Archive for the ‘John 3’ Tag

Devotion for Pentecost Sunday (Ackerman)   2 comments

Above:  Icon of Pentecost, by Phiddipus

Image in the Public Domain

Community and Faith

JUNE 9, 2019


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:

Deuteronomy 16:9-12

Isaiah 60:19-22

Galatians 3:1-5

John 3:31-36


“Pentecost” comes from “fifty,” as in the formulation in Deuteronomy 16.  The harvest festival described in that text is a community celebration of gratitude to God.

That communal ethos, rampant in the Bible, runs counter to much of Western Civilization, with its emphasis on individualism.  To read past the blindness of individualism when pondering the Bible can be difficult, but it is essential.  The glory of YHWH, we read in Isaiah 60, will shine on the faithful community.  We also read of a foolish community (or a group of communities) in Galatians 3.

As St. Paul the Apostle argued correctly, one cannot break one part of the Law of Moses without violating the entire law code.  And nobody can keep all of the Law.  The emphasis on the Holy Spirit in Galatians 3:1-5 is appropriate for this Sunday, a commemoration of an extraordinary event–the birth of the Church.

In the Gospel of John (17:3) eternal life is simply knowing God via Jesus; time and timelessness has nothing to do with the definition.  There is no such thing as an eternity without God, for eternity is, by definition, in God.  Eternity is a quality of life, not the afterlife.  One can have an afterlife without God; the term for that is Hell.  Eternity, however, begins in this life and continues into the next one.  Eternal life comes via the Holy Spirit.  Community can reinforce this faith.

I will not attempt to explain the Holy Trinity, for a set of heresies has originated from such efforts.  No, I ponder the Trinity and affirm that God is at least that and certainly far more.  I cannot grasp the Trinity, so how can I understand the full nature of God?  What we mere mortals are worthy of grasping, however, is sufficient for salvation and justification.  That which is left for us is to stand in the awe of God, to trust in God, to recognize our complete dependence on God, and, by grace, to love each other selflessly and self-sacrificially, thereby following the example of Jesus, the visible manifestation of God.  We can do this via the power of the Holy Spirit.

Happy Pentecost!









Devotion for Saturday Before the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Moses Striking Water from the Rock

Above:  Moses Striking Water from the Rock, by Nicolas Poussin

Image in the Public Domain

Glorifying God (Or Not)

MARCH 10, 2018


The Collect:

O God, rich in mercy, by the humiliation of your Son

you lifted up this fallen world and rescued us from the hopelessness of death.

Lead us into your light, that all our deeds may reflect your love,

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28


The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 20:22-29

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22

John 3:1-13


The pericope from Numbers 20 (verse 22-29) is odd, for it seems redundant in the context of verses 6-13 of the same chapter.  In both units God tells Moses and Aaron that they will not enter the Promised Land because of their act of rebellion and distrust at Meribah.  Moses was supposed to speak to the rock, which would then release water.  He struck it instead.  Also, his words indicated that he and Aaron were providing the water, but God was actually fulfilling that role.

Numbers 20:22-29 is a difficult passage for another reason, which is that the contradicts Deuteronomy 10:6, where Aaron dies at Moserah.  In Numbers 20:22-20, Deuteronomy 32:50, and Numbers 33:38, however, Aaron dies at Mount Hor.  These are different places, not two names for the same place.  I mention these matters for the sake of intellectual honesty and leave the consideration of them to scholars of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Water is essential to life.  Those who dwell in a desert or another place where safely drinkable water is scarce know this better do those of who reside where safely drinkable water is plentiful.   Water also functions as a metaphor in the Gospel of John, a veritable playground for metaphors.  Our Lord and Savior speaks of spiritual water and spiritual life in John 3 and elsewhere in that Gospel.  The source of the water in the Johannine Gospel is always God–sometimes Jesus in particular.

Our life (physical and spiritual) depends on God.  True, human beings contribute to related processes of creating, sustaining, and destroying life (in both forms), but we depend entirely on God all the time.  May we know this truth  and act accordingly, drawing closer to, trusting in, and glorifying God.










Devotion for the Forty-Fourth, Forty-Fifth, and Forty-Sixth Days of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments


Above:  Thanksgiving Meal at Malachi’s Store House, St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, Dunwoody, Georgia, November 19, 2013

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Service and Glory

MONDAY, MAY 29, 2014

TUESDAY, MAY 30, 2014



The Collect:

O God of glory, your Son Jesus Christ suffered for us

and ascended to your right hand.

Unite us with Christ and each other in suffering and joy,

that all the world may be drawn into your bountiful presence,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 35


The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 9:1-11, 22-24 (44th Day)

Numbers 16:41-50 (45th Day)

1 Kings 8:54-65 (46th Day)

Psalm 99 (All Days)

1 Peter 4:1-6 (44th Day)

1 Peter 4:7-11 (45th Day)

John 3:31-36 (46th Day)


The LORD is great in Zion

and is high above all peoples.

Let them confess the name of the LORD,

which is great and awesome;

the LORD is the Holy One.

–Psalm 99:2-3, Book of Common Worship (1993)


Atonement liberates those who accept it and functions as an indictment of others.  C. H. Dodd explained this well in The Founder of Christianity (1970):

In [Jesus’] words and actions he made men aware of [the kingdom of God] and challenged them to respond.  It was “good news” in the sense that it meant opportunity for a new start and an unprecedented enrichment of experience.  But when a person (or a society) has been presented with such a challenge and declines it, he is not just where he was before.  His position is the worse for the encounter.  It is this that gives point to the tremendous warnings that Jesus is reported to have uttered about the consequences of rejection….The coming of the kingdom meant the open possibility of enhancement of life; it also meant the heightening of moral responsibility.

–Page 58 of the 1970 paperback edition

Hence we have another example of the juxtaposition of judgment and mercy.

Atonement, accomplished initially by animal sacrifices and an Aaronic priesthood then by Jesus, liberates people to glorify God and serve the needs of each other–to devote themselves to God and keep divine commandments.  There are many needs and therefore a host of specific ways to accomplish this goal.  One which a certain person might consider trivial another person might find vital, so may nobody say that he or she has little or nothing to offer.  No, grace has a multiplying effect on “minor” gifts and supplies us with “major” ones.  Nothing is too mundane for serving each other and glorifying God.

Part of the responsibility which free (yet not cheap) grace imparts to us is to pass grace along.  We might not be able to see God, but we can detect each other via senses.  Although none of us can solve every problem we detect, each of us can do something to ease some of them.  Each of us an do his or her part.  May each of us prove faithful in his or her part, responding positively to the call of God.









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


Above:  The Plain of Esdraelon and the Carmel Ridge, Palestine, Ottoman Empire, 1900

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-01202

The Lineage of Faithful Community



The Collect:

O God, our leader and guide, in the waters of baptism

you bring us to new birth to live as your children.

Strengthen our faith in your promises, that by your

Spirit we may lift your life to all the world through

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 51:1-3

Psalm 121

2 Timothy 1:3-7


I raise my eyes to the Mountain,

whence will my help come to me?

My help will come from the home of Yahweh,

who made heaven and earth.

He shall not put your foot in the Quagmire,

your guardian shall not slumber.

Indeed he never slumbers nor sleeps,

the guardian of Israel.

Yahweh is your guardian,

Yahweh is your shade,

the Most High is your right hand.

By day the sun

will not strike you

Nor the moon at night.

Yahweh will guard you

from every evil.

He will guard your life.

Yahweh will guard your going and your coming

from now unto eternity.

–Psalm 121, translated by Mitchell Dahood in The Anchor Bible (1970)


The readings from 2 Timothy and Isaiah remind us of spiritual legacies.  Typical Jewish practice was to speak of the nature of God by retelling what God had done.  Thus we read in Isaiah 51 of Abraham, Sarah, and gracious acts of God in the context of other statements of divine faithfulness, mercy, and judgment.  In my copy of The Revised English Bible (1989), opened to Isaiah 51:1-3, I read of part of Chapter 49, in which God is like a mother who can never forget her child.  And, in 49:26, I read these words:

I shall make your oppressors eat their own flesh,

and they shall be drunk with their own blood

as if with wine,

and all mankind will know

that I the LORD am your Deliverer,

your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.

When the oppressors refuse to cease oppressing, how can the situation be otherwise?

I, drawing from 2 Timothy 1, acknowledge that family inheritance helps explain why I am a Christian.  There is more to it than that, of course, but the family inheritance helps.  I grew up a Christian because of my family, but I remain one because of the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  As I check the lectionary I am following, I note that John 3:1-17 is the assigned Gospel reading to which one strain of these lections is building.  So I notice that 2 Timothy 1, in the context of John 3, ought not to become an excuse to rest on one’s spiritual inheritance.  The epistle confirms the necessity of active faith.

And, as for John 3, the proper English-language term is

born from above,


born again.

I, a Christian, have never had a

born again

experience, but I am familiar in my spiritual life with the Roman Catholic-Lutheran-Anglican sense of baptismal regeneration.  I follow Martin Luther’s advice and trust in the promises of God pronounced at baptism.

Psalm 121 speaks of divine protection–in this case, of religious pilgrims.  The Ancients knew of sunstroke, of course, hence one line of the text.  And many of them believed erroneously that the Moon could also be dangerous, hence terms such as




God, the psalm says, will protect also from the Moon.  Our fears, whether based in objective reality or not, are real, and we need grace for their alleviation.  May we welcome that grace and act boldly in faithfulness to God.  And may we join or continue in the line of those who have walked with God and bring others to the procession.







Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B   23 comments

Above:  Stained-Glass Window:  Moses and the Snake, St. Mark’s Church, Gillingham, Kent, England

Image in the Public Domain

Sins and Suffering

MARCH 11, 2018


Numbers 21:4-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

From Mount Hor the Israelites set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses,

Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.

Then the LORD sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said,

We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD to take away the serpents from us.

So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses,

Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.

So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

and his mercy endures for ever.

2  Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim

that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.

3  He gathered them out of the lands;

from the east and from the west,

from the north and from the south.

17  Some were fools and took to rebellious ways;

they were afflicted because of their sins.

18  They abhorred all manner of food

and drew near to death’s door.

19  Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress.

20  He sent forth his word and healed them

and saved them from the grave.

21  Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy

and the wonders he does for his children.

22  Let them offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving

and tell of his acts with shouts of joy.

Ephesians 2:1-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ– by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God– not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

John 3:14-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said to Nicodemus,

Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.

The Collect:

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year A:

Numbers 21:

John 3:


Sometimes there is a link between one’s sin and one’s suffering. Actions do have consequences, after all.  But, as we read in Job and the Gospels, one’s sufferings, diseases, and disabilities do not always result from one’s sins.  Reason and experience confirm this conclusion.

Some suffering results from the sins of others.  Suppose, for example, that somebody steals my car, causing me inconvenience at least and perhaps suffering.  I was just minding my business, but the other person’s greed has hurt me.  Likewise, one can come down with lung cancer because of the cigarette smoke of others.  Living well is no guarantee against all bad ends.

Then there are the cases where suffering has no apparent cause.  Why are some people born blind, for example?  Jesus faced this question.  Nobody needed to have sinned for the blindness to have resulted.  So let us refrain from assuming that a person’s suffering has resulted from something he or she has done, for we run the risk of judging others unjustly.  Our knowledge is limited, but God’s is not.  And God is also prone to forgiving generously.



Twelfth Day of Easter   14 comments

Christ the Redeemer, South America

Deeds Reveal Creeds

Thursday. May 2, 2019


Acts 5:27-33 (Revised English Bible):

When they  [apostles] had been brought in and made to stand before the Council, the high priest began his examination.

We gave you explicit orders,

he said,

to stop teaching in that name; and what has happened?  You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you are trying to hold us responsible for that man’s death.

Peter replied for the apostles,

We must obey God rather than men.  The God of our fathers raised up Jesus; after you had put him to death by hanging him on a gibbet, God exalted him at his right hand as leader and saviour , to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.  And we are witnesses to all this, as is the Holy Spirit who is given by God to those obedient to him.

This touched them to the raw, and they wanted to put them to death.

Psalm 34:15-22 (Revised English Bible):

The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous;

his ears are open to their cry.

The LORD sets his face against wrongdoers

to cut off all memory of them from the earth.

When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears

and sets them free from all their troubles.

The LORD is close to those whose courage is broken;

he saves those whose spirit is crushed.

Through the misfortunes of one who is righteous be many,

the LORD delivers him out of them all.

He guards every bone of his body,

and not one of them will be broken.

Misfortune will bring death to the wicked,

and punishment befalls those who hate the righteous.

The LORD delivers the lives of his servants,

and no punishment befalls those who seek refuge in him.

John 3:31-36 (Anchor Bible):

[John the Baptist continued,]

The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth is earthly, and he speaks of an earthly plane.  The one who comes from heaven [(who) is above all] testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony.  Whoever does accept his testimony has certified that God is truthful.  For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God; truly boundless is his gift of the Spirit.  The Father loves the Son and has handed over all things to him.  Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life.  Whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.

The Collect:

Grant, O Lord, that we may so live in the Paschal mystery that the joy of these fifty days may continually strengthen us, and assure us of our salvation; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Deeds reveal creeds.

If we love Jesus we keep his commandments.  Chief among those commandments are to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength, and our neighbors as ourselves.  Post-resurrection, Apostles preached fearlessly, facing imprisonment and the possibility of martyrdom.  Their bold actions confirmed their words.

What does Jesus require of you?  What will it cost you?  And what will the cost of disobedience be relative to that of obedience?


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

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2019, Easter, Episcopal Church Lectionary, May

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Eleventh Day of Easter   9 comments


Image Source = Godoi

Light in the Darkness

Wednesday. May 1, 2019


Acts 5:12-26 (Revised English Bible):

Many signs and wonders were done among the people by the apostles.  All the believers used to meet by common consent in Solomon’s Portico, no one from outside their number ventured to join them, yet people in general spoke highly of them.  An ever-increasing number of men and women who believed in the Lord were added to their ranks.  As a result the sick were carried out into the streets and laid there on beds and stretchers, so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on one or another as he passed by; and the people from the towns round Jerusalem flocked in, bringing those who were ill, or harassed by unclean spirits, and all were cured.

Then the high priest and his colleagues, the Sadducean party, were goaded by jealousy to arrest the apostles and put them in official custody.  But during the night, an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, led them out, and said,

Go, stand in the temple and tell the people all about this new life.

Accordingly they entered the temple at daybreak and went on with their teaching.

When the high priest arrived with his colleagues they summoned the Sanhedrin, the full Council of the Israelite nation, and sent to the jail for the prisoners.  The officers who went to the prison failed to find them there, so they returned and reported,

We found the jail securely locked at every point, with the wardens at their posts by the doors, but on opening them we found no one inside.

When they heard this, the controller of the temple and the chief priests were at a loss to know what could have become of them, until someone came and reported:

The men you put in prison are standing in the temple teaching the people.

Then the controller went off with the officers and fetched them, but without use of force, for being stoned by the people.

Psalm 34:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

I shall bless the LORD at all times;

his praise shall ever be on my lips.

In the LORD I shall glory;

the humble will hear and be glad.

Glorify the LORD with me;

let us exalt his name together.

I sought the LORD ‘s help; he answered me

and set me free from all my fears.

They who look to him are radiant with joy;

they will never be put out of countenance.

Here is one who cried out in his affliction;

the LORD heard him and saved him from all his troubles.

The angel of the LORD is on guard

round those who fear him, and he rescues them.

Taste and see that the LORD is good.

Happy are they who find refuge in him!

John 3:16-21 (Anchor Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

…Yes, God loved the world so much that He gave the only Son, that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.  For God did not sent the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned for refusing to believe int he name of God’s only Son.  Now the judgment is this:  the light has come into the world, but men have preferred darkness to light because their deeds were evil.  For everyone who practices wickedness hates the light, and does not come to the light for fear his deeds will be exposed.  But he who acts in truth comes into the light, so that it may be shown that this deeds are done in God.

The Collect:

O God, by the waters of Baptism you have renewed those who believe in you: Come to the help of those who have been reborn in Christ, that they may overcome the wiles of the devil, and continue faithful to the gifts of grace they have received from you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


The light came into the world.  This light shone in the darkness, and the darkness neither understood nor overcame it.  The darkness attempted to extinguish the light, and, indeed, the flame extinguished briefly.  Then, a few days later, the flame reignited.

The light multiplied and the darkness was powerless to extinguish the new lights, also.  The darkness destroyed some candles and lamps, but more candles and lamps took their places.  So the light multiplied again.  Then the darkness fought back, imprisoning certain candles and lamps, and agents of God liberated many of them.

The struggle continues.  God will win.  Thanks be to God!


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

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2019, Easter, Episcopal Church Lectionary, May

Tagged with , ,