Archive for the ‘Zechariah 8’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 27, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The New Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

Faithful Community

NOVEMBER 6, 2022


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


Genesis 22:1-19 or Zechariah 8:7-17

Psalm 145:1-9

Revelation 21:9-27

John 15:26-16:15


Genesis 22:1-19 is the outlier in this group of assigned portions of scripture.  I refer you, O reader, to other posts in which I have covered that terrible tale of child abuse and attempted murder.

A dark tone exists also in John 16:1-4.  Consider the circumstances of the Johannine, Jewish Christian community.  Expulsion from synagogues was their reality.  Religious persecution, although not constant from the imperium, was possible.  Furthermore, a time when 

anyone who kills you will think he is doing a holy service to God

functions, in this liturgical context, as a commentary on Abraham in Genesis 22:1-19.

Otherwise, the assigned readings depict a happy reality of dwelling in God.  This reality is not free of troubles, but one lives in harmony with God, at least.  And faith communities provide contexts in which members support one another.  They have instructions from God:

These are the things you are to do:  Speak the truth to one another, under true and perfect justice in your gates.  And do not contrive evil against one another, and do not love perjury, because all those things that I hate–declares the LORD.

–Zechariah 8:16-17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The original context of Zechariah 8:16-17 is Jerusalem after the return of exiles.  The passage also applies to Christian faith communities, however.  People are to love God and each other.

May we do so, by grace, and glorify God.










Devotion for Proper 17 (Year D)   1 comment


Above:  Moses

Image in the Public Domain

Prelude to the Passion, Part III



The Collect:

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


The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 11:1-30 or Isaiah 45:14-25 or Jeremiah 4:19-31 or Zechariah 8:1-23

Psalm 68:11-31 (32-35) or Psalm 120 or Psalm 82

John 10:19-21 (22-30) 31-42

1 Corinthians 14:1-40


The assigned readings, taken together, present a balanced picture of divine judgment and mercy.  Sometimes God’s judgment on one group is in the service of mercy on another group.  And, as much as God is angry with the Israelites in Numbers 11, He still provides manna to them and advises Moses to share his burden with 70 elders.  Judgment is dominant in Jeremiah 4, but mercy rules in Zechariah 8.

1 Corinthians 14, sexism aside, offers the timeless principle that all people do in the context of worship should build up the faith community.

As for the “Prelude to the Passion” part of this post, we turn to John 10.  Jesus survives an attempt to arrest (then execute) him for committing blasphemy, per Leviticus 24:10-16.  He was innocent of the charge, of course.  The story, however, does establish that Jesus kept avoiding death traps prior to Holy Week.

A point worth pondering is that the accusers of Jesus in John 10 were most likely sincere.  This should prompt us who read the account today to ask ourselves how often we are sincerely wrong while attempting to follow the laws of God.  Those who oppose God and agents thereof are not always consciously so.









Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 21, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  The Prophet Zechariah, from the Sistine Chapel

Image in the Public Domain

Fear Versus Loving Our Neighbors

SEPTEMBER 27-29, 2021


The Collect:

Generous God, your Son gave his life

that we might come to peace with you.

Give us a share of your Spirit,

and in all we do empower us to bear the name of

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48


The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 6:9-15 (Monday)

Zechariah 8:18-23 (Tuesday)

Zechariah 10:1-12 (Wednesday)

Psalm 5 (All Days)

1 Peter 1:3-9 (Monday)

1 John 2:18-25 (Tuesday)

Matthew 18:6-9 (Wednesday)


Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness,

because of those who lie in wait for me;

make your way straight before me.

–Psalm 5:8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The pericopes for these three days indicate perilous uncertain circumstances.  Either the Persian Empire, the Seleucid Empire, or the Roman Empire is in charge.  The most optimistic hopes for the time after the Babylonian Exile have not come to fruition.  Nevertheless, calls for hope in God and faithfulness to God resound.

The historical record indicates that the Kingdom of God has yet to arrive in its fullness, and that Jesus did not return in the first century C.E.  Yet calls for hope in God and faithfulness to God remain valid, necessary, and proper.  Dashed expectations of the creation of paradise on Earth should lead one to question certain human predictions, not the fidelity of God to divine promises.  God and religion are different from each other, so disappointment with the latter ought not to lead to disillusionment with and/or rejection of the former.

As for human fidelity to God, the hyperbolic language of Matthew 18:6-9 agrees with the social ethics of Zechariah 8:18-23.  Just as Matthew 18:6-9 is not an order to maim and mutilate oneself, Zechariah’s message to have no fear (8:15) and to treat each other properly is timeless.

Have no fear!  These are the things you are to do:  Speak the truth to one another, render true and perfect justice in your gates.  And do not contrive evil against one another, and do not love perjury, because all those are things that I hate–declares the LORD….you must love honesty and integrity.

–Zechariah 8:15b-17, 19b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Often we human beings abuse, oppress, and/or exploit some among us out of fear.  Perhaps we fear that there will be too little of some commodity to provide for all sufficiently, so some of us protect the interests of “me and mine” at the expense of others.  Or maybe we fear for our safety and that of those dear to us, so we deprive strangers of security or approve of policies to do so.  Perhaps we merely fail to understand the “others,” so we fear those we do not comprehend.  Fear requires little effort to transform into hatred, and hatred expresses itself actively and passively.

Some fear is healthy.  I fear touching a hot oven, for example.  Fear of consequences of actions has prevented me from committing many sins when moral courage has failed.  I affirm well-placed fear which leads to good decision-making while rejecting fear which leads to actions harmful to innocent parties.

May love of our neighbors guide our decisions and actions relative to others.  May we act for their benefit, not their detriment, for that which we do to others, we do to ourselves.  May the joys of others cause us to rejoice and the sorrows of others prompt us to mourn.  May we remember that, in God’s economy, there is no scarcity, artificial or otherwise.  The mercantilist assumption that wealth is a zero-sum game does not apply to blessings, which God bestows generously.  May we–especially we who claim to follow God, or at least to attempt to do so–never assume that blessings are part of a zero-sum game.  May we therefore be generous of spirit when dealing with our fellow human beings.









Week of Proper 21: Tuesday, Year 1   11 comments

Above:  Map of Galilee

Image in the Public Domain

Leaving Judgment to God

OCTOBER 3, 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.


Zechariah 8:20-23 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Thus said the LORD of Hosts:

Peoples and the inhabitants of many cities shall yet come–the inhabitants of one shall go to the other and say, “Let us go and entreat the favor the LORD, let us seek the LORD of Hosts; I will go, too.”  The many peoples and the multitude of nations shall come to seek the LORD of Hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the LORD.

Thus said the LORD of Hosts:

In those days, ten men from nations of every tongue will take hold–they will take hold of every Jew by a corner of his cloak and say, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”

Psalm 87 (1979 Book of Common Prayer): 

1  On the holy mountain stands the city he has founded;

the LORD loves the gates of Zion

more than all the dwellings of Jacob.

2  Glorious things are spoken of you,

O city of our God.

3  I count Egypt and Babylon among those who know me;

behold Philistia, Tyre, and Ethiopia:

in Zion were they born.

4  Of Zion it shall be said, “Everyone was born in her,

and the Most High himself shall sustain her.”

5  The LORD will record as he enrolls the peoples,

“These also were born there.”

6  The singers and the dancers will say,

“All my fresh springs are in you.”

Luke 9:51-56 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now as the time drew near to be taken up to heaven, he resolutely took the road for Jerusalem and sent messengers ahead of him.  These set out, and they went into a Samaritan village to make preparations for him, but the people would not receive him because he was making for Jerusalem.  Seeing this, the disciples James and John said,

Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?

But he turned and rebuked them, and they went off to another village.


The Collect:

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Jerusalem figures prominently in all this day’s readings.  Psalm 87 speaks of God sustaining Jerusalem, a city, which, according to Zechariah 8, will become a magnet for international pilgrims. Then there is Jesus in Luke 9:51.  The standard English translation of that verse says that he set his face toward Jerusalem.  William Barclay renders that verse to say that Jesus “fixed his face firmly to go to Jerusalem,” while The Jerusalem Bible says that our Lord “resolutely took the road for Jerusalem.”  He and his Apostles were pilgrims, too, but their journey was no mere pilgrimage.  (I write these words on Monday in Holy Week 2011, so the culmination is very much on my mind.)

As Jesus and company set out they face immediate opposition from Samaritans.  Members of a previous generation of Samaritans obstructed the construction of the Second Temple, a fact of which many observant Jews in Jesus’ time were aware.  In fact, many Jews of our Lord’s time and place despised Samaritans, and many Samaritans reciprocated.  Jesus, however, spoke once of a Good Samaritan.  On another occasion he healed a Samaritan leper.  In the Gospel of John our Lord spoke at length to a Samaritan woman.  If he had a problem with Samaritans, he kept it to himself.

As Jesus  set out from Galilee and passed through Samaria en route to Jerusalem, he took a direct route to that holy city.  And he kept moving along when he and his Apostles faced rejection by some local Samaritans.   His actions are consistent with his instructions in Luke 10:11-12:  When a town does not welcome one of his disciples, that disciple ought to depart that town and leave judgment to God.

The Gospels record instances of Jesus condemning holier-than-thou religious figures and speaking ill of Roman puppet leaders.  Yet they also include a multitude of stories of our Lord associating with social outcasts and forgiving repentant sinners.  His mission was one primarily one of restoring people to wholeness (including in their community settings) rather than condemnation.  We who claim the label “Christian” need to keep this lesson in mind and to act accordingly.

So may we go about the business God has given us while leaving judgment to God.  There is much work to do, and there are many people forgive and help lead to wholeness.  We can stand up for what is right and good without uttering a harsh word.  I think of Father Joe, by Tony Hendra.  The eponynomous Catholic priest in that book never excused that of which he disapproved, but neither did he utter any derogatory words while expressing himself, at least in Hendra’s presence.

Jesus calls us to be positive influences where and when we are.  You might know or know of someone who self-identifies as Christian but who is prone to eruptions of spiritual negativity laced with presumptions of know-it-allism.  I do.  Without questioning the sincerity of these individuals, I propose that they, in their attitudes, hurt the cause they seek to advance.

I do not know what God’s judgment upon the residents of that Samaritan village was, but that is none of my business.  Nor was not the proper concern of James and John.  It is the proper concern of God, who is also prone to extravagant and scandalous mercy.


Week of Proper 21: Monday, Year 1   18 comments

Above:  President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (In Office 1933-1945)

Image in the Public Domain

Having Hope When That is Difficult

OCTOBER 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.


Zechariah 8:1-8 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The word of the LORD of Hosts came [to me]:

Thus said the LORD of Hosts:

I am very jealous for Zion; I am fiercely jealous for her.

Thus said the LORD:

I have returned to Zion, and I will dwell in Jerusalem.  Jerusalem will be called the city of Faithfulness, and the mount of the LORD of Hosts the Holy Mount.

Thus said the LORD of Hosts:

There shall yet be of old men and women in the squares of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of their great age.  And the squares of the city shall be crowded with boys and girls playing in the squares.

Thus said the LORD of Hosts:

Though it will seem impossible to the remnant of this people in those days, shall it also be impossible to Me?

–declares the LORD of Hosts.

Thus said the LORD of Hosts:

I will rescue My people from the lands of the east and from the lands of the west, and I will bring them home to dwell in Jerusalem.  They shall be My people, and I will be their God–in truth and sincerity.

Psalm 102:11-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11  My days pass away like a shadow,

and I wither like grass.

12  But you, O LORD, endure for ever,

and your Name from age to age.

13  You will arise and have compassion on Zion,

for it is time to have mercy upon her;

indeed, the appointed time has come.

14  For your servants love her very rubble,

and are moved to pity even for her dust.

15  The nations shall fear your Name, O LORD,

and all the kings of the earth your glory.

16  For the LORD will build up Zion,

and his glory will appear.

17  He will look with favor on the prayer of the homeless;

he will not despise their plea.

18  Let this be written for a future generation,

so that a people yet unborn may praise the LORD.

19  For the LORD looked down from his holy place on high;

from the heavens he beheld the earth;

20  That he might hear the groan of the captive

and set free those condemned to die;

21  That they may declare in Zion the Name of the LORD,

and his praise in Jerusalem;

22  When the peoples are gathered together,

and the kingdoms also, to serve the LORD.

Luke 9:46-50 (The Jerusalem Bible):

An argument started between them [the Apostles] about which of them was the greatest.  Jesus knew what thoughts were going through their minds, and he took a little child and set him by his side and said to them,

Anyone who welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.  For the least among you all, that is the one who is great.

John spoke up.


he said,

we saw a man casting out devils in your name, and spoke because he is not with us we tried to stop him.

But Jesus said to him,

You must not stop him:  anyone who is not against you is for you.


The Collect:

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Franklin Delano Roosevelt, former Assistant Secretary of the Navy and Democratic nominee for Vice President of the United States in the 1920 election, came down with polio in 1921.  The disease carried a great stigma in those days, so FDR’s career seemed over.  Surely he would spend the rest of his days as a wealthy and paralyzed person.  But his future held the following events:

  • Election as Governor of New York in 1928
  • Re-election in 1930
  • Election as President of the United States in 1932
  • Re-election in 1936, 1940, and 1944
  • Leadership of the nation during the Great Depression and almost all of World War II

All of this was the lot of a man who could not pick himself off the floor when he fell out of his wheelchair.  Yet none of it would have occurred if he had not pursued higher office and others, especially his wife, Eleanor, had not supported him.

Sometimes it is difficult to have hope, for the darkness seems overwhelming.  (I know this fact from a time in my life, albeit a period far less dramatic than 1921-1928 for FDR.)  But there is always hope, if we will grasp it.  And we are not alone; we have God and fellow human beings to help us.  We are not lone wolves and we need not pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.  Rather, we need to do the best we can and rely on our support systems for the rest.  The dependence is mutual, for we lean on others, who, in turn, rely on us.

The reading from Zechariah and the matching portion of Psalm 102 speak of future hope.  Nothing is impossible with God, Zechariah tells us.  In the meantime, the process of restoration, aided by Persian kings and their agents, had begun.  There was a long way yet to go, but at least the process had begun.  So the imperative was to be patient and remain faithful, confident that members of a subsequent generation would witness the fulfillment of the prophecy.

This ethic requires one to think past the desire for instant gratification and the quick fix.  There is no quick fix in this situation, Zechariah says, but there is a fix.  It is in God’s hands, so people ought to leave it there.

Franklin Roosevelt never walked on his own power again, but he helped the United States survive the Great Depression without a revolution.  He gave hope to many people, thereby enabling them to keep going during difficult times.  Hope is a valuable commodity, and hopelessness is devastating.  The latter is, in fact, a major cause of suicide.

Of course, I write these words in a condition of relative comfort.  This sentiment of hopefulness is easy for me to espouse, some might say.  And it is, but I have known very dark times and suicidal feelings, on which I was too terrified to act.  By grace, including human support, I have emerged from the darkness.  My time in darkness strengthened my faith and reminded me that life is a precious gift.  There is always hope, I have learned; all I need to do is grasp it while trusting in God and following this hope in community.

This hope, channeled via people, comes from God, in whom those society considers the least are the greatest.  This hope comes from God, who disregards distinctions to which we gravitate and according to which we define ourselves.  So this hope threatens many people.  This fact indicates the presence of a sin and impels the necessity of repentance–the act of turning around and changing one’s mind.

This hope, however, appeals to those who need it most and who do not hold on to erroneously-based identifications.  It appeals to those who cling to God, who is the only acceptable crutch.

Yes, there is always hope, but we cannot carry our illusions when we walk with the aid of the crutch that is God.  We must lighten our loads during our pilgrimages of faith.  May we do so.