Archive for the ‘Song of Songs 2’ Category

The Presence of God, Part VI   1 comment

Above:  Caesar’s Coin, by Peter Paul Rubens

Image in the Public Domain


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


Song of Songs 2:8-13 or Isaiah 59:1-4, 7-14, 20-21

Psalm 34:11-22

1 Corinthians 12:12-31

Matthew 22:15-33


The Song of Songs is a text between a man and a woman, lovers, perhaps married.  They are in mortal danger because of their love.  I reject overly metaphorical interpretation of the book, such as it is between YHWH and Israel or Christ and the Church.  Nevertheless, the affirmation that God is present in the details of our lives does sacramentalize them.

Speaking of our lives, we Christians have the calling to fulfill our roles in the Church, the body of Christ.  We are all important in that respect.  If we do not do our part, we diminish the Church.

The readings from which Isaiah 59 and Psalm 34 complement each other.  God does not separate Himself from us.  No, we separate ourselves from God.  We do this collectively and individually.  We do this via rife injustice.  We do this via idolatry.  We do this via violence.  These sins have consequences in this life and the next one, we read, but God remains faithful and merciful.  Divine judgment comes bound up with divine mercy, however.

Speaking of idolatry, what was one of our Lord and Savior’s supposedly devout adversary doing with that idolatrous, blasphemous Roman coin?  The Pharisaic trick question was, in the mind of the man who asked it, supposed to entrap Jesus, who might sound like a traitor by advising against paying the Roman head tax or might offend Zealots, Jewish nationalists.  The empire had instituted the head tax in the province of Judea in 6 C.E.  The tax had prompted insurrection.  The tax’s existence contributed to the First Jewish War, after the time of Jesus and before the composition of the Gospel of Matthew.  The tax was payable only in Roman coinage.  At the time of the scene the coinage bore the image of Caesar Tiberius (I) and the inscription (in Latin) translated

Tiberius Caesar, august son of the divine Augustus, high priest.

Jesus found the middle way and turned the tables, so to speak, on those seeking to ensnare him in his words.

Another trick question followed.  Some Sadducees, who rejected belief in the afterlife, asked a question, rooted in levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).  At the time of the writing of that law, the concept of the afterlife was not part of Judaism.  Those Sadducees had missed the point and weaponized scripture.  Jesus challenged their religious authority.

Tip:  Do not attempt to entrap Jesus in his words.

If we will trust God to help us lead holy lives mindful of the divine presence in all details, especially those we might think of as mundane or not sacred yet not bad, we will find sacred meaning in tasks as simple as housework.  We will also be too busy finding such meaning that we will not act like those people condemned in Isaiah 59 or those who attempted to ensnare Jesus verbally.  No, we will be too busy being aware of living in the presence of God to do any of that.









Adapted from this post:



The Corporeal and the Spiritual   2 comments

Jesus Bookmark

Above:  A Jesus Bookmark

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor


The Collect:

Almighty and eternal God,

the strength of those who believe and the hope of those who doubt,

may we, who have not seen,

have faith in you and receive the fullness of Christ’s blessing,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 32


The Assigned Readings:

Song of Songs 2:8-15 (5th Day)

Song of Songs 5:9-6:3 (6th Day)

Song of Songs 8:6-7 (7th Day)

Psalm 16 (All Days)

Colossians 4:2-5 (5th Day)

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (6th Day)

John 20:11-20 (7th Day)


Some Related Posts:

Song of Songs:

Colossians 4:

1 Corinthians 15:

John 20:


My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;

my body also shall not rest in hope.

–Psalm 16:9, Book of Common Worship (1993)


The Song of Songs, I heard growing up, is about the relationship between Christ and the Church.  Balderdash!  There is also a Jewish allegorical interpretation which claims that the book is about the relationship between God and Israel.  I do not accept that either.  No, the Song of Songs is exactly what it appears to be–a series of poetic texts about a love affair between a man and a woman who may or may not be married to each other but who are in danger because of their love.

Hence the Song of Songs is about human erotic relationships.  And it belongs in the Canon of Jewish and Christian Scripture.  As J. Coert Rylaardsdam writes in Volume 10 (1964) of The Layman’s Bible Commentary:

Its [the Song of Songs’] respect for life is expressed in the savoring of it; and it is this that makes it a very important commentary on the meaning of the confession that God is the Creator of all things.  The presence of the Song in Scripture is a most forceful reminder that to confess God as Creator of all things visible and invisible is to deny that anything is “common” (see Acts 10:9-16) or, to use the cliché of today, “secular.”  This book teaches that all life is holy, not because we, as Christians, make it so, but because it is made and used by the living God.

–page 140

If that analysis seems odd to one, that fact indicates a different worldview than the Song’s authors had.  As Rylaardsdam writes on page 138:

The people who wrote the Bible had no equivalent of our notion of the “secular”; they did not separate the natural from the sacred as we often do, for they took very seriously the confession of God as Creator of all.

As Dr. Amy-Jill Levine says in her 2001 Teaching Company Course, The Old Testament, much of what was normative in biblical times has ceased to be so.  That is certainly true for those of us in the global West, shaped by the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment.  Modernity differs greatly from antiquity, in ways both good and bad.

Much of the Christian tradition–including the legacy of St. Paul the Apostle, a great evangelist who suffered much, to the point of martyrdom–contains discomfort with the corporeal.  Human bodies can be messy and otherwise unpleasant, to be sure, but their potential for temptation has attracted much attention.  Much of Christian tradition has obsessed about the latter fact excessively, even encouraging a universal, false dichotomy between the flesh and the spirit–a dichotomy absent from the Song of Songs.

That frequent and erroneous distrust of the flesh has influenced the Christology of many people negatively, leading them to commit heresy.  To say that Jesus was fully human and fully divine is easy.  To deal with the “fully divine” aspect of that formulation can prove relatively uncontroversial.  Yet to unpack the “fully human” aspect holds the potential–often realized–to upset people.  In the early 1990s, for example, my father said in a sermon in southern Georgia, U.S.A., that Jesus had a sense of humor.  One lady, a longtime member of the congregation, took offense, claiming that he had insulted her Jesus.

Yet the Incarnation is about both the corporeal and the spiritual.  And the resurrected Jesus was no phantom, for he had a physical form.  The Incarnation means several things simultaneously.  Among them is an affirmation of the goodness of creation, including human physicality.  If that physicality makes us uncomfortable–if we perceive it as antithetical to spiritual well-being–we have a spiritual problem, one of erroneous categories and at least on false dichotomy.








Adapted from this post:


Song of Songs and Gospel of John, Part I: That Which Offends (More)   1 comment


Above:  Pool of Bethesda, Jerusalem, June 12, 1839, by David Roberts

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:

Song of Songs 1:1-2:7 (May 18)

Song of Songs 2:8-3:11 (May 19)

Song of Songs 4:1-5:1 (May 20)

Psalm 103 (Morning–May 18)

Psalm 5 (Morning–May 19 and 20)

Psalms 117 and 139 (Evening–May 18)

Psalms 84 and 29 (Evening–May 19 and 20)

John 5:1-18 (May 18)

John 5:19-29 (May 19)

John 5:30-47 (May 20)


Some Related Posts:

John 5:


In John 5, the unity of which I have maintained, Jesus committed a good deed.  He did this on the Sabbath, a fact which made some especially strict interpreters of the Law uncomfortable.  And he spoke of himself in ways which sounded blasphemous to them.  The penalty for blasphemy, according to the Law of Moses, was death.

What makes us uncomfortable?  And which input makes us more uncomfortable than other input?  What do these facts say about us?  Consider Psalm 139:18-21 (1979 Book of Common Prayer), for example:

Oh, that you would slay the wicked, O God!

You that thirst for blood, depart from me.

They speak despitefully against you;

your enemies take your Name in vain.

Do I not hate those, O LORD, who hate you?

And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?

I hate them with a perfect hatred;

they have become my own enemies.

Then there is Psalm 137:9 (1979 Prayer Book):

Happy shall be he who takes your little ones,

and dashes them against the rock.

Those passages–and many others in the Bible–should make one uncomfortable.  Accounts of massacres depicted as God’s will cause me to squirm in my seat.

But do such passages make one more uncomfortable than love poetry?  Or does love poetry make one more uncomfortable?  The Song of Songs seems to be exactly what it appears to be:  love poetry.  There is nothing exploitative about it, and the two lovers are consenting adults.  Allegorical interpretations seem like stretches to me.  They look like attempts to make the Song of Songs seem like something it is not.

I think that often, in certain cultures and subcultures, people are more prudish about love and sexuality than squeamish about violence.  Our bodies, with their orifices, fluids, and urges, both repel and attract us.  Yet here we are, in our physical form.  And, if we focus so much on the spirit as to think negatively of the body, how far removed are we from Gnosticism?

So, which option–the means of leaving this life or the method of coming into it–offends us or offends us more?  And what does one’s answer to that question say about one?






Adapted from this post:


Hearers and Doers of the Word   1 comment

Above:  Tanya Allen (as Audrey) and Ken Finkleman (as George Findlay) from Campaign (1997), Episode #13 of The Newsroom (1996-1997)

This image is a screen captures I took via PowerDVD and a legal, purchased disc.

Hearers and Doers of the Word

The Sunday Closest to August 31

Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost




Song of Solomon 2:8-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

The voice of my beloved!

Look, he comes,

leaping upon the mountains,

bounding over the hills.

My beloved is like a gazelle

or a young stag.

Look, there he stands

behind our wall,

gazing in at the windows,

looking through the lattice.

My beloved speaks and says to me:

Arise, my love, my fair one,

and come away;

for now the winter is past,

the rain is over and gone.

The flowers appear on the earth;

the time of singing has come,

and the voice of the turtledove

is heard in our land.

The fig tree puts forth its figs,

and the vines are in blossom;

they give forth fragrance.

Arise, my love, my fair one,

and come away.

Psalm 45:1-2, 7-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  My heart is stirring with a noble song;

let me recite what I have fashioned for the king;

my tongue shall be the pen of a skilled writer.

2  You are the fairest of men;

grace flows from your lips,

because God has blessed you for ever.

7  You throne, O God, endures for ever and ever,

a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom;

you love righteousness and hate iniquity.

8  Therefore God, your God, has anointed you

with the oil of gladness above your fellows.

9  All your garments are fragrant with myrrh, aloes, and cassia,

and the music of strings from ivory palaces makes you glad.

10  Kings’ daughters stand among the ladies of the court;

on your right hand is the queen,

adorned with the gold of Ophir.


Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

Moses said:

So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the LORD, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the LORD your God with which I am charging you.

You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!” For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is whenever we call to him? And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?

But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children.

Psalm 15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 LORD, who may dwell in your tabernacle?

who may abide upon your holy hill?

Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right,

who speaks the truth from his heart.

3 There is no guile upon his tongue;

he does no evil to his friend;

he does not heap contempt upon his neighbor.

In his sight the wicked is rejected,

but he honors those who fear the LORD.

5 He has sworn to do no wrong

and does not take back his word.

6 He does not give his money in hope of gain,

nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things

shall never be overthrown.


James 1:17-27 (New Revised Standard Version):

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.

But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act-they will be blessed in their doing.

If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.


Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalemgathered around Jesus, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him,

Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?

He said to them,

Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

“This people honors me with their lips,

but their hearts are far from me;

in vain do they worship me,

teaching human precepts as doctrines.”

You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.

Then he called the crowd again and said to them,

Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.

The Collect:

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; 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 17, Year A:

Deuteronomy 4:

James 1:

Mark 7:

Matthew 15 (Parallel to Mark 7):

1 Peter 4:

New Every Morning is the Love:


Consider this:

…for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness….But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves….Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:  to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.–James 1:20a, 22, 27, New Revised Standard Version

and this:

For it is within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come:  fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.–Mark 7:21-23, New Revised Standard Version

and this:

But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life….–Deuteronomy 4:9a, New Revised Standard Version

and this:

Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.–1 Peter 4:8, New Revised Standard Version

Among my favorite television series is The Newsroom, all of which I own of DVDs.  Set in a Toronto, Ontario, television newsroom, the series focuses on George Findlay, an amoral (if not immoral) News Director, and his staff, most of which is also weak.  People lie to each other constantly, stab each other in the back, and put out a nightly news broadcast with mostly sensational content.  If it bleeds, it leads.  If it scares, it leads.  If it is mindless, it leads.  The writing of the series is sharp (drawing even from European art films), there is (mercifully) no laugh track, and the acting is spectacular.

The Newsroom presents a (hopefully) exaggerated view of human foibles, including some of those which contribute to one’s self-defilement.  One, alas, does not need to resort to fiction to find examples of destructive and defiling behaviors.  Sometimes all one has to do is review one’s own past or even one’s own present.

Checklist morality is the easy and bad way out.  Moral living consists of far more than doing X, Y, and Z, and not not doing A, B, and C.  Jesus boiled the Law of Moses down to two commandments, both about how we think, and therefore how we act.  If we love God fully and love our neighbors as ourselves, we will keep the law.  We will want to do right by our neighbors and by God, so we will act accordingly.  And, as we read in 1 Peter,

Love covers a multitude of sins.

If we nurture love, we will not feed unrighteous anger.

Anger is a powerful emotion.  Sometimes it sustains us in the short term, but it becomes spiritually toxic as time passes.  I have reached a point in my spiritual development that anger repels me most of the time.  Yes, there is righteous anger, the sort which Jesus expressed and which propels social reform movements.  (One should be angry about the denial of basic human rights, for example.)  But the anger which fuels much of alleged news programming on television and radio repels me, so I choose not to consume it.  I do this in a positive way, not an angry one.

The most effective way to be a hearer and a doer of the word of God in Jesus is to love God fully and and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  This is active, not theoretical.  This is something we must do daily.  What tone of voice, for example, do we use?  What do we say, and what do we leave unsaid?   What do we write, and what do we leave unwritten?  And do we leave our corner of the world a better place, or do we opt for sensationalism and inanity?  Do we respect others with our words and deeds?

It is that simple–and that challenging.





Adapted from this post:


The Victory Belongs to God Alone   1 comment

Above: Paul Writing His Epistles (1500s C.E. Painting)



Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67 (New Revised Standard Version):

The servant said to Laban,

I am Abraham’s servant. The LORD has greatly blessed my master, and he has become wealthy; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, camels and donkeys. And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and he has given him all that he has. My master made me swear, saying, `You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live; but you shall go to my father’s house, to my kindred, and get a wife for my son.’

I came today to the spring, and said, `O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going! I am standing here by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,” and who will say to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also” — let her be the woman whom the LORD has appointed for my master’s son.’

Before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah coming out with her water jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, `Please let me drink.’ She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder, and said, `Drink, and I will also water your camels.’ So I drank, and she also watered the camels. Then I asked her, `Whose daughter are you?’ She said, `The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her arms. Then I bowed my head and worshiped the LORD, and blessed the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to obtain the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son. Now then, if you will deal loyally and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so that I may turn either to the right hand or to the left.

And they called Rebekah, and said to her,

Will you go with this man?

She said,

I will.

So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,

May you, our sister, become thousands of myriads; may your offspring gain possession of the gates of their foes.

Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way. Now Isaac had come from Beer-lahai-roi, and was settled in the Negeb. Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming. And Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel, and said to the servant,

Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?

The servant said,

It is my master.

So she took her veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.


Psalm 45:11-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11 “Hear, O daughter; consider and listen closely;

forget your people and your father’s house.

12 The king will have pleasure in your beauty;

he is your master; therefore do him honor.

13 The people of Tyre are here with a gift,

the rich among the people seek your favor.”

14 All glorious is the princess as she enters;

her gown is cloth-of-gold.

15 In embroidered apparel she is brought to the king;

after her the bridesmaids follow in procession.

16 With joy and gladness they are brought,

and enter into the palace of the king.

17 “In place of fathers, O king, you shall have sons;

you shall make them princes over all the earth.

18 I will make your name to be remembered

from one generation to another;

therefore nations will praise you for ever and ever.”


Song of Solomon 2:8-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

The voice of my beloved!

Look, he comes,

leaping upon the mountains,

bounding over the hills.

My beloved is like a gazelle

or a young stag.

Look, there he stands

behind our wall,

gazing in at the windows,

looking through the lattice.

My beloved speaks and says to me:

Arise, my love, my fair one,

and come away;

for now the winter is past,

the rain is over and gone.

The flowers appear on the earth;

the time of singing has come,

and the voice of the turtledove

is heard in our land.

The fig tree puts forth its figs,

and the vines are in blossom;

they give forth fragrance.

Arise, my love, my fair one,

and come away.


Zechariah 9:9-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!

Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!

Lo, your king comes to you;

triumphant and victorious is he,

humble and riding on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim

and the war-horse from Jerusalem;

and the battle bow shall be cut off,

and he shall command peace to the nations;

his dominion shall be from sea to sea,

and from the River to the ends of the earth.

As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,

I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.

Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;

today I declare that I will restore to you double.

For I have bent Judah as my bow;

I have made Ephraim its arrow.

I will arouse your sons, O Zion,

against your sons, O Zion,

and wield you like a warrior’s sword.

Psalm 145:8-15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8 The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

9 The LORD is loving to everyone

and his compassion is over all his works.

10 All your works praise you, O LORD,

and your faithful servants bless you.

11 They make known the glory of your kingdom

and speak of your power;

12 That the peoples may know of your power

and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom;

your dominion endures throughout all ages.

14 The LORD is faithful in all his words

and merciful in all his deeds.

15 The LORD upholds all those who fall;

he lifts up those who are bowed down.


Romans 7:15-25a (New Revised Standard Version):

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good.  But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.  For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand.  For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law oat war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am!  Who will rescue from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.


Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said to the crowd,

To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,

“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;

we wailed, and you did not mourn.”

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.

At that time Jesus said,

I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

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.


Sometimes I can tie all lectionary readings for a day together neatly via a common thought.  This unifying theme might be easy or difficult to locate, but I can find it–much of the time.  Proper 9, Year A, is an exception to this rule.  So I state quickly that genuine romantic love between adult human beings, especially those bound to each other by the sacrament of marriage, is beautiful and that God is present there.  Now I move along to Zechariah, Paul, and Matthew.

I take these readings in chronological order.

The Book of Zechariah exists in two parts:  Chapters 1-8 and 9-14, each section having separate authorship.  Zechariah 9-14 contains prophesies about how God will deal with the Jewish people from the time of Hellenistic domination of the Holy Land to the coming of the Messiah.  The texts say that God will act, so the victory will belong to God.  Worthless shepherds will not obstruct these deeds, for God will replace them with a worthy shepherd, the Messiah.

Jesus, of course, was (and is) that Messiah.  People criticized him for many reasons:  he ate and drank too much or he fasted too much; he healed on the Sabbath; the man could not satisfy some people regardless of how good he was.  Some people will find fault with anyone, even Jesus.  But he was (and is) the Good Shepherd, and through him God has made atonement for sins.

Speaking of sins, Paul struggled with them.  I know this feeling, but I take it as more positive than negative.  The term “immoral” indicates that one knows the difference between right and wrong, and chooses the latter.  But “amoral” indicates that one cannot make the distinction.  At least the person who is immoral at least some to the time knows the difference, and God can work with that.  It is vital to try and to want to do the right thing.  We humans are deeply flawed, “but dust” as the Book of Psalms says, but we also bear the image of God (Genesis 1).  So we need to honor the divine image within ourselves and each other, and to trust God to help us distinguish between right and wrong, and to believe that God will help us choose what is correct.

Culture can affect our perceptions of morality, sometimes for the worse.  As a student of U.S. history, I know that many Antebellum Southerners thought that keeping slaves was moral, and that anyone who said or thought otherwise did not understand the Bible correctly.  Also, I have a book containing a 1954 sermon from Texas entitled “God the Original Segregationist.”  The pastor continued to sell copies of this sermon via the mail through at least 1971.  It is easy for me to point out these moral misunderstandings, but I am blind to my own.

So I read Paul’s confession and identify with it.  And I take comfort that the victory is God’s work, and that neither I nor anyone else will stand in its way.  But I hope I am not and will never be a would-be obstacle God must sweep aside.  No, I want to be on God’s side.  By grace, may as many of us as possible be there.






Adapted from this post:


The Mother of My Lord   1 comment

Above: Visitation, by Jacques Daret, Circa 1435


FIRST READING FOR YEARS A AND B:  Zephaniah 3:14-18a (Revised English Bible):

Zion, cry out for joy;

raise the shout of triumph, Israel;

be glad, rejoice with all your heart,

daughter of Jerusalem!

The LORD has averted your punishment,

has swept away your foes.

Israel, the LORD is among you as king;

never again need you fear disaster.

On that day this must be the message to Jerusalem:

Fear not, Zion, let not your hands hang limp.

The LORD your God is in your midst,

a warrior who will keep you safe.

He will rejoice over you and be glad;

he will show you his love once more;

he will exult over you with a shout of joy

as on a festal day.

FIRST READING FOR YEAR C:  Song of Songs 2:8-14 (Revised English Bible):


Hark!  My beloved!  Here he comes, bounding over mountains, leaping over the hills.

My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag.

There he stands outside the wall, peering in at the windows, gazing through the lattice.

My beloved spoke, saying to me:

Rise up my darling; my fair one, come away.

For see, the winter is past!  The rains are over and gone;

the flowers appear in the countryside; the season of birdsong is come,

and the turtle-dove’s cooing is heard in our land;

the green figs ripen on the fig trees and the vine blossoms give forth their fragrance.

Rise up, my darling; my fair one, come away.

RESPONSE:  Psalm 33:1-5, 20-22 (Revised English Bible):

Shout for joy in the LORD, you that are righteous;

praise comes well from the upright.

Give thanks to the LORD on the lyre;

make music to him on the ten-stringed harp.

Sing to him a new song;

strike up with all your skill and shout in triumph,

for the word of the LORD holds true,

and all his work endures.

He is a lover of righteousness and justice;

the earth is filled with the LORD’s unfailing love.

We have waited eagerly for the LORD;

he is our help and our shield.

In him our hearts are glad,

because we have trusted in his holy name.

LORD, let your unfailing love rest on us,

as we have put our hope in you.

GOSPEL:  Luke 1:39-45 (Revised English Bible):

Soon afterwards Mary set out and hurried away to a town in the uplands of Judah.  She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth.  And when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby stirred in her womb.  Then Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed in a loud voice,

God’s blessing is on you above all women, and his blessing is on the fruit of your womb.  Who am I, that the mother of my Lord should visit me?  I tell you, when your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby in my womb leapt for joy.  Happy is she who has faith that the Lord’s promise to her would be fulfilled!

The Collect:

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


This day’s readings consist of a combination of verse and prose poetry.  Sometimes the most appropriate contemplation of a wondrous event entails poetry.

I have spent the last few minutes typing the readings from a hardcover Bible and contemplating them along the way.  At this moment my contemplations take me to a spiritual place where words are woefully inadequate.  This, I think, is a healthy sign.  So I encourage you to ponder these lessons and let them take you to a profound spiritual place beyond words, and to exist there for a while.

May the peace of the incarnated God be with you now and always.






Adapted from this post:


Posted November 18, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Luke 1, Psalm 33, Song of Songs 2, Zephaniah 3