Archive for the ‘Hebrews 2’ Tag

Devotion for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Years A, B, C, and D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Anna at the Presentation of Jesus, by Giotto

Image in the Public Domain

Recognizing the Savior

FEBRUARY 2, 2024


The Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple falls on February 2, forty days after Christmas.  The origins of the Feast of the Presentation date to the 300s, in Jerusalem, where the original date was February 14-forty days after January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany.  In the English Prayer Book tradition the Feast of the Presentation has been the Feast of the Purification of Saint Mary the Virgin, per the beginning of Leviticus 12, hinted at in Luke 2:22-23.

The readings from Malachi 3 and Psalm 24, along with Luke 2:22-40, convey a sense of awe and wonder.  They tell us to take notice, for God, or a messenger thereof, has arrived.  Where better to be than in the Temple?  This is an event that has changed the world, after all.  When we read of the divine arrival in Luke 2 and Hebrews 2, we read of the Incarnation as an infant, not a conquering hero in armor.  Via living as a human being, one fully human as well as fully divine, Christ can identify with our suffering and help those enduring tests, we read in Hebrews 2:18.

It would have been easy to fail to recognize the infant Jesus for who he was, but Simeon and Anna knew who he was.  They spread their wisdom in their time and place.  Certainly some who heard them considered that message ridiculous, as it must have seemed to have been.

Fortunately, we can, via hindsight and the Bible, recognize the wisdom of Simeon and Anna, as well as the true identity of that infant boy.








Almighty and everlasting God, we humbly pray that,

as your only-begotten Son was this day presented in the Temple,

so may we be presented to you with pure and clean hearts

by Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 239


Blessed are you, O Lord our God, for you have sent us your salvation.

Inspire us by your Holy Spirit to see with our own eyes him who is

the glory of Israel and the light for all nations, your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), page 32


Malachi 3:1-4

Psalm 84 or 24:7-10

Hebrews 2:14-18

Luke 2:22-40





Devotion for the First Sunday of Advent (Year D)   1 comment

Annunciation of the Angel to Zechariah

Above:  Annunciation of the Angel to Zechariah, by Domenico Ghirlandaio

Showing Proper Reverence for God

DECEMBER 3, 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


Malachi 1:1-14

Psalm 8

Luke 1:1-25

Hebrews 1:1-2:4


O LORD, our Sovereign,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

–Psalm 8:1a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)


In Malachi 1 YHWH complains (via the prophet) that many people are taking their sacrifices lightly, offering unfit food and creatures in violations provided in the Torah.  (Consult Exodus 12:5 and 29:1 as well as Leviticus 1:3 and 10; 3:1; and 22:17-30 plus Deuteronomy 15:21 regarding animal sacrifices).  People in many lands honored God, but, in Persian-dominated Judea, where, of all places, that reverence should have been concentrated, many people were slacking off.

St. Zechariah, the father of St. John the Baptist, certainly revered God.  The old man was a priest at the Temple at Jerusalem.  He and his wife, St. Elizabeth, the Gospel of Luke tells us,

were upright ad devout, blamelessly observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord.

–1:6, The Revised English Bible (1989)

In an echo of Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 17:15-22 and 18:1-15, each account coming from a different source), the elderly priest learned that he and his wife would become parents against all odds.  He was predictably dubious.  The prediction of a miracle and a marvel, to borrow language from Hebrews 2:4, came true.

Hebrews 2:3 provides a timeless warning against neglecting

such a great salvation

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985).

That salvation is the offer of God, who made the aged Abraham and Sarah parents and did the same for the elderly Sts. Zechariah and Elizabeth.  It is the offer of God, who chose St. Mary of Nazareth to become an instrument of the Incarnation.  It is the offer of God, the name of when many people all over the world honor.  May we revere God and strive, by grace, to offer our best, not our leftovers and spares in sacrifice.







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

Mt. Sinai

Above:  Mt. Sinai, Between 1898 and 1946

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-09625

Mountains, God, and Holiness

FEBRUARY 12 and 13, 2024


The Collect:

Almighty God, the resplendent light of your truth

shines from the mountaintop into our hearts.

Transfigure us by your beloved Son,

and illumine the world with your image,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 26


The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 19:7-25 (Monday)

Job 19:23-27 (Tuesday)

Psalm 110:1-4 (Both Days)

Hebrews 2:1-4 (Monday)

1 Timothy 3:14-16 (Tuesday)


God seemed quite mysterious–even dangerous–in Exodus 19.  Anyone who touched Mt. Sinai would die, for the mountain was holy, and that made the geographical feature more hazardous than usual.  There was also a hazard in the peoples’ pledge to obey God’s commandments, due to the penalties for violating them.

God was also a threat in the mind of Job, who, in 19:23-27, looked forward to his Redeemer/Vindicator, a kinsman who would, in the words of a note on page 1529 of The Jewish Study Bible (2004),

vindicate him, will take revenge on God for what God has done to Job.

That is a desire many people have felt.  That interpretation is also far removed from a traditional Christian understanding of the text, not that there is anything wrong with that difference.

We find the friendly and scary faces of God in the New Testament readings.  Hebrews 2:1-4 reminds us of penalties for sins.  Yet 1 Timothy 3:14-16 brings us the mystery and the graces of God in the context of Jesus.  That example is far removed from Exodus 19:7-25, where divine holiness was fatal to people.  What could be closer to people–even in contact with them–and holy without being fatal to them than Jesus?

Mountains and the divine go together in the Bible.  Moses received the Law on one.  Jesus preached from mountains.  His Transfiguration occurred on one.  He “ascended” (whatever that means in literal, as opposed to theological terms) from a mountain.  The symbolism also works in our lives, as in our “mountaintop experiences.”

As we depart the Season after the Epiphany for Lent, may we seek and find, by grace, a closer walk with God, whose holiness gives us life and is not fatal to us.  May we internalize the lessons God wants us to internalize.  And, when we are angry with God, may we have enough faith to, in the style of Job, argue faithfully.  Communication cannot occur in the absence of messages.










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.


Week of 1 Epiphany: Tuesday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:  A Remnant of a Mosaic from Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Authoritative Jesus

JANUARY 12, 2021


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


Hebrews 2:5-13 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking.  It has been testified somewhere,

What is man that you are mindful of him,

or the son of man, that you care for him?

You have made him a little lower than the angels,

you have crowned him with glory and honor,

putting everything in subjection under his feet.

Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control.  As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.  But we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

For it was fitting that he, for whom and to whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering.  For he who sanctifies those who are sanctified have all one origin.  That is why he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying,

I will proclaim your name to my brethren,

in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.

And again,

I will put my trust in him.

And again,

Here am I, and the children God has given me.

Psalm 8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 O LORD our Governor,

how exalted is your Name in all the world!

2 Out of the mouths of infants and children,

your majesty is praised above the heavens.

3 You have set up a stronghold against your adversaries,

to quell the enemy and the avenger.

4 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,

5  What is man that you should be mindful of him?

the son of man that you should seek him out?

6 You have made him but little lower than the angels;

you adorn him with glory and honor;

7 You give him mastery over the works of your hands;

you put all things under his feet;

8 All sheep and oxen,

even the wild beasts of the field,

9 The birds of the air, the fish of the sea,

and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.

10 O LORD our Governor,

how exalted is your Name in all the world!

Below:  Nebula NGC 1999

Mark 1:21-28 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And they went into Capernaum; and immediately on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught.  And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.  And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,

What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth ?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know what you are, the Holy One of God.

But Jesus rebuked him, saying,

Be silent and come out of him!

And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.  And they were all amazed, saying,

What is this?  A new teaching!  With authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.

And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.


The Collect:

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


Some Bible stories sound odd to many of us for whom the Scientific Revolution of the 1600s remains influential.  The Hellenistic world of Jesus and his Apostles was one in which one could claim that demonic possession causes epilepsy or schizophrenia or some other ailment and almost nobody would disagree.  Those who wrote the Gospels did not disagree with that assessment.  Yet I have a different mindset.   Nevertheless, I choose not to permit this point to distract me from the major lesson in the reading from Mark.

The Gospel According to Mark portrays Jesus as a powerful and mysterious figure.  He knows who he is.  Unclean spirits know who he is, and so does Satan.  Yet Jesus’ closest associates fail to understand him until his crucifixion and resurrection, which reveal his true nature.  This is the Messianic Secret, which our Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection reveal:  the Messiah has come to die and rise again.  This is a different understanding of Messiah than many had at the time and many continue to harbor; Jesus was not the conquering hero;  he came to die and rise again.

And, unlike other teachers of the Jewish faith, he did not use constant verbal citations to what a great scholar had said.  No, he taught with authority.  More importantly, Jesus acted with authority, and this gave his words more authority than they would have had otherwise.

The Incarnation affirms human nature.  We are wretches, of course, but we also bear the image of God.  Both are true, and we need to balance the two sides well.  What are we that God is mindful of us?  We are children of the living God, bearers of the divine image.  God has walked among us, healed us, taught us, and looked like us.  God has taken on our sins and died for us.  God as risen from the dead for us.

I am not a parent, nor I desire that role.  But I am a child, and I know that my parents love me actively and sacrificially.  The parental metaphor, therefore, is a beautiful way of understanding God’s relationship with each of us.

Who are we that God is mindful of us?  We are the apples of God’s eyes.  May we, by grace, be the best apples, for the sake of each other and the glory of God.


Posted September 16, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Canadian Anglican Lectionary Year 1, January 10

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