Archive for the ‘February 6’ Category

Devotion for the Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year D (Humes)   2 comments

Above:  Christ Banishes Tradesmen from the Temple

Image in the Public Domain


FEBRUARY 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


Amos 6:1-7 or Proverbs 6:6-22

Psalm 118:1-14

1 Timothy 4:1-16

John 2:13-25


These five readings, taken together, remind individuals, communities, and populations to obey God’s laws, keep its ethical mandate of mutuality under God, and not to be arrogant while idling in obliviousness to consequences of disobeying divine ethical standards.  The Assyrians were on their way in Amos 6.  False teachers were troublesome in 1 Timothy 4.  Sacred rituals were not talismans in John 2.

Keeping the ethical mandates from God is not a talisman either.  One who reads the Gospel of John should notice that Gospel’s placement of the “Temple Incident” (as scholars of the New Testament call it) at the beginning of Christ’s ministry.  Such a reader also notices that, according to the Gospel of John, different groups tried for years to kill Jesus throughout the Fourth Gospel.  If righteousness were a shield against negative consequences, Jesus would have been the safest person who ever lived.

Unfortunately, old, false ideas remain persistent.  (Old, true ideas persisting is positive, of course.)  The idea that one is suffering, therefore must have sinned, is false.  So is the proposition that one is prosperous and secure, therefore must have done something right and righteous.  How many times must one read the Gospel of John, ponder the life of Christ, and read accounts of martyrs before one understands this?

The rain falls on the just and the unjust.  Many of the wicked prosper.  Many of the righteous struggle and suffer.  It is not fair.  Life is not fair.  Nevertheless, actions do have consequences in this life and in the afterlife.  Sometimes we also suffer because of the actions of others.  The problem of suffering is too complex for simple answers.











Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After the Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Elisha and the Shunamite Woman

Above:  Elisha and the Shumanite Woman, by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout

Image in the Public Domain

Grace, Outsiders, and Theological Humility

FEBRUARY 5 and 6, 2024


The Collect:

Everlasting God, you give strength to the weak and power to the faint.

Make us agents of your healing and wholeness,

that your good may be made known to the ends your creation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24


The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 4:8-17, 32-37 (Monday)

2 Kings 8:1-6 (Tuesday)

Psalm 102:12-28 (Both Days)

Acts 14:1-7 (Monday)

Acts 15:36-41 (Tuesday)


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

he will not despise their plea.

–Psalm 102:17, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


A childless woman bore shame during the time in which Elisha lived.  This was, of course, wrong, but it was her reality.  The story of one such woman, as we find it in 2 Kings 4 and 8, was one of repeated graces–a successful pregnancy, the raising of her dead son, advice to flee ahead of a seven-year-long drought, and, as a widow, restoration of property and income.  Her end, without help, would have been unfortunate.  For example, a widow was especially vulnerable in the Hebrew society of the time.

Widows and barren women were marginalized figures.  So were Gentiles, according to many Jews at the time of St. Paul the Apostle, who was always a Jew.  Christianity began as a Jewish sect.  Indeed, the separation from Judaism was incomplete until 135 C.E., during the Second Jewish War.  The parting of the ways was in progress by the late 60s and early-to-middle 70s C.E., the timeframe for the writing of the Gospel of Mark, the earliest of the four canonical Gospels.  (Thus those religious politics influenced the telling of the stories of Jesus and the twelve Apostles.)  The inclusion of Gentiles and the terms of how that happened caused much controversy within Judaism, Christian and otherwise.  The pericope from Acts 15:36-41 glosses over a fact which St. Paul mentioned in Galatians 2:11-14:  St. Barnabas sided with those who insisted that Gentile converts become Jews first.  Such a position, St. Paul wrote, nullified the grace of God (Galatians 2:21).

Today we read accounts of help for the marginalized.  These people were among the marginalized because other people defined them as such.  This definition labeled people as either insiders or outsiders, for the benefit of the alleged insiders.  I suspect, however, that God’s definition of “insider” is broader than many human understandings have held and do hold.  We humans continue to label others as outsiders for the benefit of the “insiders,” as they define themselves.  Grace remains scandalous, does it not?  And, as Luke Timothy Johnson has said, the Gospel of Mark suggests that many of those who think of themselves as insiders are really outsiders.

I reject Universalism on the side of too-radical inclusion and a range of narrow definitions of who is pure on the opposite side.  The decision about who is inside and who is outside, of who is pure and who is impure, is one for God alone.  We mere mortals have partial answers regarding that question, for we are not totally lacking in received wisdom.  Yet we tend to use the matter as a way of making ourselves feel better about ourselves much of the time.  Often we lapse into a version of the Donatist heresy, in fact.  We ought to live more graciously and with theological humility instead, for we are all broken, weak, and inconstant.  Each of us depends entirely upon grace.  So who are we to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to do?










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


Above:  A Roman Oil Lamp

Image Source = Rama

Grace Demanding a Decision

FEBRUARY 6 and 7, 2023


The Collect:

Lord God, with endless mercy you receive

the prayers of all who call upon you.

By your Spirit show us the things we ought to do,

and give us the grace and power to do them,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22


The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 22:3-20 (Monday)

2 Kings 23:1-8, 21-25 (Tuesday)

Psalm 119:105-112 (both days)

Romans 11:2-10 (Monday)

2 Corinthians 4:1-12 (Tuesday)


Your word is a lantern to my feet

and a light to my path.

I have sworn and determined

to keep your righteous judgments.

I am deeply troubled; preserve my life,

O LORD, according to your word.

Accept, O LORD, the willing tribute of my lips,

and teach me your judgments.

My life is always in my hand,

yet I do not forget your law.

The wicked have set a trap for me,

but I have not strayed from your commandments.

Your decrees are my inheritance forever;

truly, they are the joy of my heart.

I have applied my heart to fulfill your statutes,

forever and to the end.

–Psalm 119:105-112, Book of Common Worship (1993)


One of the recurring biblical themes is the coexistence of divine mercy and judgment.  It is evident in 2 Kings, where King Josiah deferred yet did not cancel out via national holiness (however fleeting) the consequences of successive generations of national depravity and disregard for holiness.  The Hollywood tacked-on happy ending, in the style of The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) after the studio took the film away from Orson Welles, would have been for forgiveness to wipe away everything.  Yet judgment came–just later than scheduled previously.

I would like to be a Universalist–a Christian Universalist, to be precise.  Yet that would be a false choice.  No matter how much grace exists in Jesus, the reality of the Incarnation does demand a response to the question,

Who do we say Jesus is?

(Thanks to Professor Phillip Cary, in his Teaching Company course on the History of Christian Theology for making the point that the Synoptic Gospels pose that question to audiences.)  And, as C. H. Dodd, while explaining Realized Eschatology in The Founder of Christianity, wrote of Jesus in that book:

In his words and actions he made men aware of [the kingdom of God] and challenged them to respond.  It was “good news” in the sense that it meant opportunity for a new start and an unprecedented enrichment of experience.  But when a person (or society) has been presented with such a challenge and declines it, he is not just where he was before.  His position is the worse for the encounter….The coming of the kingdom meant the open opportunity of enhancement of life; it also meant the heightening of moral responsibility.

–1970 Macmillan paperback edition, page 58

So, regardless of the number of challenges and severity thereof we might face due to our fidelity to God, may we find encouragement to continue to follow Christ, our Lord and Savior, who suffered to the point of death and overcame that obstacle.








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.







Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C   7 comments

Above:  The Call of Isaiah

Image Source = Cadetgray

Sacred Vocations

FEBRUARY 6, 2022


Isaiah 6:1-13 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

In the year that King Uzziah died, I beheld my Lord seated on a high and lofty throne; and the skirts of His robe filled the Temple.  Seraphs stood in attendance on Him.  Each of them had six wings:  with two he covered his face, with two he covered his legs, and with two he would fly.

And one would call to the other,

Holy, holy, holy!

The LORD of Hosts!

His presence fills all the earth!

The doorposts would shake at the sound of the one who called, and the House kept filling with smoke.  I cried,

Woe is me; I am lost!

For I am a man of unclean lips

And I live among a people

Of unclean lips;

Yet my own eyes have beheld

The King LORD of Hosts.

Then one of the seraphs flew over to me with a live coal, which he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.  He touched it to my lips and declared,

Now that this has touched your lips,

Your guilt shall depart

And your sin be purged away.

Then I heard the voice of my Lord saying,

Whom shall I send?  Who will go for us?

And I said,

Here am I; send me.

And He said,

Go, say to that people:

“Hear, indeed, but do not understand;

See, indeed, but do not grasp.”

Dull that people’s mind,

Stop its ears,

And seal its eyes–

Lest, seeing with its eyes

And hearing with its ears,

It also grasp with its mind,

And repent and save itself.

I asked,

How long, my Lord?

And He replied:

Till towns lie waste without inhabitants

And houses without people,

And the ground lies waste and desolate–

For the LORD will banish the population–

And deserted sites are many

In the midst of the land.

But while a tenth part yet remains in it, it shall repent.  It shall be ravaged like the terebinth and the oak, of which stumps are left even when they are felled; its stump shall be a holy seed.

Psalm 138 (Revised English Bible):

I shall give praise to you, LORD, with my whole heart;

in the presence of the gods I shall sing psalms to you.

I shall bow down towards your holy temple;

for your love and faithfulness I shall praise your name,

for you have exalted your promise above the heavens.

When I called, you answered me

and made me bold and strong.

Let all the kings of the earth praise you, LORD,

when they hear the words you have spoken;

let them sing of the LORD’s ways,

for great is the glory of the LORD.

The LORD is exalted, yet he cares for the lowly

and from afar he takes note of the proud.

Though I am compassed about by trouble,

you preserve my life,

putting forth your power against the rage of my enemies,

and with your right hand you save me.

The LORD will accomplish his purpose for me.

Your love endures for ever, LORD;

do not abandon what you have made.

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received  and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you–believing anything else will not lead to anything.

Well then, in the first place, I taught you what I had been taught myself, namely that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; and that he was raised to life on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared first to Cephas and secondly to the Twelve.  Next he appeared to more than five thousand of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died; then he appeared to James, and then to all the apostles; and last of all he appeared to me too; it was as though I was born when no one expected it.

I am the least of the apostles; in fact, since I persecuted the Church of God, I hardly deserve the name apostle; but by God’s grace that is what I am, and the grace that he gave me has not been fruitless.  On the contrary, I, or rather the grace of God that is with me, have worked harder than any of the others; but what matters is that I preach what they preach, and this is what you all believed.

Luke 5:1-11 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now he was standing one day by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the crowd pressing round him listening to the word of God, when he caught sight of two boats close to the bank.  The fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.  He got into one of the boats–it was Simon’s–and asked him to put out a little from the shore.  Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.

When he had finished speaking he said to Simon,

Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.

Simon replied,

Master, we worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.

And when they had done this they netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear, so they signalled to their companions in the other boat to come and help them; when these came, they filled the two boats to sinking point.

When Simon Peter saw this he fell at the knees of Jesus saying,

Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.

For he and all his companions were completely overcome by the catch they had made; so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners;  But Jesus said to Simon,

Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.

Then, bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him.

The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


\My most basic prayer for anyone–including myself–is that God’s best for that person will be that person’s reality.  This petition speaks of an awareness that God has a set of purposes for each person and that one’s set is not another’s.  There are certain broad generalizations which apply across the board, of course.  Glorifying and enjoying God forever is one of them.  Loving one’s neighbors is another.  But circumstances and grace dictate the specifics.

We human beings have demonstrated the unfortunate tendency to work toward keeping people different from us and therefore allegedly inferior to us “in their place.”  Thus Antebellum slaves in the Southern U.S.  were supposed, by law in several states, to be illiterate.  And, after emancipation, powerful white people did not always provide schools for African Americans.  The schools which did exist were woefully inferior in many places.  Thus a large proportion of the population lacked equality of opportunity.  The society suffered, for keeping another “in his place” requires someone to make sure he stays there.  That monitor is therefore not far removed from his victim.  Thus perpetrators victimize themselves.

But what is God’s designated place for each of us?  Isaiah became a prophet.  Simon Peter, James, and John became great Apostles.  And so did Paul.  Human sinfulness was no obstacle to grace.  What is God’s designated place for you?  If you, O reader, are fortunate, you are there already.  If not, may you get there.  Getting there requires human assistance, so may you help others arrive at God’s destination and may others help you in your sacred vocation(s).









Devotion for February 6 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  The Sea of Galilee, August 15, 2009

Image Source = Jet Propulsion Library, NASA

Job and John, Part III:  Strife

FEBRUARY 6, 2024


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 3:11-26

Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning)

Psalms 1 and 33 (Evening)

John 1:35-51


Some Related Posts:

The Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle and Martyr (August 24):

The Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles and Martyrs (June 29):

The Feast of Sts. Philip and James, Son of Alpheus, Apostles and Martyrs (May 1):

The Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle and Martyr (November 30):


Job, early in his suffering, lamented that he had not only been born but survived the day of his birth.  This was understandable, given the circumstances.  (I grasp that the Book of Job is a drama and a work of fiction, yet I write of the scenes in their context.)

In John 1:35-51 Jesus calls his first disciples:  Andrew and Simon Peter, brothers; Philip; and Nathanael/Bartholomew.  All of them died as martyrs.  The moment they began to follow Jesus was the moment they started their journeys toward suffering and death.

I think of a hymn:

They cast their nets in Galilee,

just of the hills of brown;

such happy, simple fisherfolk,

before the Lord came down.


Contented, peaceful fishermen,

before they ever knew

the peace of God that filled their hearts

brimful, and broke them too.


Young John who trimmed the flapping sail,

homeless in Patmos died.

Peter, who hauled the teeming net,

headdown was crucified.


The peace of God, it is no peace,

but strife closed in the sod.

Yet let us pray for but one thing–

the marvelous peace of God.

The Hymnal 1982, of The Episcopal Church, Hymn #661

I do not pretend to have answers I lack.  Yet I do know that I prefer to keep Gods’ company in times of suffering and during times without it.

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 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 5 Epiphany: Tuesday, Year 2   11 comments

Above:  Saint Peter Repentant, by Francisco de Goya


FEBRUARY 6, 2024


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.


1 Kings 8:22-23, 27-30 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of the whole community of Israel; he spread the palms of his hands toward heaven and said,

O LORD God of Israel, in the heavens above and on earth below there is no God like You, who keep Your gracious covenant with Your servants when they talk before You in wholehearted devotion;….

But will God really dwell on earth?  Even the heavens to their uttermost reaches cannot contain You, how much less this House that I have built!  Yet turn, O LORD and God, to the prayer which Your servant offers before You this day.  May your eyes be open day and night toward this House, toward the place of which You have said, “My name shall abide there”; may You heed the prayers which Your servant and Your people Israel offer toward this place, give heed in Your heavenly abode–give heed and pardon….

Psalm 84 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts!

My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the LORD;

my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

The sparrow has found her a house

and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young;

by the side of your altars, O LORD of hosts,

my King and my God.

3 Happy are they who dwell in your house!

they will always be praising you.

4 Happy are the people whose strength is in you!

whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.

5 Those who go through the desolate valley will find it a place of springs,

for the early rains have covered it with pools of water.

6 They will climb from height to height,

and the God of gods will reveal himself in Zion.

LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;

hearken, O God of Jacob.

8 Behold our defender, O God;

and look upon the face of your Anointed.

For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room,

and to stand in the threshold of the house of my God

than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.

10 For the LORD is both sun and shield;

he will give grace and glory;

11 No good thing will the LORD withhold

from those who walk with integrity.

12 O LORD of hosts,

happy are they who put their trust in you!

Mark 7:1-13 (J. B. Phillips, 1972)

And now Jesus was approached by the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem.  They had noticed that his disciples ate their meals with “common” hands–meaning that they had not gone through a ceremonial washing.  (The Pharisees, and indeed all the Jews, will never eat unless they have washed their hands in a particular way, following a traditional rule.  And they will not eat anything brought in the market until they have first performed their “sprinkling”.  And there are many other things which they consider important, concerned with the washing of cups, jugs, and basins.)  So the Pharisees and the scribes put this question to Jesus, “Why do your disciples refuse to follow the ancient tradition, and eat their bread with “common” hands?

Jesus replied, “You hypocrites, Isaiah described you beautifully when he wrote–

This people honoureth me with their lips,

But their heart is far from me.

But in vain do they worship me,

Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.

You are so busy holding on to the precepts of men that you let go the commandment of God!”

Then he went on, “It is wonderful to see how you can set aside the commandment of God to preserve your own tradition!  For Moses said, ‘Honour thy father and thy mother” and ‘He that speaketh evil of father or mother, let him die the death.’  But you say, ‘if a man says to his father or his mother, Korban–meaning, I have given God whatever duty I owed to you’, then he need not lift a finger any longer for his father or mother, so making the word of God impotent for the sake of the tradition which you hold.  And this is typical of much of what you do.”


The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.


A Related Post:

Week of 5 Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 1:


The reading from 1 Kings 8 occurs in the context of the dedication of Solomon’s Temple.  The presence of God is palpable at the Temple, and Solomon and the priests are awestruck with reverence.  The king, in a holy mood, asks God for mercy.

Mercy occupies the core the reading from Mark.  Korban was a custom whereby one gave property to the religious establishment.  Many people did this out of piety, but others did so out of spite for someone, thereby depriving that person of necessary financial and material support.  Some religious officials accepted Korban gifts even when they knew that the gift was spiteful.  So donor and recipient shared the hypocrisy of acting impiously while seeming to be holy.

To be holy, Jesus said, entails acting that way.  Our Lord agreed with Old Testament prophets:  It is not enough to observe holy rituals; one and a society must also care for the poor, root out judicial corruption, et cetera.  When we care for one another actively, we care for Jesus actively; when we do not tend to each other actively, we do not tend to Jesus actively (Matthew 25:31-46).

We have a vocation to extend mercy to one another, and there is a link between our judging or forgiving of others and God’s judging and forgiving of us.  (Matthew 7:1-5).  Forgiving someone and otherwise extending him or her mercy and patience can be difficult, as I know well, and you, O reader, might also understand.  Like Paul, we often find ourselves doing what we know we ought not to do and not doing what we know we should do (Romans 7:17f).

There is good news, however.  First, the fact that we have a moral sense indicates the presence of grace.  So let us begin by celebrating that.  Furthermore, more grace is available to help us forgive the other person, extend him understanding, and be patient with her.  With God’s help we will succeed.  Do we want to try?

May we lay aside moral perfectionism, therefore, and embrace and accept the grace of God.  Without making excuses and winking at the inexcusable, may we accept the reality that we are spiritually where we are spiritually, and that God can take us elsewhere.  But we must, if we are going to move along, proceed from where we are.  We are weak, yes; but God is strong.  Trusting in God and accepting our dependence on grace, may we walk with God, do the best we can, by grace, and keep going.  There is hope for us yet.  St. Peter became a great Christian leader, despite what his trajectory seemed to be for most of the narrative in the canonical Gospels.  As we say in the U.S. South, “Who would have thunk it?”

What can you become, by grace, for God, other people of God, and perhaps society?  God knows; are you willing to live into your vocation?


Week of 5 Epiphany: Monday, Year 1   11 comments

Ancient Hebrew View of the World; An Illustration from the St. Joseph Study Edition of the New American Bible

May We Seek and Find a Positive Relationship with God, Who Can Transform Our Human Chaos into Divine Order

FEBRUARY 6, 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.


Genesis 1:1-19 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

In the beginning of God’s creating the skies and the earth–when the earth had been shapeless and formless, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and God’s spirit was hovering on the face of the water–

God said,

Let there be light.

And there was light.  And God saw the light, that it was good, and God separated between the light and the darkness.  And God called the light “day” and called the darkness “night.”  And there was evening, and there was morning:  one day.

And God said,

Let there be a space within the water, and let it separate between water and water.

And God made the space, and it separated between the water that was under the space and the water that was above the space.  And it was so.  And God called the space “skies.”  And there was evening, and there was morning:  a second day.

And God said,

Let the waters be concentrated under the skies into one place, and let the land appear.

And it was so.  And God called the land “earth” and called the concentration of the waters “seas.”  And God saw that it was good.  And God said,

Let the earth generate plants, vegetation that produces seed, fruit trees, each making fruit of its own kind, which has its seed in it, on the earth.

And it was so:  The earth brought out plants, vegetation that produces seeds of its own kind, and trees that make fruit that each has seeds of its own kind in it.  And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening, and there was morning:  a third day.

And God said,

Let there be lights in the space of the skies to distinguish between the day and the night, and they will be for signs and for appointed times and for days and years.  And they will be for lights in the space of the skies to shed light on the earth.

And it was so.  And God made two big lights–the bigger light for the regulation of the day and the smaller light for the regulation of the night–and the stars.  And God set them in the space of the skies to shed light on the earth and to regulate the day and the night and to distinguish between the light and the darkness.  And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening, and there was morning:  a fourth day.

Psalm 104:1-12, 25 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul;

O LORD my God, how excellent is your greatness!

you are clothed with majesty and splendor.

2 You wrap yourself with light as with a cloak

and spread out the heavens like a curtain.

3 You lay out the beams of your chambers in the waters above;

you make the clouds your chariot;

you ride on the wings of the wind.

4 You make the winds your messengers

and flames of fire your servants.

5 You have set the earth upon its foundations,

so that it never shall move at any time.

6 You covered it with the Deep as with a mantle;

the waters stood higher than the mountains.

7 At your rebuke they fled;

at the voice of your thunder they hastened away.

8 They went up into the hills and down to the valleys beneath,

to the places you had appointed for them.

9 You set the limits that they should not pass;

they shall not again cover the earth.

10 You send the springs into the valleys;

they flow between the mountains.

11 All the beasts of the field drink their fill from them,

and the wild asses quench their thirst.

12 Beside them the birds of the air make their nests

and sing among the branches.

25 O LORD, how manifold are your works!

in wisdom you have made them all;

the earth is full of your creatures.

Mark 6:53-56 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

And when they had crossed over to the other side of the lake they landed at Gennesaret and tied up there.  As soon as they came ashore, the people recognised Jesus and rushed all over the countryside and began to carry the sick around on their beds to wherever he was.  Wherever he went, in villages or towns or hamlets, they laid down their sick right in the marketplaces and begged him that they might

just touch the edge of this cloak.

And all those who touched him were healed.


The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.



I have decided to rotate the Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition of the Bible off the Monday-Saturday devotions and to bring in the work of other translators.  This is a good time for that, given the end of the series of readings from the Letter to the Hebrews and the beginning of lessons from Genesis.  And I will, of course, change the translations of choice a few more times before this series of devotions for Year 1 is over.

There is a danger in using just one translation of the Bible, for one can become so accustomed to the rhythms of one version that one does not really read or listen to the messages in the words.  One can become stuck on the words.  Did you read Genesis 1:1-19 more closely in the Friedman translation than in any other you have encountered previously?  If so, you have proven my point.

Friedman, Richard Elliott.  Commentary of the Torah with a New English Translation and the Hebrew Text.  San Francisco, CA:  HarperSanFrancisco, 2001.  Paperback, 2003.

Professor Friedman is a noted scholar of the Jewish Biblical tradition.  He is famous for Who Wrote the Bible?, The Hidden Book in the Bible, and other works about the development and authorship of parts of the Hebrew Canon.

Phillips, J. B.  The New Testament in Modern English.  Revised Edition.  New York:  Macmillan, 1972.

The late J. B. Phillips was a priest of the Church of England.  He began to published his translation of the New Testament in pieces in 1947, 1952, 1955, and 1957, before releasing the one-volume New Testament in Modern English in 1958.  I have both the 1958 and the 1972 editions; the 1972 revision is superior to the 1958 work.




The earliest chapters of Genesis are beautiful poetry (of a sort) but not science.  Neither is Psalm 104, but that fact did not stop the Medieval and Renaissance Roman Catholic Church from citing Psalm 104:5 and other texts to declare that anyone who said that the Earth revolves around the Sun was a heretic.  (As Galileo Galilei wrote, it is wrong to declare what is demonstrated to be true a heresy.)  We are reading mythology in Genesis and poetry in the Psalms, so we ought not mistake them for a technical manual.  Yet they do constitute profound theology, and therein lies their truth.

The adapted Canadian Anglican lectionary divides the first Creation Story (actually the second one written) into two segments, so some of what I am about to write entails getting ahead of the reading.  With that disclaimer, here I go.

The first Creation Story tells of God creating order from chaos, not something from nothing (ex nihilo in Latin).  The account divides the act of creating into two parts:  Days 1-3 and Days 4-6.  During days 1-3, God establishes the outlines of creation:  night, day, skies, land, and seas.  Then God spends the next three days filling out the details.  And God rests on the seventh day, of course.  Episcopal priest and author Robert Farrar Capon states in The Third Peacock:  The Problem of God and Evil (Second Edition; New York:  Winston Press, 1986), that creation results from a “Trinitarian bash.”  And creation is good.  So God delights in creation, of which we are part and the pinnacle.  It follows logically, then, that we should delight in God.

But how often do we do that?

Now I turn to the reading from Mark.

You might have noticed, O reader, that the lectionary skipped a few verses from the Saturday devotional.  To be precise, the lectionary has jumped past the feeding of five thousand men (plus an uncertain number of women and children).  The lectionary has also skipped Jesus walking on water.  This text has puzzled interpreters since before the days of St. Augustine of Hippo, who offered this understanding:  Jesus is the master of the storm, so Christians have no reason to fear.  Then we arrive at the portion of Mark prescribed for this day in the Epiphany season.

The crowds, unlike those at the Feeding of the Five Thousand (Plus), did not come to hear Jesus teach.  No, they came to Jesus seeking his healing–and his healing alone.  (The crush of people must have stressed Jesus.) There is nothing wrong with seeking healing, but we ought not stop there.  There is nothing wrong with asking God to help ourselves and those we love and for whom we care about otherwise, but prayer should not consist solely of presenting God with a “honey do” list.

We are created to be in a healthy relationship with God.  The Larger Westminster Catechism says it best in Question #1:

What is the chief and highest end of man?

Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

There are varieties of prayer.  Among these are thanksgiving and intercession.  How often have you tried contemplative prayer?  How often have you undertaken merely to be conscious of the presence of God without asking anything of God?  How often have you just listened for God in silence?  These activities help deepen a healthy relationship with God.

As for me, I have done some of this, with mixed results.  I need to do better, and I keep trying.  The truth is that quieting my mind is a great challenge.  Over time, however, this will become easier, by grace.  The world is filled with noise, but God, as the prophet Elijah discovered, speaks in the silence.  The gods of ancient Near Eastern pantheons manifested themselves in natural phenomena, such as storms and volcanic eruptions, but the one God expresses self in the opposite ways.

May we enter into the silence and listen to whatever God might say to us.  If God says nothing on one day, at least we were silent for a while.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  Yet, if God does speak on a certain day, we will be there, alert and ready to hear.  That is good, indeed.  And divine order will supplant human chaos.