Archive for the ‘Matthew 11’ Tag

Devotion for the Third Sunday of Advent, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  St. John the Baptist

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

DECEMBER 11, 2022


According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)


Isaiah 35:1-10

Psalm 146

James 5:7-10

Matthew 11:2-11


Almighty God, you once called John the Baptist

to give witness to the coming of your Son and to prepare his way. 

Grant us, your people, the wisdom to see your purpose today

and the openness to hear your will,

that we may witness to Christ’s coming and so prepare his way;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 13


Almighty God, through John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ,

you once proclaimed salvation;

now grant that we may know this salvation and serve you

in holiness and righteousness all the days of our lives;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 13


If I seem like a proverbial broken record, I am.  I am like a proverbial broken record because the Bible is one on many points.  In this case, the point is the balance of divine judgment and mercy.  Divine judgment on the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in Isaiah 34 balances divine mercy (via a second exodus) in Isaiah 35.  Divine mercy on the faithful balances divine judgment on princes in Psalm 146.  Jesus is simultaneously the judge and the advocate in James 5:7-10.  Despite divine faithfulness to the pious, some (such as St. John the Baptist, in Matthew 11) suffer and die for their piety.  Then God judges the oppressors.

The twin stereotypes of the Hebrew Bible being about judgment and the New Testament being about grace are false.  Judgment and mercy balance each other in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.

The inclusion of the fate of St. John the Baptist in Advent reminds us that he was the forerunner of Christ in more than one way.  About two weeks before December 25, one may prefer not to read or hear such a sad story.  Yet we all need to recall that Christmas commemorates the incarnation of Jesus, who suffered, died, then rose.  Advent and Christmas are bittersweet.  This is why Johann Sebastian Bach incorporated the Passion Chorale into his Christmas Oratorio.  This is why one can sing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” to the same tune (EASTER HYMN).

God is active in the world.  So are evil and misguided forces, unfortunately.  Evil, in the Biblical sense, rejects dependence on God.  Evil says:

If God exists, God does not care.  Everyone is on his or her own in this world.  The ends justify the means.

Evil is amoral.  The misguided may be immoral, at best.  The results of amorality and immorality may frequently be identical.  Yet God remains constant.

That God is constant may constitute good news or bad news, depending on one’s position.










Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA



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.








Fifteenth Day of Advent: Third Sunday of Advent, Year A   30 comments

Above:  The Visitation, from an Illustrated Manuscript

Stir-Up Sunday

DECEMBER 11, 2022


FIRST READING:  Isaiah 35:1-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,

the desert shall rejoice and blossom;

like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,

and rejoice with joy and singing.

The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,

the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.

They shall see the glory of the LORD,

the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands,

and make firm the feeble knees.

Say to those who are of a fearful heart,

Be strong, do not fear!

Here is your God.

He will come with vengeance,

with terrible recompense.

He will come and save you.

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,

and the ears of the deaf unstopped;

then the lame shall leap like a deer,

and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.

For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,

and streams in the desert;

the burning sand shall become a pool,

and the thirsty ground springs of water;

the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,

the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

A highway shall be there,

and it shall be called the Holy Way;

the unclean shall not travel on it,

but it shall be for God’s people;

no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.

No lion shall be there,

nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;

they shall not be found there,

but the redeemed shall walk there.

And the ransomed of the LORD shall return,

and come to Zion with singing;

everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;

they shall obtain joy and gladness,

and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.


Psalm 146 (New Revised Standard Version):

Praise the LORD!

Praise the LORD, O my soul!

I will praise the LORD as long as I live;

I will sing praises to my God all my life long.

Do not put your trust in princes,

in mortals, in whom there is no help.

When their breath departs, they return to the earth;

on that very day their plans perish.

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,

whose help is the LORD their God,

who made heaven and earth,

the sea, and all that is in them;

who keeps faith forever;

who executes justice for the oppressed;

who gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets the prisoners free;

the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.

The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;

the LORD loves the righteous.

The LORD watches over the strangers;

he upholds the orphan and the widow,

but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

The LORD will reign forever,

your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the LORD!

Canticle 15 (The Magnificat), from The Book of Common Prayer, page 91:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed;

the Almighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him

in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel,

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

The promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;

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

SECOND READING:  James 5:7-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged. See, the Judge is standing at the doors! As an example of suffering and patience, beloved, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

GOSPEL:  Matthew 11:2-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him,

Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?

Jesus answered them,

Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John:

What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written,

“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,

who will prepare your way before you.

Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

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.


The Third Sunday of Advent is Stir-Up Sunday, from the opening words of the collect.  The prayer asks to God to send divine power among us , to help and deliver us, who cannot perform either task on our own behalf.  The readings for this Sunday tell of what happens when God’s power is unleashed:  deserts bloom, the mighty fall, the humble are exalted, and exiles return home.  All this is wonderful, except from the vantage point of the mighty whom God has cast down from their thrones.

When I ponder these readings, especially the Magnificat, I cannot help but wonder how certain politicians and pundits with whom I disagree profoundly might handle the content.  Might they accuse the texts of engaging in class warfare?  Well, class welfare is part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  For that matter, an unregulated or barely regulated corporate economy contradicts the teachings of the Old and New Testaments, from the Hebrew Prophets to Jesus.  I cannot escape the fact that the Bible teaches nothing less than Christian Socialism.

Here I stand; I can do no other.




The Episcopal Church’s lectionary for Advent lays out sets of readings as follows:

  1. The First Sunday of Advent (Separate readings for Years A, B, and C, according to the Revised Common Lectionary)
  2. The First Week of Advent (Monday-Saturday)
  3. The Second Sunday of Advent (Separate readings for Years A, B, and C, according to the Revised Common Lectionary)
  4. The Second Week of Advent (Monday-Saturday)
  5. The Third Sunday of Advent (Separate readings for Years A, B, and C, according to the Revised Common Lectionary)
  6. The Third Week of Advent (Monday-Friday)
  7. December 17-24 (Readings designated per date)
  8. The Fourth Sunday of Advent (Separate readings for Years A, B, and C, according to the Revised Common Lectionary)

There can be as many as 29 days in Advent.  Consider the following facts:

  1. The First Sunday of Advent can fall no earlier than November 27 and no later than December 3.
  2. Ergo the Fourth Sunday of Advent can fall no earlier than December 18 and no later than December 24.

So the following statements are accurate:

  1. In all years the first fifteen days of Advent will fall according to the pattern:  First Sunday of Advent–First Week of Advent (Monday-Saturday)–Second Sunday of Advent–Second Week of Advent (Monday-Saturday)–Third Sunday of Advent.
  2. After that the variations begin to occur.   One might read all or some or none of the lections for the Third Week of Advent (Monday-Friday), depending on the dates of the Sundays of Advent.  Also, at least one Sunday will fall within the December 17-24 timeframe.

I will write and publish 29 (the maximum possible number) Advent devotions on this blog.  Some days will have two devotions, then, but that can only be good.

Pax vobiscum,


Written on May 31, 2010


The previous post in this sequence:


Thirteenth Day of Advent   10 comments

An Oasis in Libya

Image Source = Sfivat




Isaiah 48:17-19 (Revised English Bible):

Thus says the LORD your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:

I am the LORD your God:

I teach you in the way of your own well-being

and lead you in the way you should go.

If only you had listened to my commands,

your prosperity would have rolled like a river,

your success like the waves of the sea;

your children would have been like the sand in number,

your descendants countless as its grains;

their name would never be erased or blotted from my sight.

Psalm 1 (Revised English Bible):

Happy is the one

who does not take the counsel of the wicked for a guide,

or follow the path that sinners tread,

or take his seat in the company of scoffers.

His delight is in the law of the LORD;

it is his meditation day and night.

He is like a tree planted beside water channels;

it yields its fruit in season

and its foliage never fades.

So he too prospers in all he does.

The wicked are not like this;

rather they are like chaff driven by the wind.

When judgment comes, therefore, they will not stand firm,

nor will sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

The LORD watches over the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked is doomed.

Matthew 11:16-19 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus said,]

How can I describe this generation?  They are like children sitting in the market-place and calling to each other,

“We piped for you and you would not dance.

We lamented, and you would not mourn.”

For John came, neither eating nor drinking, and people say, “He is possessed”; the Son of Man came, eating and drinking, and they say, “Look at him!  A glutton and a drinker, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!”  Yet God’s wisdom is proved right by its results.

The Collect:

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


First, a joke:  An Episcopal congregation welcomed its first female priest.  Yet two men in the church were weary of having a woman as their pastor.  They invited her to go fishing with them.  The priest agreed.  When the three of them were in a boat in a lake, the priest realized that she had left her fishing gear on the ground.  So she excused herself and walked across the water to collect what she needed to begin fishing.  One man turned to the other and said,

See, she can’t even swim.

As a sign I own says,


Yet, as this day’s readings remind us, results matter.  We should know this, for this conclusion is intuitive.  During this life many of those who lie, cheat, and steal shamelessly and habitually succeed for a long time, perhaps until they die.  Meanwhile, numerous honest and devout people struggle to make ends meet and to provide adequately for their families and themselves.  Banditry of certain varieties is legal on Wall Street, so a relative prosper because of their immorality while they place others at a disadvantage.  This is an old story.

Yet there is justice with God.  We know trees by their fruit, and we reap what we sow.  If we sow justice, we reap the common good.  If we sow love, we reap a good society.  Yet if we sow fear, we reap hatred.  And if we sow injustice, we reap social discord and economic inequality.  In the end God, who by grace labels all who follow him “acceptable,” does not excuse injustice.

The purpose of the Gospel is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.  Thanks be to God!


Written on May 31, 2010

Posted September 15, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2022-2023, December 9, Episcopal Church Lectionary

Tagged with , ,

Twelfth Day of Advent   10 comments

Above:  Great Smoky Mountains

“The Old Eternal Rocks”

Of God and Human Problems



Isaiah 41:13-20 (Revised English Bible):

For I, the LORD your God,

take you by the right hand

and say to you, Have no fear;

it is I who help you.

Have no fear, Jacob you worm and Israel you maggot.

It is I who help you, declares the LORD;

your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.

See, I shall make of you a sharp threshing-sledge,

new and studded with teeth;

you will thresh mountains and crush them to dust

and reduce the hills to chaff;

you will winnow them; the wind will carry them away

and a gale will scatter them.

Then you will rejoice in the LORD

and glory in the Holy One of Israel.

The poor and the needy look for water and find none;

their tongues are parched with thirst.

But the LORD shall provide for their wants;

I, the God of Israel, shall not forsake them.

I shall open rivers on the arid heights,

and wells in the valleys;

I shall turn the desert into pools

and dry land into springs of water;

I shall plant cedars in the wilderness,

acacias, myrtles, and wild olives;

I shall grow pines on the barren heath

side by side with fir and box tree,

that everyone may see and know,

may once and for all observe and understand

that the LORD himself has done this:

it is the creation of the Holy One of Israel.

Psalm 145:1-4, 8-13 (Revised English Bible):

I shall extol you, my God and King,

and bless your name for ever and ever.

Every day I shall bless you

and praise your name for ever and ever.

Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;

his greatness is beyond all searching out.

One generation will commend your works to the next

and set forth your mighty deeds.

The LORD is gracious and compassionate,

long-suffering and ever faithful.

The LORD is good to all;

his compassion rests upon all his creatures.

All your creatures praise you, LORD,

and your loyal servants bless you.

They talk of the glory of your kingdom

and tell of your might,

to make known to mankind your mighty deeds,

the glorious majesty of your kingdom.

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,

and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

Matthew 11:7-15 (Revised English Bible):

(This reading occurs after Jesus has received envoys from the imprisoned John the Baptist, who experienced doubts that Jesus was what John had claimed him to be.)

When the messengers were on their way back, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John:

What was the spectacle that drew you to the wilderness?  A reed swaying in the wind?  No?  Then what did you go out to see?  A man dressed in finery?  Fine clothes are to be found in palaces.  But why 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.”

Truly I tell you:  among all who have ever been born, no one has been greater than John the Baptist, and yet the least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.

Since the time of John the Baptist the kingdom of God has been subjected to violence and violent men are taking it by force.  For until John, all the prophets and the law foretold things to come; and John is the destined Elijah, if you will but accept it.  If you have ears, then hear.”

The Collect:

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


When I was a United Methodist “preacher’s kid”  growing up within the South Georgia Annual Conference my family had contact with a missionary organization called Lifeline Ministries.  I recall their yellow signs printed on heavy paper suitable for placing on desks or on refrigerator doors.  These signs features their motto,


Our problems are real; let us never question that reality.  Doubts arise and we experience stress, but God answers our questions when we ask them.  And God is greater than any problem we have.  So let us take comfort, have well-placed faith in God, listen to and obey God, and avoid worrying.  To worry is to engage in total waste, for this exercise will bring us no closer to resolving our genuine issues.  No, it is better to focus on finding, identifying, and executing solutions.

When I became an Episcopalian I learned a new hymnody, one superior to that with which I grew up in Southern rural United Methodism.  Among the greatest hymns I learned after converting is “I Bind Unto Myself Today,” with words by Saint Patrick.  Reading this day’s lections while I typed them called two verses of that hymn to mind:

I bind unto myself today

the virtues of the starlit heaven

the glorious sun’s life-giving ray,

the whiteness of the moon at even,

the flashing of the lightning free,

the whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,

the stable earth, the deep salt sea,

around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today

the power of God to hold and lead,

his eye to watch, his might to stay,

his ear to hearken to my need;

the wisdom of my God to teach,

his hand to guide, his shield to ward;

the word of God to give me speech,

his heavenly host to be my guard.



Written on May 31, 2010

Eleventh Day of Advent   15 comments

Above:  Yoked Oxen

The Yoke of Faith



Isaiah 40:25-31 (Revised English Bible):

To whom, then, will you liken me,

whom set up as my equal?

asks the Holy One.

Lift up your eyes to the heavens;

consider the one who created these,

led out their host one by one,

and summoned each by name.

Through his great might, his strength and power,

not one is missing.

Jacob, why do you complain,

and you, Israel, why do you say,

My lot is hidden from the LORD,

my cause goes unheeded by my God?

Do you not know, have you not heard?

The LORD, the eternal God,

creator of earth’s farthest bounds,

does not weary or grow faint;

his understanding cannot be fathomed.

He gives vigour to the weary,

new strength to the exhausted.

Young men may grow weary and faint,

even the fittest may stumble and fall;

but those who look to the LORD will win new strength,

they will soar as on eagles’ wings;

they will run and not feel faint,

march on and not grow weary.

Psalm 103:1-10 (Revised English Bible):

Bless the LORD, my soul;

with all my being I bless his holy name.

Bless the LORD, my soul,

and forget none of his benefits.

He pardons all my wrongdoing

and heals all my ills.

He rescues me from death’s pit

and crowns me with love and compassion.

He satisfies me with all good in the prime of life,

and my youth is renewed like an eagle’s.

The LORD is righteous in all he does;

he brings justice to all who have been wronged.

He revealed his ways to Moses,

his mighty deeds to the Israelites.

The LORD is compassionate and gracious,

long-suffering and ever faithful;

he will not always accuse

or nurse his anger for ever.

He has not treated as our sins deserve

or repaid us according to our misdeeds.

Matthew 11:28-30 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus said,]

Come to me, all who are weary and whose load is heavy; I will give you rest.  Take my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble-hearted; and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to wear, my load is light.

The Collect:

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Freedom can exist only within the context of rules; to deny this reality is to commit the error which resides at the heart of anarchism.  Yet one must be careful about the rules to which one submits, for there are just laws and unjust laws.  I know this as a student of history.  So I consider the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which made aiding and abetting the escape of slaves a federal crime within the United States while I praise those moral giants who violated it, thereby making themselves criminals.   They obeyed the law of God.

The yoke of Jesus is the yoke of faith.  It is a yoke one assumes voluntarily, not a yoke anybody imposes on another.  Obedience to God can lead to suffering and/or death, but even then it guides one to life eternal in this life and the next.  God, who gives us true life and helps us to live into our potential, directs us into paths of righteousness.  And, if we are wise, we obey.  When we do this we start on the path which leads to soaring like eagles.

Yet first we must recognize and admit the fact that God knows better than we do.  Yes, we must be humble and surrender our illusions of control.  It can be difficult, but is wise.

The law of God is love-sometimes tough love.  Divine law demands that we love ourselves and each other as bearers of the image of God.  This ethic rules out exploitation of our fellow human beings.  Grace is free, yet not cheap, for it accompanies the law of God, which requires that we surrender all our idols, all that distracts us from God.  Such is the way of life.

Thanks be to God!


Written on May 31, 2010