Archive for the ‘Isaiah 58’ Tag

Devotion for the Fourth Day of Lent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments


Above:  Jesus Blessing the Children (1891)

W21597 U.S. Copyright Office

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-01427

The Kingdom of God

FEBRUARY 25, 2023


The Collect:

Lord God, our strength, the struggle between good and evil rages within and around us,

and the devil and all the forces that defy you tempt us with empty promises.

Keep us steadfast in your word, and when we fall, raise us again and restore us

through 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 26


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 58:1-12

Psalm 51

Matthew 18:1-7


Give me the joy of your saving help again

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

I shall teach your ways to the wicked,

and sinners shall return to you.

–Psalm 51:13-14, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


To repent is to turn around, to change one’s mind.  Apologizing for and acknowledging error are parts of the process yet one ought never to confuse those parts of the whole.  No, repentance is active.  And action is what Isaiah 58:1-12 advises.  The mandated deeds include helping the less fortunate and bringing about justice, in contrast to the rampant economic exploitation and judicial and political corruption.

Those sins remain commonplace in contemporary societies, unfortunately.  Political corruption creates and perpetuates much poverty.  Wars lead to famines much of the time.  Judicial corruption imprisons people unjustly and places the poor accused at greater risk than the wealthy accused, who can accord bail and skilled attorneys.  Third Isaiah’s condemnations in 58:1-12 apply to my nation-state as much as they did to the kingdom in which he lived.

The greatest in the Kingdom of God, our Lord and Savior said, was as a powerless child, not anyone in a position of authority and prestige.  This profoundly counter-cultural message of nearly 2000 years ago remains just as subversive today as it was then.  God’s ways differ from dominant human standards of respectability and political legitimacy.  And witnesses from the Bible and times subsequent to its writing have reminded successive generations of our responsibilities to and for each other, especially the less fortunate and more vulnerable.  Such as these, Jesus said, are the greatest in the Kingdom of God.

I like the Kingdom of God.










Devotion for Ash Wednesday, Years A, B, and C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   4 comments


Above:  A Lenten Logo

This image is available on various websites.  Examples include, and

Mutuality in God

FEBRUARY 14, 2024


The Collects:

Almighty and ever-living God, you hate nothing you have made,

and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent.

Create in us new and honest hearts, so that, truly repenting of all our sins,

we may receive from you, the God of all mercy, full pardon and forgiveness

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

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


Gracious God, out of your love and mercy you breathed into dust

the breath of life, creating us to serve you and our neighbors.

Call forth our prayers and acts of kindness, and strengthen us

to face our mortality with confidence in the mercy of your Son,

Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 26


The Assigned Readings:

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 or Isaiah 58:1-12

Psalm 51:1-17

2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21


Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

–Psalm 51:10, Book of Common Worship (1993)


Philip H. Pfatteicher, the noted U.S. Lutheran liturgist, wrote:

The observance of Lent and Easter is characterized by the primacy of community, for baptism incorporates those who are washed in its life-giving water into the community of the faithful people of God.  Anciently, Ash Wednesday was not a time for confession but for excommunication, excluding sinners, for a time, from the community in this world so that they might return from their erring ways and not be excluded forever in the next world.  Later privatized notions led to the emphasis on the confession of one’s sins.

The name Ash Wednesday (dies cinerum) derives from the custom which seems to have originated in Gaul in the sixth century of sprinkling ashes on the heads of penitents.  In the tenth and eleventh centuries the custom was adopted voluntarily by the faithful as a sign of penitence and a reminder of their mortality.

Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship:  Lutheran Liturgy in Its Ecumenical Context (Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 1990), pages 223-224

I detect elements of both the original and modified meanings of Ash Wednesday in the assigned readings.  There are both judgment and mercy in God, who expects certain behaviors from us.  Rituals and fasts–good and spiritually meritorious practices when one engages them with a proper attitude–prove ineffective as talismans to protect one from divine punishment for sins.  To read these passages as dismissive of rituals and fasts as “externals,” as does the Pietist tradition, is to miss the point.  “Externals,” according to Pietism, are of minimal or no importance; the individual experience of God in oneself takes precedence, minimizing even sacraments.  Although the Pietists are not entirely wrong, their underdeveloped sacramental theology is a major weakness and error.

No, the union of ritual and proper attitude in faithful community is of the essence.  Thus one cares actively for and about others.  Therefore the faithful prove themselves to be

authentic servants of God

–2 Corinthians 6:4a, The New Jerusalem Bible,

even in distressing circumstances.  Thus the faithful people of God glorify God in their words and deeds.  And whatever rituals their tradition embraces function for spiritual edification–as those the Law of Moses specifies were meant to do.

The original practice of Lent came from an understanding that what one does affects others.  This sense of mutuality, present in the Old and New Testaments, receives too little attention in the overly individualistic global West.  Rugged individualism, a great lie, is foreign to biblical ethics.  My branch of Christianity teaches the primacy of Scripture.  We are not Sola Scriptura people (in the broad sense of that term); no we are the tribe of the three-legged stool–Scripture, tradition, and reason.  We do, however, affirm the narrow meaning of Sola Scriptura:  Nothing outside of scripture is necessary for salvation.  My reason requires me to take seriously the communitarian ethic in the Bible and much of Christianity.  Thus I consider how my deeds and words affect my community, my congregation, and the world.

I invite you, O reader, to apply the same ethic to your life every day and to seek to be especially mindful of it during Lent.  These forty days are a wonderful season during which to nurture a good spiritual habit.  But, regardless of the meritorious spiritual habit you choose to focus on, may you succeed for the glory of God and the benefit of your fellow human beings.








Fourth Day of Lent   24 comments

Above:  The Calling of Saint Matthew, by Hendrick ter Brugghen

Jesus Calls Matthew


February 17, 2024

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


Isaiah 58:9b-14 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

If you take away from the midst of you the yoke,

the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,

if you pour yourself out for the hungry

and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,

then shall your light rise in the darkness

and your gloom be as the noonday.

And the LORD will guide you continually,

and satisfy your desire with good things,

and make your bones strong;

and you shall be like a watered garden,

like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;

you shall raise up the foundations of many generations,

you shall be called the repairer of the breach,

the restorer of streets to dwell in.

If you turn back your foot from the sabbath,

from doing your pleasure on my holy day,

and call the sabbath a delight

and the holy day of the LORD honorable;

if you honor it, not going your own ways,

or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;

then you shall delight in the LORD,

and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth;

I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,

for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Psalm 86:1-11 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Incline your ear to me, O LORD, and answer me,

for I am poor and needy.

Preserve my life, for I am godly;

save your servant who trusts in you.

You are my God; have mercy on me, O Lord,

for to you do I cry all the day.

Gladden the soul of your servant,

for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.

For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,

abounding in mercy to all who call on you.

Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer;

listen to the cry of my supplication.

In the day of my trouble I call on you,

for you do answer me.

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,

nor are there any works like yours.

All the nations you have made shall come

and bow down before you, O Lord,

and shall glorify your name.

For you are great and do wondrous things,

you alone are God.

Teach me your way, O LORD,

that I may walk in your truth;

unite my heart to fear your name.

Luke 5:27-32 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

After this [healing a paralytic] he [Jesus] went out, and saw a tax collector, named Levi, sitting at the tax office; and he said to him,

Follow me.

And he left everything, and rose and followed him.

And Levi made him a great feast in his house; and there was a large company of tax collectors and others sitting at table with them.  And the Pharisees and their scribes murmured against his disciples, saying,

Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?

And Jesus answered them,

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth your right hand to help and defend us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Over the years I have had encounters (often unpleasant) with religious know-it-alls, universally fundamentalist Protestants–often Southern Baptists and Church of God in Christers.  They have informed me that I think too much, ask too many questions, and that these tendencies have damned me to Hell.  Their narrow vision did not enable them to consider me part of the Christian spectrum.  Without even pretending to get along with them (for I do not know how to conduct an intelligent theological dialogue with one has consigned me to Hell), I am far more generous toward them they were toward me; they are Christians, too, as I define “Christian.”  Questions concerning damnation are sole province of God.  And some of my best theological discussions have been with those who have exiled themselves from organized religion (yet not Christian faith) after negative experiences; they were open to possibilities, not wedded to a rigid theology.

Jesus recognized great potential where others (in today’s reading, Pharisees) saw the damned and the undesirable.  Tax collectors were Roman collaborators and literal tax thieves–certainly despised people.  And Jesus thought of them as human beings who needed him.  So he reached out to them.  This caused a scandal.

May we who call ourselves Christians have enough courage to expand the boundaries of our thinking.  May we, by grace, see more nearly as God sees. When we look at people who differ from us as fellow children of God, bearers of the divine image.  May we dare to look past any tradition or other worldview which obstructs a divine viewpoint toward our fellow human beings.  And may we commit sacredly scandalous acts when those are appropriate.  Polite society tells us that those who lie with dogs rise with fleas.  This is true sometimes, but were the tax collectors dogs?  Did Jesus rise with fleas?  Are we more like Jesus or an unduly critical Pharisee clinging to tradition sincerely yet wrongly, out of faith?

Jesus said to follow him.  He did not say to affirm certain creeds in their entirety or to sign a written confession of faith.  No, Jesus said to follow him.  The path of Jesus is one of love of God, others, and self.  It leads to sacrifices, and sometimes to ignominy and martyrdom.  It is a narrow and difficult road, but it is the life-giving road, also.  Following Jesus is active; it is lived orthopraxy, not stale and merely intellectual orthodoxy frozen in the form of a creed, confession, or liturgy.  When lived orthopraxy is what it should be, it is indistinguishable from healthy orthodoxy.

So, let us follow Jesus.


Written on February 18, 2010

Posted October 27, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2024, Episcopal Church Lectionary, February 17

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Third Day of Lent   19 comments

The Calling of St. Matthew, by Hendrick ter Brugghen, 1621

“I desire mercy….”


February 16, 2024

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


Isaiah 58:1-9a (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet;

declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins.

Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways,

as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;

they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God.

Why have we fasted, and you see it not?

Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?

Behold, in the day of your fast you seek you own pleasure, and oppress all your workers.

Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with wicked fist.

Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.

Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a man to humble himself?

Is it to bow down his head like a rush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?

Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD?

Is not this the fast I choose:

to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke,

to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house;

when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily;

your righteousness shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, Here I am.

Psalm 51:1-9 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your merciful love;

according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your singt,

so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless in your judgment.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Behold, you desire truth , in the inward being; therefore, teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;

wash me, and an I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me hear joy and gladness, let the bones which you have broken rejoice.

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out my iniquities.

Matthew 9:10-17 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And as he [Jesus] sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples.  And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples,

Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?

But when he heard it, he said,

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’  For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.

Then the disciples of John came to him, saying,

Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?

And Jesus said to them,

Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?  The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.  And no one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for one patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made.  Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; if it is, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.

The Collect:

Support us, O Lord, with your gracious favor through the fast we have begun; that as we observe it by bodily self-denial, so we may fulfill it with inner sincerity of heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Let us remember (or learn then remember) that we cannot love God, whom we cannot see, if we do not love those whom we can see.  How do we measure up by that standard?  I can speak only for myself:  I need to improve.

Too often we human beings focus on justifying ourselves.  This is a form of ego defense, not holiness.  We might not even be aware of what we are doing, for we mortals have a proclivity for living within our delusions while being oblivious to them.  So, while we sin, or “miss the mark,” we think ourselves righteous.

So we look down upon others while ignoring our own wickedness.  Even we, who might think ourselves more righteous than we are, benefit from grace.  How much more, then, do those we might regard as “sinful” (in contrast to ourselves, of course) benefit from God’s unmerited mercy?  God has extended mercy to us, and God expects to do likewise.  Are we observant of this command, or are we oblivious to it?


Written on February 18, 2010

Edited on October 27, 2010

Posted October 27, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2024, Episcopal Church Lectionary, February 16

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First Day of Lent: Ash Wednesday   18 comments

Lent Begins

FEBRUARY 14, 2024


The Assigned Readings for This Feast:

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 or Isaiah 58:1-12

Psalm 103 or Psalm 103:8-14

2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Lent is a time to prepare for Easter.  The forty days of this season exclude the Sundays which fall within its time span, hence the distinction between a day of Lent and a Sunday in Lent.

I invite you, O reader, to maintain a holy Lent.  There is more than one way to do this, and the best way to do it is the method which works for you.  Some suggestions follow:

  1. Fast one meal per day.
  2. Eat simpler meals than previously.
  3. Give up a bad habit.
  4. Take up a good habit.
  5. Increase your prayer time.
  6. Study the Bible more than before.

This weblog contains Lenten devotions specified per day.  Perhaps they will prove useful to you.  Writing and revising them is certainly a healthy spiritual exercise for me.

May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you today and always.


Written on June 16, 2010