Archive for the ‘Psalm 43’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 4, Year B (Humes)   Leave a comment

Above:  The Calling of St. Matthew, by Hendrick ter Brugghen

Image in the Public Domain

The Power of Words

JUNE 2, 2024


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


Job 11:7-20 or Deuteronomy 15:7-11

Psalm 43

James 3:1-13

Mark 2:13-28


Words matter.  They can inflict pain, even when one imagines oneself to be acting righteously, as in the case of Zophar the Naamathite, who proceeded from a false assumption while lecturing Job on repentance.  Words can call others to discipleship.  Words can remind one  of the divine mandate on individuals and societies to care for the less fortunate.  Words can reach the throne of God.

Words can create justice or injustice; they make the future.  May we, being mindful of the power of words, trust in God and strive to use these tools for the common good and the glory of God.











Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 26, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Hophni and Phinehas

Above:  Hophni and Phinehas

Image in the Public Domain

Taking God Seriously

NOVEMBER 2-4, 2023


The Collect:

O God, generous and supreme, your loving Son lived among us,

instructing us in the ways of humility and justice.

Continue to ease our burdens, and lead us to serve alongside of him,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51


The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 2:27-36 (Thursday)

Ezekiel 13:1-16 (Friday)

Malachi 1:6-2:9 (Saturday)

Psalm 43 (All Days)

Romans 2:17-29 (Thursday)

2 Peter 2:1-3 (Friday)

Matthew 23:13-28 (Saturday)


Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me,

and bring me to your holy hill

and to your dwelling;

That I may go to the altar of God,

to the God of my joy and gladness;

and on the harp I will give thanks to you, O God my God.

–Psalm 43:3-4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


There are at least two ways to be wrong:  sincerely and insincerely.  Certainly there have always been those people who lead others astray knowingly.  The majority of false teachers and prophets over time, I propose, have not known of their error.  They have been the blind leading the blind, with disastrous results for all involved.

A brief catalog of named errors I have compiled from these days’ readings follows:

  1. Fixating on relatively minor points at the expense of relatively major ones,
  2. Acting disrespectfully of sacred rituals, and
  3. Acting disrespectfully of sacred places.

People of good faith disagree about what constitutes an example of the first point.  Is insisting on the circumcision of males an example of it?  St. Paul the Apostle, in his reformed state, thought so.  Yet the practice was a major point in the Old Testament and a mark of Jewish identity.  As you probably know, O reader, identity is a sensitive psychological issue.  That seems to be the reality for Jews of today who fall back upon identity and the theology of covenant when defending the practice against secular critics.  I am somewhat sympathetic to these faithful Jews.

In St. Paul’s day the question focused on the issue of whether a Gentile had to convert to Judaism before becoming a Christian.  At the time Christianity was still a Jewish sect, after all.  Thus issues of identity, inclusion, and exclusion collided.  The Apostle sided with inclusion, as I tend to do.  Reflecting on the readings for the previous post led to me to write about removing barriers to trusting in God, upon whom we depend completely.  In that spirit, then, should we not remove barriers to coming to God, who beckons us?

May we, while taking God and divine commandments seriously, do so in ways which smooth the path to salvation, not construct barriers to it.







Taking God Seriously


Proper 7, Year C   12 comments

Above:  Elijah in the Wilderness, by Washington Allston

Terrifying Grace

The Sunday Closest to June 22

Second Sunday After Pentecost

JUNE 19, 2022


The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 19:1-4 (5-7), 8-15a and Psalms 42 and 43


Isaiah 65:1-9 and Psalm 22:18-27


Galatians 3:23-29

Luke 8:26-39

The Collect:

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Confession:

Prayer of Dedication:

1 Kings 19:

Isaiah 65:

Galatians 3:

Luke 8:

The Remnant:


As I took notes on the readings then pondered connections the first unifying thread I noticed was fear.  To begin with the Old Testament options, Elijah was a fugitive  from the wrath of Queen Jezebel after the contest with the priests of Baal.  Yet God, who was present in the silence, not the storm, encouraged the prophet and gave him more tasks to complete.  Third Isaiah reminded his audience that a remnant of the faithful would survive the destruction of the wicked.  So the faithful needed not to fear, although the wicked did.

In the Gospel of Luke Jesus healed a demoniac (whatever his modern psychiatric label would be) and killed a herd of swine.  Then fearful locals asked our Lord to depart the premises.  What scared them?  The loss of the swine, economic assets, disturbed some obvious reasons.  And the demonstration of such power certainly disturbed others.  But the healing was the scariest part of the sequence of events.  Who were the locals relative to the man if he, once ill, was now well?

Change disturbs many people profoundly.  We become accustomed to the status quo, even if we know that it is imperfect.  But at least it is familiar.  Some things, of course, should remain constant, so discomfort with some change is healthy and proper.  But resistance to change in general constitutes a spiritual dysfunction.  Besides, life is replete with change.  One who likes things just so and constant will not cope well with life.  And an organism that is not changing is dead.

Speaking of change, Christ Jesus overrides a variety of distinctions, such as slave and free person, male and female, and Jew and Gentile. Opposites such as these cease to matter in the context of our Lord.   That causes me great joy.  Yet many others find that breaking down barriers frightening.  If we define ourselves by who and what we are not rather than by who and what we are, it is terrifying news.

Grace scandalizes many of us.  It calls us as we are and leads us to become a new creation.  Grace ignores categories we use to make sense of the world and destroys our illusion that we know more than we do.  Grace tell sus that we need not hide from our enemies if God is with us.  We still might die–the Romans did crucify Jesus–but divine power remains unrivaled.  And God will preserve a remnant of the faithful as the wicked perish.  The members of that remnant will have a responsibility to minister grace to others, for grace is free, not cheap.

Dare we embrace this potentially upsetting and terrifying grace?  Or do we prefer the comfortable fictions and realities which comfort us while afflicting others?








Proper 26, Year A   17 comments

Above:  The Children of Israel Crossing the River Jordan, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Doman

God, Who Exalts

The Sunday Closest to November 2

The Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost

NOVEMBER 5, 2023



Joshua 3:7-17 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD said to Joshua,

This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, so that they may know that I will be with you as I was with Moses. You are the one who shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, `When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’

Joshua then said to the Israelites,

Draw near and hear the words of the LORD your God.

Joshua said,

By this you shall know that among you is the living God who without fail will drive out from before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites: the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is going to pass before you into the Jordan. So now select twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. When the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan flowing from above shall be cut off; they shall stand in a single heap.

When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant were in front of the people. Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water, the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, while those flowing toward the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho. While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan.

Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

and his mercy endures for ever.

Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim

that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.

He gathered them out of the lands;

from the east and from the west,

from the north and from the south.

Some wandered in desert wastes;

they found no way to a city where they might dwell.

5  They were hungry and thirsty;

their spirits languised within them.

6  Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress.

He put their feet on a straight path

to go to a city where they might dwell.

33  The LORD changed rivers into deserts,

and water-springs into thirsty-ground,

34  A fruitful land into salt flats,

because of the wickedness of those who dwell there.

35  He changed deserts into pools of water

and dry land into water springs.

36  He settled the hungry there,

and they founded a city to dwell in.

37  They sowed fields, and planted vineyards,

and brought in a fruitful harvest.


Micah 3:5-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

Thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who lead my people astray, who cry “Peace” when they have something to eat but declare war against those who put nothing in their mouths.

Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision,

and darkness to you, without revelation.

The sun shall go down upon the prophets,

and the day shall be black over them;

the seers shall be disgraced,

and the diviners put to shame;

they shall all cover their lips,

for there is no answer from God.

But as for me, I am filled with power, with the spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.

Hear this, you rulers of the house of Jacob

and chiefs of the house of Israel,

who abhor justice

and pervert all equity,

who build Zion with blood

and Jerusalem with wrong!

Its rulers give judgment for a bribe,

its priests teach for a price,

its prophets give oracles for money;

yet they lean upon the LORD and say,

“Surely the LORD is with us!

No harm shall come upon us.”

Therefore because of you

Zion shall be plowed as a field;

Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,

and the mountain of the house a wooded height.

Psalm 43 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give judgment for me, O God,

and defend my cause against an ungodly people;

deliver me from the deceitful and the wicked.

2 For you are the God of my strength;

why have you put me from you?

and why do I go so heavily while the enemy oppresses me?

3 Sent out your light and your truth, that they may lead me,

and bring me to your holy hill

and to your dwelling;

4 That I may go to the altar of God,

to the God of my joy and gladness;

and on the harp I will give thanks to you, O God my God.

5 Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?

and why are you so disquieted within me?

6 Put your trust in God;

for I will yet give thanks to him,

who is the help of my countenance, and my God.


1 Thessalonians 2:9-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was toward you believers. As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.


Matthew 23:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples,

The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father– the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

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.


Often we humans exalt ourselves or at least attempt to do so.  Frequently this comes at the expense of others.  Thus it is common to find gross income inequality and corresponding injustices rife in societies.  Often the wealthy can get away with almost anything because they can hire certain attorneys while prosecutors pressure innocent poor people into plea deals, prison time, and criminal records unjustly.  Those with great talents and the corresponding work ethic might not be able to make the most of those because they cannot afford to attend certain schools, even with the possibility of scholarships.  Much of this is the luck of the draw:  Where and when was one born?

It is all terribly unfair.

The Israelites were supposed to build a just society when they entered Canaan under the leadership of Joshua, son of Nun.  Yet, generation after generation, they failed.  Free from tyranny in Egypt, they followed their countrymen who imposed it on them.  God gives us freedom, but not so that we should abuse it, waste it, or surrender it.  We are free to love one another, care for each other in difficult times, and treat each other as people who bear the image of God.

God exalts us for these purposes, but we exalt ourselves for our advantage.  No wonder those exalt themselves will be humbled, and the humble exalted.


Week of Proper 20: Friday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:  Zerubbabel

Image in the Public Domain

Be Strong and Act

SEPTEMBER 29, 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.


Haggai 1:14-2:9 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Then the LORD roused the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, the governor of Judah, and the spirit of the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak, and the spirit of all the rest of the people.  They came and set to work on the House of the LORD of Hosts, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month.  In the second year of Darius, on the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai:

Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, the governor of Judah, and to the high priest  Joshua son of Jehozadak, and to the rest of the people:  Who is there left among you who saw this House in its former splendor?  How does it look to you now?  It must seem like nothing to you.  But be strong, O Zerubbabel–says the LORD–be strong.  O high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak; be strong, all of you people of the land–says the LORD–and act!  For I am with you–says the LORD of Hosts.  So I promised you when you came out of Egypt, and my spirit in your midst.  Fear not!

For thus said the LORD of Hosts:

In just a little while longer I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land; I will sake all the nations.  And the precious things of all the nations shall come [here], and I will fill this House with glory,

said the LORD of Hosts.

Silver is Mine and gold is Mine–says the LORD of Hosts.  The glory of this latter house shall be greater than that of the former one,

said the LORD of hosts;

and in this place I will grant prosperity–declares the LORD of Hosts.

Psalm 43 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give judgment for me, O God,

and defend my cause against an ungodly people;

deliver me from the deceitful and the wicked.

2 For you are the God of my strength;

why have you put me from you?

and why do I go so heavily while the enemy oppresses me?

3 Sent out your light and your truth, that they may lead me,

and bring me to your holy hill

and to your dwelling;

4 That I may go to the altar of God,

to the God of my joy and gladness;

and on the harp I will give thanks to you, O God my God.

5 Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?

and why are you so disquieted within me?

6 Put your trust in God;

for I will yet give thanks to him,

who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

Luke 9:18-22 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now one day when he [Jesus] was praying alone in presence of his disciples he put this question to them,

Who do the crowds say I am?

And they answered,

John the Baptist; others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life.

He said,

But you, who do you say I am?

It was Peter who spoke up.

The Christ of God,

he said.  But he [Jesus] gave them strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this.

The Son of Man

he said

is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.


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.


The returned exiles lived within the Persian province Beyond the River.  It was a minor and impoverished province, far from the glorious heart of the empire.  So there arose an important question:  How could they build a temple appropriate to the glory of God?  They lacked the resources that Solomon could summon.  God’s answer is that he will glorify the house; the people need merely to be reverent and do their best.  Above all, they need to be strong in God and to act accordingly.  God will handle the rest.

I have been inside some wondrous church buildings, from the Washington National Cathedral, in Washington, D.C., to the Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Savannah, Georgia.  It is indeed appropriate to make a church building beautiful; this indicates reverence.  More years ago than I like to admit, I watched a 1970s documentary series called The Christians.  One episode showed working men and women of one town in the Soviet Union donating their time and talents to make their local parish church building as lovely as possible.  This was an expression of their faith.  May nobody question the sincerity of architectural beauty born of reverence.

Yet, in a larger sense, no structure, regardless of how stunningly beautiful it may be, is sufficient to show the glory of God.  But God is present in such places.  This is a grace.

If we think that we have little or nothing to offer, that what we have to offer to God is inadequate, we need to remember that God is gracious to the the honestly faithful.  No gift, no matter how large or impressive it is in human terms, is adequate to pay God back for mercy.  So may we bring the small gifts and offerings, too.  It is the thought behind the gift and offering that counts, too.

The reading from Luke is one of the Synoptic accounts of the Confession of Saint Peter.  It is important to remember where this falls in that book.  So here is the sequence of Chapter 9, to verse 51:

  • Jesus sends out the Twelve. (1-6)
  • Herod the tetrarch thinks Jesus might be John the Baptist back from the dead. (7-9)
  • The Twelve return.  Jesus feeds 5000+ people with some loaves and fishes.  (10-17)
  • Peter professes his faith.  (18-21)
  • Jesus foretells his death and resurrection.  (22)
  • Jesus says to take up a cross and follow him.  (23-26)
  • “I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”  (27)  See this:
  • Jesus is transfigured.  (28-36)
  • Jesus heals an epileptic child.  (37-43a)
  • Jesus predicts his death and resurrection again.  (43b-45)
  • Jesus contradicts notions of greatness.  (46-48)
  • “Anyone who is not against you is for you.”  (49-50)
  • Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem.  (51)

Then Jesus begins to utter some really hard sayings.  Read them yourself.

The only adequate offering is Jesus himself, so let us not fool ourselves with delusions of grandeur or with inferiority complexes.  Our strength is in God alone.  Our identity is in God alone.  Our kinship is in Jesus, through whom we have adoption into the household of God.  We need to act reverently, bringing what we can for the service and glory of God.  But we also must remember that God alone glorifies our gifts, regardless of the form or quantity in which we have them.

So, with that in mind, I offer my devotional blog posts for this purpose.  May they do their job, with God’s help.