Suggested Bible Passages & Commentary

“The Lord helps those who help themselves”–not in the Bible

“Charity begins at home”–not in the Bible

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness”–not in the Bible

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions”– not in the Bible

“The ends justify the means”–not in the Bible

How do we know our interpretation of scripture is on the right track? Answer: does it increase the love of God and neighbor?–St. Augustine

PSALM 23 [English Standard Version]

      A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

Psalm 23 as interpreted by Nicole C. Mullen & Papa San

Psalm 10 [from the International Standard Version]

A Prayer for Judging the Wicked

10 Why do you stand far away, Lord?
    Why do you hide in times of distress?
The wicked one arrogantly pursues the afflicted,
    who are trapped in the schemes he devises.
For the wicked one boasts about his own desire;
    he blesses the greedy
        and despises the Lord.
With haughty arrogance, the wicked thinks,
    “God will not seek justice.”
        He always presumes “There is no God.”
Their ways always seem prosperous.

Your judgments are on high,
        far away from them.

They scoff at all their enemies.
They say to themselves,
    “We will not be moved throughout all time,
        and we will not experience adversity.”
Their mouth is full of curses, lies, and oppression,
    their tongues spread trouble and iniquity.
They wait in ambush in the villages,
    they kill the innocent in secret.
Their eyes secretly watch the helpless,
    lying in wait like a lion in his den.
They lie in wait to catch the afflicted.
    They catch the afflicted when they pull him into their net.

10 The victim is crushed,
    and he sinks down;
        the helpless fall by their might.
11 The wicked say to themselves,
    “God has forgotten,
he has hidden his face,
    he will never see it.”

12 Rise up, Lord!
    Raise your hand, God.
        Don’t forget the afflicted!
13 Why do the wicked despise God
    and say to themselves, “God will not seek justice.”?

14 But you do see!
    You take note of trouble and grief
        in order to take the matter into your own hand.
The helpless one commits himself to you;
    you have been the orphan’s helper.

15 Break the arm of the wicked and evil man;
    so that when you seek out his wickedness
        you will find it no more.
16 The Lord is king forever and ever;
    nations will perish from his land.

17 Lord, you heard the desire of the afflicted;
    you will strengthen them,
        you will listen carefully,
18 to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed,
    so that men of the earth may cause terror no more.

Psalm 36 [from The Message]

1-4 The God-rebel tunes in to sedition—
all ears, eager to sin.
He has no regard for God,
he stands insolent before him.
He has smooth-talked himself
into believing
That his evil
will never be noticed.
Words gutter from his mouth,
dishwater dirty.
Can’t remember when he
did anything decent.
Every time he goes to bed,
he fathers another evil plot.
When he’s loose on the streets,
nobody’s safe.
He plays with fire
and doesn’t care who gets burned.

5-6 God’s love is meteoric,
his loyalty astronomic,
His purpose titanic,
his verdicts oceanic.
Yet in his largeness
nothing gets lost;
Not a man, not a mouse,
slips through the cracks.

7-9 How exquisite your love, O God!
How eager we are to run under your wings,
To eat our fill at the banquet you spread
as you fill our tankards with Eden spring water.
You’re a fountain of cascading light,
and you open our eyes to light.

10-12 Keep on loving your friends;
do your work in welcoming hearts.
Don’t let the bullies kick me around,
the moral midgets slap me down.
Send the upstarts sprawling
flat on their faces in the mud.

1 Corinthians 13 [from The Message]

The Way of Love

13 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love,
    I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and 
    making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a
    mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

3-7 If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to
    be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So,
    no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt
    without love.
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,

Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
8-10 Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying 
    in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know 
    only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always 
    incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be

11 When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like
    any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

12 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering 
    through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and 
    the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly
    as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to 
    do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope
    unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson 

The above passage from Corinthians as sung by Joni Mitchell (orchestra arranged & conducted by Vince Mendoza):

9-10 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. 11-13 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. 14-16 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. 17-19 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” 20-21 Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

Suggested by Linda Hess:

 1 John 4:16-21 [from the New International Version]

16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 
17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have 
confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 
18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because
fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect
in love.

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God 
yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love 
their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom 
they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who 
loves God must also love their brother and sister.

Micah 6 [from The Message]

What God Is Looking For

1-2 Listen now, listen to God:
“Take your stand in court.
If you have a complaint, tell the mountains;
make your case to the hills.
And now, Mountains, hear God’s case;
listen, Jury Earth—
For I am bringing charges against my people.
I am building a case against Israel.
3-5 “Dear people, how have I done you wrong?
Have I burdened you, worn you out? Answer!
I delivered you from a bad life in Egypt;
I paid a good price to get you out of slavery.
I sent Moses to lead you—
and Aaron and Miriam to boot!
Remember what Balak king of Moab tried to pull,
and how Balaam son of Beor turned the tables on him.
Remember all those stories about Shittim and Gilgal.
Keep all God’s salvation stories fresh and present.”

6-7 How can I stand up before God
and show proper respect to the high God?
Should I bring an armload of offerings
topped off with yearling calves?
Would God be impressed with thousands of rams,
with buckets and barrels of olive oil?
Would he be moved if I sacrificed my firstborn child,
my precious baby, to cancel my sin?
But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
take God seriously.

Attention! God calls out to the city!
If you know what’s good for you, you’ll listen.
So listen, all of you!
This is serious business.
10-16 “Do you expect me to overlook obscene wealth
you’ve piled up by cheating and fraud?
Do you think I’ll tolerate shady deals
and shifty scheming?
I’m tired of the violent rich
bullying their way with bluffs and lies.
I’m fed up. Beginning now, you’re finished.
You’ll pay for your sins down to your last cent.
No matter how much you get, it will never be enough—
hollow stomachs, empty hearts.
No matter how hard you work, you’ll have nothing to show for it—
bankrupt lives, wasted souls.
You’ll plant grass
but never get a lawn.
You’ll make jelly
but never spread it on your bread.
You’ll press apples
but never drink the cider.
You have lived by the standards of your king, Omri,
the decadent lifestyle of the family of Ahab.
Because you’ve slavishly followed their fashions,
I’m forcing you into bankruptcy.
Your way of life will be laughed at, a tasteless joke.
Your lives will be derided as futile and fake.”

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson 

Leviticus 19:33-34 [from The Message]

33-34 “When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don’t take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own. Remember that you were once foreigners in Egypt. I am God, your God.

“Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.” Proverbs 12:22

Hebrews 13:1-3 [from Modern English Version]

Service That Pleases God

13 Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unknowingly. Remember those who are in chains, as if imprisoned with them, and those who are ill treated, since you are also in the body.

Luke 6:38 [from the Contemporary English Version]

38 If you give to others, you will be given a full amount in return. It will be packed down, shaken together, and spilling over into your lap. The way you treat others is the way you will be treated.

Luke 10:25-37 [from The Message]

Defining “Neighbor”

25 Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. “Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?”

26 He answered, “What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?”

27 He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”

28 “Good answer!” said Jesus. “Do it and you’ll live.”

29 Looking for a loophole, he asked, “And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?”

30-32 Jesus answered by telling a story. “There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.

33-35 “A Samaritan* traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’

36 “What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?”

37 “The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded.

Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

*Samaritans and Jews despised each other.

John 8:3-11 [from New Living Translation]

As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

11 “No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

Kristin Saylor and Jim O’Hanlon talk about what the Bible really says about homosexuality and other LGBTQ topics. The Rev. Kristin Saylor is an Episcopal priest, currently serving St. Peter’s Church in Port Chester, NY. Originally from Wisconsin, she is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Virginia Theological Seminary.  Jim O’Hanlon has been a Pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America since 2000, of St. Paul’s Church in Rye Brook since 2010.

John 8:42-47 (from New International Version)

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

The Lord’s Prayer—(Matthew 6:9-13)

A version
from The New Zealand Prayer Book

Eternal Spirit,
Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver,
Source of all that is and that shall be,
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is Heaven:

The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the peoples of the world!
Your Heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your commonwealth of peace and freedom sustain our hope 
      and come on earth.

With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and testing, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that is evil, free us.

For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, now and for ever.


The Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;  

O Divine Master,
Grant that I 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.  


Prayer of Saint Teresa of Avila (1515–1582)

Christ has no body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours
Yours are the eyes through which He looks
Compassion on this world
Yours are the feet with which He walks
To do good
Yours are the hands
With which He blesses all the world

Yours are the hands
Yours are the feet
Yours are the eyes
You are His body

Christ has no body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours
Yours are the eyes through which He looks
Compassion on this world
Christ has no body now on earth
But yours


Prayers of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thou Eternal God, out of whose absolute power and infinite intelligence the whole universe has come into being, we humbly confess that we have not loved thee with our hearts, souls and minds, and we have not loved our neighbors as Christ loved us. We have all too often lived by our own selfish impulses rather than by the life of sacrificial love as revealed by Christ. We often give in order to receive. We love our friends and hate our enemies. We go the first mile but dare not travel the second. We forgive but dare not forget. And so as we look within ourselves, we are confronted with the appalling fact that the history of our lives is the history of an eternal revolt against you. But thou, O God, have mercy upon us. Forgive us for what we could have been but failed to be. Give us the intelligence to know your will. Give us the courage to do your will. Give us the devotion to love your will. In the name and spirit of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

O God, we thank you for the fact that you have inspired men and women in all nations and in all cultures. We call you different names: some call you Allah; some call you Elohim; some call you Jehovah; some call you Brahma; some call you the Unmoved Mover. But we know that these are all names for one and the same God. Grant that we will follow you and become so committed to your way and your kingdom that we will be able to establish in our lives and in this world a brother and sisterhood, that we will be able to establish here a kingdom of understanding, where men and women will live together as brothers and sisters and respect the dignity and worth of every human being. In the name and spirit of Jesus. Amen.

O God, we thank you for the lives of great saints and prophets in the past, who have revealed to us that we can stand up amid the problems and difficulties and trials of life and not give in. We thank you for our foreparents, who’ve given us something in the midst of the darkness of exploitation and oppression to keep going. Grant that we will go on with the proper faith and the proper determination of will, so that we will be able to make a creative contribution to this world. In the name and spirit of Jesus we pray.

A Traditional song arranged by Jeff Tweedy. The song is included on Mavis Staples’ “You`re Not Alone” album, 2010:


In Christ there is no East or West,
No North or South;
Only one great love
Inside and out.

True hearts everywhere
Some deaf and some blind
Singin' one melody
Lost souls cannot find.

Join hands and have faith,
Whatever your race may be!
Who serves my Father as a son
Is surely kin to me.

In Christ now meet both East and West,
There is no black or white
Only one great love
Hatred cannot divide

Join hands and have faith,
Forgive your enemy
Surely we're all a part
Of one big family.

Join hands and have faith,
Whatever your race may be!
Who serves my Father as a son
Is surely kin to me.

Join hands and have faith,
Forgive your enemy
Surely we're all a part
Of one big family.

Matthew 6:19-24 (from The Message)

A Life of God-Worship

19-21 “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.

22-23 “Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!

24 “You can’t worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can’t worship God and Money both.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Matthew 7:1-5 (from International Standard Version)

Judging Others

7 “Stop judging, so that you won’t be judged, because the way that you judge others will be the way that you will be judged, and you will be evaluated by the standard with which you evaluate others.

“Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye but fail to notice the beam in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when the beam is in your own eye? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Matthew 7:13-23 (from The Message)

Being and Doing

13-14 “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.

15-20 “Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned.

21-23 “Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’

Matthew 25:31-46 (from The Message)

The Sheep and the Goats

31-33 “When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.

34-36 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

37-40 “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

41-43 “Then he will turn to the ‘goats,’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

44 “Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’

45 “He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’

46 “Then those ‘goats’ will be herded to their eternal doom, but the ‘sheep’ to their eternal reward.”


Luke 12: 42-48 (Modern English Version)

42 The Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his house servants, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? 43 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you, he will appoint him over all his possessions. 45 But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master delays his coming,’ and begins to beat the house servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not look for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him to pieces and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.

47 “That servant who knew his master’s will, but did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he who unknowingly committed acts worthy of punishment shall be beaten with few stripes. For to whom much is given, of him much shall be required. And from him to whom much was entrusted, much will be asked.



A furious Angel plunged from the sky like a hawk,
Gripped the sinner with rough hands by the hair,
And shaking him, shouted, "You shall obey, do you hear?
I am your Guardian Angel. No back talk!

Learn to love (for you must, and no grimaces!)
The poor, the spiteful, the deformed, the dumb;
For you must spread for Jesus when he comes
A rich carpet of Charity where he passes.

That is Love! Before your heart expire,
Let the glory of God set it afire;
That is the true Delight that cannot rot!"

Then the Angel, cruel as he was kind,
With giant hands twisted him till he whined;
But the damned soul still answered, "I will not!"

by Charles Baudelaire, 1821-1867; translated from French by Jackson Mathews


Does that lamp still burn in my Father's house,
  Which he kindled the night I went away?
I turned once beneath the cedar boughs,
  And marked it gleam with a golden ray;
  Did he think to light me home some day?

Hungry here with the crunching swine,
  Hungry harvest have I to reap;
In a dream I count my Father's kine,                     *kine = cattle
  I hear the tinkling bells of his sheep,
  I watch his lambs that browse and leap.

There is plenty of bread at home,
  His servants have bread enough and to spare;
The purple wine-fat froths with foam,
  Oil and spices make sweet the air,
  While I perish hungry and bare.

Rich and blessed those servants, rather
  Than I who see not my Father's face!
I will arise and go to my Father:--
    "Fallen from sonship, beggared of grace,
    Grant me, Father, a servant's place."

by Christina Rossetti, 1830–1894


When the gobs spat by flaming cannon
Whistle all day beneath a clear blue sky,
And the King cracks jokes as he looks on,
And red or green battalions march and die;

While a terrifying, pounding madness
Turns tens of thousands into smoking garbage
In the grass, in summer, in your gladness,
Nature, who made these men in His image!

There is a God, who laughs at silk and linen,
Altars, incense, and gold chalices,
Who falls asleep when choirs sing His praises,

And wakes when all the mothers shuffle in
With their old black bonnet and their grief,
And give him a big penny tied in a kerchief.

Arthur Rimbaud, 1854-1891; translated from French by Louis Simpson


Jeremiah 5:26-31 (from International Standard Version)

26 “Evil men are found among my people.
They lie in wait like someone who traps birds.
They set a trap,
but they do so to catch people.
27 Like a cage full of birds,
so their houses are filled with treachery.
This is how they have become prominent and rich,
28 and have grown fat and sleek.
There is no limit to their evil deeds.
They don’t argue the case of the orphan to secure justice.
They don’t defend the rights of the poor.
29 ‘Should I not punish them for this?’
asks the Lord.
‘Should I not avenge myself
on a nation like this?’
30 “An appalling and horrible thing
has happened in the land:
31 The prophets prophesy falsely,
the priests rule by their own authority,
and my people love it this way.
But what will you do in the end?”

1 Timothy 6 (from The Message)

The Lust for Money

2-5 These are the things I want you to teach and preach. If you have leaders there who teach otherwise, who refuse the solid words of our Master Jesus and this godly instruction, tag them for what they are: ignorant windbags who infect the air with germs of envy, controversy, bad-mouthing, suspicious rumors. Eventually there’s an epidemic of backstabbing, and truth is but a distant memory. They think religion is a way to make a fast buck.

6-8 A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough.

9-10 But if it’s only money these leaders are after, they’ll self-destruct in no time. Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after.

11-12 But you, Timothy, man of God: Run for your life from all this. Pursue a righteous life—a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Just a reminder that the Bible comes from Palestine, not King James’ England:

Psalm 104

Unnameable God, you are fathomless:
   I praise you with endless awe.
You are wrapped in light like a cloak;
   you stretch out the sky like a curtain.
You make the clouds your chariot;
   you walk on the wings of the wind.
You use the winds as your messengers,
   thunder and lightning as your servants.
You look at the earth--it trembles;
   you touch the hills and they smoke.
You laid the earth's foundations
   so that they would never be destroyed.
You covered the land with ocean;
   the waters rose higher than the mountains.
They fled at the sound of your voice;
   you thundered and they ran away.
They rushed down onto the valleys,
   to the place you appointed for them.
You bounded them, so that they would never
   return to inundate the earth.
You send streams into the valleys,
   and they flow among the hills.
All the animals drink from them;
   the wild asses quench their thirst.
Beside them the birds of the air dwell,
   singing among the branches.
You water the hills from the sky;
   by your care the whole earth is nourished.
You make grass grow for the cattle
   and grains for the service of mankind,
to bring forth food from the earth
   and bread that strengthens the body,
oil that makes the face shine
   and wine that gladdens the heart.
You plant the trees that grow tall,
   pines, and cedars of Lebanon,
in which many birds build their nests, 
   and the stork on the topmost branches.
The mountains are for the wild goats;
   the cliffs are a shelter for the rock squirrels.
You created the moon to count months;
   the sun knows when it must set.
You make darkness, it is night,
   and the forest animals emerge.
The young lions roar for their prey,
   seeking their food from God.
The sun rises, they withdraw
   and lie down in their dens.
Man goes out to their labor 
   and works until it is evening.
How infinite are your creatures, Unnamable One!
   With wisdom you made them all.
   The whole earth is filled with your riches.
There is the sea in its vastness,
   where innumerable creatures live,
   fish both tiny and huge.
There sharks swim, and the whale
   that you created to play with.
All these depend on you 
   to give them food in due time.
You open your hands--they gather it;
   you give it--they are filled with gladness.
You hide your face--they are stricken;
   you take away their breath--they die 
   and return their bodies to the dust.
You send forth your breath--they are born,
   and with them you replenish the earth.
Your glory will last forever;
   eternally you rejoice in your works.
I will sing to you in every moment;
   I will praise you with every breath.
How sweet it is to trust you;
   what joy to embrace your will.
May all selfishness disappear from me,
and may you always shine from my heart.

translated from Hebrew by Stephen Mitchell

Actor Charles Laughton reads a different translation of Psalm 104:




Who is this whose ignorant words
   smear my design with darkness?
Stand up now like a man;
   I will question you: please, instruct me.

Where were you when I planned the earth?
   Tell me, if you are so wise.
Do you know who took its dimensions,
   measuring its length with a cord?
What were its pillars built on?
   Who laid down its cornerstone,
while the morning stars burst out singing
   and the angels shouted for joy!

Were you there when I stopped the waters,
   as they issued gushing from the womb?
when I wrapped the ocean in clouds
   and swaddled the sea in shadows?
when I closed it in with barriers
   and set its boundaries, saying,
“Here you may come, but no farther;
   here shall your proud waves break.”

Have you ever commanded morning
   or guided dawn to its place—-
to hold the corners of the sky
   and shake off the last few stars?
All things are touched with color;
   the whole world is changed.

Have you walked through the depths of the ocean
   or dived to the floor of the sea?
Have you stood at the gates of doom
   or looked through the gates of death?
Have you seen to the edge of the universe?
   Speak up, if you have such knowledge.

Where is the road to light?
   Where does darkness live?
(Perhaps you will guide them home
   or show them the way to their house.)
You know, since you have been there
   and are older than all creation.

Have you seen where the snow is stored
   or visited the storehouse of hail,
which I keep for the day of terror,
   the final hours of the world?
Where is the west wind released
   and the east wind sent down to earth?

Who cuts a path for the thunderstorm
   and carves a road for the rain—-
to water the desolate wasteland,
   the land where no man lives;
to make the wilderness blossom
   and cover the desert with grass?

Does the rain have a father?
   Who has begotten the dew?
Out of whose belly is the ice born?
   Whose womb labors with the sleet?
(The water’s surface stiffens;
   the lake grows as hard as a rock.)

Can you tie the *Twins together                *Gemini 
   or loosen the ^Hunter’s cords?              ^Orion
Can you light the Evening Star 
   or lead out the #Bear and her cubs?     #Ursa Major & Minor 
Do you know all the patterns of heaven 
   and how they affect the earth? 

If you shout commands to the thunderclouds, 
   will they rush off to do your bidding? 
If you clap for the bolts of lightning, 
   will they come and say “Here we are”? 
Who gathers up the stormclouds, 
   slits them and pours them out, 
turning dust to mud 
   and soaking the cracked clay?

Do you hunt game for the lioness 
   and feed her ravenous cubs, 
when they crouch in their den, impatient, 
   or lie in ambush in the thicket?
Who finds her prey at nightfall, 
   when her cubs are aching with hunger? 

Do you tell the antelope to calve 
   or ease her when she is in labor? 
Do you count the months of her fullness 
   and know when her time has come?
She kneels; she tightens her womb; 
   she pants, she presses, gives birth. 
Her little ones grow up;
   they leave and never return.

Who unties the wild ass 
   and lets him wander at will? 
He ranges the open prairie 
   and roams across the saltlands. 
He is far from the tumult of cities; 
   he laughs at the driver’s whip. 
He scours the hills for food, 
   in search of anything green. 

Is the wild ox willing to serve you? 
   Will he spend the night in your stable? 
Can you tie a rope to his neck? 
   Will he harrow the fields behind you? 
Will you trust him because he is powerful 
   and leave him to do your work? 
Will you wait for him to come back, 
   bringing your grain to the barn?  

Do you deck the ostrich with wings, 
   with elegant plumes and feathers? 
She lays her eggs in the dirt 
   and lets them hatch on the ground, 
forgetting that a foot may crush them 
   or sharp teeth crack them open. 
She treats her children cruelly, 
   as if they were not her own. 
For God deprived her of wisdom 
   and left her with little sense. 
When she spreads her wings to run, 
   she laughs at the horse and rider. 

Do you give the horse his strength? 
   Do you clothe his neck with terror? 
Do you make him leap like a locust, 
   snort like a blast of thunder? 
He paws and champs at the bit; 
   he exults as he charges into battle. 
He laughs at the sight of danger; 
   he does not wince from the sword 
or the arrows nipping at his ears 
   or the flash of spear and javelin. 
With his hooves he swallows the ground; 
   he quivers at the sound of the trumpet. 
When the trumpet calls, he says “Ah!” 
   From far off he smells the battle, 
   the thunder of the captains and the shouting. 

Do you show the hawk how to fly, 
   stretching his wings on the wind? 
Do you teach the vulture to soar 
   and build his nest in the clouds? 
He makes his home on the mountaintop, 
   on the unapproachable crag. 
He sits and scans for prey;
   from far off his eyes can spot it; 
his little ones drink its blood. 
   Where the unburied are, he is.

translated from Hebrew by Stephen Mitchell

Song about the book of Job:

Images from The Book of Job. Made by The Bible Project, 2017


[The lyrics below are adapted from the texts of Psalms 19 and 137 in the Hebrew Bible.]

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down
And there we wept, when we remembered Zion.

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down
And there we wept, when we remembered Zion.

But the wicked
Carried us away in captivity,
Required from us a song.
Then how shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

O let the words from our mouths and the meditations from our hearts
Be acceptable in Thy sight, Over-I.

Let the words from our mouths and the meditations from our hearts
Be acceptable in Thy sight, Over-I.

Originally performed by the Melodians in the film “The Harder They Come.” Written by Brent Dowe, Frank Farian, George Reyam, Trevor Mc Naughton • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group. Here performed by the group Boney M.:

The Christian faith, while wildly misrepresented in so much of American culture, is really about death and resurrection.  It’s about how God continues to reach for the graves we dig for ourselves and pulls us out, giving us new life, in ways both dramatic and small.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix


If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, 
either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or 
we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and 
serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't 
want to do it.

— Stephen Colbert


From transcript of David Foster Wallace’s 2005 Kenyon Commencement Address [May 21, 2005]

You get to decide what to worship. Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the dayto-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritualtype thing to worship be it JC or Allah, beit YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness. Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings. They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.

And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving. . . .  The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.

That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.


The first service one owes to others in a community involves listening to them. Just as our love for God begins with listening to God’s Word, the beginning of love for others is learning to listen to them. God’s love for us is shown by the fact that God not only gives God’s Word but also lends us God’s ear. . . . We do God’s work for our brothers and sisters when we learn to listen to them. — Dietrich Bohhoeffer

Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are. — Dietrich Bohhoeffer

The Church is the Church only when it exists for others . . . not dominating, but helping and serving. It must tell men of every calling what it means to live for Christ, to exist for others. — Dietrich Bohhoeffer

The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children. — Dietrich Bohhoeffer

The awareness of a spiritual tradition that reaches through the centuries gives one a certain feeling of security in the face of all transitory difficulties. — Dietrich Bohhoeffer

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. — Dietrich Bohhoeffer

Jesus was not killed by atheism and anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion – which is always a deadly mix. Beware those who claim to know the mind of God and are prepared to use force, if necessary, to make others conform. Beware those who cannot tell God’s will – from their own. — Barbara Brown Taylor

Rev. Fletcher Harper (Green Faith) sermon “Sacred People, Sacred Earth” begins at 36:57:

“More Than Thoughts and Prayers” | Matthew 26:47-56 | Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow. Recording of Worship at First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto on Sunday, May 2, 2021 (sermon begins at 28:45):

“Justice is What Love Looks Like in Public” | Rev. Geoff Browning. Recording of Worship at First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto (sermon begins at 32:15):

Sunday, 11.07.2021 | “What is Enough?” | Exodus 36:1-7 | Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow. Recording of Worship at First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto (sermon begins at 28:15):

Sermon: “Decisions in Times of Crisis”, by Rev. Annanda Barclay.  Scripture: Ruth 1-18, 2:1-2 (sermon begins at 22:45):

Derrick Weston’s sermon begins at 30:55 (Derrick is at bottom of screen):

Guest prompting (sermon) by Mohan Iyer begins 28 minutes in:

Environmental prompting by Rev. Jane Esterline begins at 24:15:

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