Archive for the ‘Hebrews 11’ Tag

Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After the Second Sunday in Lent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Sacrifice of Isaac--Caravaggio

Above:  The Sacrifice of Isaac, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

To Argue Faithfully

FEBRUARY 26 and 27, 2024


The Collect:

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death

to be for us the means on life.

Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ that we may gladly suffer shame and loss

for the sake of 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 21:1-7 (Monday)

Genesis 22:1-19 (Tuesday)

Psalm 105:1-11, 37-45 (Both Days)

Hebrews 1:8-12 (Monday)

Hebrews 11:1-3, 13-19 (Tuesday)


For he remembered his holy word

and Abraham, his servant.

–Psalm 105:42, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)


The New Testament defines faith three ways, for that anthology is the product of more than one writer.  Faith, in the Pauline sense, is inherently active, hence justification by grace.  Yet, in the Letter of James, faith is intellectual, hence that book’s theology of justification by works.  Those two schools of thought affirm active faith, so they are two ways of making the same point.  Then there is faith according to Hebrews 11:1:

Now faith is the assurance of things not hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Faith, according to this definition, which overlaps with the Pauline meaning, keeps one going in the absence of evidence in support of or in contradiction to a proposition.

Abraham, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, was an exemplar of that kind of faith.  As we have read in Genesis in this lectionary-based series of devotions, this was not always true.  (The author of Hebrews glossed over some content from Genesis.)  And I argue that, in Genesis 22, the patriarch failed the test of faith, for the faithful response was to argue.

Did I hear you correctly?  Do you want me kill my own son?  Have I not sacrificed Ishmael already by sending him away with Hagar?  What kind of God commands me to kill my son?

The near-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham must have caused psychological damage to the son (how could it not?), for he became a passive, minor figure and the least of the patriarchs.

My favorite aspect of Judaism is arguing faithfully with God.  In Islam one is supposed to submit to God, but Jews get to confront the deity in good conscience.  This ethic is evident in the Psalms, with frequent complaints to God.  I recall, decades ago, reading a review of a translation of the Psalms.  The new translation avoided King James-style politeness, as in

Lord, I beseech thee,


Look, Yahweh.

The review, from a Christian magazine, was favorable.  I have kvetched to God with great honesty often.  Is not honesty essential to any healthy relationship?

Pondering the art of faithful arguing led me to remember an incident from the Gospels.  The four Gospels are wonderful texts, but they lack any description of tone of voice at some crucial points in the narratives.  Tone of voice, of course, can change the meaning of dialogue.  In Matthew 15, for example, Jesus was in Gentile country–the region of Tyre and Sidon.  There a Gentile woman begged our Lord and Savior to heal her daughter.  He replied,

It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.

–15:26, The Revised English Bible (1989)

She answered,

True, sir, and yet the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the master’s table.

–15:27, REB

Jesus replied,

What faith you have!  Let it be as you wish.

–15:28a, REB

The context if that story tells me that Jesus said what he did to prompt her to reply as she did.  She passed the test.  All she had to do was argue.  Isaac would have been better off had Abraham been as faithful as that Gentile woman.










Devotion for the Fifth Day of Easter: Thursday in Easter Week (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   15 comments

Above:  Moses, by Michelagelo Bunoarroti

Exodus and Hebrews, Part XII: Encountering God

APRIL 13, 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 17:1-16

Psalm 47 (Morning)

Psalms 68 and 113 (Evening)

Hebrews 11:1-29


A Related Post:



Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered;

let those who hate him flee before him.

–Psalm 68:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The theological ignorance of many longtime church members has astonished and dismayed me.  I recall, for example, when I was a child growing up in United Methodist parsonages in rural southern Georgia, that some elderly and middle-aged parishioners who had grown up in church asked that, if Christ is vital to salvation, how this pertained to those who lived and died before the time of Jesus.  My parents answered from Hebrews 11:13:

…but they saw them in the far distance and welcomed them….

(The New Jerusalem Bible)

As a person trained in history and therefore in chronology, I point out that one is not responsible for embracing that which has yet to occur.   So nobody went to Hell in 600 BCE for not accepting Christ, for example; the Incarnation was in the future.  That point was obvious to me even as a child still in public schools.  Why was it not obvious to some of my elders?

In Exodus 17 we read of more grumbling followed by God giving Moses instructions, which he followed.  Then we read of God, via Moses and human helpers and a stone, delivering the Israelites from attackers.  The depiction of the recently liberated former slaves is negative; they are grumbling ingrates.  People ask for spectacular signs throughout the Bible, but how often, when they receive them, do they trust in God?

I have seen mighty acts of God in my life.  No, I have not witnessed a pillar of cloud by day or a pillar of fire by night.  No, I have not spoken with God face to face.  Yet I have felt God pick my up when I was desperate.  And I have met some of God’s human agents when I needed them very much.  I have known at my darkest hours–the ones when I welcomed death and cursed living yet was too scared to attempt suicide–that I was not alone.  And, by grace, I emerged stronger than before.  That was close enough to a pillar of fire for me.








Thirty-Fifth Day of Lent: Monday in Holy Week   30 comments

“In your light we see light.”–Psalm 36:9b

Image Source = AutoCCD


April 3, 2023

Collect and lections from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer


Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor


Isaiah 42:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,

my chosen, in whom my soul delights;

I have put my spirit upon him;

he will bring forth justice to the nations,

He will not cry or lift up his voice,

or make it heard in the street;

a bruised reed he will not break,

and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;

he will faithfully bring for justice.

He will not grow faint or be crushed

until he has established justice in the earth;

and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

Thus says God, the LORD,

who created the heavens and stretched them out,

who spread out the earth and what comes from it,

who gives breath to the people upon it

and spirit to those who walk in it:

I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness,

I have taken you by the hand and kept you;

I have given you as a covenant to the people,

a light to the nations,

to open the eyes that are blind,

to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,

from the prison those who sit in darkness.

I am the LORD, that is my name;

my glory I give to no other,

nor my praise to idols.

See, the former things have come to pass,

and new things I now declare;

before they spring forth,

I tell you of them.

Hebrews 11:29-12:3 (New Revised Standard Version):

Note:  The Prayer Book states that the reading begins with 11:39, but I have backed it up to 11:29. My practice is to extend readings sometimes, but never to abbreviate them.

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned.  By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days.  By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.

And what more should I say?  For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets–who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raising fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight.  Women received their dead by resurrection.  Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection.  Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented–of whom the world was not worthy.  They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.

Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.

Psalm 36:5-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens,

your faithfulness to the clouds.

Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,

your judgments are like the great deep;

you save humans and animals alike, O LORD.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!

All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

They feast on the abundance of your house,

and you give them drink from the river of your delights.

For with you is the fountain of life;

in your light we see light.

O continue your steadfast love to those who know you,

and your salvation to the upright of heart!

John 12:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom had raised from the dead.  They gave a dinner for him.  Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at table with him.  Mary took a pound of costly perfume made from pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair.  The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said,

Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?

(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; the kept the common purse and used to steal what was put in it.)  Jesus said,

Leave her alone.  She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial.  You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.

When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.  So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.


Mark 14:3-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

Note:  The Prayer Book lists the reading from Mark as 14:3-9, but I have extended this by two verses.

While he [Jesus] was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head.  But some were there who said to one another in anger,

Why was the ointment wasted in this way?  For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.

And they scolded her.  But Jesus said,

Let her alone; why do you trouble her?  She has performed a good service for me.  For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will always have me.  She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial.  Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them.  When they heard it, they were greatly pleased, and promised to give him money.  So he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.

The Collect:

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find int none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.


I note the two options for the Gospel reading.  Clearly these are variations on the same story, for they are quite similar.  Yet they contain discrepancies with regard to minor details.  This fact does not trouble me, for I am not a Biblical literalist.  I have read the Bible too closely to think of the book as inerrant or infallible.

One needs to avoid a basic error in logic.  Often people mistake accuracy for truth.  Truth, in the Biblical sense, is that which is reliable.  So, what is the truth common to John 12:1-11 and Mark 14:3-11?  Whether the woman was Mary of Bethany or an unnamed female does not matter.  Whether she anointed Jesus’ head or feet is irrelevant.  Whether this happened at the home of Simon the leper or at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in unimportant.  Let us look at the proverbial forest, not the trees.

Jesus recognized the love behind the woman’s gesture and accepted both.  And he knew that his critic(s) operated from cynicism and self-interest, not humanitarian interests.  A denarius was one day’s wage, so nard ointment worth 300 denarii was truly extravagant.

In God’s light we see light.  In the person of Jesus we see God.  And God is love.  Throughout history people have committed atrocities, betrayed innocent people (including Jesus), and condoned inhumane deeds in the name of God.  Current and recent events indicate that this pattern continues.  In this context, a simple, loving, and extravagant anointing of Jesus, which is inherently beautiful, seems more lovely.

May we recognize and applaud beautiful acts of love toward God, and commit some of these, too.  Such love is true.


Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on March 26, 2010