Archive for the ‘February 20’ Category

Devotion for Wednesday After the Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Flowering Herbs

Above:  Flowering Herbs, 1597

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-71911

A Difficult Commandment

FEBRUARY 20, 2019


The Collect:

Living God, in Christ you make all things new.

Transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace,

and in the renewal of our lives make known your glory,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24


The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 22:11-17

Psalm 120

Luke 11:37-52


Deliver me, O LORD, from lying lips

and from the deceitful tongue.

What shall be done to you, and what more besides,

O you deceitful tongue!

–Psalm 120:2-3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


A callous heart is at least as bad as a deceitful tongue.

YHWH’s criticism of King Jehoahaz (a.k.a. Shallum) of Judah (reigned 609 B.C.E.) was that he cared about himself, not justice.  King Josiah (reigned 640-609 B.C.E.), of whom biblical authors approved, had died in battle against the forces of Pharoah Neco II of Egypt.  Shallum/Jehoahaz succeeded his esteemed father as King of Judah and reigned for about three months before the Pharaoh deposed him.  Shallum/Jehoahaz died in captivity in Egypt.  For full details, read 2 Kings 23:30-35 and 2 Chronicles 36:1-4, O reader.

More than once in the canonical Gospels Jesus condemns Pharisees for obsessing over minor regulations while neglecting commandments requiring social justice.  There is some repetition from one synoptic Gospel to another due to duplication of material, but the theme repeats inside each of the Gospels.  That theme is as germane today as it was when Jesus walked on the planet.  Keeping certain commandments, although difficult, is easier than obeying others.  The proverbial low-hanging fruit is easy to reach, but keeping other commandments proves to be inconvenient at best and threatening to one’s socio-economic standing at worst.  This is one reason, for example, for many socially conservative Christians having emphasized individual holiness while doing little or nothing to oppose racism, slavery, sexism, child labor, and other social ills in the history of the United States.  Yes, many Christians worked to end these problems, but many others accepted them or even used the Bible to justify them.  Yet, as the Bible testifies again and again, God desires holiness and social justice.

YHWH and Jesus call for proper priorities.  Love your neighbor as you love yourself, they command us.  That is a difficult order.








Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before the Last Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   4 comments


Above:  Jonathan Myrick Daniels Memorial , August 9, 2013

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Active, World-Changing Faith

FEBRUARY 20 and 21, 2020


The Collect:

O God, in the transfiguration of your Son you confirmed the

mysteries of the faith by the witness of Moses and Elijah,

and in the voice from the bright cloud declaring Jesus your beloved Son,

you foreshadowed our adoption as your children.

Make us heirs with Christ of your glory, and bring us to enjoy its fullness,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 6:2-9 (Thursday)

Exodus 19:9b-25 (Friday)

Psalm 2 (Both Days)

Hebrews 8:1-7 (Thursday)

Hebrews 11:23-28 (Friday)


The kings of the earth rise up,

and the rulers take counsel together,

against the Lord and against his anointed:

“Let us break their bonds asunder

and cast away their cords from us.”

He who dwells in heaven shall laugh them to scorn;

the Lord shall have them in derision.

–Psalm 2:2-4, Common Worship (2000)


But when Moses repeated those words to the Israelites, they would not listen to him, because of their cruel slavery, they had reached the depths of despair.

–Exodus 6:9, The Revised English Bible (1989)


Active faith by which we follow God has changed the world for the better.  In the United States of America, for example, it fueled the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.  Such active faith overturned Apartheid in the Republic of South Africa.  This continues to compel people to work for social justice all over the planet.

Yet passiveness born of resignation stymies progress.  Giving up on improving conditions in this world and seeking a better lot only in the afterlife does nothing to work for a just society on this plane of reality.  The Hebrew prophets condemned social injustice.  Our Lord and Savior did likewise.  Indeed, seeking to improve this reality is part and parcel of loving one’s neighbor and pursuing the great Jewish ethic of healing the world.

So may each of us never make peace with oppression.  May all of us take to heart and act on the following prayer:

O God, your Son came among us to serve and not to be served, and to give his life for the life of the world.  Lead us by his love to serve all those to whom the world offers no comfort and little help.  Through us give hope to the hopeless, love to the unloved, peace to the troubled, and rest to the weary, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60








Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After the Seventh Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   4 comments


Above:  $5000, 1934

(Images of U.S. currency are in the public domain.)

$5000 U.S. (1934) = $85,700 (2012) on the Consumer Price Index

Attitudes, Love, and Reconciliation

FEBRUARY 20, 2017

FEBRUARY 21, 2017

FEBRUARY 22, 2017


The Collect:

Holy God of compassion, you invite us into your way of forgiveness and peace.

Lead us to love our enemies, and transform our words and deeds

to be like his through whom we pray, Jesus Christ, our Savior.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24


The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 25:11-22 (Monday)

Genesis 31:1-3, 17-50 (Tuesday)

Proverbs 3:27-55 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:57-64 (All Days)

Romans 12:9-21 (Monday)

Hebrews 12:14-16 (Tuesday)

Luke 18:18-30 (Wednesday)


You are my only portion, O Lord;

I have promised to keep your words.

I entreat you with all my heart,

be merciful to me according to your promise.

–Psalm 119:57-58, Common Worship (2000)


Certain themes repeat in the Bible.  Among these is the one which states that we have a mandate to seek reconciliation with each other, not vengeance against each other.  A perhaps apocryphal story comes to mind:

A congregation gathered on the day that the aged St. John the Evangelist visited it.  He entered (with assistance) and sat down at the front of the assembly.  The Apostle said, “My children, love one another.”  Then he motioned to his helpers to assist him in leaving.  Someone, disappointed with the brevity of John’s words, followed him and asked why he had said just to love one another.  The Apostle answered, “When you have done that, I will tell you more.”

Loving one another is that basic.  And often it proves difficult, for we might feel righteous while pondering how another has wronged us.  Maybe another has behaved perfidiously toward us.  But nursing a grudge hurts the person who encourages it and does no harm to its intended target.

The readings for these days range from maxims to stories about how we ought to behave toward others.  Sometimes all parties are both the wronged and the perpetrators.  (Life is frequently complicated in that way.)  The seeming outlier among these readings is Luke 18:18-30.  The wealthy man in that passage kept many of the truly timeless provisions of the Law of Moses–honoring his parents, not murdering or stealing, etc.  But his attitude toward his wealth prevented him from treating others as properly as he should have been doing all along.

His health was morally neutral; his attitude was not.  Your “wealth,” O reader, might not be funds or property, but your attitude toward it is a vital issue.  The same applies to all of us.

So may we seek peace with each other, knowing that perhaps nobody is fully innocent in a particular situation.  Thus nobody is in a good position to judge anyway.  And may we not let our attitude(s) regarding anything obstruct such reconciliation.







An Invitation to Observe a Holy Epiphany and Season after Epiphany   Leave a comment

Above:  Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, Atlanta, Georgia, January 8, 2012

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Liturgical time matters, for it sacramentalizes days, hours, and minutes, adding up to seasons on the church calendar.  Among the frequently overlooked seasons is the Season after Epiphany, the first part of Ordinary Time.  The Feast of the Epiphany always falls on January 6 in my tradition.  And Ash Wednesday always falls forty days (excluding Sundays) before Easter Sunday.  The Season after Epiphany falls between The Feast of the Epiphany and Ash Wednesday.  In 2013 the season will span January 7-February 12.

This season ought to be a holy time, one in which to be especially mindful of the imperative to take the good news of Jesus of Nazareth to others by a variety of means, including words when necessary.  Words are meaningless when our actions belie them, after all.  Among the themes of this season is that the Gospel is for all people, not just those we define as insiders.  No, the message is also for our “Gentiles,” those whom we define as outsiders.  So, with that thought in mind, I encourage you, O reader, to exclude nobody.  Do not define yourself as an insider to the detriment of others.  If you follow this advice, you will have a proper Epiphany spirit.







Devotion for February 20 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Job and John, Part XIII:  Certainty, Orthodoxy, and Orthopraxy

FEBRUARY 20, 2020


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:

Job 15:1-23, 30-35

Psalm 65 (Morning)

Psalms 125 and 91 (Evening)

John 6:60-71


There is a certain redundancy to the speeches of Job’s alleged friends.  Chapter 15, an address by Eliphaz the Temanite, exemplifies this rule.  The main feature of it which I notice is its certainty–of a set of false propositions, according to the resolution of the Book of Job.

Without trying to explain everything–while affirming the reality that I do not know most things and never will–I hold that Jesus is the soundest basis of proper certainty.

Lord, to whom shall we go?

–Simon Peter in verse 68, The New Jerusalem Bible

It is in the example, life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus that I find the personification of goodness and grace.  The art of proper Christian living is to approach more nearly that role model, to become a means by which the love of God is incarnate in one.  This level of dedication moves beyond intellectual assent to a certain definition of orthodoxy and makes orthodoxy and orthodoxy more similar to one another.  The ultimate goal is for them to be identical, but more similar than before is perhaps the best a flawed being can accomplish by grace.  (I reject moral perfectionism as unrealistic.)

As Job’s alleged friends lectured and insulted him they spoke piously about the goodness of God.  Yet they did not embody it.  That was a grave error, one many people repeat today.

Until the next segment of our journey….









Before a Bible Study   Leave a comment

Above:  An Old Family Bible

Image Source = David Ball


God of glory,

as we prepare to study the Bible,

may we approach the texts with our minds open,

our intellects engaged,

and our spirits receptive to your leading,

so that we will understand them correctly

and derive from them the appropriate lessons.

Then may we act on those lessons.

For the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,








Posted October 7, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 2020-2021, December 1, December 10, December 11, December 12, December 13, December 14, December 15, December 16, December 17, December 18, December 19, December 2, December 20, December 21, December 22, December 23, December 24: Christmas Eve, December 25: First Day of Christmas, December 26: Second Day of Christmas/St. Stephen, December 27: Third Day of Christmas/St. John the Evangelist, December 28: Fourth Day of Christmas/Holy Innocents, December 29: Fifth Day of Christmas, December 3, December 30: Sixth Day of Christmas, December 31: Seventh Day of Christmas/New Year's Eve, December 4, December 5, December 6, December 7, December 8, December 9, February 1, February 10, February 11, February 12, February 13, February 14, February 15, February 16, February 17, February 18, February 19, February 2, February 20, February 21, February 22, February 23, February 24, February 25, February 26, February 27, February 28, February 29, February 3, February 4, February 5, February 6, February 7, February 8, February 9, January 10, January 11, January 12, January 13, January 14, January 15, January 16, January 17, January 18, January 19, January 1: Eighth Day of Christmas/Holy Name of Jesus/New Year's Day, January 20, January 21, January 22, January 23, January 24, January 25, January 26, January 27, January 28, January 29, January 2: Ninth Day of Christmas, January 30, January 31, January 3: Tenth Day of Christmas, January 4: Eleventh Day of Christmas, January 5: Twelfth Day of Christmas, January 6: Epiphany, January 7, January 8, January 9, March 1, March 2, March 3, March 4, March 5, March 6, March 7, March 8, March 9, November 27, November 28, November 29, November 30

Tagged with

Week of 6 Epiphany: Thursday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  The Rich and the Poor, Close Together

Image Source = eenthappana

Mercy and Impartiality

FEBRUARY 20, 2020


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.


James 2:1-13 (Revised English Bible):

My friends, you believe in our Lord Jesus Christ who reigns in glory and you must always be impartial.  For instance, two visitors may enter your meeting, one a well-dressed man with gold rings, and the other a poor man in grimy clothes.  Suppose you pay special attention to the well-dressed man and say to him,

Please take this seat,

while to the poor man you say,

You stand over there, or sit here on the floor by my footstool,

do you not see that you are discriminating among your members and judging by wrong standards?  Listen, my dear friends:  has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to possess the kingdom he has promised to those who love him?  And yet you have humiliated the poor man.  Moreover, are not the rich your oppressors?  Is it not they who drag you into court and pour contempt on the honoured name by which God has claimed you?

If, however, you are observing the sovereign law laid down in scripture,

Love your neighbor as you love yourself,

that is excellent.  But if you show partiality, you are committing a sin and you stand convicted by the law as offenders.   For if a man breaks just one commandment and keeps all the others, he is guilty of breaking all of them.  For he who said,

You shall not commit adultery,

said also,

You shall not commit murder.

If you commit murder you are a breaker of the law, even if you do not commit adultery as well.  Always speak and act as men who are to be judged under a law which makes them free.  In that judgement there will be no mercy  for the man who has shown none.  Mercy triumphs over judgement.

Psalm 72:1-4, 13-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Give the King your justice, O God,

and your righteousness to the King’s Son;

2  That he may rule your people righteously

and the poor with justice;

3  That the mountains may bring prosperity to the people,

and the little hills bring righteousness.

4  He shall defend the needy among the people;

he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.

13  He shall have pity on the lowly and the poor;

he shall preserve the lives of the needy.

14  He shall redeem their lives from oppression and violence,

and dear shall their blood be in his sight.

Mark 8:27-33 (Revised English Bible):

Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi, and on the way he asked his disciples,

Who do people say that I am?

They answered,

Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, others one of the prophets.

He asked,

And you, who do you say that I am?

Peter replied,

You are the Messiah.

Then he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him; and he began to teach them that the Son of Man had to endure great suffering, and to be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes; to be put to death, and to rise again three days afterwards.  He spoke about it plainly.  At this Peter took hold of him and began to rebuke him.  But Jesus, turning and looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter.

Out of my sight, Satan!

he said.

You think as men think, not as God thinks.


The Collect:

O  God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Week of 6 Epiphany:  Thursday, Year 1:

Faith in Romans vs. Faith in James:


Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye” when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

–Matthew 7:1-5, Revised Standard Version

and this:

Matthew 18:22-35, which I cover with this post:

One of the advantages to following a well-planned lectionary is reading certain books continuously.  If, however, one drops in during the continuous reading and does not orientate one’s self, one will not not notice the threads binding one portion of a book to others.  James 2:1-13 fits neatly with James 1 and, immediately, the rest of James 2.  (Read for yourself.)  At the end of James 1, for example, we read that pure religion–worship, rather–in the sight of God entails caring for widows and orphans (and other vulnerable people, we may extrapolate safely).

Then we read a condemnation of class-conscious preference and the predatory  rich, the kind of who drag the poor into court.

Fortunately, we read, mercy trumps judgment.  This is consistent with Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5 yet goes beyond that.  James 2:13 does say that, by showing mercy to others, we can erase our own sins.  I can understand why Martin Luther, who objected strongly to Roman Catholic theology of works, called James “an epistle of straw.”  But what if Luther overreacted?

A firm and balanced grasp of James 2:13 requires an understanding of faith, as Paul used that term in Romans, and faith, as James wrote of it.  Fortunately, I have covered that in a post, a link to which I have provided in this post.  It is sufficed to say here, however, that if one understands faith as intellectual and therefore works as necessary for justification, James 2:13 is consistent with the rest of the book.

There was much egalitarianism, especially across economic lines, in the early Church.  Unfortunately, as Christianity became respectable, mainstream, and even state-sponsored, it abandoned much of that ethic in favor of defending the status quo as God’s favored order.  To agitate for social justice, then, became a sin, according to the Church.  This state of affairs was itself a sin.

The predatory rich, who are distinct from the genuinely philanthropic and kindhearted wealthy, remain with us, as does the imperative to show mercy.  May all of us, regardless of our economic states, treat others with mercifully, obeying the Golden Rule.


Week of 6 Epiphany: Wednesday, Year 1   12 comments

Above:  Logo of the Mennonite Church U.S.A.

This is the Season of God’s Patience

FEBRUARY 20, 2019


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.


Genesis 8:6-13, 20-22 (Revised English Bible):

At the end of forty days Noah opened the hatch that he had made in the ark, and sent out a raven; it continued flying to and fro until the water on the earth had dried up.  Then Noah sent out a dove to see whether the water of the earth had subsided.  But the dove found no place where she could settle because all the earth was under water, and and so she came back to him in the ark.  Noah reached out and caught her, and brought her into the ark.  He waited seven days more and again sent the dove from the ark.  She came back to him towards evening with a freshly plucked olive leaf in her beak.  Noah knew that the water had subsided from the earth’s surface.  He waited yet another seven days, and, when he sent out the dove, she did not come back to him.  So it came about that month, on the first day of the first month of his six hundred and first year, the water had dried up on the earth, and when Noah removed the hatch and looked out, he saw that the ground was dry.

Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking beasts and birds of every kind that were ritually clean, he offered them as whole-offerings on it.  When the LORD smelt the soothing odour, he said within himself,

Never again shall I put the earth under a curse because of mankind, however evil their inclination may be from their youth upwards, nor shall I ever again kill all living creatures, as I have just done.

“As long as the earth lasts,

seedtime and harvest. cold and heat,

summer and winter, day and night,

they will never cease.”

Psalm 116:10-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

10 How shall I repay the LORD

for all the good things he has done for me?

11 I will lift up the cup of salvation

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

12 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

13 Precious in the sight of the LORD

is the death of his servants.

14 O LORD, I am your servant;

I am your servant and the child of your handmaid;

you have freed me from my bonds.

15 I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

16 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

17 In the courts of the LORD’s house,

in the midst of you, O Jerusalem.


Mark 8:22-26 (Revised English Bible):

They arrived at Bethsaida.  There the people brought a blind man to Jesus and begged him to touch him.  He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village.  Then he spat on his eyes, laid his eyes upon him, and asked if he could see anything.  The man’s sight began to come back, and he said,

I see people–they look like trees, but they are walking about.

Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; he looked hard, and now he was cured and could not see anything clearly.  Then Jesus sent him home, saying,

Do not even go into the village.


The Collect:

O  God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


The readings from Genesis and Mark might seem incongruous, but, after sifting through commentaries, I have found a common thread.  Follow it with me.

Let us begin in the Gospel of Mark.  Know that juxtaposition is very important here.  Jesus also put on a shamanic show involving spittle (with a deaf man that time) in Chapter 7.  And, in Chapter 8, Jesus has had to deal with chronically critical Pharisees and oblivious and overly literalistic Apostles.  So, on the heels of that incident, we read of our Lord and Savior putting on a shamanic show involving spittle while healing a blind man.  As I wrote while addressing the account of the healing of the deaf man, the Gospel of Mark contains stories of Jesus performing long-distance healings, so the song and dance with spittle was of no healing quality, but it was what people expected and believed would work.  So he met them where they were.  Jesus was gracious that way.

This healing occurs in two stages, with the gift of clear vision not arriving immediately.  The Gospel of Mark may be pithy, but it is not simplistic.  This is a story on two levels:  literal vision and spiritual vision.  The man, presumably blind from birth, not due to poor sanitation and too many bird droppings (Life was harsh for many.), does begin to see clearly.  But what about the Apostles?  They are still clueless much of the time.  And what about the chronically critical religious authorities, the culturally recognized guardians of orthodoxy and holiness?  What excuse do they have?  Jesus’ healing of a blind man becomes an indictment of Apostles and Pharisees.

The treatment of the Gospel in Mark in Volume VIII of The New Interpreter’s Bible divides this book into two main section:  Jesus Heals and Teaches with Power (1:1-8:26) and The Son of Man Must Suffer (8:27-16:30).  Indeed, beginning in 8:27, the foreshadowing of the cross deepens, and the Apostles do not understand that, either.  But I begin to get ahead of myself, so I switch to Genesis.

There is an oft-repeated stereotype of the presentation of God in the Hebrew Bible.  God, I have heard too many times, is harsh and judgmental in the Old Testament.  This is a gross oversimplification, one people would not repeat so casually if they would read the Jewish Bible carefully.  If God is harsh in the Old Testament yet merciful in the New Testament, how do we explain the end of the Noah’s Ark story in Genesis or the dark and apocalyptic sayings of Jesus in the canonical Gospels?  Flee for the hills, he says.  Woe unto pregnant women on the day of wrath, he says.  Are those merciful words?  Oversimplifications cannot account for the complexity of the Bible, and both judgment and mercy are present in the Old and New Testaments, often very close to each other.

In the Noah’s Ark story God destroys most of the human race because of its rampant sinfulness.  This, of course, is judgment.  Afterward, God recognizes the continued sinfulness of the human race but vows never to try to destroy us again.  This is mercy.  God will be present with us in many ways, notably the predictable rhythms of nature.  As Chauncey Gardner says in Being There (1979):

In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have Fall and Winter. And then we get spring and summer again.

And, as the Anabaptists (hence the Mennonite logo at the top of this post) say, this is the season of God’s patience.  Do we understand this?  Are we trying (more often than not) to respond favorably to God and to please God, or are just trying God’s patience?

There is hope for us yet.  The eleven surviving Apostles transformed from dunderheads into great leaders of early Christianity.  Our faith flows from theirs.  So, when we work with God, we can become great vehicles of grace.  May we do so.