Archive for the ‘Compassion’ Tag

Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before the Second Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Abraham and Lot Separate

Above:  Abraham and Lot Separate

Image in the Public Domain

Legalism and Fidelity

MARCH 10 and 11, 2022


The Collect:

God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross

you promise everlasting life to the world.

Gather all peoples into your arms, and shelter us with your mercy,

that we may rejoice in the life we share in your Son,

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 27


The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 13:1-7, 14-18 (Thursday)

Genesis 14:17-24 (Friday)

Psalm 27 (Both Days)

Philippians 3:2-12 (Thursday)

Philippians 3:17-20 (Friday)


The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom then shall I fear?

the LORD is the strength of my life;

of whom then shall I be afraid?

–Psalm 27:1, Book of Common Worship (1993)


Sometimes the portrayal of Abram/Abraham in the Bible puzzles me.  In Hebrews 10:8-22 the patriarch is a pillar of fidelity to God.  Yet he hedges his bets and lies in Genesis 12, and the only people who suffer are the Pharaoh of Egypt and members of the royal household.  Abram exiles his firstborn son, Ishmael, in Genesis 21:8-21.  The patriarch intercedes on behalf of strangers in Genesis 19 yet not for his second son, Isaac, three chapters later.  Abram, who is wealthy, refuses even to appear to have enriched himself by means of the King of Sodom in Genesis 14.  In so doing the patriarch, who has just paid a tithe of war booty to Melchizedek, King of Salem (Jerusalem) and priest of El Elyon, a Canaanite sky deity, invokes YHWH, not El Elyon.  I do not know what to make of Abram/Abraham.

Circumcision is a major issue in Philippians 3.  St. Paul the Apostle refers to rival missionaries who favor the circumcision of Gentile male converts to Christianity.  He calls these Judaizers “dogs,” a strong insult many Jews reserved for Gentiles.  One can find the mandate for circumcision of males (including some Gentiles) in Genesis 17:9-14, where it is a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant.  It has been, for Jews, a physical sign of the covenant for millennia.  It has become an emotional issue for people who favor it as a religious obligation and a mark of identity as well as for those who consider it cruel.

In Philippians 3 circumcision is, for St. Paul the Apostle, a physical sign of righteousness based on law, not on active faith in God.  The line between legalism and righteousness can be difficult to locate sometimes.  One should obey certain commandments out of fidelity and love and respect for God.  One loves and honors God, so one keeps the commandments of God.

If you love me you will obey my commands…,

John 14:15 (The Revised English Bible, 1989) quotes Jesus as saying.  But when does keeping commandments turn into a fetish of legalism?  And when does the maintenance of one’s identity transform into exclusion of others?  Where is that metaphorical line many people cross?

One sure way of knowing if one has crossed that line is catching that person obsessing over minute details while overlooking pillars of morality such as compassion.  If one, for example, complains not because Jesus has healed someone but because he has done this on the Sabbath, one is a legalist.  If one becomes uptight about personal peccadilloes yet remains unconcerned about institutionalized injustice (such as that of the sexist, racial, and economic varieties), one is a legalist.  If one’s spiritual identity entails labeling most other people as unclean or damned, one is a legalist.  If one thinks that moral living is merely a matter of following a spiritual checklist, one is a legalist.  If one becomes fixated on culturally specific examples of timeless principles at the expense of those principles, one is a legalist.

May we who claim to follow and love God eschew legalism.  May we also care for our close friends and relatives at least as much as we do suffering strangers for which we harbor concern.









Twenty-Ninth Day of Easter: Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C   13 comments

Above:  Descent of the New Jerusalem

Seemingly Upside-Down Yet Really Right Side-Up

MAY 15, 2022


Acts 11:1-18 (Revised English Bible):

News came to the apostles and the members of the church in Judaea that Gentiles too had accepted the word of God; and when Peter came up to Jerusalem those who were of Jewish birth took issue with him.

You have been visiting men who are uncircumcised,

they said,

and sitting at table with them!

Peter began by laying before them the facts as they had happened.

I was at prayer in the city of Joppa,

he said,

and while in a trance I had a vision:  I saw something coming down that looked like a great sheet of sailcloth, slung by the four corners and lowered from heaven till it reached me.  I looked intently to make out what was in it and I saw four-footed beasts, wild animals, reptiles, and birds.  Then I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter, kill and eat.’  But I said, “No, Lord!  Nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’  A voice from heaven came a second time:  ‘It is not for you to call profane what God counts clean.’  This happened three times, and then they were all drawn up again into heaven.  At that very moment three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea arrived at the house where I was staying; and the Spirit told me to go with them.  My six companions here came with me and we went into the man’s house.  He told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house who said, ‘Sent to Joppa for Simon Peter.  He will speak words that will bring salvation to you and all your household.’ Hardly had I begun speaking, when the Holy Spirit came upon them, just as upon us at the beginning, and I recalled what the Lord had said:  ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’  God gave them no less a gift than he gave us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  How could I stand in God’s way?’

When they heard this their doubts were silenced, and they gave praise to God.

This means,

they said,

that God has granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles also.

Psalm 148 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):


Praise the LORD from the heavens;

praise him in the heights.

2 Praise him, all you angels of his;

praise him, all his host.

3 Praise him, sun and moon;

praise him, all you shining stars.

Praise him, heaven of heavens,

and you waters above the heavens.

5 Let them praise the Name of the LORD;

for he commanded, and they were created.

He made them stand fast for ever and ever;

he gave them a law which shall not pass away.

Praise the LORD from the earth,

you sea-monsters and all deeps;

8 Fire and hail, snow and fog,

tempestuous wind, doing his will;

9 Mountains and all hills,

fruit trees and cedars;

10 Wild beasts and all cattle,

creeping things and winged birds;

11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,

princes and all rulers of the world;

12 Young man and maidens,

old and young together.

13 Let them praise the Name of the LORD,

for his Name only is exalted,

his splendor is over earth and heaven.

14 He has raised up strength for his people

and praise for all his loyal servants,

the children of Israel, a people who are near him.


Revelation 21:1-6 (New Revised Standard Version):

I  saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

See, the home of God is among mortals.

He will dwell with them as their God;

they will be his peoples,

and God himself will be with them;

he will wipe every tear from their eyes.

Death will be no more;

mourning and crying and pain will be no more,

for the first things have passed away.

And the one who was seated on the throne said,

See, I am making all things new.

Also he said,

Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.

John 13:31-35 (New Revised Standard Version):

When he had gone out, Jesus said,

Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.   If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.  Little children, I am with you only a little longer.  You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

The Collect:

Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Dedication:


Jesus was about to die; that was the context for John 13:31-35.  Soon the forces of violence would take him away.  Yet he rose from the dead, and was therefore beyond their power.  The expanding definition of acceptability became obvious in Acts 11:1-18, with Simon Peter’s vision of foods unclean according to Leviticus 11.  Yet now God declared them clean.  Our Lord’s death had been scandalous; cursed was anyone who died on a tree.  Yet his death, in the Gospel of John, was his glorification.  Then, in Revelation 21, John of Patmos had a vision of the inauguration of God’s order on earth.  The new order was quite different from the old one.  In God, relative to many human ways, matters seem upside-down.

I invite you, O reader, to examine your society, culture, and subculture. Also examine your attitudes relative to the standard of compassion.  In which ways do you see practices and attitudes consistent with loving others with Christ’s love?  (John 13:34-35)  Where do you recognize inconsistencies?  And what will you do about them?

Our mission during this time of extended liminality is to love others with Christ’s love regardless of what that costs us.  Jesus died for it, as did most of his Apostles.  Many faithful Christians have become martyrs doing this.  Others have suffered persecution yet not death.  And we who have not suffered are the fortunate ones.  If loving others with Christ’s love means violating religious traditions, so be it, for people matter more than traditions.  Jesus taught us that in the Gospels.







Devotion for the Twenty-Sixth, Twenty-Seventh, and Twenty-Eighth Days of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  A Vegetable Garden Which Violates the Law of Moses

(But I am not legalistic, so I do not care.)

Leviticus and Luke, Part IV:  Legalism and Compassion

MAY 4-6, 2023


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 everlasting 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:

Leviticus 17:1-16 (26th Dayof Easter)

Leviticus 18:-7, 20-19:8 (27th Day of Easter)

Leviticus 19:9-18, 26-37 (28th Day of Easter)

Psalm 47 (Morning–26th Day of Easter)

Psalm 96 (Morning–27th Day of Easter)

Psalm 92 (Morning–28th Day of Easter)

Psalms 68 and 113 (Evening–26th Day of Easter)

Psalms 50 and 138 (Evening–27th Day of Easter)

Psalms 23 and 114 (Evening–28th Day of Easter)

Luke 10:23-42 (26th Day of Easter)

Luke 11:1-13 (27th Day of Easter)

Luke 11:14-36 (28th Day of Easter)


The laws in Leviticus 18-19 are a mixed bag.  They concern, among other things, sexual relations, clothing, proper conduct toward the poor, and what to do when someone sheds animal blood improperly.  I look in amazement at the hypocrisy of self-professed biblical literalists who quote 18:22 (the ban on homosexual intercourse) yet commit fraud (in violation of 19:13) or do not think twice about wearing polyester garments (in violation of 19:19).

Context is crucial.  In regard to the question of homosexuality, the concept of homosexual orientation did not exist at the time, so such intercourse was considered unnatural.  Also, it could never lead to procreation.  But neither can sexual relations between a husband and his post-menopausal wife.  So, is that also wrong?

Priests could wear garments made of two or more types of cloth–and they did (Exodus 28:6 and 39:29).  So lay people were not supposed to do so, except at the fringes of garments, according to Numbers 15:37-40.  Nevertheless, an allegedly unnatural mixture of people or cloth or even cattle or seeds (Leviticus 19:19) was taboo, except when it was not.  How many of you, my readers, have a vegetable garden with more than one type of plant growing in it?  Are you thereby sinning?  Are your polyester garments–certainly unnatural mixtures–sinful?

I avoid such hypocrisy by not being a biblical literalist or claiming to be one.  So I quote science, consider historical contexts, and throw out some laws while retaining others for use in the twenty-first century Common Era.  Defrauding people is bad.  Forcing’s one’s daughter into prostitution is clearly wrong.  And one should respect one’s elders.  But are vegetable gardens and polyester suits sinful?

As I ponder the readings from the Gospel of Luke I notice the thread of the importance of caring for each other.  The stranger is my neighbor, and the person I might despise due to his group identity might be a hero or heroine.  We must forgive each other.  If this proves difficult, we must take that issue to God, who can empower us to forgive.  People matter more than rules about cloth combinations or animal blood.

Do I pick and choose what to affirm in the Bible?  Of course I do!  Does not the Letter to the Hebrews override much of the Law of Moses?  Did not Jesus countermand parts of the letter of that law code?  As a Christian, I have the New Testament and the Old one.  And, as a thinking human being, I have access to scientific, psychological, psychiatric, and sociological knowledge which did not exist in biblical times.  So read about Jesus exorcising demons and interpret it as him curing epilepsy or some other illness with organic causes.  While doing this I focus on principles more than on details.  One of these principles is that Jesus taught compassion, not legalism.  So, if I am to follow him, I must live accordingly.







Devotion for the Fourteenth Day of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Above:  The Adoration of the Golden Calf, by Nicolas Poussin

Exodus and Luke, Part VI: Extending Compassion to Others

APRIL 22, 2023


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 everlasting 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:

Exodus 32:1-14

Psalm 92 (Morning)

Psalms 23 and 114 (Evening)

Luke 6:20-38


Be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.

–Luke 6:36, The New Jerusalem Bible


And the LORD renounced the punishment He had planned to bring upon His people.

–Exodus 32:14, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


Old habits are difficult to break.  This fact does not excuse anyone from not trying hard enough; no it just means that one might have to expend extra effort.  Among those habits is idolatry.  An idol can be an image, a concept, an activity, or a book.  One makes something an idol by allowing it to distract one form God.  Idols are ubiquitous.  I wonder, in fact, how many of the Ten Commandments yard signs I see are idols for those who have erected them.  And, living in Athens, Georgia, the most prominent idol seems to be University of Georgia athletics, especially football.  How many times have I heard fans describe to me as being “like a religion”?

In Exodus 32 we read of part of the notorious Golden Calf incident.  God, quite angry intends to destroy the Israelites there and then, but Moses talks God down.  I wonder where we would be had God’s Plan A (as presented in the chapter) become reality.  For the sake of truth and accuracy in biblical summary, there is plenty of bad news for the Israelites later in the chapter.  Yet I am trying not to get too far ahead of myself.

As I have written many times in various devotional posts, with God one finds both judgment and mercy.  Today’s readings emphasize the latter element.  And we are supposed to extend compassion to one another, just as God has done so to us.  But, if one insists on judging others, one should look out

…because the standard you use will be the standard used for you.

–Luke 6:38, The New Jerusalem Bible

The offset to this, of course, is grace.  Nevertheless, I am not a Christian Universalist, nor do I deny the reality of chastisement from God.

Each of us has a personality which marks us as an introvert or an extrovert.  These are the ways God has made us, and there is no sin in being the person God made one to be.  Indeed, different varieties of Christianity are tied more to one pole than to the other.  Evangelicalism, in my experience, is quite extroverted, whereas Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodoxy, with their monastic traditions, recognize the spiritual validity and richness of introversion.  As an introvert, I feel drawn toward the latter, not the former.  I have adopted a lifestyle which is akin to a version of monasticism without a cloister or vows; I am monkish.  These lectionary-based devotional posts flow from some of the solitude I seek and find.  As for extroverts, they can be wonderful company, and I recognize their spiritual gifts.  I am merely wired differently.  If we were all the same, the world would be a greatly diminished place, would it not?

May each of us extend compassion to others in a manner consistent with how God made us.







Devotion for the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Days of Lent (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   9 comments

Above:  The Sacrifice of Isaac, by Caravaggio

Genesis and Mark, Part XIII: Arguing for Compassionate Deeds

MARCH 8 and 9, 2023


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 everlasting 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:

Genesis 22:1-19 (13th Day of Lent)

Genesis 24:1-31 (14th Day of Lent)

Psalm 5 (Morning–13th Day of Lent)

Psalm 38 (Morning–14th Day of Lent)

Psalms 27 and 51 (Evening–13th Day of Lent)

Psalms 126 and 102 (Evening–14th Day of Lent)

Mark 7:1-23 (13th Day of Lent)

Mark 7:24-37 (14th Day of Lent)


Some Related Posts:

Behind the Lines, a.k.a. Regeneration (1997):



What can I say or write about the near-sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22 without repeating myself?  Nothing! I refuse to make apologies for it.  There is no record in Genesis that father and son spoke again after that incident.  They must have had conversations afterward, but Isaac’s relationship to Abraham must not have been the same as before.  How could it have been?  Really, O reader, if you were Isaac, how much would you want to say to your old man after such an incident?

One traditional lesson drawn from Genesis 22 is that God does not desire human sacrifice.  And narrative praises Abraham for his faithfulness.  Really?  But should not Abraham have pleaded for the life of his son?  He begged God to save the lives of strangers in Genesis 18:22-33.  Sometimes we are supposed to argue; sometimes that constitutes passing the test of faithfulness.  The Syro-Phoenician woman in Mark 7:24-30 passed the test with flying colors.

Abraham apparently loved his son and sought a wife for him in Genesis 24.  The patriarch was not a villain, but his record as a parent was troublesome.  (What about his treatment of his first son?) But Abraham did take care of his second son–at least after trying to kill him.

Jesus, in Mark 7, presents a great lesson in several parts.

  1. Food does not make one unclean.
  2. Ritual purity–in this case, in the form of the ceremonial washing of pots–is irrelevant.
  3. Being a Gentile or a disabled person ought not to marginalize one.  (People with major disabilities and deformities were impure.  A blind man or a man with crushed genitals or a deformed arm could not serve as priest, according to the Law of Moses.  The Law of Moses did not anticipate the Americans with Disabilities Act.)
  4. No, bad attitudes and resulting sins of commission and/or omission made one unclean.
  5. All foods are clean.  (Mark 7:19)
  6. A Gentile woman impresses Jesus with her faith and debating skills.
  7. But manipulating the Law of Moses and interpretations thereof to the detriment of others does make one unclean.

The standard (once more) is compassion.  Any human tradition which contradicts it is wrong.

To point to such violations from long ago is easy, and does not cost one anything or cause one even the slightest discomfort.  So I invite you, O reader, to look around.  Consider your present reality.  Where are violations (considered respectable and proper) of compassion?  And will you argue with them?  What will that cost you?  What will not arguing with them cost you?








Second Sunday in Lent, Year C   17 comments

Above:  Celtic Cross Over a Church Door

The Narrow Door

MARCH 13, 2022


Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 (New Revised Standard Version):

The word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision,

Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.

But Abram said,

O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?

And Abram said,

You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.

But the word of the LORD came to him,

This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.

He brought him outside and said,

Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.

Then he said to him,

So shall your descendants be.

And he believed the LORD; and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Then he said to him,

I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.

But he said,

O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?

He said to him,

Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.

He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying,

To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.

Psalm 27 (Revised English Bible):

The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom should I fear?

The LORD is the stronghold of my life;

of whom then should I go in dread?

When evildoers close in on me to devour me,

is my adversaries, my enemies,

who stumble and fall.

Should an army encamp against me,

my heart would have no fear;

if armed men should fall upon me,

even though I would be undismayed.

One thing I ask of the LORD,

it is the one thing I seek:

that I may dwell in the house of the LORD

all the days of my life,

to gaze on the beauty of the LORD

and to seek him in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter

in the day of misfortune;

he will conceal me under cover of his tent,

set me high on a rock.

Now my head will be raised high

above my enemy all about me;

so I shall acclaim him in his tent with a sacrifice

and sing a psalm of praise to the LORD.

Hear, LORD, when I cry aloud;

show my favour and answer me.


my heart has said,

seek his presence.

I seek your presence, LORD;

do not hide your face from me,

nor in your anger turn away from your servant,

whose help you have been;

God my saviour, do not reject me or forsake me.

Though my father and my mother forsake me,

the LORD will take me into his care.

Teach me your way, LORD;

do not give me up to the greed of my enemies;

lead me by a level path

to escape the foes who beset me:

liars breathing malice come forward

to give evidence against me.

Well I know that I shall see the goodness of the LORD

in the land of the living.

Wait for the LORD; be strong and brave,

and put your hope in the LORD.

Philippians 3:17-4:1 (Revised English Bible):

Join together, my friends, in following my example.  You have us for a model; imitate those whose way of life conforms to it.  As I have often told you, and now tell you with tears, there are many whose way of life makes them enemies of the cross of Christ.  They are heading for destruction, they make appetite their god, they take pride in what should bring shame; their minds are set on earthly things.  We, by contrast, are citizens of heaven, and from heaven we expect our deliverer to come, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He will transfigure our humble bodies, and give them a form like that of his own glorious body, by that power which enables him to make all things subject to himself.  This, my dear friends, whom I live and long for, my joy and crown, this is what it means to stand firm in the Lord.

Luke 13:22-35 (Revised English Bible):

He [Jesus] continued his journey through towns and villages, teaching as he made his way towards Jerusalem.  Someone asked him,

Sir, are only a few saved?

His answer was:

Make every effort to enter through the narrow door; for I tell you that many will try to enter but will not succeed.

When once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may stand outside and knock and say, “Sir let us in!” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.”  Then you will protest, “We used to eat and drink with you, and you taught in our streets.”  But he will repeat, “I tell you, I do not know where you come from.  Out of my sight, all of you, you and your wicked ways!”  There will be wailing and grinding of teeth there, when you see prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves are driven away.  From east and west, from north and south, people will come and take their places at the banquet in the kingdom of God.  Yes, and some are now last who will be first, and some who are first will be last.

At that time a number of  Pharisees came and warned him [Jesus],

Leave this place and be on your way; Herod wants to kill you.

He replied,

Go and tell that fox, “Listen:  today and tomorrow I shall be driving out demons and working cures; However, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the next day, because it is unthinkable for a prophet to meet his death anywhere but in Jerusalem.”

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, city that murders the prophets and stones the messengers sent to her!  How often have I longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings; but you would not let me.  Look!  There is your temple, forsaken by God.  I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, “Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!”

The Collect:

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Confession:

Prayer of Dedication:


Hope of the World:

A Prayer for Compassion:

A Prayer to Embrace Love, Empathy, and Compassion, and to Eschew Hatred, Invective, and Willful Ignorance:


Who were the “enemies of the cross” in Philippians?  They could have belonged to more than one camp, including early Gnostics, who thought that matter was evil, so the human body was evil.  So Jesus could not have died on a cross or then risen from the dead, according to Gnostics.  Hence Gnostics were not Christians.  And, since they considered the human body to be evil, some favored starving it.  Others gorged it.

Meanwhile, in Genesis, elderly Abram trusted God’s promise of progeny.

And because he put his trust in the LORD, He reckoned it to his merit.

–Genesis 15:6, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

The Lukan reading requires some textual context.  In Chapter 13:1-21 alone we find the following happening:

  1. Jesus encourages repentance. (1-5)
  2. Jesus tells a parable about giving a non-productive fig tree extra fertilizer and one more chance to avoid destruction. (6-9)
  3. Jesus heals a crippled woman on the Sabbath.  He incurs criticism for doing this deed on that day. (10-17)
  4. Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a small mustard seed, which produces a very large weed. (18-19)
  5. Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a small amount of yeast which produces enough to feed 150 people. (20-21)

Then we read about entering by the narrow door.  The Kingdom of God is generous, even weed-like, beyond human control, but the portal to it is narrow.

Who are the excluded?  Among them must be the “enemies of the cross,” those who are materialistic (even if some of them regard matter as evil, ironically).  And I propose that among the excluded are so persnickity about religious matters (such as the Sabbath) that they do not live compassionately.  They have the outward forms yet lack the substance.  God welcomes the repentance of all.  So God does not exclude anyone.  Yet the excluded define themselves as such by not repenting.

As we continue to read we find that our Lord’s life is at risk (31-35).  In the Gospel of Luke’s narrative Jesus had

resolute turned his face towards Jerusalem. (9:51, The New Jerusalem Bible)

So all of Chapter 13 occurs in the shadow of the cross to come.

To pass through a narrow door one must establish priorities.  Some items will never make the cut, for they are too large.  So one must travel lightly through the narrow door.  May we leave behind the bulky furniture of hatred, greed, resentment, prejudice, discrimination, and legalism, among other things.  And may we take compassion with us; it nullifies the items from the preceding sentence.







Tenth Day of Lent   13 comments

Apotheosis of War, by Vasily Vereshchagin (1871)

March 4, 2023

Collect and lections from the Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints


Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor


Deuteronomy 26:16-19 (New Jerusalem Bible):

[Moses said,]

Yahweh your God commands you today to observe these laws and customs; you must keep and observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.

Today you have obtained this declaration from Yahweh: that he will be your god, but only if you follow his ways, keep his statutes, his commandments, his customs, and listen to his voice.  And today Yahweh has obtained this declaration from you: that you will be his own people–as he has said–but only if you keep all his commandments; then for praise and renown and honour, he will raise you higher and every other nation he has made, and you will be a people consecrated to Yahweh, as he has promised.

Psalm 119:1-8 (New Jerusalem Bible):

How blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the Law of Yahweh!

Blessed are those who observe his instructions, who seek him with all their hearts,

and, doing no evil, who walk in his eyes.

You lay down your precepts to be carefully kept.

May my ways be steady in doing your will.

Then I shall not be shamed, if my gaze is fixed on your commandments.

I thank you with a sincere heart for teaching me your upright judgements.

I shall do your will; do not ever abandon me wholly.

Matthew 5:43-48 (New Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus said,]

You have heard how it was said, You will love your neighbour and hate your enemy.  But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; sot hat you may be children of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on the bad as well as the good, and sends down rain to fall on the upright and the wicked alike.  For if you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Do not even the tax collectors do as much?  And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional?  Do not even the gentiles do as much?  You must therefore be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The Collect:

O God, by your Word you marvelously carry out the work of reconciliation: Grant that in our Lenten fast we may be devoted to you with all our hearts, and united with one another is prayer and holy love; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Who can be perfect before God?  In the sense in which most of us use that word, nobody can.  Therefore the Matthew Gospel must use this word in a different way.  The parallel reading in Luke says “merciful” or “compassionate” (depending on the translation) ,” not “perfect.”  That is attainable by grace.

The New Interpreter’s Bible (Volume VIII) states that Matthew took the word from Deuteronomy 18:13, which reads, “You shall be perfect before the Lord your God.”  The Hebrew word translated “perfect” in this passage indicates wholeness.  Therefore,

To be perfect is to serve God wholeheartedly, to be single-minded in devotion to the one God, just as God is one, the ethical stance appropriate to a monotheistic faith.

This ethical monotheism includes loving oneself and loving others as one loves oneself.  The former must precede the latter.  The Law of Moses constituted a relatively high moral bar in its historical, geographical, and cultural contexts.  And Jesus raised the bar even higher.

This morning, on Speaking of Faith, a public radio program, I heard interviews with Israeli and Palestinian parents who lost children in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  When these emotionally injured people spoke and listened to each other they understood that they had more in common than not; they shared the same pain.  And they understood their common humanity.

Stereotypes separate us from those we consider irreparably different from ourselves and, unless the scales fall away from our eyes, we will never recognize that our most powerful bond is our shared humanity.  This sentiment is not politically palatable in many settings, but neither is merely decent behavior in general, which is what I write of now.

All of us are children of God.  Some of us know we are children of God; others do not.  Some of us know that every human being is a child of God; others do not.  Yet we all bear the same divine image, and from that reality we derive what is good and noble about our nature.  From that reality we derive our natural rights.  From that reality we derive our equality.  And from that reality proceeds hope for peace, or at least less hostility.


Written on February 21, 2010