Archive for the ‘Law of Moses’ Tag

Mutuality and Freedom   2 comments


I recall telling my university students that many bastards exist, but that the marital status of the parents has nothing to do with one’s status as a bastard.  Being a bastard is solely a matter of bad character.

By the way, I reject the notion that anyone is illegitimate; my Christian ethics dictate that position.  Now that I have addressed that matter, I return to my topic.

Biblical Ethics 101:  Mutuality is part of the infrastructure of the Law of Moses, the teachings of Hebrew prophets, the theology of Jesus of Nazareth, the epistles of St. Paul the Apostle, and those attributed to that great evangelist.  Biblical Mutuality teaches that, in community, human beings stand together, completely dependent upon God.  It also holds that we are all responsible to and for each other.  Whatever we do, we affect others.  Nobody has the moral right to exploit or otherwise victimize anyone else.  The community has no moral right to oppress individuals who are harming nobody, and no individual has the moral right to endanger the community.  In other words, we are all in it together.

No freedom is absolute.  I have no constitutional or legal right, for example, to commit libel, slander anyone, or incite violence.  If I were to do so, I would engage in illegal speech.  Given my dedication to objective reality, I will never commit libel or slander, of course.  Given my aversion to violence, I will never incite violence, either.  I do have a moral obligation to resist calls to violence, though.  Unfortunately, that can be illegal, depending on the time and the place.  When governments incite violence, pacifists and conscientious objectors may become enemies of the state.  Ask the Quakers and the Anabaptists, O reader.  This weblog’s Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days includes pacifists and conscientious objectors who died as martyrs, sometimes in the United States of America.  “I will not kill,” is a morally defensible position.

As I wrote, the state has no moral right to target, detain, or prosecute individuals who are harming nobody.

However, the state has the moral right to protect the common good.  This frequently entails making the lives of individuals who are harming others rather uncomfortable.  This official process may, according to some, infringe upon freedoms.  But which freedoms may these be?  May these be the alleged freedoms to be irresponsible.

Nobody has the moral right to be a contemporary Typhoid Mary.  Universities and other institutions have the moral right in mandate certain vaccinations, for the common good.  If I could trust human nature, I would oppose vaccination mandates, especially during this pandemic.  I distrust human nature, though.  Official compulsion is necessary much of the time, for the common good, sadly.

I read that certain people refuse to wear masks and get vaccinated against COVID-19.  Many of these bastards cite their freedom.  Which freedom is this?  Is it the freedom to be a latter-day Typhoid Mary?  Is it the freedom to die horribly and leave a large medical debt?

Will Campbell (1924-2013), a renegade Southern Baptist minister, said:

We’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway.

We may all be bastards, to one extent or another, but each one of us can, by the combination of divine grace and human free will, be a bastard to a lesser extent.  In the context of COVID-19, each of us can wear a mask when that is appropriate, get fully-vaccinated (if that is possible and medically advisable, given factors such as age), and maintain proper distances.  Each of us can behave in a morally responsible manner, within circumstances.  We can look out for each other and save lives.  The lives one saves may even include one’s own.

Some people are relentlessly selfish, of course.  They look out for themselves, not others.  This is unfortunate yet true.  Selfishness should lead even these individuals to behave responsibly.  Do they want to die or suffer horribly?

May we look out for each other.  Assuming that we are bastards, may we avoid using that status as an excuse.  May we strive instead to be better people.




Fully Vaccinated   10 comments

As of today, I am fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Today marks two weeks since I received the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.  Until such time as I may need a booster dose, I am 95% protected.

I thank God that effective vaccines against COVID-19 exist.  I also thank God that all those who helped to make this possible did do.  And I thank God that all of we mere ordinary citizens who have become vaccinated have done so.  Public health experts consistently say that getting as many people as possible vaccinated as quickly as possible is crucial to ending the pandemic.

Yet some people stick their proverbial heads into equally proverbial holes in the sand.  Some deny that the pandemic is real.  I recall an unpleasant encounter I had in August 2020, while working for the Census Bureau.

I was wearing a face mask, in accordance with Census Bureau policy.  It was a nondescript face mask.  I knocked on a door.  The man who opened the door was a far-right-wing conspiracy nut who told me that the face mask I wore “represented Satan.”  Neither did he want to answer any Census questions.

Some stick their proverbial heads into equally proverbial holes in the sand.  Some do this on the basis of misplaced distrust of expertise.  Experts in a field know more about that field than those who have not done what is necessary to become experts in that field.  Expertise deserves respect, not emotional and anti-intellectual misplaced populism.  The informed opinion of an expert should matter more than the uninformed opinion of a man or woman “on the street.”

Yes, I know that some vaccines carry temporary side effects.  The shingles vaccine, I hear, really does.  Yet the disease in question is worse than any side effects.  And many side effects are exceedingly rare.  Statistics should matter more than isolated anecdotes.  I report that I had soreness at the injection site for about 24 hours following my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.  I also report my side effects after the second dose.  I report that I had soreness at the injection site for about 48 hours, and that, on the day following that dose, I had to take an unplanned nap.

In an age of anti-intellectual, anti-science populism, anecdotes and half-baked memes cloud the thinking of many people.  This is extremely perilous during a pandemic.  Objective reality remains objective reality, even though many people do not believe in it.  The COVID-19 virus continues to mutate, as viruses do.  Speeding up the rate of vaccinations is crucial.  That is not all that is crucial.  We–governments, corporations, small businesses, communities, congregations, individuals, et cetera–all need to behave responsibly.  Policies need to be morally responsible and grounded in science.  I practice social distancing and wear two masks in public.  I may even wear two masks in public when doing so is not necessary.  If I err on the side of safety in this matter, so be it.  That is better than erring on the side of danger.

We all belong to God and each other.  Mutuality, built into the Law of Moses, informs my morality.  We are all responsible to and for each other.  And we are all accountable to God.  Wearing two face masks in public at this time is consistent with my interpretation of the Golden Rule.  And, during this pandemic, I accept temporary upper arm soreness and an unplanned nap as small prices to pay for acting according to the Golden Rule.  I refuse to be a selfish cry-baby.  Besides, COVID-19 is far worse than any temporary side effect of a vaccine.

Many people cannot get vaccinated yet.  Some have a medical reason.  Others are too young.  Others seek and cannot get an appointment.  Many people have difficulty getting to a vaccination site.  And other people live in places where no vaccine is available.  Those fortunate enough to be able to get an appointment, are old enough, have no medical reason not to get vaccinated, are legally eligible, and have yet to get vaccinated have a moral obligation to get vaccinated as soon as possible.  This is for the common good.

Despite being one of the fully-vaccinated people, I remain more comfortable worshiping in front of a computer screen, at least for a while.  My parish now offers two in-person worship services on Sunday mornings.  There are strict rules.  For example, attendees must register, masks are mandatory, and people are spaced apart.  Also, there is a limit on attendance at each service.  I feel less stress sitting alone in front of a computer monitor at home.  I can also say the Prayer of Spiritual Communion.  For a while yet, I will maintain a different type of social distancing while worshiping.

Yet knowing that have 95% protection reduces my pandemic stress load.




Blogging Update–May 15, 2020   Leave a comment

Above:  The View from My Desk, May 14, 2020, According to One of My Laptop Computers

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor



A consistent theme in my life since 2016 has been being either well-informed or well-adjusted.  I have chosen the latter.  I have reaffirmed my choice since the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic began.  While reckless politicians (many of whom mockingly identify as pro-life) on all levels of government place our lives in danger in the name of the Almighty Dollar (their deity), I opt not to turn into General George C. Patton‘s ideal man, one who can swear consistently for three minutes without repeating a word.  The Almighty God will render a verdict in a court beyond any human jurisdiction.  May voters render the proper verdict in elections and otherwise hold those who risk their lives recklessly accountable, constitutionally.  Regardless of whether voting is a feasible option, may government officials in a position to ensure responsible government for the common good do so.  As the Law of Moses teaches, we are all responsible to and for each other, and we all depend on each other, as well as entirely on God.

I seldom venture out among people.  (I do, however, enjoy walking alone in the nearby woods.)  When I do venture out among people, I wear a mask and stay as far away from them as possible.  I have used a hair trimmer to give myself one buzz cut.  I have decided to do that again, whenever I will need another haircut, indefinitely.  I also feel nervous as I strive to behave in a socially responsible and moral manner.  Just as what I do affects others, what others do affects me.

I have been spending much time blogging.  As of today, I have scheduled 50 posts to publish here at SUNDRY THOUGHTS.  I have scheduled new posts about saints to publish through June 6.  I have decided to give the saints a rest until after July.  (I do plan, however, to revise the July calendar of saints very soon, create its reset mode, and make a list of people to consider adding for the time I will return to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.)  I have also scheduled the transfer of material from the former PUNS BLOG to continue daily through June 12.  Furthermore, I have written and published lectionary-based devotions for church year 2020-2021 at BLOGA THEOLOGICA, ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS, and LENTEN AND EASTER DEVOTIONS.  I had already published the first set of these devotions at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS.

The Chronicle Title

Above:  The Title Card of The Chronicle:  News from the Edge

A Screen Capture

I have also decided to begin a new project at this weblog.  The Chronicle:  News from the Edge (2001-2002) was a series the Sci-Fi Channel aired for one season.  I delighted to find all 22 episodes at then to binge-watch the series as I took mental notes.  I have decided to blog my way through the series, episode by episode, and to consider each episode in the context of the other 21 episodes.  The setting of The Chronicle was the World Chronicle, based somewhat on the Weekly World News.  The premise of the series was that the stories were true.  I watched some episodes from 2001 and 2002, but missed many of them at the time.  My memory of the series was vague; I remembered isolated scenes and pieces of dialogue, however.  After watching the series from beginning to end recently, I have concluded that it was a combination of Kolchak:  The Night Stalker, The X Files, and Northern Exposure, tonally.

Writing about The Chronicle should be fun and wonderfully distracting.




Feast of Charles Sheldon (February 26)   Leave a comment

Above:  Charles Sheldon

Image in the Public Domain



U.S. Congregationalist Minister, Author, Christian Socialist, and Social Gospel Theologian

The Reverend Charles Monroe Sheldon comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

Sheldon took to heart Christ’s command to be salt and light in the world.  Some efforts were more successful than others, but all of them shared one point of origin:  Christian faith.

Sheldon grew up in a Congregationalist family.  His father was a minister.  Our saint moved with his family from church to church.  Sheldon, born in Wellsville, New York, on February 26, 1857, grew up mostly in the Dakotas.  The family was not wealthy; it struggled financially.  That background and the socially and theologically background of nineteenth-century Congregationalism influenced Sheldon.

Sheldon became a socially-conscious minister.  After graduating from Brown University and Andover Theological Seminary, he served as a pastor, uin Waterbury, Vermont (1887-1889).  Typhoid was a frequent problem in town.  Our saint suggested that the proximity of the water supply to pig pens was the cause of the unsafe water.  The town corrected the issue and solved the problem.

Sheldon served in one other church; he was pastor of Central Congregational Church, Topeka, Kansas,, from 1889 to his retirement in 1920.  Our saint left the congregation better off in every way after three decades of leadership.  Attendance and membership increased.  So did outreach in the community.  Sheldon, author of more than 30 Social Gospel novels, including In His Steps (1896), asked a crucial question:

What would Jesus do?

In 1893 the pastor, a Christian Socialist and a theologian of the Social Gospel, concluded that Jesus would approve of the Central Congregational Church sponsoring the first kindergarten for African Americans west of the Mississippi River.  The congregation did that.  Sheldon, who encouraged middle-class and upper-class Christians to sympathize and identify with the poor and the marginalized paired evangelism with faith-based activism.

Much less successful were Sheldon’s campaigns for the prohibition of alcohol (throughout his life) and for world peace (after the retired).  Prohibition proved to be a movement that perhaps only mobsters loved more than moralistic idealists did.  World peace has been elusive, of course.  In the aftermath of World War I, however, that quest was of its time, as well as admirable.

Sheldon, from 1920 to 1924 the editor of a periodical, Christian Herald, died in Topeka on February 24, 1946.  In two more days he would have celebrated his eighty-ninth birthday.

The question of what Jesus would do is always relevant in public and private life.  That issue, like the Law of Moses, requires one to consider the timeless principles and variable factors.  The Golden Rule is a constant factor, a timeless principle.  The proper application of it depends on variables, tough.  For example, who one is, how old one is, where one is, when one is, and other particulars of one’s context vary from person to person.  Variables add a degree of relativism to the mix.  We (individually and collectively) have a mandate to live according to the Golden Rule when and where we are.  May we succeed, by grace.







Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly with evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servant Charles Sheldon,

to work for justice among people and nations, to the glory of your name,

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

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

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60


This is post #1800 of SUNDRY THOUGHTS.


Feast of Elmer G. Homrighausen (January 3)   4 comments

Above:  Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey

Image Source = Library of Congress



U.S. German Reformed and Presbyterian Minister, Biblical Scholar, and Professor of Christian Education

Elmer G. Homrighausen comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume XII (1957), for which he wrote the exposition of 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and Jude.

Homrighausen came from the Reformed tradition.  He, son of Henry and Sophia, entered the world in Wheatland, Iowa, on April 14, 1900.  The family was German Reformed, members of the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS), which merged into the Evangelical and Reformed Church (ERC) in 1934, which merged into the United Church of Christ (UCC) in 1957.  The religion of Homrighausen’s youth and early adulthood was stern; fear of divine judgment was always present.  After nearly dying as a child, he was thankful for every day of the rest of his long life.

Homrighausen became a scholar and a German Reformed minister.  He studied at Mission House College, Plymouth, Wisconsin, from 1921 to 1923.  Mercersburg Theology, or relatively High Church Reformed theology with an emphasis on sacraments and liturgy, began to influence our saint there.  In 1923, before transferring to Princeton Theological Seminary as a senior, married Ruth W, Strassburger.  The Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy divided the faculty.  Our saint identified as a Modernist.  (The couple went on to raise six children.)  He graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary and became an ordained minister in 1924.

Above:  The Former First English Reformed Church, Freeport, Illinois

Image Source = Google Earth

Homrighausen’s first pastorate was the First English Reformed Church (now Bethany United Church of Christ), Freeport, Illinois, where he served from 1924 to 1929.  Our saint applied Mercersburg Theology to help resolve a difficult situation.  Some of the leaders of the congregation were members of the Ku Klux Klan.  This appalled Homrighausen and many of his parishioners.  Our saint understood that the honor, integrity, and unity of the congregation were at stake.  He practiced reconciliation, followed by a communion service.  Then Homrighausen initiated outreach to African Americans in the community.

Above:  The Former Carrollton Avenue Reformed Church, Indianapolis, Indiana

Image Source = Google Earth

Homrighausen served as pastor of the Carrollton Avenue Reformed Church, Indianapolis, Indiana (now St. Peter’s United Church of Christ, Carmel, Indiana), from 1929 to 1938.  While there, he earned his Ph.D. (1929) and Th.D. (1930) from the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, as well as his M.A. from Butler University, Indianapolis (1931).  Homrighausen also worked as a lecturer in church history at Butler University from 1931 to 1938.

Homrighausen liberalized in academia and became a Barthian.  Our saint stood in the theological center and criticized positions to his left and his right.  The relationship between church and culture interested him.  Homrighausen read the writings of St. Justin Martyr (d. 166/167) during the process of loyalty to empire versus loyalty to the Kingdom of God.  Our saint found in St. Justin Martyr openness to the truth, regardless of its source, while affirming Christ as the Savior.  Doctrinal rigidity was not a virtue, according to Homrighausen.  Neither was setting social progress in opposition to perceived orthodoxy.  And, in the theology of Karl Barth, our saint found a Christocentric theology.

NOTE:  I identify as a Modernist, for I accept science.  I, as a generally liberal person, think of myself as occupying a center-left position on the spectrum.  I tend to be more conservative in liturgical matters–traditional worship please, preferably Rite II from The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  And, if if I see so much as a guitar or a tambourine, I will kvetch inwardly.  I like the Roman Catholic Church’s “Seamless Garment” theology of life, with some caveats regarding tactics, never ideals.  I understand church history well enough to be able to rattle off instances of ecclesiastical leaders, from antiquity to the present day, deploying “orthodoxy” against necessary and proper social progress.  I make no excuses for that.  I also know of examples of the predictable, reflexive tendency in much of the Christian Left to focus on social progress in reaction against false, reactionary orthodoxy.  Social progress is a principle firmly entrenched in the Law of Moses, the Hebrew Prophetic tradition, and the Gospels, therefore in actual Jewish and Christian orthodoxy.  Actual orthodoxy, with the Golden Rule, facilitates social justice. 

Homrighausen worked full-time at Princeton Theological Seminary from 1938 to 1970.  He was, in order, the:

  1. Thomas Synnott Professor of Christian Education (1938-1954),
  2. Chairman of the Department of Practical Theology (1953-1960),
  3. Charles R. Erdman Professor of Pastoral Theology (1954-1970) and
  4. Dean (1955-1965).

Homrighausen, a recipient of many honorary degrees, was also active beyond the seminary.  He traveled the world, preaching, from 1941 to 1971.  Starting in the 1930s, our saint was active in the movement to found the World Council of Churches, formed in 1948.  Then he became a leader of that organization.  Likewise, Homrighausen filled leadership roles in the Federal Council of Churches and its successor, the National Council of Churches.  Our saint also served as the Vice Moderator of The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

Homrighausen, aged 81 years, died in Princeton, New Jersey, on January 3, 1982.

Princeton Theological Seminary has created the position of Elmer G. Homrighausen Professor of Christian Social Ethics.  While preparing this post, I read the list of faculty members of the seminary.  I noticed that this position was vacant.  I found names of previous Homrighausen Professors in Internet searches, however.

Homrighausen left a fine and faithful legacy.








O God, you have endowed us with memory, reason, and skill.

We thank you for the faithful legacy of [Elmer G. Homrighausen and all others]

who have dedicated their lives to you and to the intellectual pursuits.

May we, like them, respect your gift of intelligence fully and to your glory.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Psalm 103

Philippians 4:8-9

Mark 12:28-34






Devotion for the Feast of the Transfiguration (August 6)   3 comments

Above:  Icon of the Transfiguration

Image in the Public Domain

The Light of Christ


Appearances can deceive.  That statement is true in many contexts.  Consider the historical figure we call Jesus (or Jeshua or Joshua) of Nazareth, O reader.  I am Christologically orthodox, so I affirm the Incarnation, but I also make a distinction between the Second Person of the Trinity prior to the Incarnation and the person we call Jesus.  The distinction I make is a purely historical one; I refer to Jesus as the incarnated Second Person.  Perhaps I am splitting a hair.  If so, so be it.

As I was writing, appearances can deceive.  We do not know what Jesus looked like, but we can be certain that he did not look like a northern European.  Reconstructions I have seen plausibly depict Jesus as someone with dark skin, short hair, and brown eyes.  One may realistically state that his appearance most days was dramatically different from that on the day of the Transfiguration.  One may also ask how the Apostles knew the other two figures were Moses and Elijah, who were not wearing name tags.

The Gospels are more works of theology than history, as I, trained in historical methodology, practice my craft.  One should never underestimate the four canonical Gospels as works of finely-honed theology, complete with literary structure.  I know this, so I choose not to let the absence of name tags bother me.   I accept the theological point that Jesus was and remains consistent with the Law and the Prophets.  I also accept the theological point that the Transfiguration revealed the divine glory present in Jesus, en route to die in Jerusalem.  The prose poetry, with echoes of Moses encountering God on a mountain, accomplishes its purpose.

What are we supposed to do with this story of Jesus?  2 Peter 1:19 points to the answer:

…the message of the prophets] will go on shining like a lamp in a murky place, until day breaks and the morning star rises to illumine your minds.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

May the light of Christ illumine our minds and shape our lives.  (As we think, we are.)  May that light direct our private and public morality, so that we (both individually and collectively) will not betray Jesus in either our deeds or our words.  May we take that light with us as we travel with Jesus, and not attempt to box it up, even out of reverence.   May the light of Christ shine in us, both individually and collectively, as we, in the words of Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church,

love like Jesus.

We know how Jesus loved, do we not?  We know that he loved unconditionally and all the way to the cross.  The call of Christian discipleship is the summons to follow Jesus, wherever he leads.  Details vary according to where, when, and who one is, but the call,

follow me,

is constant.  So is the command to transfigure societies, for the glory of God and for the common good, with the Golden Rule as the gold standard of private and public morals, ethics, and policies.








O God, who on your holy mount revealed to chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son,

wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening:

Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world,

may by faith behold the King in his beauty;

who with you, O Father, and you, O Holy Spirit,

lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Exodus 34:29-35

Psalm 99 or 99:5-9

2 Peter 1:13-21

Luke 9:28-36

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 509



Devotion for Labor Day (U.S.A.)   1 comment

Above:  Labor Day, by Samuel D. Ehrhart

Published in Puck Magazine, September 1, 1909

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-26406

Affirming the Dignity of Work in Words and Deeds



The Book of Common Prayer (1979) contains a collect and assigned readings for Labor Day.

Interdependence is a cardinal virtue in the Law of Moses.  Interdependence is also obvious, or should be.  Somehow, especially in the global West, the idea of rugged individualism persists.  Yet, no matter how hard or well one works, one drives on roads other people built, relies on technology other people invented or maintain, and depends on many other people might guess at first thought.  Anyone who can read this post with comprehension relies on hosts of educators, for example.

As I affirm that I depend on the work of others, just as others depend on my work, I also affirm the dignity of work.  Therefore, I argue for certain propositions:

  1. Nobody should have to work in a death trap or a sweatshop;
  2. All wages should be living wages;
  3. People should work to live, not live to work;
  4. Union organizing and collective bargaining should be inviolable rights; and
  5. Access to affordable, quality health care is an inalienable right.

Nobody has a moral right to exploit anyone else.  No institution has a moral right to exploit any person.  After all, people should be more important than profits.

Furthermore, all work should benefit societies or communities.  By this standard most jobs pass the test.  We need plumbers and bus drivers, for example, but we also need actors, poets, and novelists.  In a just world teachers, librarians, police officers, and fire fighters would be some of the best paid professionals, but that is not the world in which we live, unfortunately.  It can be, however.  A society is what its members make it.  Sufficient force of public opinion, applied well, changes policies.  The major obstacle to positive social change is resignation to the current reality.

Furthermore, the best kind of work is also indistinguishable from play.  Work ought not only to provide financial support for one but also fulfill intangible needs.  Work, at its best, is something one who performs it enjoys.  Work should improve, not detract from, one’s quality of life.

Work does, of course, assume many forms, at home and out like the home.  One should never forget that a stay-at-home parent is a working parent.  One should never forget that one who leaves the labor force to become a caregiver for a relative is still working, just without wages.  One should acknowledge that those who, for various reasons, cannot join the labor force, are valuable members of society, and that many of them can contribute greatly to society, if others will permit them to do so.  Whenever a society holds back any of its members, it prevents itself from achieving its potential.

May we remember also that, as valuable as work is, rest and leisure are vital also.  Ideally one will balance the three properly.  We know that the brain requires a certain amount of sleep–especially REM sleep–to function properly.  We know that the correct amount of rest is necessary for the body to function properly.  We know that leisure makes for better employees.

Work, at its best, is a gift from God.  It is a gift for divine glory and the meeting of human needs.  Work, at its best, builds up (sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively) individuals, families, communities, societies, nation-states, and the world.  One’s work, at its best, is a vocation from God; it occupies the intersection of one’s greatest joys and the world’s deepest needs.

May you, O reader, find your work fulfilling in every way.





Almighty God, you have so linked our lives with one another

that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives:

So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good;

and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor,

make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers,

and arouse our concern for those who are out of work;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Ecclesiasticus/Wisdom of Sirach 38:27-32

Psalm 107:1-9 or 90:1-2, 16-17

1 Corinthians 3:10-14

Matthew 6:19-24

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), 261, 932


We invoke thy grace and wisdom, O Lord, upon all men of good will

who employ and control the labor of men.

Amid the numberless irritations and anxieties of their position,

help them to keep a quite and patient temper,

and to rule firmly and wisely, without harshness and anger.

Since they hold power over the bread, the safety, and the hopes of the workers,

may they wield their power justly and with love,

as older brothers and leaders in the great fellowship of labor.

Suffer not the heavenly light of compassion for the weak and the old to be quenched in their hearts.

When they are tempted to sacrifice human health and life for profit,

do thou strengthen their will in the hour of need,

and bring to nought the counsels of the heartless.

May they not sin against thee by using the bodies and souls of men as mere tools to make things.

Raise up among us employers who shall be makers of men as well as of goods.

Give us men of faith who will look beyond the strife of the present,

and catch a vision of a nobler organization of our work,

when all shall still follow the leadership of the ablest,

no longer in fear, but by the glad will of all,

and when all shall stand side by side in a strong and righteous brotherhood of work;

according to thy will in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Evangelical and Reformed Church, Book of Worship (1947) 382-383


Ecclesiasticus/Wisdom of Sirach 38:24-34 or Nehemiah 2:1-18

Psalms 124 and 125 or 147

2 Timothy 2:1-15 or Matthew 7:15-27

–General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, A Book of Worship for Free Churches (1948), 409



Proper 16, Year C   Leave a comment


Above:  A Bonfire

Image Source = Fir0002

A Consuming Fire

The Sunday Closest to August 24

Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 25, 2019


The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 1:4-10 and Psalm 71:1-6


Isaiah 58:9b-14 and Psalm 103:1-8


Hebrews 12:18-29

Luke 13:10-17

The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; 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:

Proper 16, Year A:

Proper 16, Year B:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Confession:

Prayer of Dedication:

Jeremiah 1:

Isaiah 58:

Hebrews 12:

Luke 13:


Many passages in the Bible speak of the imperative of obeying God.  Among them is Hebrews 12:18-29, which includes the promise of destruction for disobedience and concludes with

For our God is a consuming fire.

–12:29, The New Jerusalem Bible

That is scary, is it  not?

The Law of Moses is clear:  Anyone who works on the Sabbath day has earned a death sentence:

And the Lord said to Moses:  Speak to the Israelite people and say:  Nevertheless you must keep My sabbaths, for this is a sign between Me and you throughout the ages, that you may know that I the LORD have consecrated you.  You shall keep the sabbath, for it is holy for you.  He who profanes it shall be put to death:  whoever does work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his kin.  Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the LORD:  whoever does work on the sabbath day shall be put to death.  The Israelite people shall keep the sabbath, observing the sabbath throughout the ages as a covenant between Me and the people of Israel.

–Exodus 31:12-17a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures 

(Fortunately this law does not apply to me, a Christian.  As I understand theology, the cultural details of the Law of Moses are not universal principles for all time.)

Jesus, a Jew, lived under occupation in his homeland.  One way the Jews of the time, a minority in the Roman Empire, retained and asserted their identity was to keep religious laws.  But there were Jewish sects, some of which disagreed with each other strongly, and therefore there was a multiplicity of interpretations of religious laws.  So, did Jesus violate the Sabbath laws when he healed on that day?  He did not think so, and I side with him:  Every day of the week is a good day to commit good deeds.

The readings for this Sunday speak of the imperative of repenting, literally turning around.  The prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah (all the Isaiahs) decried a variety of sins, from committing idolatry to exploiting the poor economically.  Observing holy rituals did not fool God into thinking that perpetrators of these perfidious acts were righteous, the prophets said correctly.  The Temple system at the time of Jesus was corrupt, demanding offerings from those who could not spare the money.  Jesus, of course, opposed that system.

Another there running through these readings is one which becomes clearer after one reads the lections in their literary contexts:  Many of those who consider themselves religious insiders, people close to God, are fooling themselves.  And many of the alleged outsiders are really insiders.

The God of these readings is the deity who cares for the widows and the orphans, executes judgment for the oppressed peoples, and whose kingdom is like a large, uncontrollable, and frequently unwanted pest of a plant that gives shelter to a variety of species, not all of whom like each other.  This is the God who defines “insider” and “outsider” differently than many people do.  This is the God whose Gospel comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.  This is the God I recognize in Jesus, who ate with notorious sinners, causing scandal.  This is the God each of us is called to follow.

A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989) offers a fitting conclusion to this post.  In the Eucharistic rite, just after a reading from Scripture, the lector says

Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.

The congregation replies,

Thanks be to God.

With that in mind, I say

Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church or just to one who reads this post.

Whether or not one who reads this post answers

Thanks be to God

sincerely reveals much about that person’s spiritual state.








Proper 11, Year C   Leave a comment


Above:  Convent at Mamre Near Hebron, Palestine (Abraham’s Oak), 1944

Image Source = Library of Congress

Divine Promises

The Sunday Closest to July 20

Sixth Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 17, 2016

JULY 21, 2019


The Assigned Readings:

Amos 8:1-12 and Psalm 52


Genesis 18:1-10a and Psalm 15


Colossians 1:15-28

Luke 10:38-42

The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Confession:

Prayer of Dedication:


Divine promises turn our worlds upside-down and defy expectations.

Reconciliation, in Colossians 1, is related to justification, a legal concept.  So God is the judge, each of us is the accused, and Jesus is the defense attorney.  These are inexact metaphors, for

  1. Elsewhere in the New Testament the Holy Spirit is the defense attorney, and
  2. The judge is in cahoots with the defense attorney.

But there is more.  In Christ our estrangement from God ends.  And we have an avenue via Christ to end our estrangements from one another.  Why not?  If we love God, whom we cannot see, how then ought we to think about our fellow human beings, whom we can see?  This is a noble and high vocation, one attainable by grace.  And, if we strive yet fall short, God knows that we are but dust.

Such divine generosity requires an affirmative response.  St. Mary of Bethany understood this, as did Abraham and Sarah (although the latter needed a little time to grasp it) before her.  And one cannot respond affirmatively to God while exploiting people economically.  Although Colossians 1 contains a promise of deliverance from sins via God, Amos 8 tells us of doom because of the sin of economic exploitation.  The Law of Moses condemned such practices and mandated ways of helping the poor, yet some people manipulated it to make their exploitative deeds seem respectable and proper.

The Bible says more about money, greed, and economic exploitation than about sexual activities, yet many professing Christians are quicker to condemn aspects of the latter than of the former.  I have also noticed that condemnations of the latter tend to be more vocal and visible than those of the former.  If we who call ourselves Christians are to avoid rank hypocrisy, we ought to realize that many of us are invested in economic realities which place many others at an undue disadvantage.  We ought to ask God to help us see or blind spots.  We ought to be willing to confront the social structures which grant us advantages at the expense of others.  And we ought not to settle for condemning just (or primarily) the low-hanging fruit.  Then we will hear what God tells us because we will listen closely.  And something unexpected will be born to us via divine power and bring us closer to God, the main agent of bringing about this reconciliation and justification.







Proper 26, Year B   Leave a comment

Above:  Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun and Her Daughter (1789), by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun


The Sunday Closest to November 2

Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost

OCTOBER 31, 2021



Ruth 1:1-22 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

In the days when the chieftains ruled, there was a famine in the land; and a man of Bethlehem in Judah, with his wife and two sons, went to reside in the country of Moab.  The man’s name was Elimelech, his wife’s name was Naomi, and his two sons were named Mahlon and Chilion–Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah.  They came to the country of Moab and remained there.

Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left with her two sons.  They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth, and they lived there about ten years.  Then those two–Mahlon and Chilion–also died; so the woman was left without her two sons and without her husband.

She started out with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab; for in the country of Moab she had heard that the LORD had taken note of His people and given them food.  Accompanied by her two daughters-in-law, she left the place where she had been living; and they set out on the road back to the land of Judah.

But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law,

Turn back, each of you to her mother’s house.  May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me!  May the LORD grant that each of you find security in the house of a husband!

And she kissed them farewell.  They broke into weeping, and said to her,

No, we will return with you to your people.

But Naomi replied,

Turn back, my daughters!  Why should you go with me?  Have I any more sons in my body who might be husbands for you?  Turn back, my daughters, for I am too old to be married.  Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I were married tonight, and I also bore sons, should you wait for them to grow up?  Should you on their account debar yourselves from marriage?  Oh no, my daughters!  My lot is far more bitter than yours, for the hand of the LORD has struck out against me.

They broke into weeping again, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law farewell.  But Ruth clung to her.  So she said,

See, your sister-in-law has returned to her people and her gods.  Go follow your sister-in-law.

But Ruth replied,

Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back and not follow you.  For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.  Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.  Thus and more may the LORD do to me if anything but death parts me from you.

When [Naomi] saw how determined she was to go with her, she ceased to argue with her; and the two went on until they reached Bethlehem.

When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole city buzzed with excitement over them.  The women said,

Can this be Naomi?

She replied,

Do not call me Naomi.  Call me Mara, for Shaddai has made my lot very bitter.  I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty.  How can you call me Naomi, when the LORD has brought me back empty.  How can you call me Naomi, when the LORD has dealt harshly with me, when Shaddai has brought misfortune upon me!

Thus Naomi returned from the country of Moab; she returned with her daughter-in-law Ruth the Moabite.  They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.

Psalm 146 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):


Praise the LORD, O my soul!

I will praise the LORD as long as I live;

I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

2 Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth,

for there is not help in them.

When they breathe their last, they return to earth,

and in that day their thoughts perish.

Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help!

whose hope is in the LORD their God;

Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;

who keeps his promise for ever.

Who gives justice to those who are oppressed,

and food to those who hunger.

The LORD sets the prisoner free;

the LORD opens the eyes of the blind;

the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down.

8 The LORD loves the righteous;

the LORD cares for the stranger;

he sustains the orphan and the widow,

but frustrates the way of the wicked!

The LORD shall reign for ever,

your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.



Deuteronomy 6:1-9 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And this is the commandment, the laws, and the judgments that YHWH, your God, commanded to teach you to do in the land to which you’re crossing to take possession of it, so that you’ll fear YHWH, your God, to observe all His laws and His commandments that I’m commanding you:  you and your child and your child’s child, all the days of your life, and so that your days will be extended.  And you will shall listen, Israel, and and be watchful to it, that it will be good for you and that you’ll multiply very much, as YHWH, your fathers’ God, spoke to you:  a land flowing with milk and honey.

Listen, Israel:  YHWH is our God.  YHWH is one.  And you shall love YHWH, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  And you shall impart them to your children, and you shall speak about them when you sit in your house and when you go in the road and when you lie down and when you get up.  And you shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall become bands between your eyes.  And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and in your gates.

Psalm 119:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Happy are they whose way is blameless,

who walk in the law of the LORD!

Happy are they who observe his decrees

and seek him with all their hearts!

3 Who never do any wrong,

but always walk in his ways.

4 You laid down your commandments,

that we should fully keep them.

Oh, that my ways were made so direct

that I might keep your statutes!

Then I should not be put to shame,

when I regard all your commandments.

I will thank you with an unfeigned heart,

when I have learned your righteous judgments.

I will keep your statutes;

do not utterly forsake me.


Hebrews 9:11-14 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once and for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but not his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.  For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.


Mark 12:28-34 (Revised English Bible):

Then one of the scribes, who had been listening to these discussions and had observed how well Jesus answered, came forward and asked him,

Which is the first of all the commandments?

He answered,

The first is, “Hear, O Israel:  the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”  The second is this:  ”You must love your neighbour as yourself.”  No other commandment is greater than these.

The scribe said to him,

Well said, Teacher.  You are right in saying that God is one and beside him there is no other.  And to love him with all your heart, all your understanding, and all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself–that means far more than any whole-offerings and sacrifices.

When Jesus saw how thoughtfully he answered, he said to him,

You are not far from the kingdom of God.

After that nobody dared put any more questions to him.

The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Proper 26, Year A:

Proper 26, Year B:

Ruth 1:

Deuteronomy 6:

Hebrews 9:

Mark 12:

Matthew 22 (Parallel to Mark 12):

Luke 10 (Parallel to Mark 12):

A Prayer for Compassion:

Prayers for Those Who Suffer:


The context for this Sunday’s reading from Mark is Holy Week; Jesus will die soon.  This places the statement about the greatest commandments in a certain light and helps explain the lectionary committee’s decision to pair Hebrews 9:11-14 with Mark 12:28-34.  And Jesus pulled the two greatest commandments from the Law of Moses–Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18, to be precise.  Our Lord also agreed with his elder (and deceased) contemporary, Rabbi Hillel, on the question of the summary of the Law of Moses.

There are types of love in the Bible, and we see some of the best representatives of love in this Sunday’s readings.  A daughter-in-law remains loyal to her mother-in-law.  We read of the commandments to love God fully and our neighbors as ourselves, and of the depth of God’s love for us.  I must add something else here to augment that thought.  I write devotions in sequence, according to lectionaries (more or less).  Very recently I wrote a devotion on Ephesians 5, which, while discussing marriage, commands the husband to love his wife.  The text speaks of the two as one flesh:

He who loves his wife loves himself.–Ephesians 5:28b, New Revised Standard Version

We will love ourselves most or all of the time, unless we loathe ourselves, as some do.  I suspect, though, that egotism is more rampant than self-loathing.  So the main spiritual task for most of us is to place ourselves in proper context–not superior to others in the eyes of God–and to act compassionately toward others, as if toward ourselves.  We are not isolated from others; what one does affects others.  Yes, we are separate and unique in body and personality, but no, we are not isolated from others even in these matters.  We have the power to build people up or to tear them down; may we, for the common good and the love of God, do the former, not the latter.