Archive for the ‘Islam’ Category

Allegedly Righteous Violence   1 comment


Above:  Stoning of Saint Stephen, by Paolo Uccello

Image in the Public Domain


The Collect:

Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.

Give us grace to love one another,

to follow in the way of his commandments,

and to share his risen life with all the world,

for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 34


The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 12:1-3 (26th Day)

Exodus 3:1-12 (27th Day)

Jeremiah 26:20-24 (28th Day)

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 (All Days)

Acts 6:8-15 (26th Day)

Acts 7:1-16 (27th Day)

John 8:48-59 (28th Day)


Some Related Posts:

Genesis 12:

Exodus 3:

Jeremiah 26:

Acts 6:

John 8:


Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe,

for you are my crag and my stronghold;

for the sake of your name, lead me and guide me.

Take me out the net that they have secretly set for me,

for you are my tower of strength.

Into your hands I commend my spirit,

for you have redeemed me,

O LORD, O God of truth.

–Psalm 31:3-5, Book of Common Worship (1993)


Blasphemy is a capital crime in the Law of Moses, which frowns upon perjury.  In fact, the penalty for perjury is whatever fate the falsely accused suffered or would have suffered.  So, according to the Law of Moses, the authorities stoned the wrong man in Acts 7.

The stoning of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, is just one of several accounts of violence, attempted and otherwise, of which we read in these lections.  That kind of violence–done in the name of God by heirs of Abraham (physically or spiritually or both), members of a nation God has freed more than once–is always unbecoming.  To disagree with a person is one thing, but to seek to kill him or her because of that difference is quite another.  It constitutes an attempt to prove one’s righteousness by sinful means.  Thus such an act defines as a lie that which the perpetrator seeks to affirm.

I, as a Christian, follow one who died for several reasons, among them the motivation I just mentioned.  Thus I am especially aware of the perfidy of such violence, which, unfortunately, continues.  Christians in certain Islamic countries are subject to charges of blasphemy then to execution.  Honor killings continue to occur around the world.  They seem to attract the most attention in the Western press when immigrants commit them in Western countries, but they happen daily, often without the press noticing them.  I am also aware of the long, shameful history of “Christian” violence against Jews.  Ritual washing of hands, for example, contributed to greater cleanliness among European Jews relative to other populations on the continent and therefore helped to reduce their vulnerability to the Black Death in the 1300s.  Many fearful, Anti-Semitic Gentiles blamed Jews for the plague and attacked them.  God, please save us from your alleged followers!

May mutual love and respect prevail.  And, when we disagree with someone whose presence threatens our notions of our own righteousness, may we refrain from violence.  Even if the other person is wrong, partially or entirely, that does not justify killing or attempting to kill an innocent person.








Adapted from this post:


The Efficacy of Prayer   1 comment


Above:  Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, by Rembrandt Van Rijn


The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 31:27-34 and Psalm 119:97-104


Genesis 32:22-31 and Psalm 121


2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

Luke 18:1-8

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements that the LORD your God is giving you, and they shall govern the people with due justice.  You shall not judge unfairly:  you shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just.  Justice, justice you shall pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that the LORD your God is giving to you.

–Deuteronomy 16:18-20, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


Through your commandments I gain understanding;

Therefore I hate every lying way.

–Psalm 119:104, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


A judge was supposed to issue impartial rulings, but the woman in the parable from Luke 18:1-8 had to resort to threats of physical violence (slapping the judge in the face or giving him a black eye), to get justice.  Extraordinary circumstances required extraordinary methods.  But God, as Jesus tells us, is impartial.  Deuteronomy 10:17-19 agrees and imposes a set of obligations on the people:

For the LORD your God is God supreme and Lord supreme, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who shows no favor and takes no bribe, but upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and befriends the stranger, providing him with food and clothing.  You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.  (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

There is a profound link between how we regard God and how we act toward one another, not that Atheists cannot be moral people and agents of what the Lutheran confessions of faith call civic righteousness.  Yet, if we love God, we will love one another actively.

Another theme in the readings for this Sunday is persistence in prayer.  But what is prayer?  The Book of Common Prayer (1979) defines it as

…responding to God, by thought and deeds, with or without words.  (page 856)

Christian prayer, according to the same page of the same volume, is

…response to God the Father, through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer is a state of being.  It is how we think and therefore act.  Prayer is far more than the definition I heard in children’s Sunday School:

talking to God.

No, prayer is really about the covenant God has written on our hearts.

So, according to that definition, how is your prayer life?  You might struggle with God, O reader, but that is fine.  In Islam people submit to Allah, but in Judaism they struggle and argue with God.  I, being a strong-minded person, enjoy that part of my religious heritage.  At least there is a relationship with God through all that struggling.  And a transformed state awaits each of us at the end.  A trickster came to play a prominent role in salvation history.  And one gains much valuable understanding through the struggles.

May we persist in our struggles with God and in our efforts to behave justly, for the glory of God and the benefit of others.  The process will transform us, making us better.  That is one valid way to understand the efficacy of prayer.








Adapted from this post:


Humility, Judgment, Mercy, and Enemies   1 comment


Above:  House of Naaman, Damascus, 1900-1920

Image Source = Library of Congress



The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 5:1-14 and Psalm 30


Isaiah 66:10-14 and Psalm 66:1-8


Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Proper 9, Year A:

Proper 9, Year B:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Confession:

Prayer of Dedication:

A Prayer for Our Enemies:

Prayers for Forgiveness, Mercy, and Trust:

A Prayer for Proper Priorities:

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

A Prayer for Humility:

2 Kings 5:

Isaiah 66:

Galatians 6:

Luke 10:


I propose, O reader, a thought experiment:

Name two countries, A and B, with a recent history of warfare against each other and a current climate of mutual hostility.  Then imagine a general from B in search of a cure visiting a prominent religious figure from A.

The politics of the situation would be sensitive, would they not?    That is a partial summary of the Naaman and Elijah story.

The main intertwining threads I choose to follow today are:

  • humility (in 2 Kings 5, Galatians 6, and Luke 10),
  • judgment and mercy (in all four readings), and
  • enemies (in 2 Kings 5, Isaiah 66, and Luke 10).

Humility is having a realistic estimate of oneself; it recognizes both strengths and weaknesses.  This theme fits the Naaman story well, for he had to overcome his notions of self-importance and national pride, the latter of which informed the former, before God healed him.  In humility and a Christ-based identity we Christians are supposed to carry each other’s burdens and help each other through temptation and error; that is what Galatians 6 says.  And humility is part of curriculum for the disciples in Luke 10.

Judgment is for God.  The theme of judgment overlaps with that of enemies.  And who is an enemy of God?  I suspect that many, if not most, enemies of God think of themselves as disciples and friends of God.  Militant Islamists in western Africa are destroying allegedly un-Islamic buildings–architectural treasures–in the name of Allah.  Neither pluralism nor religious toleration are among the values of these individuals.  These militants think of themselves as faithful to God and of people such as me as not faithful to God.  I think that I am correct, obviously.

(Aside:  I have taught practicing Muslims and found them to be delightful human beings.  None have been militants.  Anyone who thinks that I condemn all Muslims when I criticize militant Islamists fails to grasp my meaning.)

Although judgment resides with God, so does mercy.  So Naaman became a follower.  Divine mercy extended even to enemies of Elisha’s people.  That is easy to say about the politics of antiquity, but what about today?  So I propose another thought experiment:

Name a hostile foreign government.  Can you, O reader, warm up to the idea that God loves agents of that regime?  Would you, in Christ, accept such agents as brothers and sisters in faith?

Mercy can prove difficult.  Often we prefer judgment for others–our enemies–and mercy for ourselves because this arrangement reinforces our egos.  Yet humility before God requires us, among other things, to move past those categories and our concepts of where we stand in relation to God.  That person whom we think of as an enemy might be a friend of God.  And we might not be as right with God as we imagine.






Leviticus and Luke, Part VII: Blasphemy and Repentance   1 comment


Above:  St. Stephen’s Gate, Jerusalem, Ottoman Empire, 1900-1920

Image Source = Library of Congress



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:

Leviticus 24:1-23

Psalm 47 (Morning)

Psalms 68 and 113 (Evening)

Luke 12:54-13:17


Some Related Posts:

Leviticus 24:

Luke 12-13:

Feast of Shabbaz Bhatti and Other Christian Martyrs of the Islamic World (March 2):


Slightly edited versions of definitions from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition (1996) follow.  For full entries, consult the dictionary.

blaspheme.  1.  To speak of (God or a sacred entity) in an irreverent, impious manner.  2.  To revile; execrate.

blasphemous.  Impiously irreverent.

blasphemy.  1.a.  A contemptuous or profane act, utterance, or writing concerning God or a sacred entity.  b.  The act of claiming for oneself the attributes and rights of God.  2.  An irreverent or impious act, attitude, or utterance in regard to something considered inviolable or sacrosanct.


Today, when one one from my perspective (the Western world, complete with secular government, not theocracy) hears or reads about someone (often a Christian in mainly Islamic parts of the world) being sentenced to death and/or imprisonment for committing blasphemy, the response is negative.  It should be.  Blasphemy, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder; one person’s pious opinion is another’s blasphemy too much of the time.  I am glad that I live in the United States, not Pakistan or a similar nation, for much of what I say and write from my Christian perspective would trigger a blasphemy charge in Pakistan or a similar place.

The blasphemer in Leviticus 24 had cursed God.  His offense was not to have pronounced the divine name; no, it was to have reviled God.  The blasphemer’s penalty according the narrative was one which God had commanded:  death by stoning.

Such rampant violence in the Torah and elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures disturbs me.  I know; my proverbial tapes are running.  People tried to stone Jesus on the charge of blasphemy in the Gospel of John.  St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, died by stoning per the charge of blasphemy.  As I wrote, blasphemy is in the eye of the beholder.

The blasphemer in Leviticus 24 had a bad attitude toward God.  Our Lord’s critics in Luke 13:10-17 had a bad attitude toward him.  He had just committed a good deed, and people criticized him for doing it on the Sabbath.  (There is no wrong day to commit a good deed.) They needed to change their minds.  I wonder what would have happened if the blasphemer in Leviticus 24 had changed his mind.

As for punishments for blasphemy, real or imagined, may we leave that matter to God alone to enforce.  It would be wrong to commit murder.







Adapted from this post:


Exodus and Luke, Part IX: Intimacy with God   1 comment


Above:  Moses, by Jose de Ribera


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 34:29-35:21

Psalm 99 (Morning)

Psalms 8 and 118 (Evening)

Luke 7:36-50


Some Related Posts:

Exodus 34-35:

Luke 7:


Each of the four canonical Gospels contains a version of the story of a woman anointing Jesus.  She was either a anonymous or Mary of Bethany.  She was either of undefined character or of good character or a forgiven sinner.  The host was was either Mary of Bethany or Simon the Leper or Simon the Pharisee.

As I understand oral tradition, based on reading Historical Jesus books written from various points of view, oral tradition is neither ironclad nor completely unreliable with regard to details.  It is flexible, with a certain set spine.  (See N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, Minneapolis, MN:  Fortress Press, 1996, pages 135-136.)  So, as I read and read the Synoptic Gospels, I find parallel versions of the same incidents, sayings, and parables.  They are similar yet not identical.  To apply this to the anointing of Jesus, something happened at Bethany.  But who was the woman?  What was her background and character?  Who was the host?  And which part of Jesus did the woman anoint?  The Bible does not provide consistent answers.  This does not disturb me.  It did not bother the bishops who approved the canon of the New Testament either.  So I take the Lukan account as we have it, in textual context, and interpret it in relation to its paired reading from Exodus.

The woman expressed her gratitude for forgiveness.  Meanwhile, in Exodus, a distance between God and the people remained.  There was even a distance between Moses and the people.  But there was not distance between Jesus and the woman.  And there need be no distance between Jesus and any of us.

As long as I can recall, I have always had a sense of God.  My relationship with God has had its ups and downs, with the latter being my fault.  And, when times have been darkest for me, I have felt God wither drawing nearer to me or seeming to do so; I cannot be sure which was the reality.  It was, however, a distinction without a difference.  God, as the Sufis say, is closer to me (and to you) than my (and your) jugular vein.  Experience has taught me this.  Perhaps it has also taught you, O reader, the same lesson.





Adapted from this post:


The Sin of Anti-Semitism   1 comment

Above: A Star of David in a Stained-Glass Window

Image Source = Roy Lindman



Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Romans 9:1-5 (Revised English Bible):

I am speaking the truth as a Christian; my conscience, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, assures me that I do not lie when I tell you that there is great grief and unceasing sorrow in my heart.  I would even pray to be an outcast myself, cut off from Christ, if it would help my brothers, my kinsfolk by natural descent.  They are descendants of Israel, chosen to be God’s sons; theirs is the lgory of the law, the temple worship, and the promises.  The patriarchs are theirs, and from by natural descent came, the Messiah.  May God supreme above all, be blessed for ever!  Amen.

Psalm 147:13-21 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

13  Worship the LORD, O Jerusalem;

praise your God, O Zion;

14  For he has strengthened the bars of your gates;

he has blessed your children within you.

15  He has established peace on your borders;

he satisfies you with the finest wheat.

16  He sends out his command to the earth,

and his word runs very swiftly.

17  He gives snow like wool;

he scatters hoarfrost like ashes.

18  He scatters his hail like bread crumbs;

who can stand against his cold?

19  He sends forth his word and melts them;

he blows with his wind, and the waters flow.

20  He declares his word to Jacob,

his statutes and his judgments to Israel.

21  He has not done so to any other nation;

to them he has not revealed his judgments.


Luke 14:1-6 (Revised English Bible):

One sabbath he [Jesus] went to have a meal in the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they were watching him closely.  There, in front of him, was a man suffering from dropsy, and Jesus asked the lawyers and the Pharisees:

Is it permittted to heal people on the sabbath or not?

They said nothing.  So he took the man, cured him, and sent him away.  Then he turned to them and said,

If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well, will he hesitate to pull him out on the sabbath day?

To this they could find no reply.


The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Luke 13 (Similar to Luke 14):

Luke 6 (Similar to Luke 14):

Mark 3 (Similar to Luke 14):

Romans 9:


Anti-Semitism has overlapped with Christianity since the earliest decades of the latter.  Witness the anti-Jewish virulence in the Gospel of John, for example.  There is also palpable resentment against the Jews evident in the text of the Gospel of Matthew.  So, due to resentments, misunderstandings (some of them born of this day’s reading from Luke 14), and learned hatred, professing Christians have despised, marginalized, murdered, and justified the murders of Jews for nearly two thousand years.  For example, when the “knights” of the First Crusade headed off to kill Muslims (among others) in the Holy Land, they stopped to muder European Jews first.  God, they thought, approved of all this.

If people had thought independently, however, they might have considered a few facts:

  • Jesus was Jewish.
  • The Apostles were Jewish.
  • Paul of Tarsus was Jewish.
  • Paul of Tarsus was not Anti-Semitic.

Anti-Semitism is a sin in any form, at any place, at any time.  The Jews are, as the Blessed Pope John Paul II said, our elder brothers and sisters in faith.  I, as a Gentile, am a limb grafted onto their tree.  Judaism and Christianity are distinct religions; this is a simple fact.  Yet there need be no animosity between them.

Yet let us be clear about what is and what is not Anti-Semitic.  Rendering an honest and well-thought-out critique of policies of the State of Israel is not Anti-Semitic, but saying that one has a duty to destroy that nation-state is.  Too often we humans flit about from one extreme to another.  Christian guilt over thousands of years of Anti-Semitism ought not lead to giving a certain nation-state carte blanche, free of criticism.  In plain language, the Palestinians have rights, too.  They have these rights because they are also human beings created in the image of God.

My dream is one of a world in which all of us, regardless of our ethnic or religious backgrounds, will recognize each other’s basic human rights and respect each other.  When we disagree, we will do so respectfully.  Jesus, a practicing Jew, would approve.






Adapted from this post:


Posted May 9, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Islam, Psalm 147, Romans 9

Tagged with , ,

Legalism Versus Compassion   1 comment

Above:  Bypass Near Mecca, Saudi Arabia (So Non-Muslims Will Not Enter Mecca)

Image Source = Saicome



Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Ezra 9:5-9 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

At the time of the evening offering I ended my self-affliction; still in my torn garment and robe, I got down on my knees and spread out my hands to the LORD my God, and said,

O my God, I am too ashamed and mortified to lift my face to You, O my God, for our iniquities are overwhelming and our guilt has grown high as heaven.  From the time of our fathers to this very day we have been deep in guilt.  Because of our iniquities, we, our kings, and our priests have been handed over to foreign kings, to the sword, to captivity, to pillage, and to humiliation, as is now the case.

But now, for a short while, there has been a reprieve from the LORD our God, who has granted us a surviving remnant and given us a stake in His holy place; our God has restored the luster of our eyes and furnished us with a little sustenance in our bondage.  For bondsmen we are, though even in our bondage God has not forsaken us, but has disposed the king of Persia favorably toward us, to furnish us with sustenance and to raise again the House of our God, repairing its ruins and giving us a hold in Judah and Jerusalem….


Canticle 11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Isaiah 60:1-3, 11a, 14c, 18-19, followed by the Trinitarian formula:

Arise, shine, for your light has come,

and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.

For behold, darkness covers the land;

deep gloom enshrouds the peoples.

But over you the Lord will rise,

and his glory will appear upon you.

Nations will stream to your light,

and kings to the brightness of our dawning.

Your gates will always be open;

by day or night they will never be shut.

They will call you, The City of the Lord,

The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.

Violence will no more be heard in your land,

ruin or destruction within your borders.

You will call your walls, Salvation,

and all your portals, Praise.

The sun will no more be your light by day;

by night you will not need the brightness of the moon.

The Lord will be your everlasting light,

and your God will be your glory.

Glory to the Father, and the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

or this:

Psalm 48 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised;

in the city of our God is his holy hill.

2 Beautiful and lofty, the joy of all the earth, is the hill of Zion,

the very center of the world and the city of the great King.

God is in her citadels;

he is known to be her sure refuge.

Behold, the kings of the earth assembled

and marched forward together.

5 They looked and were astonished;

they retreated and fled in terror.

Trembling seized them there;

they writhed like a woman in childbirth,

like ships of the sea when the east wind shatters them.

As we have heard, so have we seen,

in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God;

God has established her for ever.

8 We have waited in silence on your loving-kindness, O God,

in the midst of your temple.

Your praise, like your Name, O God, reaches to the world’s end;

your right hand is full of justice.

10 Let Mount Zion be glad

in the cities of Judah rejoice,

because of your judgments.

11 Make the circuit of Zion;

walk round about her;

count the number of her towers.

12 Consider well her bulwarks;

examine her strongholds;

that you may tell those who come after.

13 This God is our God for ever and ever;

he shall be our guide for ever more.


Luke 9:1-6 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.  He said to them,

Take nothing the journey; neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and let none of you take a spare tunic.  Whatever house you enter, stay there; and when you leave, let it be from there.  As for those who do not welcome you, when you leave the town shake the dust from your feet as a sign to them.

So they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the Good News and healing everywhere.


The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


I suppose that the planners of this lectionary paired the Ezra and Luke readings with the intention that the reader would focus on depending on God and giving thanks for divine patience in the face of protracted human disobedience.  Following that plan is not my intention today.

I do not like the Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah books, for they are too nationalistic and prone to whitewashing for my comfort.  In contrast, the books of Samuel and Kings are brutally honest. There we read about the sins of King David, for example.  And there we learn of a civil war between the forces of Saul (and his successor) and those of David.  But there is no civil war after Saul’s death, at least in Chronicles.

And then there is the matter of intermarriage in the Book of Ezra.  This is why Ezra is beside himself.  And, after the reading ends, the expulsion of Gentile wives and children ensues.  This is a profoundly disturbing episode in the Bible, and the Book of Ezra presents it in a positive light.

Maybe my current preoccupation with the importance of family, due in part to my awareness of my family and the fragility of some of members thereof, accounts primarily for the extent of my objection to the episode from Ezra.  Yet I have long been uncomfortable with this text, and I refuse to think that I must believe certain ugly ideas because somebody who wrote part of the Bible espoused them.  Compassion, as I have written before on the blog, is the trump card.  And, if we cannot show compassion for our relatives, for whom can we do this?

In other words, what about the feelings and needs of the expelled wives and children?

Do not misunderstand me.  I grasp the concept that family ought to be where one hands down the faith.  If ever I leave my bachelorhood behind, I will seek a woman with spiritual values similar to my own.  But God loves Jews and Gentiles, people like “us” and people different from “us,” domestic-born and foreign-born–all alike.  Jesus, our Lord, cut through pure-impure distinctions during his ministry, making enemies along the way.  I seek to follow in his footsteps, not those of Ezra.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.







Adapted from this post:


Posted May 4, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Ezra 9, Isaiah 60, Islam, Luke 9, Psalm 48

Tagged with

Forgiveness, the Way of Peace and Freedom   1 comment

Above: Forgiveness

Image Source = AK Pastor




Exodus 14:19-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them. It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night.

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers. At the morning watch the LORD in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said,

Let us flee from the Israelites, for the LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.

Then the LORD said to Moses,

Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers.

So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the LORD tossed the Egyptians into the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained. But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.

Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great work that the LORD did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the LORD and believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.

Psalm 114 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

When Israel came out of Egypt,

the house of Jacob from a people of strange speech,

2 Judah became God’s sanctuary

and Israel his dominion.

3 The sea beheld it and fled;

Jordan turned and went back.

The mountains skipped like rams,

and the little hills like young sheep.

5 What ailed you, O sea, that you fled?

O Jordan, that you turned back?

6 You mountains, that you skipped like rams?

you little hills like young sheep?

Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,

at the presence of the God of Jacob,

8 Who turned the hard rock into a pool of water

and flint-stone into a flowing spring.

Or this alternative to Psalm 114:

Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously;

horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.

The LORD is my strength and my might,

and he has become my salvation;

this is my God, and I will praise him,

my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

The LORD is a warrior;

the LORD is his name.

Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he cast into the sea;

his picked officers were sunk in the Red Sea.

The floods covered them;

they went down into the depths like a stone.

Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power–

your right hand, O LORD, shattered the enemy.

In the greatness of your majesty you overthrew your adversaries;

you sent out your fury, it consumed them like stubble.

At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up,

the floods stood up in a heap;

the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.

The enemy said,

I will pursue, I will overtake,

I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.

I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.

You blew with your wind, the sea covered them;

they sank like lead in the mighty waters.

Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods?

Who is like you, majestic in holiness,

awesome in splendor, doing wonders?

Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing.  And Miriam sang to them:

Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously;

horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.


Genesis 50:15-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said,

What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?

So they approached Joseph, saying,

Your father gave this instruction before he died, “Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.” Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.

Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said,

We are here as your slaves.

But Joseph said to them,

Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.

In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.

Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits.

3 He forgives all your sins

and heals all your infirmities;

He redeems your life from the grave

and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness;

5 He satisfies you with good things,

and your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.

6 The LORD executes righteousness

and judgment for all who are oppressed.

7 He made his ways known to Moses

and his works to the children of Israel.

The LORD is full of compassion and mercy,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

He will not always accuse us,

nor will he keep his anger for ever.

10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,

nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,

so is his mercy great upon those who fear him.

12 As far as the east is from the west,

so far has he removed our sins from us.

13 As a father cares for his children,

so does the LORD care for those who fear him.


Romans 14:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written,

As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,

and every tongue shall give praise to God.

So then, each of us will be accountable to God.


Matthew 18:21-35 (New Revised Standard Version):

Peter came and said to Jesus,

Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?

Jesus said to him,

Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.” Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, `Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

The Collect:

O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Sometimes the readings for any given Sunday, according to the Revised Common Lectionary, fit together smoothly.  Other times, however, they do not.  This happens most often during the Season after Pentecost.  The readings from Genesis, Romans, and Matthew mesh well, for they pertain to forgiveness.  But where is the forgiveness (especially for the Egyptians) in the Exodus lections?

I have written on the subject of forgiveness at least several times on my devotional blogs, for the lectionaries I have chosen to follow touch on this subject again and again.  What I have written stands; this is difficult for me.  Here is a prayer I wrote on February 27, 2011:

Gracious God, why is forgiving so difficult?

I know what I need to do, and I want to do it–

except when I do not want to do it.

Forgive me for this sin, I ask you,

and bestow grace upon me sufficient to enable me

to forgive others and myself,

so to live in Godly liberation with you and my fellow human beings.


Link =

On a different aspect, however…

Yesterday I taught another session of my World Civilization II course for Gainesville State College.  I spent most of the time discussing Islam, the Ottoman Empire, the Safavid Empire, and Western imperialism in the Middle and Near East, as well as indigenous reactions and responses to it.  One of the reactions was Wahhabism, the legacy of which includes the attacks of September 11, 2001.  I told the gathered students that resentments which flow from being on the colonial end of imperialism are understandable, but that resentment which festers for too long turns poisonous.  It devours the person who harbors the resentment(s) and therefore affects those around him or her.  And sometimes, as in the case of the Islamic Republic of Iran, it it consumes a nation.  And, in the case of 9/11, it strikes far overseas.  How much better would world history have played out had more people combined forgiveness with their nationalism, instead of mixing militant religion with it?

But two wrongs do not make a right, and one person’s intolerance does not excuse corresponding intolerance.  The proper extinguishing agents for hatred are love and forgiveness, for they break the cycle.  If we do not break the cycle of hatred and violence, it will break us.  God offers us freedom in forgiveness; may we accept it and extend it ourselves and each other.





Adapted from this post:


Leaving Judgment to God, Part II   2 comments

Above:  Tares



Genesis 28:10-19a (New Revised Standard Version):

Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the LORD stood beside him and said,

I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.

Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said,

Surely the LORD is in this place– and I did not know it!

And he was afraid, and said,

How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.

So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel.

Psalm 139:1-11, 22, 23 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 LORD, you have searched me out and known me;

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

You trace my journeys and my resting-places

and are acquainted with all my ways.

Indeed, there is not a word on my lips,

but you, O LORD, know it altogether.

You press upon me behind and before

and lay your hand upon me.

5 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

6 Where can I go then from your Spirit?

where can I flee from your presence?

If I climb up to heaven, you are there;

if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

9 Even there your hand will lead me

and your right hand hold me fast.

10 If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me,

and the light around me turn to night,”

11 Darkness is not dark to you;

the night is as bright as the day;

darkness and light to you are both alike.

22 Search me out, O God, and know my heart;

try me and know my restless thoughts.

23 Look well whether there be any wickedness in me

and lead me in the way that is everlasting.


Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

For neither is there any god besides you,

whose care is for all people,

to whom you should prove that you have judged unjustly….

For your strength is the source of righteousness,

and your sovereignty over all causes you to spare all.

For you show your strength when people doubt the completeness of your power,

and you rebuke any insolence among those who know it.

Although you are sovereign in strength, you judge with mildness,

and with great forbearance you govern us;

for you have power to act whenever you choose.

Through such works you have taught your people

that the righteous must be kind,

and you have filled your children with good hope,

because they give repentance for sins.

Or This First Reading:

Isaiah 44:6-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

Thus says the LORD, the king of Israel,

and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts;

I am the first and I am the last,

besides me there is no god.

Who is like me?  Let them proclaim it,

let them declare and and set if forth before me.

Who has announced from of old the things to come?

Let them tell us what is yet to be?

Do not fear, or be afraid;

have I not told you from of old and declared it?

You are my witnesses!

Is there any god besides me?

There is no other rock; I know not one.

Then This:

Psalm 86:11-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11 Teach me your way, O LORD,

and I will walk in your truth;

knit my heart to you that I may fear your Name.

12 I will thank you, O LORD my God, with all my heart,

and glorify your Name for evermore.

13 For great is your love toward me;

you have delivered me from the nethermost Pit.

14 The arrogant rise up against me, O God,

and a band of violent men seeks my life;

they have not set you before their eyes.

15 But you, O LORD, are gracious, and full of compassion,

slow to anger, and full of kindness and truth.

16 Turn to me and have mercy upon me;

give your strength to your servant;

and save the child of your handmaid.

17 Show me a sign of your favor,

so that those who hate me may see it and be ashamed;

because you, O LORD, have helped me and comforted me.


Romans 8:12-25 (New Revised Standard Version):

Brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh– for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry,

Abba! Father!

it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ– if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.


Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus put before the crowd another parable:

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying,

Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.

He answered,

The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

The Collect:

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


The reading from Genesis occurs also here:  I refer you, O reader, to that post for a different emphasis.


The tares were probably darnel, a species of plant parasitic to wheat.  Darnel looks very much like wheat, with the distinction becoming clear beyond a shadow of a doubt when the ear develops.  So premature weeding of a wheat field containing darnel will lead to the destruction of wheat.

During the First Crusade (1096-1099) against the Muslims, many Crusaders killed Jews in Europe and Christians in Asia, as well as Muslims in many cities.  These Crusaders did all this in the name of God and Jesus.  They had a “kill them all and let God sort them out” mentality,” which is antithetical to divine compassion.

In 2002, in Statesboro, Georgia, I saw a horrifying bumper sticker.  It said,


Indignation over the attacks of September 11, 2001, was and is understandable, but nothing justifies the attitude in that bumper sticker.

Or shall I mention the Albigensian Crusade of 1209-1213, in which the Pope authorized mercenaries to slaughter the Cathar (Gnostic) heretics in France?  Men killed many people (not just Cathars and each other) and fought over land claims, to enrich themselves.  They did this in the name of God.

Who is darnel and who is wheat?  Do we even know which we are?  The parable from Matthew contains a powerful corrective lesson for those who presume to know the mind of God and to think they have the right to persecute and/or kill those they deem to be darnel.  Puritans in Seventeenth-Century New England hanged Quakers as a threat to society.  I think that the Quakers were the wheat and their executioners the darnel, but the Puritan authorities thought otherwise.  Alas, those who need to learn the lesson of this parable are the least likely to do so.

The Biblical texts, including those read this day, speak of divine judgment and mercy.  Both are attributes of God, who knows far more than we ever will.  And I dare say that God’s targeting is more exact than ours.  We tend to write people off when God gives them second, third, fourth, and fifth chances.  Consider Jacob, a schemer too clever for his own good and that of some people around him.  He had mystical encounters with God and matured spiritually, becoming the patriarch Israel, for whom the people and nation-state are named.  God did not write him off.  Jacob/Israel was wheat, not darnel, despite early appearances to the contrary.

There is great virtue in religious toleration and the separation of the state mechanisms and religious establishments.  When the church and the state (or the mosque and the state) become united, one becomes an arm of the other, which is detrimental.  James Madison, Father of the U.S. Constitution, believed fervently in the separation of church and state, mainly for the protection of the churches.  And theocracy is notoriously detrimental to dissenters, whom the establishment considers darnel.  But the theocrats act more like darnel than wheat–and always in the name of God.

As the Wisdom of Solomon 12:19 says,

…the righteous must be kind….

A great part of righteousness consists of loving our neighbors as ourselves and leaving divine judgments to God alone.  Otherwise, we run the risk of doing more harm than good.  We need not pretend to agree with others when we disagree with them, but civilized people can differ without resorting to persecution and bloodshed.  Besides, we are mistaken about some points, too, and those with whom we disagree are partially correct as well.  The judgment in this matter resides only with God.






Adapted from this post:


Of Gods and Men (2010)   2 comments

The Algerian Helicopter Gunship and the Monastic Chapel

(All images in this post are screen captures I took via the PowerDVD program and a rented disc.)



Lambert Wilson as Christian

Michael Lonsdale as Luc

Olivier Rabourdin as Christophe

Philippe Laudenbach as Celestin

Jacques Herlin as Amedee

Loic Pichon as Jean-Pierre

Xavier Maly as Michel

Jean-Marie Frin as Paul

Olivier Perrier as Bruno

Directed by Xavier Beauvois

French with English Subtitles

Rated PG-13 in the United States

2 hours, 2 minutes long


In 1996, fundamentalist Islamic terrorists kidnapped a group of French Trappist monks in Algeria.  The precise circumstances of these men’s death remains uncertain, but their demise apparently involved beheading.  The terrorists did not abduct all members of the religious community.  This fact, I presume, explains how we know what happened until the kidnapping.  Of Gods and Men is the story of the Trappist monks.

Early Morning Prayer

The movie opens in 1995.  The monks form a community in and of themselves.  They support each other, pray and worship together, and even argue among themselves.  But they do more than pray and garden, not that those are bad activities.

Brother Luc, the Doctor

Brother Luc, a doctor, tends to patients most days.  Some days, he sees up to 150 people from the adjacent village, in fact.  He cannot get out much, due to physical infirmity, so the patients come to him.

Brother Luc, the Counselor

Luc also functions as a counselor.

Community Counseling

The monks’ Muslim neighbors turn to them for prayer and advice, which the gentle monks are glad to offer.  Militant, violent fundamentalists have become active in the area, much to the disapproval of the villagers.  The monks are, in fact, integral to the village, for they also attend family functions and other social events there.   Here we see Brother Christian, abbot of the monastery, and a fellow monk speaking with some village elders.

Turning to God and Each Other

The monks are in great danger from both the terrorists and the Algerian military.  The monastics have a way out, for they can transfer to another monastery.  But, if they do this, what will become of the impoverished villagers next door? And, if they stay, the monks risk martyrdom.

Inner Peace

We already know how the story ends.  So the real drama lies in the journey.  How do the monks make peace with the real possibility of violent death for their faith?  And by which paths do those who initially supported leaving come to agree to remain in harm’s way?

The journey of faith can be a difficult one, depending on circumstances.  One IMDb reviewer, while praising the movie, wrote that the monks were not saints, as if saints are perfect.  I propose that the monks were saints, warts and all.  They struggled, some more than others, but concluded that, if the path of following Christ leads to their martyrdom, so be it.  I harbor serious doubts whether I would have made the same decision.

Brother Christian, who died, left behind a written final testimony.  Here is the English translation:

Should it ever befall me, and it could happen today, to be a victim of the terrorism swallowing up all foreigners here, I would like my community, my church, my family, to remember that my life was given to God and to his country. That the Unique Master of all life was no stranger to this brutal departure. And that my death is the same as so many other violent ones, consigned to the apathy of oblivion. I’ve lived enough to know, I am complicit in the evil that, alas, prevails over the world and the evil that will smite me blindly. I could never desire such a death. I could never feel gladdened that these people I love be accused randomly of my murder. I know the contempt felt for the people here, indiscriminately. And I know how Islam is distorted by a certain Islamism. This country, and Islam, for me are something different. They’re a body and a soul. My death, of course, will quickly vindicate those who call me naïve or idealistic, but they must know that I will be freed of a burning curiosity and, God willing, will immerse my gaze in the Father’s and contemplate with him his children of Islam as he sees them. This thank you which encompasses my entire life includes you, of course, friends of yesterday and today, and you too, friend of last minute, who knew not what you were doing. Yes, to you as well I address this thank you and this farewell which you envisaged. May we meet again, happy thieves in Paradise, if it pleases God the Father of us both. Amen. Insha’Allah.

I invite you, O reader, to spend two quality hours with this movie.  May it deepen your faith, or perhaps help you find it.





Adapted from this post:


Posted March 30, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Faith and Media, Islam

Tagged with