Archive for the ‘February 15’ Category

Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before the Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  A Scan from The Gregorian Missal for Sundays (1990)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Kyrie Eleison

FEBRUARY 14 and 15, 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 13:12-19 (Thursday)

Jeremiah  13:20-27 (Friday)

Psalm 1 (Both Days)

Acts 13:26-34 (Thursday)

1 Peter 1:17-2:1 (Friday)


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

nor lingered in the way of sinners,

nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

Their delight is in the law of the LORD,

and they meditate on his law day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water,

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

everything they do shall prosper.

It is not so with the wicked;

they are like chaff which the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked shall not stand when judgment comes,

nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.

For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked is doomed.

–Psalm 1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


Psalm 1 might be overly optimistic, but it functions as a fine counterpoint to the other readings.  Those readings address groups.  Jeremiah spoke to the Kingdom of Judah.  St. Paul the Apostle, addressing Jews in Antioch in Pisidia (in Asia Minor), spoke of the actions of religious authorities in Jerusalem.  St. (Simon) Peter the Apostle or someone writing in his name addressed congregations in Asia Minor.  Those three pericopes fit well together, for they diagnose societal problems.  Hubris is the main ill in Jeremiah 13.  From that pride flow other sins.  Such a diagnosis fits the pericope from Acts 13 well, for hubris contributed to the execution of an innocent man.  The readings from 1 Peter takes as its theme obedience to God.

Then away with all wickedness and deceit, hypocrisy and jealousy and malicious talk of any kind!

–1 Peter 2:1, The Revised English Bible (1989)

So much for a great deal of politics, talk radio, celebrity news, and Internet content!

The words of these days’ pericopes indict as strongly today as they did when they were fresh.  Human nature has not changed over time.  As Koheleth wrote,

Only that shall happen

Which has happened,

Only that occur

Which has occurred;

There is nothing new

Beneath the sun!

–Ecclesiastes 1:9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Time passes, technology changes, and political and economic systems come and go, but we are really playing out variations of old themes, are we not?  Hubris remains current, malicious gossip has never ceased, and people in power continue to cause innocents to die.

May God have mercy on us all!










Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Sixth Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments


Above:  Herod’s Temple

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-11786

Active and Effective Love for Each Other

FEBRUARY 13-15, 2020


The Collect:

O God, the strength of all who hope in you,

because we are weak mortals we accomplish nothing without you.

Help us to see and understand the things we ought to do,

and give us grace and power to do them,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24


The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 26:1-15 (Thursday)

Leviticus 26:34-46 (Friday)

Deuteronomy 30:1-91 (Saturday)

Psalm 119:1-8 (all days)

James 1:12-16 (Thursday)

1 John 2:7-17 (Friday)

Matthew 15:1-9 (Saturday)


You laid down your commandments,

that we should fully keep them.

–Psalm 119:4, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006)


These readings contain much sage advice:

  1. Obey God’s laws, whether or not one lives among foreigners with different religions and customs.
  2. Love one’s fellow human beings actively and effectively, trusting in the power of God to enable one to do this.
  3. Do not use God and/or religion to to cover up or to attempt to cover up one’s own perfidy.

The latter point requires some explanation.  Korban was a custom by which one gave money to the religious establishment for the support of the professional religious people there.  Many people used this practice to deprive their relatives of necesssary funds while looking pious.  And many Temple officials knew it.  Thus religion became a means of circumventing a basic ethic of the Law of Moses:

Honor your father and your mother.

In other words, motives mattered.  They still do.

Ethics are concrete, not abstract.  Since we human beings live in communities, our actions and inactions affect each other.  Our actions and inactions flow from our attitudes.  Thus how we think of each other matters greatly.  Do we value each other or do we seek ways to exploit and/or deprive each other?  Which people do we think of as our neighbors?

May we not use the letter of the law to the cover up or to attempt to cover up violations of its spirit.






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 15 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Above:  Job and His Alleged Friends

Job and John, Part IX:  Perceptions

FEBRUARY 15, 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 11:1-20

Psalm 130 (Morning)

Psalms 32 and 139 (Evening)

John 5:19-29


Zophar the Naamathite opens his address in Job 11:1-20 by insulting Job.  A note on page 1519 of The Jewish Study Bible makes a succinct point:

Like Bildad in 8.2, Zophar here, in the house of a man bereft of his children (1.18-19) and infested with maggots (7.5), has the colassal gall to tell Job, the master of the house, that he talks too much!

And Zophar persists in the practice of relying on “received wisdom” as a basis for his theodicy.

The reading from John 5 constitutes part of a discourse attributed to Jesus after he healed the paralyzed man at the Pool at Bethesda on a Sabbath.  (The Synoptic Jesus does not talk as much as does the Johannine Jesus, by the way.)  The content of the discourse interest me, but the relative newness of it fascinates me today.  Zophar’s discourse was stale and insulting.  Yet our Lord’s discourse was revolutionary.  Consider one verse, O reader:

In all truth I tell you,

whoever listens to my words,

and believes in the one who sent me,

has eternal life;

without being brought to judgement

such a person has passed from death to life.

–John 5:24, The New Jerusalem Bible

If I did not take the truth of that verse as a given, I might think Jesus to have been a madman.  Now, of course, my position has become “received wisdom.”  (I am aware of the irony of that reality.)  Some “received wisdom” is wiser than the rest.  And other “received wisdom” is pure drivel.

The power of “received wisdom” holds sway over the intellects and imaginations of people, does it not?  When I started my abortive doctoral studies in history at The University of Georgia (UGA), Athens, Georgia, the Graduate Coordinator informed me that I would learn the “received wisdom.”  He used that term; I recall that part of the conversation clearly.  I wound up questioning much of the “received wisdom,” with the predictable result in the social sciences.  But I maintained my intellectual integrity.  And I am a terrible liar.  Please understand me correctly, O reader; that happened years ago, and the trauma of that experience has washed out of my system.  Yet memories remain.  And objective reality remains.  I have no desire to start an argument with anyone at the UGA Department of History.  What would I gain from it?  Yet I offer this cautionary tale of the allure received foolishness masquerading as received wisdom.  The experience remains with me and makes me a better teacher.  I hold my students accountable for getting the facts correct then reasoning their ways to interpretations.  I do not grade them according to whether I agree with those interpretations.  And some of the kindest comments on course evaluations begin the acknowledgement that the student disagreed with me often in subjective matters.

Reality is objective, of course.  But our understandings of it are inherently subjective.  Two people can absorb the same stimuli and understand it differently.  Culture (defined as social learning), educational attainment, age, cognitive development, intellectual capacity, and other factors shape our perceptions.  Sometimes our proverbial tapes are running, so we hear yet do not listen and see yet do not comprehend.  So the character of Zophar , who was an insulting idiot, understood himself as standing on the shoulders of theological giants.  And our Lord’s words were blasphemous in the ears of some people despite those words’ truth–and therefore lack of blasphemy.  Reality is objective and our perceptions are subjective, yet our perceptions can be correct.  May they be so, by grace.

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 2019-2020, 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

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Week of 5 Epiphany: Saturday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  Jeroboam I and His Golden Calves

The Real Thing and Poor Substitutes

FEBRUARY 15, 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.


1 Kings 12:26-33; 13:33-34 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Jeroboam said to himself,

Now the kingdom may well return to the House of David.  If these people still go up to offer sacrifices at the House of the LORD in Jerusalem, the heart of these people will turn back to their master, King Rehoboam of Judah.

So the king took counsel and made two golden calves.  He said to the people,

You have been going up to Jerusalem long enough.  This is your God, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!

He set up one in Bethel and placed the other in Dan.  That proved to be a cause of guilt, for the people went to worship [the calf at Bethel and] the one at Dan.  He also made cult places and appointed priests from the ranks of the people who were not of Levite descent.

He stationed at Bethel the priests of the shrines that he had appointed to sacrifice to the calves that he had made.  And Jeroboam established a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month; in imitation of the festival in Judah, he established one at Bethel, and he ascended the altar [there].  On the fifteenth day of the eighth month–the month in which he had contrived of his own mind to establish a festival for the Israelites–Jeroboam ascended the altar that he had made in Bethel.

Even after this incident, Jeroboam did not turn back from his evil way, but kept on appointing priests for the shrines from the ranks of the people.  He ordained as priests of the shrines any who so desired.  Thereby the House of Jeroboam incurred guilt–to their utter annihilation from the face of the earth.

Psalm 106:19-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

19  Israel made a bull-calf at Horeb

and worshiped a molten image;

20  And so they exchanged their Glory

for the image of an ox that feeds on grass.

21  They forgot God their Savior,

who had done great things in Egypt,

22  Wonderful deeds in the land of Ham,

and fearful things at the Red Sea.

Mark 8:1-10 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

About this time it happened again that a large crowd collected and had nothing to eat.  Jesus called the disciples over to him and said,

My heart goes out to this crowd; they have been with me three days now and they have no food left.  If I send them off home without anything, they will collapse on the way–and some of them have come from a distance.

His disciples replied,

Where could anyone find the food to feed them here in this deserted spot?

Jesus asked them,

How many loaves have you got?

They replied,


So Jesus told the crowd to settle themselves on the ground.  Then he took the seven loaves into his hands, and with a prayer of thanksgiving broke them, and gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people; and this they did.  They had a few small fish as well, and after blessing them, Jesus told his disciples to give these also to the people.  They ate and they were satisfied.  Moreover, they picked up seven baskets of full pieces left over.  The people numbered about four thousand.  Jesus sent them home, and then he boarded the boat at once with the disciples and went on to the district of Dalmanutha.


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.


Some Related Posts:

Week of 5 Epiphany:  Saturday, Year 1:

Matthew 15 (Parallel to Mark 8):

Aaron’s Golden Calf:


The story from 1 Kings 12  and 13 is one in which King Jeroboam I is consolidating his power.  He faces a hostile Kingdom of Judah to his south, and so he does not like the fact that many of his subjects keep visiting the Jerusalem Temple.  In response Jeroboam erects his own substitute sites, each with a golden calf (echoing Aaron’s idolatry in the Sinai Desert) and unqualified priests.  It was not the same.  It was not nearly as good.  But it was politically expedient.

Biblical authors and editors condemned Jeroboam I and other kings for not wiping out worship outside that of Yahwistic bounds.  These authors and editors lived and died long before my forebears accepted and enshrined such wonderful concepts as liberty of conscience and the separation of religion and state.  Read the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  There one finds a clause forbidding the establishment of a state religion.  There is a fascist wing of the Christian Right.  Members of this wing are quite open about their opposition to the separation of church and state and their desire for a Fundamentalist theocracy.  Yet I suspect that they constitute a minority of the Christian Right, most members of which I guess oppose a theocratic regime, much to their credit. They prefer to achieve their goals by other means.

Religious toleration was, for many biblical authors and editors, not a virtue.  But imagine, from a post-Enlightenment Western liberal perspective, how you would respond if your national government were to destroy houses of worship.  That is essentially what some biblical authors and editors wish certain kings had done.

Now that I have criticized the text and the worldview it espouses, I come around to admitting a basic truth the text contains:  Idolatry is bad.  There is a God-shaped hole inside each of us.  Sometimes we fill it with bad religion or with sports or with drugs.  There is nothing inherently idolatrous about sports, but how often have people admitted that a sport (basketball in Indiana, football in the U.S. South, hockey in Canada, soccer in many other places, etc.) is or is almost or is like a religion?  Anything can become an idol if one transforms into that.  I suspect that the most common idol in the U.S. South, apart from football, is the Bible, for many people seem to have filled their God-shaped hole with it.  The Bible is, at its best, a means to an end, but many people treat it as if it is the end toward which they strive.   God, of course, is the end toward which people ought to strive.

May we accept no substitutes.


Week of 5 Epiphany: Friday, Year 1   11 comments

Above:  A Fig Tree

Image Source = Fir0002

Returning the Beauty of God to Earth

FEBRUARY 15, 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 3:1-8 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And the snake was slier than every animal of the field that YHWH God had made, and he said to the woman,

Has God indeed said you may not eat from any tree of the garden?

And the woman said to the snake,

We may eat from the fruit of the trees of the garden.  But from the fruit of the tree that is within the garden God has said, “You shall not eat from it, and you shall not touch it, or else you’ll die.”

And the snake said to the woman,

You won’t die!”  Because God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you’ll be like God–knowing good and bad.

And the woman saw that the tree was good for eating and that it was an attraction to the eyes, and the tree was desirable to bring about understanding, and she took some of its fruit, and she ate, and gave to her man with her as well, and he ate.  And the eyes of the two of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked.  And they picked fig leaves and made loincloths for themselves.

And they heard the sound of YHWH God walking in the garden and the wind of the day, and the human and his woman hid from YHWH God among the garden’s trees.

Psalm 32:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven,

and whose sin is put away!

2 Happy are they to whom the LORD imputes no guilt,

and in whose spirit there is no guile!

3 While I held my tongue, my bones withered away,

because of my groaning all day long.

4 For your hand was upon me day and night;

my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.

5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you,

and did not conceal my guilt.

6 I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.”

Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.

7 Therefore all the faithful will make their prayers to you in time of trouble;

when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them.

8 You are my hiding-place;

you preserve me from trouble;

you surround me with shouts of deliverance.

Mark 7:31-37 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Once more Jesus left the neighbourhood of Tyre and passed through Sidon towards the Lake of Galilee, and crossed the Ten Towns territory.  They brought to him a man who was deaf and unable to speak intelligibly, and they implored him to put his hand upon him.  Jesus took him away from the crowd by himself. He put his fingers in the man’s ears and touched his tongue with his saliva.  Then, looking up to Heaven, he gave a deep  sigh and said to him in Aramaic,


And his ears were opened and immediately whatever had tied his tongue came loose and he spoke quite plainly.  Jesus gave instructions that they should tell no one about this happening, but the more he told them, the more they broadcast the news.  People were absolutely amazed, and kept saying,

How wonderfully he has done everything!  He even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.


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.


Sin spoils creation.  The reading from Genesis describes the original sin, which is hubris, in mythological terms.  There is nothing wrong with knowing the difference between good and evil, but there is plenty wrong with seeking, on our own power, to be like God.  We are not God, and nothing will change that fact.  And we cannot hide from God, either, no matter how much we try.

I feel the need to make a few other comments about Genesis 3:1-8:

  1. The snake is just a snake.  It plays the role of the mythological trickster (such as Loki or Coyote), whose function is to introduce chaos into the established order and to challenge conventional rules of behavior.  Some tricksters are openly villainous, where as others are morally ambiguous.
  2. Later Christian tradition associates the snake with Satan.  This is not a Jewish understanding, and Genesis is a Jewish text.  By the way, the theology of Satan evolves throughout the Jewish Bible, so that the Satan (“the Adversary”) begins by working for God (as in Judges and Job) and ends by opposing God (post-Exilic period).  And, by the end of the First Century C.E., the Revelation to John tells the story of the Satan in such a way as to ignore the part about “the Adversary” ever working for God.  This seems like a good time for me state plainly that, due to my knowledge of the history of theology of the nature of Satan, I cannot and do not believe in the existence of Satan, or personalized evil.  (Call me a heretic if you please; I will take it as high praise.)
  3. Talmudic tradition states that the fruit Adam and Eve ate was the fig.  The choice of fig leaves to cover selected nakedness becomes ironic in that understanding of the story.

The story of Jesus continues in the Markan Gospel.  When last we read about Jesus in Mark, he was in Tyre, a city the Phoenicians had founded on the Mediterranean coast.  He was surrounded by Gentiles.  When we resume the story where we left off, we read that our Lord and Savior takes the scenic route to the Decapolis, a region with ten cities and many Gentiles, as well as a fair number of Jews.  Jesus is still surrounded by Gentiles.

There Jesus meets a deaf man with a speech impediment.  Of course the man has a speech impediment; he is deaf.  We humans learn to speak by listening to others.  Local superstition holds that spittle has curative powers, so Jesus uses what the man and his believe and puts a good shamanic show for everyone.  The power of the healing is not present in the show, however.  The Gospel of Mark tells of Jesus healing people with various conditions with a word, and even doing this in absentia.  Yet the shamanic show serves a purpose; Jesus is meeting the deaf man and his neighbors where they are.  He demonstrates respect and compassion for them in this way.  Our Lord and Savior sees a man who needs his help; he does not see a medical case.

Jesus tries to keep his Messianic secret, as he does elsewhere in the Markan Gospel.  But, as elsewhere in Mark, people talk anyway.  They say that he does all things well.

What, you ask, is the connective tissue between Genesis and Mark?  Funny you should ask.  William Barclay provides that connective tissue in his Daily Study Bible volume on the Gospel of Mark:

When Jesus came, bringing healing to men’s bodies and salvation to their souls, he had begun the work of creation all over again.  In the beginning everything has been good; man’s sin had spoiled it all; and now Jesus was bringing back the beauty of God to the world which man’s sin had rendered ugly.  (page 182)

We ought not get too big for our britches, a metaphor which fails to apply to Adam and Eve.  But God, in the form of Jesus, meets us where we are and in our own cultural context.  And, if we are willing to recognize who (and what) we are and who (and what) Jesus is, he can work with us to make us who (and what) we are supposed to become.  This might not be what we want to become, but God knows better than we do.   Details will vary according to each person, but the principle is constant:  Empowered by God, we are called to help communicate the beauty of God to a world sin has rendered ugly.




Words by Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

As printed in The Methodist Hymnal (1965), of The Methodist Church:

1.  O for a thousand tongues to sing

My great Redeemer’s praise,

The glories of my God and King,

The triumphs of his grace!

2.  My gracious Master and My God,

Assist me to proclaim,

To spread thro’ all the earth abroad

The honors of thy name.

3.  Jesus!  the name that charms our fears,

That bids our sorrows cease,

‘Tis music in the sinners’ ears,

‘Tis life, and health, and peace.

4.  He breaks the power of canceled,

He sets the prisoner free;

His blood can make the foulest clean;

His blood availed for me.

5.  He speaks, and listening to his voice,

New life the dead receive;

The mournful, broken hearts rejoice;

The humble poor, believe.

6.  Hear him, ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb,

Your loosened tongues employ;

Ye blind, behold your Savior come;

And leap, ye lame, for joy.