Archive for the ‘Mark 6’ Tag

Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Second Sunday of Advent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

True Grit

Above:  Mattie Ross on Blackie, Her Fine Horse, in True Grit (2010)

A Screen Capture via PowerDVD and a legal DVD

The Faithfulness and Generosity of God, Part I

DECEMBER 6, 7, and 8, 2018


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:

Malachi 3:5-12 (Thursday)

Malachi 3:13-18 (Friday)

Malachi 3:19-24/4:1-6 (Saturday)

Luke 1:68-79 (All Days)

Philippians 1:12-18a (Thursday)

Philippians 1:18b-26 (Friday)

Luke 9:1-6 (Saturday)



Malachi 4:1-6 in Protestant Bibles = Malachi 3:19-24 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Bibles.


Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil.  The author of all things watches over me, and I have a fine horse.

–Mattie Ross in True Grit (2010)


A person who remembers the ending of that movie should understand that Mattie’s fine horse did not prevent her from losing part of one arm.  One might also recognize the irony of the last sentence.

The author of all things watches over me

seems to indicate trust in God, but

I have a fine horse

constitutes a contradictory thought.

The instructions of Jesus to his twelve Apostles emphasize complete dependence on God, who provides via people much of the time.  In Mark 6:8 each man may carry a staff, but Matthew 10:10 and Luke 9:3 forbid that item.  The Apostles’ mission was an urgent one for which packing lightly and depending upon the hospitality of strangers were essential.  Such light packing also emphasized solidarity with the poor, who were most likely to be the ones extending hospitality, given the fact that they lived on the edges of towns.  The Apostles were to announce the Kingdom of God, not to press the issue where they were unwelcome.

The ethic of trusting God, especially during difficult times, exists in the readings from Malachi and Philippians.  Locusts (in Malachi) and incarceration (in Philippians) were the background hardships.  Yet trust in the generosity of God, the prophet wrote.  St. Paul the Apostle noted that his period of incarceration (wherever and whenever it was; scholars debate that point) aided the spread the gospel of Jesus.

Zechariah prophesied that his son, St. John the Baptist, would be the forerunner of the Messiah.  Both John and Jesus suffered and died at the hands of authorities, which we remember in their context.  Officialdom was powerless to prevent the spread of the good news of Jesus in those cases and in the case of Paul.  Mortal means can prove useful, but they pass away in time.  The faithfulness and generosity of God, however, are everlasting.  To live confidently in the latter is a wise course of action.

Of all the illusions to abandon, one of the most difficult to leave behind is the idea that one must be in control.  The illusion of control might boost one’s self-esteem, but so what?  Control remains an illusion.  On the other hand, recognizing that God is in control is liberating.  It frees one up to live as one ought to live–

in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ

–according to Philippians 1:27b (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989).

I know this struggle well.  The idol of the illusion of control was precious to me.  Then circumstances forced me to learn the reality of my powerlessness and to trust God, for I had no feasible alternative.  Sometimes dire events prove to be necessary for spiritual awakening to occur.

God has given each of us important tasks to complete.  May we lay aside all illusions and other incumbrances, pack lightly, and labor faithfully to the glory of God and for the benefit of those to whom God sends us and to those whom God sends to us.  May we trust in the faithfulness and generosity of God, not in ourselves.









Week of 5 Epiphany: Monday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  Solomon Dedicates the Temple

“…to this day”

FEBRUARY 10, 2020


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.


Once again I have changed translations, something I do from time to time.  It is good to read biblical texts, especially ones with which one is familiar in one version, in a different one.  The act of translating a biblical text out of its original language is also one of interpreting it, for there are shades of meaning in ancient Hebrew and Greek.  Which shade of meaning does one emphasize? So a very helpful way of reading the texts, which I like to type out, is to have at least one other translation available and to compare and contrast the renderings.

The versions I use for this week are:

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985), of the Jewish Publication Society,


The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972), by J. B. Phillips.


1 Kings 8:1-13 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Then Solomon convoked the elders of Israel–all the heads of the tribes and the ancestral chieftains of the Israelites–before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD from the City of David, that is, Zion.

All the men of Israel gathered before King Solomon at the Feast, in the month of Ethanim–that is, the seventh month.  When all the elders of Israel had come, the priests lifted the Ark and carried up the Ark of the LORD.  Then the priests and the Levites brought the Tent of Meeting and all the holy vessels that were in the Tent.  Meanwhile, King Solomon and and the whole community of Israel, who were assembled with him before the Ark, were sacrificing sheep and oxen in such abundance that they could not be numbered or counted.

The priests brought the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant to its place underneath the wings of the cherubim, in the Shrine of the House, in the Holy of Holies; for the cherubim had their wings spread out over the place of the Ark, so that the Cherubim shielded the Ark and its poles from above.  The poles projected so that the ends of the poles were visible in the sanctuary in front of the Shrine, bu they could not be seen outside; and there they remain to this day.  There was nothing inside the Ark but the two tablets of stone which Moses placed there at Horeb, when the LORD made [a covenant] with the Israelites after the departure from the land of Egypt.

When the priests came out of the sanctuary–for the cloud had filled the House of the LORD and the priests were not able to remain and perform the service because of the cloud, for the Presence of the LORD filled the House of the LORD–then Solomon declared:

The LORD has chosen

To abide in a thick cloud:

I have now built for You

A stately House,

A place where You

May dwell forever.

Psalm 132:6-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

6  “The ark!”  We heard it was in Ephratah;

we found it in the fields of Jearim.

7  Let us go to God’s dwelling place;

let us fall upon our knees before his footstool.”

8  Arise, O LORD, into your resting-place,

you and the ark of your strength.

9  Let your priests be clothed with righteousness;

let your faithful people sing with joy.

10  For your servant David’s sake,

do not turn away the face of your Anointed.

Mark 6:53-56 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

And when they had crossed over to the other side of the lake they landed at Gennesaret and tied up there.  As soon as they came ashore, the people recognised Jesus and rushed all over the countryside and began to carry the sick around on their beds to wherever he was.  Wherever he went, in villages or towns or hamlets, they laid down their sick right in the marketplaces and begged him that they might “just touch the edge of this cloak”.  And all those who touched him were healed.


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.


Some Related Posts:

Week of 5 Epiphany:  Monday, Year 1:

Matthew 14 (Parallel to Mark 6):


From June 1982 to June 1985 my father served as pastor of the Hopewell United Methodist Church, outside Baxley, Georgia, on Red Oak Road, in Appling County.  I was in the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Grades at the time.  Being young and generally well-trained, I deferred to my elders much of the time, even when I knew they were factually mistaken.  Some of my Sunday School teachers were poorly informed, yet I stayed quiet when I heard them make a basic mistake, such as what the “ninth hour” was in relation to Christ’s crucifixion.  One Sunday School teacher did not know that this was 3:00 P.M., for example.  And at least one Sunday School teacher misinterpreted “to this day” references in the Bible to apply to the early 1980s.

1 Kings 8:8 uses “to this day” to refer to the position of the Ark of the Covenant’s position (and the position of its poles) in the Holy of Holies in Solomon’s Temple.  Yet Solomon’s Temple has not stood since 587/586 B.C.E., and the Ark of the Covenant had ceased to be at the Temple before then.  So “to this day” helps one date the writing of that verse.  The statement was accurate when the author wrote that line.  As a history buff, I find such markers quite helpful.

The reading from 1 Kings 8 is part of the description of Solomon’s dedication of the First Temple.  The lesson conveys a sense of great mystery and reverence, down to the cloud, an indication of the divine presence, filling the House of the LORD.  I do not know what actually happened, for the prose poet in me suspects that words were inadequate to describe well what really occurred.  But it was, simply put, mystical.  That satisfies me.

Yet God seems both close and distant in 1 Kings 8.  “God is here, so we cannot perform our service,” the priests seemed to have said to themselves in Hebrew.  As a Christian, I believe in approaching God with reverence, but consider God approachable nonetheless.  God has come to us as a baby who grew up and became a craftsman who worked with stone and wood.  This craftsman also healed many people (as in the reading from Mark), uttered many wise sayings and great moral truths, suffered, died, rose from the dead, and atoned for human sins.

By the act of the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth, God approached us, so I feel free to approach God–reverently, of course, but quite personally.  In fact, my preferred way of addressing God is “You.”  I mean the second person singular and informal pronoun; if I were speaking in French, I would call God Tu, a practice consistent with every French translation of the Bible I have seen.

God has approached us.  That is true to this day, Monday, June, 20, 2011, when I write these words, and afterward.  A reciprocal response is appropriate and respectful.  That is also true to this day.


Week of 4 Epiphany: Saturday, Year 2   10 comments

Above:  The Court of Solomon

Legacies and Opportunities

FEBRUARY 8, 2020


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.


1 Kings 3:3-15 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father; only he sacrificed and burnt incense at the high places.  And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings upon that altar.  At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said,

Ask what I shall give you.

And Solomon said,

You have shown great and merciful love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart before you; and you have kept for him this great and merciful love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day.  And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.  And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered or counted for multitude.  Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to govern this great people of yours?

It pleased the LORD that Solomon had asked this.  And God said to him,

Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word.  Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.  I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days.  And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.

And Solomon awoke, and behold, it was a dream.  Then he came to Jerusalem, and stood before the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and offered up burnt offerings and peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants.

Psalm 119:9-16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

9  How shall a young man cleanse his way?

By keeping to your words.

10  With my whole heart I seek you;

let me not stray from your commandments.

11  I treasure your promise in my heart,

that I may not sin against you.

12  Blessed are you, O LORD;

instruct me in your statutes.

13  With my lips will I recite

all the judgments of your mouth.

14  I have taken greater delight in the way of your decrees

than in all manner of riches.

15  I will meditate on your commandments

and give attention to your ways.

16  My delight is in your statutes;

I will not forget your word.

Mark 6:30-34 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

The apostles returned to Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.  And he said to them,

Come away by yourselves to a quiet place, and rest a while.

For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.  And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves.  Now many saw them going, and knew them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns, and got there ahead of them.  As he landed he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.


The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Week of 4 Epiphany:  Saturday, Year 1:

Matthew 14 (Parallel to Mark 6):


This famous account, actually a dream sequence, occurs at the beginning of Solomon’s nearly forty-year reign.  It is a significant dream, unlike the few which I have and recall afterward.  Those dreams I do remember usually fall into the category of “My brain was blowing off steam and conflating events, occasionally with science fiction.”  I seem to do my best thinking while conscious.

Solomon, however, seemed to do better while unconscious.  Already, in 1 Kings 2, he has killed a half-brother, a rival for the throne.  And, later in 1 Kings, Solomon will have severe lapses in judgment, usually involving the intersection of women and foreign relations.  Solomon, the son, stood in the shadow of his father, whom he surpassed in some ways.  And, after Solomon, the kingdom went downhill, largely due to his policies regarding building projects, labor, and taxation to fund these.

Solomon should have stayed on the path of wisdom.  His father, David, was tending sheep when the prophet Samuel arrived under the cover story of coming to sacrifice to the LORD–with Jesse and the sons.  King David, when he did his job well, was a good national shepherd.  This was Solomon’s vocation, one at which he failed on a large scale.  He could have said what King Louis XV of France did:  “After me, the deluge.”  Rehoboam fared better than did Louis XVI, but the kingdom of Saul, David, and Solomon did come apart.

I cannot help but think about all of this when reading 1 Kings 3.  Solomon had an opportunity to do well, but he squandered it.  The fact of his existence indicated that his father had really strayed from the laws of God at times, but none of that mattered in 1 Kings 3.  Solomon had a golden opportunity, and meant well at the time, but….

May we recognize opportunities God grants us, seek to use them for the common good, and, by grace, succeed.  Mindful of human weaknesses and the corresponding need for support and encouragement, may we uphold each other in these vocations.  And may we, who are not in positions of power, pray for those who are, that they may know good from evil, wise from foolish, and choose the the good and the wise, and act accordingly, for the common good.


Week of 4 Epiphany: Friday, Year 2   4 comments

Above:  An Eastern Orthodox Icon of David

To Glorify God

FEBRUARY 7, 2020


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.


Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 47:2-11 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

As the fat is selected from the peace offering,

so David was selected from the sons of Israel.

He played with lions as with young goats,

and with bears as with lambs of the flock.

In his youth did he not kill a giant,

and take away reproach from the people,

when he lifted his hand with a stone in the sling

and struck down the boasting of Goliath?

He appealed to the Lord, the Most High,

and he gave him strength in his right hand

to slay a man mighty in war,

to exalt the power of his people.

So they glorified him for his ten thousands,

and praised him for the blessings of the Lord,

when the glorious diadem was bestowed upon him.

For he wiped out his enemies on every side,

and annihilated his adversaries the Philistines;

he crushed their power even to this day.

In all that he did he gave thanks

to the Holy One, the Most High, with ascriptions of glory;

he sang praise with all his heart,

and he loved his Maker.

He placed singers before the altar,

to make sweet melody with their voices.

He gave beauty to the feasts,

and arranged their times throughout the year,

while they praised God’s holy name,

and the sanctuary resounded from early morning.

The Lord took away his sins,

and exalted his power for ever;

he gave him the covenant of kings

and a throne of glory in Israel.

Psalm 18:31-33, 46-50 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

31  As for God, his ways are always perfect;

the words of the LORD are tried in the fire;

he is a shield to all who trust in him.

32  For who is God, but the LORD?

who is the Rock, except our God?

33  It is God who girds me about with strength

and makes my way secure.

46  The LORD lives!  Blessed is my Rock!

Exalted is the God of my salvation!

47  He is the God who gave me victory

and cast down the peoples beneath me.

48 You rescued me from the fury of my enemies;

you exalted me above those who rose against me;

you saved me from my deadly foe.

49 Therefore will I extol you among the nations, O LORD,

and sing praises to your Name.

50 He multiplies the victories of his king;

he knows loving-kindness to his anointed,

to David and his descendants for ever.

Mark 6:14-29 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known.  Some said,

John the Baptist has been raised from the dead; that is why these powers are at work in him.

But others said,

It is Elijah.

And others said,

It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.

But when Herod heard of it he said,

John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.

For Herod had sent and seized John, and bound him for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife.  And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him.  But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe.  When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly.  But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and the leading men of Galilee.  For when Herodias’ daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl,

Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will grant it.

And he vowed to her,

Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.

And she went out, and said to her mother,

What shall I ask?

And she said,

The head of John the Baptist.

And she came in immediately with haste to the king, and asked, saying,

I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.

And the king was exceedingly sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her.  And immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard and gave orders to bring his head.  He went and beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother.  When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.


The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Week of 4 Epiphany:  Friday, Year 1:

Matthew 14 (Parallel to Mark 6):

Luke 9 (Parallel to Mark 6):

Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (August 29):


One might add to the Canadian Anglican lectionary another response, an alternative to Psalm 18:31-33, 46-50.  Psalm 151 is part of the Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox traditions.

First I offer the New Revised Standard Version rendering:

1  I was small among my brothers,

and youngest in my father’s house;

I tended my father’s sheep.

2  My hands made a harp;

my fingers fashioned a lyre.

3  And who will tell my Lord?

The Lord himself; it is he who hears.

4  It was he who sent his messenger

and took me from my father’s sheep,

and anointed me with his anointing oil.

5  My brothers were handsome and tall,

but the Lord was not pleased with them.

6  I went out to meet the Philistine,

and he cursed me by his idols.

7  But I drew his own sword;

I beheaded him, and took away disgrace from the people of Israel.

And here is the translation of Psalm 151 from the St. Athanasius Academy Septuagint (2008):

1  I was small among my brothers

And the youngest in my father’s house;

I tended my father’s sheep.

2  My hands built a musical instrument;

My fingers tuned a lyre.

3  And who shall tell my Lord?

The Lord Himself, He Himself hears.

4  He sent forth His Angel

And took me from my father’s sheep;

5  My brothers were handsome and tall,

But the Lord took no pleasure in them.

6  I went out to meet the foreigner,

And he cursed me with his idols;

7  But I drew his own sword and beheaded him,

And removed disgrace from the children of Israel.


What is the chief end of man?

Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

–The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question #1, as contained in the Book of Confessions (1967), of The United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America

The lectionary readings pair two rulers and two beheadings with only the most superficial similarities.  The differences, however, are quite revealing.

Herod Antipas was a son of Herod the Great.  Antipas, like his father, was a cruel and devious man who held his position only because the Roman Empire said so.  Antipas had married Herodias, his late half-brother’s niece.  Let that sink in.  John the Baptist had called him out on this, so Antipas had him arrested and imprisoned.  Then, at a party, Antipas so enjoyed his wife’s/late half-brother’s niece’s daughter erotic dancing (Let that sink in.) that he made a hasty pledge, which culminated in the execution of the forerunner of the Messiah.  Antipas, by the way, died in exile in Gaul.

In contrast to Herod Antipas we have David, which, 1 and 2 Samuel tell us, was far from perfect.  But David comes across as a hero and a man who heeded criticism from prophets.  And from David came the lineage which included Jesus, who called Herod Antipas “that fox.”

The basic virtue of David was that he tried (much of the time, at least) to glorify God and defend his kingdom.  It is always a good thing for anyone to glorify God.  And, when a ruler faces a national security threat, it is good for him or her to defend his or her realm while obeying basic principles of human rights.  David, as the texts present him, believed in something greater than himself, but Herod Antipas seems to have been a mere opportunist.

David glorified God, and history and tradition have honored him justifiably.  May we glorify God in our own day and circumstances, for that is the right thing to do.


Week of 4 Epiphany: Thursday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  An Orthodox Icon of King Solomon

Promises and Conditions

FEBRUARY 6, 2020


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.


1 Kings 2:1-4, 10-12 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

When David’s time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying,

I am about to the way of all the earth.  Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn; that the LORD may establish his word which he spoke concerning me, saying, “If your sons take heed of their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail you a man on the throne of Israel.”

Then David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David.  And the time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years at Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem.  So Solomon sat upon the throne of David his father; and his kingdom was firmly established.

Psalm 132:10-19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

10  For your servant David’s sake,

do not turn away the face of your Anointed.

11  The LORD has sworn an oath to David;

in truth, he will not break it:

12  “A son, the fruit of your body

will I set upon your throne.

13  If your children keep my covenant

and my testimonies that I shall teach them,

their children will sit upon your throne for evermore.”

14  For the LORD has chosen Zion;

he has desired her for his habitation:

15  “This shall be my resting-place for ever;

here will I dwell, for I delight in her.

16  I will surely bless her provisions,

and satisfy her poor with bread.

17  I will clothe her priests with salvation,

and her faithful people will rejoice and sing.

18  There will I make the horn of David flourish;

I have prepared a lamp for my Anointed.

19  As for his enemies, I will clothe them with shame;

but as for him, his crown will shine.”

Mark 6:7-13 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And he called to him the Twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.  He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.  And he said to them,

Where you enter a house, stay there until you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet for a testimony against them.

So they went out and preached that men should repent.  And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.


The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Week of 4 Epiphany:  Thursday, Year 1:

Luke 9 (Parallel to Mark 6):


We have come to the end of David’s story, according to 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, and 1 Kings.  David gives happy, righteous advice in the portion from 1 Kings 2 the Canadian Anglican lectionary specifies.  But open a Bible and read 1 Kings 2:5-9, in which the dying king advises Solomon to kill Joab, or as the Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition renders one line, “not let his gray head go down to Sheol in peace” (6b).  “Obey God,” David says, “and kill Joab very soon.”  I do not feel better.

Anyhow, it is vital to understand the nature of 1 and 2 Kings.  As Ziony Zevit wrote in the introduction to 1 Kings in The Jewish Study Bible,

Kings is not a history in the contemporary sense of the word, that is, a factual description of past events and an explanation for their occurence that a modern reader might expect.  It is, in the main, an extended theological essay, written by a person of persons with passionately held beliefs, convinced that the destruction of the Northern Kingdom and the fall of the southern one were due to the misguided policies of their kings.  The author described past events selectively, commenting or summarizing them as illustrations that he believed they taught.

The author maintained that the LORD, the God of history, made His will known to Israel with regard to specific key issues, that punishments are preceded by warnings through prophets, and that people are responsible for the consequences of their choices.  He further maintained that kings were responsible for the fate of their people.  For him, it was axiomatic that those ruling over the tribes of Israel were obligated to maintain the centrality of the Jerusalem Temple as the unique place where offerings acceptable to God might be made and to eliminate the illegitimate worship of any deity other than the LORD.  The author’s composition demonstrated how all northern and most southern kings failed to follow their obligations and how all adversity, from minor disasters to the final catastrophe, followed as a consequence of this failure.  (Page 669)

I side with the existence of authors, not a single author, by the way, but let us not quibble.  Rather, may we focus on the main idea.

And what is the main idea?  Thank you for asking.  The main idea is that, according to 1 and 2 Kings, originally one book on two scrolls, Solomon laid the foundation for the division of the kingdom after his death and the downfall of each successor kingdom.  We will get to details as the lectionary takes the grand tour of 1 Kings during the Weeks of 4 Epiphany and 5 Epiphany (at this weblog, obviously) and Propers 5, 6, and 7 (at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS, to which I plan to return after updating this weblog for this church year then doing the same for LENTEN AND EASTER DEVOTIONS).  There will also be a healthy sampling of major and minor prophets, an understanding of whose writings and dictations depends on a grasp of the books of Samuel and Kings.

The key aspect of 1 Kings 2 to remember is that the promise of God to fulfill the promise to David was conditional.  The Davidic line would not end if members of it it governed properly.  “If” is a very big word, despite consisting of only two letters.

There is an application for you, O reader, and for me today.  God loves us always; nothing can change that.  But an overly indulgent parent is a bad one, hence the necessity of proper discipline.  We err, and we reap consequences of our actions, but God gives us another chance.  What will we do with it?  Also, our choices will affect others, for we are social creatures.  So our decisions are not purely individual.  What will we decide?  Whatever it is, may it be wise.

I dwell on the social justice end of the Christian spectrum.  My Lord and Savior has commanded me to love my neighbor as I love myself.  This entails caring about my neighbors’ needs then acting, as I am able and circumstances present opportunities.  It is no accident that the U.S. Civil Rights Movement was related closely to many churches in the Twentieth Century and Abolitionism to Christian work in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries.  Morality consists of far more than being careful of what one does and with whom, although that is part of it.  Moral living is inherently public, concerned with those Jesus called “the least of these.”

In the 1990s I read an interesting news story in an early 1980s issue of The Christian Century.  Staffers of the denominational headquarters of the Church of Brethren, one of the historic peace churches, pooled the money they received from the Reagan tax cuts.  They bought thirty pieces of silver and mailed them to the White House with a letter protesting increased military spending and decreased funding for social programs.  They received a bland letter thanking them for their concern. At least they spoke up.  Their example remains germane in the United States of June 2011, when I write these words.

The greatest failure of most of the kings of Israel and Judah was that they did not act in the best interests of their poor and vulnerable subjects.  Instead, they sought dubious foreign alliances, some of which backfired terribly, wasted their money on foreign wars, and delivered the bill for all this to those who could least afford to pay.  If this sounds contemporary and scary, it is.


Week of 4 Epiphany: Wednesday, Year 2   2 comments

Above:  An Orthodox Icon of David

David, the Census, and Bad Theology

FEBRUARY 5, 2020


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.


2 Samuel 24:2, 9-17 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

So the king said to Joab and the commanders of the army, who were with him,

Go through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and number the people.

And Joab gave the sum of the numbering of the people to the king:  in Israel there were eight hundred thousand men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand.

But David’s heart struck him after he had numbered the people?  And David said to the LORD,

I have sinned greatly in what I have done.  But now, O LORD, I pray you, take away the iniquity of your servant; for I have done very foolishly.

And when David arose in the morning, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying,

Go and say to David, “Thus says the LORD, Three things I offer you; choose one of them, that I may do it to you.”

So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him,

Shall three years of famine come to you in your land?  Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you?  Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land?  Now consider, and decide what answer I shall return to him who sent me.

Then David said to Gad,

I am in great distress; let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but not let me fall into the hand of man.

So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning until the appointed time; and there died of the people from Dan to Beersheba seventy thousand men.  And when the angel stretched forth his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented of the evil, and said to the angel who was working destruction among the people,

It is enough; now stay your hand.

And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.  Then David spoke to the LORD when he saw the angel who was striking down the people, and said,

Behold, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done?  Let your hand, I pray you, be against me and against my father’s house?

Psalm 32:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven,

and whose sin is put away!

2 Happy are they to whom the LORD imputes no guilt,

and in whose spirit there is no guile!

While I held my tongue, my bones withered away,

because of my groaning all day long.

4 For your hand was heavy upon me day and night;

my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.

5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you,

and did not conceal my guilt.

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.”

Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.

7 Therefore all the faithful will make your prayers to you in time of trouble;

when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them.

8 You are my hiding-place;

you preserve me from trouble;

you surround me with shouts of deliverance.

Mark 6:1-6 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

He went away from there and came to his own country; and his disciples followed him.  And on the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying,

Where did this man get all this?  What is the wisdom given to him?  What mighty works are wrought by his hands!  Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?

And they took offense at him.  And Jesus said to him,

A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.

And he could not do mighty work there, except that he laid hands upon a few sick people and healed them.  And he marveled because of their unbelief.

And he went about among the villages teaching.


The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Week of 4 Epiphany:  Wednesday, Year 1:

Matthew 13 (Parallel to Mark 6):


Often I read a biblical text and find it inspiring.  Then we have 2 Samuel 24, which leads me to argue with its theology.  I write these devotions for sequential reading, as the lectionaries tend to be sequential, so I do not feel the need to repeat certain statements every second or third or fourth, et cetera, post, but I do repeat one maxim I have quoted elsewhere in this series because it has direct bearing on my interpretation.  As Donald Armentrout has said, the best way to read the Bible is through the “Gospel glasses.”  Not all parts of the Bible are equal, for the four canonical Gospels are more important than 1 and 2 Chronicles, for example.  In this case, Jesus trumps the theology in 2 Samuel 24.

So, what was sinful about David’s census?  The narrative indicates that the purpose was military.  Was David overconfident in his army, indicating too little trust in God?  If this is a moral of the story, God does not come across as one in whom I would seek to put my trust.  Rather, God comes across more like a vindictive and omnipotent SOB.  Finally, God’s vindictiveness does run its course, for God orders the angel to stop its destructive work, David builds an altar on the future site of the Temple at Jerusalem, and God averts the plague from Israel.

D. D. Whedon’s Commentary on the Old Testament (1873), a work with whose theology I seldom agree, does summarize a crucial plot point in 2 Samuel 24 well.  The Reverend M. S. Terry wrote the following note regarding verse 15 on page 554 of Volume III:

…David was vainglorious over the multitude of his warriors, but this one stroke almost decimates them….

So, in the narrative, God tells David, in so many words, trust in me OR ELSE!

That portrait of God as a vengeful deity who attacks innocents disturbs me.  This is the same theology which feeds Penal Substitutionary Atonement, which says that Jesus took your, my, et cetera, place on the cross.  So, according to this idea, Jesus was the innocent who died for you and me.  This is bad theology.  It is also only one of several interpretations of the Atonement dating to the age of the Church Fathers.

…God is love.

–1 John 4:8c, Revised Standard Version

Love does not say to Jesus or one of those who died in 2 Samuel 24, “I am really mad, but not with you.  So go, suffer, and die for another person’s sin(s).”  Yes, there is punishment for sins, but that is often passive on God’s part.  God does let our chickens come home to roost, even if only for a limited time.  But there is also mercy.  Judgment and mercy coexist in the Bible, as I have written many times in my devotional blog posts.

In the torture and death of Jesus, we see our Lord and Savior not only identifying with the outcasts of society, as he did when he dined with them, for example, but becoming one of them.  The Roman Empire did its worst to him, and it seemed to have succeeded briefly.  It shamed Jesus in an attempt to eliminate him, but our Lord refused to stay dead for long.  And so he pointed out the superior power of God, as well as the relative weakness of evil and the Roman Empire.  And, by grace, God transformed shame into triumph, hence the Church’s adoption of the cross as its symbol.  In Christ there is no more judgment, just mercy.  He is the Good Shepherd who takes care of all his sheep.

My theology of the Atonement, as I have written in other devotional blog posts, is that it is the result of the entire life cycle of Jesus of Nazareth, from Incarnation to Ascension.  The crucifixion was a vital part of the process, but the Resurrection was more important, for, without it, we would have dead Jesus.  There is no salvation in dead Jesus.

Jesus (the historical person, that is) was in the future tense for the timeframe of 2 Samuel 24, obviously.  But am I to believe that God’s personality changed drastically within a few centuries?  I hope not!  Instead, I state that theology, as recorded in the Bible, changed.  Jesus (and in this case, 1 John) trump 2 Samuel 24.

Often, when bad things happen, we search desperately for meaning.  “Why did these events happen?” we ask ourselves.  It can be tempting to understand them as divine retribution, but what kind of nature are we accusing God of having?  We need to think about that seriously during our reflections.


Week of 5 Epiphany: Monday, Year 1   11 comments

Ancient Hebrew View of the World; An Illustration from the St. Joseph Study Edition of the New American Bible

May We Seek and Find a Positive Relationship with God, Who Can Transform Our Human Chaos into Divine Order

FEBRUARY 11, 2019


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.


Genesis 1:1-19 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

In the beginning of God’s creating the skies and the earth–when the earth had been shapeless and formless, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and God’s spirit was hovering on the face of the water–

God said,

Let there be light.

And there was light.  And God saw the light, that it was good, and God separated between the light and the darkness.  And God called the light “day” and called the darkness “night.”  And there was evening, and there was morning:  one day.

And God said,

Let there be a space within the water, and let it separate between water and water.

And God made the space, and it separated between the water that was under the space and the water that was above the space.  And it was so.  And God called the space “skies.”  And there was evening, and there was morning:  a second day.

And God said,

Let the waters be concentrated under the skies into one place, and let the land appear.

And it was so.  And God called the land “earth” and called the concentration of the waters “seas.”  And God saw that it was good.  And God said,

Let the earth generate plants, vegetation that produces seed, fruit trees, each making fruit of its own kind, which has its seed in it, on the earth.

And it was so:  The earth brought out plants, vegetation that produces seeds of its own kind, and trees that make fruit that each has seeds of its own kind in it.  And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening, and there was morning:  a third day.

And God said,

Let there be lights in the space of the skies to distinguish between the day and the night, and they will be for signs and for appointed times and for days and years.  And they will be for lights in the space of the skies to shed light on the earth.

And it was so.  And God made two big lights–the bigger light for the regulation of the day and the smaller light for the regulation of the night–and the stars.  And God set them in the space of the skies to shed light on the earth and to regulate the day and the night and to distinguish between the light and the darkness.  And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening, and there was morning:  a fourth day.

Psalm 104:1-12, 25 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul;

O LORD my God, how excellent is your greatness!

you are clothed with majesty and splendor.

2 You wrap yourself with light as with a cloak

and spread out the heavens like a curtain.

3 You lay out the beams of your chambers in the waters above;

you make the clouds your chariot;

you ride on the wings of the wind.

4 You make the winds your messengers

and flames of fire your servants.

5 You have set the earth upon its foundations,

so that it never shall move at any time.

6 You covered it with the Deep as with a mantle;

the waters stood higher than the mountains.

7 At your rebuke they fled;

at the voice of your thunder they hastened away.

8 They went up into the hills and down to the valleys beneath,

to the places you had appointed for them.

9 You set the limits that they should not pass;

they shall not again cover the earth.

10 You send the springs into the valleys;

they flow between the mountains.

11 All the beasts of the field drink their fill from them,

and the wild asses quench their thirst.

12 Beside them the birds of the air make their nests

and sing among the branches.

25 O LORD, how manifold are your works!

in wisdom you have made them all;

the earth is full of your creatures.

Mark 6:53-56 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

And when they had crossed over to the other side of the lake they landed at Gennesaret and tied up there.  As soon as they came ashore, the people recognised Jesus and rushed all over the countryside and began to carry the sick around on their beds to wherever he was.  Wherever he went, in villages or towns or hamlets, they laid down their sick right in the marketplaces and begged him that they might

just touch the edge of this cloak.

And all those who touched him were healed.


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.



I have decided to rotate the Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition of the Bible off the Monday-Saturday devotions and to bring in the work of other translators.  This is a good time for that, given the end of the series of readings from the Letter to the Hebrews and the beginning of lessons from Genesis.  And I will, of course, change the translations of choice a few more times before this series of devotions for Year 1 is over.

There is a danger in using just one translation of the Bible, for one can become so accustomed to the rhythms of one version that one does not really read or listen to the messages in the words.  One can become stuck on the words.  Did you read Genesis 1:1-19 more closely in the Friedman translation than in any other you have encountered previously?  If so, you have proven my point.

Friedman, Richard Elliott.  Commentary of the Torah with a New English Translation and the Hebrew Text.  San Francisco, CA:  HarperSanFrancisco, 2001.  Paperback, 2003.

Professor Friedman is a noted scholar of the Jewish Biblical tradition.  He is famous for Who Wrote the Bible?, The Hidden Book in the Bible, and other works about the development and authorship of parts of the Hebrew Canon.

Phillips, J. B.  The New Testament in Modern English.  Revised Edition.  New York:  Macmillan, 1972.

The late J. B. Phillips was a priest of the Church of England.  He began to published his translation of the New Testament in pieces in 1947, 1952, 1955, and 1957, before releasing the one-volume New Testament in Modern English in 1958.  I have both the 1958 and the 1972 editions; the 1972 revision is superior to the 1958 work.




The earliest chapters of Genesis are beautiful poetry (of a sort) but not science.  Neither is Psalm 104, but that fact did not stop the Medieval and Renaissance Roman Catholic Church from citing Psalm 104:5 and other texts to declare that anyone who said that the Earth revolves around the Sun was a heretic.  (As Galileo Galilei wrote, it is wrong to declare what is demonstrated to be true a heresy.)  We are reading mythology in Genesis and poetry in the Psalms, so we ought not mistake them for a technical manual.  Yet they do constitute profound theology, and therein lies their truth.

The adapted Canadian Anglican lectionary divides the first Creation Story (actually the second one written) into two segments, so some of what I am about to write entails getting ahead of the reading.  With that disclaimer, here I go.

The first Creation Story tells of God creating order from chaos, not something from nothing (ex nihilo in Latin).  The account divides the act of creating into two parts:  Days 1-3 and Days 4-6.  During days 1-3, God establishes the outlines of creation:  night, day, skies, land, and seas.  Then God spends the next three days filling out the details.  And God rests on the seventh day, of course.  Episcopal priest and author Robert Farrar Capon states in The Third Peacock:  The Problem of God and Evil (Second Edition; New York:  Winston Press, 1986), that creation results from a “Trinitarian bash.”  And creation is good.  So God delights in creation, of which we are part and the pinnacle.  It follows logically, then, that we should delight in God.

But how often do we do that?

Now I turn to the reading from Mark.

You might have noticed, O reader, that the lectionary skipped a few verses from the Saturday devotional.  To be precise, the lectionary has jumped past the feeding of five thousand men (plus an uncertain number of women and children).  The lectionary has also skipped Jesus walking on water.  This text has puzzled interpreters since before the days of St. Augustine of Hippo, who offered this understanding:  Jesus is the master of the storm, so Christians have no reason to fear.  Then we arrive at the portion of Mark prescribed for this day in the Epiphany season.

The crowds, unlike those at the Feeding of the Five Thousand (Plus), did not come to hear Jesus teach.  No, they came to Jesus seeking his healing–and his healing alone.  (The crush of people must have stressed Jesus.) There is nothing wrong with seeking healing, but we ought not stop there.  There is nothing wrong with asking God to help ourselves and those we love and for whom we care about otherwise, but prayer should not consist solely of presenting God with a “honey do” list.

We are created to be in a healthy relationship with God.  The Larger Westminster Catechism says it best in Question #1:

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.

There are varieties of prayer.  Among these are thanksgiving and intercession.  How often have you tried contemplative prayer?  How often have you undertaken merely to be conscious of the presence of God without asking anything of God?  How often have you just listened for God in silence?  These activities help deepen a healthy relationship with God.

As for me, I have done some of this, with mixed results.  I need to do better, and I keep trying.  The truth is that quieting my mind is a great challenge.  Over time, however, this will become easier, by grace.  The world is filled with noise, but God, as the prophet Elijah discovered, speaks in the silence.  The gods of ancient Near Eastern pantheons manifested themselves in natural phenomena, such as storms and volcanic eruptions, but the one God expresses self in the opposite ways.

May we enter into the silence and listen to whatever God might say to us.  If God says nothing on one day, at least we were silent for a while.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  Yet, if God does speak on a certain day, we will be there, alert and ready to hear.  That is good, indeed.  And divine order will supplant human chaos.