Archive for the ‘St. Francis of Assisi’ Tag

The Faithfulness and Generosity of God, Part V   1 comment

Ruins of Corinth, 1898

Above:  Ruins of Corinth, Greece, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-07406


The Collect:

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus,

you are the city that shelters us, the mother who comforts us.

With your Spirit accompany us on our life’s journey,

that we may spread your peace in all the world,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41


The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 51:47-58 (Thursday)

Zechariah 14:10-21 (Friday)

Psalm 66:1-9 (Both Days)

2 Corinthians 8:1-7 (Thursday)

Luke 9:1-6 (Friday)


Nations, bless our God,

let the sound of his praise be heard;

he brings us to life

and keeps our feet from stumbling.

–Psalm 66:8-9, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)


That is the vision in Zechariah 14.  God is the king of the earth in that vision, but many people continue to resist.  Their fate, which verses 12-14 describe vividly, will be unpleasant.  Yet those who follow God will have a different fate.  Judgment and mercy exist in balance in this reading, as well as in Jeremiah 51:47-58, which predicted God’s judgment on the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire for its idolatry, violence, and hubris yet deliverance for exiles.

Certain judgments always remain in the purview of God, who knows far more than any of we mere mortals can ever aspire to comprehend.  Our Lord and Savior instructed his Apostles to leave places where they encountered rejection, for God would handle the situation from that time forward.  That advice applies to messengers of God today.  We should proclaim the good news of Christ.  Those who reject this message of grace are worse off for the rejection, but that is a matter for God to handle.  We have good news to proclaim; may we focus on that task, wherever it takes us.

As St. Francis of Assisi said, “Proclaim the gospel at all times; use words when necessary.”  One way of preaching grace is demonstrating it, as in 2 Corinthians 8:1-7.  There was a collection for the church at Jerusalem.  Macedonian churches, afflicted with poverty, had given generously.  The challenge to the Corinthian church was to give generously also.  Doing so would prove the genuineness of their love for strangers and fellow Christians.

I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their want, so that their abundance may supply your want, that there may be equality.  As it is written, “He who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered had no lack.”

–Chapter 8, verses 13-15, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

Hubris goes before the fall, but active compassion builds up others.  There is more than enough for everyone to have enough; scarcity is a human creation.  In the divine order abundance, not scarcity, is the rule.  Grace, for example, is abundant.  Do we really affirm that truth?  If we do, we will not seek to horde it for ourselves, but we will share it selflessly, and we will find that we always have more to give, for the glory of God and the benefit of others.





Adapted from this post:


Best Wishes for the New Year I   Leave a comment


Above:  Happy New Year Lithograph, 1876

Lithograph Creator = Currier and Ives

Image Source = Library of Congress


Reproduction Number = LC-USZC2-2550


May God be gracious to us and bless us

and make his face to shine upon us,

that your saving way may be known upon earth,

your saving power among all nations.

Let the peoples of the earth praise you, O God;

let all the peoples praise you.

–Psalm 67:1-3, The New Revised Standard Version


What is the chief end of man?

Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

–The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question #1, from The Book of Confessions, The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (1967)


To make then, after a certain amount of effort to keep them, break new year resolutions is a familiar pattern.  Yet the changing of the year does mark a helpful occasion to take stock and decide to make necessary changes.  My thoughts turn not toward dieting, going to the gym, or a host of other specific tasks but to principles, the expressions of which vary from person to person and circumstance to circumstance.

Each of us depends upon each other daily and is responsible to and for others in all tasks.  And all of us depend upon God for everything.  The popular lie of rugged individualism does not prove helpful in living properly.  Yes, personal initiative is crucial, but one needs help becoming what God has made one to become.  Thus may you, O reader, have all the help you need to become what you ought to become.  And may you, when God dictates, provide all such aid possible to any other person.

May you walk with God daily and grow spiritually, fulfilling St. Francis of Assisi’s advice to preach the gospel always, using words when necessary.

May God bless others through you in ways small, medium, and large.

May you glorify God and enjoy him forever.

May you increase in love and decrease in judgmental attitudes.

May the parts of the Bible which disturb you the most be the ones you understand the best.

And may you have a living, active faith which makes no pace with injustice.









Posted December 29, 2013 by neatnik2009 in Psalm 67

Tagged with ,

Righteousness, Genuine and Fake   1 comment

Above:  Boaz and Ruth, 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.


Ruth 2:1-11; 4:13-17 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Now Naomi had a kinsman on her husband’s side, a man of substance, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz.

Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi,

I would like to go to the fields and glean among the ears of grain, behind someone who may show me kindness.

She replied,

Yes, daughter, go;

and off she went.  She came and gleaned in a field, behind the reapers; and, as luck would have it, it was the piece of land belonging to Boaz, who was of Elimelech’s family.

Presently Boaz arrived from Bethlehem.  He greeted the reapers,

The LORD be with you!

And they responded,

The LORD bless you!

Boaz said to the servant who was in charge of the reapers,

Whose girl is that?

The servant in charge of the reapers replied,

She is a Moabite girl who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab.  She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the reapers.’   She has been on her feet ever since she came this morning.  She has rested but little in the hut.

Boaz said to Ruth,

Listen to me, daughter.  Don’t go to glean in another field.  Don’t go elsewhere, but stay here close to my girls.  Keep your eyes on the field they are reaping, and follow them.  I have ordered the men not to molest you.  And when you are thirsty, go to the jars and drink some of [the water] that the men have drawn.

She prostrated herself with her face to the ground, and said to him,

Why are you so kind as to single me out, when I am a foreigner?

Boaz said in reply,

I have been told of all you that you did for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband, how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth and came to a people you had not known before….

So Boaz married Ruth; she became his wife, and he cohabited with her.  The LORD let her conceive, and she bore a son.  And the woman said to Naomi,

Blessed be the LORD, who has not withheld a redeemer from you today!  May his name be perpetuated in Israel!  He will renew your life and sustain your old age; for he is born of your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons.

Naomi took the child and held it to her bosom.  She became its foster mother, and the women gave him a name, saying,

A son is born to Naomi!

They named him Obed; he was the father of Jesse, father of David.

Psalm 128 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Happy are they who all fear the LORD,

and who follow in his ways!

2 You shall eat the fruit of your labor;

happiness and prosperity shall be yours.

3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house,

your children like olive shoots round about your table.

4 The man who fears the LORD

shall thus be blessed.

The LORD bless you from Zion,

and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.

6 May you live to see your children’s children;

may peace be upon Israel.

Matthew 23:1-12 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Jesus addressed the crowds and his disciples.

The scribes and the Pharisees speak with the authority of Moses,

he told them,

so you must do what they tell you and follow their instructions.  But you must not imitate their lives!  For they preach but do not practise.  They pile up back-breaking burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders–yet they themselves will not raise a finger to move them. Their whole lives and planned with an eye to effect.  They increase the size of their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their robes; they love seats of honour at dinner parties and front places in the synagogues.  They love to be greeted with respect in public places and to have men call them ‘rabbi!”  Don’t you ever be called ‘rabbi”–you have only one teacher, and all of you are brothers.  And don’t call any human being ‘father’–for you have one Father and he is in Heaven.  And you must not let people call you ‘leaders’–you have only leader, Christ!  The only ‘superior’ among you is the one who serves the others.  For every man who promotes himself will be humbled, and every man who learns to be humble will find promotion.


The Collect:

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


“…and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king….”

–Matthew 1:5-6a (Revised Standard Version)

I type readings into these posts as part of a spiritual exercise.  Slowing down long enough to enter each word via my fingertips helps me pay close attention to the texts.   Sometimes whimsical thoughts occur to me as I interact with the stories.  So it was, that as I typed part of Ruth 2, I read that Boaz greeted his reapers with,

The LORD be with you!

and that they responded,

The LORD bless you!

If they had answered,

And also with you,

I mused, they might have been Episcopalians.

Seriously, though, good-natured denominational humor aside, I detected a common thread:  How we treat each other is vital in our faith life.  Let us begin with the Book of Ruth.

Boaz was a pious, kind, and wealthy man.  He did not have to permit Ruth to glean in his field, but he chose to do so.  And he, older than Ruth, fell in love with her and married her.  Furthermore, they had a son, Obed (Hebrew for servant or worshiper), who became the grandfather of King David.  I wonder if Boaz’s sensitivity to Ruth’s situation was related to his ancestry, as his mother was the prostitute Rahab, who rescued Hebrew spies in Joshua 2.  He does not seem to have been the kind of man who measured people according their pedigrees.

The genealogy of Jesus, as recorded in Matthew 1:1-17, is quite interesting.  Most of the names are male, so the occasional mention of a woman by name requires careful attention.  There is Mary, of course, but one also reads the names Rahab (a prostitute) and Ruth (a foreigner).  Bathsheba is also there, but not by name; she is “the wife of Uriah.”  So this family tree mentions four women, three of whom had dubious sexual reputations during their lifetimes.  The fourth was merely foreign-born, a fact about which some people were sensitive.  Why else would local women associate young Obed with Naomi, not Ruth?

Anyhow, the love match of Ruth and Boaz enriched their lives and that of Naomi.  It also constituted another link in the chain leading to Jesus.  That chain included some seemingly unlikely and not respectable people.

Jesus condemns some respectable people in Matthew 23.  There was nothing wrong with tassels or phylacteries; both are Biblical.  (See Exodus 13:1-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21; Numbers 15:37-41; and Deuteronomy 22:12.)  But ostentatious displays of religion and quests for social honor attracted our Lord and Savior’s condemnation.  No, he said, one ought to seek opportunities to serve, not to be served.

Obed was the son of Boaz and Ruth.  His name meant “servant” or “worshiper.”  The greatest, Jesus said, was the servant of all.  The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.  Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and the humble will be exalted.  Or, as J. B. Phillips translated the text, “For every man who promotes himself will be humbled, and every man who learns to be humble will find promotion.”  This is the order in the Kingdom of God.  Thanks be to God!  May we learn this lesson, inwardly digest it, and act accordingly.  In so doing may we transform ourselves, each other, our communities, our societies, our politics, and our world.



Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is despair hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy.

Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand;

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.










Adapted from this post:


A Living Power Among You Who Believe It   1 comment

Above: Paul Writing His Epistles (1500s)


1 Thessalonians 2:9-13 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Let me remind you, brothers, how hard we used to work, slaving night and day so as not to be a burden on any one of you while we were proclaiming God’s Good News to you.  You are witnesses, and so is God, that our treatment of you, since you became believers, has been impeccably right and fair.  You can remember how we treated every one of you as a father treats his children, teaching you what was right, encouraging you and appealing to you to live a life worthy of God, who is calling you to share the glory of his kingdom.

Another reason why we constantly thank God for you is that as soon as you heard the message that we brought you as God’s message, you accepted it for what it really is, God’s message and not some human thinking; and it is still a living power among you who believe it.

Psalm 126 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,

then were we like those who dream.

2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy.

3 Then they said among the nations,

“The LORD has done great things for them.”

The LORD has done great things for us,

and we are glad indeed.

5 Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the watercourses of the Negev.

6 Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

7 Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,

will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

Matthew 23:27-32 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who are like whitewashed tombs that look handsome on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of corruption.  In the same way you appear to people from the outside like honest men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who build the sepulchres of the prophets and decorate the tombs of holy men, saying, ‘We would never have joined in shedding the blood of the prophets, had we lived in our fathers’ day.’  So!  Your own evidence tells against you!  You are the sons of those who murdered the prophets!  Very well then, finish off the work that your fathers began.


The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory 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.


Contact with a corpse made one ritually unclean (Numbers 19:16).  So imagine that it is the month of Adar, and that you, O reader, are a pilgrim in Jesus’ day traveling to Jerusalem for the Passover.  You might become ritually unclean, and therefore ineligible to celebrate Passover, if you come into contact with a roadside tomb.  Fortunately for you, people have whitewashed the tombs in advance, so they will stand out, and pilgrims will not become ritually unclean by accident.

This is the reference to whitewashed tombs in Matthew 23.  But Jesus says that hypocritical professional religious people who lay needless burdens on the faithful are the whitewashed tombs; the scribes and Pharisees are themselves unclean.  How is that for a strong condemnation, one that hits home?  And these scribes and Pharisees are the spiritual heirs of those who have persecuted and killed prophets of God.  At this point in Matthew Jesus is nearing his own death, in which professional religious people were complicit.  (But let us not let the Romans off the hook, for the Procurator authorized the execution and soldiers carried it out.)

This day’s reading from 1 Thessalonians begins with Paul defending himself against unfounded criticisms.  Why else would he have pointed to his work ethic and his treatment of others?  Here we have an example of an old truth:  Whatever you do, somebody is likely to criticize you.  But the part of the reading that attracts my attention is verse 13:  God’s message is a living power among those who believe it.  Belief is trust; it indicates an influence in how one lives.  So belief becomes evident in actions.

The fault of the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus criticized was that their belief was self-serving.  It made them look good to themselves and many others, but it was a disguise for spiritual rot.  Jesus calls us not to be tombs or spiritual memorials, but living testimonies to him.  Once in a while we might have to say something, but our actions ought to do most of the talking.

The aspect of evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity that bothers me most is its preoccupation with individual salvation at the expense of the well-being of one’s community and society.  I have had conversations with people possessed of this spiritual understanding.  Many of them do not care if the world burns; they have Jesus.  (Someone expressed this sentiment to me a few years ago, without embarrassment.)  According to this point of view, social justice can take a back seat as long as a man’s hair is not too long, a woman’s skirt is not too short, and someone is learning that he or she will go to Hell unless he or she comes to Jesus.  Without dismissing the necessity of Jesus (I am a Christian.), I prefer a holistic gospel.  It is pointless to cure one person of spiritual sickness and not care about societal ills.  Indeed, we humans are not separate from our societies.  And love of God is more effective than fear of damnation in drawing one into a spiritually healthy relationship with God.

Disclaimer, for the sake of accuracy:  Many evangelical Christians are quite concerned about social justice and responsible ecology.  I applaud them.  Unfortunately, some of their co-religionists criticize them for the breadth of their concerns.

May we–you and I–exhibit the living power of God to all, so that all who seek it and cross paths with us will see it working within us.  And, to borrow a line from St. Francis of Assisi, may we preach the gospel at all times, using words when necessary.

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






Adapted from this post: