Archive for the ‘Psalm 146’ 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 Advent, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Saint John the Evangelist, by Peter Paul Rubens

Image in the Public Domain

Idolatry and Tribalism

DECEMBER 5, 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


Genesis 1:14-25

Psalm 146

1 John 2:7-12; 3:1-3

John 1:6-13


Genesis 1 divides the first six days of creation into two groups–the creation of generalities and domains (the first three days’ work) and the creation of the specifics or the inhabitants of those domains (the work of the fourth, fifth, and sixth days).  The seventh day is the time of the creation of the sabbath.  The sovereignty of God is a theme that pervades this great myth.

God also deserves much love.  As the other three readings tell us, that love (or absence thereof) is manifest in how we behave toward other human beings.  These other human beings also bear the image of God (Genesis 1:27).  I know I am getting ahead of the continuous readings in Genesis.  I am staying on topic, though.

Whoever says he is in the light, yet hates his brother, is still in the darkness.  Whoever loves his brother remains in the light, and there is nothing in him to cause a fall.  Whoever hates his brother is in darkness; he walks in darkness and does not know where he is going because darkness has blinded his eyes.

–1 John 2:9-11, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

That text explains itself.

According to a story that may be apocryphal, the elderly St. John the Evangelist was due to visit a congregation somewhere.  The members gathered in great anticipation on the appointed day.  They watched as men carried the infirmed apostle into the space and sat him down in front of the congregation.  Then St. John said, 

My children, love one another.

Immediately, he motioned for the men to carry him out.  One member of the congregation ran after St. John and asked, in so many words, 

That’s all you came here to say?

The apostle replied,

When you have done that, I will tell you more.

Loving one another can be very difficult.  Deciding to love one another can also prove challenging, albeit easier than effectively acting on the goal.  We need grace to succeed, of course.  Yet grace requires our desire to love one another.  Free will and grace are partners.

I write this post during a period of prolonged and intensified political polarization.  Even the definition of objective reality, as in X caused Y, and Z happened, is often contentious.  More so than in the past, many disagreements start at the point of assuming that those who differ from one are bad, if not evil.  The more generous judgment that that those who disagree are probably good yet misinformed and misguided is increasingly rare.

I notice this unfortunate pattern in topics that range far beyond science, religion, and politics.  I detect this regarding science fiction (one of my favorite topics), too. 

Do you enjoy that series?  Do you not enjoy that movie?  What kind of person are you?  You certainly aren’t a real fan.  I’m a real fan! 

Many criteria can define tribalism.

Whenever we erect idols, whether tangible or intangible, we set ourselves up for this.  We do this to ourselves and each other.  We can choose never to do this.  We can also choose to cease and desist from doing this.  We can opt to repent of our idolatry and tribalism.

May we do so.  May we love God.  May we love ourselves and each other.






Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Third Sunday of Advent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   7 comments


Above:  The River Jordan, Between 1950 and 1977

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-23194

Loyalty and Perseverance

DECEMBER 8-10, 2022


The Collect:

Stir up the wills of all who look to you, Lord God,

and strengthen then our faith in your coming, that,

transformed by grace, we may walk in your way;

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:

Ruth 1:6-18 (Thursday)

Ruth 4:13-17 (Friday)

1 Samuel 2:1-8 (Saturday)

Psalm 146:5-10 (all days)

2 Peter 3:1-10 (Thursday)

2 Peter 3:11-18 (Friday)

Luke 3:1-18 (Saturday)


Happy are those who have the God of Jacob for their help,

whose life is in the Lord their God;

Who made the heaven and the earth,

the sea and all that is in them;

who keeps his promise forever;

Who gives justice to those that suffer wrong

and bread to those who hunger.

–Psalm 146:4-6, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)


The Book of Ruth is a story of loyalty–loyalty to people to each other and to God.  The theme of loyalty occurs again in 2 Samuel, where David praises those who had been loyal King Saul, who had tried to kill him more than once.  But Saul had been the anointed one of God, despite his many faults.  Loyalty to God, according to St. John the Baptist, was something one expressed by, among other things, treating each other honestly and respectfully.  And we read in 2 Peter 3 that God’s sense of time differs from ours, so we ought not to lose heart over this fact.

Another Recurring theme in these readings is the human role in God’s good work.  Jesus became incarnate via St. Mary of Nazareth, who was not the passive figure many have imagined her to be.  St. John the Baptist was far from “respectable.”  And Naomi and Ruth conspired to seduce Boaz.  As the Reverend Jennifer Wright Knust wrote:

To the writer of Ruth, family can consist of an older woman and her beloved, immigrant daughter-in-law, women can raise children on their own, and men can be seduced if it serves the interests of women.

Unprotected Texts:  The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire (New York:  HarperOne, 2011, page 33)

The methods of God’s grace can be scandalous and merely unpleasant to certain human sensibilities much of the time.  Will we reject that grace because of its vehicles?  And will we lose heart because God seems to be taking too much time?  Loyalty to God is of great importance, no matter hos shocking or delayed God’s methods might seem to us.

The liturgical observance of Advent acknowledges both scandal and perceived tardiness.  St. Joseph of Nazareth had to spare the life of his betrothed due to the scandal of her pregnancy.  And nearly 2,000 years after the birth of Jesus, where has he been?  But we should not lose heart.  May we not do so.






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


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