Archive for the ‘Luke 4’ Tag

Thoughts and Questions About the Temptations of Jesus   1 comment

Above:  The Temptations of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain


For St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia

Lent 2019


Texts:  Mark 1:12-13; Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13

Reading the Bible for spiritual formation is an ancient Benedictine practice.  My primary purpose in writing this short piece is to ask, how do the accounts (mainly the Lukan and Matthean ones) of the temptations of Jesus challenge us, both as individuals and a parish, to follow Jesus better than we do.

The Temptation to Turn Stones into Bread

Bread was especially precious in ancient Palestine, with relatively little arable land.

We are blessed to be able to purchase our bread inexpensively at stores.  Bread is abundant in our context, so we probably take it for granted more often than not.  We can, however, think of some tangible needs related to scarcity.

One challenge is not to permit tangible needs to overtake intangible necessities.  We all depend entirely on God and dwell within a web of mutual responsibility and dependence.  According to the late Henri Nouwen, this temptation is the temptation to be relevant.  Relevance is not necessarily bad; in fact, it is frequently positive.  However, maintaining the proper balance of tangible and intangible needs is essential.  Furthermore, Christ’s refusal to cave into the temptation to use his power to make bread—to cease to depend on God—ought to remind us never to imagine that we do not depend entirely on God.


  1. Do we permit tangible needs to distract us from intangible necessities?  If so, how?
  2. Do we manifest the vain idea that we do not depend entirely on God?  If so, how?

The Temptation to Jump from the Pinnacle of the Temple

Many scholars of the New Testament have proposed what the pinnacle of the Temple was.

That matter aside, this temptation is, according to Nouwen, the temptation to be spectacular.  It is also the temptation to attempt to manipulate God by trying to force God to intervene in a miraculous way.  That effort, like turning stones into bread, would indicate a lack of faith.

We humans frequently like the spectacular, do we not?  We tell ourselves and others that, if only God would do something spectacular, we will believe.  We are like those who, in the Gospels, only wanted Jesus to do something for them, and not to learn from him.


  1. Does our attraction to the spectacular distract us from the still, small voice of God?  If so, how?
  2. Does our attraction to the spectacular reveal our lack of faith?  If so, how?
  3. Does our attraction to the spectacular unmask our selfishness?  If so, how?

The Temptation to Worship Satan in Exchange for Earthly Authority

Many Palestinian Jews at the time of Christ thought of Satan as the power behind the Roman Empire and of the Roman pantheon as a collection of demons.  Jesus affirmed God the Father as the only source of his identity.

This temptation is about idolatry, power, and morally untenable compromises.

Many well-intentioned people—ministers, politicians, and appointed office holders, for example—have, in the name of doing good, become corrupt and sacrificed their suitability to do good.  They have sacrificed their moral integrity on the altar of amoral realism.

Some compromises are necessary, of course.  As Reinhold Niebuhr reminded us, we cannot help but commit some evil while trying to do good, for human depravity has corrupted social systems and institutions.


  1. Have we established our identity apart from God?  If so, how?
  2. How have we, with good intentions, committed or condoned evil?
  3. Have we made morally untenable compromises?  If so, how?

The Good News

The good news is both collective and individual.

I discover the principle, then:  that when I want to do right, only wrong is within my reach.  In my inmost self I delight in the law of God, but I perceive in my outward actions a different law, fighting against the law that my mind approves, and making me a prisoner under the law of sin which controls my conduct.  Wretched creature that I am, who is there to rescue me from this state of death?  Who but God?  Thanks be to him through Jesus Christ our Lord!  To sum up then:  left to myself I serve God’s law with my mind, but with my unspiritual nature I serve the law of sin.

–Romans 7:21-25, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Jesus has modeled the way to resist temptation—to trust God and to understand scripture.









Adapted from this post:



Devotion for the Eleventh Day of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Above:  Fishing on the Sea of Galilee, Circa 1913

Image Source = Library of Congress

Exodus and Luke, Part IV: Grace and Responsibility

APRIL 10, 2024


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 24:1-18

Psalm 99 (Morning)

Psalms 8 and 118 (Evening)

Luke 5:1-16


In Exodus 24 the Israelites vowed to obey God’s laws.  We–you, O reader, and I–know what happened next, do we not?  Their actions belied these words–not just at Mount Sinai/Horeb, but afterward.  And this pattern marked the narrative of the Israelite people throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.

It is really our story, is it not?  It is not just my individual story or yours, O reader; it is the human story.  It is the story of societies, cultures, and subcultures.  Even when we try to get it right, we run the risk of getting it wrong.  So we practice or condone a variety of sins, ranging from economic exploitation to racial discrimination to homophobia to xenophobia.  We quote the Bible to justify sexism or race-based chattel slavery or Jim Crow or Apartheid.  We mistreat resident aliens even though, a long time ago, our father was a wandering Aramean, poetically speaking.  We are really messed up.

In Luke 5:1-11 Jesus called Simon Peter (whose mother-in-law he had healed in 4:38-39) and his (our Lord’s) first cousins, James and John, sons of Zebedee.  Simon Peter tried to exclude himself from our Lord’s presence, but Jesus did not permit that.  The recognition of his own sinfulness was honest, but grace refused to let go.  And so he and the cousins followed Jesus.

Grace which refuses to let us go calls us to follow God.  Simon Peter, who often spoke when he should have been silent and even denied Jesus three times, met his fate–crucifixion upside-down.  Centuries before, the prophet Isaiah, aware of his sinfulness, experienced the same grace before volunteering to speak for God.  The prophet knew that his society had gone terribly awry.  And God sent him to confront it.  (Read Isaiah 6.)  What will such grace require of you, O reader?  And what will it require of me?







Devotion for the Tenth Day of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  Reading Glasses

Exodus and Luke, Part III: God, Genocide, and the Gospel Glasses

APRIL 9, 2024


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 23:14-33

Psalm 98 (Morning)

Psalms 66 and 116 (Evening)

Luke 4:31-44


…and I will annihilate them….

–Exodus 23:23c, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


In Exodus 23:14-33 we read more instructions (from God, the narrative says).  Among them are to keep an annual Passover festival and not to commit idolatry, especially in Canaan.  None of that disturbs my conscience, for rituals matter and idolatry is a bad idea.  Yet God vowing to annihilate entire ethnic groups–to commit genocide–bothers me.  But what if God did not make such a vow?  What if people put their intentions into God’s (proverbial) mouth?

As  a Christian I affirm that Jesus of Nazareth, a historical figure, was God incarnate.  In Luke 4 we read of Jesus curing people with a variety of illnesses, physical and psychiatric.  If I were to continue in the canonical Gospels I would arrive at Jesus sacrificing himself for others.  True, he destroyed some property and scared some profiteers greatly at the Temple, but nowhere did he kill anyone, annihilate a population, or advocate doing so.  No, the imperium tried to annihilate him, unsuccessfully.

In this matter I recall an analogy.  I heard once, years ago, from a good (ELCA) Lutheran minister, that not all Scripture is equal.  The Gospels matter most.  So one ought to read the rest of the Bible through the Gospel glasses.  When I read Exodus 23:23 through the Gospel glasses I side with Jesus:  Love your neighbor as you love yourself.  Bless those who curse you.  Leave judgment to God, who is compassionate.  And neither commit nor condone genocide.







Devotion for the Ninth Day of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Above:  A Migrant Worker in California, 1935

Image Source = Library of Congress

Exodus and Luke, Part II: Together in Society

APRIL 8, 2024


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 22:20-23:13

Psalm 97 (Morning)

Psalms 124 and 115 (Evening)

Luke 4:16-30


I began my preparations for this post by reading Exodus 21:1-23:13 closely.  The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod lectionary skips Exodus 21:1-22:19.  This statement does not constitute a criticism, for one must skip around sometimes when creating a lectionary.  Yet I thought that the skipped-over verses might pertain to the assigned material.  I was correct.

Exodus 22:20 forward commands the Israelites to show kindness, mercy, and respect to strangers, widows, and orphans, to refrain from usury (a rule which credit card companies violate daily), to make good sacrifices to God, to return wandering livestock to its owner, to grant justice to the poor, to leave food in the fields for the hungry, and to honor the Sabbath.  The guiding principle is that what one person does affects others.  There is no room for careless individualism which harms the society.

But what does one find in Exodus 21:1-22:19?  Slaves (more like indentured servants in the U.S. historical context) have rights.  Women have many of the same rights as men.  One dies for a variety of offenses, from cursing or insulting one’s parents to committing murder.  One can sell one’ s daughter into slavery.  Retribution is in proportion to the offense.  For  many offenses restitution–not death–is the penalty.  An Israelite who offers a sacrifice to a deity other than Yahweh must die.  A reader can find other laws there; this is just a sampling.

Historical and cultural contexts matter.  There were traditional Semitic notions of family honor and parental authority.  Any offense which carried the death penalty was one deemed especially dangerous to society.  And the people were nomads in the desert.  Resources were precious, and there was no jail or prison.

I, of course, live in a settled society which draws influences from the Enlightenment.  Despite poverty not far from my front door (a few miles away, elsewhere in Athens, Georgia, a street separates university dormitories from public housing projects), there is an abundance of food and drink.   And the local jail is frequently overcrowded.  I wonder how a modern version of the Law of Moses would compare the biblical one.

In Luke 4:16-30 we read an account of our Lord’s rejection at Nazareth, his hometown.  Plotting to overthrow someone off a cliff, as some residents of Nazareth meant to do Jesus, was not nice.  Perhaps some people thought that it was consistent with the death penalty for blasphemy (Leviticus 24:16).  Or maybe it was just a case of homicidal rage.  If they had succeeded that day, would they not have been subject to death themselves (Exodus 21:14)?

One must, if one is to understand the Bible properly, consider it intelligently, taking into account all the germane contexts, avoiding the error of prooftexting, and not transforming the Bible into an idol.  May we use the Bible as an icon–through which we see God–not as an idol–which we see in lieu of God.  And may we remember that we are here on the planet together, so what one person does affects others.  And God expects us to avoid wronging or oppressing one another.  After all, we all bear the image of God; may we treat each other accordingly.








Devotion for the Eighth Day of Easter: Second Sunday of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   8 comments

Above:  A Trail in the Woods

Image Source = Daniel Case

Exodus and Luke, Part I: The Path to Life Itself

APRIL 7, 2024


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 20:1-24

Psalm 93 (Morning)

Psalms 136 and 117 (Evening)

Luke 4:1-15


Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Dedication:


I Do Not Ask, O Lord:

O Jesus, I Have Promised:

Lord, Help Us Walk Your Servant Way:


Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may be ever with you, so that you do not go astray.”

–Exodus 20:17, TANAKH:  the Holy Scriptures


But Jesus answered him, “Scripture days:

Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

–Luke 4:12, The New Jerusalem Bible


Do not try the LORD your God, as you did at Massah.

Be sure to keep the commandments, decrees, and laws that the LORD your God has enjoined upon you….

–Deuteronomy 6:16-17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


Much of the Hebrews Scriptures, written in Hebrew and translated in other languages many times, was originally oral tradition.  It was part of the oral tradition for a long time, so, when people began to write it down, they knew how the stories ended.  The pledge to obey God’s commandments in Exodus 20 is something one reads in context of the rest of the story.  The people will disobey, of course.  So the ending helps define the meaning of earlier parts of the story.

With this post the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod daily lectionary of 2006 I am following  leaves the the Letter to the Hebrews behind.  Now we find the Gospel of Luke paired with the Book of Exodus.  We pick up in Luke 4, after the Advent and Christmas material, the baptism of Jesus, and the arrest of St. John the Baptist.  So we begin with the temptation of Jesus–classic Lenten material in most lectionaries.  The common thread here between the two main readings is testing, so the choice of Luke 4:1-15 works well.

God can test the people’s loyalty–that is the divine right–so that a sense of fear–awe and respect, really–will be in the people, who will then not go astray.  But when people go astray, they put God to the test–try God.  And Jesus passes his test with flying colors; he obeys God.

I have commented on the Ten Commandments in other posts to which I have provided links.  There is far more to write about the Ten Commandments, of course.  Foster R. McCurley, Jr., in Exodus, a 1969 adult Christian education resource, offered this summary germane to this point:

These Ten Commandments were given  to Israel by Yahweh to guide her in her life of covenant.  They were the expression of the Lord’s will for the way the redeemed people should live.  But it happened that the very commandments which were given as a guide turned out to accuse the people of their sin against God and their breach of covenant responsibilities.  Thus, the law, including these commandments, convicted and accused Israel–just as it accuses us–and drives all sinners to the need for a savior.  In the Lutheran tradition this accusing element is the chief use of the Ten Commandments in the life of the Christian.

–Philadelphia, PA:  Lutheran Church Press, 1969, pages 94-95

This prompted me to recall St. Paul the Apostle’s passage in Romans 4:13-17, in which he wrote of Abraham, the Law, faith, and justification with God.  In particular I thought of this part:

…law can bring only retribution, and where there is no law there can be no breach of law.  The promise was made on the ground of faith in order that it might be a matter of sheer grace.

–Romans 4:15-16a, Revised English Bible

So the reality of law, and therefore of violation thereof, convicts us of our sinfulness.  Fortunately, we have a Savior–not a mere martyr or hero of whom to make flattering statements–but a Savior to follow.  How each of us ought to do that is different, for we come to God in varying circumstances, with different gifts and societal issues and barriers, and at a variety of times and places.  My path of discipleship as an educated white male in the State of Georgia in 2012 is not that of an illiterate female in a traditional and chauvinistic culture at this time or that of a highly educated male in previous times.  So, regardless of the particulars of what your path ought to be, O reader, I encourage you to follow it.  It is the path to life itself.  Meanwhile, I try to follow my path.  If we both succeed, we will arrive at the same destination.







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

FEBRUARY 25, 2024


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.







First Sunday in Lent, Year C   15 comments

Above:  Migrant Workers Cutting Cabbages Near Lake Harbor, Florida, 1939

Image Source = Library of Congress

“My Father was a Wandering Aramean”

MARCH 6, 2022


Deuteronomy 26:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

When you have come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him,

Today I declare to the LORD your God that I have come into the land that the LORD swore to our ancestors to give us.

When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the LORD your God, you shall make this response before the LORD your God:

A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the LORD, the God of our ancestors; the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O LORD, have given me.

You shall set it down before the LORD your God and bow down before the LORD your God. Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house.

Psalm 91 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High,

abides under the shadow of the Almighty.

He shall say to the LORD,

“You are my refuge and my stronghold,

my God in whom I put my trust.”

He shall deliver you from the snare of the hunter,

and from the deadly pestilence.

4 He shall cover you with his pinions,

and you shall find refuge under his wings.

You shall not be afraid of any terror by night,

nor of the arrow that flies by day;

Of the plague that stalks in the darkness,

nor of the sickness that lays waste at mid-day.

7  A thousand shall fall at your side

and ten thousand at your right hand,

but it shall not come near you.

8  Your eyes have only to behold

to see the reward of the wicked.

9  Because you have made the LORD your refuge,

and the Most High your habitation,

10  There shall no evil happen to you,

neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.

11  He shall give his angels charge over you,

to keep you in all his ways.

12  They shall bear you in their hands,

lest you dash your foot against a stone.

13  You shall tread upon the lion and adder;

you shall trample the young lion and the serpent under your feet.

14 Because he is bound to me in love,

therefore I will deliver him;

I will protect him, because he knows my name.

15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him;

I am with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and bring him to honor.

16 With long life will I satisfy him,

and show him my salvation.

Romans 10:5-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that

the person who does these things will live by them.

But the righteousness that comes from faith says,

Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?”

(that is, to bring Christ down)


“Who will descend into the abyss?”

(that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say?

The word is near you,

on your lips and in your heart

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says,

No one who believes in him will be put to shame.

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For,

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written,

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

 Luke 4:1-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him,

If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.

Jesus answered him,

It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.”

Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him,

To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.

Jesus answered him,

It is written,

“Worship the Lord your God,

and serve him only.”

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him,

If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written,

“He will command his angels concerning you,

to protect you,”


“On their hands they will bear you up,

so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”

Jesus answered him,

It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

The Collect:

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Confession:

Prayer of Dedication:



 Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor it is far away.  It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us what we may hear it and observe it?”  Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it so that we may hear it and observe it?”  No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.

–Deuteronomy 30:11-14, New Revised Standard Version–Catholic Edition


Among the benefits of having converted my Bible study program into a lectionary-based blogging project is covering texts repeatedly–usually in different combinations.  Thus parallels, contrasts, similarities, and shades of meaning emerge.  Nevertheless, a frustration arises:  Sometimes I have difficulty not being redundant in my analysis.  Sometimes I am redundant in my analysis.  So, when I read the Lukan version of the temptation of Jesus, I ask myself how I can avoid repeating what I have already written.

 The readings fit together nicely.  Luke 4:1-13 quotes Psalm 91:11-12.  Moses, in Deuteronomy 26:1-11, reminds the descendants of escaped slaves what God has done for them before they enter the Promised Land.  God is like what God has done.  Such grace requires of its recipients a favorable response to both God and fellow human beings.  Paul, in Romans 10:5-13, provides one of the famous passages about there being no distinction between Jews and Gentiles in Jesus.  Salvation is available to all via Jesus, who resisted temptations successfully.

The word of God is in each of us.  The Word of God has made the word of God manifest.  Jesus, of course, is the Word of God.  The word of God is everything God says–from our temporal perspective, has said, is saying, and will say.  We have benefited much from grace, so we must not hoard it for ourselves.  My ancestor was not a wandering Aramean; no, he was a Virginia farmer with eighteen children, most of whom did not live to adulthood.  But the principle holds.  There are “wandering Arameans” wherever we turn.  May we resist the temptation to treat them and to think of them scornfully.  God also loves them.  The word of God is also within them.









Seventeenth Day of Lent   22 comments

An Old Postcard Image of Nazareth

Monday, March 4, 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


2 Kings 5:1-15b (TANAKH: The Holy Scriptures):

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was important to his lord and high in his favor, for through him the LORD had granted victory to Aram.  But the man, though a great warrior, was a leper.  Once, when the Arameans were out raiding, they carried off a young girl from the land of Israel, and she became an attendant to Naaman’s wife.  She said to her mistress,

I wish Master could come before the prophet in Samaria; he would cure him of his leprosy.

[Naaman] went and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said.  And the king of Aram said,

Go to the king of Israel, and I will send along a letter.

He went out, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing.  He brought the letter to the king of Israel.  It read,

Now, when this letter reaches you, know that I have sent my courtier Naaman to you, that you many cure him of his leprosy.

When the king of Israel read the letter, he rent his clothes and cried,

Am I Gold, to deal death or give life, that this fellow writes to me to cure a man of leprosy?  Just see for yourselves that he is seeking a pretext against me!

When Elisha, the man of God, heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, he sent a message to the king:

Why have you rent your clothes?  Let him come to me, and he will learn that there is a prophet in Israel.

So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and halted at the door of Elisha’s house.  Elisha sent a messenger to say to him,

Go and bathe seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.

But Naaman was angered and walked away.

I thought,

he said,

he would surely come out to me, and would stand and invoke the LORD his God by name, and would wave his hand toward the spot, and cure the afflicted part.  Are not the Amanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?  I could bathe in them and be clean!

And he stalked off in a rage.

But his servants came forward and spoke to him.


they said,

if the prophet told you to do something difficult, would you not do it?  How much more when he has only said to you, ‘Bathe and be clean.’

So he went down and immersed himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had bidden; and his flesh became like a little boy’s, and he was clean.  Returning with his entire retinue to the man of God, he stood before him and exclaimed,

Now I know I know that there is no God in the whole world except in Israel!

Psalm 42:2-6 (TANAKH: The Holy Scriptures):

Like a hind crying for water,

my soul cries for You, O God;

my soul thirsts for God, the living God;

O when will I come to appear before God!

My tears have been my food day and night;

I am ever tainted with, “Where is your God?”

When I think of this, I pour out my soul:

how I walked with the crowd, moved with them,

the festive throng, to the House of God

with joyous shouts of praise.

Why so downcast, my soul,

why disquieted within me?

Have hope in God;

I will yet praise Him

for his saving presence.

Luke 4:23-30 (The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition):

So he [Jesus] said to them [at Nazareth],

I expect you will quote this proverb to me, ‘Cure yourself, doctor! Let us see you do in your own country all that we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’

Then he added,

I assure you that no prophet is ever welcomed in his own country.  I tell you you the plain fact that in Elijah’s time, when the heavens were shut up for three and a half years and there was a great famine through the whole country, there were widows in Israel, but Elijah was not sent to any of them.  But he was sent to Sarepta, to a widow in the country of Sidon.  In the time of Elisha the prophet, there were many lepers in Israel, but not one them was healed–only Naaman, the Syrian.

But when they heard this, everyone in the synagogue was furiously angry.  They sprang to their feet  and drove him right out of the town, taking him to the brow of the hill on which it was built, intending to hurl him down headlong.  But he walked straight through the whole crowd and went on his way.

The Collect:

Look upon the heart-felt desires of your humble servants, Almighty God, and stretch forth the right hand of your majesty to be our defense against all our enemies; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


The enemies seemed to be the former neighbors, at least for Jesus in this day’s Gospel reading.  And why is that?  One reason is that were too familiar with Jesus to understand who he was.  In other words, they were simultaneously too familiar and insufficiently familiar with him.  Jesus had just taught with authority at the Nazareth synagogue (after the temptations in the wilderness), beginning his public ministry.  The former neighbors did not believe that the spirit of the Lord was upon him.

Jesus cited the example of Naaman, a military officer of Aram, a rival of Israel, the northern kingdom.  (Think about the geopolitics of this story.)  Naaman had a skin condition, probably not the disease most people think of when they hear the word “leprosy.”  (The Biblical authors used the term “leprosy” very broadly.)  This condition, whatever it was, caused concern, however, and the Aramean king permitted Naaman to seek treatment in Israel.

In the story from 2 Kings, Naaman learns of Elisha via a captured servant girl, and he receives instructions from a servant of the prophet.  Servants play a prominent role in this account.  And the cure is a relatively simple and unexpected procedure.  Irony abounds.

Another element original readers might not have expected is the extension of grace to Gentiles, even to an agent of a rival kingdom.  I appreciate the extension of grace to Gentiles, for I am among the goyim.  The love of God is universal.  Deo Gratia.

So, do any of us not perceive the universality of the love of God?  Do we think that anyone is beyond grace?  One must consider the element of human free will, of course, for it constitutes another essential aspect of salvation for those not covered under Single Predestination.

Finally, grace demands something of its recipients.  It is free, not cheap.  What does grace demand of you?


Written on February 26, 2010

Posted October 28, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2024, Episcopal Church Lectionary, March 4

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