Archive for the ‘Acts 4’ Tag

Devotion for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

A Faithful Response, Part VIII

MAY 7, 2023


The Collect:

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


The Assigned Readings:

Acts 4:23-37

Psalm 31:1-9, 15-16

1 Peter 3:8-22

Matthew 20:1-16


The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) tells of the generosity of God.  The social setting is poverty created by rampant economic exploitation–in this case, depriving people of land, therefore depriving them of economic security.  The economics of the Kingdom of God/Heaven–in tension with human systems–the Roman Empire, in particular–are morally superior.

Trusting in God can be difficult during the best of times, given human sins and frailties.  Therefore trusting in God in precarious circumstances–such as persecution and/or systematic economic exploitation–can certainly prove to be challenging.  Yet, when faith communities do so and, acting on trust in God, take care of their members’ needs, grace is tangibly present.

Dare we have much trust in God?







Devotion for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Sanhedrin

Image in the Public Domain

The Light of Christ, Part III

APRIL 30, 2023


The Collect:

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


The Assigned Readings:

Acts 4:1-22

Psalm 23

1 Peter 2:11-25

Matthew 13:44-52


One can find examples of God smiting evildoers in the Bible.  The fate of the evil in Matthew 13 falls into a side category, one in which angels smite evildoers–at the end, on the day of judgment.  Until then, as in Psalm 23, God simply outclasses and overpowers the wicked, who cannot keep up, much of the time.  The wicked cease to pursue the righteous; divine goodness and mercy pursue or accompany the righteous, depending on the translation one considers authoritative.

Although I am reluctant to label members of the Sanhedrin evil, I side with Sts. John and Simon Peter in the confrontation with that council.  I also rejoice that the Sanhedrin, for all its authority, lacked the power to prevent the Apostles from preaching.  I thank God that the Sanhedrin could not keep up with God and part of the public.

May we be on God’s side.  May we heed the advice of 1 Peter 2:12 and behave honorably always, to the glory of God.  Human authority is not always worthy of respect and obedience, and slavery (in all its forms) is always wrong, so I agree with part of the reading from 1 Peter 2, a text some have used to justify chattel slavery and submitting to the Third Reich.  The politics of early, persecuted Christianity aside, sometimes one must oppose human authority in order to live faithfully, in accordance with the divine commandments.  Those figures of authority cannot keep up with God either, and the call to live as one should–to manifest the light of Christ–is timeless.






Devotion for the Third Sunday of Easter (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:  David and Jonathan, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Loyalty and Self-Sacrifice

APRIL 23, 2023


The Collect:

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


The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 20:12-23, 35-42

Psalm 18:46-50

Acts 4:13-22

John 21:20-25


The Living Bible (1971) renders 1 Samuel 20:30-31 as follows:

Saul boiled over with rage.  “You son of a bitch!” he yelled at him.  “Do you think I don’t know that you want that son of a nobody to be king in your place, shaming yourself and your mother?  As long as this fellow is alive, you’ll never be king.  Now go and get him so I can kill him!

Later printings of The Living Bible changed “You son of a bitch!’ to “You fool!”  The original rendering captured the flavor of the Hebrew text well, for King Saul was cursing.  In verse 30, in fact, he referred to genitals, although many English-language translations have not reflected that subtlety.

A more common translation is one such as in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985):

You son of a perverse, rebellious woman!

Yet scholars agree that Jonathan, not his mother, was the object of the swearing, hence the Everett Fox version:

[You] son of a twisted rebellion!

The Early Prophets (2014), page 378

Via that “twisted rebellion” Jonathan stood by his friend (David) while ensuring that he (Jonathan), the heir apparent to the throne, would not become King of Israel.  Jonathan exemplified loyalty and self-sacrifice.

So did St. Simon Peter (eventually crucified upside-down) and St. John the Evangelist (who spent time in exile).  They performed great deeds, to the glory of God and the benefits of others, and found themselves in legal jeopardy.  But they persisted.

May we be loyal to God and willing to pay the price that might demand of us.  May we glorify God, regardless of circumstances.








Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Good Shepherd, Ravenna

Above:  A Good Shepherd Mosaic from Ravenna, Italy

Image in the Public Domain

Shepherds, Part I

APRIL 22-24, 2021


The Collect:

O Lord Christ, good shepherd of the sheep,

you seek the lost and guide us into your fold.

Feed us, and we shall be satisfied;

heal us, and we shall be whole.

Make us one with you, for you live and reign with the Father

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33


The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 30:25-43 (Thursday)

Genesis 46:28-47:6 (Friday)

Genesis 48:8-19 (Saturday)

Psalm 23 (All Days)

Acts 3:17-36 (Thursday)

Acts 4:1-4 (Friday)

Mark 6:30-34 (Saturday)


The LORD is my shepherd;

I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

He leads me to water in places of repose;

He renews my life;

He guides me in right paths

as befits His name.

Though I walk through a valley of deepest darkness,

I fear no harm, for You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff–they comfort me.

You spread a table for me in full view of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

my drink is abundant.

Only goodness and steadfast love shall pursue me

all the days of my life;

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for many years.

–Psalm 23, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)


The theme for these three days is shepherds.

Shepherds functioned as interesting metaphors.  They were essential to the economy yet were far from respectable and pleasant smelling.  Nevertheless, monarchs were metaphorical shepherds of their kingdoms.  And Jesus, of course, became known as the Good Shepherd.

Jacob/Israel was a shepherd and a trickster.  Laban, his father-in-law, tricked him, so Jacob/Israel returned the favor, won his independence from Laban, and became wealthy.  The patriarch, due to a lie most of his sons told him, mourned one son, Joseph, whom he thought was dead.  Happily, Joseph was alive in Egypt.  Jacob/Israel, reunited with Joseph, blessed his grandchildren via that son, surprising Joseph by announcing that the second grandson’s descendants would be more prominent than those of the first.  The name of Ephraim became synonymous with the Kingdom of Israel (northern), which, like the Kingdom of Judah (southern), had plenty of bad kings.

Many earthly “shepherds,” Biblical prophets proclaimed, fell short of the divinely set standards of proper governance.  A proper “shepherd,” they said, opposed idolatry, economic injustice, and judicial corruption.  He looks after the interests of people who have nobody else to protect them, the prophets said.

A shepherd needs the sheep at least as much as the sheep need him.  What is a shepherd without sheep?  Who is a leader without followers?  What is a creator without a creation?  Such an interpretation troubles some, I know, but I did not create the metaphor.  No, I merely explore its implications faithfully and intellectually honestly.

Jesus, our Good Shepherd, has pity on us, for we are like sheep without a shepherd.  We are inclined to go astray easily, so we need the proper guidance.  May we heed it.







Devotion for Friday and Saturday Before the Second Sunday of Easter, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Nebudchadnezzar's Dream

Above:  Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

Image in the Public Domain

Yahweh, Unconquered

APRIL 9 and 10, 2021


The Collect:

Almighty God, with joy we celebrate the day of our Lord’s resurrection.

By the grace of Christ among us,

enable us to show the power of the resurrection in all that we say or do,

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 32


The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 2:1-23 (Friday)

Daniel 2:24-49 (Saturday)

Psalm 133 (Both Days)

Acts 4:23-31 (Friday)

John 12:44-50 (Saturday)


Oh, how good and pleasant it is

when brethren live together in unity!

It is like fine oil upon the head

that runs down upon the beard,

Upon the beard of Aaron,

and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

It is like the dew of Hermon

that falls upon the hills of Zion.

For there the LORD has ordained the blessing:

life for evermore.

–Psalm 133, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


I have read the Book of Daniel closely in both the Jewish and Protestant twelve-chapter version and the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox fourteen-chapter version.  In neither version does the internal chronology make sense.  That is fine, for we are not reading history.  No, we are reading theology.

How can one life faithfully at home or abroad within a violent empire and under the rule of foreigners?  That issue is one question which unites the pericopes for these two days.  In the ancient world of the Old Testament a common assumption was that the fall of a kingdom or empire indicated the defeat of its gods also.  Thus warfare was cosmic and political.  Yet Daniel 2 argues that nobody has conquered Yahweh.  Kingdoms and empires come and go, but God remains unvanquished.  Ultimately the Kingdom of God, present in part already, will become fully evident.  In the meantime, God is present to strengthen the faithful as necessary.  We even have the example of Jesus, God incarnate, who identifies with us.

No, we are not reading history in the Book of Daniel.  We are reading excellent theology instead.










Twenty-Second Day of Easter: Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B   15 comments

The Good Shepherd

Loving One Another Can Be Risky

APRIL 25, 2021


Acts 4:5-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

The day after they had arrested Peter and John for teaching about Jesus and the resurrection, the rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired,

By what power or by what name did you do this?

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them,

Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is “the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;/it has become the cornerstone.  There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.

Psalm 23 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The LORD is my shepherd;

I shall not be in want.

2 He makes me lie in green pastures

and leads me beside still waters.

3 He revives my soul

and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I shall fear no evil;

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me;

you have anointed my head with oil,

and my cup is running over.

6 Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

1 John 3:16-24 (New Revised Standard Version):

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us– and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.

And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

John 10:11-18 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away– and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.

The Collect:

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Twenty-Second Day of Easter:  Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A:

Acts 4:

1 John 3:

John 10:

Very Bread, Good Shepherd, Tend Us:

Shepherd of Souls, Refesh and Bless:


We read in 1 John 3 that we ought to “love one another,” as the text tells us, “not in word or speech, but in truth an action.”  In other words, talk is cheap and writing nice sentiments is easy, but loving actively matters.  The Good Shepherd of John 10 lays down his life for the sheep, which is what Jesus did. And, when we turn to the lesson from Acts 4, we need to know that Peter and John are facing charges before the Sanhedrin.  Peter had just healed a crippled beggar at Temple’s Beautiful Gate then delivered a sermon.  Now he faced charges of “proclaiming that in Jesus there is resurrection of the dead.”  Peter, who had recently denied Jesus three times, did not back down this time.  He loved Jesus in truth and action.

Psalm 23 speaks poetically of God setting a table for us in the presence our enemies.  Yes, loving one another will make enemies for us.  What is so allegedly offensive about love?  Despite much rhetoric to the contrary, many of us, in our societies, enjoy privileges derived from unjust inequality.  There will always be some inequality, such as that based on the fact that some people are more talented in certain ways than are others.  This is fine, for absolute equality is not desirable, as constitutes universal mediocrity.  Those who stand out because of their talents have something valuable to teach the rest of us.

But there is artificial inequality, the sort I find offensive.  This results from marginalizing people unjustly, for reasons such as physical disability, sex (usually female), ethnicity, and race.  This treatment of people stifles their opportunities to explore and develop their God-given talents and, in so doing, retards the progress of the society which condones and practices it.

And, when the wages of many are unjustly depressed and the wealth of a relative few is vast and growing, there is a basic instability in an economic system.  We will always have the wealthy and the poor among us for a set of reasons, but a narrower gap between the two economic extremes is healthy for society.  It also comes nearer to reflecting God’s economy, in which there is enough for everybody.

To resist unjust inequality properly is to act out of love for one’s neighbors.  It also threatens the status quo and  is, in some cases, criminal.  Under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, for example, helping an escaped slave gain his or her freedom was a federal felony.  I think also of those courageous Righteous Gentiles (often Christians) in Europe who sheltered Jews at great risk to themselves during the time of the Third Reich.  I hope that, if dire circumstances and the Law of Love ever require, I will have the moral courage to become a criminal in the style of those who sheltered Jews and escaped slaves.

As risky as loving our neighbors can be, we can take comfort that God will set a table for us in the presence of our enemies.  If God is for us, who can be against us and triumph in the end?

May we love one another regardless of the risks.  We are sheep; may we recall what our shepherd has done for us and follow him.




Eighth Day of Easter: Second Sunday of Easter, Year B   13 comments

Robert De Niro as Captain Mendoza in The Mission (1986)

(Image = A Screen Capture via PowerDVD)

Forgiving and Retaining Sins

APRIL 11, 2021


Acts 4:32-35 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

Psalm 133 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Oh, how good and pleasant it is,

when brethren live together in unity!

2 It is like fine oil upon the head

that runs down upon the beard,

3 Upon the beard of Aaron,

and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

It is like the dew of Hermon

that falls upon the hills of Zion.

5 For there the LORD has ordained the blessing;

life for evermore.

1 John 1:1-2:2 (New Revised Standard Version):

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life– this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us– we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

John 20:19-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said,

Peace be with you.

After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again,

Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.

When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,

Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him,

We have seen the Lord.

But he said to them,

Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said,

Peace be with you.

Then he said to Thomas,

Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.

Thomas answered him,

My Lord and my God!

Jesus said to him,

Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; 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:

Eighth Day of Easter:  Second Sunday of Easter, Year A:

Acts 4:


If you forgive men’s sins,

their sins are forgiven;

if you hold them,

they are held fast.

–John 20:23 (The Anchor Bible)

This is an interesting passage, is it not?  How one interprets it probably says much about where one stands in relation to the Protestant and Counter Reformations.  That, at least, has been my impression, based on a review of commentaries on the Gospel of John.  Almost without failing, Roman Catholic commentators favor the interpretation that the Christian community has the power to absolve and retain sins, but almost all Protestant scholars have argued that all the church has the power to do is pronounce what God has done.  I belong a tradition in the middle.  The Reconciliation of a Penitent in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer permits the priest either to absolve sins or to announce the forgiveness of sins.  Pick your flavor:  Catholic or Protestant; both are Christian.

I took some time to explore this passage.  It can, depending on how one wants to read the Greek, read in the present tense or the passive past perfect tense; the sins are either retained or forgiven or they have been forgiven and have been retained.  Also, to forgive means to “let go,” and a both “retain” an “hold” are literal translations of the same Greek word.  There is apparently some slight ambiguity in the text as to whether one or one’s sins are retained or forgiven (in whatever tense and voice), but, as Father Raymond Brown points out in Volume II of his massive commentary on the Gospel of John, textual parallelism points to the sins being retained or forgiven.

There is one more very interesting fact:  This is the only time the Greek words for “to forgive” and “to retain” appear in the Johannine Gospel.

With that much resolved, there is another question: Who retains the unforgiven sins?  The text seems to indicate that the unforgiven person does.

The major purpose of the series of devotional blog posts is to offer thoughts one can apply in life.  Fortunately, I have three such thoughts today:

  1. If we do not forgive the sins of those who have wronged us, we carry those sins around with us.  Grudges can become very heavy and cumbersome luggage we need not take from place to place.
  2. We need not, despite our Reformation heritage and/or Western individualistic asssumptions, overlook or give short shrift to the communal setting of forgiveness in John 20:23.  The Church, empowered by the Holy Spirit, must carry on Christ’s work of loving people, making them whole again, and building and restoring faith communities.
  3. There is great power in both the human forgiveness and the human proclamation of the forgiveness of sins.  In The Mission (1986), set in South America in the middle 1700s, a group of Jesuits works with the Guarini tribe in the rain forest.  Captain Mendoza, a former slave trader who has hunted the Guarini, changes his life after he kills his brother because the two of them love the same woman.  Father Gabriel, the Jesuit priest in charge of the Guarini mission, takes Mendoza to the Guarini.  Along the way, Mendoza lugs a heavy and rather inconvenient net containing instruments of war and violence.  At the mission site, the Guarini chief orders a tribesman to cut the burden away from Mendoza.  The former slave captain, forgiven by the people he once hunted, begins a new life among them.  First, however, he breaks down emotionally.

Here ends the lesson.




Tenth Day of Easter   9 comments

Nicodemus Statue, by Giovanni Angelo Del Maino

Where Your Treasure Is…

April 18, 2023


Acts 4:32-37 (Revised English Bible):

The whole company of believers was united in heart and soul.   Not one of them claimed any of his possessions as his own; everything was held in common.  With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and all were held in high esteem.  There was never a needy person among them, because those who had property in land or houses would sell it, bring the proceeds of the sale, and lay them at the feet of the apostles to be distributed to any who were in need.  For instance Joseph, surnamed by the apostles Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”), a Levite and by birth a Cypriot, sold an estate which he owned; he brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

Psalm 93 (Revised English Bible):

The LORD has become King, clothed with majesty;

the LORD is robed, girded with might.

The earth is established from of old;

from all eternity you are God.

LORD, the great deep lifts up,

the deep lifts up its voice;

the deep lifts up its crashing waves.

Mightier than the sound of great waters,

mightier than the breakers of the sea,

mighty on high is the LORD.

Your decrees stand firm,

and holiness befits your house,

LORD, throughout the ages.

John 3:7-15 (Anchor Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

…Do not be surprised that I told you: you must be begotten from above.  The wind blows about at will; you hear the sound it makes but do not know where it comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone begotten of the Spirit.

Nicodemus replied,

How can things like this happen?

Jesus answered,

You hold the office of teacher of Israel, and still you don’t understand these things?  I solemnly assure you, we are talking about what we know, and we are testifying to what we have seen; but you people do not accept our testimony.  If you do not believe when I tell you about earthly things, how are you going to believe when I tell you about heavenly things?  Now, no one has gone up into heaven except the one who came down from heaven–the Son of Man [who is in heaven].  And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him….

The Collect:

O Lord, you have saved us through the Paschal mystery of Christ: Continue to support your people with heavenly gifts, that we may attain true liberty, and enjoy the happiness of heaven which we have begun to taste on earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


People matter more than possessions, money, and status.

I think of the example of St. Laurence, Deacon at Rome in the Third Century C.E.  When Roman imperial officials demanded that he turn over the treasures of the church, he pointed not to money and material goods, but to the sick and the poor.  They were the treasures of the church, he said.  The Roman Empire martyred St. Laurence.

The Second Person of the Trinity took on human form to suffer and die, and to identity with human beings.  This was an example of assuming lower status.

Some first-generation Christians banded together for mutual spiritual, material, and financial support.  (I can almost hear Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh condemning their practice as Socialism and social justice.  Well, it was, and the author of Luke-Acts approved of it.  And what is wrong with social justice, a major Biblical theme?  This theme is more prominent that sexuality, in fact.)  These early Christians valued each other more than their possessions.  They understood that they could not take their stuff with them to the afterlife.  These early Christians loved their neighbors as themselves.

That sounds consistent with the teachings of Jesus.

In 1967, when he denounced the Vietnam War, Martin Luther King, Jr., criticized the United States for having a “thing-oriented” society which emphasized profit motives and property rights, not a “person-oriented” society which stressed justice.  His point remains at least as relevant today as it was then.  May we value people more than things.  May we recognize the image of God in others and act accordingly, however that works in our circumstances.  And may we make clear that we are doing this for the sake of others and the glory of God.  May we follow the example and teachings of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.


Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 6, 2010

Ninth Day of Easter   7 comments

Nicodemus and Jesus, by Alexander Ivanov (1850)

April 17, 2023


Acts 4:23-31 (Revised English Bible):

As soon as they [Peter and John] were discharged the apostles went back to their friends and told them everything that the chief priests and elders had said.  When they heard it, they raised their voices with one accord and called upon God.

Sovereign Lord, Maker of heaven and earth and sea and of everything in them, you said by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of David your servant,

“Why do the Gentiles rage

and the peoples hatch their futile plots?

The kings of the earth took their stand

and the rulers made common cause

against the Lord and against his Messiah.”

They did indeed make common cause in this very city against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed as Messiah.  Herod and Pontius Pilate conspired with the Gentiles and with the peoples of Israel to do all the things which, under your hand and by your decree, were foreordained.  And now, O Lord, mark their threats, and enable those who serve you to speak your word with all boldness.  Stretch out your hand to heal and cause signs and portents to be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.

When they had ended their prayer, the building where they were assembled rocked, and all were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke God’s word with boldness.

Psalm 146:5-10 (Revised English Bible):

Happy is he whose helper is the God of Jacob,

whose hope is in the LORD his God,

maker of heaven and earth,

the sea, and all that is in them;

who maintains faithfulness for ever

and deals out justice to the oppressed.

The LORD feeds the hungry

and sets the prisoner free.

The LORD restores sight to the blind

and raises those who are bowed down;

the LORD loves the righteous

and protects the stranger in the land;

the LORD gives support to the fatherless and the widow,

but thwarts the course of the wicked.

The LORD will reign for ever, Zion

your God for all generations.

Praise the LORD.

John 3:1-8 (Anchor Bible):

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, who came to him [Jesus] at night.


he said to Jesus,

We know you are a teacher who has come from God; for, unless God is with him, no one can perform the signs that you perform.

Jesus gave him this answer:

I solemnly assure you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being begotten from above.

Nicodemus retorted,

How can a man be born once he is old?  Can he re-enter his mother’s womb and be born all over again?

Jesus replied:

I solemnly assure you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being begotten of water and Spirit.  Flesh begets flesh, and Spirit begets Spirit.  Do not be surprised that I told you: you must be begotten from above.  The wind blows about at will; you hear the sound it makes but do not know where it comes from or where it goes.  So it is with everyone begotten of the Spirit.

The Collect:

Let your people , O Lord, rejoice for ever that they have been renewed in spirit; and let the joy of our adoption as your sons and daughters strengthen the hope of our glorious resurrection in Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Living in the U.S. Bible Belt, I am more familiar than I wish I were with Fundamentalist and Evangelical Protestant theology.  Among the ideas with which I disagree strongly is the popular interpretation of being “born again.”  Certain varieties of Protestantism err on the side of experience over intellect and on the side of the individual over the faith community.  The truth is that a balance in each case is necessary.  So, it is actually a case of both-and, not either-or.

Anyhow, the actual text means “begotten from above,” “born from above,” or “born from God,” not “born again.”  And it is a sacramental reference.  In the Christian context this refers to baptism, which is something God does, not something we do.   (Water baptism is one sacrament, an outward sign of God’s inward grace.)  A person who has not had a powerful religious experience can be a Christian.  I am, and I have not had a powerful, life-shaking religious experience.  My preferred variety of faith is lived, with an emphasis on works, in the style of the Letter of James.  In this regard I am more Roman Catholic than Protestant.

These works can assume a variety of forms, but love and holy boldness characterize them.  And these works are of divine, not human origin.  This is a simple matter:  one knows a tree by its fruit.  A spiritually healthy person produces spiritually healthy fruit.

This focus on divine actions via human beings runs counter to a strong strain in U.S. culture.  Many of us grew up hearing about self-made people who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps.  Yet undomesticated Christianity teaches that we are all dependent on God.  This is a frequently unpopular message, but it is true.

Thanks be to God, upon whom everybody depends!


Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 6, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2023, April 17, Episcopal Church Lectionary

Tagged with , , ,

Seventh Day of Easter: Saturday in Easter Week   7 comments

St. Peter

For the Sake of Others and the Glory of God

April 15, 2023


Acts 4:13-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now when the rulers and elders and scribes saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. When they saw the man who had been cured standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. So they ordered them to leave the council while they discussed the matter with one another. They said,

What will we do with them? For it is obvious to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable sign has been done through them; we cannot deny it. But to keep it from spreading further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.

So they called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them,

Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.

After threatening them again, they let them go, finding no way to punish them because of the people, for all of them praised God for what had happened.

Psalm 118:14-18 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD is my strength and my might,

for he has become my salvation.

There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous:

The right hand of the LORD does valiantly;

the right hand of the LORD is exalted;

the right hand of the LORD does valiantly.

I shall not die, but live,

and recount the deeds of the LORD.

The LORD has punished me severely,

but he did not give me over to death.

Mark 16:9-15, 20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now when Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.

After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them.

Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them,

Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.

And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.

The Collect:

We thank you, heavenly Father, that you have delivered us from the dominion of sin and death and brought us into the kingdom of your Son; and we pray that, as by his death he has recalled us to life, so by his love he may raise us to eternal joys; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


We, empowered by God, can perform wonders for the sake of others and the glory of God.  We might not work miracles, but we can use gifts and other abilities.  One person can teach or tutor; another can apply technical skills; still another can utilize artistic skills.  Nobody can do everything, but most people can do something.

Love of God and our neighbors is active, assuming a multitude of necessary forms in the congregation of the faithful.  May we identify and live into our sacred vocations and honor those of others.


Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 4, 2010