Archive for the ‘Psalm 9’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 6, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The U.S. $100 Bill

Image in the Public Domain

Faithful Servants of God, Part IV

JUNE 18, 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 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


Ecclesiastes 9:1-12 or Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24

Psalm 9:11-20

Galatians 5:1-26

Matthew 6:22-34


For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

–Galatians 5:14-15, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)


As I write repeatedly, the Law of Moses contains both timeless principles and culturally specific examples thereof.  One of these timeless principles is the Golden Rule.  It is short, sweet, and to the point.  One might, with verbosity, attempt to work around it, but the Golden Rule remains golden and wonderfully succinct.  It is also difficult to live up to much of the time.

Another timeless principle of the Law of Moses is that all of us depend entirely on God and partially on each other.  We are therefore interdependent and responsible both to and for each other, as well as to God.  These points underpin much of the content of scripture assigned for this Sunday.

Often we violate the Golden Rule in the name of looking out for ourselves.  We imagine vainly that we must and can rely on our own resources.  That attitude is the origin of much evil.  But, in Christ, we are free, by grace, to become people who uphold a high standard of radical love–even sacrificial love.  The servant is not greater than the master, after all.

May we, while seeking to follow God, care more about being loving and compassionate than about confirming our biases.  May we seek to love, not to be right in our own eyes, with their frequently defective moral vision.








Adapted from this post:


Devotion for Proper 5, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Faithful Servants of God, Part III

JUNE 11, 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 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


Ecclesiastes 7:1-4, 11-18 or Ezekiel 34:1-10

Psalm 9:1-10

Galatians 4:1-16

Matthew 5:38-48


As Koheleth and Jesus tell us, the way of the world is that righteous people suffer, both the righteous and the wicked prosper, and God is in control.  The combination of those three statements might seem incongruous.  Throughout the Book of Psalms righteous people cry out to God for deliverance from oppression.  Often they are understandably angry, but Christ tells us to pray for our persecutors and to love our enemies.  Interestingly, nowhere does the Hebrew Bible command anyone to love one’s enemies, and, as we have read previously in this series of posts, God prospers that the wicked change their ways and find mercy.  Yet many of the wicked refuse to repent, so the divine deliverance of the oppressed becomes bad news for oppressors.

The call to radical love thunders off the pages of the Sermon on the Mount.  We are to trust in God, not ourselves, and be so loving as to seem foolish to many.  Such love breaks the cycle of anger, resentment, revenge, and violence.  We, as inheritors, by grace, and adopted members of the household of God, are free to do that, if we dare.

May we dare accordingly.  Then we, by grace, will be suited for our purpose, or, as Matthew 5:48 puts it, perfect.








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Devotion for Proper 29 (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:   Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

God is the Ruler Yet

NOVEMBER 26, 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 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


Daniel 1:1-17

Psalm 9:1-8

Revelation 1:9-18

Luke 17:20-21


This is my father’s world!

O let me ne’er forget

that though the wrong

seems oft so strong,

God is the ruler yet.

–Maltbie Davenport Babcock (1858-1901)


In the reading from the Book of Revelation the imagery used to describe Jesus is similar to that usually reserved for the Roman Emperor.  Thus the Apocalypse of John fits the bill of subversive literature from the beginning.  Revelation 1:9-18 is therefore an appropriate lesson to read on Christ the King Sunday.

British Congregationalist minister Charles Harold (C. H.) Dodd proposed Realized Eschatology. The Kingdom of God, he wrote, has always been present.  It has, however, been more evident at some times than on others.  Dodd must have been thinking about the assigned Gospel reading as he formulated that idea.  Psalm 9 might also have been on his mind.

If Dodd was correct, what about exploitative powers, such as the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire (in Daniel) and the Roman Empire (in Revelation), among other oppressive regimes?  The question of, if God exists, why evil does also, has vexed many people over the ages.  But why would the existence of God nullify human free will and prevent abuses of it?

As the Mennonites tell us, we are living in the age of God’s patience.  This indicates a future age of divine impatience, with good news for many and catastrophic news for many others.  Judgment is in the purview of God, not mere mortals.  May we mere mortals understand that reality and embrace it.  May we also trust in God, who, despite appearances, is the ruler yet.








Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 28, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Last Judgment (Russian)

Above:  The Last Judgment

Image in the Public Domain

Hope, Joy, and Gloom

NOVEMBER 20-22, 2023


The Collect:

Righteous God, our merciful master,

you own the earth and all its people,

and you give us all that we have.

Inspire us to serve you with justice and wisdom,

and prepare us for the joy of the day of your coming,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52


The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 1:7-17 (Monday)

Zechariah 2:1-5; 5:1-4 (Tuesday)

Job 16:1-21 (Wednesday)

Psalm 9:1-14 (All Days)

Romans 2:1-11 (Monday)

1 Thessalonians 5:12-18 (Tuesday)

Matthew 24:45-51 (Wednesday)


Sing praises to the LORD who dwells in Zion;

proclaim to the peoples the things he has done.

The Avenger of blood will remember them;

he will not forget the cry of the afflicted.

–Psalm 9:11-12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


Thus we have a segue to the hopeful message of Zechariah 1 and 2.  The rest of the material is mostly dark and joyless, however.  Especially memorable is the fate of the servant who was not ready when his master returned unexpectedly in Matthew 24:51 (The Revised English Bible, 1989):

[The master] will cut him in pieces and assign him a place where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.

My concept of God is one which encompasses judgment and mercy, with the two falling simultaneously sometimes; judgment for one person can constitute mercy for another.  Nevertheless, the recent fixation on judgment in the lectionary has proven tiresome.  I want more of the joy the Lutheran collect mentions.









Hope, Joy, and Gloom


Week of Proper 13: Friday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 13: Saturday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  Habakkuk

God is Sufficient

AUGUST 5 and 6, 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.



Nahum 2:1-3 and 3:1-7 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

(YHWH speaking)

Behold on the hills

The footsteps of a herald

Announcing good fortune!

A shatterer has come up against you.

Man the guard posts,

Watch the road;

Steady your loins,

Brace all your strength!

For the LORD has restored the Pride of Jacob

As well as the Pride of Israel,

Though marauders have laid them waste

And ravaged their branches.

Ah, city of crime,

Utterly treacherous,

Full of violence,

Where killing never stops!

Crack of whip

And rattle of wheel,

Galloping steed

And bounding chariot!

Charging horsemen,

Flashing swords,

And glittering spears!

Hosts of slain

And heaps of corpses,

Dead bodies without number–

They stumble over bodies.

Because of the countless harlotries of the harlot,

The winsome mistress of sorcery,

Who ensnared nations with her harlotries

And peoples with her sorcery,

I am going to deal with you

–declares the LORD of Hosts.

I will lift up your skirts over your face

And display your nakedness to the nations

And your shame to kingdoms.

I will throw loathsome things over you

And disfigure you

And make a spectacle of you.

All who see you will recoil from you

And will say,

“Nineveh has been ravaged!”

Who will console her?

Where shall I look for

Anyone to comfort you?


Habakkuk 1:12-2:4 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

(Habakkuk speaking)

You, O LORD, are from everlasting;

My holy God, You never die.

O LORD, You have made them a subject of contention;

O Rock, You have made them a cause for complaint.

You whose eyes are too pure to look upon evil,

Who cannot countenance wrongdoing,

Why do You countenance treachery,

And stand by idle

While the one in the wrong devours

The one in the right?

You have made mankind like the fish of the sea,

Like creeping things that have no ruler.

He has fished them all up with a line,

Pulled them up in his trawl,

And gathered them in his net.

That is why he rejoices and is glad.

That is why he sacrifices in his trawl

And makes offerings to his net;

For through them his portion is rich

And his nourishment fat.

Shall he then keep emptying his trawl,

And slaying nations without pity?

I will stand on my watch,

Take up my station at the post,

And wait to see what He will say tome,

What He will reply to my complaint.

The LORD answered me and said:

Write the prophecy down,

Inscribe it clearly on tablets,

So that it can be read easily.

For there is yet a prophecy for a set term,

A truthful witness for a time that will come.

Even if it tarries, wait for it still;

For it will surely come, without delay:

Lo his spirit within him is puffed up, not upright,

But he righteous man is rewarded with life

For his fidelity….


Psalm 124 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

If the LORD had not been on our side,

let Israel now say;

If the LORD had not been on our side,

when enemies rose up against us;

Then would they have swallowed us up alive

in their fierce anger toward us;

Then the waters would have overwhelmed us

and the torrent gone over us;

Then would the raging waters

have gone over us.

6 Blessed be the LORD!

he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler;

the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

Our help is in the Name of the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.


Psalm 9:7-12 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7  But the LORD is enthroned for ever;

he has set up his throne for judgment.

8  It is he who rules the world with righteousness;

he judges the peoples with equity.

9  The LORD will be a refuge for the oppressed,

a refuge in time of trouble.

10  Those who know your Name will put their trust in you,

for you never forsake those who seek you, O LORD.

11  Sing praise to the LORD who dwells in Zion;

proclaim to the peoples the things he has done.

12  The Avenger of blood will remember them;

he will not forget the cry of the afflicted.


Matthew 16:24-28 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Jesus said to his disciples,

If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps he must give up all right to himself, take up his cross and follow me.  For the man who wants to save his life will lose it; but the man who loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what good is it for a man to gain the whole world at the price of his real life?  What could a man offer to buy back that life once he has lost it?

For the Son of Man will come in the glory of his Father and in the company of his angels and then he will repay every man for what he has done.  Believe me, there are some standing here today who will know nothing of death till they have seen the Son of Man coming as king.


Matthew 17:14-20 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

When they returned to the crowd again a man came and knelt in front of Jesus.

Lord, have pity on my son,

he said,

for he is a lunatic and suffers terribly.  He is always falling into the fire or into the water.  I did bring him to your disciples but they couldn’t cure him.

Jesus returned,

You really are an unbelieving and difficult people.  How long must I be with you, and how long must I put up with you?  Bring him here to me!

Then Jesus spoke sternly to the evil spirit and it went out of the boy, who was cured from that moment.

Afterwards the disciples approached Jesus privately and asked,

Why weren’t we able to get rid of it?

Jesus replied

Because you have so little faith.  I assure you that if you have faith the size of a mustard-seed you can say to this hill, ‘Up you get and move over there!” and it will move–and you will find nothing is impossible.


The Collect:

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


For a while now I have been reading and writing a series of lessons from the theologically-oriented histories and from certain prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible.  Some themes have repeated in the arrangement of texts, in close proximity to each other, so I have run out of new things to say, hence my more frequent practice of combining texts from two consecutive days.  The Canadian Anglican lectionary I am following will move along to Ezekiel next, before returning to the Pauline epistles for the first reading.  I will welcome new and different material, for variety is the spice of life, especially with regard to the Bible.

We read in Nahum that God will destroy the foreign powers who impose exile on the ancient Jews.  And God, we read, is with the humble, not the puffed up.  And Jesus tells each of us to take up his or her cross and follow him, and to focus primarily on spiritual matters, not temporal pursuits.  Furthermore, we read, we need not have much faith, but we ought not have too little of it.  We must, above all, have the proper orientation–toward God.

Certain themes repeat in the Bible.  A few of them follow:

  1. God dislikes haughtiness.
  2. God likes humility.
  3. Obedience to God leads to suffering sometimes.
  4. Disobedience to God leads to suffering sometimes.
  5. God can use our few resources to great effect.

May we walk humbly with God, trusting God to be sufficient.  This difficult much of the time for many of us.  We fret because we do not know and because we know this be true.  Planning becomes impossible after a point, and panic can set in.  Yet God is more faithful than we can imagine.  So may we walk humbly with God, trusting God to be sufficient.


Proper 7, Year B   22 comments

 A Box

God Does Not Fit into Any Theological Box

The Sunday Closest to June 22

The Fifth Sunday After Pentecost

JUNE 23, 2024



1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49 (New Revised Standard Version):

[Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel,

Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.

And the Philistine said,

Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.

When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, took the provisions, and went as Jesse had commanded him. He came to the encampment as the army was going forth to the battle line, shouting the war cry. Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the ranks, and went and greeted his brothers. As he talked with them, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.]

David said to Saul,

Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.

Saul said to David,

You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.

But David said to Saul,

Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.

David said,

The LORD, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.

So Saul said to David,

Go, and may the LORD be with you!

Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul,

I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.

So David removed them. Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.

The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. The Philistine said to David,

Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?

And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David,

Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.

But David said to the Philistine,

You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s and he will give you into our hand.

When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.

Psalm 9:9-20 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

9  The LORD will be a refuge for the oppressed,

a refuge in time of trouble.

10  Those who know your Name will put their trust in you,

for you never forsake those who seek you, O LORD.

11  Sing praise to the LORD who dwells in Zion;

proclaim to the peoples the things he has done.

12  The Avenger of blood will remember them;

he will not forget the cry of the afflicted.

13  Have pity on me, O LORD;

see the misery I suffer from those who hate me,

O you who lift me up from the gate of death;

14  So that I may tell of all your praises

and rejoice in your salvation

in the gates of the city of Zion.

15  The ungodly have fallen into the pit they dug,

and in the snare they set is their own foot caught.

16  The LORD is known by his acts of justice;

the wicked are trapped in the works of their own hands.

17  The wicked shall be given over to the grave,

and also all the people that forget God.

18  For the needy shall not always be forgotten,

and the hope of the poor shall not perish for ever.

19  Rise up, O LORD, let not the ungodly have the upper hand;

let them be judged before you.

20  Put fear upon them, O LORD;

let the ungodly know they are but mortal.


1 Samuel 17:57-18:5, 10-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

On David’s return from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with the head of the Philistine in his hand.  Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?”  And David answered,

I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.

When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.  Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house.  Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.  Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.  David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him; as a result, Saul set him over the army.  And all the people, even the servants of Saul, approved.

The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day.  Saul had his spear in his hand; and Saul threw the spear, for he thought,

I will pin David to the wall.

But David eluded him twice.

Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him but had departed from Saul.  So Saul removed him from his presence, and made him a commander of a thousand; and David marched out and came in, leading the army.  David had success in all his undertakings; for the LORD was with him.  When Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in awe of him.  But all Israel and Judah loved David; for it was he who marched out and came in leading them.

Psalm 133 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Oh, how good and pleasant it is,

when brethren live together in unity!

2 It is like fine oil upon the head

that runs down upon the beard,

3 Upon the beard of Aaron,

and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

It is like the dew of Hermon

that falls upon the hills of Zion.

5 For there the LORD has ordained the blessing;

life for evermore.


Job 38:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind:

Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

Gird up your loins like a man,

I will answer you, and you shall declare to me.

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

Tell me, if you have understanding.

Who determined its measurements–surely you know!

Or who stretched out the line upon it?

On what were its bases sunk,

or who laid its cornerstone

when the morning stars sang together

and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

Or who shut in the sea with doors

when it burst out from the womb?–

when I made the clouds its garment,

and thick darkness its swaddling band,

and prescribed bounds for it,

and set bars and doors,

and said, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther,

and here shall your proud waves be stopped?”

Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

and his mercy endures for ever.

2  Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim

that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.

3  He gathered them out of the lands;

from the east and from the west,

from the north and from the south.

23  Some went down to the sea in ships

and plied their trade in deep waters;

24  They beheld the works of the LORD

and his wonders in the deep.

25  Then he spoke, and a stormy wind arose,

which tossed high the waves of the sea.

26  They mounted up to the heavens and fell back to the depths;

their hearts melted because of their peril.

27  They reeled and staggered like drunkards

and were at their wits’ end.

28  Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress.

29  He stilled the storm to a whisper

and quieted the waves of the sea.

30  Then were they glad because of the calm,

and he brought them to the harbor they were bound for.

31  Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy

and the wonders he does for his children.

32  Let them exalt him in the congregation of the people

and praise him in the council of the elders.


2 Corinthians 6:1-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

As we work together with Christ, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says,

At an acceptable time I have listened to you,

and on a day of salvation I have helped you.

See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see– we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return– I speak as to children– open wide your hearts also.


Mark 4:35-41 (New Revised Standard Version):

When evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples,

Let us go across to the other side.

And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him,

Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?

He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea,

Peace! Be still!

Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them,

Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?

And they were filled with great awe and said to one another,

Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

The Collect:

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving­kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Proper 7, Year A:

I have chosen to focus on the reading from Job, not that I have ignored other lessons.

David, Goliath, Jonathan, and Saul:

Mark 6:


False certainty is not helpful.

The Book of Job consists of poetry combined with some prose.  It is a work of literature and a fictional story containing deep theological truth.  In this old epic, Job, a wealthy and righteous man, suffers greatly not because of any sin he had committed but because God permitted it.  For much of the book Job argued with three alleged friends–Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar–who insisted, among other things, that Job’s suffering must have resulted from some sin or sins he had committed.

Thus the Book of Job refuted a popular idea in ancient theology.  Yes, sometimes we suffer the negative consequences of our actions, but this fact does not account for all our suffering.  In face, we cannot account for the causation of some suffering.  Uncertainty can be unnerving, so we might prefer the simple formula “sins lead to suffering.”

Job made his final verbal defense in Chapters 29-31.  Then, in the book as it exists today, Elihu, an arrogant young man began to speak.  He was proud of himself, what he thought he knew, and how well he said it.  He filled six chapters before departing the book’s narrative as suddenly as he entered it.

Elihu’s speeches stick out in the Book of Job because they were not part of the original text.  The book contains authorial and editorial layers.  It seems that God’s speech, beginning in Chapter 28, originally followed Job’s concluding statement in Chapters 29-31 immediately.

The summary of much of God’s speech in Chapters 38 and 39 is “I’m God and you’re not.”  The text tells us that God is speaking to Job.  Yet something strikes me as interesting and crucial to grasping the book and its message.  God’s audience could just as well be Elihu or Eliphaz or Bildad or Zophar, given the content.  Job and these men had all spoken as if they knew far more than they did.  Elihu and the alleged friends thought that they how God ran the world and Job thought that he know how God should run the world.

Job needed to admit that he knew little about God.  He needed to accept ambiguity in his theology.  And he did.  The lesson he learned was that relationship to the living God, who is beyond complete human comprehension, is the goal for which to strive.  We hold expectations of God, how God acts, or how God should behave, but sometimes (perhaps even often) our reality and our expectations do not match.

Unanswered questions make some people uncomfortable.  The failure of easy and inadequate yet neat theological formulas unnerves many of us.  Yet may we embrace the ambiguity of the unanswered question and the broken formula.  May we accept the uncertainty of “I don’t know.”

Often catastrophic events set the stage for people questioning the existence or justice of God.  “If there is a God, why did X happen?” people ask.  Or, “If God is just, why did X happen?”  X might be a massive storm or earthquake, the Holocaust, a war, or other terrible event.  Often the complaint regards something God did not do, something God permitted or allegedly permitted to happen.

Here a message from the Book of Job becomes helpful.  The most basic certainties are that God exists and that God does not fit into our theological boxes.  “I don’t know” is something a spiritually honest person will say often.  We can know much, but not nearly everything.  If we accept this fact, we continue on the path of wisdom.


Week of Proper 22: Friday, Year 1   9 comments

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

OCTOBER 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.


Joel 1:13-2:2 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

[The word of the LORD that came to Joel son of Pethuel.]

…Gird yourselves and lament, O priests,

Wail, O ministers of the altar;

Come, spend the night in sackcloth,

O ministers of my god.

For offering and libation are withheld

From the House of your God.

Solemnize a fast,

Proclaim an assembly;

Gather the elders–all the inhabitants of the land–

In the House of the LORD your God,

And cry out to the Lord.

Alas for the day!

For the day of the LORD is near;

It shall come like havoc from Shaddai.

Blow a horn in Zion,

Sound an alarm on My holy mount!

Let all dwellers on earth tremble,

For the day of the LORD has come!

It is a close–

A day of darkness and gloom,

A day of densest cloud

Spread like soot over the hills.

A vast, enormous horde–

Nothing like it has ever happened,

And it shall never happen again

Through the years and ages.

Psalm 9:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with my whole heart;

I will tell of all your marvelous works.

2  I will be glad and rejoice in you;

I will sing to your Name, O Most High.

3  When my enemies are driven back,

they will stumble and perish at your presence.

4  For you have maintained my right and my cause;

you sit upon your throne judging right.

5  You have rebuked the ungodly and destroyed the wicked;

you have blotted out their name for ever and ever.

6  As for the enemy, they are finished, in perpetual ruin,

their cities plowed under, the memory of them perished;

7  But the LORD is enthroned for ever;

he has set up his throne for judgment.

8  It is he who rules the world with righteousness;

he judges the peoples with equity.

Luke 11:14-26 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] was casting out a devil and it was dumb; but when the devil had gone out the dumb man spoke, and the people were amazed.  But some of them said,

It is through Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils.

Others asked him, as a test, for a sign from heaven; but, knowing what they were thinking, he said to them,

Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses.  So too with Satan:  if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand?–Since you assert that it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils.  Now if it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils, through whom do your own experts cast them out?  Let them be your judges, then.  But if it is through the finger of God that I cast out devils, then know that the kingdom of God has overtaken you.  So long a a strong man fully armed guards his own palace, his goods are undisturbed; but when someone stronger than he is attacks and defeats him, the stronger man takes away all the weapons he relied on and shares out his spoil.

He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.

When an unclean spirit goes out of a man it wanders through waterless country looking for a place to rest, and not finding one it says, ‘I will go back to the home I came from.’  But on arrival, finding it swept and tidied, it then goes off and bring seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they god in an set up house there, so that the man ends up being worse than he was before.


The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


The Hellenistic world was a spirit-haunted one.  This was a time of pre-scientific thinking, when the common understanding held that demon possession caused epilepsy and a variety of other conditions.  I, as a product of the Scientific Revolution of the 1600s and the ensuing Enlightenment, as well of subsequent developments, understand the workings of the world differently.  The cause of epilepsy is organic, not demonic.

Yet one must understand the cultural background to grasp the reading from Luke.  Consider, for example, the section about the unclean spirit who leaves a man, wanders about, finds company, and returns.  It did not stay home because something good had filled the void there, so the spirit went back where nothing had filled the vacancy it had created.  The lesson is that good must replace evil, or else evil will take up residence.  Nature abhors a vacuum, in other words.

And the charge that Jesus worked by the power of Satan was a slander, of course.  Our Lord and Savior, by his existence and work, called into question the religious authorities of pre-70 C.E. Jewish Palestine.  Frightened people might embrace change now and then, but usually they fight back, often irrationally and blindly, grabbing on to any straw they can find.

They need to fill their voids with good–and God.  This is what Joel says to do.  This day’s reading from Joel makes more sense when one reads not only it but what precedes and follows it.  The judgment is upon Judah itself, due to its sins.  Yet, later in Chapter 2, we find evidence of repentance.  Then we read these words, credited to God:

Yet even now

Turn back to Me with all your hearts,

And with fasting, weeping, and lamenting.

(2:12, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

Then, beginning with 2:19, we have these words, also attributed to God:

I will grant you the new grain,

The new wine, and the new oil,

And you shall have them in abundance.

Nevermore will I let you be

A mockery among the nations….

So, once again, we see the juxtaposition of divine judgment and mercy.  Actions lead to consequences.  Sometimes God intervenes, other times not.  And, sometimes, after negative consequences have run their course, God steps in to show extravagant mercy.  It is better, of course, to follow God faithfully more often than not, to reap the harvest of righteousness, not bitterness and the gnashing of teeth.

May Jesus fill all our voids, present and future.  And may he displace that which ought not be present.  In other words, may we cooperate with God, not cast unfounded accusations.