Archive for the ‘Anger’ Tag

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

Above:  Angry Talk

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy



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


Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18

Psalm 103:1-13

1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23

Matthew 5:38-48


Lord God, we ask you to keep your family, the Church, faithful to you,

that all who lean on the hope of your promises

may gain strength from the power of your love;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 16


God of compassion, keep before us the love

you have revealed in your Son, who prayed even for his enemies;

in our words and deeds help us to be like him

through whom we pray, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 16


O Lord, keep your family and Church continually in the true faith

that they who lean on the hope of your heavenly grace

may ever be defended by your mighty power;

through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 28


Whenever I hear someone refer to the God of the Hebrew Bible as mainly judgmental and the God of the New Testament as primarily merciful, I wonder how closely that person has read the Old and New Testaments.  Judgment and mercy remain in balance throughout the Old and New Testaments.  Consider the readings from the Old Testament for today, O reader.  Recall, also, that

an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth 

(Exodus 21:24)

curtails violence.  Furthermore, nowhere does the Law of Moses say to hate one’s enemies.

St. Paul the Apostle, writing to the argumentative and self-destructive church in Corinth, told them that they were God’s temple in that city.  That was good news.  A warning preceded it:

God will destroy anyone who defiles his temple, for his temple is holy…..

–1 Corinthians 3:17a, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

Agents of destruction frequently come from within, as in the case of the Corinthian church.

I wonder what the world would be like if the socially expected and normative behavior was to love people, or at least to be civil toward them.  I wonder what the world would be like if this extended to everyone.  I do not live in that world, of course.  I live in the world in which social media are mostly agents and conduits of anger, misinformation, half-baked conspiracy theories, and damn lies.  I live in the world in which sound advice includes not to read the comments section of a webpage.

Divine judgment and mercy exist in a balance.  I do not pretend to understand what that balance is.  I do not know where judgment gives way to mercy, and mercy to judgment.  I do trust that God gets the balance right.





Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA


Devotion for the First Sunday After Christmas (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:  Jethro and Moses, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

A New Year Resolution

JANUARY 1, 2023


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


Exodus 18:13-24

Psalm 69:30-36

1 Timothy 3:1-13

Matthew 1:1-17


The Gospel of Jesus Christ is one of inclusion–inclusion of all the faithful regardless of gender, ethnicity, national origin, et cetera.  In Matthew 1, for example, the author mentions four women (although we know there were more females than that involved in all that begetting), one of whom was a foreigner and three of whom had dubious sexual reputations.  Even the aliens and the objects of gossip have vital roles to play in the unfolding of divine purposes.  Furthermore, nobody can do everything (as Moses learned), but the division of labor and the faithful attendance to duty can enable the faith community to function as well as possible.

The author of Psalm 69 hates his enemies (who hate him) and asks God to smite them.  We tend to omit such angry portions of the Psalms, do we not?  They frequently make us squirm in our seats as we identify with those passages and feel less than holy as a result.  We prefer to read the other passages–such as the assigned portion of Psalm 69–as we ignore the anger and frustration elsewhere in the same poem.

We cannot become the new creations in Christ we ought to be and fulfill our divine vocations as long as we embrace the desire for revenge.  I write from experience.  We need to acknowledge that anger and vengeance then give it over to God.  We must detach from them if we are to grow fully in Christ, who prayed for the forgiveness of those who crucified him and consented to that execution.

This Sunday falls in the vicinity of New Year’s Day.  Therefore I offer a proposed resolution: may we abandon revenge and the desire for it in the new year.








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


Above:  Ruins of Babylon, 1932

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-13231

Getting On with Life

FEBRUARY 3, 2021


The Collect:

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

and continually reveal your Son as our Savior.

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

that all creation will see and know your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23


The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 29:1-14

Psalm 35:1-10

Mark 5:1-20


Psalm 35 contains a prayer for divine action against one’s enemies.  In contrast, Jeremiah 29:7 offers the following advice to exiles in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire:

And seek the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you and pray to the LORD in its behalf; for in its prosperity you shall prosper.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

That passage prompts me to recall the Pauline instruction to pray for those in authority,

that it may go well with you

and our Lord and Savior’s commandment to pray for one’s enemies and bless one’s persecutors.  Anger, when we direct it badly, leads to violence.  The way to break the cycle of violence is to reject it.  There is such a thing as righteous anger, which leads one to commit positive action, but anger is frequently not of the righteous variety.  And that kind of anger, like violence, is a spiritual toxin.

The pericopes from Jeremiah and Mark speak of the importance of getting on with life after one’s life circumstances have changed.  This continuation of living should glorify God, the readings tell us.  And how can we proceed in that vein if we are hauling emotional and spiritual baggage, such as resentment?  Yes, injustice abounds in the world.  And yes, we ought to oppose injustice properly as part of our Christian witness to the love of God for everyone.  Yet none of us is the ultimate judge or power; only God is.  May we, therefore, do the right things in the correct ways, trusting God and not becoming obsessed with that which we cannot change or underestimating how much we can, by grace, improve.  God will save the world, but we have a commandment to leave it better than we found it.









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


Above:  The Gleaners, by Jean-Francois Millet

Image in the Public Domain

Caring for Others

JANUARY 26-28, 2023


The Collect:

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

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23


The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 16:18-20 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 24:17-25:4 (Friday)

Micah 3:1-4 (Saturday)

Psalm 15 (all days)

1 Peter 3:8-12 (Thursday)

1 Timothy 5:17-24 (Friday)

John 13:31-35 (Saturday)


Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle?

Who may abide upon your holy hill?

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

who speak the truth from their heart;

they do not slander with the tongue,

they do no evil to their friends;

they do not cast discredit upon a neighbor.

In their sight the wicked are rejected,

but they honor those who fear the LORD.

They have sworn upon their health

and do not take back their word.

They do not give their money in hope of gain,

nor do they take bribes against the innocent.

Those who do these things shall never be overthrown.

–Psalm 15, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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









Week of 3 Epiphany: Thursday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:  Bronze Oil Lamp

Image Source = Rama

May Love and Encouragement Be Your Lamp Oils

JANUARY 26, 2023


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


Hebrews 10:19-25 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

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

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

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

the world and all who dwell therein.

2 For it is he who founded it upon the seas

and made it firm upon the rivers of the deep.

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

and who can stand in his holy place?”

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

who have not pledged themselves to falsehood,

nor sworn by what is a fraud.

5 They shall receive a blessing from the LORD

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

6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,

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

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

And he said to them,

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

And he said to them,

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


The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


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

This is not healthy.

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

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

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

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

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

And may the peace of God be with you always.


Week of 1 Epiphany: Wednesday, Year 1   13 comments

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

Jesus, Who Identifies With Us

JANUARY 11, 2023


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


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

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

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

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

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of all his marvelous works.

3 Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

4 Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

6 O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

7 He is the LORD our God;

his judgments prevail in all the world.

8 He has always been mindful of his covenant,

the promise he made for a thousand generations;

9 The covenant he made with Abraham,

the oath he swore to Isaac,

10  Which he established as a statute for Jacob,

an everlasting covenant for Israel,

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

to be your allotted inheritance.”

12 When they were few in number,

of little account, and sojourners in the land,

13 Wandering from nation to nation

and from one kingdom to another,

14 He let no one oppress them

and rebuked kings for their sake,

15 Saying, “Do not touch my anointed

and do my prophets no harm.”

Above:  Ruins of Capernaum

Image Source = David Shankbone

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

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

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

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

Every one is searching for you.

And he said to them,

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

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

Below:  A Map of Galilee During Roman Times


The Collect:

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


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

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

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

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