Archive for the ‘Hebrews 9’ Tag

Devotion for the First Sunday After the Epiphany (Year D)   1 comment

Salome with the Head of John the Baptist

Above:  Salome with the Head of John the Baptist, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

Atonement and the Sovereignty of God

JANUARY 7, 2024


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


Leviticus 16:1-34

Psalm 69

Matthew 14:1-12

Hebrews 9:1-28


O God, you know my folly;

the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.

–Psalm 69:5, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)


The contents of Leviticus 16 might seem odd to a Gentile, especially one who is a Christian.  Part of a note from The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) explains it well:

The preceding chs have established that sins and bodily impurities contaminate the Tabernacle.  Regular atonement for unintentional sin and the routine eradication of impurity eliminate as much of both types of defilement as possible.  Yet, since not all unintentional wrongs are discovered and not everyone is diligent about atonement, a certain amount of defilement remains.  In particular, deliberate crimes, which contaminate the inner sanctum where the divine Presence is said to dwell, are not expurgated by the regular atonement rituals.  This ch thus provides the instructions for purging the inner sanctum along with the rest of the Tabernacle once a year, so that defilement does not accumulate.  It logically follows the laws of purification (chs 12-15), as they conclude with the statement that only by preventing the spread of impurity can the Israelites ensure God’s continual presence among them (15:31).  The annual purification ritual, briefly alluded to in Ex. 30:10, is to be performed on the tenth day of the seventh month (v. 29).  Elsewhere (23:27, 28; 25:9) this day is referred to as “yom hakippurim”–often translated as “Day of Atonement.”

–Page 231

When we turn to the Letter to the Hebrews we read an extended contrast between the annual rites for Yom Kippur and the one-time sacrifice of Jesus.  We also read a multi-chapter contrast between human priests and Jesus, who is simultaneously the priest and the victim.

How much more will the blood of Christ, who offered himself, blameless as he was, to God through the eternal Spirit, purify our conscience from dead actions so that we can worship the living God.

–Hebrews 9:14, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

St. John the Baptist, of whose death we read in Matthew 14:1-12, was the forerunner of Jesus.  Not only did John point to Jesus and baptize him, but he also preceded him in violent death.  The shedding of the blood of St. John the Baptist on the orders of Herod Antipas was a political and face-saving act.  Antipas had, after all, imprisoned John for political reasons.  The alleged crime of St. John the Baptist was to challenge authority with his words, which was one reason for the crucifixion of Jesus also.

Part of the grace evident in martyrdom (such as that of St. John the Baptist) and of the crucifixion of Jesus was that those perfidious deeds glorified not those who ordered and perpetrated them but God.  We honor St. John the Baptist, not Herod Antipas, and thank God for John’s faithful witness.  We honor Jesus of Nazareth and give thanks–for his resurrection; we do not sing the praises of the decision-making of Pontius Pilate on that fateful day.  Another part of the grace of the crucifixion of Jesus is that, although it was indeed a perfidious act, it constituted a portion of the process of atonement for sins–once and for all.

Certain powerful people, who found Jesus to be not only inconvenient but dangerous, thought they had gotten rid of him.  They could not have been more mistaken.  They had the power to kill him, but God resurrected him, thereby defeating their evil purposes.  God also used their perfidy to affect something positive for countless generations to come.  That was certainly a fine demonstration of the Sovereignty of God.









Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  Magnificat

Image in the Public Domain

Why the Birth of Jesus Occurred

DECEMBER 21, 22, and 23, 2020


The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

With your abundant grace and might,

free us from the sin that would obstruct your mercy,

that willingly we may bear your redeeming love to all the world,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19


The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 1:1-18 (Monday)

1 Samuel 1:19-28 (Tuesday)

1 Samuel 2:1-10 (Wednesday)

Luke 1:46b-55 (All Days)

Hebrews 9:1-14 (Monday)

Hebrews 8:1-13 (Tuesday)

Mark 11:1-11 (Wednesday)


My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:

the Almighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel,

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

The promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 119


Stories of and set in the context of angelic annunciations of conception and birth are, of course, appropriate for the days leading up to December 25.  In the previous post I dealt with the story of Samson.  These three days we have Hannah (mother of Samuel) and St. Mary of Nazareth (Mother of God).  To read Hannah’s song (1 Samuel 2:1-10) now is appropriate, for it was the model for the Magnificat.

This is a time to celebrate new life.  I mean that on more than one level.  There is, of course, the birth of Jesus.  Then there is the new spiritual life–both communal and individual–available via Christ.  As we celebrate this joyous time of year–one fraught with grief for many people also–may we, considering the assigned readings from Mark and Hebrews, consider why a birth occurred.  The pericope from Mark tells of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.  The readings from the Letter to the Hebrews, after much Greek philosophical language, culminate thusly:

For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!

–Hebrews 9:13-14, New Revised Standard Version (1989)

To the passage above I add that we must move along to the Resurrection, or else we will have Dead Jesus.  I serve the living Messiah, not Dead Jesus.  Christ’s Resurrection conquered evil plans, as the Classic Theory of the Atonement states correctly.

We find foreshadowing of the crucifixion in the words of Simeon to St. Mary:

…and a sword will pierce your soul too.

–Luke 2:35b, New Revised Standard Version (1989)

In a similar vein, one can sing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” to the tune “Easter Hymn,” to which many people sing “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.”  (The Methodist Hymnal/The Book of Hymns (1966) provides this option.)  Advent and Christmas lead to the crucifixion and the Resurrection.

That is why the birth of Jesus occurred.  Merry Christmas!








Week of 3 Epiphany: Monday, Year 1   16 comments

Above:  Bonfire

Image Source = Fir0002

Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

JANUARY 23, 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 9:15, 24-28 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.

For Christ has entered , not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.  Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the Holy Place yearly with blood not his own; for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world.  But as it is, he has appeared once for all for the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.  And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly awaiting him.

Image Source = Raul654

Psalm 98 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Sing to the LORD a new song,

for he has done marvelous things.

2 With his right hand and his holy arm

has he won for himself the victory.

3 The LORD has made known his victory;

his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

4 He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel,

and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

5 Shout with joy to the LORD, all you lands;

lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.

6 Sing to the LORD with the harp,

with the harp and the voice of song.

7 With trumpets and the sound of the horn

shout with joy before the King, the LORD.

8 Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it,

the lands and those who dwell therein.

9 Let the rivers clap their hands,

and let the hills ring out with joy before the LORD,

when he comes to judge the earth.

10 In righteousness shall he judge the world

and the peoples with equity.

Mark 3:19b-30 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Then he went home, and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat.  And when his friends heard it, they went out to seize him, for they said,

He is beside himself.

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said,

He is possessed by Beelzebul, and by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.

And he called to him and said to them in parables,

How can Satan cast out Satan?  If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.  But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then indeed he may plunder his house.

Truly I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”–for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.


The Collect:

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


We humans like to judge each other.  Yet we have partial knowledge, so our judgments are prone to error, often of a severe nature.  God is the ultimate judge, however, and judgment belongs there properly.   We ought to demonstrate enough humility to recognize the limits of our knowledge and wisdom, and to leave judgment to God.

The Bible uses many metaphors for God.  Among these is “a consuming fire,” an image similar to representations of the Holy Spirit as tongues of flame.  With these facts in mind, I selected a Wikipedia image of a bonfire for this post.  The metaphor works on another level, too:  The unpardonable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and unpardonable sin leads to Hell, depicted also with flames.

So, what is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?  It is the inability to recognize goodness when a person sees it.  Thus one does not see one’s sin, and cannot ask pardon and repent of it.  So a person has erected a barrier between himself or herself and God.

Consider the context in Mark; scribes have attributed acts of God (and goodness) to Satan (and evil).  They were so spiritually blind that they could not bring themselves to recognize acts of mercy as such.  Perhaps they did this as psychological self-defense; often we humans see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear.  The possibility that we are wrong can prove devastating to our egos.  And, if we admit that we are wrong and act accordingly, we might endanger our livelihood and our social definition and standing.

But may we mere mortals refrain from proclaiming anyone as guilty of the unpardonable sin.  Such judgments reside properly within the purview of God alone.  Besides, I find that my own sins that I recognize as such keep me occupied; the sins of others are between them and God.


Week of 2 Epiphany: Saturday, Year 1   16 comments

Above:  Christ in Majesty

Image Source = ich

More Than a Prophet

JANUARY 21, 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 9:2-3, 11-14 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

For a tent was prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread offering; it is called the Holy Place.  Behind the second curtain stood a tent called the Holy of Holies….

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once and for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but not his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.  For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Psalm 47 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Clap your hands, all you peoples;

shout to God with a cry of joy.

2 For the LORD Most High is to be feared;

he is the great King over all the earth.

3 He subdues the peoples under us,

and the nations under our feet.

4 He chooses our inheritance for us,

the pride of Jacob whom he loves.

5 God has gone up with a shout,

the LORD with the the sound of the ram’s horn.

6 Sing praises to God, sing praises;

sing praises to our King, sing praises.

7 For God is King of all the earth;

sing praises with all your skill.

8 God reigns over all the nations;

God sits upon his holy throne.

9  The nobles of the peoples have gathered together

with the people of the God of Abraham.

10 The rulers of the earth belong to God,

and he is highly exalted.

John 8:51-59 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Jesus said,

Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death.

The Jews said to him,

Now we know that you have a demon.  Abraham died, as did the prophet; and you say, ‘If any one keeps my word, he will never taste death.’  Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died?  And the prophets died!  Who do you claim to be?

Jesus answered,

If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say that he is your God.  But you have not known him; I know him.  If I said, I do not know him, I should be a liar like you; but I do know him and I keep his word.  Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad.

The Jews then said to him,

You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?

Jesus said to them,

Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.

So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.


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.


John Marsh, in his commentary on the Johannine Gospel (Pelican Books, 1968), labels the John 8:48-59 section “Demented or Divine?”  Indeed, if Jesus were not divine, he would have been demented.  I grew up with the canonical Gospels, so I understand them accordingly; I take some theological propositions for granted.  Yet, when I hear people relatively new to Christianity discuss these books, I hear a different take; Jesus would seem presumptuous at best and demented at worst if he were not speaking truthfully.  Ideas such as the deity of Jesus are “old hat” to me, and I see no reason to look at that hat twice.  I just wear the hat.

A few explanatory notes are in order:

  1. Leviticus 24:16 calls for the stoning of a blasphemer.
  2. Jesus referred to rabbinical interpretations of Abrahamic prophecies.  The citations are Genesis 15:8-21 and 17:17.
  3. Let us take note of the vitriol embedded in the Fourth Gospel, the last of the canonical Gospels written.  The Johannine Gospel dates from a time of Jewish-Christian conflict, which Christians were losing.  The Christians, then still technically Jews, were sufficiently marginalized that they referred to orthodox Jews as “the Jews.”

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming….

The Jesus of Mark (which we read most of the time on this lectionary) is unlike the Christ of John.  In Mark Jesus orders people not to say who and what he is; he maintains his Messianic Secret until the end.  In John, however, he broadcasts who and what he is, even using the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “I AM” in reference to himself.  All the Gospels are theological works grounded in history.  Mark, I suspect, is closer to history than is John.  None of this bothers me, for I am not and have never been a biblical literalist.

Anyhow, as the authors of Hebrews and John remind us, Jesus was no ordinary sage or prophet.  The author of Hebrews employs Greek philosophy to make the point that Jesus is the unblemished, sacrificial lamb.  The author of John understands the crucifixion Jesus as the exaltation and glorification of Jesus.  In the Johannine Gospel the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior occurs on Thursday, at the same time priests at the Temple are sacrificing animals.  The point is clear:  Jesus did not celebrate Passover that year; he was the Passover.

He was much more than a prophet.

And what will we do with this?  As the title of this post makes clear, this is an Epiphany devotion.  The theme of the season of Epiphany is taking the message of Jesus to the Gentiles.  We have a great treasure in Jesus, and we need to share it, not sit on it.  Even the calmest, most intellectual and well-reasoned explanation of Christianity can sound demented to someone from a different background.  It might sound demented to me had I not grown up within it.   Yet good catechetical pedagogy, combined with a life of faith and love of God, can prove effective in many cases.  May we try, at least.  We will not succeed with everybody; not even Jesus did.  Yet he succeeded well enough, did he not?


Posted September 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Canadian Anglican Lectionary Year 1, January 21

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