Archive for the ‘Genesis 17’ Tag

Devotion for the Third Sunday of Easter, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Miracle of the Catch of 153 Fish

Image in the Public Domain

Positive Identity

MAY 1, 2022


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 15:1-11

Psalm 19

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

John 21:1-14


Psalm 19 tells us that divine teaching is perfect and that it renews life and makes the simple wise.  Objectively, circumcision is part of the Law of Moses (Leviticus 12:3).  Objectively, circumcision is a Biblical practice since Genesis 17:9-14.  One need not think of of Judaizers at the time of earliest Christianity as evil people.

Yet consider the argument of St. Paul the Apostle in Acts 15:7b-12, O reader.  Why ignore the absence of any mention of circumcision in Deuteronomy?  Why overlook the references to “circumcision of the heart” in Deuteronomy 10:16 and 30:6?  And why value circumcision of the flesh more than “circumcision of the heart” (Jeremiah 9:25-36)?  Why overlook the lesser emphasis on physical circumcision before the Babylonian Exile relative to during and after the Babylonian Exile?

Circumcision was also a matter of identity.  It marked a man as belonging to the covenant.

One person’s mark of identity can be another person’s barrier, though.  This is where the reading from Acts 15 hits home for you, O reader, and for me.  Each of us has something that is a matter of spiritual identity.  That something is also an obstacle to someone else.  How can we remain faithful to God without throwing out the proverbial bathwater?  How can we know what we must retain at all costs?  I offer no easy answers to challenging questions.

The reading from 2 Thessalonians 2 refers to apostasy–turning away from God.  Returning to fishing in John 21 may not have constituted apostasy, but it was a bad idea.  The question of what to do next was challenging.  The old and familiar pattern had an appeal.  Continuing to follow Jesus was a better idea.

May we find our identity in following Jesus.











Devotion for the Third Sunday in Lent (Year D)   1 comment


Above:  Abraham and Lot Divided the Land

Image in the Public Domain

The Sin of Selfishness

MARCH 12, 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:

Genesis 13:1-18 or 2 Samuel 7:18-29

Psalm 38

John 7:40-52

Galatians 3:1-22 (23-29) or James 3:1-18


Abram and Lot had to separate their families and herds.  Abram (God’s covenant with whom is a topic in Galatians 3, Genesis 15, and Genesis 17) was generous in giving Lot the first choice of land.  It might have seemed like a good choice at the moment, but it was a selfish and short-sighted decision that placed him in the proximity of bad company and set up unfortunate events in Genesis 19.

David’s character flaws had begun to become obvious by the time of 2 Samuel 7.  Nevertheless, there was much good about him.  God’s covenant with him was a matter of pure grace, for not even the best of us has ever been worthy of such favor.  David became a great historical figure and, in the minds of many throughout subsequent centuries, a legendary figure.  Our Lord and Savior’s descent from him was a messianic credential.

Among David’s better qualities was a sense of honesty regarding his character, at least some of the time (2 Samuel 11 and 12).  He was a mere mortal, complete with moral blind spots and the tendency to sin.  Psalm 38, attributed to David, typifies this honesty at a time of distress.  This is a situation with which many people have identified.

Liberation in Christ is a theme of the Letter to the Galatians.  This is freedom to enjoy and glorify God.  This is freedom to build up others.  This is freedom to become the people we ought to be.  According to mythology God spoke the world into existence.  With our words, whether spoken or written, we have the power to bless people or to inflict harm upon them.  We have the power to build them up or to libel and/or slander them.  We have the power to help them become the people they ought to be or to commit character assassination.  We have the power to inform accurately or to mislead.  We have the power to heal or to soothe feelings or to hurt them.  We have the power to act out of consideration or out of a lack thereof.  We have the power to be defenders or bullies.  We have the power to create peace or conflict.  We have the power to work for justice or injustice.

The peace shown by peacemakers brings a harvest of justice.

–James 3:18, The New Jerusalem Bible (1989)

May we approach God humbly, avoid making selfish decisions, build up others, and generally function as vehicles of grace.  May our thoughts, words, and deeds glorify God and create a world better than the one we found.  May we recognize that pursuing selfish gain hurts us as well as others.  We might gain in the short term, but we hurt ourselves in the long term.  Our best and highest interest is that which builds up community, nation, and world.










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.








Devotion for the Second Sunday in Lent (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   9 comments

Above:  Nazareth, Palestine, 1934-1939

Image Source = Library of Congress

Genesis and Mark, Part XI:  Rejection

MARCH 5, 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 16:1-9, 15-17:22

Psalm 84 (Morning)

Psalms 42 and 32 (Evening)

Mark 6:1-13


Some Related Posts:


Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Confession:

Prayer of Dedication:


If you, O reader, are very observant regarding the Book of Genesis, you have noticed something about Chapter 17.  It reads as if Chapter 15 does not exist.  Do not take my word for it; read the texts for yourself.  There is a simple explanation:  15 comes mostly from J and 17 from P.  Thus we have two accounts of the Abrahamic Covenant.

While I am discussing textual differences, I turn to the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth.  Here are some facts one can confirm with just a little effort:

  1. The rejection occurs in Mark 6:1-6, Matthew 13:53-48, and Luke 4:16-30.
  2. The tempting of Jesus in the wilderness occurs in Mark 1:12-13, Matthew 4:1-11, and Luke 4:1-13.
  3. Thus Mark and Matthew place more chronological distance between the two events than does Luke, who separates them with two verses.

Now you know.

Now for my main point:

Jesus could not work well among those around whom he had grown up.  Yet his Apostles performed wonders among strangers, who had no preconceived notions about them.  Speaking of preconceived notions (yes, a pun), Sarai/Sarah had a bad attitude toward Hagar.  Sarai/Sarah was of two minds about Hagar’s proper relationship to Abram/Abraham, and therefore to her.  The second mind–that of scorn and rejection–triumphed.

Sometimes we humans ponder those closest to us genetically, emotionally, or geographically and think that we know more about them that we do.  So misunderstandings and jealousies arise, creating unfortunate results–perhaps estrangement.  Relationships can be difficult.  Actually, some of my best relationships have been to cats, not people, so I am hardly a candidate for dispensing much helpful relationship advice.  But I do offer this nugget:  May we begin by admitting to ourselves how little we know about others.  Disappointment is relative to expectation, which are frequently erroneous.  May we deal with people as they are, not as we expect them to be.  Doing that will help a great deal and be better for all parties involved.







Second Sunday in Lent, Year B   17 comments

Above:  Economic Inequality Made Manifest

Image Source = eenthappana

Justification, Love, and Justice

FEBRUARY 28, 2021


Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him,

I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.

Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him,

As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

God said to Abraham,

As for Sarah your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.

Psalm 22:22-30 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

22 Praise the LORD, you that fear him;

stand in awe of him, O offspring of Israel;

all you of Jacob’s line, give glory.

23 For he does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty;

neither does he hide his face from them;

but when they cry to him he hears them.

24 My praise is of him in the great assembly;

I will perform my vows in the presence of those who worship him.

25 The poor shall eat and be satisfied,

and those who seek the LORD shall praise him:

“May your heart love for ever!”

26 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD,

and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.

27 For kingship belongs to the LORD;

he rules over the nations.

28 To him alone who sleep in the earth bow down in worship;

all who go down to the dust fall before him.

29 My soul shall live for him;

my descendants shall serve him;

they shall be known as the LORD’s for ever.

30 They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn

the saving deeds that he has done.

Romans 4:13-25 (New Revised Standard Version):

The promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.

For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”) — in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said, “So numerous shall your descendants be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.

Mark 8:31-38 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus began to teach his disciples that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said,

Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them,

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

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:

Second Sunday in Lent, Year A:

Romans 4:

Genesis 17:

Mark 8:

Faith in Romans vs. Faith in James:

O Lord,You Gave Your Servant John:


Last Sunday’s readings focused on baptism, a sacrament which is an outward sign of something God has done and is doing.  This Sunday we have another great word:  justification.  This is also something God has done and is doing.   Justification indicates having a right relationship with God; it is a legal term.  And, according to Paul, it comes through faith and grace.  The Letter of James, of course, speaks of justification by deeds, but that book uses “faith” to mean something different than in Romans.  For more details, follow the germane link I have provided.  The bottom line is this:  There is no contradiction between Romans and James on the issue of justification.

This justification, since the time of Jesus, owes much to the Atonement, which, I am convinced, was a process which began with the Incarnation (again, something God initiated) and ended with the death and resurrection of Jesus (something God did).  Our responses to God, then, are of the essence.  How will we respond to such a merciful and active deity?  This grace, which facilitates faith, is cheap but not free.  It was cheap neither to God the Father nor God the Son.  And it demands much of us.

The baptismal vows speak of loving our neighbors as ourselves and respecting the dignity of our fellow human beings. So, how will we treat our fellow human beings, and what will we consider acceptable treatment?  Will our neighbors have living wages, safe working conditions, and career opportunities which make the most of their talents an abilities?  Will they face discrimination?  What will the love of Christ and our neighbors impel us to do?

I could continue, but I trust that I have made my point clearly.  May we love our neighbors as ourselves, even if that entails taking up a cross and following Jesus.




Thirty-Second Day of Lent   17 comments

Christ Pantocrator

Thursday, March 30, 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


Genesis 17:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said,

I am God Almighty.  Live always in my presence and be blameless, so that I may make my covenant with you and give you many descendants.

Abram bowed low, and God went on,

This is my covenant with you: you are to be the father of many nations.  Your name will no longer be Abram, but Abraham; for I shall make you father of many nations.  I shall make you exceedingly fruitful; I shall make nations out of you, and kings shall spring from you.  I shall make my covenant with you and your descendants after you, generation after generation, an everlasting covenant: I shall be your God, yours and your descendants.’  As a possession for all time I shall give you the land in which you now are aliens, the whole of Canaan, and I shall be their God.

Psalm 105:4-11 (Revised English Bible):

Look to the LORD and be strong;

at all times seek his presence.

You offspring of Abraham his servant,

the children of Jacob, his chosen ones,

remember the marvels he has wrought,

his portents, and the judgements he has given.

He is the LORD our God;

his judgements cover the whole world.

He is ever mindful of his covenant,

the promise he made with Abraham,

his oath given to Isaac,

and confirmed as a statute for Jacob,

as an everlasting covenant for Israel:

I shall give you the land of Canaan,

he said,

as your allotted holding.

John 8:51-59 (The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition):

[Jesus replied,]

Believe me when I assure you that if anybody accepts my words, he will never see death at all.

The Jews replied,

Now we know you’re mad.  Why, Abraham died and the prophets, too, and yet you say, ‘If a man accepts my words, he will never experience death!”  Are you greater than our father, Abraham?  He died, and so did the prophets–who are you making yourself out to be?

Jesus returned,

If I were to glorify myself, such glory would be worthless.  But it is my Father who glorifies me, the very one whom you say is God–although yo have never known him.  But I know you, and if I said I did not know him, I should be as much a liar as you are!  But I do know him and I am faithful in what he says.  As for your Father, Abraham, his great joy was that he would see my coming.  Now he has seen it and he is overjoyed.

The Jews said to him,

Look, you are not fifty yet–and have you seen Abraham?

Jesus returned,

I tell you in solemn truth, before there was an Abraham, I AM!

At this they picked up stones to hurl at him, but Jesus was nowhere to be seen; and he made his way out of the Temple.

The Collect:

O God, you have called us to be your children, and have promised that those who suffer with Christ will be heirs with him of your glory: Arm us with such trust in him that we may ask no rest from his demands and have no fear in his service; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


An understanding of this day’s excerpt from John requires context, for it comes from a narrative.  Jesus has been arguing with a group of Jews in the Temple.  They had believed in him briefly, until he said that they would know the truth, which would set them free.  Then they began to argue that they were descendants of Abraham who had never known slavery, so they did not need to be set free.  Jesus replied anyone who sins is a slave, and that he, as the Son, could liberate them.  Our Lord and Savior continued by saying that the individuals around him were not acually children of Abraham, for Abraham responded to God faithfully; children of Abraham would follow his example.  Jesus continued by telling these individuals that the devil was their father, for the truth was not in them, either.  Then the crowd questioned Jesus’ sanity, and accused them of dishonoring not only himself, but God, also.  This is a summary of John 8:31-50.

In John 8:51-59 Jesus identifies himself with “I AM,” which harkens back to the burning bush episode from Exodus, and pulls rank.  (If anyone deserved to pull rank, it was Jesus.)  He says that he knows Abraham (I have no doubt.) and references the divine prediction of the conception of Isaac by the aged Abraham and Sarah.  God had acted to initiate a covenant with human beings and to continue a lineage to which Jesus was heir.  Referring to this, Jesus says that Abraham was faithful despite how unlikely this promise seemed.  So the people standing in front of him were not children of Abraham because they acted faithlessly in the presence of the fulfillment of divine promises.

The Johannine Gospel tells us that people tried to stone Jesus on the premises.  That behavior did not demonstrate faithfulness, certainly.

It is easy and appropriate to condemn such behavior.  Indeed, as I write these words I rest on nearly two thousand years of tradition.  The mob of the Johannine story rested on thousands of years of tradition, too.  They had become complacent within their tradition.  Is the same statement true about us today?  Useful tradition can be beautiful and necessary; I do not advocate throwing out the baby with the bath water.  All I say is this:  May we avoid religious complacency and smugness.  When God speaks to us, may we recognize that voice and respond faithfully, not defensively.  May we be dutiful children of the living God, I AM.  May we go where God commands us to go and follow divine instructions, as Abraham did.  Abraham had abandoned his home and culture–his traditions–to follow God literally and figuratively.  What does God require of you?


Written on March 10, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2023, Episcopal Church Lectionary, March 30

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