Archive for the ‘January 24’ Category

Devotion for the Third Sunday After the Epiphany, Year C (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Ark Passes Over the Jordan, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

The Scandal of Grace

JANUARY 24, 2021


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


2 Chronicles 12:1-14 or Joshua 3:7-17

Psalm 76

Ephesians 1:11-23

Luke 4:13-30


Divine judgment and mercy come packaged together.  When the oppressed go free, what price do the oppressors pay?  We humans frequently judge ourselves and select our punishments.  Furthermore, as in 2 Chronicles 12, deliverance is partial sometimes.  To quote a cliché, God sometimes makes us lie down in the bed we have made.  Another example of the mixture of divine judgment and mercy comes from Joshua 3.  We read of the crossing of the Israelites into the Promised Land.  If we know the narrative well, we are aware that the generation that left slavery in Egypt did not enter the Promised Land.

May we be meek before God.  May we embrace the love of God for all people–including those quite different from us.  May we, unlike former neighbors of Jesus in Nazareth, never seek a claim to divine blessings just for ourselves and those similar to us.  May we celebrate the scandal of grace and the responsibilities grace imposes upon its recipients.  After all, grace is free, but not cheap.










Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After the Third Sunday After the Epiphany, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  Jehoiakim

Image in the Public Domain

Building Up Others

JANUARY 24-26, 2022


The Collect:

Blessed Lord God, you have caused the holy scriptures

to be written for the nourishment of your people.

Grant that we may hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that, comforted by your promises,

we may embrace and forever hold fast to the hope of eternal life,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23


The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 36:1-10 (Monday)

Jeremiah 36:11-26 (Tuesday)

Jeremiah 36:27-32 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:89-96 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 14:1-12 (Monday)

2 Corinthians 7:2-12 (Tuesday)

Luke 4:38-44 (Wednesday)


Your word endures for ever, LORD;

it stands firm in the heavens.

Your faithfulness lasts for all time;

it stands firm in the earth you founded.

Your decrees stand firm even today;

all these are your servants.

Unless your law had been a source of delight to me

I should have perished amid my afflictions,

I will never neglect your rules

for by them you have kept me alive.

I belong to you.  Save me!

For I have sought to keep your rules.

Wicked people are waiting to destroy me

but I have looked closely into your instructions.

I have seen how everything comes to an end once it is finished

but your commandment knows no bounds.

–Psalm 119:89-96, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley


Proclaiming the words of God can prove to be a risky undertaking.

The prophet Jeremiah and his scribe Baruch knew this truth well.  They worked in a particular political context.  Not only was there no separation of religion and government, but the monarch, Jehoiakim (reigned 608-598 B.C.E.), was a vassal.  Neco, the Pharaoh of Egypt, had chosen him to rule as King of Judah in lieu of Jehoahaz (reigned 609 B.C.E.), another son of the great Josiah (reigned 640-609 B.C.E.).  In time Jehoiakim became a vassal of Nebuchadnezzar II (reigned 605-562 B.C.E.) of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, against whom he rebelled.  Nebuchadnezzar II was not amused.  (You, O reader, can read more at 2 Kings 23:28-24:7 and 2 Chronicles 36:1-8).  The purpose of the contents of the first scroll in Jeremiah 36 was to create an opportunity for repentance–the act of turning around or changing the mind.  King Jehoiakim and his courtiers did not repent.  No, he burned the scroll.  YHWH was not amused.  Jeremiah and Baruch found themselves in legal trouble, but YHWH hid them.  And Jeremiah dictated a second scroll to Baruch.

St. Paul the Apostle and his traveling companions also knew well the political and legal hazards of proclaiming the words of God.  In fact, the Apostle became a martyr because of that proclamation.  He also knew the risks of hurting the feelings of people who were precious to him.  As St. Paul knew, one is not responsible for the thin skins of other people.

Jesus and St. Paul understood the value of building up others and faithful community.  Sometimes acting on this principle requires moving along to another place, to engage in the work of building up others there.

I have belonged to a series of congregations, mostly during my time in the household of my father, a United Methodist minister.  I moved on psychologically, burying many memories, when I relocated physically.  Nevertheless, I recall that certain members of those rural congregations in southern Georgia, U.S.A., used their positions, whether formal or informal, to build up themselves to the detriment of faith community.  They forgot, if they ever knew, that the congregation belonged to God, not to them.  Those churches would have been healthier faith communities if those people had acted differently and others had not enabled such destructive behavior.  I have seen such behavior less frequently in Episcopal congregations I have attended, not than one denomination is more prone to this pathology than another.

What is God calling you, O reader, to do in the context of faith community?  Building it up is a general description, what are the details in your context?  And, if proclaiming the words of God faithfully puts you at risk, are you willing to proceed anyway?  Whatever your circumstances are or will become, may the love of God and the imperative of building up others, society, and faith community compel you.  And may you succeed, by grace.









Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After the Third Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   6 comments


Above:  Gideon’s Fountain, Between 1900 and 1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-11402

The God of Surprises

JANUARY 23-25, 2023


The Collect:

Lord God, your loving kindness always goes before us and follows us.

Summon us into your light, and direct our steps in the ways of goodness

that come through he cross of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23


The Assigned Readings:

Judges 6:11-24 (Monday)

Judges 7:12-22 (Tuesday)

Genesis 49:1-2, 8-13, 21-26 (Wednesday)

Psalm 27:1-6 (all days)

Ephesians 5:6-14 (Monday)

Philippians 2:12-18 (Tuesday)

Luke 1:67-79 (Wednesday)


You speak in my heart and say, “Seek my face.”

Your face, LORD, will I seek.

–Psalm 27:8, Book of Common Worship (1993)


Gideon, in Judges 6:13-14a, lamented:

Pray, my lord, if the LORD really is with us, why has all this happened to us?  What has become of all those wonderful deeds of his, of which we have heard from our forefathers, when they told us how the LORD brought us up from Egypt?

The Revised English Bible 

He received his answer and won a victory by God’s power, the subsequent narrative tells us.  This saving, delivering deity was the same God of Jacob and of Sts. Mary and Joseph of Nazareth.  This deity is the God of the baby Jesus also.

I do not pretend to have arrived at a complete comprehension of the nature of God, for some matters exist beyond the range of human capacity to grasp.  Yet I do feel confident in making the following statement:  God is full of surprises.  So we mere mortals ought to stay on the alert for them, remembering to think outside the box of our expectations, a box into which God has never fit.  This is easy to say and difficult to do, I know, but the effort is worthwhile.

The Bible is full of unexpected turns.  Gideon’s army needed to be smaller, not larger.  God became incarnate as a helpless infant, not a conquering hero.  The selling of Joseph son of Jacob into slavery set up the deliverance of two nations.  The hungry will filled and the full will be sent away empty, the Gospel of Luke says.  Outcasts became heroes in parables of Christ.  Saul of Tarsus, a persecutor of nascent Christianity, became one of its greatest evangelists.  The list could go on, but I trust that I have made my point sufficiently.

So, following God, however God works in our lives, may we walk in the light, for the glory of God and the benefit of others.









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.







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

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Week of 3 Epiphany: Monday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  An Orthodox Icon of David

Honesty about Heroes

JANUARY 24, 2022


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.


2 Samuel 5:1-7, 10 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

(About two years after the events 2 Samuel 1; in the meantime Ish-bosheth, son of Saul, reigns then dies due to an assassination.  Then David orders the execution of the assassins.)

Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said,

Behold, we are your bone and flesh.  In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you that led out and brought in Israel; and the Lord said of you, “You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.”

So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel.  David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years.  At Hebron he reigned seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.

And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David,

You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off


David cannot come in here.

Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David.

And David became greater and greater, for the LORD, the God of hosts, was with him.

Psalm 89:19-29 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

19  You spoke once in a vision and said to your faithful people:

“I have set the crown upon a warrior

and have exalted one chosen out of the people.

20  I have found David my servant;

with my holy oil have I anointed him.

21  My hand will hold him fast

and my arm will make him strong.

22  No enemy shall deceive him,

nor any wicked man bring him down.

23  I will crush his foes before him

and strike down those who hate him.

24  My faithfulness and love shall be with him,

and he shall be victorious through my Name.

25  I shall make his dominion extend

from the Great Sea to the River.

26  He will say to you, ‘You are my Father,

my God, and the rock of my salvation.’

27  I will make him my firstborn

and higher than the kings of the earth.

28  I will keep my love for him for ever,

and my covenant will stand firm for him.

29  I will establish his line for ever

and his throne as the days of heaven.”

Mark 3:19b-30 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Then he went home, and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat.  And when his friends heard it, they went out to seize him, for they said,

He is beside himself.

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said,

He is possessed by Beelzebul, and by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.

And he called to him and said to them in parables,

How can Satan cast out Satan?  If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.  But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then indeed he may plunder his house.

Truly I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin

-–for they had said,

He has an unclean spirit.


The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.


A Related Post:

Week of 3 Epiphany:  Monday, Year 1:


This day’s reading from 2 Samuel 5 culminates the material from 1 Samuel 16 to 2 Samuel 4, which chronicles David’s rise to power.  Speaking of chronicles, compare 1 Samuel 31-2 Samuel 4 with 1 Chronicles 10 and 11.  The account in 1 Chronicles rushes, bypassing Ish-bosheth and going directly from the death of Saul to the reign of David and the capture of Jerusalem.  O well, so much for inerrancy and infallibility.

The books of Samuel and Kings are quite honest, especially about David.  There we read about how he ordered an Amalekite, who claimed to have Saul but, as it turns out, did not, executed.  In 2 Samuel we read about David ordering the execution of King Ish-bosheth’s assassins the mutilation of their corpses.  In these books we read of David’s infidelity with Bathsheba and David’s arranged murder of her husband.  Yet this is the man the narrative extols.  Nevertheless, it depicts him fully, warts and all.

David was such an illustrious person that Biblical writers referred back to him centuries later, especially as his successors, members of his dynasty, failed to measure up to him.  The reign of David became the ancient “good old days.”  The problem with nostalgia, of course, is that the old days were never quite as good as many people think they were.  Have you, O reader, ever noticed that Golden Ages seem always to be in the past?  Yet even then, in the alleged Golden Ages, people looked to the past for their Golden Ages.

At least the authors and editor of the books we now call 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, and 1 Kings were honest about their hero, for heroism does not mean perfection.  May we likewise be honest about ours, neither excusing the inexcusable nor giving short shrift to the virtues of these men and women.


Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B   14 comments

Above:  Donkeys

Image Source = Mates II

Putting the Saddlebags on Jesus, Not the Donkey

JANUARY 24, 2021


Jonah 3:1-5, 10 (New Revised Standard Version):

The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying,

Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.

So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD.  Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across.  Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk.  And he cried out,

Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!

And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When God say what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he said he would bring upon them and he did not do it.

Psalm 62:6-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

6 For God alone my soul in silence waits;

truly, my hope is in him.

7 He alone in my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.

8  In God is my safety and my honor;

God is my strong rock and my refuge.

9  Put your trust in him always, O people,

pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.

10  Those of high degree are but a fleeting breath,

even those of low estate cannot be trusted.

11  On the scales they are lighter than a breath,

all of them together.

12  Put no trust in extortion;

in robbery take no empty pride;

though wealth increases, set not your heart upon it.

13  God has spoken once, twice have I heard it,

that power belongs to God.

14  Steadfast love is yours, O Lord,

for you repay everyone according to his deeds.

1 Corinthians 7:29-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with this world as though they had no dealings with it.  For the present form of the world is passing away.

Mark 1:14-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying,

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea–for they were fishermen.  And Jesus said to them,

Follow me and I will make you fish for people.

And immediately they left their nets and followed him.  As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets.  Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired him, and followed him.

The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

Jonah 3:

Mark 1:

St. Simon Peter, Apostle and Martyr:

St. Andrew, Apostle and Martyr:

St. James the Greater, Apostle and Martyr:

St. John the Evangelist, Apostle:


Rumi, or, as Persians and Afghanis call him, Jelaluddin Balkhi, lived from 1207 to 1273 C.E.  He was one of the great poets.  Professor Coleman Barks has translated many of Rumi’s works into English.  Among these is “A Basket of Fresh Bread,” part of which I quote here:

Stay bewildered in God,

and only that.

Those of you are scattered,

simplify your worrying lives.  There is one

righteousness:  Water the fruit trees,

and don’t water the thorns.  Be generous

to what nurtures the spirit and God’s luminous

reason-light.  Don’t honor what causes

dysentery and knotted-up tumors.

Don’t feed both sides of yourself equally.

The spirit and the body carry different loads

and require different attentions.

Too often

we put saddlebags of Jesus and let

the donkey run loose in the pasture.

Don’t make the body do

what the spirit does best, and don’t let a big load

on the spirit that the body could carry easily.

(Source = The Essential Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne, A. J. Arberry, and Reynold Nicholson, HarperCollins, 1995; paperback, 1996; page 256)

Following God requires us to make changes.  The grace may be free to us, but it is not cheap.  We read in Jonah 3 that the prophet’s message found a receptive audience, but we discover in Jonah 4 that this fact disappointed Jonah.  He needed to lay aside his desire to see the people of Nineveh suffer for their sins.

As for Paul of Tarsus, all I can say is that I do not recall hearing this passage or the verse immediately before it read at a wedding, for good reason.

Yet those who marry will experience distress in life, and I would spare you that.–1 Corinthians 7:28b

Paul expected Jesus to return very soon, so marriage and other matters of daily life seemed relatively unimportant to him.  Two thousand years later, however, human relationships continue and Jesus has yet to return.  Some parts of the Bible are timeless; others are not.

And the Apostles?  Some of them left family businesses behind, and most of them died because they insisted on spreading the news of Jesus.  Nearly two thousand years later countless members of successive generations have known the mercies of Jesus because of what these men did.  I owe my faith in part to them.

Grace was not cheap for them.  This is the grace which grants repentance–literally turning around or changing one’s mind–and then forgiveness of sins.  Such grace scandalizes some of us from time to time, but we benefit from grace, too.  Consider this:  Somebody might find the grace God has extended to you scandalous.

Playing with Rumi’s word pictures, how often do we put the saddle bags on Jesus and let the donkey run loose in the pasture?  How often do we, perhaps out of ignorance, malnourish ourselves spiritually?  And how often do we water thorns?  I need to deal with these issues at least as much as do many other people.

The reality is that we–you and I–will not be the most effective ambassadors for Christ until, by grace, we begin to correct these bad habits and continue to replace them with good habits.  What we–you and I–do affects others in ways we cannot imagine.  Our influence, whether direct or indirect, is greater than we know.  So, by grace, may it be as positive as possible.


Week of 3 Epiphany: Tuesday, Year 1   17 comments

Above:  Mithras and the Bull

Image Source = User:PHGCOM

Members of the Family

JANUARY 24, 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.


Hebrews 10:1-10 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

For since the law has but  a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices which are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who draw near.  Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered?  If the worshipers had once been cleansed, they would no longer have any consciousness of sin.  But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year.  For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins.

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,

but a body have you prepared for me;

in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.

Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,’

as it is written of me in the roll of the book.

When he said above,

You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings (those are offered according to the law),

then he added,

Behold, I have come to do your will.

He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.  And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Psalm 40:1-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I waited patiently upon the LORD;

he stooped to me and heard my cry.

2 He lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay;

he set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure.

3 He put a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to our God;

many shall see, and stand in awe,

and put their trust in the LORD.

4 Happy are they who trust in the LORD!

they do not resort to evil spirits or turn to false gods.

5 Great things are they that you have done, O LORD my God!

how great your wonders and your plans for us!

there is none who can be compared with you.

6 Oh, that I could make them known and tell them!

but they are more than I can count.

7 In sacrifice and offering you take no pleasure

(you have given me ears to hear you);

8 Burnt-offering and sin-offering you have not required,

and so I said, “Behold I come.

9 In the roll of the book it is written concerning me:

‘I love to do your will, O my God;

your law is deep in my heart.'”

10 I proclaimed righteousness in the great congregation;

behold, I did not restrain my lips;

and that, O LORD, you know.

11 Your righteousness have I not hidden in my heart;

I have spoken of your faithfulness and your deliverance;;

I have not concealed your love and faithfulness from the great congregation.

Mark 3:31-35 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And his mother and his brethren came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him.

Your mother and your brethren are outside, asking for you.

And he replied,

Who are my mother and my brethren?

And looking around on those who sat about him, he said,

Here are my mother and my brethren.  Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.


The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Sometimes I read a Bible story and think about how nice and comforting it is.  Holy Writ contains many such incidents.  It also contains those parts that cause me discomfort.  Among these is the reading from Mark.  Mary and some “brethren,” who could be her children by Joseph (They were married, and presumably in love, so what is this theology of perpetual virginity?) are concerned about Jesus.  They do not understand Jesus, whose mental health they question.  Then Jesus says this family members are those who do the will of God.  Translation:  “My flesh and blood do not understand me, so I adopt you, who listen to me, as my family.  Ours is a spiritual kinship.”

I feel the need to make a disclaimer, out of complete honesty.  As I write these words, I sit adjacent to a corner Marian shrine.  I count six images of Mary (mostly three-dimensional) plus a two-dimensional image of Joseph with young Jesus.  I like the Holy Family.  Yet Mary, as great as she was (and continues to be), did not always understand her firstborn son.  Part of the credibility of many Bible stories flows from the unflattering portraits of sympathetic figures–in this case, Mary of Nazareth, Mother of God.

Through Jesus all of us can become members of the family of God.  Through his death and resurrection we have adoption and no need to fear the power of death and evil.  We are not alone, and the power of God is peerless.

Mithras was a deity of Persian origin.  Mythology stated that his sacrifice of a bull atoned for the sins of the world.  Mithras was also the God of the Sun, and his cult was a major competitor of early Christianity in the Roman Empire.  Adherents to Mithraism, a male cult popular with Roman soldiers, underwent baptism, swore to adhere to a strict moral code, and attended rituals similar to a Mass.  Yet Mithras never walked the face of the earth or had dinner at anybody’s house.  He was a figment of many imaginations.  And, as the author of Hebrews states plainly, the blood of bulls cannot take away sins.

We Christians follow the genuine article, not a figment of imaginations.  And we are, by grace and faith, spiritual family members of that genuine article.  Will we strive to be properly thankful children of God?  I hope so.  We can never repay God for grace, but we can develop a healthy relationship with God and follow that wherever it leads.


Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (January 18-25)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Barnabas Episcopal-Lutheran Worshiping Community, Jefferson City, Tennessee

(Their website is here:

Let Us Emphasize Our Common Ground and Build On It


From Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), the hymnal of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:

Isaiah 2:2-4

Psalm 122

Ephesians 4:1-6

John 17:15-23

God our Father, your Son Jesus Christ prayed that his followers might be one.  Make all Christians one with him as he is one with you, so that in peace and concord we may carry to the world the message of your love, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.


Now, for my thoughts….

We Christians have divided ourselves into competing theological and liturgical tribes since the earliest decades of the Jesus movement.  For confirmation of this, read the New Testament epistles.  Sometimes these divisions are silly or based on ego gratification.  Other times, however, the matters are weightier.  Yet the tragedy of schism remains, even after stated issues which people used to justify the schism have become moot points or ceased to points of contention.  Inertia preserves a high degree of divisiveness within Christianity.

Sometimes schisms remain insurmountable.  Yet this fact should not prevent Christians of good will from reaching across boundaries to identify and build upon common ground, to do something positive and for the glory of God together.  I do not expect the Anabaptists and Roman Catholics to reconcile, but they can cooperate.  Last Sunday afternoon I listened to a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio interview with a Mennonite pastor who maintains a close faith-based relationship with nearby Catholic monks, often praying with them.

And I believe that when two or more denominations cease to have good reasons to remain separate they should open negotiations to unite organically.  But when issues, such as baptismal theology, prevent a merger, the groups can still cooperate on other matters.  We Christians have more in common with each other than not.  May we build on that.


JUNE 11, 2010