Archive for the ‘University of Georgia’ Tag

Devotion for September 30 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments


Above: The Arch, The University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

Image Source = Josh Hallett

Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part III:  For the Benefit of Others

SEPTEMBER 30, 2023


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

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

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


The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 1:37-2:15

Psalm 62 (Morning)

Psalms 73 and 8 (Evening)

Matthew 6:1-15


Jesus, in Matthew 6:1-15, sets the tone with the first verse:

Be careful not to parade your religion before others; if you do, no reward awaits you with your Father in heaven.

The Revised English Bible

This does not mean that religion is or should be a purely private matter, for the truth remains that as one thinks, so one behaves.  The point pertains to motivation.

Aside:  Purely private religion is the opposite of theocracy, of which I am also very critical.  

Evangelicalism, as I have experienced it, is very extroverted.  I, on the other hand, am introverted.  So I have felt out of place around many Evangelicals  much of the time for this and other reasons, including rampant anti-intellectualism (not on my part) and discomfort (also not on my part) with the number and nature of theological questions I am fond of asking and exploring.  I am an Episcopalian, so I like to ask questions.  And I, as an introvert, am especially loathe to wear my religion on my sleeve, but am obviously not reluctant to be openly religious in public.  I do prefer, however, to be so in a generally quiet manner.  And I will not knock on doors as part of an effort to convert others, for I dislike it when others knock on my door for that purpose.  Besides, many people whom I have encountered do not know how to take “no” for an answer; their bad manners offend me.  (Certain Mormons have been especially guilty of such rudeness at my front door.)  That which I do not like others to do to me I try not to do them.  How is that for attempting to live according to the Golden Rule?

One problem of which we read in Deuteronomy 1:37-2:15 is flouting the commandments of God.  There was no public-private distinction in this case, for the the flouting was both public and private.

Doing good deeds in secret, for the benefit of another or others, not for one’s own glory, is righteous and selfless.  It is pure, or at least as close to pure as a human act of kindness can be.  Being sincere before God and not showing off one’s religiosity is honest.  And it does not constitute flouting the commandments of God.

I choose to write about one more aspect of the Matthew lection.  One command of God I have experienced great difficulty in not flouting is forgiving certain people.  It is easy to forgive some yet not others.  But my mandate is is not to make such distinctions.  This struggle continues for me, but spiritual progress has occurred, by grace.  I detect much room for further progress, but I take this opportunity to rejoice in that spiritual progress which has taken place.

It can be difficult to forgive those who have harmed us.  I have my own list of such people; it includes a small group of professors at the Department of History of The University of Georgia.  Their deeds were perfidious; I will not claim otherwise and nothing can change the reality of their perfidy.  But they have only as much power over me now, years after the fact, as I grant them.  And I grant them none.  I refuse to carry grudges against them, for the burdens have proved too heavy for me to shoulder.  I do hope and pray that these professors have, for their sake and those of others, abandoned their perfidious ways.  If they have not done so, that is a matter for God and others to address; my own issues fill my time.

As I think so I am.  As I think, so I behave.  As you think, O reader, so you are and behave.  May we, by grace, be and behave as God approves, for the benefit of others.









Week of Proper 11: Thursday, Year 2   6 comments

Above:  A Football Stadium

Image in the Public Domain

The God-Shaped Hole

JULY 21, 2022


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


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

The word of the LORD came to me, saying,

Go proclaim to Jerusalem:  Thus says the LORD:

I accounted to your favor,

The devotion of your youth,

Your love as a bride–

How you followed Me in the wilderness,

In a land not sown.

Israel was holy to the LORD,

The first fruits of His harvest.

All who ate of it were held guilty;

Disaster befell them

–declares the LORD.

Hear the word of the LORD, O House of Jacob,

Every clan of the House of Israel!

Thus said the LORD:

What wrong did your fathers find in Me

That they abandoned Me

And went after delusion and were deluded?

They never asked themselves, Where is the LORD,

Who brought us up from the land of Egypt,

Who led us through the wilderness,

A land of deserts and pits,

A land of drought and darkness,

A land no man had traversed,

Where no human being had dwelt?”

I brought you to this country of farm land

To enjoy its fruit and its bounty;

But you came and defiled My land,

You made My possession abhorrent.

The priests never asked themselves, “Where is the LORD?”

The guardians of the Teaching ignored Me;

The rulers rebelled against Me,

And the prophets prophesied by Baal

And followed what can do no good.

Oh, I will go on accusing you

–declares the LORD–

And I will accuse your children’s children!

Just cross over to the isles of the Kittim and look,

Send to Kedar and observe carefully;

See if aught like this has ever happened:

Has any nation changed its gods

Even though they are no-gods?

But My people has exchanged its glory

For what can do no good.

Be appalled, O heavens, at this;

Be horrified, utterly dazed!

–says the LORD–

For My people have done a twofold wrong:

They have forsaken Me, the Fount of living waters,

And hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns,

Which cannot even hold water.

Psalm 36:5-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

5  Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens,

and your faithfulness to the clouds.

6  Your righteousness is like the strong mountains,

your justice like the great deep;

you save both man and beast, O LORD.

7  How priceless is your love, O God!

your people take refuge under the shadow of your wings.

8  They feast upon the abundance of your house;

you give them drink from the river of your delights.

9  For with you is the well of life,

and in your light we see light.

10  Continue your loving-kindness to those who know you,

and your favor to those who are true of heart.

Matthew 13:10-17 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

At this the disciples approached him and asked, “Why do you talk to them in parables?”

“Because you have been given the privilege of understanding the secrets of the kingdom of Heaven,” replied Jesus, “but they have not.  For when a man has something, more is given to him till he has plenty.  For if he has nothing even his nothing will be taken away from him.  This is why I speak to them in these parables; because they go through life with their eyes open, but see nothing, and with their ears open, but understand nothing of what they hear.  They are the living fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophesy which says:

By hearing ye shall hear, and shall in no wise understand;

And seeing ye shall see, and shall in no wise perceive;

For this people’s heart is waxed gross,

And their ears are dull of hearing,

And their eyes have been closed;

Lest haply they should perceive with their eyes,

And hear with their heart,

And should turn again,

And I should heal them.

“But how fortunate you are to have eyes that see and ears that hear! Believe me, a great many prophets and good men have longed to see what you are seeing and they never saw it.  Yes, and they have longed to hear what you are hearing and they never heard it.”


The Collect:

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


A Related Post:

Week of Proper 11:  Thursday, Year 1:


There is inside of each of us a God-shaped hole.  If we are wise, we insert God there.  Yet many of us are foolish, for we resort to our collection of idolatrous pegs.  These idols include inherently destructive habits (such as drug abuse, overeating, and risky sexual acts), activities healthy except in excess (Dare I say certain varieties of religion?), and neutral activities (such as watching movies and television programs).  There is a time to watch television and there is a time to pray contemplatively.  There is a time to read a book and there is a time to take a brisk walk and enjoy nature.

I live in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, home of The University of Georgia (UGA).  It is not an exaggeration to describe football (especially UGA football) as a religion here.  Sport, as sport, is fine.  However, sport, as an object of idolatry, is not fine.  In late 2009, on the front page of the local newspaper, there was a story about the murder of a woman by her boyfriend or former boyfriend.  This story filled one column on the periphery of the page.  Yet the dominant story above the fold, complete with huge font, concerned the death of the UGA football team mascot, a bulldog.  “SHOCKING LOSS,” the headline screamed.  Which should have been the shocking loss?

We are here on this planet to, among other things, love God fully and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  How we live constitutes an act of daily worship.  So, when we chase idols, whether they are football or Baal Peor or cocaine, we forsake God.  We hew out broken cisterns which cannot even hold water.


Week of Proper 11: Tuesday, Year 2   6 comments

Above:  Icon of Micah

Image in the Public Domain

Life Goes On, and So Must We

JULY 19, 2022


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Micah 7:14-20 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Oh, shepherd Your people with Your staff,

Your very own flock.

May they who dwell isolated

In a woodland surrounded by farmland

Graze Bashan and Gilead

As in olden days.

I will show him wondrous deeds

As in the days when You sallied forth from the land of Egypt.

Let nations behold and be ashamed

Despite all their might;

Let them put hand to mouth;

Let their ears be deafened!

Let them lick dust like snakes,

Like crawling things on the ground!

Let them come trembling out of their strongholds

To the LORD our God;

Let them fear and dread You!

Who is a God like You,

Forgiving iniquity

And remitting transgression;

Who has not maintained His wrath forever

Against the remnant of His own people,

Because He loves graciousness!

He will take us back in love;

He will cover up our iniquities,

You will hurl all our sins

Into the depths of the sea.

You will keep faith with Jacob,

Loyalty to Abraham,

As you promised an oath to our fathers

In days gone by.

Psalm 85:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  You have been gracious to your land, O LORD,

you have restored the good fortune of Jacob.

2  You have forgiven the iniquity of your people

and blotted out all their sins.

3  You have withdrawn all your fury

and turned yourself from your wrathful indignation.

4  Restore us then, O God our Savior,

let your anger depart from us.

5  Will you be displeased with us for ever?

will you prolong your anger from age to age?

6  Will you not give us life again,

that your people may rejoice in you?

7 Show us your mercy, O LORD,

and grant us  your salvation.

Matthew 12:46-50 (An American Translation):

While he was still speaking, his mother and his brothers came up and stood outside the crowd, wanting to speak to him.  But he said to the man who told him,

Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?

And he pointed to his disciples and said,

Here are my mother and my brothers!  For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!


The Collect:

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 11:  Tuesday, Year 1:

A Prayer for Those Who Have Harmed Us:


The lectionary I am following for Monday-Saturday readings omits the two vengeful verses in Micah 7, but I have included them.  In the Old Testament even expressions of hope and gratitude come mixed with anger much of the time.  Consider many of the psalms when searching for other examples of this pattern.  Such vengeful thoughts might not seem holy to certain sensibilities, but they are human, and the Bible is a product of human beings.

The reading, from the end of Micah’s book, speaks of God taking back the chosen people and forgiving them.   There will be a second exodus, this time from exile, the reading says.  And there was.  The beautiful poetry speaks of God throwing all the sins of the Jews “into the depths of the sea.”  Divine wrath, we read, will not last forever.

Yet the author wants divine wrath to fall on the foreign powers, namely oppressors, and to last forever.  I know, on the personal level, the desire for vengeance and vindication.  My cause was just, my oppressor’s was not, and he got away with what he did to me.  Who was I, after all?  I was a lowly graduate student; he was (and is) a prominent professor.  So he got away with what he did to me.  Anger, however, is a spiritual toxin, one which becomes more poisonous the longer one nurtures and imbibes it.  Yes, I remain convinced that I was a victim, but I refuse to define myself as such.  There might not be justice for me in this life, but I have come around to not objecting to forgiveness for my oppressor in this life or the next one.

Life goes on, and so must we.




Forgiveness occurred some time ago.  I became conscious of it only after the fact.








Week of Proper 22: Wednesday, Year 1   10 comments

Lord's Prayer in Greek

Above:  The Lord’s Prayer in Greek

Image in the Public Domain

The Difficulty of Forgiveness

OCTOBER 11, 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.


Jonah 4:1-11 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

This displeased Jonah greatly, and he was grieved.  He prayed to the LORD, saying,

O LORD! Isn’t this just what I said when I was still in my own country?  That is why I fled beforehand to Tarshish.  For I know that You are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in kindness, renouncing punishment.  Please, LORD, take my life, for I would rather die than live.

The LORD replied,

Are you that deeply grieved?

Now Jonah had left the city and found a place east of the city.  He made a booth there and found a place east of the city.  The LORD God provided a ricinus plant, which grew up over Jonah, to provide shade for his head and save him from discomfort.  Jonah was very happy about the plant.  But the next day at dawn God provided a worm, which attacked the plant so that it withered.  And when the sun rose, God provided a sultry east wind; the sun beat down on Jonah’s head, and he became faint.  He begged for death, saying,

I would rather die than live.

Then God said to Jonah,

Are you so deeply grieved about the plant?

He replied,

Yes, so deeply that I want to die.

Then the LORD said:

You cared about the plant, which you did not work for and which you did not grow, which appeared overnight and perished overnight.  And should I not care about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and many beasts as well?

Psalm 86:1-10 (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 my trouble I 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;

for you alone are God.

Luke 11:1-4 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now once he [Jesus] was in a certain place praying, and when had finished one of his disciples said,

Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.

He said to them,

Say this when you pray:

“Father, may your name be held holy,

your kingdom come;

give us each day our daily bread,

and forgive us our sins,

for we ourselves forgive each one of us who is in debt to us.

And do not put us to the test.”


The Collect:

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


Some Related Posts:

A New Zealand Paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer:

A Prayer for Grace to Forgive:


Jonah could not forgive the people of Nineveh, whom he had just met and did not know, for being of that place.  So he was angry that God had forgiven them.  The Lord’s Prayer is just one passage in which Jesus establishes the link between God’s forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of others.  Consider this passage (Matthew 7:1-5) also:

Do not judge, and you will not be judged; because the judgements you give are the judgements you will get, and the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given.  Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own?  How dare you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own?  Hypocrite!  Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.

I had planned to write about the link between Jonah’s prayer and Elijah’s similar yet different plea in 1 Kings 19:4.  It is a fascinating aspect of Jonah 4 and one worth pondering.  Yet a more personal and to-the-point aspect of the readings occupies my mind while I type these words.

I was a doctoral student in the Department of History at The University of Georgia from Fall 2005 to Fall 2006.  Those were sixteen mostly difficult months.  They were only sixteen months because, in Fall Semester 2006, I received written notice that the faculty would not permit a third year.  Certain professors asked me take an M.A. instead.  But I already have one, I said.  Get another one, they said.  No, I replied.  Goodbye at the end of this semester, I told them in so many words.

My major professor had blackballed me without justification.  I need to forgive him.  Am I like Jonah in any way?  I am weak; may God forgive me for that.




Forgiveness occurred some time ago.  I became conscious of it only after the fact.




[Update: Those negative emotions washed out of my system years ago.  I would not have been human had I not had such emotions, but I would have been foolish not to drop that burden years ago.–2017]

Proper 15, Year A   35 comments

Above: Paul Writing His Epistles (1500s C.E.)

Image in the Public Domain

Mercy–Even for Foreigners

The Sunday Closest to August 17

The Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 20, 2023



Genesis 45:1-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out,

Send everyone away from me.

So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Joseph said to his brothers,

I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?

But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.

Then Joseph said to his brothers,

Come closer to me.

And they came closer. He said,

I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, “Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there– since there are five more years of famine to come– so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.” And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.

Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.

Psalm 133 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Oh, how good and pleasant it is,

when brethren live together in unity!

2 It is like fine oil upon the head

that runs down upon the beard,

3 Upon the beard of Aaron,

and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

4 It is like the dew of Hermon

that falls upon the hills of Zion.

5 For there the LORD has ordained the blessing;

life for evermore.


Isaiah 56:1, 6-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

Thus says the LORD:

Maintain justice, and do what is right,

for soon my salvation will come,

and my deliverance will be revealed.

And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,

to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD,

and to be his servants,

all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it,

and hold fast my covenant–

these I will bring to my holy mountain,

and make them joyful in my house of prayer;

their burnt offerings and their sacrifices

will be accepted on my altar;

for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

Thus says the Lord GOD,

who gathers the outcasts of Israel,

I will gather others to them

besides those already gathered.

Psalm 67 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 May God be merciful to us and bless us,

show us the light of his countenance and come to us.

2 Let your ways be known upon earth,

your saving health among all nations.

3 Let the peoples praise you, O God;

let all the peoples praise you.

4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,

for you judge the peoples with equity

and guide all the nations upon earth.

5 Let the peoples praise you, O God;

let all the peoples praise you.

6 The earth has brought forth her increase;

may God, our own God, give us his blessing.

7 May God give us his blessing,

and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.


Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32 (New Revised Standard Version):

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.


Matthew 15:(10-20), 21-28 (New Revised Standard Version):

Then he called the crowd to him and said to them,

Listen and understand:  it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what goes out of the mouth that defiles.

Then the disciples approached and said to him,

Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?

He answered,

Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.  Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind.  And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.

But Peter said to him,

Explain this parable to us.

Then he said,

Are you also still without understanding?  Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?  But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles.  For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.  These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.

Jesus left Gennesaret and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting,

Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.

But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying,

Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.

He answered,

I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

But she came and knelt before him, saying,

Lord, help me.

He answered,

It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.

She said,

Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.

Then Jesus answered her,

Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.

And her daughter was healed instantly.

The Collect:

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Portions of my North American culture tell me that I should not show weakness.  No, they say, I ought to be “strong,” which is to say, tough.  So, according to that logic, the example of Jesus, who showed mercy, is a sign of weakness.  But that analysis is far from the truth.

Persistent anger is corrosive, especially to the one who wallows in it.  At some point the grudge-bearer must lay down his or her burden, for his or her own sake.  Consider the case of Joseph, the foreign-born Vizier of Egypt.  He could have taken out his vengeance on his brothers, who sold him into slavery.  They would not even have known who he really was, unless he had told them.  But he forgave them; the better angels of his nature triumphed.

The reading from Isaiah 56 speaks of the extension of salvation to faithful Gentiles.  Unfortunately, the Temple establishment in the time of Jesus kept such believers at the margins.  These monotheists followed the God of Judaism, but they were still Gentiles, after all.  Jesus, surrounded by Gentiles in the region of Tyre and Sidon, recognized the faith of a Gentile woman.  And Paul preached to Gentiles while acknowledging that God had not abandoned the Jews.

Those who have known mercy have the obligation to extend it to others, regardless of meaningless categories, such as Jew and Gentile, native-born or foreign-born.  All who come to the Judeo-Christian God sincerely are equal to each other in relationship to God, in sinfulness, and in access to forgiveness.  We ought not discriminate against each other.

I was a doctoral student at The University of Georgia from the Fall Semester of 2005 to the Fall Semester of 2006.  My program ended when I learned that there would be no third year, hence no Ph.D.  I received a letter encouraging me to take a Master’s Degree instead.  But I already have one, I said.  The second-ranking professor in the Department of History said that I should take a second M.A., this time from a “superior institution.”  I scoffed and refused.  So I never registered for Spring Semester 2007 classes.  Much of Fall Semester 2006 constituted a very difficult time for me; I melted down emotionally, holding myself together with proverbial twine and duct tape until the end, when I exploded in anger and said what I really thought.  It was impolitic, unwise, and brutally honest.

Initially I was openly hostile to UGA, especially the History Department.  But that was years ago.  As I write these words, a sense of uneasiness with UGA and the History Department persist within me, but the hostility has run its course.  I am painfully aware that I need to forgive my “foreigners,” namely UGA, the History Department, and certain professors–for my sake, not theirs.  I have not “arrived” spiritually, O reader; I am weak.  But God is strong, and the fact that I have come as far as I have in my relationship to UGA and the History Department as I have indicates extravagant grace.  That grace has more work to do, but at least the process of forgiving has begun.

Forgiveness can be very difficult.  It might not even happen all at once.  But may it begin then continue to completion, all by grace.

One professor extended me great kindness while I melted down.  My stress levels and emotional collapse neutralized me academically during that final semester.  But thanks to one professor who cut me a deal, I received a respectable grade in one particular course.  Since then, as I have functioned as a classroom instructor, I have been increasingly aware of good students struggling with their own issues.  As I have received grace, I have extended it to others.  Jesus would have me to do no less.

No, I have not “arrived” spiritually, but, by grace, I have come as far as I have.  I wonder how much farther I have to go, and I look forward to the journey.




Forgiveness occurred some time ago.  I became conscious of it only after the fact.








Week of Proper 3: Friday, Year 1   7 comments

Above:  A Model of the Temple Complex in Jerusalem During the Time of Jesus

Jesus vs. the Temple System

JUNE 2, 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.


Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 44:1-15 (Revised English Bible):

Let us now praise famous men,

the fathers of our people in their generations;

to them the Lord assigned great glory,

his majestic greatness from of old.

Some held sway over kingdoms

and gained renown by their might.

Others were far-seeing counsellors

who spoke out with prophetic power.

Some guided the people by their deliberations

and by their knowledge of the nation’s law,

giving instruction from their fund of wisdom.

Some were composers of music;

some were writers of poetry.

Others were endowed with wealth and strength,

living at ease in their homes.

All those won glory in their own generation

and were the pride of their times.

Some there are who have left behind them a name

to be commemorated in story.

Others are unremembered;

they have perished as though they had never existed,

as though they had never been born;

so too it was with their children after them.

But not so our forefathers, men true to their faith,

whose virtuous deeds have not been forgotten.

Their prosperity is handed on to their descendants,

their inheritance to future generations.

Through him their children are within the covenants–

the whole race of their descendants.

Their line will endure for all time;

their glory will never die.

Their bodies are buried in peace

and their name lives for ever.

Nations will tell of their wisdom,

and the assembled people will sing their praise.

Psalm 149:1-5 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Sing to the LORD a new song;

sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful.

2 Let Israel rejoice in his Maker;

let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.

3 Let them praise his Name in the dance;

let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.

4 For the LORD takes pleasure in his people

and adorns the poor with victory.

5 Let the faithful rejoice in triumph;

let them be joyful on their beds.

Mark 11:11-26 (Revised English Bible):

(Note:  Mark 11:1-10 tells of Jesus borrowing a colt and entering Jerusalem.)

He entered Jerusalem and went into the temple.  He looked round at everything; then, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

On the following day, as they left Bethany, he felt hungry, and, noticing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it.  But when he reached it he found nothing but leaves; for it was not the season for figs.  He said to the tree,

May no one ever again eat fruit from you!

And his disciples were listening.

So they came to Jerusalem, and he went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold there.  He upset the tables of the money-changers and the seats of the dealers in pigeons; and he would not allow anyone to carry goods through the temple court.  Then he began to teach them, and said,

Does not scripture say, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’?

The chief priests and the scribes heard of this and looked for a way to bring about his death; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching.  And when evening came they went out of the city.

Early next morning, as they passed by, they saw that the fig tree had withered from the roots up; and Peter, recalling what had happened, said to him,

Rabbi, look, the fig tree which you cursed has withered.

Jesus answered them,

Have faith in God.  Truly I tell you:  if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted from your place and hurled into the sea,’ and has no inward doubts, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.  I tell you, then, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.

And when you stand praying, if you have a grievance against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive the wrongs you have done.


The Collect:

Grant, O Lord, that the course of this world may be peaceably governed by your providence; and that your Church may joyfully serve you in confidence and serenity; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


The Temple system benefited the wealthy and provided professional religious people with a comfortable living.  Temple taxes, paid mostly by those who could not afford them yet who acted out of community pressure and what they understood as piety (because that is how their religious leaders defined it) paid temple taxes and purchased sacrificial animals.  But they had to convert their Roman currency, which bore the image of the Emperor and the Latin words for “Divine Caesar” before they bought such sacrificial animals as pigeons.  Each Roman coin was an idol.  And the money changers were turning a nice profit, as was the the chief priest.  It was religious racketeering, and Jesus confronted it.

And we have an odd two-part story about Jesus cursing a fig tree for not producing figs out of season.  The account from the Gospel of Matthew repeats this story, but not the out of season detail.  This is a difficult story, and it does not cast Jesus in a positive light.  The best I can offer, after reading commentaries, is that the poor fig tree is a stand-in for the Temple system, for the accounts of the fig tree are set amid condemnations of that system.

Jesus does propose an alternative, however.  We can pray to God without spending needless money on currency conversion and on sacrificial pigeons.  But…there is always a but…we need to forgive others, for there exists a link between our forgiveness of others and God’s forgiveness of us.  Jesus raises the bar again.

This hits me where it hurts.  I had a hell of a time (Yes, it was that bad.)  at the Department of History, The University of Georgia, during the sixteen months of my doctoral program.  I can think of the names of three professors, including my major professor, whom I need to forgive.  And, to this day, I harbor some negative emotions toward the entire university.  They are less prominent than they used to be, but they persist.  Forgiveness is hard, especially when one is the aggrieved party.  But it is possible, by grace.  It is only possible by grace.  And I am convinced that is a process much of the time.  [Update: Those negative emotions washed out of my system years ago.  I would not have been human had I not had such emotions, but I would have been foolish not to drop that burden years ago.–2017]

God knows that we are “but dust,” yet holds us to certain standards.  Fortunately, the two sides of that sentence exist in balance.  This, however, does not absolve any of us from doing are spiritual part.  Jesus has shown us the way; may we follow him.  That, too, is a process.


Published Originally as Week of 8 Epiphany:  Friday, Year 1, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on November 7, 2010