Archive for the ‘Romans 12’ Tag

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

Above:  Jeremiah, from the Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, by Michelangelo Buonaroti

Image in the Public Domain

Blessedness in Persecution

SEPTEMBER 10, 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)


Jeremiah 15:15-21

Psalm 26 (LBW) or Psalm 119:105-112 (LW)

Romans 12:1-8

Matthew 16:21-26


O God, we thank you for your Son,

who chose the path of suffering for the sake of the world. 

Humble us by his example,

point us to the path of obedience,

and give us strength to follow his commands;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 27


Lord of all power and might, Author and Giver of all good things,

graft in our hearts the love of your name,

increase in us true religion,

nourish us with all goodness,

and bring forth in us the fruit of good works;

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), 78


The assigned readings for this Sunday speak of obeying God and suffering for doing so.  Recall, O reader, the fate of the prophet Jeremiah–involuntary exile in Egypt.  Consider, too, the crucifixion of Jesus.  And, given that I publish this post on the Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, consider the execution of that saint.

Persecution of the Church was usually intermittent in Roman times.  Empire-wide persecutions were rare.  Regional persecutions came and went.  Yet the pall of persecution–actual or possible–hung over the writing of the New Testament.  The Church was young, small, and growing.  Pulling together in mutuality was good advice.

It remains good advice.  No bad context for mutuality exists.  Reading past Romans 12:8, every day is a good day to avoid evil, to practice brotherly love, to regard others as more important than oneself, to work conscientiously with an eager spirit, to be joyful in hope, to persevere in hardship, to pray regularly, to share with those in need, and to seek opportunities, to be hospitable.

The results of taking up one’s cross and following Jesus are predictable, in general terms.  Details vary according to circumstances.  To take up one’s cross and follow Jesus is to reorder one’s priorities so that they become Jesus’s priorities.  Doing so invites an adverse reaction from agents of the morally upside-down world order, constrained by conventional wisdom.

Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven; this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.

–Matthew 5:11-12, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Who can make the point better than that?





Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA


Devotion for Proper 26, Year C (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Avenge Me of Mine Adversary

Image in the Public Domain

Resisting Evil Without Joining Its Ranks

OCTOBER 31, 2021


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


1 Samuel 26:2-23 or Lamentations 1:1-12

Psalm 112

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 18:1-8


Never pay back evil for evil….Do not let evil conquer you, but use good to conquer evil.

–Romans 12:17a, 21, The Revised English Bible (1989)


All of the lesson from Romans 12 explains itself and constitutes timeless advice about how to live in community.  I encourage frequent reading of it, followed by corresponding actions.  Details will differ according to circumstances, such as who, where, and when one is, of course.  The principles remain constant, however.

“Anger” comes from the Old Norse word for “grief.”  Anger flows from grief, literally.  Others may commit evil or some lesser variety of sin, causing us to suffer.  We may be properly sad and angry about that.  Human beings bear the image of God, not the image of doormats, after all.  Resisting evil is a moral imperative.  So is resisting evil in proper ways.  One cannot conquer evil if one joins the ranks of evildoers.

I have struggled with this spiritual issue in contexts much less severe than the fall of the Kingdom of Judah and the time of the Babylonian Exile.  I have known the frustration that results from powerlessness as my life, as I have known it, has ended.  I have learned to read the angry portions of the Book of Psalms and identity with them.  I have also learned of the toxicity of such feelings.  I have learned the wisdom of obeying God and letting go of grudges, even when forgiveness has been more than I could muster.

After all, all people will reap what they sow.  Why not leave vengeance to God?  Why not strive to become the best version of oneself one can be in God?  Why not seek the support of one’s faith community to do so?  Why not support others in one’s faith community in their spiritual growth?









Devotion for Proper 25, Year C (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Saul and David, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Regarding King Saul

OCTOBER 24, 2021


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


1 Samuel 17:57-18:16 or Jeremiah 32:36-41

Psalm 111

Romans 12:1-8

Luke 17:1-19


The Books of Samuel, in the final form (probably edited by Ezra; this is an ancient theory with contemporary academic champions), consist of various sources.  If one knows this, one can notice many of the seams.  Inconsistencies become obvious.  For example, one may notice that King Saul knew that David was a son of Jesse in 1 Samuel 16:20 and that David played the lyre for the monarch in 16:23.  One may also notice that Saul did not recognize David in 17:33 or whose son he was in 17:56.  One may notice, furthermore, that David had to identify himself to Saul in 17:58.

I know too much to affirm spiritual inerrancy or infallibility.

I also know that King Saul was similar to many potentates in many lands and at many times.  I read in the composite text that Saul was a terrible public servant.  (So were almost all of his successors in Israel and Judah.)  Truth and justice should prosper under a good ruler.  A good ruler should try, at least.  A good ruler knows that he or she is a servant holding a temporary job.  A good ruler seeks to make responsible decisions and does not mistake events as being about himself or herself.  A good ruler thinks about the long-term common good.  Consequences of short-sighted leaders are frequently disastrous, as in Jeremiah 32:36-41.

What passes for a psychiatric or psychological diagnosis of King Saul comes from 1 Samuel 16:23–an evil spirit.  Cultural anthropology tells us that they, in modern times, can mean anything from severe stress to a mental illness.  Either way, the description of Saul is that of a man unfit to rule.  After all, those who govern are still servants.  God is really the king.

Despite all the bad press about King Saul, I feel somewhat sympathetic for him.  I read about him and remember that he never sought the job (1 Samuel 12).  I recall that Saul seems not so bad, compared to Solomon.  I think of Saul, doing his best yet failing.  I know the feeling of working hard yet failing.  I ask myself how Saul may have succeeded in life.  He seems to have needed counseling, at least.

Tragedy, in the Greek sense, has a particular definition.  A good person tries to make good decisions (most of the time, anyway) and fails spectacularly, dooming himself or herself.  The accounts of King Saul do not fit that definition exactly, but Greek tragedy does help me understand the first Israelite monarch.  I read stories while making a combination of good and bad decisions and often trying to decide wisely.  I read of a man with defective judgment.  I read of a man whose demise was not inevitable when he became the first King of Israel.

I, like David, mourn for Saul (2 Samuel 1).










Devotion for the Feast of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, Years A, B, C, and D (May 31) (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Embrace of Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary

Image in the Public Domain

Humility and Arrogance

MAY 31, 2023


The Collect:

Almighty God, in choosing the virgin Mary to be the mother of your Son,

you made known your gracious regard for the poor and the lowly and the despised.

Grant us grace to receive your Word in humility, and so made one with your Son,

Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

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

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 33


The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Psalm 113

Romans 12:9-16b

Luke 1:39-57


Depending on the date of Easter, and therefore of Pentecost, the Feast of the Visitation can fall in either the season of Easter or the Season after Pentecost.

The history of the Feast of the Visitation has been a varied one.  The feast, absent in Eastern Orthodoxy, began in 1263, when St. Bonaventure introduced it to the Order of Friars Minor (the Franciscans), which he led.  Originally the date was July 2, after the octave of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24).  Pope Urban VI approved the feast in 1389, the Council of Basel authorized it in 1441, propers debuted in the Sarum breviary of 1494, and Pope Pius V added the feast to the general calendar in 1561.  In 1969, during the pontificate of Paul VI, Holy Mother Church moved the Feast of the Visitation to May 31, in lieu of the Feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which Pope Pius XII had instituted in 1954.  The Episcopal Church added the Feast of the Visitation to its calendar in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  The feast had long been July 2 in The Church of England and much of Lutheranism prior to 1969.  Subsequent liturgical revision led to the transfer of the feast to May 31 in those traditions.

The corresponding Eastern Orthodox feast on July 2 commemorates the placing of the Holy Robe of the Mother of God in the church at Blachernae, a suburb of Constantinople.

The theme of humility is prominent in the assigned readings and in the Lutheran collect I have quoted.  A definition of that word might therefore prove helpful.  The unabridged Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language (1951), a tome, defines humility as

Freedom from pride and arrogance; humbleness of mind; a modest estimate of one’s own worth; also, self-abasement, penitence for sin.

Humility refers to lowliness and, in the Latin root, of being close to the ground.  God raising up the lowly is a Lukan theme, as is God overthrowing the arrogant.  After all, the woes (Luke 6:24-26) follow the Beatitudes (6:20-25), where Jesus says,

Blessed are you who are poor,


Blessed are you who are poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3).

The first will be last and the last will be first, after all.

Wherever you are, O reader, you probably live in a society that celebrates the boastful, the arrogant.  The assigned readings for this day contradict that exultation of the proud, however.  They are consistent with the ethic of Jeremiah 9:22-23:

Yahweh says this,

“Let the sage not boast of wisdom,

nor the valiant of valour,

nor the wealthy of riches!

But let anyone who wants to boast, boast of this:

of understanding and knowing me.

For I am Yahweh, who acts with faithful love,

justice, and uprightness on earth;

yes, these are what please me,”

Yahweh declares.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

St. Paul the Apostle channeled that ethic in 1 Corinthians 1:31 and 2 Corinthians 10:17, among other passages.

That which he understood well and internalized, not without some struggle, remains relevant and timeless.








Adapted from this post:


Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 17, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  Vegetables

Image in the Public Domain

Nobility and Love

AUGUST 25 and 26, 2022


The Collect:

O God, you resist those who are proud and give grace those who are humble.

Give us the humility of your Son, that we may embody

the generosity of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46


The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 15:13-17 (Thursday)

Proverbs 18:6-12 (Friday)

Psalm 112 (Both Days)

1 Peter 3:8-12 (Thursday)

1 Peter 4:7-11 (Friday)


How blessed is anyone who fears Yahweh,

who delights in his commandments!

–Psalm 112:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


These days’ readings, taken together, extol humility, love, and recognition of complete dependence upon God.  As one saying from Proverbs states eloquently,

Better a meal of vegetables where there is love

Than a flattened ox where there is hate.

–15:17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Like unto that is the commandment to

maintain constant love for one another

–1 Peter 4:8a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989),

which is consistent with the ethic of human responsibilities to and for each other, as in the Law of Moses.

Pride (hubris) goes before the fall.  Humility is frequently difficult also, but it is the better path.  Yes, each of us bears the image of God, but each of us also carries an imperfect nature.  Depravity is not even an article of faith for me, for I have evidence for it, and therefore require no faith to recognize the reality of it.  Nevertheless, as I heard growing up, God did not make any garbage.  Yes, we humans are equally capable of both nobility and depravity, of love and of death.  May we, by grace, succeed more often than not in following the paths of nobility and love.

St. Paul the Apostle offered timeless wisdom in his Letter to the Romans:

Never pay back evil for evil.  Let your aims be such as all count honourable.  If possible, so far as it lies with you, live at peace with all.  My dear friends, do not seek revenge, but leave a place for divine retribution; for there is a text which reads, “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will repay.”  But there is another text:  “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; by doing so you will heap live coals on his head.”  Do not let evil conquer you, but use good to conquer evil.

–12:17-21, The Revised English Bible (1989)

That passage cites Leviticus 19:18 and Proverbs 25:21-22.  It is also compatible with Matthew 5:43-48.

St. Paul summarized an essential part of Christian ethics better than my capacity to paraphrase it.  For that reason I leave you, O reader, with those noble words.










Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 26, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Moses Pleading with Israel

Above:  Moses Pleading with Israel

Image in the Public Domain

Difficult Obedience to God

NOVEMBER 1 and 2, 2021


The Collect:

Almighty God, you have taught us in your Son that love fulfills the law.

Inspire us to love you with all our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength,

and teach us how to love our neighbors as ourselves,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51


The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 6:10-15 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 28:58-29:1 (Tuesday)

Psalm 51 (Both Days)

Romans 12:17-21; 13:8-10 (Monday)

Acts 7:17-29 (Tuesday)


Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good….Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves has fulfilled the law.

–Romans 12:17-21; 13:1, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)


That is a worthy and difficult standard by which to live.  The advice to remain faithful to God (or else, as in Deuteronomy) functions as a reminder of the consequences of actions; we reap whatsoever we sow.  When we tether ourselves to idols, we enslave ourselves.  Yet, when we obey God, we find liberation to love each other as effectively as possible.

As for me, the passage from Romans I have quoted highlights challenges with which I have struggled and continue to struggle.  The desire for revenge is elemental.  Yet, when one thinks rationally, one will realize that it is counterproductive.  Nevertheless, seeking vengeance is easier to do than to seek justice–even reconciliation–or at least to lay down a grudge or to refrain from carrying one.  As I admit my weakness, I pray in the words of Psalm 51, 3,

For I acknowledge my rebellion:

and my sin is ever before me.

The Alternative Service Book 1980

What about you, O reader?









Devotion for Tuesday and Wednesday After Proper 25, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Icon of Elisha 02

Above:  Icon of Elisha

Image in the Public Domain

Trusting in God

OCTOBER 26 and 27, 2021


The Collect:

Eternal light, shine in our hearts.

Eternal wisdom, scatter the darkness of our ignorance.

Eternal compassion, have mercy on us.

Turn us to seek your face, and enable us to reflect your goodness,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51


The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 6:8-23 (Tuesday)

Jeremiah 33:1-11 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:17-24 (Both Days)

Acts 9:32-35 (Tuesday)

Matthew 20:29-34 (Wednesday)


Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good….Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves has fulfilled the law.

–Romans 12:17-21; 13:1, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)


This is an interesting set of readings.  The pericopes from the New Testament are stories of individual healing, the portion of Psalm 119 expresses respect for and delight in divine law, the lesson from Jeremiah 33 promises divine healing of the Hebrew people after divine punishment thereof, and the account in 2 Kings 6 is odd.  Somehow Elisha is a clairvoyant who has God’s ear, delivers a force of Aramean raiders into the hands of the King of Israel, and advises giving them food and drink before releasing them.  (There is an interesting military tactic.)

A few thoughts come to mind:

  1. The motif of healing, both individual and collective, is strong. Even individual healing has a collective component, for it restores one to wholeness in his or her family, community, network of friends, et cetera.
  2. The humane treatment of the Aramean raiders demonstrates strength and reduces tensions.  The equivalent of stuffing one’s adversaries with tea and crumpets (if I may be British) is certainly unexpected and provides no incentive for further violence, at least in the short-term future.  It is also consistent with the ethics of Romans 12:17-21.
  3. The balance of judgment and mercy in God is a mystery I cannot even begin to unravel, so I more along to matters not too great for me.
  4. One should have a healthy sense of awe of and gratitude to God.  One can be confident in the faithfulness of God and therefore act boldly and properly, not foolishly and out of fear.

Perhaps the theme which unites these lessons best begins with the faithfulness of God to divine promises.  We, assured of that fidelity, will, by grace, act out of confidence in and obedience to God, in whom exist both judgment and mercy.  We will reap what we sow, either positive or negative.  If we trust God, we will feel sufficiently secure to act righteously, even to extend kindness to our enemies.  That ethic is consistent with the following passage from 1 Peter 3:

Finally, be united, all of you, in thought and feeling; be full of brotherly affection, kindly, and humble.  Do not repay wrong with wrong, or abuse with abuse; on the contrary, respond with a blessing, for a blessing is what God intends you to receive.

–Verses 8-9, The Revised English Bible (1989)

We humans make many of our worst decisions out of fear.  Often we make bad situations worse in so doing.  This generalization holds true in individual and collective settings.  Yet proper confidence in the faithfulness of God strips away the misconception that we must do something when we ought to get out of God’s way.  Letting go and letting God when doing that is appropriate precludes making foolish, fear-based decisions which reveal our lack of trust.  Ignorance is frequently a complicating factor in making good decisions, for how are we to know when to be active and when to be passive?

May we decide wisely, by grace.






Week of Proper 26: Tuesday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:  The Reconciliation Statue in the Nave of old Coventry Cathedral, Coventry, England, United Kingdom

Image Source = Rebecca Kennison

This is Really Hard…

NOVEMBER 7, 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.


Romans 12:1-17a (Revised English Bible):

Therefore, my friends, I implore you by God’s mercy to offer your very selves to him:   a living sacrifice dedicated and fit for his acceptance, the worship offered by mind and heart.  Conform no longer to the pattern of the present world, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds.  Then you will be able to discern the will of God, and to know what is good, acceptable, and perfect.

By authority of the grace God has given me I say to everyone among you:  do not think too highly of yourself , but form a sober estimate on the measure of faith that God has dealt to each of you.  For just as in a single human body there are many limbs and organs, all with different functions, so we who are united with Christ, though many, form one body, and belong to one another as its limbs and organs.

Let us use the different gifts allotted to each of us by God’s grace:  the gift of inspired utterance, for example, let us use in proportion to our faith; the gift of administration to administer, the gift of teaching to teach, the gift of counselling to counsel.  If you give to charity, give without grudging; if you are a leader, lead with enthusiasm; if you help others in distress, do it cheerfully.

Love in all sincerity , loathing evil and holding fast to the good.  Let love of the Christian community show itself in mutual affection.  Esteem others more highly than yourself.

With unflagging zeal, aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord.  Let hope keep you joyful; in trouble stand firm; persist in prayer; contribute to the needs of God’s people, and practise hospitality.  Call down blessings on your persecutors–blessings not curses.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in agreement with one another.  Do not be proud, but be ready to mix with humble people.  Do not keep thinking how wise you are.

Never pay back evil for evil.

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.

Luke 14:15-24 (Revised English Bible):

(Still at the great dinner party at which Jesus was teaching…)

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.”


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.


The reading from Luke flows nicely from what precedes it.  And what precedes it?  Follow this link:  As for the rest concerning that teaching, I refer you, O reader, to the links I have posted above.

The passage that draws my attention is that from Romans.  The lectionary specifies Romans 12:1-16, but I have extended it by a half-verse, for how could I exclude 17a?  “Never pay back evil for evil,” it reads.  Try preaching that and count the seconds until someone accuses you of being soft on defense, terrorists, et cetera.  But, as Paul wrote, we ought not to be conformed to the pattern of this world any longer.  So what is still wrong with us, that we find excuses not to practice the Golden Rule and seek the best for each other, that we justify economic and other forms of injustice, and seek ways to legitimate discrimination?  Why do we not recognize and draw out the gifts each has to enrich and ennoble the whole?

The answer is quite simple, and in more than one part:

  1. The current pattern of the world benefits many of us.
  2. We do not want to surrender our ill-gotten gains.
  3. We have accepted the prejudices of those around us.
  4. We are quite sinful.
  5. We are very weak.

One piece of Pauline advice stands out in my mind.

Call down blessings on your persecutors–blessings, not curses.  (12:14)

I had a persecutor (some would say a prosecutor) on my back once.  It was an unjust charge–one dropped, fortunately.  Yet that persecutor (prosecutor, some would say) put me through four months of emotional hell on earth first.  Did I call down blessings, not curses, on him.  What do you think?  Do I call down curses on him now?  No.  Do I call down blessings on him now?  No.

The gospel points out many of my shortcomings, and I struggle with them.  This struggle does indicate something positive, though, for I might not recognize my sin.  If I struggle with it, at least I acknowledge its existence.  It is not a perfect or ideal state, but it is better than embracing it.  On the other hand, I should not have a struggle, for the sin should not exist in the first place.  But this is where I am now.  It is a better place than where I have been, and, by grace, an even better spiritual state awaits me.

So, O reader, here is my challenge for you:    Read the advice in Romans 12:1-17a and seek your own shortcomings.  Then take them to Jesus and seek his help in winning the struggle with them.  We need not be perfect; indeed, our Lord knows that we will stumble often.  We do need, however, to go to him, and to keep going back.


Proper 17, Year A   33 comments

Above:  The Burning Bush Logo of the Church of Scotland

Image in the Public Domain

The Call of God

The Sunday Closest to August 31

The Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost




Exodus 3:1-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said,

I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.

When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush,

Moses, Moses!

And he said,

Here I am.

Then he said,

Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.

He said further,

I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.

And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the LORD said,

I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.

But Moses said to God,

Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?

He said,

I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.

But Moses said to God,

If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?

God said to Moses,

I AM Who I AM.

He said further,

Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’

God also said to Moses,

Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:

This is my name forever,

and this is my title for all generations.

Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of all his marvelous works.

3 Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

4 Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

6 O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

23 Israel came into Egypt,

and Jacob became a sojourner in the land of Ham.

24 The LORD made his people exceedingly fruitful;

he made them stronger than their enemies;

25 Whose heart he turned, so that they hated his people,

and dealt unjustly with his servants.

26 He sent Moses his servant,

and Aaron whom he had chosen.

45c Hallelujah!


Jeremiah 15:15-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

O LORD, you know;

remember me and visit me,

and bring down retribution for me on my persecutors.

In your forbearance do not take me away;

know that on your account I suffer insult.

Your words were found, and I ate them,

and your words became to me a joy

and the delight of my heart;

for I am called by your name,

O LORD, God of hosts.

I did not sit in the company of merrymakers,

nor did I rejoice;

under the weight of your hand I sat alone,

for you had filled me with indignation.

Why is my pain unceasing,

my wound incurable,

refusing to be healed?

Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook,

like waters that fail.

Therefore thus says the LORD:

If you turn back, I will take you back,

and you shall stand before me.

If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,

you shall serve as my mouth.

It is they who will turn to you,

not you who will turn to them.

And I will make you to this people

a fortified wall of bronze;

they will fight against you,

but they shall not prevail over you,

for I am with you

to save you and deliver you, says the LORD.

I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,

and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.

Psalm 26:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give judgment for me, O LORD,

for I have lived with integrity;

I have trusted in the LORD and not faltered.

2 Test me, O LORD, and try me;

examine my heart and my mind.

3 For your love is before my eyes;

I have walked faithfully with you.

4 I have not sat with the worthless,

nor do I consort with the deceitful.

5 I have hated the company of evildoers;

I will not sit down with the wicked.

6 I will wash my hands in innocence, O LORD,

that I may go in procession round your altar,

7 Singing aloud a song of thanksgiving

and recounting all your wonderful deeds.

8 LORD, I love the house in which you dwell

and the place where your glory abides.


Romans 12:9-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


Matthew 16:21-28 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying,

God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.

But he turned and said to Peter,

Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.

Then Jesus told his disciples,

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.

The Collect:

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.


The prophet Jeremiah was having a very bad day.  He had been preaching the word of God for awhile.  And, for all his trouble, he had faced rejection and persecution.

Be honest.  Have you not turned to God and complained bitterly?  Have you not accused God of being absent in your time of need?  I have.  So did Jeremiah.  There is nothing wrong with this, for a relationship with God, if it is healthy, is honest.

And God answered Jeremiah’s lament.  Get beyond yourself, God said.  Get busy, God said.  And I will be with you, God said.

This was also God’s message to Moses, a fugitive murderer on the run from Egyptian authorities.  Moses received a straight-forward mandate:  to return to Egypt, speak for God, and play a vital part in the divine plan to liberate the Hebrews from slavery.  This was a daunting task, and Moses was a poor speaker.  But Aaron was a better orator, and God would be with them.

God does not call the qualified; God qualifies the called.

Jeremiah had asked God to undertake vengeance upon his enemies.  Paul, in Romans, reflects the opposite point of view.  Vengeance, he says, is purely a matter for God.  Followers of God are supposed to love their enemies, as well as their friends and other like-minded people.  Vengeance is a natural desire, one I know well.  But it does not help one glorify and enjoy God forever.  Revenge is not Christ-like.

Speaking of Jesus…

Last week,, Peter had just become the first rock of human faith on the rock mass of God, and Jesus had just said how blessed the Apostle was.  Then, in this week’s installment, Jesus predicted his own arrest, torture, execution, and resurrection.  Peter, horrified, protested.  Then Jesus rebuked the man he had just blessed.  Jesus understood his own divine call, which was to atone for sin.  This purpose came at a high cost to him.  The mission of the Apostles was to follow their Lord, and most of them became martyrs.

God challenges us to move beyond ourselves, serve others, love others as ourselves–created in the divine image, and take on difficult tasks for a greater purpose.  This is truly risky business, but Moses, Jeremiah, Jesus, and Simon Peter chose to remain faithful and to endure.  Two of them died for it, one died in exile, and the fourth spent a generation in the Sinai Desert with a horde of grumblers.  And all four are heroes of faith.

Jesus, of course, was and is far more than a hero of faith.  And he calls us to assume risks.  Each of us ought to take up a cross and follow him.  We need to be the best disciples we can be.  That is the call of God.


Proper 16, Year A   31 comments

Above:  Saint Peter, by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

Upon This Rock…

The Sunday Closest to August 24

The Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 27, 2023



Exodus 1:8-2:10 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people,

Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.

Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.

The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah,

When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.

But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them,

Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?

The midwives said to Pharaoh,

Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.

So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people,

Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.

Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.

The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him,

This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,

she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter,

Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?

Pharaoh’s daughter said to her,


So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her,

Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.

So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses,


she said,

I drew him out of the water.

Psalm 124 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 If the LORD had not been on our side,

let Israel now say,

2 If the LORD had not been on our side,

when enemies rose up against us;

3 Then they would have swallowed us up alive

in their fierce anger toward us;

4 Then would the waters have overwhelmed us

and the torrent gone over us;

5 Then would the raging waters

have gone right over us.

6 Blessed be the LORD!

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

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

the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

8 Our help is in the Name of the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.


Isaiah 51:1-6 (New Revised Standard Version):

Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness,

you that seek the LORD.

Look to the rock from which you were hewn,

and to the quarry from which you were dug.

Look to Abraham your father

and to Sarah who bore you;

for he was but one when I called him,

but I blessed him and made him many.

For the LORD will comfort Zion;

he will comfort her waste places,

and will make her wilderness like Eden,

her desert like the garden of the LORD;

joy and gladness will be found in her,

thanksgiving and the voice of song.

Listen to me, my people,

and give heed to me, my nation;

for a teaching will go out from me,

and my justice for a light to the peoples.

I will bring near my deliverance swiftly,

my salvation has gone out

and my arms will rule the peoples;

the coastlands wait for me,

and for my arm they hope.

Lift up your eyes to the heavens,

and look at the earth beneath;

for the earth will wear out like a garment,

and those who live on it will die like gnats;

but my salvation will be forever,

and my deliverance will never be ended.

Psalm 138 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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

before the gods I will sing your praise.

2 I will bow down toward your holy temple

and praise your Name,

because of your love and faithfulness;

3 For you have glorified your Name

and your word above all things.

4 When I called, you answered me;

you increased my strength within me.

5 All the kings of the earth will praise you, O LORD,

when they have heard the words of your mouth.

6 They will sing of the ways of the LORD,

that great is the glory of the LORD.

7 Though the LORD be high, he cares for the lowly;

he perceives the haughty from afar.

8 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe;

you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies;

your right hand shall save me.

9 The LORD will make good his purpose for me;

O LORD, your love endures for ever;

do not abandon the works of your hands.


Romans 12:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God–what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.


Matthew 16:13-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples,

Who do people say that the Son of Man is?

And they said,

Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.

He said to them,

But who do you say that I am?

Simon Peter answered,

You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

And Jesus answered him,

Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


What is the rock upon which Jesus built his Church?  I have read various analyses, and the one that makes the most sense to me is God.  Simon Peter was the first pebble upon this rock, and each subsequent believer and follower is another pebble.  The pebbles are the Church.  So God is the foundation of the Church.

God is also the rock from Isaiah 51.  God is the rock from which we are hewn, the quarry from which we are cut.  So our lives and identities derive from God.  We Christians  stand in a long tradition that stretches back to Abraham and Sarah; the Jews are, as Pope John Paul II said, our elder brothers and sisters in faith.  God, the rock, was the strength of the Hebrews when they were slaves in Egypt.  God, the rock, provided the means of their political liberation.  And God, the rock, provides the means of our spiritual liberation.  As Paul reminds us in Romans, this liberation will be evident in our attitudes and relationships.

Next Sunday’s Gospel Reading will pick up where this one leaves off.  In it Jesus predicts his capture, torture, death, and resurrection.  Then Peter, horrified, protests.  But Jesus says to the Apostle he just praised highly a few breaths previously,

Get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.

Peter did not understand yet.  Maybe only Jesus did.  So let us take comfort in the fact that one does not need to achieve spiritual mountainhood to be an effective and important pebble in the rock mass that is the Christian Church.  We have to begin somewhere, so why not where we are?  But let us move on from there to where Jesus wants us to go.