Archive for the ‘Luke 7’ Tag

Devotion for the Ninth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C (Humes)   2 comments

Above:  Cyrus II

Image in the Public Domain

To Glorify and Enjoy God

FEBRUARY 14, 2021


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


2 Chronicles 36:11-23 or Joshua 24:1-7, 13-25

Psalm 83:1-5, 13-18

Ephesians 6:11-24

Luke 7:1-17


One should serve God, of course.  Not trying to do so is mainly unacceptable.  Yet trying to do so does not guarantee succeeding in doing so; one can be sincerely wrong.  The history of religion is replete with those who have committed evils while laboring under the impression they were serving God.  So is the present state of religion.

We are morally responsible for and to each other.  Saying and writing that sentence is easy.  Understanding how it properly translates into attitudes and actions in various contexts can prove very challenging, though.

Praying is a good start, of course.  Yet we must distinguish between a dialogue and an internal monologue if we are to know the difference between God and what we want to hear.

God’s choice of human instruments may surprise us, as may the number of “others” who are among the faithful.  We humans tend to prefer neat, orderly categories, such as “insiders” and “outsiders.”  But what if we, who think ourselves as insiders, are really outsiders?  I tell people sometimes that the lists of people who are in Heaven and who are not there would astound and scandalize us if we could see them.

Grace is astounding, is it not?  It is free yet not cheap.  Likewise, judgment and mercy exist in context of each other; they are in balance God knows what that balance is.  So be it.

May we, by grace, succeed is serving God, in glorifying and enjoying God in the moment and forever.












Devotion for the Second Sunday of Christmas (Year D)   1 comment

John the Baptist in Prison

Above:  John the Baptist in Prison, by Josef Anton Hafner

Image in the Public Domain

Good Liturgy and the Covenant Written on Our Hearts

JANUARY 2, 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


Exodus 25:1-40

Psalm 73

Matthew 11:1 (2-11) 12-15 (16-19) 20-24 (25-30) or Luke 7:18-35

Hebrews 8:1-13


But for me it is good to be near God;

I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,

to tell of all your works.

–Psalm 73:28, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)


Hebrews 8 speaks of an internalized covenant, the law written on human hearts.  This is an echo of Jeremiah 31:31-34.  It is a covenant not written on the hearts of certain Pharisees and scribes in Luke 7.  When one reads the entirety of Luke 7 one realizes that the Pharisees and scribes in question were guilty of obsessing over minor details while twisting the law to accept financial donations that impoverished innocent third parties.  Thus these particular religious people were guilty of violating the principle of the Law of Moses that prohibits economic exploitation.  One also learns that a Gentile woman had the covenant written on her heart.  Likewise, those who criticized St. John the Baptist for his asceticism and Jesus for eating and drinking were seeking excuses to condemn others.  They did not have the covenant written on their hearts.

There is no fault in maintaining sacred spaces and beautiful rituals.  We mere mortals need sacred spaces that differ from other spaces and rituals that inspire our souls.  Good liturgy should make us better people.  It if does not, the fault is with us.  May it inspire us to recognize and serve God in each other.  May good liturgy, in conjunction with the covenant written on our hearts, help us find ways to act as effectively on divine principles, for the maximum benefit to others and the greatest possible glory to God.  May we refrain from carping language that tears others down and seek ways to build them up, for we are stronger together in the body of faith.








Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After the Third Sunday of Advent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

St. Paul by Theophanes the Cretan

Above:  Icon of St. Paul, by Theophanes the Cretan

Image in the Public Domain

Authority and Grace

DECEMBER 13-15, 2021


The Collect:

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God,

and open our ears to the preaching of John, that

rejoicing in your salvation, we may bring forth the fruits of repentance;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19


The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 16:1-19 (Monday)

Numbers 16:20-35 (Tuesday)

Micah 4:8-13 (Wednesday)

Isaiah 11:1-9 (All Days)

Hebrews 13:7-17 (Monday)

Acts 28:23-31 (Tuesday)

Luke 7:31-35 (Wednesday)


But a shoot shall grow out of the stump of Jesse,

A twig shall sprout from his stock.

The spirit of the LORD shall alight upon him:

A spirit of wisdom and insight,

A spirit of counsel and valor,

A spirit of devotion and reverence for the LORD.

He shall sense the truth by his reverence for the LORD:

He shall not judge by what his eyes behold,

Nor decide by what his ears perceive.

Thus he shall judge the poor with equity

And decide with justice for the lowly of the land.

He shall strike down a land with the rod of his mouth

And slay the wicked with the breath of his lips.

Justice shall be the girdle of his loins,

And faithfulness the girdle of his waist.

The wolf shall lay down with the lamb,

The leopard lie down with the kid;

The calf, the beast of prey, and the fatling together,

With a little boy to herd them.

The cow and the bear shall graze,

Their young shall lie down together;

And the lion, like the ox, shall eat straw.

A babe shall play

Over a viper’s hole,

And an infant pass his hand

Over an adder’s den.

In all of My sacred mount

Nothing evil or vile shall be done;

For the land shall be filled with devotion to the LORD

As water covers the sea.

–Isaiah 11:1-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)


In the Torah Moses was God’s choice to lead the Hebrews for many years.  To oppose Moses, therefore, was to sin, according to that extended narrative, as it has come down to us in its final form.  Disobedience to the principles of the Law of Moses, according to the theology of subsequent biblical books, led to the destruction of two Hebrews kingdoms.  Yet, texts indicated, restoration and good times would follow the Babylonian Exile.

The theology of obeying religious leaders, which occurs in Hebrews 13, meshes well with the composite pericope from Numbers 16.  The historical context of Christian calls to obey approved religious leaders, present in the Bible as well as in early Christian writings from subsequent centuries, occurred in the context of doctrinal formation.  Doctrines did not fall from Heaven or appear magically, fully formed.  No, human beings debated them and sometimes even fought (literally) over them.  Orthodoxy, as approved church leaders have defined it, has changed over time.  For example, Origen (185-254 C.E.) was orthodox by most of the standards of his time.  Yet he became a heretic ex post facto and postmortem because the First Council of Nicaea (325 C.E.) contradicted elements of his Trinitarian theology.

Throughout the Christian past orthodox leaders have disagreed with each other and with those they have labeled heretics (often accurately) in real time.  This raises a legitimate question:  Whom is one supposed to regard as authoritative.  This is an old problem.  The ultimate answer has ways been God, but even heretics have tended to agree with that answer.  Early Christianity was quite diverse–more so than historians of Christianity understood for centuries.  How was one supposed to avoid following a false teacher?  St. Paul the Apostle understood the answer as being to listen to him and his associates.  Apostolic succession was another way of establishing orthodox credentials.  There were always critics of orthodox leaders (who were no less imperfect than heretics), as there had been of Jesus and St. John the Baptist before them.

The question of who speaks for God remains a difficult one much of the time.  I think, for example, that I am generally on the right path theologically, but I know people who disagree with that opinion strongly.  My best answer to the difficult question is to evaluate people and their messages according to certain criteria, such as the following:

  1. Do they teach and practice love of others, focusing on the building up of community without sacrificing the individual to the collective?
  2. Do they teach and practice respecting the image of God in their fellow human beings, even while allowing for the reality of difficult moral quandaries relative to that issue?
  3. Do they focus on the lived example of Jesus, leading people to God via him, instead of focusing on any human personality, especially that of a living person?
  4. Do they teach and practice compassion, as opposed to legalism?

Salvation, which is for both the community and the individual, is a matter of God’s grace and human obedience.  That grace demands much of its recipients.  Go, take up your cross and follow Jesus, it says.  Share your blessings and take risks for the glory of God and the benefit of others, it requires.  Fortunately, it does not command that I have an answer for the question of whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son or just from the Father.






Devotion for Tuesday and Wednesday After the Second Sunday of Advent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

St. John the Baptist

Above:  St. John the Baptist

Image in the Public Domain

The Faithfulness and Generosity of God, Part III

DECEMBER 7 and 8, 2021


The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.

By his coming give to all the world knowledge of your salvation;

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 19


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 19:18-25 (Tuesday)

Isaiah 35:3-7 (Wednesday)

Psalm 126 (Both Days)

2 Peter 1:2-15 (Tuesday)

Luke 7:18-30 (Wednesday)


When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,

then we were like those who dream.

Then was our mouth filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy.

They they said among the nations,

“The LORD has done great things for them.”

The LORD has done great thins for us,

and we are glad indeed.

Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the watercourses of the Negev.

Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

Those who go our reaping, carrying the seed,

will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

–Psalm 126, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


St. John the Baptist was a political prisoner.  The great forerunner of Jesus was having doubts, perhaps due in part to despair.  That was understandable.

Many Hebrews were exiles in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Other Hebrews lived in their homeland, yet under occupation.  Hopelessness was understandable.

Yet God was undefeated and not in prison.  No, God was preparing to do something new.  Egypt was going to suffer, in part because its “sages” depended on their “received wisdom” (actually foolishness), not on God.  Yet after punishment, First Isaiah wrote, Egypt was going to turn to God and become an instrument of divine mercy.  Later, in Isaiah 35, the Babylonian Exile was going to end, the prophet wrote.  And sadly, St. John the Baptist died in prison.  He was a forerunner in execution also.  Yet at least John received his answer from Jesus, who went on to suffer, die, and not remain dead for long.

The Kingdom of God, partially in place since at least the earthly lifetime of Jesus of Nazareth, awaits its full unveiling.  Until then good people will continue to suffer and sometimes die for the sake of righteousness, if not the reality that they prove to be inconvenient to powerful bad people.  One Christian duty during this time of evil coexisting with the Kingdom of God is building up faithful community, thereby striving for justice and reaching out to those around us.  The church is properly salt and light in the world, not an isolated colony living behind barricades and living at war with it.

You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

You are the light of the world.  A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under a bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

–Matthew 5:13-16, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

God is faithful and generous, but that reality precludes neither punishment for offenses nor suffering for the sake of righteousness.  Those who expect God to be a cosmic warm fuzzy are in error, just as those who imagine that the existence and love of God lead to an end to suffering (especially of the godly) are wrong.  Yet, if we suffer for the sake of righteousness, God is at our side.  Can we recognize the reality that God loves us, sides with us, and has suffered for us?  How will that recognition translate into thinking, and therefore into living?









Third Week of Advent: Thursday   9 comments

Above: Westminster Abbey (as in the Westminster Confession of Faith and accompanying Catechisms)

God’s Purpose for Us

DECEMBER 21, 2023


Isaiah 54:1-10 (Revised English Bible):

Sing, barren woman who never bore a child;

break into a shout of joy, you that have never been in labour;

for the deserted wife will have more children

than she who lives with her husband,

says the LORD.

Enlarge the space for your dwelling,

extend the curtains of your tent to the full;

let out its ropes and drive the tent-pegs home;

for you will spread from your confines right and left,

your descendants will dispossess nations

and will people cities now desolate.

Fear not, you will not be put to shame;

do not be downcast, you will not suffer disgrace.

It is time to forget the shame of your younger days

and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood;

for your husband is your Maker;

his name is the LORD of Hosts.

He who is called God of all the earth,

the Holy One of Israel, is your redeemer.

The LORD has acknowledged you a wife again,

once deserted and heart-broken;

your God regards you as a wife still young,

though you were once cast off.

For a passing moment I forsook you,

but with a tender affection I shall bring you home again.

In an upsurge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment;

but now have I pitied you with never-failing love,

says the LORD, your Redeemer.

For this to me is like the days of Noah;

as I swore that the waters of Noah’s flood

should never again pour over the earth,

so now I swear to you

never again to be angry with you or rebuke you.

Though the mountains may move and the hills shake,

my love will be immovable and never fall,

and my covenant promising peace will not be shaken,

says the LORD in his pity for you.

Psalm 30 (Revised English Bible):

I shall exalt you, LORD;

you have lifted me up

and have not let my enemies be jubilant over me.

LORD my God, I cried to you and you healed me.

You have brought me up, LORD, from Sheol,

and saved my life as I was sinking into the abyss.

Sing a psalm to the LORD, all you his loyal servants;

give thanks to his holy name.

In his anger is distress, in his favour there is life.

Tears may linger at nightfall,

but rejoicing comes in the morning.

I felt secure and said,

I can never be shaken.

LORD, by your favour you made my mountain strong;

when you hid your face, I was struck with dismay.

To you, LORD, I called

and pleaded with you for mercy:

What profit is there in my death,

in my going down to the pit?

Can the dust praise you?

Can it proclaim your truth?

Hear, LORD, and be gracious to me;

LORD, be my helper.

You have turned my laments into dancing;

you have stripped off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,

that I may sing psalms to you without ceasing.

LORD my God, I shall praise you for ever.

Luke 7:24-30 (Revised English Bible):

After John’s messengers had left, Jesus began to speak about him to the crowds:

What did you go into the wilderness to see?  A reed swaying in the wind?  No?  Then what did you go out to see?  A man dressed in finery?  Grand clothes and luxury are to be found in palaces.  But what did you go out to see?  A prophet?  Yes indeed, and far more than a prophet.  He is the man of whom scripture says,

“Here is my herald, whom I send ahead of you,

and he will prepare your way before you.”

I tell you, among all who have been born, no one has been greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he is.

When they heard him, all the people, including the tax-collectors, acknowledged the goodness of God, for they had accepted John’s baptism; but the Pharisees and lawyers, who had refused his baptism, rejected God’s purpose for themselves.

The Collect:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.


What is the chief and highest end of man?

“Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.”

–The Westminster Larger Catechism (1646), Question #1, from The Book of Confessions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

The above quote summarizes the greatest human destiny well.  Each of us is on this planet to fill positive roles, thereby leaving our environs and those in them better than we found them, for the glory of God and the benefit of others.  And, along the way, we are called to enjoy God.

Once I heard a proposal for how to live spiritually.  It held that we are supposed to engage in a daring dance with God, laying aside dourness and rigid orthodoxies.  This image appeals to me, for I an neither dour nor rigidly orthodox.  The most important aspect of the metaphor is that God be the dancing partner.  And I suspect that the dance is not necessarily respectable ballroom dancing.  Maybe it is the Charleston, tango, or lambada.  Let the dance begin, or continue.

Yet many of our fellow human beings do not choose a positive path.  They opt for a life of violence and hatred.  From time to time, when I house and pet sit (for I have opted to live without cable television), I watch MSNBC programs about prisons.  I see profiles of some people who lead truly vile lives.  As a law-abiding citizen I am glad that authorities keep them away from people such as me.  I know also that these individuals did not have to become who they did and come to live where they do.  And I realize that they do not live beyond the reach of grace, for grace is available everywhere.

We humans make choices.  Often we must lie in the beds we have made.  This fact, however, does not mean that we have to keep making these beds.  Also, history contains stories of people whom God has converted from violent lives to peaceful, righteous ones.  There is always hope through God.

May we embrace this hope and glorify and enjoy God forever.


Written on June 1, 2010

Posted September 15, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2023-2024, December 21, Episcopal Church Lectionary

Tagged with , ,

Third Week of Advent: Wednesday   7 comments

Above: “YHWH” in Hebrew

The One and Only

DECEMBER 20, 2023


Isaiah 45:5-8, 18-25 (Revised English Bible):

I am the LORD, and there is none other;

apart from me there is no god.

Though you have not known me I shall strengthen you,

so that from east to west

all may know there is none besides me:

I am the LORD, and there is none other;

I make the light, I create the darkness;

author alike of well-being and woe,

I, the LORD, do all these things.

Rain righteousness, you heavens,

let the skies above pour it down,

let the earth open for it

that salvation may flourish

with righteousness growing beside it.

I, the LORD, have created this.

Thus says the LORD, the Creator of the heavens,

he who is God,

who made the earth and fashioned it

and by himself fixed it firmly,

who created it not as a formless waste

but as a place to be lived in:

I am the LORD, and there is no other.

I did not speak in secret, in realms of darkness;

I did not say to Jacob’s people,

Look for me in the formless waste.

I the LORD speak what is right, I declare what is just.

Gather together, come, draw near,

you survivors of the nations,

who in ignorance carry wooden idols in procession,

praying to a god that cannot save.

Come forward and urge your case, consult together:

who foretold this in days of old,

who stated it long ago?

Was it not I, the LORD?

There is no god but me,

none other than I, victorious and able to save.

From every corner of the earth

turn to me and be saved;

for I am God, there is none other.

By my life I have sworn,

I have given a promise of victory,

a promise that will not be broken;

to me every knee will bow,

to me every tongue will swear,


In the LORD alone

are victory and might.

All who defy him

will stand ashamed in his presence,

but all Israel’s descendants will be victorious

and will glory in the LORD.

Psalm 85:8-13 (Revised English Bible):

Let me hear the words of God the LORD:

he proclaims peace to his people and loyal servants;

let them not go back to foolish ways.

Deliverance is near to those who worship him,

so that glory may dwell in our land.

Love and faithfulness have come together;

justice and peace have embraced.

Faithfulness appears from earth

and justice looks down from heaven.

The LORD will grant prosperity,

and our land will yield its harvest.

Justice will go in front of him,

and peace on the path he treads.

Luke 7:18-23 (Revised English Bible):

When John [the Baptist] was informed of all this (Jesus working miracles] by his disciples, he summoned two of them and sent them to the Lord with this question:

Are you the one who is to come, or are we to expect someone else?

The men made their way to Jesus and said,

John the Baptist has sent us to ask you, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to expect someone else?’

There and then he healed many sufferers from diseases, plagues, and evil spirits; and on many blind people he bestowed sight.  Then he gave them this answer:

Go and tell John what you have seen and heard:  the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers and made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, the poor are brought good news–and happy is he who does not find me an obstacle to faith.

The Collect:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.


There is one deity:  God, whom Judaism and Christianity describe.  The God of the Bible is the only god.  Any statement to the contrary is false.

And Jesus is the incarnation of God.  John the Baptist, who identified him, sent emissaries with a question which reflected doubt, and received and answer.  The Judeo-Christian God demands social justice, sole adoration, and obedience to rules which exist for excellent reasons.  Freedom can exist only within rules, and God’s laws liberate us to become what we need to be.

I add one note of caution, however.  To attempt to establish a new, presumably divinely-sanctioned social order by force leads to injustice and theocracy.  New England Puritans of the colonial era hanged Quakers (Quakers!) in the name of God.  Today the leaders (whom I presume believe in their cause and perceive it as righteous–wrong though they are) of the Islamic Republic of Iran persecute dissidents.  And, over a thousand years ago, the Byzantine Empire engaged in Iconoclastic controversies, which entailed persecuting monks who protected sacred images.  Nobody can impose righteousness by force, and the effort is oxymoronic.

Rather, righteousness grows and spreads by consent, hopefully become a privileged concept.  The United States has never been a Christian nation, but it has been more Christian than it is today.  And it can become more Christian via the changing of minds.  Yet one must not mistake Christianity for reactionary, regressive politics, namely misogyny, racism, homophobia, and contentment with lip service for economic reform to help the poor.


Written on June 1, 2010