Archive for the ‘Acts 10’ Tag

Devotion for the Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:   Eyes

Image in the Public Domain


FEBRUARY 6, 2022


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


Joshua 6:1-5, 15-25

Psalm 135:1-7

Acts 10:1-28

Luke 11:34-36



Praise the Name of the LORD;

give praise, you servants of the LORD.

–Psalm 135:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The themes of light and of the liberation of Gentile people, present in the post for the previous Sunday, are obvious her also.  Rahab and her family find deliverance.  Also, St. Cornelius the Centurion and his household join the Christian fold formally.  In the same story St. Simon Peter learns the difference between separatism and holiness.

The reading from Luke 11 requires some explanation.  The erroneous physiological assumption at work is one common at the time.  That assumption is that the eyes allow the light of the body to go out, hence

Your eyes are the lamp of your body.  If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but if it is not healthy, your body is full of darkness.

–Luke 11:34, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

(Jesus was the Savior of the world.  He was not an optometrist.)

Nevertheless, the issue of inner spiritual light and darkness is a true and timeless one.  Gentiles can have light within them, just as Jews can have darkness within them.  (Read Luke 11:37-54.)  Indeed, each of us has both inner light and darkness.  The question is, which one is dominant?  Just as good people commit bad deeds, bad people commit good deeds too.

May God liberate us from our inner darkness and our inability and unwillingness to recognize the light in others, especially those different from ourselves.







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

Peter's Vision of the Sheet with Animals

Above:  Peter’s Vision of the Sheet with Animals

Image in the Public Domain

The Clean and the Unclean

FEBRUARY 28, 2022

MARCH 1, 2022


The Collect:

Holy God, mighty and immortal, you are beyond our knowing,

yet we see your glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

Transform us into the likeness of your Son,

who renewed our humanity so that we may share in his divinity,

Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 26


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 35:1-29 (Monday)

Ezekiel 1:1-2:1 (Tuesday)

Psalm 35:11-28 (Both Days)

Acts 10:9-23a (Monday)

Acts 10:23b-33 (Tuesday)


[Jesus] said to [his Apostles], “Even you–don’t you understand?  Can’t you see that nothing that goes into someone from the outside can make that person unclean, because it goes not int the heart but into the stomach and passes into the sewer?” (Thus he pronounced all foods clean.)  And he went on, “It is what comes out of someone that makes that person unclean.  For it is from within, from the heart, that evil intentions emerge:  fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly.  All these evil things come from within and make a person unclean.

–Mark 7:18-23, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


Ritual purity has long been a religious concern.  Separating oneself from the world (not always a negative activity) has informed overly strict Sabbath rules and practices.  (Executing a person for working on the Sabbath, per Exodus 35:2b, seems excessive to me.  I am biased, of course, for I have violated that law, which does not apply to me.)  Nevertheless, the Sabbath marked the freedom of the people, for slaves got no day off.  Ezekiel, living in exile in an allegedly unclean land, the territory of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, experienced a vision of the grandeur of God before God commissioned him a prophet.  Perhaps Ezekiel had, suffering under oppression, prayed in the words of Psalm 35:23,

Awake, arise to my cause!

to my defense, my God and my Lord!

The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Those who took Judeans into exile and kept them there were unclean and not because they were Gentiles but because of their spiritual ills, on which they acted.  As St. Simon Peter learned centuries later, there is no unclean food and many people he had assumed to be unclean were not really so.

The drawing of figurative lines to separate the allegedly pure from the allegedly impure succeeds in comforting the former, fostering more self-righteousness in them, and doing injustice to the latter.  May nobody call unclean one whom God labels clean.  May no one mark as an outsider one whom God calls beloved.  This is a devotion for the last two days of the Season after the Epiphany.  The next season will be Lent.  Perhaps repenting of the sins I have listed above constitutes the agenda you, O reader, should follow this Lent.  I know that it is one I ought to follow.







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

Vision of Cornelius the Centurion

Above:  The Vision of Cornelius the Centurion, by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout

Image in the Public Domain

God’s Surprises

FEBRUARY 24-26, 2022


The Collect:

Holy God, mighty and immortal, you are beyond our knowing,

yet we see your glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

Transform us into the likeness of your Son,

who renewed our humanity so that we may share in his divinity,

Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 26


The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 9:1-5 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 9:6-14 (Friday)

Deuteronomy 9:15-24 (Saturday)

Psalm 99 (All Days)

Acts 3:11-16 (Thursday)

Acts 10:1-8 (Friday)

Luke 10:21-24 (Saturday)


The LORD is King;

let the people tremble;

he is enthroned upon the cherubim;

let the earth shake.

–Psalm 99:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The ways in which God works frequently surprise many people.  Declaring the Hebrews, who rebelled against God repeatedly, to be the Chosen People was one example.  Working through St. Simon Peter, an impetuous man, and St. Cornelius the Centurion, a Roman soldier, were two more examples.  The Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth was unique.  And what about hiding wonders

from the learned and the clever and revealing them to little children?

–Luke 10:21b, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

God chooses to work in ways, many of which surprise or scandalize many mere mortals.  Certain heroic figures in the Hebrew Bible were also scoundrels.  Oblivious Apostles in the Gospels became great leaders of nascent Christianity.  The circumstances of our Lord and Savior’s conception and birth led to decades of whispering behind his back and to his face.  Some Gentiles were closer to God than certain prominent Jews.  Standard labels might not apply when God is acting.  If we have spiritual and/or emotional difficulty with that reality, we need to confess that sin to God, to apologize, and to repent, by grace.

Simply put, if one is St. Simon Peter in an analogy, who is the St. Cornelius whose invitation will lead to an epiphany.  And is one willing to have an epiphany?






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


Above:  Josiah

Image in the Public Domain

Something Old, Something New

JANUARY 27-29, 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:

2 Chronicles 34:1-7 (Thursday)

2 Chronicles 35:20-27 (Friday)

2 Chronicles 36:11-21 (Saturday)

Psalm 71:1-6 (All Days)

Acts 10:44-48 (Thursday)

Acts 19:1-10 (Friday)

John 1:43-51 (Saturday)


I find my security in you, LORD,

never let me be covered with shame.

You always do what is right,

so rescue me and set me free.

Listen attentively to me and save me.

Be my rock where I can find security,

be my fortress and save me;

indeed you are my rock and fortress.

My God, set me free from the power of the wicked,

from the grasp of unjust and cruel men.

For you alone give me hope, LORD,

I have trusted in you since my early days.

I have leaned on you since birth,

when you delivered me from my mother’s womb.

I praise you continually.

–Psalm 71:1-6, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley


The story of King Josiah of Judah (reigned 640-609 B.C.E.) exists in two versions, each with its own chronology.  The account in 2 Chronicles 34:1-35:37 is more flattering than the version in 2 Kings 22:1-23:30.  Both accounts agree that Josiah was a strong king, a righteous man, and a religious reformer who pleased God, who postponed the fall of the Kingdom of Judah.  The decline of the kingdom after Josiah’s death was rapid, taking only about 23 years and four kings.

Josiah’s reforms met with opposition, as did Jesus and nascent Christianity.  The thorny question of how to treat Gentiles who desired to convert was one cause of difficulty.  The decision to accept Gentiles as they were–not to require them to become Jews first–caused emotional pain for many people attached to their Jewish identity amid a population of Gentiles.  There went one more boundary separating God’s chosen people from the others.  For Roman officialdom a religion was old, so a new faith could not be a legitimate religion.  Furthermore, given the commonplace assumption that Gentiles making offerings to the gods for the health of the empire was a civic, patriotic duty, increasing numbers of Gentiles refusing to make those offerings caused great concern.  If too many people refused to honor the gods, would the gods turn their backs on the empire?

Interestingly enough, the point of view of much of the Hebrew Bible is that the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah fell because of pervasive idolatry and related societal sinfulness.  The pagan Roman fears for their empire were similar.  How ironic!

The pericope from John 1 is interesting.  Jesus is gathering his core group of followers.  One Apostle recruits another until St. Nathanael (St. Bartholomew) puts up some opposition, expressing doubt that anything good can come out of Nazareth.  St. Philip tries to talk St. Nathanael out of that skepticism.  “Come and see,” he replies.  Jesus convinces that St. Nathanael by informing him that he (Jesus) saw him (St. Nathanael) sitting under a fig tree.  Father Raymond E. Brown spends a paragraph in the first of his two volumes on the Gospel of John listing a few suggestions (of many) about why that was so impressive and what it might have meant.  He concludes that all such suggestions are speculative.  The bottom line is, in the words of Gail R. O’Day and Susan E. Hylen, is the following:

The precise meaning of Jesus’ words about the fig tree is unclear, but their function in the story is to show that Jesus has insight that no one else has…because of Jesus’ relationship with God.

John (2006), page 33

Jesus was doing a new thing which was, at its heart, a call back to original principles.  Often that which seems new is really old–from Josiah to Jesus to liturgical renewal (including the revision of The Book of Common Prayer).  Along the way actually new developments arise.  Laying aside precious old ideas and embracing greater diversity in the name of God for the purpose of drawing the proverbial circle wider can be positive as well as difficult.    Yet it is often what God calls us to do–to welcome those whom God calls insiders while maintaining proper boundaries and definitions.  Discerning what God calls good and bad from one or one’s society calls good and bad can be quite difficult.  May we succeed by grace.









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.









Devotion for the Feast of the Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments


Above:  The Adoration of the Magi, by Giuseppe Niccolo Vicentino

Woodcut Created Between 1540 and 1560

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-18662

God’s Big Circles

JANUARY 6, 2020


The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you revealed the incarnation

of your Son by the brilliant shining of a star.

Shine the light of your justice always in our hearts and over all lands,

and accept our lives as the treasure we offer in your praise and for your service,

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 21


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 60:1-6

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

Ephesians 3:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12


Give your king your justice, O God:

and your righteousness to a king’s son,

that he may judge your people rightly:

and uphold the poor with justice.

Let the mountains bring forth peace for the people:

and the hills prosperity with justice.

May the king defend the cause of the poor among the people:

save the children of the needy and crush the oppressor.

May he live as long as the sun endures:

as long as the moon from age to age.

May he come down like rain upon the grass:

like showers that water the earth.

In his days may righteousness flourish:

And abundance of peace till the moon is no more.

May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles pay tribute:

the kings of of Sheba and Seba bring their gifts.

May all the kings fall prostrate before him:

and all the nations render him service.

He shall deliver the needy when they cry:

and the poor who have no helper.

He shall have pity on the weak and the needy:

and save the lives of the poor.

He shall rescue them from oppression and violence:

and their blood shall be precious in his sight.

–Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)


Psalm 72 is a coronation prayer.  The king is responsible for assuring the physical safety and well-being of his people.  This mandate includes economic justice and deliverance from violence.  Such an accomplishment will earn the monarch international respect.

But who is the king in each reading?  He is probably Solomon in Psalm 72.  The king delivering the exiles in Isaiah 60 is Yahweh via a human monarch, Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes.  There are two kings in Matthew 2.  One is Herod the Great, a client ruler for the Roman Empire, a violent man, and a mentally unstable person.  The other king is young Jesus, who receives visitors–Persian scholar-astrologers who have put their lives on hold for a long time to undertake the perilous journey.  They do not understand much about the boy, but they know more than others do and act affirmatively toward him.

God’s wisdom, Ephesians 3:10 (The New Jerusalem Bible) tells us, is


That passage, in The Revised English Bible, speaks of

the wisdom of God in its infinite variety.

The New Revised Standard Version mentions

the rich variety

of divine wisdom.  And the Common English Bible speaks of

the many different varieties

of God’s wisdom through the church.  This wisdom God makes known to people via the church.

This many-sided divine wisdom which exists in rich, infinite variety is for all people, although not everyone will embrace it.  And one need not understand completely to receive and accept such wisdom, for nobody can grasp it fully.  There are spiritual mysteries too great for human minds to comprehend ; so be it.  Such mystery comforts me, for it reminds me that there is much in the exclusive purview of God.

And this multi-faceted divine wisdom is for people are are like us and for those who are very different from us.  God loves us all, even when we do not love ourselves, much less each other.  God moves well beyond our comfort zones.  If that bothers us, the fault lies with us, not God.

Each of us carries prejudices, probably learned from friends, relatives, and classmates.  We like to draw a small circle of acceptability, being sure to include ourselves and those like us inside it.  But egocentric “purity” is a huge lie and a spiritual detriment.  God seems to prefer larger circles–even those which include some Zoroastrian Persian astrologers, a heroic Canaanite prostitute, a Moabite woman, and many Samaritans.  How scandalous this is to self-righteous purists!  As St. Simon Peter told the household of St. Cornelius the Centurion in Acts 10:34-35:

I now understand that God has no favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

The New Jerusalem Bible

If you, O reader, arrive in heaven, whom might you be surprised to encounter there?  That question gets to the heart of the meaning of the Feast of the Epiphany.







Devotion for January 19 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Above:  Peter’s Vision

Inclusion, Foreigners, and God (I)

JANUARY 19, 2022


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 44:1-16, 23-29

Psalm 56 (Morning)

Psalms 100 and 62 (Evening)

Romans 9:1-18


Thus said the Lord GOD:  Let no alien, uncircumcised in spirit and flesh, enter My Sanctuary–no alien whatsoever among the people of Israel.

–Ezekiel 44:9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


Let not he foreigner say,

Who has attached himself to the LORD,

“The LORD will keep me apart from His people”…

As for the foreigners

Who attach themselves to the LORD,

To minister to Him,

And love the name of the LORD,

To be His servants–

All who keep the sabbath and do not profane it,

And who hold fast to My covenant–

I will bring them to My sacred mount

And let them rejoice in My House of prayer.

Their burnt offerings and sacrifices

Shall be welcome on My altar;

For My House shall be called

A house of prayer for all peoples.

–Isaiah 56:3a, 6-7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither slave nor freeman, there can be neither male nor female–for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And simply by  being Christ’s, you are that progeny of Abraham, the heirs named in the promise.

–Galatians 3:28-29, The New Jerusalem Bible


Then Peter addressed them, “I now really understand,” he said, “that God has no favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him….”

–Acts 10:34-35, The New Jerusalem Bible


In Christ is neither Jew nor Greek,

and neither slave nor free;

both male and female heirs are made,

and all are kin to me.

–Laurence Hull Stokely, 1987; verse 3 of “In Christ There Is No East or West,” The United Methodist Hymnal (1989)


The bulk of the assigned reading from Ezekiel condemns the corrupt and idolatrous priesthood.  Idolatry is always worth condemning, but another part of that lesson attracted my attention.  Foreigners were excluded from parts of the rebuilt Temple.  A note in The Jewish Study Bible referred me to a different perspective in Isaiah 56:3-8; I have quoted part of that passage in this post.  In that reading a foreigner who lives according to the covenant of God is to be welcomed at the Temple.  I have quoted other texts of inclusion in God (especially via Jesus) in this part.  If you, O reader, think of them as refutation of Ezekiel 44:9, you understand my meaning correctly.

Paul, a Jew, was a great apostle to the Gentiles.  As a Gentile, I am grateful to him.  He, Simon Peter (to a different extent) and others saw past boundaries such as national origin and ethnicity.  This position caused controversy in earliest Christianity, as history and the Bible tell us.  Exclusion helps define borders and thereby to help us know who we are; We are not those people over there.  This is a negative identification.

Yes, there are human and theological differences, some of them important.  But more vital is the love of God for everyone.  And we who claim to follow God ought to seek to express that love to others, regardless of a host of differences.  Each of us is foreign to someone; may we remember that.









Devotion for January 9 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  A U-Turn

Image Source = Smurrayinchester

Constructive Criticism

JANUARY 9, 2022


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 3:12-27

Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning)

Psalms 1 and 33 (Evening)

Romans 2:1-16


Some Related Posts:

Confession of Sin, 1662:

Yom Kippur Litany of Confession:


For the ones that God will justify are not those who have heard the Law but those who have kept the Law.

–Romans 2:13, The New Jerusalem Bible


In the same way faith, if good deeds do not go with it, is quite dead….You see now that it is by deeds, not only by believing that someone is justified.

–James 2:17, 24, The New Jerusalem Bible


The mission of Ezekiel involved dispensing constructive criticism for the purpose of granting one an opportunity to repair one’s ways.  That is repentance–turning around, changing one’s mind.  Often I hear and read examples of people misusing and misunderstanding that word, and I tire of having to define it properly.  This should not be necessary for clarity!  But it is, sadly.

Repentance and the opportunity to engage in it indicates hope.  If one is already condemned irreversibly, there is no point in making that offer.  And the theme of repentance occurs in Romans 2:1-16.  God is abundantly good.  Such generosity calls for human gratitude, not rejection.  Love ought to lead to more love in response.

Then Peter addressed them, “I now really understand, ” he said, “that God has no favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”

–Acts 10:34-35, The New Jerusalem Bible

Paul, like Peter, came to recognize that God spoke to Jews and Gentiles.  Certain Gentiles, Paul indicated, did a better job of obeying parts of the Law than did some Jews.  Those disobedient Jews had no excuse, for it was their Law.  And the Gentiles did not know of the Law, other than the one “engraved on their hearts” (Romans 2:15).

Consider the scandal of this:  Alleged heathens can outmatch some of God’s chosen people in holiness.  As a Gentile, I like the thought.  Yet, as a churchy person, I wonder if I am among the chosen when I analyze the situation to today.  Faith was inherently active for Paul and mainly intellectual for Jams, but both of them agreed that deeds were crucial.  Many times I have struggled to commit good deeds or have avoided them out of selfish motives.  Sometimes I read a passage of scripture and find constructive criticism.  Then I know that I need to repent.









Week of 5 Epiphany: Thursday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  An Eastern Orthodox Icon of Solomon

Faith–Individual and Communal

FEBRUARY 10, 2022


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


1 Kings 11:1-13 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

King Solomon loved many foreign women in addition to Pharaoh’s daughter–Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Phoenician, and Hittite women, from the nations of which the LORD had said to the Israelites,

None of you shall join them and none of them shall join you, lest they turn your heart away to follow their gods.

Such Solomon clung to and loved.  He had seven hundred royal wives and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned his heart away.  In his old age, his wives turned Solomon’s heart after other gods; and he not as wholeheartedly devoted to the LORD his God as his father David had been.  Solomon followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Phoenicians, and Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.

Solomon did what was displeasing to the LORD and did not remain loyal to the LORD like his father David.  At that time, Solomon built a shrine for Chemosh the abomination of Moab on the hill near Jerusalem, and one for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites.  And he did the same for all his foreign wives who offered and sacrificed to their gods.

The LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him about this matter, not to follow other gods; he did not obey what the LORD had commanded.  And the LORD said to Solomon,

Because you are guilty of this–yo have not kept My covenant and the laws which I enjoined upon you–I will tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants.  But, for the sake of your father David, I will not do it in your lifetime; I will tear it away from your son.  However, I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give your son one tribe, for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.

Psalm 132:11-19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11  The LORD has sworn an oath to David;

in truth, he will not break it:

12  ”A son, the fruit of your body

will I set upon your throne.

13  If your children keep my covenant

and my testimonies that I shall teach them,

their children will sit upon your throne for evermore.”

14  For the LORD has chosen Zion;

he has desired her for his habitation:

15  ”This shall be my resting-place for ever;

here will I dwell, for I delight in her.

16  I will surely bless her provisions,

and satisfy her poor with bread.

17  I will clothe her priests with salvation,

and her faithful people will rejoice and sing.

18  There will I make the horn of David flourish;

I have prepared a lamp for my Anointed.

19  As for his enemies, I will clothe them with shame;

but as for him, his crown will shine.”

Mark 7:24-30 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then he got up and left that place and went off to the neighbourhood of Tyre.  There we went into a house and wanted no one  to know where he was.  But it proved impossible to remain hidden.  For no sooner had he got there, than a woman who had heard about him, and who had a daughter possessed by an evil spirit, arrived and prostrated herself before him.  She was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth, and she asked him to drive the evil spirit out of her daughter.  Jesus said to her,

You must let the children have all they want first.  It is not right, you know, to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.

But she replied,

Yes, Lord, I know, but even the dogs under the table eat the scraps that the children leave.

Jesus said to her,

If you can answer like that you can go home!  The evil spirit has left your daughter.

And she went back to her home and found the child lying quietly on her bed, and the evil spirit gone.


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.


Some Related Posts:

Week of 5 Epiphany:  Thursday, Year 1:

Matthew 15 (Parallel to Mark 7):


The theology of 1 Kings holds that faithlessness to God led to the decline of the Jewish kingdoms of the Old Testament.  The truth is not quite that simple, I maintain, for one must consider economic factors in the mix.  Marxian analysis rounds out the historical analysis nicely.  I covered some of that ground in the previous post.

There is also the question of how to relate to Gentiles.  The author of 1 Kings 11 preferred to stay away from them.  But Jesus went to them in Mark 7.  Tyre was, simply put, Gentiles Central.  Thus I propose that, if our Lord had wanted to avoid Gentiles, he would not have chosen to visit Tyre.  With that social context in mind, what might seem like an insult comes across as a statement meant to elicit a faithful response, which it did.

The proper question is not whether one is a Jew or a Gentile, but whether one is faithful.  A home ought to be a place for the nurturing of faith, so marrying within the faith makes sense to me, assuming that marriage is one’s vocation.  (There is nothing wrong with remaining single if that is one’s call from God.)  Nurturing faith is also the proper work of a congregation and certain other social support system one has.   Religion, which is somewhat personal, is also inherently public, not that this fact ought to lead to the establishment and maintenance of a theocracy.  Besides, mutual forbearance and toleration where respect fails at least has the virtue of fostering civility.  And, as Roger Williams, a minister and a colonial advocate of the separation of church and state, said, a prayer one utters under compulsion is meaningless.

As for me, I stand by and for certain propositions, but I do so without being habitually cranky.  Most of my professions, many of which I offer via this and other weblogs, are positive.  The grace of God is for all people–Jews and Gentiles.  The Apostle Paul and James, Bishop of Jerusalem, stirred up controversy by welcoming Gentiles.  These great men were correct, of course.  Simon Peter came to realize in Acts 10 that purity codes separating Jews from Gentiles were null and void.

I, as a Gentile, stand on the shoulders of these men.

An enduring lesson I offer you, O reader, is this:  Who are your “Gentiles,” those you consider impure, assuming, of course, that you make such judgments?  Like Peter, Paul, and James, and Jesus, may you reach out to them and welcome them in God’s Name, to the glory of God and for the benefit of your “Gentiles.”


Week of 7 Epiphany: Wednesday, Year 1   11 comments

Above:  Wisdom, by Robert Lewis Reed (1896), at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Misguided Possessiveness and Factionalism are Unwise

FEBRUARY 27, 2019


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.


Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 4:11-19 (Revised English Bible):

Wisdom raises her sons to greatness

and gives help to those who seek her.

To love her is to love life;

those who rise early to greet her will be filled with joy.

He who holds fast to her will gain honour;

the Lord’s blessing rests on the house she enters.

To serve her is to serve the Holy One,

and the Lord loves those who love her.

He who is obedient to her will give true judgement,

and, because he listens to her, his home will be secure.

If he trusts her, he will possess her

and bequeath her to his descendants.

At first she will lead him by torturous ways,

filling him with craven fears.

Her discipline will be a torment to him,

and her decrees a hard test,

until he trusts her with all his heart;

then she will come straight back to him,

bringing gladness and revealing to him her secrets.

But if he strays, she will abandon him

and leave him to his fate.

Psalm 119:161-168 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

161 Rulers have persecuted me without a cause,

but my heart stands in awe of your word.

162 I am as glad because of your promise

as one who finds great spoils.

163 As for lies, I hate and abhor them,

but your law is my love.

164 Seven times a day do I praise you,

because of your righteous judgments.

165 Great peace have they who love your law;

for them there is no stumbling block.

166 I have hoped for your salvation, O LORD,

and I have fulfilled your commandments.

167 I have kept your decrees

and I have loved them deeply.

168 I have kept your commandments and decrees,

for all my ways are before you.

Mark 9:38-41 (Revised English Bible):

John said to him,

Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and as he was not one of us, we tried to stop him.

Jesus said,

Do not stop him, for no one who performs a miracle in my name will be able the next moment to speak evil of me.  He is not against us is on our side.  Truly I tell you:  whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you are followers of the Messiah will certainly not go unrewarded.


The Collect:

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this wicked and godless age, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

–Jesus in Mark 8:38 (Revised English Bible)

and this:

I now understand how true it is that God has no favourites, but that in every nation those who are god-fearing and do what is right are acceptable to him.

–Simon Peter in Acts 10:34-35 (Revised English Bible)

God works through and speaks to and through a wide variety of people.  Many of them are unlike you, O reader, or me.  Yet they are of God, too.  So, how will we respond to them.  I know how we should respond; we should welcome them and give thanks for them.  We might even be able to collaborate with some of them now and again.  But will we exhibit a positive response or attempt to shut them down, as the Apostles did?

Ben Sira explains that divine wisdom, personified as female, is both comforting and challenging, delightful and capable of tough love.  (The psalmist agrees.)  This writing comes from a place of lived and mature spirituality; it recognizes that discipline is part of God’s love for us.  If we persist faithfully, however, we will learn the lessons God has in mind for us.

The Apostles needed to learn such lessons.  They reported discouraging a successful exorcist who was not of their religious opinion in Mark 9:38.  Yet, in Mark 9:18, they failed in their attempts at exorcism.  Were they protecting their turf and criticizing unjustly one who could do what they could not?  This other fellow’s success did not trouble Jesus, though”  “He who is not against us is on our side.”  Our Lord and Savior did not pay undue attention to divisive labels and artificial categories.  Neither should we.

Human thoughts do not limit divine wisdom.  This is a challenging realization, one that acting upon can lead to scorn, if not persecution.  But, as Jesus said,

Blessed are you when people hate you and ostracize you, when they insult you and slander your very name, because of the Son of Man.  On that day exult and dance for joy, for you have a rich reward in heaven; that is how their fathers treated the prophets.

–Luke 6:22-23 (Revised English Bible)

So be it.