Archive for the ‘Romans 6’ Tag

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

Above:  Icon of Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

Loyalty to God

JULY 9, 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 28:5-9

Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18 (LBW) or Psalm 119:153-160 (LW)

Romans 6:1b-11

Matthew 10:34-42


O God, you have prepared for those who love you

joys beyond understanding. 

Pour into our hearts such love for you that,

loving you above all things,

we may obtain your promises,

which exceed all that we can desire;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 25


O God, because you have prepared for those who love you

such good things as surpass our understanding,

pour into our hearts such love towards you that we,

loving you above all things,

may obtain your promises,

which exceed all that we can desire;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 67


Jeremiah 28:1-17 is the story of Hananiah, a false prophet who offered false hope in the waning years of the Kingdom of Judah.  Hananiah had predicted that God would terminate the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian threat.  Jeremiah confronted him and accused him of encouraging disloyalty to God.

Psalms 89 and 119, like Jeremiah, extol and encourage loyalty to God in the midst of disloyalty to God.

St. Paul the Apostle encourages us down the corridors of time to be

dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.

–Romans 6:11b, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

When we return to Matthew 10:37-38, we read of the priority of loving Jesus most of all and of taking up one’s cross and following him.  Heeding this advice entails reordering one’s priorities if they are askew.

Those who are loyal to God will stand out compared to those who are disloyal to God.  Given the human tendency to promote conformity, some negative consequences will befall those who are loyal to God.  Those dispensing the negative consequences may include co-religionists.  That is especially unfortunate.

I offer one caution, O reader.  Do not mistake serial contrariness against “the world” for loyalty to God.  “The world” does not get everything wrong.  Instead, follow the coherent moral standards summarized in the Golden Rule.  How would a world in which the Golden Rule was the accepted standard function, in contrast to the one in which we live?









Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA


Devotion for Proper 17, Year C (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain


AUGUST 29, 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 2:18-26 or Jeremiah 17:5-10

Psalm 102:18-28

Romans 6:12-23

Luke 12:1-12


In the context of the balance of divine judgment and mercy, an evergreen Biblical theme, we read another evergreen Biblical theme:  Be your best selves in God.  This applies both individually and collectively.  Be your best self in God.  Be the best family possible in God.  Be the best congregation possible in God.  Be the best ____ possible in God.

Fearlessness, grounded in faith and bound by mutual responsibility, is part of achieving human potential in God.  May we be fearless in loving our neighbors as we love ourselves in good times and during crises.  May we build up each other fearlessly.  May we speak and hear the truth in love, fearlessly. May we proclaim Christ in words and deeds, fearlessly.  May we eschew all bigotry, fearlessly.  May we hold irresponsible authority figures to account for the common good, fearlessly.  May we fearlessly cooperate with God in building societies that are more just, especially for the vulnerable and the impoverished.

May we remember and act fearlessly on the truth that we are precious to God and should, therefore, be precious to each other.










Devotion for Proper 16, Year C (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  A Dining Room

Image in the Public Domain

If Jesus Were Your Dinner Guest

AUGUST 22, 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 2:1-10 or Jeremiah 15:15-21

Psalm 102:1-17

Romans 6:1-11

Luke 11:37-54


These five assigned readings merge neatly into a unified message:  Turn to God.  Do not turn away from God.  Otherwise, suffer the consequences.

Jesus, speaking in Luke 11:37-54, establishes some standards, in a particular context.  The list is hardly comprehensive, but it does not prove useful.  Besides, if he were speaking to a different audience, he would offer a different list of sins.  The list from Luke 11:37-54 is:

  1. Placing too much emphasis on the superficial and too little on the consequential,
  2. Overlooking justice/righteousness and the love of God,
  3. Feeding ego rather than glorifying God,
  4. Imposing and maintaining unendurable burdens on people,
  5. Being shameless hypocrites, and
  6. Teaching the Torah badly, thereby misleading people.

Contrast Jesus’s hosts in Luke 11:37-54 with the notorious sinners with whom our Lord and Savior dined.  The latter groups were not respectable, but they did not understand themselves and acknowledge their need to repent.  They accepted the opportunity to learn from and to follow Jesus.

“Justice” and “righteousness” are the same word in the Bible.  Translators choose either “justice” or “righteousness” on a case-by-case basis.  Standards of justice/righteousness are somewhat relative; they depend on contexts.  How one lives the timeless principles properly depends on who, when, and where one is.  Reread the list from a previous paragraph, O reader.  Ponder the third sin:  feeding ego rather than glorifying God.  Two people may commit that sin yet do so differently.  Likewise, two people may glorify God rather than feed ego, and do so differently.

If Jesus were your dinner guest, O reader, what would he tell you?  And how would you react or respond to him?









Devotion for the Feast of All Souls/Commemoration of All Faithful Departed (November 2)   Leave a comment

Above:  All Souls’ Day, by Jakub Schikaneder

Image in the Public Domain

Praying for the Dead


The Feast of All Souls originated at the great monastery of Cluny in 998.  The commemoration spread and became an occasion to pray for those in Purgatory.  During the Reformation Era Protestants and Anglicans dropped the feast on theological grounds.  In the late twentieth century, however, the feast–usually renamed the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed–began appearing on Anglican calendars.  The difference between All Saints’ Day and All Faithful Departed, in this context, had become one of emphasis–distinguished saints on November 1 and forgotten saints on November 2.

The idea of Purgatory (a Medieval Roman Catholic doctrine with ancient roots) is that of, as I heard a Catholic catechist, “God’s mud room.”  The doctrine holds that all those in Purgatory will go to Heaven, just not yet, for they require purification.  I am sufficiently Protestant to reject the doctrine of Purgatory, for I believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus constitutes “God’s mud room.”  Purgatory is also alien to Eastern Orthodoxy, which also encourages prayers for the dead.

I pray for the dead, too.  After all, who knows what takes place between God and the departed?





Merciful Father, hear our prayers and console us.

As we renew our faith in your Son, whom you raised from the dead,

strengthen our hope that all our departed brothers and sisters will share in his resurrection,

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

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 or Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 27:1, 4, 7-9, 13-14 or Psalm 103:8, 10, 13-18

Romans 6:3-9 or 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

Matthew 25:31-46 or John 11:17-27

The Vatican II Sunday Missal (1974), 1041-1048


O God, the Maker and Redeemer of all believers:

Grant to the faithful departed the unsearchable benefits of the passion of your Son;

that on the day of his appearing they may be manifested as your children;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 or Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 130 or Psalm 116:6-9

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 or 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

John 5:24-27

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 665


Originally published at SUNDRY THOUGHTS


Devotion for Thursday Before Proper 3, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Grace Church, Gainesville, GA, September 20, 2015

Above:   Grace Episcopal Church, Gainesville, Georgia, September 20, 2016

Image in the Public Domain

Humility Before God

MAY 19, 2016


The Collect:

O God our rock, your word brings life to the whole creation

and salvation from sin and death.

Nourish our faith in your promises, and ground us in your strength,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38


The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 13:1-12

Psalm 92:104, 12-15

Romans 5:12-6:2


Certain passages of scripture are unduly optimistic.  The lection from Proverbs 13 makes no allowance for the hard-working poor, for example.  It also offers this statement:

Righteousness protects him whose way is blameless;

Wickedness subverts the sinner.

–Verse 6, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The second part has the ring of accuracy but the examples of Jesus and of Christian martyrs contradict any interpretation of the first part that holds that righteousness is like a shield from harm.  The reading from Romans paints to the crucifixion of Jesus, an event that occurred because of the lack of righteousness of other people.

The lection from Romans builds to one point:

How can we who died to sin go on living in it?

–6:2b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

We remain sinners, of course, for that is who we are.  We can, however, strive to do the right thing from moment to moment, day to day, and year to year.  That is imperative if we are to follow God.  Fortunately, grace is available to us in copious amounts, for our ability to accomplish this goal is woefully inadequate.  A healthy sense of humility before God is part of this effort.  As Proverbs 13:10 tells us,

Arrogance yields nothing but strife;

Wisdom belongs to those who seek advice.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Humility is the knowledge of who what one is.  It leads to a balanced ego, which avoids the extremes of an inferiority complex on one hand and arrogance on the other.  Humility before God translates into a sense of awe and wonder, that which, in traditional English translation, is “fear of God.”  (I wish that more translators of the Bible would replace “fear of God” with language that expresses its meaning accurately.)

The totality of God is a vast mystery we mere mortals can never understand completely.  We can grasp certain aspects of divinity, but the whole reality remains gloriously mysterious.  May we accept that fact, embrace the mystery, and recognize it as the thing of beauty it is.  And may we be humble before it and resist the lure of easy and inadequate answers.









Week of Proper 24: Thursday, Year 1   10 comments

Above:  A Crucifix

Image in the Public Domain

Freedom from Shame

OCTOBER 26, 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 6:20-23 (Revised English Bible):

When you were slaves of sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.  And what gain did that bring you?  Things that now make you ashamed, for their their end is death.  But now, freed from the commands of sin and bound to the service of God, you have gains that lead to holiness, and the end is eternal life.  For sin pays a wage, and the wage is death, but God gives freely, and his gift is eternal life in union with Christ Jesus our Lord.

Psalm 1 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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

nor lingered in the way of sinners,

nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

2 Their delight is in the law of the LORD,

and the meditate on his law day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water,

bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither,

everything they do shall prosper.

4 It is not so with the wicked;

they are like the chaff which the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes,

nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.

For the LORD knows the ways of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked is doomed.

Luke 12:49-53 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

I have come to set fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!  I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is over!  Do you suppose that I came to establish peace to the earth?  No indeed, I have come to bring dissension.  From now on, a family of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.


The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession 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.


Shame and honor are social constructs.  One has shame or honor because others say that one does.  Such concepts have less potency in my Western society, with its individualistic focus, than in other cultures, with their communal emphasis.  To the extent that one feels shame or honor, one does so because one has internalized certain standards.

The standards to which Paul and Jesus pointed were frequently at odds with the Hellenistic culture which was always close.  Our Lord grew up in Nazareth, just a few miles from Sepphoris, the very Hellenistic capital of the Galilee, for example.  (Oddly enough, there is no mention of Sepphoris in the canonical Gospels.)  Anyhow, the standards to which Paul referred in Romans 6 were those of God.

Yes, one ought to feel regret for one’s sins.  There is a difference between regret and self-flagellation (literal or metaphorical), however.  Through Jesus we have forgiveness and liberation from sin, so we ought not to dwell on our sins.  Rather, we should learn from them and focus on the present and future, in both of which we have eternal life, which is simply life in God via the Christ (John 17:3).

Consider the cross.  Roman imperial use of it for execution was meant to shame the executed.  Yet, in Christianity, the cross has become a sign of triumph.  Crosses decorate jewelry, steeples, and church walls, for example.  The power and grace of God transform defeat into triumph and shame into honor.  This in indeed liberation, so may we live for God as free people.


Week of Proper 24: Wednesday, Year 1   9 comments

Above:  Eleanor Roosevelt Memorial, New York, New York

Image in the Public Domain

High Expectations and Great Responsibilities

OCTOBER 25, 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 6:12-19 (Revised English Bible):

Therefore sin must no longer reign in your mortal body, exacting obedience to the body’s desires.  You must no longer put any part of it at sin’s disposal, as an implement for doing wrong.  Put yourselves instead at the disposal of God; think of yourselves instead at the disposal of God; think of yourselves as raised from death to life, and yield your bodies to God as implements for doing right.  Sin shall no longer be your master, for you are no longer under law, but under grace.

What then?  Are we to sin, because we are not under law but under grace?  Of course not!  You know well enough that if you bind yourselves to obey a master, you are slaves of the master you obey; and this is true whether the master is sin and the outcome death, or obedience and the outcome righteousness.  Once you were slaves of sin, but now, thank God, you have yielded wholehearted obedience to that pattern of teaching to which you were made subject; emancipated from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness (to use language that suits your human weakness).  As you once yielded your bodies to the service of impurity and lawlessness, making for moral anarchy, so now you must yield them to the service of righteousness, making a holy life.

Psalm 124 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 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;

3 Then they would have swallowed us up alive

in their fierce anger toward us;

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.

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.

Luke 12:39-48 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Remember, if the householder had known at what time the burglar was coming he would not have let his house be broken into.  So hold yourselves in readiness, because the Son of Man will come at the time you least expect him.

Peter said,

Lord, do you intend this parable specially for us or is it for everyone?

The Lord said,

Who is the trusty and sensible man whom his master will appoint as his steward, to manage his servants and issue their rations at the proper time?  Happy that servant if his master comes home and finds him at work!  I tell you this:  he will be put in charge of all his master’s property.  But if that servant says to himself, “The master is a long time coming,” and begins to bully the menservants and maids, and to eat and drink and get drunk, then the master will arrive on a day when the servant does not expect him, at a time he has not been told.  He will cut him in pieces and assign him a place among the faithless.

The servant who knew his master’s wishes, yet made no attempt to carry them out, will be flogged severely.  But one who did not know them and earned a beating will be flogged less severely.  Where someone has been given much, much will be expected of him; and the more he has had entrusted to him the more will be demanded of him.


The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession 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.


Privilege carries responsibility.  This is a basic lesson in Biblical ethics.

Consider, in U.S. history, Eleanor Roosevelt, who was quite wealthy and usually close to power.  She used her position to, among other things, help common and poor people during the Great Depression, visit soldiers and sailors during World War II, work on international human rights after that war, and labor for civil rights during much of her life.  You might know, O reader, about her role in arranging Marian Anderson’s 1939 concert at the Lincoln Memorial, but did you know that the former First Lady risked her life in the 1950s while traveling through the South to teach civil rights workers civil disobedience tactics?  Klan members sought to murder her and the Federal Bureau of Investigation did not protect her during these risky travels.

And let us think of the second person of the Trinity, who left a position of prestige to become one of us, to suffer, and to die for us.  Jesus offers us liberation from sin to serve him.  May we say yes and act accordingly.  If we have said yes are acting accordingly, may we continue to do so.

The cost, of course, might be martyrdom, or at least great suffering.  Consider the eleven surviving Apostles plus Matthias, who filled the vacancy Judas left.  Only St. John died of old age/natural causes, but in exile.  The manner of dying for most of the other eleven was gruesome.

Each day enemies of the cross of Christ martyr more Christians across the world.  Do these makers of martyrs suppose that they will win?  History indicates that they will lose, for, as an old saying tells us, “The blood of the martyrs waters the church.”  And, as the Wisdom of Solomon says,

…the souls of the righteous are in Gods’ hand; no torment will touch them.  In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to be dead their departure was reckoned a defeat, and their going from us as disaster.  But they are at peace, for though in the sight of men they may suffer punishment, they have a sure hope of immortality…. (3:1-4, Revised English Bible)

Martyrdom, of course, is not every faithful Christian’s lot.  Yet grace, although free, is not cheap; it makes costly demands on us.  The call of being chosen by God carries with it corresponding responsibilities to others.  If we are to fulfill these well, we must change from what we are to what we ought to be.  This requires sacrifices.  Some people, for example, understand the call to sacrifice an easy and comfortable life so that they can become renewers of society.  In the case of Eleanor Roosevelt, this meant driving through rural Tennessee in the middle of the night while Klansmen hunted her.  She could have died there, and she knew it.  Thank God that she was safe after all!

Which responsibilities does grace require of you?  Which responsibilities will grace demand of you?


Proper 8, Year A   26 comments

Above: The Sacrifice of Isaac, by Caravaggio (lived 1571-1610)

Image in the Public Domain

(Note the anguish in Isaac’s face.)

An Acceptable Sacrifice

The Sunday Closest to June 29

The Fifth Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 2, 2023



Genesis 22:1-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

After these things God tested Abraham.  He said to him,


And he said,

Here I am.

He said,

Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.

So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown them.  On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away.  Then Abraham said to his young men,

Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.

Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the wood.  So the two of them walked on together.  Isaac said to his father Abraham,


And he said,

Here I am, my son.

He said,

The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?

Abraham said,

God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.

So the two of them walked on together.

When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order.  He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.  Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son.  But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said,

Abraham, Abraham!

And he said,

Here I am.

He said,

Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.

And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its thorns.  Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place,

The LORD will provide;

as it is said to this day,

On the mount of LORD it shall be provided.

The angel of the LORD called to Abraham, a second time from heaven, and said,

By myself I have sworn, says the LORD: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore.  And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.

So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham lived at Beersheba.

Psalm 13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 How long, O LORD?

will you forget me for ever?

how long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long shall I have perplexity in my mind,

and grief in my heart, day after day?

how long shall my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look upon me and answer me, O LORD, my God,

give light to my eyes, lest I sleep in death;

4 Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”

and my foes rejoice that I have fallen.

5 But I will trust in your mercy;

my heart is joyful because of your saving help.

6 I will sing to the LORD, for he has dealt with me richly;

I will praise the Name of the Lord Most High.


Jeremiah 28:5-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the LORD; and the prophet Jeremiah said,

Amen!  May the LORD do so; may the LORD fulfill the words you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the LORD, and all the exiles.  But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people.  The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms.  As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the LORD has truly sent the prophet.

Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Your love, O LORD, for ever will I sing;

from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness.

2 For I am persuaded that your love is established for ever;

you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens.

3 “I have made a covenant with my chosen one;

I have sworn an oath to David my servant;

4 ‘I will establish your line for ever,

and preserve your throne for all generations.'”

15 Happy are the people who know the festal shout!

the walk, O LORD, in the light of your presence.

16 They rejoice daily in your Name;

they are jubilant in your righteousness.

17 For you are the glory of their strength,

and by your favor our might is exalted.

18 Truly, the LORD is our ruler;

the Holy One of Israel is our King.


Romans 6:12-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.  No longer present your members as sin to instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness.  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

What then?  Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace?  By no means!  Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?  But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.  I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations.  For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.

When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.  So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you are now ashamed?  The end of those things is death.  But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification.  The end is eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Matthew 10:40-42 (New Revised Standard Version):

[Jesus said,]

Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.  Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple–truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.

The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice,

but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.

The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

–Psalm 51:17-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer)

The story of the near killing of Isaac at the hand of his father disturbs me.  God does not command such emotional abuse.  Can you, O reader, imagine the lasting effect this had on Isaac?  I can only imagine the journey of father and son after the incident on Mt. Moriah.  Elie Wiesel, in a televised Bible study, noted that the Bible records no more conversations between Abraham and Isaac after this event.

Pay attention to the reading from Matthew:  Jesus encourages kind treatment of vulnerable and marginal people, including children.

Indeed, one lesson from Genesis 22 is that God does not desire child sacrifice, a custom many people in the region practiced during the time of Abraham.  My God concept comes from Jesus.  And I reject Penal Substitutionary Atonement, the idea that Jesus took my place on the cross.  Ante-Nicene Church Fathers proposed three theories of the Atonement, including Penal Substitution.  My understanding of the Atonement is closest to another one of these, the conquest of evil via the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus.  So I reject the propositions that God ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son and that God sacrificed his Son.  If I did not reject these ideas, I would believe in Gangster God, who is not content except in bloodshed.

As Paul reminds the church at Rome, the death of Christ and his resurrection make possible the death to sin and the end of the overpowering power thereof.  So, through Jesus, we have eternal life.  Indeed, the definition of eternal life in John 17:3 is a relationship with God via Jesus.  Eternal life is in the present tense.  There is no eternity without God, so let us not confuse the concepts of eternal life and everlasting life.  Eternity has nothing to do with time, only quality.

Having eternal life in the present, what should we sacrifice to God?  Let us begin with everything that burdens and distresses us, as in Psalm 51.  It is also possible that we might have to sacrifice careers, relationships, and even life itself, as in the cases of martyrs.  So we ought to be prepared to sacrifice that which is most dear.  But, as Jesus said in the Gospel reading (Matthew 10:34-39) for Proper 7, Year A, we need to value nothing more than him.

The prophet Jeremiah valued fidelity to God above all else.  He suffered many deprivations and taunts.  The reading from Jeremiah is set in a time during which Zedekiah, King of Judah, was a Babylonian puppet and the Babylonians had already exiled many Jews.  The Kingdom of Judah was on its last legs.  Hananiah, a false prophet, prophesied that all would be well within two years  Jeremiah contradicted Hananiah, and history has proven the weeping prophet correct.  Sometimes, as Jeremiah said, the truth is uncomfortable.

So let us also sacrifice our desire for easy, happy, and deceptive answers.

May we die sin and be reborn into eternal life, and stay there.  Eternal life might require us to become sacrificial offerings and so to join the ranks of the martyrs of God.  If so, may we face this reality in faith.  Eternal life will require something of us; it does come at great expense to Jesus and ourselves.  The details of that price will vary from person to person, but this principle remains.  But this is the way to life in God, and its glories are wondrous.

God loves us.  So we ought to love God and each other, if we do not do so already.  In societal terms, we can begin to ceasing to sacrifice each other, metaphorically or otherwise.  We can extend simple kindnesses and great respect to each other; we can treat each other with dignity.  We might not like each other, but we can be civilized to each other.

We can be the face of Christ to one another.  May we do so.


Proper 7, Year A   22 comments

Above: The Scapegoat, by William Holman Hunt (1954)

No More Scapegoating

The Sunday Closest to June 22

The Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

JUNE 25, 2023



Genesis 21:8-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.  But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham,

Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.

The matter was very distressing to Abraham, on account of his son.  But God said to Abraham,

Do not be distressed because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah does to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you.  As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.

So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away.  And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beersheba.

When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes.  Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said,

Do not let me look on the death of the child.

And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept.  And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her,

What troubles you, Hagar?  Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.  Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.

Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.  She sent, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.

God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow.  He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got him a wife from the land of Egypt.

Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Bow down your ear, O LORD, and answer me,

for I am poor and in misery.

2 Keep watch over my life, for I am faithful;

save your servant who puts his trust in you.

3 Be merciful to me, O LORD, for you are my God;

I call upon you all the day long.

4 Gladden the soul of your servant,

for to you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

5 For you, O LORD, are good and forgiving,

and great is your love toward all who call upon you.

6 Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer,

and attend to the voice of my supplications.

7 In the time of trouble I will call upon you,

for you will answer me.

8 Among the gods there is none like you, O LORD,

nor anything like your works.

9 All nations you have made will come and worship you, O LORD,

and glorify your Name.

10 For you are great;

you do wondrous things;

and you alone are God.

16 Turn to me and have mercy upon me;

give your strength to your servant;

and save the child of your handmaid.

17 Show me a sign of your favor,

so that those who hate me may see it and be ashamed;

because you, O LORD, have helped me and comforted me.


Jeremiah 20:7-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

O LORD, you have enticed me,

and I was enticed;

you have overpowered me,

and you have prevailed.

I have become a laughingstock all day long;

everyone mocks me.

For whenever I speak, I must cry out,

I must shout, “Violence and destruction!”

For the word of the LORD has become for me

a reproach and derision all day long.

If I say, “I will not mention him,

or speak any more in his name,”

then within me there is something like a burning fire

shut up in my bones;

I am weary with holding it in,

and I cannot.

For I hear many whispering:

“Terror is all around!

Denounce him!  Let us denounce him!”

All my close friends

are watching for me to stumble.

“Perhaps he can be enticed,

and we can prevail against him,

and take our revenge on him.”

But the LORD is with me like a dread warrior;

therefore my persecutors will stumble,

and they will not prevail.

They will be greatly shamed,

for they will not succeed.

Their eternal dishonor

will never be forgotten.

O LORD of hosts, you test the righteous,

you see the heart and the mind;

let me see your retribution upon them,

for to you I have committed my cause.

Sing to the LORD;

praise the LORD!

For he has delivered the life of the needy

from the hands of evildoers.

Psalm 69:8-11 (12-17), 18-20 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8 Surely, for your sake have I suffered reproach,

and shame has covered my face.

9 I have become a stranger to my own kindred,

an alien to my mother’s children.

10 Zeal for your house has eaten me up;

the scorn of those who scorn you has fallen upon me.

11 I humbled myself with fasting,

but that was turned to my reproach.

12 I put on sack-cloth also,

and became a byward among them.

13 Those who sit at the gate murmur against me,

and the drunkards make songs about me.

14 But as for me, this is my prayer to you,

at the time you have set, O LORD;

15 “In your great mercy, O God,

answer me with your unfailing help.

16 Save me from the mire; do not let me sink;

let me be rescued from those who hate me

and out of the deep waters.

17 Let not the torrent of waters wash over me,

neither let the deep pit swallow me up;

do not let the Pit shut its mouth upon me.

18 Answer me, O LORD, for your love is kind;

in your great compassion, turn to me.”


Romans 6:1b-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?  By no means!  How can we who died to sin go on living in it?  Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into his death?  Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.  We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might no longer be enslaved to sin.  For whoever has died is freed from sin.  But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.   We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.  So you must also consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.


Matthew 10:24-39 (New Revised Standard Version):

[Jesus said,] “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master.  If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.  What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.  Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  And even the hairs of your head are all counted.  So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

For I have come to set a man against his father,

and a daughter against her mother,

and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

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 loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Problems are real.  When faced with the necessity of facing a difficult or awkward situation  honestly and resolving a it, one might do so, or one might find a scapegoat instead.  Often we humans scapegoat.  This day’s readings concern scapegoating.

Abraham and Sarah had known for years that he would have many descendants.  First, however, he needed one.  So they decided to act, and Sarah granted her permission for Abraham to sire his heir via Hagar, her Egyptian slave.  Ishmael was the result.  His existence became awkward after the birth of Isaac.

Whatever else the Bible is, it is honest about the faults of figures the reader is supposed to admire.  Abraham, for example, comes across as a really bad father.  In Genesis 21 he consents to the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael.  And he tries to kill Isaac in the next chapter.  That story disturbs me deeply, but I get ahead of myself; that tale will wait until Proper 8, Year A.

Note, anyway, the sympathetic tone in the text with regard for the plight of Hagar and her son.  These two were not responsible for what was happening, yet they bore the brunt of the circumstances of Sarah’s jealousy.  This jealousy created a new problem in time, for ethnic tensions arose from it.  Jewish tradition links Ishmael to the origin of Arab bedouin tribes, and the Koran states that Muhammad is descended from Abraham’s firstborn son.  People still use the tale of Ishmael and Isaac to justify hatred.

The prophet Jeremiah spent years speaking unpopular truths and behaving bizarrely.  He ate a scroll, walked around naked, and said that the Kingdom of Judah was doomed.  The latter point was fairly obvious by his time, for the Chaldean (a.k.a. Babylonian) Empire menaced the kingdom.  Furthermore, the two Kings of Judah were puppets of foreigners–one of Egypt and the other of Babylonia.  Jeremiah faced scorn and persecution for his efforts.  This day’s reading from the book bearing his name (The actual author of the book was the scribe Baruch.) contains one of the prophet’s understandable complaints to God.  Jeremiah had become a scapegoat.  What he said would happen did occur, of course, so scapegoating him did not resolve the national crisis.

Jesus was a scapegoat, too.  As some religious authorities said, they preferred to sacrifice him to the Roman Empire than for the imperium to kill many people.  Both happened, of course, just about a generation apart.  As the reading from Matthew acknowledges, the mere existence of Jesus was divisive.  And it still is, especially in families where someone has converted to Christianity and religious law and/or cultural custom requires the convert’s death on the charge of apostasy.  But, as Paul wrote far better than I can, the death of Jesus bestows spiritual life in God.  So, as Jesus said, one should not fear those who can kill only the body.  No, spiritual death is what one ought to fear and avoid.

God cares for us.  God cared for Hagar and Ishmael, for Jeremiah, and for Jesus and Paul.  All of them suffered, but God was with them through it all and provided for them.  And God cares for us, too.  Will we reciprocate and trust God to provide for us, or will we seek convenient, easy solutions, which will only complicate the issue?  Will we listen to God and to God’s prophets, or will we engage in scapegoating?

The death and resurrection of Jesus were profound events packed with meanings.  Among them is this:  Scapegoating is destructive and ineffective.  Why do we continue to scapegoat?  I think the answer is that we like the seemingly easy way out.  May God have mercy on us.