Tag Archives: Episcopal

The Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost: A Sermon

Lessons (Track 1)

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” asked the accuser, the satan. (‘satan’ is simply the Hebrew word for ‘accuser’.) (The accuser could with equal justice have asked it about James and John, and we’ll get to that later.) God permitted the accuser to find out, and Job lost nearly everything. That was in the first two chapters.

Since then, Job has been demanding action from God, and Job’s friends –I use the term advisedly—have been demanding that Job confess whatever sins have brought on his suffering. The arguments of Job’s friends don’t change much, aside from becoming increasingly vitriolic. God rules justly; if Job is suffering, he must be justly suffering, and the only puzzle is why Job is being so stubborn. What is unnerving is how often we hear these arguments today, how often we either use them or find ourselves tempted to use them. At least part of each of us, I suspect, wishes that Job’s friends were right: a completely just God insuring that each person received exactly what he or she deserved now. Some people believe in reincarnation, and one of the attractions of reincarnation is that it allows one to believe in a universe that is completely just at every moment: I am receiving precisely the mixture of weal and woe that my previous lives merit.

And even within the Old Testament, there are plenty of passages in the law that promise weal for obedience and woe for disobedience, plenty of passages in the prophets that interpret disasters as God’s punishment, plenty of passages in Proverbs that connect righteousness and prosperity, wickedness and ruin. And only a fool would deny the truth in these. But is this the whole truth? Is it the whole truth for Job? Obviously not, despite Job’s friends’ eloquent arguments.

Job’s complaints and demands for divine action do change through the course of the book. Job’s initial speech sounds like a demand that God retroactively snuff him out of existence: better never to have been born than to experience this. But as Job continues to reflect on his suffering, he recognizes that he is one of many who suffer, and his demand for God’s action correspondingly shifts: too many innocents are getting crushed.

Job is clear throughout that his problem is God: “When disaster brings sudden death, / he mocks at the calamity of the innocent. / The earth is given into the hand of the wicked; / he covers the eyes of its judges— /if it is not he, who then is it?” [9.23-24] And here, despite the rough edges, Job is speaking rightly about God. We try to protect God, buffer God from evil. Does God get joy from the suffering of the innocent? Is that his will? No. But does God continue to give breath and strength to the wicked, to keep the nerve endings working as the torturer does his work? Yes. “If it is not he, who then is it?”

We do not suffer unless God consents to our suffering. The New Testament assumes this, although notice that Paul adds “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.”

And Job pushes the limits of language, logic, and faith by appealing to God against God. For I know that my Redeemer lives, / and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; / and after my skin has been thus destroyed, / then in my flesh I shall see God, / whom I shall see on my side, / and my eyes shall behold, / and not another.” [19:25-27]

Jesus on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The problem is not Judas, not the Jewish leaders, not Pilate: it’s God. And precisely in knowing that God’s the problem, Jesus appeals…to God. And so may we. So must we.

Well, that brings us up to the beginning of God’s response to Job in today’s lesson. Read it during the week if you can: Job 38-41. God responds to Job’s questions with God’s own questions, pointing Job to the ostrich, the war stallion, Behemoth, Leviathan, and to the challenge of mounting any useful response to the wicked.

What all that comes to we’ll wonder about next week. What I’ve focused on today is, I think, the necessary prequel to all that: Job’s insistence that God is the issue, and that only from God will come Job’s salvation, that, confronted with suffering, what we want is not explanation, but action.

This last point is, by the way, two-edged, as captured in a dialogue between two characters in a cartoon a few years back.
–Sometimes I’d like to ask God why he allows poverty, famine and injustice when he could do something about it.
–What’s stopping you?
–I’m afraid God might ask me the same question.

Our prayers for God’s intervention need to be matched by the interventions that are within our power. So, for example, as you work through your Christmas gift list, look at the Episcopal Relief and Development Christmas Catalogue. For that person who’s hard to buy gifts for or pretty much has what they need, you could give—in their name—a mosquito net, a goat, or even a cow.

Perhaps the next time through our lectionary cycle I’ll be able to give more attention to Hebrews. For the moment, simply notice that Hebrews’ portrait of Jesus looks surprisingly like Job: “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death.” This Jesus is clearly one with whom we can be honest about our struggles.

So we turn to the Gospel—and yes, I remember that the Packers-Bears game is one of the early games. I don’t think I need to belabor our solidarity with James and John. At least from the pre-school playground all of us have been honing our skills at claiming and defending turf. It may be large, it may be small, but it’s ours and it’s for a Good Cause. And it is so easy to assume that when we are baptized, initiated into the Great Cause, the Kingdom of God, that the business of claiming and defending turf don’t change.

So Jesus has to keep reminding us: “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.”

The other James, Jesus’ brother and author of the letter, got it right: there are two kingdoms: this world, a zero-sum game in which claiming and defending turf is the only game in town, and the Kingdom of God, in which God’s generosity means that I can relax and serve.

But the text doesn’t end there, but with this final curious verse: “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

We choose which kingdom we live in, and that’s true. But that’s not the whole truth. Something closer to the whole truth is that we start out enslaved to the kingdom of this world, the habits of claiming and defending turf embedded deep in us. But Jesus gave his life a ransom for many, for James and John, who on the road to Jerusalem still didn’t get it, for the Roman soldiers awaiting him in Jerusalem, for you and for me. Because Jesus has ransomed us we can choose. The gates are open; we can leave the darkness for the light.

Learning to live in the Kingdom of God is something that takes a lifetime, particularly this business of lording it over others verses serving others. And we learn it –if we learn it—in the midst of our conflicts. So think of the people –family members, colleagues, neighbors—with whom you’ve disagreed in the past and will probably disagree in the future. God can use these relationships to teach us stuff we can’t learn any other way. And here Job and Jesus do not have a monopoly on “prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears.”

Does Job serve God for nothing? Do James and John serve God for nothing, for that matter, or serve only when it helps them to claim and defend their turf? Do we? In God’s severe mercy we don’t have to answer that in the abstract, but as we find ourselves in conflict. In the words of the collect: “Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name.”

The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost: A Sermon


This morning our second reading from James will receive most of our attention. But, having just heard the Gospel, let’s start there. Jesus heals a girl possessed by a demon and a man both deaf and mute. Jesus was able to meet them in their need; Jesus is able to meet us in our need. That’s the starting point and foundation for everything else our texts want to tell us today.

It would be simpler if our sickness were confined to the body. Unfortunately, our souls are equally vulnerable, and vulnerable specifically to the temptation to be friends with both God and the world, James’ main concern. Let’s see what James has for us this week.

“My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?” A rich man and a poor man come into the sanctuary: if we treat them differently, we don’t believe in Jesus. For James, as for the rest of the New Testament, believing in Jesus isn’t believing things about Jesus, or even showing up at church every week. Believing in Jesus is following Jesus, doing what he said to do.

Now, my guess is that if James came here he’d like what he saw with respect to the particular issue he raises at the beginning of our reading. The issue underlying that particular issue is an opportunity for growth. That’s the issue of whether when we come together we’re simply mirroring the ways of relating we learned out there—sucking up to the rich and keeping the poor at arm’s length is only an example—or whether we’re learning new ways of relating to each other. Believing in Jesus is letting Jesus make us into the sort of parish whose common life is light and salt to the world around us.

This is why we say that believing in Jesus not something one can do alone, anymore than one can tango alone or play ping-pong alone. If God were out to save isolated souls, that could be done alone. But God’s going for all the marbles, all the human family, and for that God needs parishes that are light and salt.

Let’s return to James, for there are three other items in the text to attend to, the second of which will involve a major detour, and then we’re done.

‘Favoritism’ in the first verse in the Greek text is a direct allusion to Lev 19:15: “You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor.” At multiple points in his letter James works from Moses’ law in general and Leviticus 19 in particular. When he speaks of the “royal law” (v.8) he is probably referring to all the Mosaic law. We tend to assume that after Jesus Moses is of simply historical interest; the New Testament understands that Jesus makes possible a life-giving implementation of Moses –but with some important shifts.

James, emphasizing the folly of favoritism, has some hard things to say about the rich. Since James here too is simply reading his reality through the lenses of the Old Testament, this is where we detour through our first reading from Proverbs, which ended with “Oppressing the poor in order to enrich oneself, and giving to the rich, will lead only to loss.”

What does the Book of Proverbs want to tell us about wealth? This is worth asking, because within the Old Testament Proverbs presents the most detailed analysis, and because the New Testament simply assumes Proverbs. Why reinvent the wheel?

  • Wealth means power: “7 The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” (See also 17:8; 18:23; 19:7). We could start anywhere; we start here to remind ourselves that Proverbs knows our world.
  • Wealth is the result of diligence. This is often what comes to mind when we think of Proverbs and wealth. (See 10:4; 20:4.) The portraits of the lazy are quite merciless, e.g., “13 The lazy person says, ‘There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!’”
  • Wealth is God’s reward. “4 The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honor and life.” (See 10:22; 13:21,22; 22:9). Recall Genesis, which makes the more basic point that all the sources of wealth come from God’s hand, whether the gold underground or the fertility which comes with God’s blessing.

The problem is, when folk think about Proverbs and wealth, this is often about as far as they get. It’s very neat, very tidy, but only half true. Here’s the other half:

  • Wealth tends to dull the senses, so that we easily overestimate the status and security it brings. Proverbs includes “2 The rich and the poor have this in common: the LORD is the maker of them all” because we tend to forget it. (See also 29:13).
  • Wealth can be seized: “The field of the poor may yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice” (13:23). So discernment is necessary. If someone is wealthy we don’t know immediately if it’s the result of honest labor or crime; if someone is poor we don’t know immediately if it’s the result of being robbed or sloth. (Other books in the Bible remind us that other factors come into play.) A careful reading of Proverbs undercuts both the conservative assumption that the rich are probably virtuous and the liberal/populist assumption that the rich are probably vicious.
  • Some things are more valuable than wealth: “Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it” (15:16; see also 15:17; 16:8,19; 17:1). Why does Proverbs want to tell us that? Not because it romanticizes poverty. But because, I think, Proverbs knows that sometimes these are the sorts of choices which need to be made, and wants us prepared also in these situations to choose rightly.
  • Because wealth is from a generous God, it is properly used generously. “26 All day long the wicked covet, but the righteous give and do not hold back” (21:26; see also 11.4,24,26; 14.31; 21.13,21; 28.27). Pragmatically, the best defense against the temptations of wealth is generosity. Theologically, here again ethics are simply a matter of the proper imitation of God. To the avaricious God simply says “What part of ‘I am generous’ don’t you understand?”

James has harsh words for the rich because they’ve forgotten this second half of Proverbs’teaching. The point of including this summary of Proverbs’ teaching on wealth here is to give us all an opportunity to measure our attitudes against Proverbs’.

Faith & Works. Toward the end of our text (v.14) James explicitly contrasts faith and works. He is not changing the subject; he is simply saying in more general terms what he has been saying in specific terms: “If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless.” “My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?”

“Faith without works is dead.” Two thousand years later, we can also observe that faith without works splinters easily. The works of faith are precisely the works needed to keep sinful men and women around one Table: patience, forgiveness, humility. Where these are lacking, Jesus’ followers splinter. World-wide there are now some 38,000 separate Christian denominations.

We can’t do much about that figure. We can do more about it closer to home. Patience, forgiveness, humility are hard work, particularly with regard to Episcopalians with whom we disagree. These works of faith are even harder with regard to members of the parish with whom we disagree. But James has laid it on the line for us: the test of our faith is the works that enable us to continue to live together and learn from each other.

The danger of this homily is that it sound like a lot of stick and not much carrot. So I’ll end, as I began, with the carrot: we work to stay together because Jesus has assured us that together we’ll continue to encounter him, the one who cast the demon out of the Syrophoenician’s daughter, the one who restored ears and vocal chords to the man from the Decapolis, the one who can name, bear, and finally cure our illnesses. Come, Lord Jesus.

Re the Daily Office Readings September 30 Anno Domini 2020

Photo by elCarito

The Lessons: Hosea 4:11-19; Acts 21:15-26; Luke 5:27-39

“No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, ‘The old is good.’”

Perhaps these are simply parables in the spirit of Ecclesiastes 3:1 (“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”); both fasting and feasting have their place. But once uttered, they’re, well, ominous. Jesus and the Pharisees, Paul and the Jerusalem leaders: studies in pouring new wine into old wineskins? “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). Perhaps it’s like that poor camel and the needle’s eye: “”For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). Or perhaps the tearing of the cloth/wineskins turns out to redemptive? “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:19b-20).

And then just when the parables might be coming into focus, that last bit: “And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, ‘The old is good.’” So it’s not a matter of old=bad, new=good. And even the tension between old and new may not be the last word.  Perhaps relevant: the brief interchange (unique to Matthew) at the end of a long series of parables: “’Have you understood all this?’ They answered, ‘Yes’. And he said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old’” (Matt. 13:51-52).

Re the Daily Office Readings September 29 Anno Domini 2020

Holy Michael & All Angels


The Lessons: Job 38:1-7; Hebrews 1:1-14

2020 does focus the question of how to celebrate this feast. The temptation is to head directly to Ps 91:11-13 (“For he will command his angels concerning you…”), despite its role in Jesus’ temptation. And if we don’t highlight their protection? Here’s one of Mary Calvert’s prayers (from Pocket Celtic Prayers):

May the saints and angels be with me
From the top of my head
To the soles of my feet.

In the company of your saints
I would live this day;
As they lived their lives for you
So may I live this day.

With them to you I bring
My morning praise;
Heavenly chorus I would echo
In my morning praise.

Where they for ever dwell
There would I be;
In heaven to live with you
There may I be.

Or this from St. Patrick’s Breastplate:

I bind unto myself the power
of the great love of cherubim;
the sweet “Well done” in judgment hour;
the service of the seraphim;
confessors’ faith, apostles’ word,
the patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls;
all good deeds done unto the Lord,
and purity of virgin souls.

Re the Daily Office Readings September 28 Anno Domini 2020

Photo by Ariana Prestes

The Lessons: Hosea 2:14-23; Acts 20:17-38; Luke 5:1-11

Hosea and Luke resonate together nicely. The presenting issue in Hosea’s oracle was Israel’s misunderstanding/misuse of the Lord’s gifts of fertility. The Lord’s endgame: a restoration of abundant fertility (“On that day I will answer, says the LORD, / I will answer the heavens / and they shall answer the earth; / and the earth shall answer the grain, the wine, and the oil…”). So Jesus shows up at the lake, and “speak tenderly” turns out to include “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Fertility. I do wonder what happened to all those fish. Perhaps Elijah’s calling of Elisha provided the template: “So he set out from there, and found Elisha son of Shaphat, who was plowing. There were twelve yoke of oxen ahead of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle over him. He left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, ‘Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.’ Then Elijah said to him, ‘Go back again; for what have I done to you?’ He returned from following him, took the yoke of oxen, and slaughtered them; using the equipment from the oxen, he boiled their flesh, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant” (1 Ki. 19:19-21).

Acts. Luke Johnson notices the multiple ways in which Paul’s speech follows the conventions of the Farewell Discourse, the point of which, broadly, is exhortation. More animals: not oxen (Elijah & Elisha), not fish (Jesus & Simon), but sheep and wolves. There’s a strong sense of menace (Paul, after all, recapitulating Jesus’ last journey to Jerusalem). So: “Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock” (Paul channeling Michael Conrad’s Sgt. Phil Esterhaus).

Re the Daily Office Readings September 27 Anno Domini 2020

Photo by Luo Lei

The Lessons: Hosea 2:2-14; James 3:1-13; Matt. 13:44-52

“Catch it if you can. The present is an invisible electron; its lightning path traced faintly on a blackened screen is fleet, and fleeing, and gone” (from Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek).

James speaks of the “gentleness born of wisdom;” our combination of readings perhaps highlights a related expression of wisdom: paying attention, not getting distracted.

“She did not know / that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, / and who lavished upon her silver / and gold that they used for Baal.” Hosea’s 8th century Israel is a case study in not paying attention, but perhaps not as extreme as that, say, of our stock markets, whose traders imagine that their wealth comes from their cunning and Baal, rather than from God’s generous earth. And then, as now, multiple forms of folly ensue.

Paying attention, not getting distracted particularly by that little organ so close to the brains in which we take so much pride: “placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell.” [Election year addendum on Not Getting Distracted: “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).]

Paying attention: Jesus’ parables highlight the payoff: the encountered treasure, the encountered pearl. And here’s where the dangers start: “As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature” (Lk. 8:14). “But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her’” (Lk. 10:41-42).

“Catch it if you can.”

Re the Daily Office Readings September 26 Anno Domini 2020

From Orthodox Church in America

The Lessons: Hosea 1:1–2:1; Acts 20:1-16; Luke 4:38-44

The Lectionary begins our ten-day stint with Hosea today (for overviews, here and here). Abraham Heschel: “God is conceived, not as the self-detached Ruler, but as the sensitive Consort to Whom deception comes and Who nevertheless goes on pleading for loyalty, uttering a longing for reunion, a passionate desire for reconciliation.”

One’s eyes can glaze reading texts like that from Acts today. Luke Johnson’s observation helps: “More significant by far than any single stage of the journey is the way in which Luke has so obviously structured it to mirror the great journey of the prophet Jesus to his death and triumph in Jerusalem (Luke 9:51-19:44).” I wonder: while Paul specifically is important for the story Luke wants to tell (how the Gospel advances from Jerusalem to Rome), is Luke also using Paul as a model for every believer, someone in whom Jesus’ Spirit continues to work?

As commentators notice, Luke in this Gospel text both follows Mark and reorders his sequence (we encounter the calling of the disciples in our next Luke reading). Is the point to give Jesus’ call of Peter some context? Meanwhile, “proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God:” executing the previously-read mandate from Isaiah, healing and exorcising. O Jesus, we could use more of that here, today.

Re the Daily Office Readings September 25 Anno Domini 2020

Painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder

The Lessons: Judith 13:1-20; Acts 19:21-41; Luke 4:31-37

When the Assyrian army surrounded Jerusalem in the time of King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah we’re told that one night “the angel of the Lord” struck down 185,000 Assyrians in the camp—and the Assyrians departed. Today’s text records a similar outcome—at the cost of one Assyrian life. I wonder: has something shifted in the culture and/or theological sensibility?

(By the way, the Book of Judith continues for three more chapters. Judith’s thanksgiving song is particularly worth attention, e.g., “Her sandal ravished his eyes, / her beauty captivated his mind, / and the sword severed his neck!”)

Every year Episcopal parishes complete the Parochial Report—many numbers—“to assist the Church in planning for mission.” Why isn’t one of the numbers requested the number of times merchants in the city have rioted in response to the parish’s missional activities?

The demon gets it right: Jesus is “the Holy One of God.” Not that it does the demon any good—he’s still sent packing, and an unnamed man—his former residence—is a little freer. Holiness and freedom: that’s a very old association: Moses encounters holy ground—and gets sent to bring Israel out of Egypt. Here’s another missional project for us—that also will not be (directly) registered in the Parochial Report—make more visible in our city the link between holiness and human freedom.

Re the Daily Office Readings September 24 Anno Domini 2020

Naaman cured of leprosy by A. Hirschvogel

The Lessons: Judith 12:1-20; Acts 19:11-20; Luke 4:14-30

Judith: exemplary courage over an extended period in which things could have gone terribly wrong at any moment. (“It would be a shame for us to let such a woman go without having sex with her. If we don’t reel her in, she’ll laugh at us.”) Her speech, a master class in double meanings (vv. 4, 14, 18). When does assassination belong in the asymmetrical conflict toolkit? Judith’s story is also part of that conversation.

Meanwhile, here’s Jesus in front of a Jewish audience illustrating “bring good news to the poor” by citing Elijah, who helped the widow at Zarephath in Sidon (and not the Israelite widows) and Elisha, who cleansed the Syrian general Naaman of leprosy (and not the Israelite lepers). Naaman—any different than Holofernes? On my extended “bucket list:” listen in on Judith, Esther, Mary (Jesus’ mother) and Priscilla (from the September 22 reading) comparing notes.

P.S. There is perhaps one important difference between Holofernes and Naaman. Both receive accurate intelligence re Israel, Holofernes from the Ammonite leader Achior (re the Lord’s protection of Israel), Naaman from a young Israelite girl captured in one of the Aramean raids (re a prophet with the gift of healing), Holofernes chooses to ignore the intelligence; Naaman to act on it.

Later in Luke we’ll hear Jesus tell this parable: “’A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.’ As he said this, he called out, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’ Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that “looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand.” Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.’”

“Let anyone with ears to hear listen” indeed!

Re the Daily Office Readings September 23 Anno Domini 2020

Photo by Andrew Buchanan

The Lessons: Judith 10:1-23; Acts 19:1-10; Luke 4:1-13

Today we might read the first and third lessons in split screen. What will the protagonists do after the build-up in the previous chapters? Judith’s prayer (chapter 9) gives us clues, but leaves much unsaid. Simeon and Levi led with deceit, then drew the sword; Judith prays for her deception’s success and leaves the sword unnamed. Between Zechariah’s prophecy, Mary’s song, etc., a wealth of potentially different expectations re what Jesus will accomplish. Judith in front of her closet is a classic hero-preparing-for-battle scene; Jesus stands before his deciding what not to wear, what trust in God looks like. (And what about the sword in that closet?) Both will be performing without a net.