and known,

and what our forefathers have told us,

we will not hide from their children.

4  We will recount to generations to come

the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the LORD,

and the wonderful works he has done.

12 He worked marvels in the sight of their forefathers,

in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.

13  He split open the sea and let them pass through;

he made the waters stand up like walls.

14  He led them with a cloud by day,

and all the night through with a glow of fire.

15  He split the hard rocks in the wilderness

and gave them drink as from the great deep.

16  He brought streams out of the cliff,

and the waters gushed out like rivers.


Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32 (New Revised Standard Version):

The word of the LORD came to me:

What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? As I live, says the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.

Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. Yet the house of Israel says, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?

Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord GOD. Turn, then, and live.

Psalm 25:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;

my God, I put my trust in you;

let me not be humiliated,

nor let my enemies triumph over me.

2  Let none who look to you be put to shame;

let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.

3  Show me your ways, O LORD,

and teach me your paths.

4  Lead me in your truth and teach me,

for you are the God of my salvation;

in you have I trusted all the day long.

5  Remember, O LORD, your compassion and love,

for they are from everlasting.

6  Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions;

remember me according to your love

and for the sake of your goodness, O LORD.

7  Gracious and upright is the LORD;

therefore he teaches sinners in his way.

8  He guides the humble in doing right

and teaches his way to the lowly.


Philippians 2:1-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete:  be of the same mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,

did not regard equality with God

as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to the point of death–

even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him

and gave him the name

that is above every name,

so that at the name of Jesus

every knee should bend,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue should confess

that Jesus Christ is Lord,

the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.


Matthew 21:23-32 (New Revised Standard Version):

When Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said,

By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?

Jesus said to them,

I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?

And they argued with one another,

If we say, “From heaven,” he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” But if we say, “Of human origin,” we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.

So they answered Jesus,

We do not know.

And he said to them,

Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?

They said,

The first.

Jesus said to them,

Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

The Collect:

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


I have become convinced that following a lectionary is one of the best, if not the best, way to study the Bible.  There is a place for studying just one text, but placing two or more of them side-by-side and identifying common threads is wonderful, too.  And that is one purpose of the orderly reading of scripture per a lectionary.

The common thread here is the necessity of obedience to God.  What stands in the way of that?  Various issues do.  Sometimes we misunderstand God, as did many of my Antebellum forebears who used the Bible to justify slavery, based on a literal reading of some passages (or parts of passages) but not others, as well as their own economic interests, racist views, and other cultural baggage.  They were sincerely wrong, which means that they were still wrong.  We have cultural blinders today, so we need not to content ourselves with condemning our benighted forebears, for each of us is severely mistaken in some ways, too.

Others do not try, at least as much as they ought to do.  Consider the case of the Israelites in the wilderness.  They focused on what they lacked, not what they had.  I have done a similar thing many times, and probably will do so again.  Or maybe the fault is that one operates out of selfish motivations.  I have seen this dynamic hobble more than one congregation.  When a person of influence, if not title, in a congregation, especially a small one, does not check his or ego at the church doors, the results are unfortunate.  Paul understood the assembly of the faithful to function much like the human body; everybody is necessary and the tasks differ according to each member.  What matters most is to identify one’s proper role, fulfill it, and to be content to do that–all for the improvement of the body and the glory of God.

We cannot and will not do this if we are taking ego trips and using our pretenses as crutches.  This is why Jesus said that some prostitutes would enter Heaven before certain Pharisees would.  The former had no pretenses, unlike the latter.  In another story, the wealthy young man relied on his money and possessions.  They insulated him from full knowledge of his reliance on God.  That was why Jesus told him to give them up.

We get one crutch–God.  This is the God who has become incarnate as Jesus, who, Paul tells us, did not let anything stand in the way of his faithful obedience.  Our Lord did not stand on ceremony, flaunt pretenses, or take his identity from others.  No, his identity was internal, as is yours, and as is mine.  Jesus was the Son of God.  I am, through Jesus, a member of the household of God.  You, O reader, are also one, I hope.  Knowing who we are–children of God–and whose we are–God’s–may we, using the one proper crutch, abandon our false egos and pretense.  May we journey toward God, supporting each other as our paths converge, for our individual and common good, and for the glory of God.