Archive for the ‘Psalm 119 Pe’ Tag

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

Above:  The Parable of the Net

Image in the Public Domain

Good News and Bad News

AUGUST 6, 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)


1 Kings 3:5-12

Psalm 119:129-136

Romans 8:28-30

Matthew 13:44-52


O God, your ears are always open to the prayers of your servants. 

Open our hearts and minds to you,

that we may live in harmony with your will

and receive the gifts of your Spirit;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 26


O God, the Protector of all who trust in you,

without whom nothing is strong and nothing is holy,

increase and multiply your mercy on us,

that with you as our Ruler and Guide,

we may so pass through things temporal,

that we lose not the things eternal;

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), 71


Redeem me from human oppression….

–Psalm 119:134a, The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)


Good news and bad news come together.

  1. The reading from 1 Kings 3 marinates in hindsight and the wasted potential of King Solomon, who had come to power like Michael Corleone, settling disputes with murder.  One may reasonably speculate that King Solomon had already cast his die before 1 Kings 3.  Nevertheless, hope springs eternal, to quote a cliché.
  2. We read a portion of Psalm 119, in which the author extols God’s commandments in the context of human oppression.
  3. Single Predestination (Romans 8:28-30) is to Heaven.  Those not so predestined have the witness of the Holy Spirit available to them.
  4. We read that, at the end of the age, the angels will separate the wicked from the righteous.  This is good news for the righteous and bad news for the wicked.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.

I paid little attention to predestination when I was a Methodist.  My theology has shifted, however, into Anglican-Lutheranism, which includes Single Predestination.  After growing up ignoring passages such as Romans 8:28-30, I have embraced them.

The good news of Single Predestination, paired with the witness of the Holy Spirit, is grace.  Those predestined receive one form of grace.  Those not predestined receive another form of grace.  Their free will to accept or reject the witness of the Holy Spirit exists because of grace.  Everything boils down to grace.

We human beings do not have to earn everything.  We cannot earn grace.  If we accept it, we also accept its demands on our lives.  Grace is free, not cheap.

Good news and bad news come together.  We mere mortals make our bad news and some of our good news.  God brings us good news.  Are we receptive to it?










Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA


Devotion for Proper 8, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Temple of Artemis (1886), by Ferdinand Knab

Image in the Public Domain

Enemies and Threats, Real and Perceived

JUNE 12, 2022


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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


Genesis 2:3-9 or Acts 19:23-41

Psalm 119:129-144

Revelation 1:1-8

John 5:19-47


God has breathed life into we human beings and spoken to us.  God has spoken to us frequently and in different ways.  God has never ceased to speak to us.  God has even become incarnate.

But how many of us are listening to God?

The words from God can be extremely inconvenient sometimes.  Human nature is a constant factor.  Any perceived threat to the economy (as at Ephesus, in Acts 19:23-41) can become a cause of outrage.  This outrage may lead to a riot, therefore to possible peril for some, such as St. Paul the Apostle and his traveling companions.

Some of the politics of 85 C.E. or so (the time of the composition of Luke-Acts) probably informed the telling of Acts 19:23-41.  We human beings always filter the past through the lens of our present day, even when we recount the details accurately.  The depiction of Roman officials in Ephesus as protectors of St. Paul the Apostle and his traveling companions seems, in the present day of 85 C.E. or so, a political message:  Christians are not enemies of the Roman Empire.

Above:  Site of the Temple of Artemis, Ephesus

Image Source = Google Earth

Nevertheless, Christianity may be a foe of certain forms of commerce–the silver shrines of Artemis, in the case of Acts 19:23-41.  One consequence of living in such a way that one follows Jesus may be that one no longer purchases X.  And one consequence of the growth of Christianity may be that the market for X diminishes.  Some people, whose livelihoods depend upon a healthy market for X, may become fearful.  Then what might they do?

Nevertheless, one needs to continue to follow Jesus.  One needs to keep listening to God.  We need to persist in following Jesus and listening to God.

By the way, the great Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, once one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, is a ruin.










Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 12, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  The Meeting of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, Circa 1899

Copyright by The U.S. Printing Co.

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC4-5226

The Kingdom of Solomon Versus the Kingdom of God

JULY 27-29, 2023


The Collect:

Beloved and sovereign God,

through the death and resurrection of your Son

you bring us into your kingdom of justice and mercy.

By your Spirit, give us your wisdom,

that we may treasure the life that comes from

 Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43


The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 1:28-37 (Thursday)

1 Kings 1:38-48 (Friday)

1 Kings 2:1-4 (Saturday)

Psalm 119:129-136 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 4:14-20 (Thursday)

Acts 7:44-53 (Friday)

Matthew 12:38-42 (Saturday)


Let your countenance shine upon your servant

and teach me your statutes.

My eyes shed streams of tears

because people do not keep your law.

–Psalm 119:135-136, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


Solomon recurs in the assigned readings for these three days.  Often the references are explicit.  Other times, however, he functions as an unnamed and negative figure of contrast.

We begin in 1 Kings 1 and 2, where we read of Solomon’s accession to the throne of Israel.  This process included scheming and political maneuvering.  Early in Chapter 2 the crown prince, soon to be king, received instructions to follow the Law of Moses.  Later in that chapter the new monarch eliminated political rivals.  Solomon was off to a bad start.  Furthermore, the foundation of his reign was tyranny, including forced labor and high taxes on the poor.  Had not Israelites been slaves in Egypt?  O, the irony!

The Kingdom of God is greater than the kingdom of Solomon.  In the former there is enough for everybody to share the wealth equitably and forced labor is absent.  God, who lives in faithful people and whose law is inscribed on their hearts, calls people to mutual respect and responsibility, not to any form of injustice–judicial, economic, et cetera.  There is no artificial scarcity in the Kingdom of God.  No, there is unbounded abundance of blessings, which exist not for hoarding (as some tried to do with manna), but for the common good.

St. Paul the Apostle wrote:

We [apostles] are fools for Christ’s sake, but you [Corinthians] are wise in Christ.  We are weak, but you are strong.  You are held in honor, but we in disrepute.  To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly clothed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands.   When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the dregs of all things.

–1 Corinthians 4:10-13, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

The greatest one in the Kingdom of God is the servant of all.  Blessed are the poor in the Kingdom of God.  Blessed are those who hunger and those who weep.  Blessed are those whom others revile for the sake of righteousness.  And blessed are those who are poor in spirit–who know their need for God.  Blessed are those who seek righteousness and who make peace.

Solomon’s kingdom did not function on these principles.  Neither do governments in our own day.  I know that people who try to make government look less like Solomon’s kingdom face charges of engaging in class warfare.  The real practitioners of class warfare in these cases are the accusers, of course.

Justice–in the context of the common good–requires some people to surrender or forego certain perks and privileges.  But if we act on the principles that (1) everything belongs to God and (2) we are tenants on this planet and stewards of God’s bounty, we will not insist on gaining or keeping certain perks and privileges at the expense of others.  And we will not think too highly of ourselves and look down upon others.  That is a challenging and tall order, but it is also a good one to pursue.  We can at least approach it, by grace, of course.







The Kingdom of Solomon Versus the Kingdom of God


Proper 12, Year A   28 comments

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

Image in the Public Domain

Single Predestination

The Sunday Closest to July 27

The Ninth Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 30, 2023



Genesis 29:15-28 (New Revised Standard Version):

Laban said to Jacob,

Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?

Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. Jacob loved Rachel; so he said,

I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.

Laban said,

It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.

So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

Then Jacob said to Laban,

Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.

So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her.  (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban,

What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?

Laban said,

This is not done in our country– giving the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.

Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.

Psalm 105:1-11, 45b (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 has chosen.

7 He is the LORD our God;

his judgments prevail in all the world.

8 He has always been mindful of his covenant,

the promise he made for a thousand generations.

9 The covenant he made with Abraham,

the oath that he swore to Isaac,

10 Which he established as a statute for Jacob,

an everlasting covenant for Israel,

11 Saying, “To you will I give the land of Canaan

to be your allotted inheritance.”

45b Hallelujah!


Psalm 128 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Happy are they all who fear the LORD,

and who follow in his ways!

2 You shall eat the fruit of your labor;

happiness and prosperity shall be yours.

3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house,

your children like olive shoots round about your table.

4 The man who fears the LORD

shall thus indeed be blessed.

5 The LORD bless you from Zion,

and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.

6 May you live to see your children’s children;

may peace be upon Israel.


1 Kings 3:5-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said,

Ask what I should give you.

And Solomon said,

You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him,

Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.

Psalm 119:129-136 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

129 Your decrees are wonderful;

therefore I obey them with all my heart.

130 When your word goes forth it gives light;

it gives understanding to the simple.

131 I open my mouth and pant;

I long for your commandments.

132 Turn to me in mercy,

as you always do to those who love your Name.

133 Steady my footsteps in your word;

let no iniquity have dominion over me.

134 Rescue me from those who oppress me,

and I will keep your commandments.

135 Let your countenance shine upon your servant

and teach me your statutes.

136 My eyes shed streams of tears,

because people do not keep your law.


Romans 8:26-39 (New Revised Standard Version):

The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,

For your sake we are being killed all day long;

we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus put before the crowds another parable:

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.

He told them another parable:

The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Have you understood all this?

They answered,


And he said to them,

Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.

The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

–Romans 8:28-30 (New Revised Standard Version)

I consider myself a serious student of the Bible–a student, not a teacher or scholar.  There is always something more for me to learn, and what I do know about the Bible outweighs my accumulated learning concerning it.  So I have no problem admitting freely that there are certain passages and verses I have not really read for years.  I have read the words, but I have moved along.

Romans 8:28-30 is one such passage.  Yes, I knew 8:28, but focused on that, not 8:29-30.  I began to focus on this passage in late 2008.  My methodology was quite Episcopalian; I examined the scriptures carefully, read what Christian theologians have made of these verses, and employed my reason in pondering all this information.  The preponderance of scripture, tradition, and reason has convinced me to be become and remain a Single Predestinarian:  God has predestined some people to Heaven, but nobody to Hell.  The witness of the Holy Spirit and the missions efforts of the Church are available to invite all others into the path leading to eternal life in this life and the next.

Being raised United Methodist, I imbibed deeply of free will and the rejection of any form of predestination.  The Methodist concept of salvation available to all according to all, with only the free will choice to reject it standing in the way, is a democratic theology consistent with the American ethos.  It is a powerful idea which has affected U.S. history and culture, helping to liberate women and slaves spiritually while negating social hierarchies.  Despite these positive contributions, it is a flawed idea.

Calvinism, in any form, is a textured and subtle theological system, one which does not lend itself to bumper sticker statements. This confusion is mildly amusing when it becomes the fodder for jokes, but does not aid in spiritual contemplation.

The good news is that the wisdom that Solomon sought is available to all by grace, either in the form of predestination or the witness of the Holy Spirit; that the extremely valuable Kingdom of God is within the grasp of all, either in the form of predestination or the witness of the Holy Spirit.  The mustard seed grows into a giant shrub that goes where it will.  Yeast, traditionally associated with corruption in Judaism, becomes a symbol of extravagant grace.  The pearls are extremely valuable; the pursuit of them indicates single-minded devotion.  The parable of the fish in the net is akin to that of the mustard seed, for both contain the good and the bad, the pure and the impure; God will sort out everything at the end.

The mustard plant provides shelter for many varieties of animal life.  Some of the neighbors do not get along, but there they are, together.  And Jesus says this is a metaphor for the Kingdom of God.  The net collects the good fish along with the rotten ones.  Who is a good fish?  Who is a rotten one?  Do you not get along with your neighbor species in the mustard bush?  Leaving decisions as to who is pure and who is impure, who is good and who is rotten, to God is the better part of wisdom.  We might even be confused about our proper classification.

Fortunately, grace is present, in one form or another, and there is hope for us yet.


Week of Proper 5: Tuesday, Year 1   8 comments

Above:  Corinth,  Greece

What Kind of Salt and Light Are We?

JUNE 13, 2023


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.


2 Corinthians 1:18-22 (An American Translation):

As surely as God can be relied on, there has been no equivocation about our message to you.  The Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed to you, Silvanus, Timothy, and I, you have not found wavering between “Yes” and “No.”  With him it has always been “Yes,” for to all the promises of God he supplies the “Yes” that confirms them.  That is why we utter the “Amen” through him, when we give glory to God.  But is God who guarantees us and you to Christ; he has anointed us and put his seal upon us and given us his Spirit in our hearts, as his guarantee.

Psalm 119:129-136 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

129 Your decrees are wonderful;

therefore I obey them with all my heart.

130 When your word goes forth it gives light;

it gives understanding to the simple.

131 I open my mouth and pant;

I long for your commandments.

132 Turn to me in mercy,

as you always do to those who love your Name.

133 Steady my footsteps in your word;

let no iniquity have dominion over me.

134 Rescue me from those who oppress me,

and I will keep your commandments.

135 Let your countenance shine upon your servant

and teach me your statutes.

136 My eyes shed streams of tears,

because people do not keep your law.

Matthew 5:13-16 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued:]

You are the salt of the earth!  But if salt loses its strength, how can it be made salt again?  It is good for nothing but to be thrown away and trodden underfoot.  You are the light of the world!  A city that is built upon a hill cannot be hidden.  People do not light a lamp and put it under a peck-measure; they put it on its stand and it gives light to everyone in the house.  Your light must burn in that way among men so that they will see the good you do, and praise your Father in heaven.


The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


The Christian congregation at Corinth contained some difficult personalities, to state the case mildly.  This remained true for some time after the apostle’s death, unfortunately.  For evidence of this, read St. Clement’s (first) Letter to the Corinthians, written around the year 100 C.E.  As a reading of the 2 Corinthians 1 makes clear, Paul had planned to pay a second visit to Corinth but had delayed it.  The tension in that church was so high that Paul, as he stated the matter, did not want to visit in grief.  In his absence, some Corinthians were saying that Paul was not reliable, not faithful to his promises.

This context is essential to understanding 2 Corinthians 1:18-22.  Paul was not vacillating (verse 17).  Furthermore, God is faithful, that is reliable.  Likewise, Paul’s word to the Corinthians has always been “Yes.”  And God’s answer in the context to all divine promises has always been “Yes.”  In fact, the answer has been “Yes” through Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, active among people, guarantees the trustworthiness of Paul’s message to the Corinthians.

Here we have a statement of a glorious truth:  that God is faithful, and that we see this reliability in human form, the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  Jesus is the Word of God, as the Gospel of John (written after the death of Paul) reminds us.  So God is far more reliable than we are.

This day’s reading from Matthew 5 contains familiar passages.  There is a potential danger in reading familiar texts.  One might nod one’s head and think, “Yes, I know this passage well.  Next!”  This is an excellent time to slow down and read the text with fresh eyes.  So consider the following information:

  • People used salt not only to make food taste better but to preserve food.
  • Salt was a valuable commodity.
  • Most Judean houses were dark, lacking many windows.  So a good source of light was essential.
  • Relighting such a lamp was not a simple task.  So, for the sake of safety, people covered a burning lamp when they left their house.

So, if we Christians are to be salt and light, we must do the following:

  • Emulate the example of Jesus
  • Have lived faith which is evident to all who are paying attention
  • Bring glory to God, not ourselves
  • Give positive flavor to the world, or at least our corner of it
  • Preserve goodness

And we cannot do this if we are spreading rumors and slanders, and questioning groundlessly the motivations of others.  Such activities do not quality as keeping God’s law.  No, the summary of the law of God is to love God with everything one has and is, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself.  There is regulation in divine law against such deeds.

There is an important lesson for Christian communities here.  Will we act out of love, or will we withdraw into pettiness and bitterness?  It is indeed a rare church that lacks any feature of the Corinthian congregation, but what is the personality of any given assembly?  Without naming any churches, I can rank churches I have known on this scale.  Perhaps you can, too.

And, as individuals, do we contribute to making our communities and neighborhoods better than we have found them?  If we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem.

Think about this:  Jesus came, in part, to leave the world better than he found it.