Archive for the ‘Isaiah 6’ Tag

Devotion for Christmas Day (Year D)   1 comment

Adoration of the Shepherds, by Mikael Toppelius

Above:  The Adoration of the Shepherds, by Mikael Toppelius

Image in the Public Domain

Deciding or Refusing to Repent

DECEMBER 25, 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


Isaiah 6:(8) 9-13 or Jeremiah 10:1-16 (17-25)

Psalm 35 or 94

John 12:17-19, 37-50

Romans 11:2b-28 (29-32) 33-36


You have seen, O LORD, do not be silent!

O Lord, do not be far from me!

–Psalm 35:22, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)


Happy are those whom you discipline, O LORD,

and whom you touch out of your law,

giving them respite from days of trouble,

until a pit is dug for the wicked.

For the Lord will not forsake his people;

he will not abandon his heritage;

for justice will return to the righteous,

and all the upright in heart will follow it.

–Psalm 94:12-15, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)


Some of the readings for this occasion seem to indicate that God has, at various times, designated entire populations and refused to permit them to repent of their sins.  This reading is at odds with the theology of unlimited atonement (by Jesus, via his death and resurrection), which ends a process begun by the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth.  My understanding is that (A) all of us are sinners, (B) God desires all sinners to repent, and (C) many sinners simply refuse to repent.  In Judaism one can find an interpretation of the lection from Isaiah that insists that God predicted that many people would not understand and did not desire them to fail to understand.  In this reading First Isaiah’s mission was to help people to repent, not to prevent it.  This makes sense to me.

Why might one not repent?  One might identify a set of reasons, but perhaps the most basic reason is that one must recognize something as an error before one seeks to correct it.  Spiritual blindness is a major problem from which all people suffer.  We can, by grace, see what occupies our blind spots.  Assuming that we do this, do we want to change?  Maybe we think that necessary change is pointless or too difficult.  Or perhaps we are simply afraid to take action by trusting in God and venturing into unknown (to us) spiritual territory.  Either way, one does not repent.

Whoever loves himself or herself more than God is lost, we read in John 12.  To be a Christian is to follow Jesus, who went to a cross then a tomb, which he occupied only briefly.

To think this much about Good Friday and Easter Sunday on Christmas Day might seem odd, but it is theologically correct.  The recognition of this reality is hardly new.  Indeed, Johann Sebastian Bach incorporated the Passion Chorale tune into his Christmas Oratorio.

Grace is free to all, fortunately.  Yet many will not accept it and the demands accompanying it.  Each of us has a responsibility to say “yes” to God, whose grace is always free and never cheap.  Each of us has a responsibility to love his or her neighbors as he or she loves himself or herself.  Doing so will, for different people, lead to different ends in this life, and translate into action in a variety of ways, depending on circumstances.  The principle is constant, however.  Jesus, who came to us first as a baby, demands nothing less than taking up one’s cross and following him.







Devotion for January 3 and 4, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Oil Lamp

Above:  A Biblical Oil Lamp

Image in the Public Domain

Secrets, Lies, and Misconceptions

JANUARY 3 and 4, 2021


The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave us your only Son

to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20


The Assigned Readings:

Job 42:10-17 (January 3)

Isaiah 6:1-5 (January 4)

Psalm 72 (Both Days)

Luke 8:16-21 (January 3)

Acts 7:44-53 (January 4)


Give the king your judgments, O God,

and your righteousness to the son of a king.

Then shall he judge your people righteously

and your poor with injustice.

–Psalm 72:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)


Solomon built the first Temple.  Unfortunately, he used high taxes and forced labor to do so.  So much for justice for the poor!

We cannot keep our secrets forever.  It is good, therefore, that one’s secrets be either positive or morally neutral.  To give to charity anonymously, for example, is a positive secret.  To contribute beauty to the world anonymously for the glory of God is also a virtue.  I think, for example, of William Arthur Dunkerley (1852-1941), who went to much effort to keep the secret that he was the novelist, poet, and religious writer John Oxenham.  Authors and editors of hymnal companion volumes from his lifetime did not know the actual identity of John Oxenham.  (I know, for I own such books from that time period.)

Why we keep secrets matters.  Sometimes it is simply a matter of privacy.  “None of your business” is frequently a legitimate reason.  Keeping a secret so that glory will go to God, one oneself, is a good reason, as I have argued.  Yet covering up something negative, although perhaps successful for a period of time, will fail, at least in the ultimate court of justice–that of God.

The majesty and mystery of God, in whose presence we are not worthy to stand, is awe-inspiring.  That majesty and mystery also becomes an unfortunate excuse to dodge proper questions which warrant real answers.  In the Book of Job, for example, God permitted the titular character to suffer as a test of his loyalty.  Job insisted correctly on his innocence (to which the text attests).  Job deserved a real answer from God.  Instead he received the “I’m God and you’re not” reply.  Then he recanted.  The tacked-on happy ending, in which God restores Job’s riches and gives him more children, does not satisfy me.  The God of the Book of Job is a figure to recoil from in terror, not to love.

A faithful, awe-filled response to God, who exceeds human capacity of comprehension, includes loving and glorifying God, enjoying God, and loving one’s neighbor as one loves oneself.  Attitudes lead to actions.  So, without falling into the heresy of Pietism, I affirm the principle of the Letter of James that works matter.  So does being careful regarding what one says and writes about the character of God.  Many people have used God as an excuse to justify their bigotry and violence.  Some of them wrote parts of scripture.  The standard for me is Jesus of Nazareth, God incarnate.  Understandings of God have changed and continue to do so, but Christ is constant.  And that is no secret.






Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C   7 comments

Above:  The Call of Isaiah

Image Source = Cadetgray

Sacred Vocations

FEBRUARY 6, 2022


Isaiah 6:1-13 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

In the year that King Uzziah died, I beheld my Lord seated on a high and lofty throne; and the skirts of His robe filled the Temple.  Seraphs stood in attendance on Him.  Each of them had six wings:  with two he covered his face, with two he covered his legs, and with two he would fly.

And one would call to the other,

Holy, holy, holy!

The LORD of Hosts!

His presence fills all the earth!

The doorposts would shake at the sound of the one who called, and the House kept filling with smoke.  I cried,

Woe is me; I am lost!

For I am a man of unclean lips

And I live among a people

Of unclean lips;

Yet my own eyes have beheld

The King LORD of Hosts.

Then one of the seraphs flew over to me with a live coal, which he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.  He touched it to my lips and declared,

Now that this has touched your lips,

Your guilt shall depart

And your sin be purged away.

Then I heard the voice of my Lord saying,

Whom shall I send?  Who will go for us?

And I said,

Here am I; send me.

And He said,

Go, say to that people:

“Hear, indeed, but do not understand;

See, indeed, but do not grasp.”

Dull that people’s mind,

Stop its ears,

And seal its eyes–

Lest, seeing with its eyes

And hearing with its ears,

It also grasp with its mind,

And repent and save itself.

I asked,

How long, my Lord?

And He replied:

Till towns lie waste without inhabitants

And houses without people,

And the ground lies waste and desolate–

For the LORD will banish the population–

And deserted sites are many

In the midst of the land.

But while a tenth part yet remains in it, it shall repent.  It shall be ravaged like the terebinth and the oak, of which stumps are left even when they are felled; its stump shall be a holy seed.

Psalm 138 (Revised English Bible):

I shall give praise to you, LORD, with my whole heart;

in the presence of the gods I shall sing psalms to you.

I shall bow down towards your holy temple;

for your love and faithfulness I shall praise your name,

for you have exalted your promise above the heavens.

When I called, you answered me

and made me bold and strong.

Let all the kings of the earth praise you, LORD,

when they hear the words you have spoken;

let them sing of the LORD’s ways,

for great is the glory of the LORD.

The LORD is exalted, yet he cares for the lowly

and from afar he takes note of the proud.

Though I am compassed about by trouble,

you preserve my life,

putting forth your power against the rage of my enemies,

and with your right hand you save me.

The LORD will accomplish his purpose for me.

Your love endures for ever, LORD;

do not abandon what you have made.

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received  and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you–believing anything else will not lead to anything.

Well then, in the first place, I taught you what I had been taught myself, namely that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; and that he was raised to life on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared first to Cephas and secondly to the Twelve.  Next he appeared to more than five thousand of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died; then he appeared to James, and then to all the apostles; and last of all he appeared to me too; it was as though I was born when no one expected it.

I am the least of the apostles; in fact, since I persecuted the Church of God, I hardly deserve the name apostle; but by God’s grace that is what I am, and the grace that he gave me has not been fruitless.  On the contrary, I, or rather the grace of God that is with me, have worked harder than any of the others; but what matters is that I preach what they preach, and this is what you all believed.

Luke 5:1-11 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now he was standing one day by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the crowd pressing round him listening to the word of God, when he caught sight of two boats close to the bank.  The fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.  He got into one of the boats–it was Simon’s–and asked him to put out a little from the shore.  Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.

When he had finished speaking he said to Simon,

Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.

Simon replied,

Master, we worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.

And when they had done this they netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear, so they signalled to their companions in the other boat to come and help them; when these came, they filled the two boats to sinking point.

When Simon Peter saw this he fell at the knees of Jesus saying,

Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.

For he and all his companions were completely overcome by the catch they had made; so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners;  But Jesus said to Simon,

Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.

Then, bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him.

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.


\My most basic prayer for anyone–including myself–is that God’s best for that person will be that person’s reality.  This petition speaks of an awareness that God has a set of purposes for each person and that one’s set is not another’s.  There are certain broad generalizations which apply across the board, of course.  Glorifying and enjoying God forever is one of them.  Loving one’s neighbors is another.  But circumstances and grace dictate the specifics.

We human beings have demonstrated the unfortunate tendency to work toward keeping people different from us and therefore allegedly inferior to us “in their place.”  Thus Antebellum slaves in the Southern U.S.  were supposed, by law in several states, to be illiterate.  And, after emancipation, powerful white people did not always provide schools for African Americans.  The schools which did exist were woefully inferior in many places.  Thus a large proportion of the population lacked equality of opportunity.  The society suffered, for keeping another “in his place” requires someone to make sure he stays there.  That monitor is therefore not far removed from his victim.  Thus perpetrators victimize themselves.

But what is God’s designated place for each of us?  Isaiah became a prophet.  Simon Peter, James, and John became great Apostles.  And so did Paul.  Human sinfulness was no obstacle to grace.  What is God’s designated place for you?  If you, O reader, are fortunate, you are there already.  If not, may you get there.  Getting there requires human assistance, so may you help others arrive at God’s destination and may others help you in your sacred vocation(s).









Devotion for November 30 in Advent (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Above:  Christ with Beard

Subversive Compassion

NOVEMBER 30, 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:

Isaiah 6:1-7:9

Psalm 102 (Morning)

Psalms 130 and 16 (Evening)

1 Peter 2:13-25


Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 6-7:

A Prayer for Compassion:


I have covered the reading from Isaiah already, so I refer you, O reader, to the labeled links for them.  At this time and place I choose to say the following:  A pressing question for many Christians in the latter portion of the first century C.E. was whether one could be both a good Christian and a good Roman.  Also, the author of 1 Peter assumed that Jesus would be back quite soon to sort out the world order.  As I write these words, our Lord has not returned. The world order is what we have made it; may we exercise our agency responsibly to improve it.  This does involve resisting authority sometimes, as in the case of tyrannical governments.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer plotted to assassinate Adolf Hitler.  Many faithful Christians–Protestants and Roman Catholics–sheltered Jews and resisted the Third Reich.  And, throughout church history, bishops have called monarchs to account.

We who read and interpret the Bible must be careful to read it as a whole, not to fixate so much on certain passages that we ignore inconvenient ones and distort the composite meaning of the texts.  There is something called confirmation bias, which means that we tend to pay attention to evidence which supports our opinions and ignore or dismiss that which does not.  I look for this in myself and try to safeguard against prooftexting, the confirmation bias method of misreading the Bible.

I keep returning to the example Jesus set.  (I am a professing Christian, literally a “partisan of Christ.”)  He violated many religious customs, some of them from the Law of Moses itself.  He seems to have favored compassion over any other factor when they came into conflict.  And he taught this ethic with his words.  So we have in our Lord the union of words and deeds favoring compassion above all else in guiding our actions toward others.  Compassion trumps all else.

As much as I disagree with those aspects of Christian traditions which deal favorably with tyrants and dictators, justify servitude, and smile upon gender inequality, I find Jesus to be the strong counterpoint to them.  Somewhere–very soon after our Lord’s time on the planet ended–the church began to accommodate itself–frequently in ways inconsistent with Christ–to the Roman Empire.  Jesus was a subversive.  I mean this as a compliment.  I follow the subversive, or at least I try to do so.  If I am to be an honest Christian, this is what I must do.