Archive for the ‘Philippians 3’ Tag

Devotion for the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Jonah Preaching to the Ninevites

Image in the Public Domain

The Inner Jonah, Part III

MARCH 19, 2023


The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


The Assigned Readings:

Jonah 3

Psalm 143

Philippians 3:7-21

Matthew 26:57-68


The reading from Matthew 26 depicts a scene of perfidy.  Religious leaders, in violation of the Law of Moses, seek false testimony (a capital offense, at least theoretically) to send Jesus to his execution, we read.  Their charge against him is blasphemy, a capital offense, according to Leviticus 24:16.

These men were really defending their power base as they committed a great sin.  Yet God used their actions to work abundant grace, culminated, in a few days, in the resurrection.  Those religious leaders must have had some interesting private discussions about that.

Divine grace is so abundant that it falls upon individuals as well as groups, and believers as well as heathens.  Grace calls us to repentance.  We all need to repent–to turn our backs to sin–daily.

Each of us has an inner Jonah.  We rejoice when God extends mercy to us and people similar to ourselves, but we, like some of the psalmists, want God to smite our enemies.  God loves them too, however.  God rejoices when they repent; so should we.









Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before the Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Parliament Buildings 1916

Above:  The Parliament Buildings in Ottawa on February 4, 1916

Image in the Public Domain

Image Source = The New York Times, February 13, 1916

Partners of God

MARCH 1, 2022

APRIL 1, 2022


The Collect:

Creator God, you prepare a new way in the wilderness,

and your grace waters our desert.

Open our hearts to be transformed by the new thing you are doing,

that our lives may proclaim the extravagance of your love

given to all 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 29


The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 43:1-7 (Thursday)

Isaiah 43:8-15 (Friday)

Psalm 126 (Both Days)

Philippians 2:19-24 (Thursday)

Philippians 2:25-3:1 (Friday)


When the LORD restored Zion

it was as though we were dreaming.

We could not speak for laughing,

we could only utter cries of joy.

Then the saying arose among the nations,

“The LORD has done something great with these people.”

The LORD has done something great with us;

we were delighted.


Restore us again, Lord,

as streams refresh the dry south.

Those who sow in tears

will reap with shouts of joy.

Whoever weeps as he walks along his furrow

carrying a handful of seed

will surely come here in joy

carrying his sheaves of corn.

–Psalm 126, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)


Psalm 126 probably dates to the post-exilic period, which did not live up to its billing elsewhere in the Bible.  The text indicates both thanksgiving to God and awareness that circumstances could be better.

That description applies well to contemporary circumstances, both collective and individual, does it not?  Yes, we have a plethora of reasons for gratitude to God, but we also have a host of problems.  Other people created many of them, but we must live with them.  The fact that we live in societal settings means that what we do affects others and that what others do affects us.  We pay for many of the mistakes of other people, therefore.  Sometimes we pay for the errors of our ancestors, whose legacies are not entirely positive.  I can trace some of the positive and negative influences on my life as far back as two of my great-grandfathers, for example.

On the positive side, God calls us to care for and about each other.  God has modeled this commandment frequently, in instances from the Bible and elsewhere, from antiquity to the present day.  We read one example of it in Isaiah 43:1-15, a prophecy of the end of the Babylonian Exile.  We find an example of the imprisoned St. Paul the Apostle expressing his concern for the church at Philippi, a congregation he had founded, and announcing the impending arrival of two of his fellow workers in Christ.

Yes, we have reasons for concern as well as for gratitude to God, but this reality does not excuse inaction when positive action is justified.  We human beings are supposed to support each other in positive pursuits, as God defines them.  If we do this, we will improve some of the circumstances over which we have justifiable concerns.  If we do this, we will act as partners of God, who is always the senior partner.








Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before the Second Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Abraham and Lot Separate

Above:  Abraham and Lot Separate

Image in the Public Domain

Legalism and Fidelity

MARCH 10 and 11, 2022


The Collect:

God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross

you promise everlasting life to the world.

Gather all peoples into your arms, and shelter us with your mercy,

that we may rejoice in the life we share in your Son,

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27


The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 13:1-7, 14-18 (Thursday)

Genesis 14:17-24 (Friday)

Psalm 27 (Both Days)

Philippians 3:2-12 (Thursday)

Philippians 3:17-20 (Friday)


The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom then shall I fear?

the LORD is the strength of my life;

of whom then shall I be afraid?

–Psalm 27:1, Book of Common Worship (1993)


Sometimes the portrayal of Abram/Abraham in the Bible puzzles me.  In Hebrews 10:8-22 the patriarch is a pillar of fidelity to God.  Yet he hedges his bets and lies in Genesis 12, and the only people who suffer are the Pharaoh of Egypt and members of the royal household.  Abram exiles his firstborn son, Ishmael, in Genesis 21:8-21.  The patriarch intercedes on behalf of strangers in Genesis 19 yet not for his second son, Isaac, three chapters later.  Abram, who is wealthy, refuses even to appear to have enriched himself by means of the King of Sodom in Genesis 14.  In so doing the patriarch, who has just paid a tithe of war booty to Melchizedek, King of Salem (Jerusalem) and priest of El Elyon, a Canaanite sky deity, invokes YHWH, not El Elyon.  I do not know what to make of Abram/Abraham.

Circumcision is a major issue in Philippians 3.  St. Paul the Apostle refers to rival missionaries who favor the circumcision of Gentile male converts to Christianity.  He calls these Judaizers “dogs,” a strong insult many Jews reserved for Gentiles.  One can find the mandate for circumcision of males (including some Gentiles) in Genesis 17:9-14, where it is a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant.  It has been, for Jews, a physical sign of the covenant for millennia.  It has become an emotional issue for people who favor it as a religious obligation and a mark of identity as well as for those who consider it cruel.

In Philippians 3 circumcision is, for St. Paul the Apostle, a physical sign of righteousness based on law, not on active faith in God.  The line between legalism and righteousness can be difficult to locate sometimes.  One should obey certain commandments out of fidelity and love and respect for God.  One loves and honors God, so one keeps the commandments of God.

If you love me you will obey my commands…,

John 14:15 (The Revised English Bible, 1989) quotes Jesus as saying.  But when does keeping commandments turn into a fetish of legalism?  And when does the maintenance of one’s identity transform into exclusion of others?  Where is that metaphorical line many people cross?

One sure way of knowing if one has crossed that line is catching that person obsessing over minute details while overlooking pillars of morality such as compassion.  If one, for example, complains not because Jesus has healed someone but because he has done this on the Sabbath, one is a legalist.  If one becomes uptight about personal peccadilloes yet remains unconcerned about institutionalized injustice (such as that of the sexist, racial, and economic varieties), one is a legalist.  If one’s spiritual identity entails labeling most other people as unclean or damned, one is a legalist.  If one thinks that moral living is merely a matter of following a spiritual checklist, one is a legalist.  If one becomes fixated on culturally specific examples of timeless principles at the expense of those principles, one is a legalist.

May we who claim to follow and love God eschew legalism.  May we also care for our close friends and relatives at least as much as we do suffering strangers for which we harbor concern.








Devotion for the Thirty-Sixth Day of Lent: Tuesday in Holy Week (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image Source = Edal Anton Lefterov

Exodus and Hebrews, Part III: The Supremacy of Christ Jesus

APRIL 4, 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 9:29-10:20

Psalm 34 (Morning)

Psalms 25 and 91 (Evening)

Hebrews 3:1-19


A Related Post:



It is true that Moses was trustworthy in the household of God, as a servant is, acting as witness to the things which were yet to be revealed, but Christ is trustworthy as a son is, over his household.  And we are his household, as long as we maintain the hope in which we glory.

–Hebrews 3:5-6, The New Jerusalem Bible


[Aaron and Miriam] came forward; and [the LORD] said, “Hear these My words:  When a prophet of the LORD arises among you, I make Myself known to him in a vision, I speak with him in a dream.  Not so with my servant Moses; he is trusted throughout My household.  With him I speak mouth to mouth, plainly and not in riddles, and he beholds the likeness of the LORD.  How then did you not shrink from speaking against My servant Moses?”  Still incensed with them, the LORD departed.

–Numbers 12:5b-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


In Exodus 10 we find a new wrinkle in the narrative:  Courtiers of the Pharaoh criticize him for his obstinancy.  They understood what he ought to do.  Confronting such a monarch was no small risk, and this was no sympathetic king.

Moses, meanwhile, was faithful to God’s instructions.  This is a point the author (probably the Elohist–E) wanted the audience to understand.  It was a point the author of the Letter to the Hebrews grasped.  In Hebrews Jesus was greater than the prophets (1:1-4), the angels (1:5-2:18), and Moses (3:1-6), who was very close to God.  Moses was great, but he was only a servant in the household of faith, a household with Jesus built (3:2, 3, and 5).

We who have read the Bible know the outline of the rest of the story.  Yes, God will liberate the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.  (The name of the book is Exodus!)  But almost immediately afterward the troubles will start.  Grumbling will ensue.  People will express nostalgia for Egypt.  And the next generation will be the one to enter the Promised Land.  The liberated generation will not enter the Promised Land because it will not believe and will not abandon its slave mentality.  It will not enter the Promised Land because it will insist on hardening its collective heart.

Likewise, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote, Christians ought not to harden their hearts.  Our Promised Land is spiritual, not geographical.  And Jesus, whose Hebrews name translated directly into English is Joshua, will lead us there.  The parallels between the Old Testament and the New Testament are beautiful, are they not?

This is a devotion for Tuesday in Holy Week.  This day has meaning only in relation to subsequent days, namely Maundy/Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday.  Most of all it derives meaning from its position relative to Easter Sunday, for that Sunday gives us a Resurrected Jesus, not a dead one.  As scholars of the New Testament observe accurately, the point of perspective in the canonical Gospels is a post-Resurrection one.  And that is appropriate.  We Christians follow a Resurrected Lord and Savior, not a dead Messiah.  We follow him, who is superior wo even the greatest figure of the Hebrew Scriptures.  We follow the one of whom St. Paul the Apostle wrote

But what were once my assets I now through Christ Jesus count as losses.  Yes, I will go further:  because of the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, I count everything as loss.  For him I have accepted the loss of all other things, and look on them as filth if only I can gain Christ and be given a place in him….

(Sorry for the ellipses, but the text is a run-on sentence in The New Jerusalem Bible.  The citation is Philippians 3:7-9a.)

St. Paul summarized the case well; I cannot do better.  So I encourage you, O reader, to ponder the supremacy of Christ during all weeks, but especially during Holy Week, and to do so while remembering St. Paul’s words from Philippians 3.









Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C   12 comments

Above:  Statue of Reconciliation, Ruins of Old Coventry Cathedral, Coventry, England, United Kingdom

Image Source = Rebecca Kennison

Forgiveness and the Future

APRIL 3, 2022


Isaiah 43:16-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

Thus says the LORD,

who makes a way in the sea,

a path in the mighty waters,

who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior;

they lie down, they cannot rise,

they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:

Do not remember the former things,

or consider the things of old.

I am about to do a new thing;

now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness

and rivers in the desert.

The wild animals will honor me,

the jackals and the ostriches;

for I give water in the wilderness,

rivers in the desert,

to give drink to my chosen people,

the people whom I formed for myself

so that they might declare my praise.

Psalm 126 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,

then were we like those who dream.

2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy.

3 Then they said among the nations,

“The LORD has done great things for them.”

The LORD has done great things for us,

and we are glad indeed.

5 Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the watercourses of the Negev.

6 Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

7 Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,

will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

Philippians 3:4b-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

John 12:1-8 (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.

The Collect:

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

A Prayer Not To Live in the Past:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Confession:

Prayer of Dedication:



Sometimes I read Sunday lectionary texts and realize that I can tie all but one together.  Today, however, all of them fit together nicely.

Isaiah 43 has God promising restoration to the exiled Jews, descendants of subjects of the former Kingdom of Judah.  God says,

Do not remember the former things,

or consider the things of old.

I am about to do a new thing;

now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

–Isaiah 43:18-19, New Revised Standard Version

Psalm 126 echoes that reading:

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,

then we were like those who dream.

Then was our mouth filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy.

–Psalm 126:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Meanwhile, in Philippians, Paul of Tarsus, once a persecutor of Christians, now an occasionally persecuted Christian, wrote

…forgetting what lies behind, and straining on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

–3:13b-14, New Revised Standard Version


I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

–3:10-11, New Revised Standard Version

That resurrection followed his death, after which people anointed his corpse.  Mary of Bethany’s anointing of Jesus in John 12:1-8 prefigured that pre-Resurrection anointing.

(Aside:  Shortly before I drafted this post I published one, which also brought me around to John 12:1-8 by means of another lectionary.  It is interesting how lectionaries intersect that way.)

As a student of history I grasp the value of knowing what happened in the past.  I also recognize the danger of getting lost back there.  My studies have uncovered examples of people reaching back a thousand years or so, speaking of those events as if they occurred last week, and inciting violence.  On the other extreme, I live in the United States of America, which Gore Vidal, novelist and essayist, has called the United States of Amnesia.  Twenty years ago seems like ancient history to many people.  There is a happy medium between the two.

The main idea is that we ought not live in the past, for the future lies ahead.  It is our destination.  God forgives us, and we ought to extend the same courtesy to ourselves and each other.  Paul had to focus on his goal, not his past.  The exiles of Judah needed to focus on rebuilding, not why they had to rebuild.  While acknowledging their past they needed not to become mired in it.

The same is true of each of us.  I have never had a sordid life or a dramatic conversion experience.  I cannot say truthfully that I became a Christian at 2:00 P.M. on a certain date, for example.  No, God entered my life subtly and gradually.  Yet I can identify moments when God broke through more dramatically and obviously than others.  And I have had to forgive myself for certain failings before I could pres on toward my goal.

We humans are social creatures, some of us more so than others.  We ought not only forgive ourselves but each other for each other’s failings.  Then we should help each other on toward each other’s goals in God.  We are here on the planet for each other; may we act accordingly.









Second Sunday in Lent, Year C   17 comments

Above:  Celtic Cross Over a Church Door

The Narrow Door

MARCH 13, 2022


Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 (New Revised Standard Version):

The word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision,

Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.

But Abram said,

O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?

And Abram said,

You have given me no offspring, and so a slave born in my house is to be my heir.

But the word of the LORD came to him,

This man shall not be your heir; no one but your very own issue shall be your heir.

He brought him outside and said,

Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.

Then he said to him,

So shall your descendants be.

And he believed the LORD; and the LORD reckoned it to him as righteousness.

Then he said to him,

I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.

But he said,

O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?

He said to him,

Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.

He brought him all these and cut them in two, laying each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when birds of prey came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.

As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram, and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.

When the sun had gone down and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying,

To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.

Psalm 27 (Revised English Bible):

The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom should I fear?

The LORD is the stronghold of my life;

of whom then should I go in dread?

When evildoers close in on me to devour me,

is my adversaries, my enemies,

who stumble and fall.

Should an army encamp against me,

my heart would have no fear;

if armed men should fall upon me,

even though I would be undismayed.

One thing I ask of the LORD,

it is the one thing I seek:

that I may dwell in the house of the LORD

all the days of my life,

to gaze on the beauty of the LORD

and to seek him in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter

in the day of misfortune;

he will conceal me under cover of his tent,

set me high on a rock.

Now my head will be raised high

above my enemy all about me;

so I shall acclaim him in his tent with a sacrifice

and sing a psalm of praise to the LORD.

Hear, LORD, when I cry aloud;

show my favour and answer me.


my heart has said,

seek his presence.

I seek your presence, LORD;

do not hide your face from me,

nor in your anger turn away from your servant,

whose help you have been;

God my saviour, do not reject me or forsake me.

Though my father and my mother forsake me,

the LORD will take me into his care.

Teach me your way, LORD;

do not give me up to the greed of my enemies;

lead me by a level path

to escape the foes who beset me:

liars breathing malice come forward

to give evidence against me.

Well I know that I shall see the goodness of the LORD

in the land of the living.

Wait for the LORD; be strong and brave,

and put your hope in the LORD.

Philippians 3:17-4:1 (Revised English Bible):

Join together, my friends, in following my example.  You have us for a model; imitate those whose way of life conforms to it.  As I have often told you, and now tell you with tears, there are many whose way of life makes them enemies of the cross of Christ.  They are heading for destruction, they make appetite their god, they take pride in what should bring shame; their minds are set on earthly things.  We, by contrast, are citizens of heaven, and from heaven we expect our deliverer to come, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He will transfigure our humble bodies, and give them a form like that of his own glorious body, by that power which enables him to make all things subject to himself.  This, my dear friends, whom I live and long for, my joy and crown, this is what it means to stand firm in the Lord.

Luke 13:22-35 (Revised English Bible):

He [Jesus] continued his journey through towns and villages, teaching as he made his way towards Jerusalem.  Someone asked him,

Sir, are only a few saved?

His answer was:

Make every effort to enter through the narrow door; for I tell you that many will try to enter but will not succeed.

When once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may stand outside and knock and say, “Sir let us in!” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.”  Then you will protest, “We used to eat and drink with you, and you taught in our streets.”  But he will repeat, “I tell you, I do not know where you come from.  Out of my sight, all of you, you and your wicked ways!”  There will be wailing and grinding of teeth there, when you see prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves are driven away.  From east and west, from north and south, people will come and take their places at the banquet in the kingdom of God.  Yes, and some are now last who will be first, and some who are first will be last.

At that time a number of  Pharisees came and warned him [Jesus],

Leave this place and be on your way; Herod wants to kill you.

He replied,

Go and tell that fox, “Listen:  today and tomorrow I shall be driving out demons and working cures; However, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the next day, because it is unthinkable for a prophet to meet his death anywhere but in Jerusalem.”

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, city that murders the prophets and stones the messengers sent to her!  How often have I longed to gather your children, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings; but you would not let me.  Look!  There is your temple, forsaken by God.  I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, “Blessings on him who comes in the name of the Lord!”

The Collect:

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Confession:

Prayer of Dedication:


Hope of the World:

A Prayer for Compassion:

A Prayer to Embrace Love, Empathy, and Compassion, and to Eschew Hatred, Invective, and Willful Ignorance:


Who were the “enemies of the cross” in Philippians?  They could have belonged to more than one camp, including early Gnostics, who thought that matter was evil, so the human body was evil.  So Jesus could not have died on a cross or then risen from the dead, according to Gnostics.  Hence Gnostics were not Christians.  And, since they considered the human body to be evil, some favored starving it.  Others gorged it.

Meanwhile, in Genesis, elderly Abram trusted God’s promise of progeny.

And because he put his trust in the LORD, He reckoned it to his merit.

–Genesis 15:6, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

The Lukan reading requires some textual context.  In Chapter 13:1-21 alone we find the following happening:

  1. Jesus encourages repentance. (1-5)
  2. Jesus tells a parable about giving a non-productive fig tree extra fertilizer and one more chance to avoid destruction. (6-9)
  3. Jesus heals a crippled woman on the Sabbath.  He incurs criticism for doing this deed on that day. (10-17)
  4. Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a small mustard seed, which produces a very large weed. (18-19)
  5. Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a small amount of yeast which produces enough to feed 150 people. (20-21)

Then we read about entering by the narrow door.  The Kingdom of God is generous, even weed-like, beyond human control, but the portal to it is narrow.

Who are the excluded?  Among them must be the “enemies of the cross,” those who are materialistic (even if some of them regard matter as evil, ironically).  And I propose that among the excluded are so persnickity about religious matters (such as the Sabbath) that they do not live compassionately.  They have the outward forms yet lack the substance.  God welcomes the repentance of all.  So God does not exclude anyone.  Yet the excluded define themselves as such by not repenting.

As we continue to read we find that our Lord’s life is at risk (31-35).  In the Gospel of Luke’s narrative Jesus had

resolute turned his face towards Jerusalem. (9:51, The New Jerusalem Bible)

So all of Chapter 13 occurs in the shadow of the cross to come.

To pass through a narrow door one must establish priorities.  Some items will never make the cut, for they are too large.  So one must travel lightly through the narrow door.  May we leave behind the bulky furniture of hatred, greed, resentment, prejudice, discrimination, and legalism, among other things.  And may we take compassion with us; it nullifies the items from the preceding sentence.