Archive for the ‘January 26’ Category

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 Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Above:  An Exorcism

Image in the Public Domain

Idolatry and the Sovereignty of God

JANUARY 25-27, 2024


The Collect:

Compassionate God, you gather the whole universe into your radiant presence

and continually reveal your Son as our Savior.

Bring wholeness to all that is broken and speak truth to us in our confusion,

that all creation will see and know your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23


The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 3:23-29 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 12:28-32 (Friday)

Deuteronomy 13:1-5 (Saturday)

Psalm 111 (All Days)

Romans 9:6-18 (Thursday)

Revelation 2:12-17 (Friday)

Matthew 8:28-9:1 (Saturday)


The works of the Lord are great,

sought out by all who delight in them.

His work is full of majesty and honour

and his righteousness endures for ever.

–Psalm 111:2-3, Common Worship (2000)


We have a batch of overlapping and difficult passages these three days.  Some (such as Moses in Deuteronomy and a herd of swine in Matthew) suffer for the offenses of others.  People also suffer for their own sins in other passages of Scripture.  All of this falls under the heading of the sovereignty of God in Romans 9, in the theological style of God’s speech at the end of the book of Job.

I recognize the mystery of God and am content to leave many questions unanswered.  Comfort with uncertainty is consistent with my Anglican theology.  Nevertheless, I understand that the sovereignty of God can become something it is not supposed to be–a copout and a seemingly bottomless pit into which to pour one’s ignorance and prooftexting tendencies.  We should never use God to excuse slavery, genocide, sexism, homophobia, racism, and a host of other sins.  Whenever God seems to agree with us all of the time, we ought to know that we have created God in our own image.  We have forged an idol.  And God, according to the Hebrew Scriptures, disapproves of idolatry.










Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Fourth Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   7 comments


Above:  The Gleaners, by Jean-Francois Millet

Image in the Public Domain

Caring for Others

JANUARY 26-28, 2023


The Collect:

Holy God, you confound the world’s wisdom in giving your kingdom to the lowly and the pure in heart.

Give us such a hunger and thirst for justice, and perseverance in striving for peace,

that in our words and deeds we may see the life of your Son, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23


The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 16:18-20 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 24:17-25:4 (Friday)

Micah 3:1-4 (Saturday)

Psalm 15 (all days)

1 Peter 3:8-12 (Thursday)

1 Timothy 5:17-24 (Friday)

John 13:31-35 (Saturday)


Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle?

Who may abide upon your holy hill?

Those who lead a blameless life and do what is right,

who speak the truth from their heart;

they do not slander with the tongue,

they do no evil to their friends;

they do not cast discredit upon a neighbor.

In their sight the wicked are rejected,

but they honor those who fear the LORD.

They have sworn upon their health

and do not take back their word.

They do not give their money in hope of gain,

nor do they take bribes against the innocent.

Those who do these things shall never be overthrown.

–Psalm 15, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006)


The Law of Moses and other segments of the Bible speak of the responsibilities we humans have toward each other.  Authors thunder condemnations of judicial corruption and economic exploitation from the pages of the Bible.  And the Law of Moses provides culturally-specific applications of the universal, timeless standard to care for the less fortunate.  The texts for today offer examples of these generalizations.

Furthermore, those in authority are supposed to look out for the best interests of their people.  Often, however, many of them do not even try to do this.  Too often I read news stories of the vulnerable members of society suffering from cuts in government social programs as either

  1. no private sector agents step up to do the work as well or better,
  2. no private sector agents can do the work as well or better, or
  3. no private sector agents do the work, but not as effectively.

Something is terribly wrong and socially sinful when one or more of these scenarios is part of reality.  That which is most effective is the strategy I favor in any given case.  This is about ideology, not “please do not confuse me with the facts” ideology.

Perhaps the most difficult advice from the readings for these days is this:

Never repay one wrong with another, or one abusive word with another; instead, repay with a blessing.  That is what you are called to do, so that you inherit a blessing.

–1 Peter 3:9-10, The New Jerusalem Bible

We have all violated that rule, have we not?  The desire for revenge is natural yet wrong.  And the goal of having the last word might satisfy one in the short term yet does not help matters.  And, when forgiveness comes slowly, the desire to forgive might precede it.  Giving up one’s anger (even gradually) and the target(s) of it to God and moving on with life is a positive thing to do.  And praying for–not about–people can change the one who prays.  That is also good.

There is also the question of violence, which can prove to be complicated.  Sometimes, when the oppressors insist on continuing to oppress, the best way to deliver their victims is devastating to the perpetrators.  Yet, on other occasions, violence does not resolve the issue at hand and creates new problems instead.  It is often easier to make such distinctions with the benefit of hindsight, which, of course, does not exist in the heat of the moment of decision.  So I offer no easy one-size-fits-all formulas here, for none exist.  The best I can do is pray that those in authority will decide and behave wisely.

Yes, sometimes life offers a choice between just the bad and the worse.  In such cases I favor choosing the bad, for at least it is not worse.  The best we can do is all that anyone ought to expect of us.  And, if we strive to love one another as actively and effectively as possible, we are at least on the right track.









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 January 26 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Palestinian Barrier

Image Source = Marc Venezia

Of Walls, God, and Men

JANUARY 26, 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:

Zechariah 2:1-3:10/2:5-3:10

Psalm 122 (Morning)

Psalms 141 and 90 (Evening)

Romans 15:1-13


Jerusalem shall be peopled as a city without walls….

–Zechariah 2:8b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures



Zechariah 2:1 in Protesteant Bibles equals Zechariah 2:5 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox ones.


A city’s walls were supposed to defend it.  Thus a Jerusalem without walls would seem to be defenseless.  Yet, in Zechariah, God will defend the city.  Walls, as defensive technology, have proven lacking throughout history.  Invaders breached the Great Wall of China.  Constantinople fell in 1453 despite its walls.  The walls of Jericho could not survive an earthquake.  So I am with Zechariah; God is preferable to any wall.

Walls also provide convenient boundaries.  The city is on one side of the wall.  East Berlin was over here and West Berlin was over there, from the East German perspective.  Over here, from the Israeli angle, is the Jewish side of the West Bank; the Palestinian side is over there.  The other is over there, away from here–with a wall to separate them.

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offense.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That wants it down.

–Robert Frost, Mending Wall

Paul encouraged his readers at Rome to

Accept one another for the sake of God’s glory, as Christ accepted you.

–Romans 15:7, The New Jerusalem Bible

Walls work against that purpose.  God is preferable to any wall.






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 3 Epiphany: Friday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  David and Uriah the Hittite


JANUARY 26, 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.


2 Samuel 11:1-17 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

(In Chapters 8-10, David fights wars and shows kindness to Jonathan’s son.)

In the spring of the year, the time when the kings go forth to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah.  But David remained at Jerusalem.

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking upon the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful.  And David sent and inquired about the woman.  And one said,

Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?

So David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her.  (Now she was purifying herself form her uncleanness.)  Then she returned to her house.  And the woman conceived; and she sent and told David,

I am with child.

So David sent word to Joab.

Send me Uriah the Hittite.

When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab was doing, and how the people fared, and how the war prospered.  Then David said to Uriah,

Go down to your house, and wash your feet.

And Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king.  But Uriah slept  at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house.  When they told David,

Uriah did not go down to his house,

David said to Uriah,

Have you not come from a journey?  Why did you not go down to your house?

Uriah said to David,

The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife?  As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.

Then David said to Uriah,

Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will let you depart.

So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day, and the next.  And David invited him, and he ate in his presence and drank, so that he made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but did not go down to his house.

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah.  In the letter he wrote,

Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.

And as Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew there were valiant men.  And men of the city came out and fought with Joab; and some of the servants of David among the people fell.  Uriah the Hittite was slain also.

Psalm 51:1-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness;

in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

2 Wash me through and through from my wickedness

and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you only have I sinned

and done what is evil in your sight.

5 And so you are justified when you speak

and upright in your judgment.

Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth,

a sinner from my mother’s womb.

7 For behold, you look for truth deep within me,

and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure;

wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

Make me hear of joy and gladness,

that the body you have broken may rejoice.

10 Hide your face from my sins

and blot out all my iniquities.

Mark 4:26-34 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And he said,

The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how.  The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.  But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.

And he said,

With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it?  It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.


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:  Friday, Year 1:


The text from 2 Samuel 11 contains a euphemism.  To “wash one’s feet” was to have sexual relations.  In fact, there are other Old Testament euphemisms which speak outwardly of feet but refer really to genitals.  This information proves useful in understanding the story.

Quite simply, King David lusted after another man’s wife, Bathsheba, and got her pregnant.  The other man was Uriah the Hittite, a soldier deployed to the front lines of the current war.  David tried to cover up his sin by recalling Uriah and ordering him to have sexual relations with Bathsheba.  That way the birth of a baby would not create suspicion.  But Uriah obeyed a convention by which a soldier at war abstained from sexual intercourse.  The combination of Uriah’s nobility and David’s perfidy led to a battlefield murder of the soldier.

My mind casts back to 1 Samuel 8, when Samuel tells people that they really do not want a king to govern them.  Beginning in verse 11, he said:

These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you:  he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots.  He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.  He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants.  He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants.  He will take your menservants and maid servants, and the best of your cattle, and your donkeys, and put them to his work.  He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.  And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the LORD will not answer you in that day.

And that king will have the power to seduce a married woman, impregnate her, and order the killing of her husband, who, out of a sense of military nobility and loyalty to his fellow soldiers, does not play his part in the attempted royal cover-up.

Let that sink in.

This, however, is only part of the story.  For the next portion, read the post for Week of 3 Epiphany:  Saturday, Year 2.

For now, however, mourn Uriah the Hittite and all other innocent victims of violence, those who have died because they were inconvenient.  And, as opportunities present themselves to you, act nonviolently to aid such people, as you are able.


Week of 3 Epiphany: Thursday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:  Bronze Oil Lamp

Image Source = Rama

May Love and Encouragement Be Your Lamp Oils

JANUARY 26, 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 10:19-25 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see Day drawing near.

Psalm 24:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it,

the world and all who dwell therein.

2 For it is he who founded it upon the seas

and made it firm upon the rivers of the deep.

3 “Who can ascend to the hill of the LORD?

and who can stand in his holy place?”

4 “Those who have clean hands and a pure heart,

who have not pledged themselves to falsehood,

nor sworn by what is a fraud.

5 They shall receive a blessing from the LORD

and a just reward from the God of their salvation.”

6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,

of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob.

Mark 4:21-25 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And he said to them,

Is a lamp brought in to be put under a bushel, or under a bed, and not on a stand?  For there is nothing hidden, except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret, except to come to light.  If any man has ears to hear, let him hear.

And he said to them,

Take heed what you hear; the measure you get will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you.  For to him who has will more be given; and from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.


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.


Our English word “anger” (as a noun) dates to the 13th Century C.E.  It descends from angr, an Old Norse word meaning “distress, grief, affliction.”  This makes much sense.   Grief and a sense of injustice informs our anger, does it not?  It is also true that many actions we commit out of anger perpetuate injustice and cause others grief.  So the cycle continues, and one grievance feeds another.

This is not healthy.

Instead, I recommend following the advice from Hebrews 10:  “…let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works….”   What would society look like if more of us rejected all the advice to live off our resentments and fears, and put away anger as a perpetual motivating source?  Talk radio would have to change, for fear mongers would have lower ratings.  Alleged cable news channels would have to change their programming for the same reason.  There would be less shouting filling the airwaves.  This all sounds very appealing to me.

May I share a nugget of wisdom I have learned from living?  Okay, here it is:  Anger can prove to be a helpful motivating factor in the short term.  It is, however, corrosive after that.  Anger helped keep me going for four months in 2007, during a time of persecution by an agent of the State of Georgia.  Surrender would have been an effective short-term fix, but I refused to give into that so-and-so.  I was not going to make his job any less difficult.  I learned, however, that I needed to abandon that anger after it had done its job.

Today I have a low threshold for anger tolerance.  Anger disturbs me, especially when I find it within myself.  I do not want to consume any media source or spend much time around anyone filled with anger.  I have had my fill.

Still, much of the multimedia world is replete with people who have lived and profited financially off anger for years and decades.  I don’t know that they would do if they had to air positive programming.  And I presume that large proportions of their audiences are angry, too.

There is too much anger in the world.  There will be will be less of it when more of us devote ourselves to stirring each other to love and good works, encouraging one another in this direction.  This I strive to do.  May you do likewise, or continue to do so.  I pray that this will be one of your lamps on a stand as you go through life.

And may the peace of God be with you always.