Archive for the ‘January 27’ Category

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

Above:  Ministry of the Apostles

Image in the Public Domain

Faithful Servants of God, Part III

JANUARY 27, 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


Ecclesiastes 1:2-18 or Ezekiel 11:14-20

Psalm 3

Galatians 2:1-13

Matthew 4:12-25


If one begins to read Ecclesiastes and gives up quickly, one might mistake the theme of the book to be that all is futility and vanity.  One might ask,

Why bother doing anything?

If, however, one keeps reading and pays attention, one will arrive at the précis of the book, present at its conclusion, in 12:13-14:  The duty of a human being is to stand in awe of God and keep divine commandments, for God is the judge of everything, whether good or evil.

That ethic is consistent with Ezekiel 11:14-20 and Psalm 3.  Fidelity to God does not ensure a life full of ease, wine, ad roses, but it is one’s duty.  It is the duty to which Jesus, who called his Apostles, continues to call people and for which the Holy Spirit continues to equip the saints.

Sometimes, however, in the name of obeying God, well-meaning people establish or maintain barriers to would-be faithful people who are different.  This segue brings me to the reading from Galatians and to the question of circumcising Gentile male converts to Christianity.  On one level it is a matter of a commandment as old as the time of Abraham.  On another level it is a question of identity.  On yet another level it is, for many, a matter of obedience to God.

For St. Paul the Apostle it was a stumbling block to Gentiles.  He was correct.  Fortunately, St. Paul won that debate.

Fidelity to God is supposed to help others come to God, not to make that more difficult than it is already.  May we who follow Christ never be guilty of standing between God and other people.






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

Jesus and His Apostles

Above:  Jesus and His Apostles

Image in the Public Domain

The Call of God, Part IV

JANUARY 27, 2021


The Collect:

Almighty God, by grace alone you call us and accept us in your service.

Strengthen us by your Spirit, and make us worthy of your call,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23


The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 8:1-21

Psalm 46

Mark 3:13-19a


The Lord of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

–Psalm 46:7, Common Worship (2000)


One understanding of divine wisdom in the Bible is that it became part and parcel of Jesus, the incarnated Logos of God, per John 1.  That thought fills my mind as I read from Proverbs 8.  The cry to all humankind filled the preaching of Christ’s Apostles.  It echoes down the corridors of time.

I wonder how many of those men would have followed Jesus had they known what awaited them.  One became disappointed in Jesus, whom he betrayed before committing suicide.  Ten became martyrs.  The twelfth lived to a ripe old age and died in exile.  Will we also follow Jesus?  Will we become disappointed in him then betray him somehow also?  Might we face danger and perhaps die for the faith we profess?  If we knew what awaited us from the beginning of our walk with Christ, would we have accepted the invitation?

Sometimes wisdom literature of the Hebrew Bible promises prosperity as a reward for faithfulness to God.  Such passages lead to Prosperity Theology, a heresy.  Often, actually, fidelity to God leads to hardship.  As Proverbs 8, verse 19 states that the fruits of wisdom are superior to fine gold and verse 21 says that any financial reward for faithfulness will be honest wealth.  There is an offset to Prosperity Theology in that pericope.

May we follow God in Christ wherever the path leads.  If we become disappointed, may we realize that the fault resides within us, not God.










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 27-29, 2020


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.







Devotion for January 27 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   9 comments

Above:  The Conversion of St. Paul, by Luca Giordano

Awe, Terror, and Wonder

JANUARY 27, 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:

Zechariah 4:1-5:11

Psalm 110 (Morning)

Psalms 66 and 23 (Evening)

Romans 15:14-33


Some Related Posts:

A Franciscan Blessing:

Lord, It is Night:

Memories at a Moving Sale for a Friend:



Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit–said the LORD of Hosts.

–Zechariah 4:6c, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


Come now and see the works of God,

how wonderful he is in his doing toward all people.

–Psalm 66:4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


O come and see what the Lord has done:

what God has wrought in terror among all people.

–Psalm 66:4, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)


Come and see the works of God,

who is held in awe by men for His acts.

–Psalm 66:5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


Come and see the marvels of God,

his awesome deeds for the children of Adam….

–Psalm 66:5, The New Jerusalem Bible


I begin my preparations for each post in this series by reading the assigned lessons.  Usually something–a word, phrase, clause, or sentence–stands out in my mind.  Such was the case with Zechariah 6:4c.  Set in the aftermath of the Babylonian Exile, the rebuilding of the Temple and of Jerusalem seemed unlikely.  In fact, certain people attempted to prevent the reconstruction.  But they failed–not by human efforts alone, although those proved crucial–but more so by the power of God.  There were human instruments of God at work.

Another verse attracted my attention–so much so that I have provided it in four translations.  Psalm 66:4/5 (depending on the versification system) speaks of the awe/wonder/terror of God.  Consider, O reader, these words from Isaac Watts (1705 and 1719) and altered by John Wesley (also in the 1700s):

Before Jehovah’s awful throne,

Ye nations, bow with sacred joy;

Know that the Lord is God alone,

He can create, and He destroy;

He can create, and He destroy.

The Hymnal (1933), of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (1869-1958)

Word meanings change over time.  “Awful” means “extremely bad” to most English speakers today.  Yet its original definition was “awe-inspiring,” a word which the Encarta World English Dictionary defines as

impressive as to make a person feel humble or slightly afraid.

Likewise,  “terrible” has a variety of meanings, most of them negative.  “Very serious or severe” is one of those.  Yet the word can also mean “formidable.”  The Old French root for “terrible” derives from the Latin verb meaning “to frighten.”

Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles, had a frightening–terrible, by one definition–encounter with God.  And he succeeded in his mission by divine aid, overcoming the forces of might and power arrayed against him.  The word “awesome” has become trite in my North American culture.  Yet I use that word in its most profound sense here:  The works of God are awesome.  They are formidable.  They are awe-inspiring.  They are wonderful.

I have witnesses that power and those works in the lives of others as well as in my life.  As I type these words I am watching that power from a distance as it works in the life of one for whom I care very much.  I am glad to say honestly that I was an instrument of that power in a particular way at a certain time.  And I might be such an instrument in her life again.  One lesson I have learned is that hope is always alive in God.









Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C   10 comments

Above:  A Jail Cell

Image Source = Andrew Bardwell

The Law of Liberation

JANUARY 27, 2019


Nehemiah 8:1-12 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

When the seventh month arrived–the Israelites being [settled] in their towns–the entire people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the scroll of the Teaching of Moses with which the LORD had charged Israel.  On the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the high priest brought the Teaching before the congregation, men and women and all who could listen with understanding.  He read from it, facing the square before the Water Gate, from the first light until midday, to the men and the women and those who could understand; the ears of all the people were given to the scroll of the Teaching.

Ezra the scribe stood upon a wooden tower made for the purpose, and beside hm stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah at his right, and at his left Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, Meshullam.  Ezra opened the scroll in the sight of all the people; the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people; as he opened it, all the people stood up.  Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” with hands upraised.  Then they bowed their hands and prostrated themselves before the LORD with their faces to the ground.  Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites explained the Teaching to the people, while the people stood in their places.  They read from the scroll of the Teaching of God, translating it and giving the sense; so they understood the reading.

Nehemiah the Tirshatha, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites, who were explaining to the people said to all the people,

This day is holy to the LORD your God:  you must not mourn or weep,

for all the people were weeping as they listened to the words of the Teaching.  He further said to them,

Go, eat choice foods and drink sweet drinks and send portions to whoever has nothing prepared, for the day is holy to our Lord.  Do not be sad, for your rejoicing in the LORD is the source of your strength.

The Levites were quieting the people, saying,

Hush, for the day is holy; do not be sad.

Then all the people went to eat and drink and send portions and make great merriment, for they understood the things they were told.

Psalm 19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the firmament shows his handiwork.

2  One day tells its tale to another,

and one night imparts knowledge to another.

3  Although they have no words or language,

and their voices are not heard,

4  Their sound has gone out into all lands,

and their message to the ends of the world.

5  In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun;

it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;

it rejoices like a champion to run its course.

6  It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens

and runs about to the end of it again;

nothing is hidden from its burning heat.

7 The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures forever;

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends?

cleanse me from my secret faults.

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;

let them not get dominion over me;

then shall I be whole and sound,

and innocent of a great offense.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a (New Revised Standard Version):

Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say,

Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,

that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say,

Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,

that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand,

I have no need of you,

nor again the head to the feet,

I have no need of you.

On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts.

Luke 4:14-21 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Jesus, with the power of the Spirit in him, returned to Galilee; and his reputation spread throughout the countryside.  He taught in their synagogues and everyone glorified him.

He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day as he usually did.  He stood up to read, and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord is upon me,

for he has anointed me

to bring the good news to the afflicted.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives,

sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord.

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down.  And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him.  Then he began to speak to them,

The text is being fulfilled today even while you are listening.

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:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Confession:

Prayer of Dedication:


When I saw the citation for the Nehemiah reading (8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10) in the Revised Common Lectionary, I wondered why it omitted verses 4 and 7.  Then I read the text.  Verses 4 and 7 tell us the names of the people on the platform.  Nehemiah 8:1-10 had been one of the dreaded readings in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer lectionary before The Episcopal Church adopted the Revised Common Lectionary.  The reason for dread was simple:  the names!  Lectors I heard tackle it usually substituted something like

and some other people

for the names and moved along.  And they did not miss any theological point.  The framers of the Revised Common Lectionary did a good deed.  For the purposes of this post, all the names are there because I found a post where I had typed the entire reading.  So I just copied and pasted from my previous work.

The Law of Moses, when applied properly, was about liberating people, not imposing needless burdens on them, unless one considers being stoned for a variety of offenses, including touching a pigskin, committing blasphemy (however people defined that), cursing one’s parents, and engaging in premarital sexual relations necessary burdens.  (I have a mixed view of the Law of Moses.)  Applications of the Law to which Jesus objected including stoning people to death for adultery.  The incidents reported most often in the canonical Gospels, however, pertain to practices which favored the wealthy–those with enough money and leisure time to do certain things just do–and penalized the majority, the poor, who, because of their finances, could not do so.  Liberation of several sorts was on our Lord’s mind.  Next week’s Gospel lesson will will finish the incident at Nazareth, telling of our Lord’s rejection there.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

Psalm 19:7-8, from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer translation, tells us that

The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The people of Christ are the body of Christ, Paul tells us.  Each person is therefore a different part of that body.  All are necessary because of, not in spite of, their differences.  Since the parts of Christ’s body need each other, suffering and rejoicing are collective.  And we cannot build up the body by stoning parts of it.  The Law of God–the Law of Liberation–revives the soul and is just.  It sets the captives free.  That is part of our work as Christians:  to love people, to seek what is best for them.  May we recognize what that entails in our circumstances, by grace.






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: Monday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  An Orthodox Icon of David

Honesty about Heroes

JANUARY 27, 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.


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.


Week of 3 Epiphany: Wednesday, Year 1   17 comments

Above:  Landscape with the Parable of the Sower, by Peter Bruegel the Elder, 1557

Let Us Avoid Shallow Faith and Nurture Spiritual Maturity

JANUARY 27, 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 10:11-18 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, then to wait until his enemies should be made a stool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.  And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

This is the covenant that I will make with them

after those days, says the Lord:

I will put my laws on their hearts,

and write them on their minds,

then he adds,

I will remember their sins and their misdeeds no more.

Where there is forgiveness for these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Psalm 110:1-4 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand,

until I make your enemies your footstool.”

2 The LORD will send the scepter of your power out of Zion,

saying, “Rule over your enemies round about you.

3 Princely state has been yours from the day of your birth;

in the beauty of holiness have I begotten you,

like dew from the womb of the morning.

4 The LORD has sworn and he will not recant;

“You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.”

Mark 4:1-20 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And he began to teach beside the sea.  And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and at in it on the sea; and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land.  And he taught them in  parables, and in his teaching he said to them:

Listen!  A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it.  Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it had not much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil; and when the sun rose it was scorched, and since it had no root it withered away.  Other seed fell among thorns and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.  And other seeds fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.

And he said,

He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

And when he was alone, those who were about him with the Twelve asked him concerning the parables.  And he said to them,

To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables; so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn again, and be forgiven.

And he said to them,

Do you understand this parable?  How then will you understand all the parables?  The sower sows the word.  And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown; when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word which is sown in them.  And these in like manner are the ones sown upon rocky ground, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.  And others are the ones sown among thorns; they are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world, and the delight in riches, and the desire for other things, enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.  But those that were sown among the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.


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.


Often I hear people far to my right speak of how the United States used to a Christian nation.  I do not know whereof they speak.  This was never a Christian nation–certainly not when we had chattel slavery or de jure racial segregation.  There was a time, however, when knowledge of the Bible was more common than is true today in North America.  This decline in biblical knowledge is partially the responsibility of churches, but mostly the fault of people within their homes.  Parents are the first teachers of their children, and people need to correct this and other social issues household by household.  Societal institutions wrestle with the problems that emerge from homes, and to place too much blame on the institutions is to miss the point.

Occasionally I read about a new poll which reveals how uninformed most Americans are about religion.  Actually, many Atheists are some the people best informed about religion, but many regular church goers are woefully ignorant of the Bible and their own traditions.  Many Protestants do not know of the pivotal role of Martin Luther and a high proportion of Mass-attending Roman Catholics do not know their church teaches transubstantiation of the bread and wine.  Many conversations I have had over the years have revealed evidence which confirms these findings.  I have met staunch Southern Baptists who did not know they were Protestants, Protestants who had never heard of Martin Luther, and people who claimed to read the Bible daily yet could not name one biblical king.

These unsettling facts came to mind as I read and typed the Parable of the Sower.  And, while attempting (and hopefully succeeding) in refraining from judging others, I propose that, unless one knows what one believes (trusts in), one does not believe.  One might assent vaguely to something a pastor or friend or family member said, but one does not believe something unless one grasps it first.

When I was an adolescent, I began to examine seriously what I claimed to believe.  I discovered that I gave mere lip service to most of it.  Since then I have been on a continuous spiritual voyage of self-examination.  If I do not trust (a better translation of “believe” in Greek), I do not claim to believe.  At least I can be intellectually honest in these matters.  And I have changed my mind, with the option of reverting to an earlier conclusion.  I am, by some standards, a heretic, although I am really more orthodox than many might suspect.  But there is no canonical examination to pass before entering Heaven, so my opinion of Single Predestination is irrelevant to salvation.  Nevertheless, it is important that I know what I believe, and why I believe it.

To borrow a line from St. Patrick, as Cecil Frances Alexander translated it, “salvation is of Christ the Lord”  (“I Bind Unto Myself Today,” Hymn #370, The Hymnal 1982).  This I have believed.  This I continue to believe.  This has sunk deeply into my essence and informed my thoughts and actions.  My parents planted this seed of the word of God within me, and the plant has yielded much.  And I know why I believe, although sometimes words fail me.  By grace, I believe and know why.  If I am a heretic, I am least a faithful one within the household of God.