Archive for the ‘January 13’ Category

Devotion for the First Sunday After the Epiphany, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The River Jordan

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-03260

Faithful Servants of God, Part I

JANUARY 13, 2019


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


Isaiah 42:1-9

Psalm 29

Philippians 3:4b-14

Matthew 3:13-17


The Book of Isaiah includes Servant Songs, the first of which is our first reading.  Biblical scholars have long pondered the identity of the servant.  Some see a prophecy of Christ, baptized in Matthew 3:13-17.  In real time, from the temporal perspective of Deutero-Isaiah, perhaps the best guess is that the servant is the personification of the Jews–the chosen people of God.

Recently, while browsing the extensive books section of a local thrift store, I saw a volume entitled How to Find God.  The author of that book was seriously mistaken, for we do not find God.  Rather, God finds us.  It has always been true that God, in whom is our only proper boast, is our strength and shield.  It has always been true that God’s call has imposed upon the recipients of (free) grace certain obligations, such as working for justice.  It has always been true that we, working with others, can be more effective in purposes (noble and otherwise) than when laboring in solitude.

“What is God calling me to do?” is a valid question.  A greater query is, “What is God calling us to do?”  May we identify and labor faithfully in that work, and succeed, by grace.






Devotion for Wednesday After the First Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Crown of Thorns

Above: Crown of Thorns

Image in the Public Domain

Exile, Grief, and Faith

JANUARY 13, 2021


The Collect:

Holy God, creator of light and giver of goodness, your voice moves over the waters.

Immerse us in your grace, and transform us by your Spirit,

that we may follow after your Son, 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 22


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 41:14-20

Psalm 69:1-5, 30-36

John 1:29-34


As for me, I am afflicted and in pain;

your help, O God, will lift me up on high.

–Psalm 69:31, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


Many Jews lived in exile in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire at the time of Isaiah 41.  Texts from that time tended to look forwward to the post-Exilic era and describe as being better than it turned out to be.  The land was never as verdant as the economy was never as good as the prophesies promised.  And  most of that post-Exilic era was one of foreign occupation.  Thus, at the time of Jesus, many Palestinian Jews had a sense of living as exiles in their homeland.

Exile is a state many people know.  It might be a literal, geographical reality or a spiritual one.  Nevertheless, the sense of not being at home (at least fully) is difficult.  I have been a spiritual exile, for example.  If I ever have to live in some places, I will become one again.  I wish only the best for those dealing with exile in any form.  They have my sympathy at least; others have my empathy.

Fortunately, all of us can call upon Jesus, the Lamb of God, who can empathize with us.  He is kinder than many of our fellow human beings, including a host of those who claim to follow him.  So I invite you, O reader, not to permit the failings of Christians to detract you from following Christ, who has borne griefs, suffered, and emerged triumphant.  I have no easy answers about failed prophesies and persistent grief, so I offer none.  If I did have them, they would be worthless anyway.  Yet I embrace the lack of a firm answer I can grasp as I seek to follow Jesus.  Maybe I will ask the difficult questions of God in the afterlife.

My conclusion, O reader, is that knowledge dies not bring anyone salvation.  If it did, the Gnostics would be correct.  No, what we do not know outweighs what we know and can know.  Will we trust God enough to follow Jesus through the wilderness of our ignorance, doubts, and grief?








A Franciscan Blessing:



Devotion for Monday After the First Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments


Above:  Bethel, Between 1898 and 1914

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-11380

Including the Faithful Others

JANUARY 13, 2020


The Collect:

O God our Father, at the baptism of Jesus you proclaimed him your beloved Son

and anointed him with the Holy Spirit.

Make all who are baptized into Christ faithful to their calling

to be your daughters and sons,

and empower us with your Spirit,

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 22


The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 35:1-15

Psalm 89:5-37

Acts 10:44-48


Happy are the people who know the shout of triumph:

they walk, O Lord, in the light of your countenance.

In your name they rejoice all the day long

and are exalted in your righteousness.

For you are the glory of their strength,

and in your favour you lift up our heads.

Truly the Lord is our shield;

the Holy One of Israel is our king.

–Psalm 89:13-18, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)


Faithfulness to God does not depend upon one’s cultural or ethnic heritage.  In the Bible alone many Gentiles proved faithful and a host of Hebrews did not, just as many Hebrews proved faithful and a plethora of Gentiles did not.  Sometimes the faithless and the faithful were the same people.

The Book of Genesis, being composed of sources edited together, contains a number of doublets.  There are, for example, two sets of instructions regarding the number of animals to take aboard Noah’s Ark, two creation stories, and two versions of how Jacob became Israel.  The more famous one–the wrestling match—occurs in Chapter 32.  In Chapter 35, however, Jacob becomes Israel after he erects an altar to God at Bethel and buries the idols of the members of his household.  Jacob had been a trickster whom others had tricked.  Yet he became a great instrument of God.

One of the major issues in the New Testament is the proper relationship of the Law of Moses to Gentiles.  St. Paul the Apostle dealt with it.  And so did St. Simon Peter, through whom the household of St. Cornelius the Centurion came to God.  This major issue was one of identity for Jews and Gentiles alike.  My position is that one ought never to maintain one’s identity by excluding others whom one should include.

This is a devotional post for early in the Season after Epiphany, a time to think about the proclamation of the Incarnation of God to the Gentiles.  I am a Gentile, so I owe much gratitude to St. Simon Peter, St. Paul the Apostle, and those who followed in their footsteps.  Yet I face my own spiritual challenge–to welcome those whom, out of misplaced piety, I might exclude improperly.  May you, O reader, and I follow where our spiritual forebears have trod faithfully.









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 13 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Above:  The Prophet Ezekiel

The Necessity of Theological Humility

JANUARY 13, 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 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:

Ezekiel 36:13-28

Psalm 19 (Morning)

Psalms 81 and 113 (Evening)

Romans 4:1-25


…for the Law produces nothing but God’s retribution, and it is only where there is no Law that it is possible to live without breaking the Law….

–Romans 4:15, The New Jerusalem Bible


The portrayal of God in Ezekiel 36:13-28 is interesting.  There we read, the prophet tells us, in God’s own words, that God had punished the rebellious Hebrews according to their deeds, even permitting foreigners to conquer them and to take many of them into exile.  All of this was in exchange for violations of the Law of Moses.  Yet many foreigners used the defeat of the Hebrews to consider Yahweh weak, unable to prevent the stages of the Babylonian Exile.

The previous sentence requires a brief explanation.  A common assumption in the ancient Middle East was that each nation had its own deities.  So the defeat of Nation A by Nation B indicated, in the minds of many, the greater power of Nation B’s deities.  In this case, it indicated, in the minds of many, the weakness of Yahweh.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming….

So, according to Ezekiel, many people interpreted God’s power as weakness.  Yet they were wrong.  Paul’s comments about the Law in Romans fit well here; where there is Law, there is retribution.  Anyhow, as the prophet explained, God (Yahweh) was about to act to restore the Hebrews geographically and spiritually.  And this would boost not only them but God’s reputation among foreigners.

I consider that my judgments are subject to human flaws and that understandings of God in the Bible exist according to time and authors, but I do offer a thought:  God comes across as selfish in Ezekiel 36:13-28 and as more generous in Romans 4.  Yet I do not pretend to have perfect knowledge, so consider the source.  Our understandings of God are partial at best; may we approach God with all due theological humility.








First Sunday after the Epiphany: The Baptism of Our Lord, Year C   4 comments

Above:  The Holy Spirit as a Dove

Receive the Holy Spirit

JANUARY 13, 2019


Isaiah 43:1-7 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob,

he who formed you, O Israel:

Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by name, you are mine.

When you pass through the waters I will be with you;

and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,

and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the LORD your God,

the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

I give Egypt as your ransom,

Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.

Because you are precious in my eyes,

and honored, and I love you,

I give men in return for you,

peoples in exchange for your life.

Fear not, for I am with you;

I will bring your offspring from the east,

and from the west I will gather you;

I will say to the north, Give up,

and o the south, Do not withhold;

bring my sons from afar

and my daughters from the end of the earth,

every one who is called by my name,

whom I have created for my glory,

whom I formed and made.

Psalm 29 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Ascribe to the LORD, you gods,

ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;

worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.

3 The voice of the LORD is upon the waters;

the God of glory thunders;

the LORD is mighty upon the waters.

4 The voice of the LORD is a powerful voice;

the voice of the LORD is a voice of splendor.

The voice of the LORD breaks the cedar trees;

the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon;

6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,

and Mount Hermon like a young wild ox.

The voice of the LORD splits the flames of fire;

the voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;

the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of the LORD makes the oak trees writhe

and strips the forest bare.

9 And in the temple of the LORD

all are crying, “Glory!”

10 The LORD sits enthroned above the flood;

the LORD sits enthroned as King for evermore.

11 The LORD shall give strength to his people;

the LORD shall give his people the blessing of peace.

Acts 8:14-17 (Revised English Bible):

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent off Peter and John, who went down there and prayed for the converts, asking that they might receive the Holy Spirit.  Until then the Spirit had not come upon any of them, they had been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus, that and nothing more.  So Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

As the people were in expectation, all men questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Christ.  John answered them all,

I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming; the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven,

You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.

The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Baptism of Jesus:  Prayers:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Confession:

Prayer of Dedication:

When Jesus Came to Jordan:


Water can be threatening.  People have drowned in it.  Sometimes water has flooded, causing great devastation.  Yet water is essential to life; those who dwell in the desert know this well.  An insufficient supply of drinkable water causes death, but too much water can have the same effect.  Yet just enough is healthy.

And water played a vital role in the history of the Jews.  The passage through the Sea of Reeds during the Exodus from Egypt marked the birth of the Hebrew nation.  Episcopal baptismal rituals refer to the Exodus, for in water we have a potent symbol of life, physical and spiritual.

…and the flame will not consume you,

we read in the context of promised divine protection in Isaiah 43:2b.  Fire is also an image for the Holy Spirit, said (in lovely poetic language) to have descended upon Jesus

in bodily form like a dove

(Luke 3:22a).  Fire is also either helpful or harmful, depending on the context.  But the proverbial fire of the Holy Spirit is positive.  As a High Churchy Episcopalian I understand the Holy Spirit differently than do Pentecostals and Charismatics, so I will try to express my concept clearly.  The Holy Spirit, one third of the Trinity (however that works) is how God works on Earth in the here and now.  It is how God speaks to us today.  And God speaks to many people in different ways.

However God speaks to each of us, may all of us receive the Holy Spirit. And, if or when one manner of receiving it differs  from another, so be it.








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 2020-2021, 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 1 Epiphany: Monday, Year 2   10 comments

Above:  Elkanah and His Wives, from the Masters of Utrecht, Circa 1430

Love, Dignity, and Stigma

JANUARY 13, 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 Samuel 1:1-8 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephraimite.  He had two wives; the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other was Peninnah.  And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the LORD of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the LORD.  On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Penninah his wife and to all her sons and daughters; and, although he loved Hannah, he would give Hannah only one portion, because the LORD had closed her womb.  So it went on year by year; as often she went up to the house of the LORD, she used to provoke her.  Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat.  And Elkanah, her husband, said to her,

Hannah, why do you weep?  And why do you not eat?  And why is your heart sad?  Am I not more to you than ten sons?

Psalm 116:10-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

10 How shall I repay the LORD

for all the good things he has done for me?

11 I will lift up the cup of salvation

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

12 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

13 Precious in the sight of the LORD

is the death of his servants.

14 O LORD, I am your servant;

I am your servant and the child of your handmaid;

you have freed me from my bonds.

15 I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

16 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

17 In the courts of the LORD’s house,

in the midst of you, O Jerusalem.


Mark 1:14-20 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying,

The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.

And passing along by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen.  And Jesus said to them,

Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.

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


The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Week of 1 Epiphany:  Monday, Year 1:



As a Christian in 2011, I understand my immortality to be spiritual.  So I am not the least worried about the fact that I am childless.  In fact, childlessness has been my choice, for I dislike the company of young children.  Had I lived in the time of Elkanah, Peninnah, and Hannah, however, I would certainly have thought differently.  As The Abingdon Bible Commentary (1929) says on page 384,

In ancient Hebrew thought childlessness was the greatest disaster that could overtake a family; it involved annihilation for the family-soul in which all members of the family, past and present, participate.

Elkanah (literally “God has possessed”) had married two women, Peninnah (“Pearl”) and Hannah (“Grace”).  Peninnah was the mother of his children, but he loved Hannah in a way he did not love his other wife.  Elkanah’s family-soul immortality was assured, thanks to Peninnah’s fecundity, but what about Hannah? Social mores meant that her childlessness lowered her status.

There was a ritual animal sacrifice at Shiloh, followed by a communal feast upon the parts not offered to God.   Depending on how one interprets the Hebrew text in 1:5, Elkanah either gave Hannah a double portion gladly–out of love–or just one portion–regretfully, for he loved her.  His love for Hannah is the main point of that passage; the amount of the portion of the animal is an issue for Hebrew Bible scholars to discuss among themselves.

Hannah, feeling stress, fed by hostility from Peninnah, wept and did not eat as much as her husband thought she should.  Given her circumstances, this was predictable.

The Canadian Anglican lectionary I am following will continue this story in the next day’s readings.  It is sufficed to say that Hannah does have a child–and a great one at that.

For today, however, I leave you, O reader, with a few questions.

  1. Who in your midst is suffering because of stigma?
  2. Do you buy into that stigma?
  3. How can you help this (these) suffering person (persons)?


Week of 1 Epiphany: Wednesday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:  Temptations of Jesus, from St. Mark’s, Venice

Jesus, Who Identifies With Us

JANUARY 13, 2021


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 2:14-18 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Since therefore the children share in the flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.  For surely it is not with angels that he is concerned but with the descendants of Abraham.  Therefore he had to be made like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people.  For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.

Psalm 105:1-15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of all his marvelous works.

3 Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

4 Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

6 O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

7 He is the LORD our God;

his judgments prevail in all the world.

8 He has always been mindful of his covenant,

the promise he made for a thousand generations;

9 The covenant he made with Abraham,

the oath he swore to Isaac,

10  Which he established as a statute for Jacob,

an everlasting covenant for Israel,

11 Saying, “To you will I give the land of Canaan,

to be your allotted inheritance.”

12 When they were few in number,

of little account, and sojourners in the land,

13 Wandering from nation to nation

and from one kingdom to another,

14 He let no one oppress them

and rebuked kings for their sake,

15 Saying, “Do not touch my anointed

and do my prophets no harm.”

Above:  Ruins of Capernaum

Image Source = David Shankbone

Mark 1:29-39 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And immediately he left the synagogue, and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.  Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told him of her.  And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her; and she served them.

That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.  And the whole city was gathered together about the door.  And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak because they knew him.

And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.  And Simon and those who were with him followed him, and they found him and said to him,

Every one is searching for you.

And he said to them,

Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out.

And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Below:  A Map of Galilee During Roman Times


The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.


If you have been paying sufficient attention to certain details, you have noticed that the readings from Mark and Hebrews have been sequential; one follows another according to chapter and verse.  Much of the value of a lectionary resides in this pattern.  I find more value in following a lectionary by identifying common threads in different readings assigned for the same day.  Among the greatest errors in biblical interpretation is reading a text outside of context, literary or historical.

Parts of the readings for this day, although prose by form, are more like poetry.  They communicate great truth without containing historical and scientific accuracy.  Writing from the context of 2010, I know the biological and psychosocial causes and contributing factors of physical diseases and mental illnesses.  Demonic possession is not among them.  Remember though, that the people of Jesus’ day had no way of knowing what I do.  They did the best with what they had.  And Jesus worked within that context.

Our Lord and Savior cared deeply for people, with whom he identified.  Indeed, as the author of Hebrews informs us, Jesus is able to help us through temptation because he knows how powerful that force is.  Temptation is a mighty force.  You know this at least as well as I do.  It is important, I think, to know the difference between the imperative to ask forgiveness and to repent and the unhelpful practice of being unduly self-critical.  We are all broken; God knows this.  We need to recognize our brokenness, take it to Jesus, and leave it there.  Beating up on ourselves, literally or spiritually, accomplishes no good purpose.

I have known powerful and deep anger.  My cause has been just, and the actions of my foes have been perfidious in consequences, if not intentions.  (I have insufficient information to evaluate their intentions, but the consequences of their actions are obvious to me.)  I have learned also that even righteous anger is too heavy a burden to carry for long.  My burden is fading away, by grace.  In time, it will cease to exist, also by grace.  My sin (which continues as I write this devotional) is not having forgiven my foes, who will remain unnamed in this post.  I am weak; Jesus is strong.  Jesus can cast out my figurative demons of rage at injustice and of any desire to cling to righteous indignation.  That power is my only hope.