Archive for the ‘February 22’ Category

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

Finding of the Silver Cup

Above:  Finding of the Silver Cup

Image in the Public Domain

Free to Serve God, Part I

FEBRUARY 21, 22, and 23, 2019


The Collect:

O Lord Jesus, make us instruments of your peace,

that where there is hatred, we may sow love,

where there is injury, pardon,

where there is despair, hope.

Grant, O divine master, that we may seek

to console, to understand, and to love in your name,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25


The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 43:16-34 (Thursday)

Genesis 44:1-17 (Friday)

Genesis 44:18-34 (Saturday)

Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40 (All Days)

Romans 8:1-11 (Thursday)

1 John 2:12-17 (Friday)

Luke 12:57-59 (Saturday)


If anyone had a legitimate reason to harbor resentment, Joseph son of Jacob did.  Siblings had, out of jealousy of him and annoyance with him (he was an insufferable brat for a while), faked his death and sold him into slavery.  Joseph had also spent years in prison for a crime he had not committed.  Decades later, when he had a position in the Egyptian government, Joseph had an opportunity to take revenge.  As one reads in Genesis 45, he chose to do otherwise.

One theme in the pericope from Romans 8 is liberation by God from the power of sin (yet not the struggle with sin) to serve and obey God, to pursue spiritual purposes.  The reading from 1 John, with its warning against loving the world, fits well with that passage.  That caution is not a call for serial Christian contrariness.  No, St. Augustine of Hippo understood the passage well.  He asked,

Why should I not love what God has made?

The great theologian answered his own question this way:

God does not forbid one to love these things but to love them to the point of finding one’s beatitude in them.

–Quoted in Raymond E. Brown, The Epistles of John (1982), pages 324-325

The quest for selfish gain, a theme extant in more than one of the readings for these days, is a journey toward harm of others and of oneself.  That which we do to others, we do also to ourselves.  There might be a delayed delivery of “what comes around, goes around,” but the proverbial cows will come home.  It is better to seek the common god and to forgo vengeance, to retire grudges and to build up one’s society, community, and congregation.  One can do that while loving the world, but not to the point of, in the words of St. Augustine of Hippo, finding one’s benediction in it.  No, we should find one’s benediction in God alone.  As we read in Psalm 27:7-9 (The Book of Common Prayer, 1979):

Be still before the LORD

and wait patiently for him.

Do not fret yourself over the one who prospers,

the one who succeeds in evil schemes.

Refrain from anger, leave rage alone;

do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.

Here ends the lesson.








Devotion for Saturday Before the Last Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments


Above:  The Preaching of Saint John the Baptist, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder

Image Source = Yelkrokoyade

Humility Before God and the Reality of Unexpected Suffering

FEBRUARY 22, 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:

1 Kings 21:20-29

Psalm 2

Mark 9:9-13


Now therefore be wise, O kings;

be prudent, you judges of the earth.

–Psalm 2:10, Common Worship (2000)


Of those who are sleeping in the Land of Dust, many will awaken, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting disgrace.  Those who are wise will shine as brightly as the expanse of the heavens, and those who have instructed many in uprightness, as bright as stars for all eternity.

–Daniel 12:2-3, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


Look, I shall send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes.  He will reconcile parents to their children and children to their parents, lest I come and put the land under a ban to destroy it.

–Malachi 4:4-6, The Revised English Bible (1989)


“It is quite true,” he told them, “that Elijah does come first, and begins the restoration of all things.  But what does the scripture say about the Son of Man?  This:  that he must go through much suffering and be treated with contempt.  I tell you that not only has Elijah come already but they have done to him exactly what they wanted–just as the scripture says of him.”

–Mark 9:12-13, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)


There is much happening in the background of the Gospel lection for today:

  1. The resurrection of the dead is associated with the Day of the Lord in Daniel 12:2-3.
  2. In Malachi 3:23-24/4:5-6 (depending on which versification system one follows), Elijah will return before judgment day and function as an agent of reconciliation.
  3. Jesus identifies the late St. John the Baptist as Elijah in Mark 9:13.
  4. Yet is not the expectation in Malachi that Elijah will prevent suffering?

The account in Mark overturns old assumptions.  For that matter, the entire Gospel of Mark argues against a certain understanding of Messiahship.  In the earliest canonical Gospel, the crucifixion of Jesus makes his status as the Messiah unmistakable.  That has become a common reading of Messiahship since the first century of Christianity yet was once a radical notion.  The same rule applies to St. John the Baptist as “Elijah.”  Our Lord and Savior’s cousin was also his forerunner in suffering and death.

If humbling oneself before God postpones punishments (at least in some cases), the fact remains that the consequences of misdeeds and sins of omission will fall in time–perhaps upon the next generation, as unfair as that might seem.  But that is how reality works, is it not?  Yet the fact remains that one generation leaves legacies–positive and negative–which affect people into the future.  However the Atonement works (I side with the Eastern Orthodox, who argue against the Western Christian tendency to explain away certain mysteries), I like to think that it leaves a positive legacy of negating much of the negative which would have come down to us otherwise.








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 21 and 22 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Above:  Pebbles

Image Source = Steve Shattuck of Canberra, Australia

Job and John, Part XIV:  The Power of Words

FEBRUARY 21 and 22, 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 16:1-22 (February 21)

Job 17:1-16 (February 22)

Psalm 143 (Morning–February 21)

Psalm 86 (Morning–February 22)

Psalms 81 and 116 (Evening–February 21)

Psalms 6 and 19 (Evening–February 22)

John 7:1-13 (February 21)

John 7:14-31 (February 22)


A Related Post:

A Prayer for Those Who Have Harmed Us:


Why do you want to kill me?

–Jesus speaking in John 7:19b, The New Jerusalem Bible


What afflicts you that you speak on?

–Job speaking in Job 16:3b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


Job 16 and 17 consist of Job’s reply to the second speech of Eliphaz the Temanite.  The speaker has no patience with anything he has heard so far, nor should he.  Whoever speaks of “the patience of Job” as if Job were patient, does not understand the Book of Job.

Jesus, in John 7, is living under death threats.  He is trying not to die just yet because

for me the time is not ripe yet (verse 8, The New Jerusalem Bible).

The words of our Lord’s adversaries afflicted him.

Words have power.  According to Hebrew mythology God spoke the universe into being.  What realities do we create with our words?  What realities do we create with our silences?  There is a time to speak.  And there is a time to remain silent.  There is also a time to say a certain amount and nothing more.  May we know the difference and act accordingly.

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,








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Week of 6 Epiphany: Saturday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  Tragic Mask

Image Source = Holger.Ellgaard

The Power of Words

FEBRUARY 22, 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 3:1-12 (Revised English Bible):

My friends, not many of you should become teachers, for you may be certain that we who teach will ourselves face severer judgement.  All of us go wrong again and again; a man who never says anything wrong is perfect and is capable of controlling every part of his body.  When we put a bit into a horse’s mouth to make it obey our will, we can direct the whole animal.  Or think of a ship:  large though it may be and driven by gales, it can be steered by a very small rudder on whatever course the helmsman chooses.  So with the tongue; it is small, but its pretensions are great.

What a vast amount of timber can be set ablaze by the tiniest spark!  And the tongue is a fire, representing in our body the whole wicked world.  It pollutes our whole being, it sets the whole course of our existence alight, and its flames are fed by hell. Beasts and birds of every kind, creatures that crawl on the ground or swim in the sea, can be subdued and have been subdued by man; but no one can subdue the tongue.  It is an evil thing, restless and charged with deadly venom.  We use it to praise our Lord and Father; then we use it to praise our Lord and Father; then we use it to invoke curses on our fellow-men, though they are made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and curses.  This should not be so, my friends.  Does a fountain flow with both fresh and brackish water from the same outlet?  My friends, can a fig tree produce olives, or a grape vine produce figs?  No more can salt water produce fresh?

Psalm 12:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Help me, LORD, for there is no godly one left;

the faithful have vanished from among us.

2  Everyone speaks falsely with his neighbor;

with a smooth tongue they speak from a double heart.

3  Oh, that the LORD would cut off all smooth tongues,

and close the lips that utter proud boasts!

4  Those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail;

our lips are our own; who is lord over us?”

5  “Because the needy are oppressed

and the poor cry out in misery,

I will rise up,” says the LORD,

“and give them the help they long for.”

6  The words of the LORD are pure words,

like silver refined from ore

and purified seven times in the fire.

7  O LORD, watch over us

and save us from this generation for ever.

Mark 9:2-13 (Revised English Bible):

Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  And in their presence he was transfigured; his clothes became dazzling white, with a whiteness no bleacher on earth could equal.  They saw Elijah appear and Moses with him, talking with Jesus.  Then Peter spoke:


he said,

it is good that we are here!  Shall we make three shelters, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah?

For he did not know what to say; they were so terrified.  Then a cloud appeared, casting its shadow over them, and out of the cloud came a voice:

This is my beloved Son; listen to him.

And suddenly, when they looked around, only Jesus was with them; there was no longer anyone else to be seen.

On their way down the mountain, he instructed them not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.  They seized upon those words, and discussed among themselves what this “rising from the dead” could mean.  And they put a question to him:

Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?

He replied,

Elijah does come first to set everything right.  How is it, then, that the scriptures say of the Son of Man that he is to endure great suffering and be treated with contempt?  However, I tell you, Elijah has already come and they have done to him what they wanted, ans the scriptures say of him.


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:  Saturday, Year 1:

Faith in Romans vs. Faith in James:



By what we write and say, whether in person or on paper or via telephone or on the Internet, has the power to affect others positively or negatively.  At best, they can ennoble, edify, enrich our lives.  At worst, however, they can devastate.  And there is, of course, a range of possibilities in the middle.

Let us consider the very bad first.  The bullying of many young people has ended in the bullied committing suicide.  Infamously, David Greenglass,who was a spy, committed perjury in the early 1950s and thereby contributed to the conviction and execution of his sister, Ethel Rosenberg, who was not a spy.  And, more recently, in Canada, a court cleared the name of Tammy Marquardt, who had served thirteen years of a life sentence for allegedly murdering her two-year-old son, Kenneth, in 1995.  The damning testimony had been that of a now-disgraced forensic pathologist, who had claimed that Marquardt had strangled or suffocated her son.  The boy actually died of an epileptic seizure.  Not only did Tammy Marquardt lose thirteen years of her life; she also lost two children to adoption.  Here are two links regarding the Marquardt case: and

Now let us turn toward the positive.  Words can also improve a person’s mood, make his or her day.  A well-timed joke can have this effect, for example.  Great literature can uplift our spirits, poetry can exalt our souls, and excellent dramatic performances can appeal to the more elements of human nature.  President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, during the Great Depression, delivered the famous “fireside chats,” which were wonderful exercises in civics.

God, in the beautiful mythology from Genesis, spoke the world into existence.  Our words have the power affect that world and others who live on it.  Our words matter; may we make them count for positive purposes.


Week of 6 Epiphany: Friday, Year 1   9 comments

Above:  Plan for Versailles Palace and Its Grounds, 1746

Monuments to Human Egos

FEBRUARY 22, 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 11:1-9 (Revised English Bible):

There was a time when all the world spoke a single language and used the same words.  As people journeyed in the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.  They said to one another,

Come, let us make bricks and bake them hard;

they used bricks for stone and bitumen for mortar.  Then they said,

Let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens and make a name for ourselves, or we shall be dispersed over the face of the earth.

The LORD came down to see the city and tower which they had built, and he said,

Here they are, one people with a single language, and now they have started to do this; from now on nothing they have a mind to do will be beyond their reach.  Come, let us go down there and confuse their language, so that they will not understand what they say to one another.

So the LORD dispersed them from there all over the earth, and they left off building the city.  That is why it is called Babel, because there the LORD made a babble  of the language of the whole world.   It was from that place the LORD scattered people over the face of the earth.

Psalm 33:6-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made,

by the breath of his mouth all the heavenly hosts,

7 He gathers up the waters of the ocean as in a water-skin,

and stores up the depths of the sea.

8 Let all the earth fear the LORD;

let all who dwell in the world stand in awe of him.

9 For he spoke, and it came to pass;

he commanded, and it stood fast.

10 The LORD brings the will of the nations to naught;

he thwarts the designs of the peoples.

11 But the LORD’s will stands fast for ever,

and the designs of his heart from age to age.

12 Happy is the nation whose God is the LORD!

happy the people he has chosen to be his own!

13 The LORD looks down from heaven,

and beholds all the people in the world.

14 From where he sits enthroned he turns his gaze

on all who dwell on the earth.

15 He fashions all the hearts of them

and understands all their works.

16 There is no king that can be saved by a mighty army;

a strong man is not delivered by his great strength.

17 The horse is a vain hope for deliverance;

for all its strength it cannot save.

18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon those who fear him,

on those who wait upon his love,

19 To pluck their lives from death,

and to feed them in time of famine.

20 Our soul waits for the LORD;

he is our help and our shield.

21 Indeed, our heart rejoices in him,

for in his holy Name we put our trust.

22 Let your loving-kindness, O LORD, be upon us,

as we have put our trust in you.

Mark 8:34-9:1 (Revised English Bible):

Then he called the people to him, as well as his disciples, and said to them,

Anyone who wants to be a follower of mine must renounce self; he must take up his cross and follow me.  Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel’s will save it.  What does anyone gain by winning the whole world at the cost of his life?  What can he give to buy his life back?  If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this wicked and godless age, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

He said to them,

Truly I tell you:  there are some of those standing here who will not taste death before they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.


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.


Versailles Palace, outside Paris, France, is a tourist attraction and an art museum today.  Yet it began as a hunting lodge for King Louis XIII (reigned 1610-1643).  It was certainly a very nice hunting lodge, but it was not a palace.  Louis XIV, the “Sun King” (reigned 1643-1715) began the process of expanding the hunting lodge into a palace, and made it the seat of his court and the architectural symbol of his absolutist rule.  Versailles Palace was a monument to the royal ego.

We students of history know what happened to that royal line, do we not? Hint:  The French Revolution.  Afterward, three kings governed France, and two of those died in exile.  The last king had to evacuate his throne in 1848.

Monuments to human egos outlast the people who build them.

Let us turn now from history to mythology, whereby the Book of Genesis provides a fictional account of the origin of languages.  (Study linguistics for the actual account.)  The people in the city in this myth seek to disobey the divine command to spread out across the planet.  So they establish a building program, one goal of which is to establish their name.  This is about ego.  So God gives them no choice but to obey his command.  The actual meaning of the name “Babylon” is “Gate of God,” which the city in the myth does not become.

Jesus points away from ego and disobedience.  He says to renounce self, take up a cross, and follow him.  Therein lies spiritual life, which no mere mortal can take away from us.  This is life as the worshipers of ego do not recognize it, and it is superior to their concept.  Our glory is in God, not ourselves.

You might have noticed, O reader, Mark 9:1, in which Jesus says:

Truly I tell you:  there are some of those standing here who will not taste death before they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.

This text begs one overriding question:  What is the Kingdom of God in this saying?  Let us use textual context.  Consider Mark 1:14-15 (Revised English Bible):

After John had been arrested, Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:  “The time has arrived; the kingdom of God is upon you. Repent, and believe the Gospel.”

The ministry of Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom of God.

Mark 9:2 begins an account of the Transfiguration of Jesus.  Let us distinguish between the Kingdom of God coming in power and people seeing the Kingdom of God coming in power.  At this point (9:1)  in Mark, the Kingdom of God has come in power, that is, the power working through Jesus.  People will realize this very shortly, Jesus is saying.  The Transfiguration reveals this fact to Apostles, and the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus render the Messianic Secret no longer a secret.  Furthermore, the surviving eleven Apostles, as history tells us, spread the Good News of Jesus far abroad.

The definition of the Kingdom of God is ambiguous here, but it pertains to the authority of Jesus.  Evil continues to exist, of course, but (to get jump ahead in the story) the resurrection of Jesus demonstrates the superior power of God in Jesus.  This is one theological understanding of the Atonement present in the writings of Church Fathers.

I posit that since Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom of God almost two thousand years ago, it is still here on the earth.  Appearances might seem to indicate otherwise, but consider this:  The presence of Jesus on earth did not mark the end of the Roman domination of Judea and terminate injustice.  Recall that part of the message of the Gospel of Mark is to argue against the idea of conqueror Messiah.  (See the devotional for the Week of 6 Epiphany:  Thursday, Year 1.)  So why, if we are paying attention, should we expect the continued presence of the Kingdom of God among the faithful to accomplish anything similar in our time and place?

But let us follow Jesus, sacrificing that which God commands us to sacrifice, obediently.  There is justice with God, and the schedule for that is beyond human comprehension.  So be it.  May we seek to become what we can in God, and not to strike out in foolish directions.  God will handle the rest.