Archive for the ‘Gomorrah’ Tag

False Teachers, Part I   1 comment

Above:   The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, by John Martin

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


Genesis 19:1-8, 15-26, 30-38

Psalm 11

2 Peter 2:4-10a

Matthew 11:20-24


David Ackerman continues his grand tour of difficult passages of scripture.  The theme this time is judgment and mercy.

One should be careful to examine a passage of scripture closely.  In Genesis 19, for example, we read of (A) an equal-opportunity rape gang and (B) the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  The gang members do not care if their conquests are male, female, or angelic.  Furthermore, Lot, while being hospitable to his house guests, offers his two daughters to the gang instead.  Fortunately for the daughters, the gang had become fixated on “fresh fish.”  One might reasonably surmise, however, that Lot knew the character of his neighbors.  One might also question the character of the daughters, who went on to get their father drunk, seduce him, and have children with him.  Lot and his family are a disturbing group of people in Genesis.

Elsewhere in the assigned lessons we read of divine judgment on false teachers and those who follow them.  This judgment falls on the unrepentant, whether Jewish or Gentile.  Yet there is also mercy for the repentant, whether Jewish or Gentile.

These readings contain much material to make one squirm.  I refer to what is there, not what we merely think is present.  Genesis 19 is partially an origin story of the Amorites and the Moabites, whose founders were the products of subterfuge, drunkenness, and incest.  It is also partially a cautionary tale about the lack of hospitality.  What could be more inhospitable than seeking to seeking to rape someone?

Divine judgment and mercy are real, as are human misinterpretation of Bible stories.  May we turn of the autopilot mode that prevents us from studying passages seriously and transform us into false teachers.







Adapted from this post:


The Overnighters (2014)   1 comment

Overnighters 02

Above:  The Title Card of The Overnighters

A Screen Capture via PowerDVD



Directed by Jesse Moss

Rated PG-13

1 Hour, 42 Minutes

The Overnighters is a powerful documentary which reminds me of George Carlin‘s critique of the American Dream:  we call it that because we must be asleep to believe it.  The setting is Williston, North Dakota, an oil boomtown which the film presents as a place dominated by residents fearful of job seekers moving into the community.  The rapid change includes the presence of more job seekers (including desperate men with criminal records) than jobs.  Where will they sleep until they find work and housing?  And what, if anything, should the city government do to extend hospitality to them or to make the town a less inviting place?

The biblical commandment to extend hospitality is an order to save lives.  Violations of that command reside at the heart of Genesis 19 (Sodom and Gomorrah) and Matthew 25:31-46.  The Good Samaritan–an oxymoron in the opinions of many people in the original audience for the parable–extended hospitality to the brutalized traveler in Luke 10:25-37.  In that parable the main question is, who acted as a neighbor to the man on the road to Jericho?  The conclusion is that the Good Samaritan was that neighbor, and that we who encounter that story have a mandate from God to go and do likewise.

Overnighters 01

Above:  Jay Reinke Being Introspective

A Screen Capture via PowerDVD

Pastor Jay Reinke of Concordia Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) went and did likewise.  During the period of about two years (until the City of Williston shut down the Overnighters program) more than a thousand people slept in the church building and hundreds more slept in their cars, which they parked in the church’s parking lot.  The Overnighters program prompted much hostility in the community, opposition in the church, an exodus of members from the congregation, strained Reinke’s marriage, and filled much time he would have spent with this family otherwise.

The members of the Reinke family–all of them remarkable, generous, compassionate, and Christian people–made themselves vulnerable.  They did the right thing at the right time at the right place–even taking some of the Overnighters into their home.  Jay Reinke, the main figure in the documentary, admits to being a broken person (all people are broken, he says accurately) and questions his motives.  He also makes difficult decisions–sometimes making the wrong decisions–and finds that former allies have become bitter enemies.  Reinke is a mere mortal, for better and for worse–more of the former than the latter.  Who of us always makes good decisions, especially in difficult circumstances?  And who of us acts consistently out of pure motives?  I am not Reinke’s judge.  I conclude, in fact, that his greatest strength as a minister is his awareness of his weaknesses, for that helps him to recognize the potential in people and to reach out to assist them.  His cracks let the light in.

The documentary takes a dramatic turn in the final minutes, after the Overnighters program has ceased.  Reinke’s wife, who has known for years that he struggles with same-sex attraction, learns of a fairly recent infidelity which has led to extortion.  This revelation leads to Reinke’s public confession and the termination of his time as pastor at Concordia Lutheran Church, for The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod is officially homophobic.  The documentary informs us that Reinke is seeking work in the oil fields.  He has, in fact, found work as a salesman in that industry.  He can support his family, but he is not using his greatest gifts to do so.

The recent decline in oil and gasoline prices, which constitute good news for many of us, constitutes bad news for the oil industry in North Dakota.  I wonder how this reality will affect Reinke and many others working in that industry there.  I also hope that he will find a professional position which will permit him to support his family and to utilize his ministerial vocation, for that is where he belongs.  His story deserves a happy conclusion.

The Overnighters challenges me to ask myself if I would have acted hospitably in the context of the events of the documentary or if I would have acted out of fear.  Then it challenges me to look around where I am and ask myself if I am acting hospitably in the city where I reside.  Affirming pious principles is easier than acting according to them.






Judgment, Mercy, and Deliverance   1 comment


Above:  The Missal, by John William Waterhouse


The Assigned Readings:

Hosea 1:2-10 and Psalm 85


Genesis 18:20-32 and Psalm 138


Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)

Luke 11:1-13

The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; 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 12, Year A:

Proper 12, Year B:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Dedication:

Genesis 18:

Colossians 2:

Luke 11:


For though the LORD is high,

he regards the lowly;

but the haughty he perceives from far away.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,

you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies;

you stretch out your hand,

and your right hand delivers me.

–Psalm 138:6-7, New Revised Standard Version


Except when it does not.

Focusing mainly on examples from this Sunday’s readings, I write about the following.

  1. In Genesis 18 Abram talked God down to a minimum number of righteous inhabitants of Sodom to stave off divine destruction of that city.  Yet, a few chapters later, the patriarch did not argue for the life of his own son.  He argued for the lives of strangers but not that of his own son.  Sodom, of course, faced destruction; there were too few righteous people in a city with many equal-opportunity rapists.  And God did spare Isaac in Genesis 22.
  2. What did Hosea’s children do to deserve such names?  Jezreel means “God sows.”  Lo-ruhamah translates as “Not pitied.”  And Lo-ammi means “Not my people.”  Their names were, of course, symbolic of divine rejection of a people who had turned their backs on God.  Destruction of the unfaithful and the wicked is a biblical theme.  But I wonder what psychological harm the children of Hosea and Gomer suffered.
  3. There are, of course, numerous instances of martyrdoms and genocides from ancient times to current events.  Many of those who perished were righteous.  Often they died because of their fidelity to God.  And what about Jesus, sinless yet crucified?
  4. The Book of Job refutes (correctly) the simplistic formula whereby suffering results from one’s own sin and God spares all the righteous from harm.  The example of Jesus confirms this.

Speaking of Jesus, we read in Colossians that he overrides our assumptions regarding a number of issues.  Some of them do not apply one with a Western scientific worldview in the twenty-first century.  I do not, for example, share the Hellenistic assumption (referenced in Colossians) that elemental spirits govern the world.  No, I am a product of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment.  But other worldviews persist and I carry my own assumptions in my head.  Christ, we read in Colossians, overrides much–from schools of philosophy to erroneous cosmology.  It is Christ who, as we read in Luke 11, spoke of prayer and God’s attentiveness.

There is also judgment, of course.  That abounds in both Testaments.  So one ought not to focus so much on mercy and judgment as to minimize or ignore its opposite.  Besides, mercy for one party does mean judgment for another much of the time.  So, if one perceives that God has not delivered one, one might be in the wrong camp.  Or one might be impatient.  Or one might have a legitimate complaint against God.







Adapted from this post:


This is post #700 of this weblog.–KRT


The Faithfulness of God, Part I   1 comment

Above: The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, by John Martin (1854)


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.


Genesis 19:15-29 (An American Translation):

When dawn appeared, the angels urged Lot on saying,

Bestir yourself; take away your wife, and the two daughters that are at hand, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.

When he hesitated, the men, because of the LORD’s pity on him, seized his hand and those of his wife and his two daughters, and bringing them out, they left him outside the city.  After they had brought them outside, they said,

Fly for your life; do not look behind you, nor stop anywhere in the valley; fly to the hills, lest you be swept away.

Lot said to them,

O no sirs!  Your servant has indeed found favor with you, and great is the kindness that you have done me in saving my life, but I cannot possibly fly to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I perish.  Here is the town near enough to fly to, and quite small; pray, let me fly there (is it not small?) to save my life.

The LORD said to him,

See, I grant you this request as well, in that I will not overthrow the town of which you speak.  Hurry and fly there; for I can do nothing until you reach there.

Thus the name of the town came to be called Zoar [small].

Just as the sun rose over the earth and Lot entered Zoar, the LORD rained sulphur and fire from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah, devastating those cities and all the valley, with all the inhabitants of the cities and the vegetation on the land.  And Lot’s wife looked back, and had become a pillar of salt.

Lot’s Wife Pillar, Mount Sodom, Israel

Next morning when Abraham went early to the place where he had stood before the LORD, he gazed toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and all the region of the valley, and he saw smoke from the land rising like smoke from a kiln.

Thus it was that God remembered Abraham when he destroyed the cities of the valley, by sending Lot away from the catastrophe when he devastated the cities where Lot lived.

Psalm 26 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give judgment for me, O LORD,

for I have lived with integrity;

I have trusted in the LORD and have not faltered.

Test me, O LORD, and try me;

examine my heart and my mind.

3 For your love is before my eyes;

I have walked faithfully before you.

I have not sat with the worthless,

nor do I consort with the deceitful.

5 I have hated the company of evildoers;

I will not sit down with the wicked.

6 I will wash my hands in innocence, O LORD,

that I may go in procession round your altar,

Singing aloud a song of thanksgiving

and recounting all your wonderful deeds.

8 LORD, I love the house in which you dwell

and the place where your glory abides.

Do not sweep me away with sinners,

nor my life with those who thirst for blood,

10 Whose hands are full of evil plots,

and their right hand full of bribes.

11 As for me, I will live with integrity;

redeem me, O LORD, and have pity on me.

12 My foot stands on level ground;

in the full assembly I will bless the LORD.

Matthew 8:23-27 (An American Translation):

And he [Jesus] got into the boat, and his disciples with him.  And suddenly a terrific storm came up on the sea, so that the waves broke over the boat, but he remained asleep.  And they woke him, saying,

Save us, sir!  We are lost!

And he said to them,

Why are you afraid?  You have so little faith!

Then he got up and reproved the wind and the sea, and there was a great calm.  And the men were amazed and said,

What kind of man is this?  For the very winds and sea obey him!


The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


One of the challenges of following a lectionary can be identifying the common theme present in two or more readings from different parts of the Bible.  After consulting commentaries and pondering all that I have read in the readings and the commentaries, I have found the common thread:  Faithfulness to God is the path to life.  This faithfulness needs only to be present.  However, as Paul wrote in Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is spiritual death.  The wages of sin can also be physical death, and the punishment flows from the sin itself.  In other words, we reap what we sow.  God is faithful to those who are faithful to him.

Let us examine the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah carefully.  In Genesis 19:1-14, two angels arrive at Sodom, where Lot rescues them from would-be gang rapists.  The angels tell Lot that God will destroy Sodom and Gomorrah very shortly because, as Professor Richard Elliott Friedman translates verse 13,  they have “grown big before YHWH’s face.”

I pause at this point to ponder the importance of growing “big before YHWH’s face.”  Later in Chapter 19, YHWH permits Lot and his family to flee to Zoar, which is small, for safety.  (Two angels appear early in Chapter 19, and by chapter’s end, YHWH is there, too.  When did God show up, after disappearing between the end of Chapter 18 and the beginning of Chapter 19?  Following the bouncing ball can be challenging.)  Anyhow, I posit that growing “big before YHWH’s face” indicates spiritual arrogance, a lack of faithfulness.

There is an interesting feature in the Hebrew text of verse 15.  The word for punishment, as in “…or else you will be consumed in the punishment of the city,” means sin as well.  Sin and punishment are the same thing; consequences flow from actions, so we reap what we sow.

Lot is sufficiently hospitable to rescue the angels, strangers in Sodom, and, as Genesis 19:29 indicates, God saves Lot and family out of faithfulness to Abraham.  Indeed, Lot is a disturbing character, one who offers his two virgin daughters to the would-be gang rapists gathered outside his house (verse 8).  Fortunately for the daughters, the men are not interested.

But Lot is kind to the strangers, if not his own daughters, and the angelic guests offer him and his family a safe way out–if only they follow instructions.  Nobody must look back.  I suppose that curiosity about what is happening would inspire one to look back; we are a species of people who stare at the aftermath of car wrecks.

Biblical writers over many generations used Sodom and Gomorrah to demonstrate various points.  These include:

  • Repent, or be destroyed.
  • Sexual immorality (in all its forms) is wrong.  The first explicit link between homosexual acts and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah comes in Jude 7, however.
  • Any town that refuses to heed visitors bearing the word of God will face condemnation.
  • The failure to extend hospitality to strangers will lead to condemnation.
  • The neglect of the poor will lead to condemnation and destruction.

The word “Sodom” appears in the New Revised Standard Version 51 times.  For those of you who wish to follow up, here they are:

  • Genesis 10:19
  • Genesis 13:10, 12, and 13
  • Genesis 14:2, 8, 10-12, 17, 21, 22, and 26
  • Genesis 18:16, 20, and 26
  • Genesis 19:1, 4, 24, and 28
  • Deuteronomy 29:23
  • Deuteronomy 32:32
  • Isaiah 1:9 and 10
  • Isaiah 3:9
  • Isaiah 13:19
  • Jeremiah 23:14
  • Jeremiah 49:18
  • Jeremiah 50:40
  • Lamentations 4:6
  • Ezekiel 16:46, 48, 49, 53, 55, and 56
  • Amos 4:11
  • Zephaniah 2:9
  • 3 Maccabees 2:5
  • 2 Esdras 2:8
  • 2 Esdras 7:106
  • Matthew 10:15
  • Matthew 11:23 and 24
  • Luke 10:12
  • Luke 17:29
  • Romans 9:29
  • 2 Peter 2:6
  • Jude 7
  • Revelation 11:8

The reading from Matthew tells the familiar story of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee.  In all fairness to the Apostles, I would have been afraid, too.  I note also that Jesus said they had little faith, not no faith.  This is a difficult text, one with more possible interpretations than I dreamed possible before reading commentaries.  However, remaining consistent with my methodology of following a common thread between or among lectionary readings, I latch onto the “little faith” comment.  At least the Apostles had some faith.  Are we not like this much, if not most, of the time?  We have some faith and we know that we need more.  We believe, yet we need God to forgive us for our unbelief.  But a little faith is better than none, and from little faith much more can spring.  As the Book of Psalms says, God knows that we are “but dust.”

Reciprocity matters in a healthy relationship with God.  We will get much wrong, for we are fallible.  But, by grace, we can walk in the paths of righteousness more often than not.  We might save not only ourselves, but friends and family members, too.  But are we trying?  That is the first question.  Fortunately, God is faithful to those who are faithful to him.  And let us remember what Mother Teresa of Calcutta said about faithfulness:  God calls us to be faithful, not successful.

Certainly, how we treat others can be an outward sign of faithfulness.  If we love God with our essence and respect ourselves, following the Golden Rule will result in frequent acts of kindness.  To follow up on a previous devotion in this series, Jesus said that “you shall know them by their fruits.”  I add to this thought the entire Letter of James.

May we be faithful to God for the glory of God and out of awe of God and gratitude for all the wonderful deeds God has done.  And why not?  God is faithful.







Adapted from this post:


Honesty, Mercy, and Judgment   1 comment

Above: Abraham and the Three Angels (1865), by Gustave Dore


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.


Genesis 18:16-33 (An American Translation):

Setting out from there, the men directed their steps toward Sodom, while Abraham went with them to see them off.  Then the LORD thought,

Shall I hide what I am about to do from Abraham, seeing that Abraham is bound to become a great a powerful nation, and through him all the nations of the earth will invoke blessings on one another?  No, I will make it known to him, in order that he may give instructions to his sons and his family after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is good and right, so that the LORD may fulfill for Abraham what he promised them.

So the LORD said,

Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and their sin is very grace, I must go down and see whether or not their conduct entirely answers to the outcry against them that has reached me; I would know.

So the men departed from there, and went off to Sodom, while the LORD remained standing before Abraham.  Abraham then went up to him, and said,

Wilt thou really sweep away good along with bad?  Suppose there are fifty good men in the city, wilt thou really sweep it away, and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty good men that are in it?  Far be it from thee to do such a thing as this, to make the good perish along with the bad, so that good and bad fare alike!  Far be it from thee!  Shall not the judge of the whole earth himself act justly?

So the LORD said,

If I find in Sodom fifty good men, within the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.

Abraham rejoined,

Here I am venturing to speak to the LORD, and I mere dust ashes!  Suppose there are five short of the fifty good men; wouldst thou destroy the whole city by reason of the five?

He replied,

I will not destroy it, if I find forty-five there.

Once more he said to him,

Suppose only forty are to be found there?

He replied,

I will not do it for the sake of the forty.

Then he said,

Pray, let not my Lord be angry if I should say:  suppose only thirty are to be found there?

He said,

I will not do it, if I find thirty there.

He said,

Here I am venturing to speak to the LORD; suppose only twenty are to be found there?

He said,

I will not destroy it for the sake of the twenty.

Then he said,

Pray, let not my Lord be angry if I should speak just once more; suppose only ten are to be found there?

He said,

I will not destroy it for the sake of the ten.

As soon as he finished speaking to Abraham, the LORD went away, while Abraham returned home.

Psalm 103:1-10 (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.

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.

The LORD executes righteousness

and judgment for all who are oppressed.

7 He made his ways known to Moses

and all 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.

Matthew 8:18-22 (An American Translation):

Then Jesus, seeing a crowd about him, gave orders to cross over to the other side.  And a scribe came up and said to him,

Master, I will follow you wherever you are going!

And Jesus said to him,

Foxes have holes and wild birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head!

And another of his disciples said to him,

Let me first go, sir, and bury my father.

But Jesus said to him,

Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead!


The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Divine judgment and mercy are intertwined, and an honest response to God is essential for a healthy relationship with God.  This is my theme for this post.

There is an oft-repeated stereotype about God, as depicted in the Old Testament:  This is a vengeful, angry deity.  A stereotype is, by definition, an overgeneralization.  A certain statement is true sometimes, perhaps much of the time, but not all of the time.  So God does destroy Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 (the next chapter) but not before Abraham, who has come to realize to whom he is speaking (El Shaddai), and convinces God not to destroy Sodom if twenty righteous men live there.  So actions have consequences, but grace is still present.

In the Gospel of Matthew, with Jesus have finished healing several people, our Lord and Savior is preparing to get away from the crowd.  A scribe addresses him respectfully, saying “Master, I will follow you wherever you are going!”  Jesus replies honestly that he has “nowhere to lay his head.”  The cost of discipleship can be high, and Jesus is honest about this fact.  A second man says that he must bury his father, in accordance with an obligation sacred in Judaism.  Jesus rebuffs him.  What are we supposed to make of this?

Commentaries disagree.  Was the man sincere or not?  Had his father just died or was the man saying that he would follow Jesus in a few years, after his father had died and he had buried him?  Or did the man have to bury his father or just see to it that someone buried his father?  I posit that the text is vague on all these points.  Nevertheless, I propose that it is wise to interpret this exchange in the context of Matthew 10:37-39:

No one who loves father or mother more than me is worthy of me, and no one who will not take up his cross and follow me is worthy of me.  Whoever gains his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will gain it.

How is that for honesty?

Without pretending to have God in a box I can understand completely (for nobody does), I propose that honesty is the best policy with God.  May we approach the throne of grace with our intercessions, concerns, doubts, fears, and thanksgivings.  Consider the Book of Job; God speaks to only one character, Job, who is the only person who asks God questions.  Earlier in Genesis 18, Sarah denies having laughed, and God says matter-of-factly that yes, she did.  Yet she still becomes a mother.  If we cannot be ourselves with God, with whom can be genuine?







Adapted from this post:


Posted February 6, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 18, Matthew 10, Matthew 8, Psalm 103

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