Archive for the ‘1 Corinthians 2’ Tag

Devotion for the Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Moses

Image in the Public Domain

Mutuality in God

FEBRUARY 12, 2023


According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)


Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Psalm 119:1-16

1 Corinthians 2:6-13

Matthew 5:20-37


Lord God, mercifully receive the prayers of your people. 

Help us to see and understand the things we ought to do,

and give us grace and power to do them;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 16


O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers

of your people who call upon you,

and grant that they may understand the things they ought to do

and also may have grace and strength to accomplish them;

through Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 27


Culturally-specific examples make timeless principles applicable, in context.  Outside of that context, the culturally-specific examples may seem confusing and may not apply.  Yet the timeless principles remain.  When reading any Biblical text, the question of context(s) is always relevant.  Knowing the difference between a timeless principle and a culturally-specific example thereof is essential.

Consider the reading from Matthew 5, for example, O reader.

  1. “Raca,” or “fool,” was an extremely strong insult.  We have counterparts in our contemporary cultures; these counterparts are unsuitable for quoting in a family-friendly weblog. How we think and speak of others matters.
  2. Divorce and remarriage, in well-to-do families, consolidated landholding, thereby taking advantage of deeply indebted families.  Such practices endangered societal and familial cohesion.  Some divorces are necessary, especially in cases of domestic violence and emotional abuse.  The innocent parties deserve happiness afterward, do they not?  I support them receiving that happiness.  Yet modern practices that endanger societal and familial cohesion exist.

The Gospel of Matthew makes clear that Jesus affirmed the Law of Moses.  He favored Torah piety.  Jesus also opposed those who taught the Torah badly.  Deuteronomy 30 and Psalm 119 taught Torah piety, too.  St. Paul the Apostle admitted that the Law of Moses was good.  His objection after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, was that Judaism was not Christianity, not that it was legalistic.  For St. Paul, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus changed everything.

We have now received not the spirit of the world but the Spirit of God himself, so that we can understand something of God’s generosity towards us.

–1 Corinthians 2:12, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

In your context, O reader, what does God’s generosity require you to do?  Returning to Matthew 5 (among other Biblical texts), God orders that we–collectively and individually–treat others properly.  How we think of them influences how we behave toward them, inevitably.

May we–you, O reader, and I–as well as our communities, cultures, societies, et cetera–in the words of Deuteronomy 30:19, choose life.  May we choose proper piety.  May we acknowledge and accept our complete dependence on God.  May we practice mutuality.  May we love one another selflessly.





Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA



Devotion for the Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Homeless (1890), by Thomas Kennington

Image in the Public Domain

Mutuality in God

FEBRUARY 5, 2023


According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)


Isaiah 58:5-9a

Psalm 112 (LBW) or Psalm 119:17-24 (LW)

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

Matthew 5:13-20


Almighty God, you sent your only Son

as the Word of life for our eyes to see and our ears to listen. 

Help us to believe with joy what the Scriptures proclaim,

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 16


O God, our loving Father, through the grace of your Holy Spirit,

you plant your gifts of your love

into the hearts of your faithful people. 

Grant to your servants soundness of mind and body,

so that they may love you with their whole strength

and with their whole heart do these things

that are pleasing in your sight;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 26


In various contexts, from different times, the Bible proclaims a consistent message:  God cares deeply how people treat each other.  God commands care for the vulnerable and weak.  This message is not merely for individuals.  Rather, it is usually collective.

The context of Isaiah 58:5-9a is instructive.  That context was Jerusalem, circa 538 B.C.E.  The first wave of Jewish exiles had returned to their ancestral homeland and found it a troubled, drought-ridden place, not the verdant utopia some prophets had promised.  Second Isaiah reminded people who were feeling vulnerable to care for those who were more vulnerable.  Second Isaiah reminded people of mutuality and complete dependence on God, principles from the Law of Moses.

Jesus upheld the Law of Moses.  He criticized people who taught it badly and wrongly.

When we–collectively and individually–feel vulnerable and do not acknowledge our complete dependence on God, we may victimize or ignore the more vulnerable and the less fortunate.  When we–collectively and individually–do not feel vulnerable and do not acknowledge our complete dependence on God, we may victimize the more vulnerable and the less fortunate.  Either way, we–collectively and individually–may safeguard “me and mine” and endanger or ignore people God does notice.  There is another way, though.  We–collectively and individually–can notice those God notices.  And we–collectively and individually–can practice mutuality and the recognition of universal human dependence on God.









Link to the corresponding link at BLOGA THEOLOGICA


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

Elisha Refusing the Gifts of Naaman--de Grebber

Above:  Elisha Refusing the Gifts of Naaman, by Pieter de Grebber

Image in the Public Domain

Divine Mercy and Wisdom

JANUARY 31, 2022

FEBRUARY 1, 2022


The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and love;

and that we may obtain what you promise,

make us love what you command,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23


The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 17:8-16 (Monday)

2 Kings 5:1-14 (Tuesday)

Psalm 56 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 2:6-16 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 14:13-25 (Tuesday)


I praise God for his promises,

I trust in him and have no fear;

what can man do to me?

–Psalm 56:11, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley


One can perceive divine wisdom only via God.  Such wisdom, which is for the building up of community (faith and otherwise) and not of self at the expense of others, is frequently counter-cultural.  We who claim to follow God should be careful to avoid the opposite fallacies of complete accommodation to social norms and of serial contrarian tendencies.  Letting go of proper standards is at least as bad as distrusting everything “worldly,” much of which is positive or morally neutral.

The narrative pericopes from the Hebrew Bible for these days tell of God extending mercy to people via people.  In one account the conduit is the prophet Elijah, who helps an impoverished widow of Zarephath.  In the other story a captive Hebrew servant girl suggests that her Aramean master, Naaman, a military commander, visit the prophet Elisha for a cure for his skin disease.  Naaman is surprised to learn that the remedy is to bathe in the humble River Jordan seven times.  Divine help comes in unexpected forms sometimes.  Having a receptive frame of mind–perhaps via divine wisdom–is crucial to recognizing God’s frequently surprising methods.

I have never had a miraculously refilling jar of flour or jug of oil, but I have known the considerably mundane and extravagant mercies of God in circumstances ranging from the happy to the traumatic.  Either God’s mercies have been greater in proportion to my sometimes difficult circumstances or my perception was proportionately greater and divine mercies have been equally extravagant across time.  Was the light bulb brighter or did I notice it more because the light outdoors became dimmer?  I do not know, and perhaps the answer to that question does not matter.  Recognizing divine mercy and wisdom then acting accordingly does matter, however.









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

Family Record-Marriage Certificate

Above:  Family Record-Marriage Certificate, 1800s

Image in the Public Domain

Enjoying God Fully

JANUARY 11 and 8, 2022


The Collect:

Almighty God, you anointed Jesus at his baptism with the Holy Spirit

and revealed him as your beloved Son.

Keep all who are born of water and the Spirit faithful in your service,

that we may rejoice to be called children of God,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22


The Assigned Readings:

Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 (Friday)

Ecclesiastes 3:1-15 (Saturday)

Psalm 29 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 2:1-10 (Friday)

1 Corinthians 2:11-16 (Saturday)


The LORD’s thunder brings flashes of lightning.

The LORD’s thunder makes the desert writhe,

the LORD makes the desert of Kadesh writhe.

The LORD’s thunder makes the oak trees dance around

and strips the forests bare.

So in his Temple everyone shouts “Glory!”

–Psalm 29:7-9, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley


Q:  What is the chief and highest end of man?

A:  Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

The Westminster Larger Catechism


Koheleth, the author of Ecclesiastes, discovered that he enjoyed his wealth, but that he got nothing else out of it.  That enjoyment of life’s blessings is a gift from God, he wrote.

Psychological studies have revealed the links between increased wealth and happiness.  Up to a certain amount, more wealth means more happiness.  Past that point increased wealth leads either to no additional happiness or to greater stress.  Often people who are wealthy beyond the point at which more wealth does not increase happiness desire more money.  Yet some of the most content people have had little and some of the most miserable people have been wealthy.  Likewise, some of the poorest people have found poverty to be the cause of great misery and some of the wealthiest people have long known that money can stave off many indignities and sorrows.

The real issue is priorities.  Wealth can insulate one from a sense of total dependence on God and of responsibilities to and for other people.  This reality, I am convinced, explains many of the hard sayings regarding wealth in the Bible.  Furthermore, wealth cannot shield one from all of life’s indignities and sorrows.

Another priority is choosing happiness.  Being happy is a choice, regardless of one’s level of wealth, marital status, health, et cetera.  Establishing the priority to notice the plethora of blessings from God and to revel in them is a positive course of action.

A negative course of action is to fail to recognize divine wisdom.  St. Paul the Apostle wrote that such failure led to the crucifixion of Jesus.  Christ was divine love incarnate, but that love proved threatening to human power structures built on violence and on artificial scarcity and exclusiveness.  Those blinders prevented those who killed Jesus and those who consented to his death from recognizing their sin.  Those people could have enjoyed God fully, but they failed to recognize God in their midst.

A habit I remind myself to nurture is to identify five blessings every day.  (I should do better at this practice than I do, but often I become distracted.)  To identify five blessings each day and to revel in them is a realistic goal.  So is to do this for many consecutive days without duplicating any items on the daily lists.  The main point of this spiritual exercise is to develop a mindset of gratitude to God and of awareness of the great number of blessings–to enjoy God more fully.  Koheleth and St. Paul the Apostle would approve.






Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A   22 comments

Above:  A Forest Scene in the Morning

The Light of the World

FEBRUARY 5, 2023


Isaiah 58:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

Shout out, do not hold back!

Lift up your voice like a trumpet!

Announce to my people their rebellion,

to the house of Jacob their sins.

Yet day after day they seek me

and seek to know my ways,

as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness

and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;

they ask of me righteous judgments,

they delight to draw near to God.

Why do we fast, but you do not see?

Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?

Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day,

and oppress all your workers.

Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight

and to strike with a wicked fist.

Such fasting as you do today

will not make your voice heard on high.

Is such the fast that I choose,

a day to humble oneself?

Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,

and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?

Will you call this a fast,

a day acceptable to the LORD?

Is not this the fast that I choose:

to loose the bonds of injustice,

to undo the thongs of the yoke,

to let the oppressed go free,

and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,

and bring the homeless poor into your house;

when you see the naked, to cover them,

and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Then your light shall break like the dawn,

and your healing shall spring up quickly;

your vindicator shall go before you,

the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;

you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

If you remove the yoke from among you,

the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,

if you offer your food to the hungry

and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,

then your light shall rise in the darkness

and your gloom be like the noonday.

The LORD will guide you continually,

and satisfy your needs in parched places,

and make your bones strong;

and you shall be like a parched garden,

like a spring of water,

whose waters never fail.

Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;

you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;

you shall be called the repairer of the breach,

the restorer of streets to live in.

Psalm 112 (New Revised Standard Version):

Praise the LORD!

Happy are those who fear the LORD,

who greatly delight in his commandments.

The descendants will be mighty in the land;

the generation of the upright will be blessed.

Wealth and riches are in their houses,

and their righteousness endures forever.

They rise in the darkness, as a light for the upright;

they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.

It is well with those who deal graciously and lend,

who conduct their affairs with justice.

For the righteous will never be moved;

they will be remembered forever.

They are not afraid of evil tidings;

their hearts are firm, secure in the LORD.

Their hearts are steady, they will not be afraid;

in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.

They have distributed freely, they have given to the poor;

their righteousness endures forever;

their horn is exalted in honor.

The wicked see it and are angry;

they gnash their teeth and melt away;

the desire of the wicked comes to nothing.

1 Corinthians 2:1-12, (13-16) (New Revised Standard Version):

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,

What no eye has seen, nor eye heard,

nor the human heart conceived,

what God has prepared for those who love him–

these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. [And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.

Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny.

For who has known the mind of the Lord

so as to instruct him?

But we have the mind of Christ.]

Matthew 5:13-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Once I concluded a Saturday afternoons-only World History II course with a classroom screening of The Battle of Algiers, the great Italian film about asymmetrical urban warfare between French and Algerian forces in Algiers, Algeria, in 1956 and 1957.  Filmed in 1965 and released the following year, this movie shows how French and Algerian forces took turns attacking each other, always with lethal results, often the death of innocent people who were merely in the wrong place at the wrong time.  One of my students commented during our discussion time that the cycle of violence was pointless.  She was correct.  Mohandas Gandhi stated that “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” rule leads to a world full of blind and toothless people.

The readings for the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A, flow naturally from those for the Fourth Sunday.  Likewise my thoughts for the Fifth Sunday fit well with those for the Fourth Sunday.  My thoughts for the Fifth Sunday are these:

To the extent that we are bound by our sins we have ourselves to blame.  The rope we use to tie up ourselves and each other most often is fear.  Many pundits, politicians, and well-meaning people who sit around “country kitchen” restaurant tables most mornings drinking coffee and pretending to solve the problems of the world tell us that we need to be afraid–very afraid.  They tell us to fear those who disagree with us, and not to cooperate with them, even on matters of agreement.  They say that we must fear those who are different from us, whether linguistically, racially, ethnically, culturally, or according to another criterion.

There are dangerous people in the world, of course, and therefore legitimate reasons for healthy fear.  Some people want to kill, wound, or maim others, for example.  Certain individuals lack any conscience.  They are truly bad men and women.  Yet in this devotion I write of irrational, ideological, destructive, and needless apprehension.  That is my focus for now.

So certain media outlets–such as websites, radio shows, and television programs and channels–attract large audiences and reap huge profit margins by scaring people and spreading rumors.  Some politicians spread lies, which many of their constituents are willing to believe.  And the common good suffers.

All this runs contrary to love.  When we cease to fear each other needlessly and begin listen to each other and to help each other as able we find that we have more in common than we might have suspected previously.  We realize that the other person is really human, too.  We discover common ground upon which to build and to enact actions for the common good.  Disagreements will continue, but they need not lead to hostility.  Besides, no mere mortal is correct or incorrect about everything.  And this can help facilitate righteousness and bring us closer to the mind of Christ.


Written on June 16, 2010