Archive for March 2013

Prayers of the People for Easter   Leave a comment

DSC08019

Above:  Easter Vigil, St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, Dunwoody, Georgia, April 8, 2012

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

(https://picasaweb.google.com/114749828757741527421/EasterVigilStPatrickS?noredirect=1#5729171578836326034)

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The congregational response to “We pray to God” is “Lord, hear our prayer.”

As we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus of Nazareth, we bring our thanksgivings and concerns to the throne of grace.

We pray for

  • Justin, the Archbishop of Canterbury;
  • Katharine, our Presiding Bishop;
  • Robert and Keith, our Bishops;
  • Beth, our Rector;

and all lay and clergy members of the the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for economic justice, environmental stewardship, good government, and a better society.  We pray especially for

  • those who struggle with financial, career, job, and/or vocational issues;
  • those who suffer because of tyrants and violence; and
  • those who suffer because of the apathy or prejudices of their neighbors.

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for shalom among people everywhere.

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We give thanks for everything which causes God to rejoice, especially

  • the beauty of the natural world;
  • the beauty which people have created;
  • [the birth of G, son/daughter of H and I;]
  • loving relationships;
  • X, Y, and Z, who celebrate their birthdays this week; and
  • A and B, C and D, and E and F, who celebrate their anniversaries this week.

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for all military personnel, especially (insert list here).

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for others for whom we care, especially (insert list here).

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for those who have died, that they will have eternal rest.

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

[The celebrant concludes with a Collect.]

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT KATHARINE DREXEL, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT CUNEGOND OF LUXEMBOURG, HOLY ROMAN EMPRESS THEN NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT GERVINUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN AND CHARLES WESLEY, ANGLICAN PRIESTS

Numbers and Luke, Part XIV: Murder, Execution, and Forgiveness   1 comment

supper-at-emmaus-by-caravaggio

Above:  Supper at Emmaus, by Caravaggio

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 35:9-30

Psalm 19 (Morning)

Psalms 81 and 113 (Evening)

Luke 24:28-53

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You shall not pollute the land in which you live; for blood pollutes the land, and the land can have no expiation for blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it.

–Numbers 35:33, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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The Law of Moses is a peculiar code.  It contains death penalties for a variety offenses yet provides cities of refuge for those who have committed manslaughter.  Its violence is not universal.  Yet a murderer must die, the Law says, for bloodshed pollutes the land and invites divine wrath.  Oddly enough, the logic of the Law of Moses requires more bloodshed to expiate for the initial bloodshed of murder.  So, since life is sacred and blood shed pollutes the land, people shed more blood.  Huh?  I do not understand.

I do not understand for several reasons.  Some might note correctly that I am a practicing and professing liberal, one who recalls certain quotes from great men.  Thaddeus Stevens, who argued for equality before God for all people, regardless of race or economics in the United States until his death in 1868, opposed capital punishment in Pennsylvania in the early 1840s, saying,

Society should know nothing of vengeance.

Mohandas Gandhi, who hopefully needs no introduction, commented that “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” leaves the world blind and toothless.  And Martin Luther King, Jr., who really ought to need no introduction, said on April 4, 1967, that one cannot create peace via violent means.  Mine is a Christian liberalism.  The same Jesus who died via crucifixion did not return to life with a vengeful attitude.  He seemed, in fact, quite forgiving.  and he did not die by manslaughter.  No, his was a judicial killing, a political execution.  I do not perceive the moral difference between an execution and a murder.  Jesus changes everything, including how I perceive the world.  The Jesus I know bears little resemblance to the one of which I hear from Fundamentalists.  No, he is much more complex, interesting, and forgiving.

With this post I end one sequence of posts; the lectionary will pair two different books beginning with the next post.  If I have helped you, O reader, encounter the Jesus I know, I have succeeded.  And I hope that the next sequence of posts will yield the same result.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CORNELIUS HILL, ONEIDA CHIEF AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GEORGIAN, ABBOT; AND SAINTS EUTHYMIUS OF ATHOS AND GEORGE OF THE BLACK MOUNTAIN, ABBOTS AND TRANSLATORS

THE FEAST OF PHILIP MELANCHTON, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN [WITH THE PRESENTATION OF THE AUGSBURG CONFESSION]

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/devotion-for-trinity-sunday-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Numbers and Luke, Part XIII: Allegedly Sacred Violence   1 comment

church-of-the-holy-sepulchre-david-roberts

Above:  The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, by David Roberts; Lithograph from 1842-1845

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2002717459/)

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 32:1-6, 16-27

Psalm 104 (Morning)

Psalms 118 and 111 (Evening)

Luke 24:1-27

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FYI:

This post flows from a draft I wrote in a composition book yesterday, Monday, June 25, 2012.  This draft completes a composition book I began to fill with the Devotion for the Thirty-Seventh Day of Lent:  Wednesday in Holy Week (LCMS Daily Lectonary), drafted on Sunday, May 27, 2012.

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/devotion-for-the-thirty-seventh-day-of-lent-wednesday-in-holy-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

I seem to like preparing these posts.  May you, O reader, find at least many of them spiritually edifying.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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…your sin will overtake you….

–Numbers 32:23b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Just when I begin to like the Torah I read something like Numbers 31, a chapter over which the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod Daily Lectionary from the Lutheran Service Book (2006) skips.  (Sometimes skipping is necessary, and the text always remains available for reading.)  The editor or editors of the Torah after the Babylonian Exile wove together various documents; sometimes the seams jump out at a person who reads the texts carefully.  Numbers 31 picks up a thread left dangling at the end of Chapter 25.  In both chapters killing people seems to be answer to idolatry.  And the violence in Chapter 31 is allegedly God-sanctioned war in retribution for the events early in Numbers 25.  In 31:15b we read of Moses saying disapprovingly,

You have spared every female!

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

He goes on to order the death of

every male among the children.

–32:17a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

After that the settlement of the Transjordan begins in Chapter 32.

The lectionary, by pairing Numbers 32, which occurs in the context of the previous chapter, with Luke 24:1-27, begs me to read the Old Testament lessons in the context of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.  Can you, O reader, imagine Jesus ordering the execution of young men and condemning people for sparing every female of a particular population?  Neither can I.  The recently resurrected Jesus, with fresh memories of his death, certainly would not have done so.

There has been far too much killing already in the Bible and beyond its pages.  Too many people (one would be too many) have died because of theological disputes.  May neither you, O reader, nor I be responsible for any such killing.  Rather, may we function as agents of divine love and reconciliation.  Then the prediction of Numbers 32:23b, that our sin will overtake us if we disregard God’s commandments, will not come to fruition for us.

If x, then y

is a logical progression.  So, if x does not occur, neither does y.  And what is more godly than love, the blood-soaked parts of the Hebrew Scriptures notwithstanding?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 26, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEREMIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/devotion-for-saturday-in-pentecost-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Numbers and Luke, Part XII: Two Joshuas   1 comment

edicule

Above:  The Edicule, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, 1898-1946

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2004005703/PP/)

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 27:12-23

Psalm 51 (Morning)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening)

Luke 23:26-56

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The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod Daily Lectionary from the Lutheran Service Book (2006) skipped Numbers 25:1-27:11.  For the record, idolatry with Moabite prostitutes led to a plague.  A census followed.  And daughters of a deceased man who had no son received full property rights.  Then, in the assigned portion for today, Moses saw the Promised Land the commissioned Joshua, son of Nun, as his successor.

We read of a different Joshua–Jesus–in Luke 23:26-56.  He died via crucifixion, after which Joshua of Arimathea buries him.  For most crucified people, that manner of execution equaled eradication.  It was slow, painful, and humiliating.  then animals devoured the corpse.  This constituted capital punishment at its most Foucaultian extent.

Was Jesus the great leader whom people were supposed to follow?  After all, one who died on a tree was cursed, according to the Law of Moses.  The crucifixion of Jesus constituted a scandal on several fronts.  Yet there was good news:  the story was not over.  And this Joshua would open the portals to the Promised Land yet.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 26, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEREMIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/devotion-for-friday-in-pentecost-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Numbers and Luke, Part XI: Atonement   1 comment

pieta-michelangelo

Above:  Pieta, by Michelangelo Buonarroti

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 23:4-28 (Wednesday)

Numbers 24:1-25 (Thursday)

Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning–Wednesday)

Psalm 97 (Morning–Thursday)

Psalms 1 and 33 (Evening–Wednesday)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening–Thursday)

Luke 22:47-71 (Wednesday)

Luke 23:1-25 (Thursday)

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How can I damn whom God has not damned,

How doom when the LORD has not doomed?

–Numbers 23:8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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It would have been nice (per Numbers 31:16) if Balaam had maintained that attitude.

Balaam, in Numbers 23 and 24, did as God instructed him, to King Balak’s dismay.  This was risky in the short term, I suppose, but the two merely parted company. Thus that part of the story ended.

Among my essential books is A Short History of Christian Thought, Revised and Expanded Edition (Oxford University Press, 1996), by Linwood Urban.  Father/Professor Urban’s volume is a wonderful resource for reading about Christian theological development.  These doctrines which we Christians affirm, refute, or discuss did not fall fully formed from Heaven.  No, theologians wrote and debated.  Bishops gathered at council and synods.  And, more often than not, they got it right.

Urban devotes a chapter to the doctrine of the Atonement.  He contextualizes it in Scripture and theology.  And he traces three understandings of the Atonement in the Bible and the writings of Church Fathers.  To summarize:

Reconciliation or atonement is said to be accomplished by the Incarnation itself, by the sacrificial death of Christ on Calvary, and by the conquest and defeat of the Devil.

–page 106

I recommend reading Urban’s chapter for full citations to the Bible and named Church Fathers.  These are matters of theological history.  Thus the existence of more than one ancient interpretation of the mechanics of the Atonement in Christian theology is a matter of objectively correct and confirmed history, not opinion.  As the late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, everybody is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts.

As for me, I grew up learning St. Anselm of Canterbury’s theory of Penal Substitutionary Atonement.  Jesus took my place on the cross, people told me.  This does not satisfy me, for it makes God seem like a vindictive thug.

I will not be satisfied until I see my son tortured and executed,

I imagine such a deity saying or thinking.  I recognize the Conquest of Satan theory in the Scriptures, and I hear echoes of the Incarnation-as-Atonement in the Gospels before their Passion narratives begin.  But we must come to terms with the death of Jesus.  That even played a vital role in the Atonement process.  Yet me must not stop there, for dead Jesus did not redeem us; resurrected Jesus did.

My conclusion follows:  The entire earthly life of Jesus was necessary for the Atonement to occur.  The Incarnation was vital, as were the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.  And Jesus was one whom God had neither damned nor doomed.  No, his death pointed out the futility and cruelty of scapegoating people.  And his Resurrection from the dead showed God’s power, which God had demonstrated many times.  Now and again, however, we mere mortals seem to need reminders.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 26, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEREMIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/devotion-for-wednesday-and-thursday-in-pentecost-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Numbers and Luke, Part X: Obedience to Our Sovereign God   1 comment

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Above:  Balaam and the Angel

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 22:1-20 (Monday)

Numbers 22:21-23:3 (Tuesday)

Psalm 5 (Morning–Monday)

Psalm 42 (Morning–Tuesday)

Psalms 84 and 29 (Evening–Monday)

Psalms 102 and 133 (Evening–Tuesday)

Luke 22:1-23 (Monday)

Luke 22:24-46 (Tuesday)

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A Related Post:

Luke 22:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-eighth-day-of-lent-maundy-thursday/

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NOTE:

This post continues a sequence which began in LENTEN AND EASTER DEVOTIONS.  You, O reader, may find the immediately prior post in the sequence at this URL:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/devotion-for-the-fiftieth-day-of-easter-day-of-pentecost-lcms-daily-lectionary/.

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Parts of the readings from the Book of Numbers prove to be inconsistent with my Western and scientific worldview and mindset, which I have inherited from my post-Enlightenment culture.  What influence might one non-Israelite prophet’s curse have upon them?  And we all know that donkeys lack the capacity for human language.  But these details are trivial matters; the main point of the Balak and Balaam narrative is to affirm the sovereignty of God.  Balaam, hired to curse the Israelites on behalf of Balak, the King of Moab, disobeys God by setting with Balak’s agents.  The the prophet receives divine permission to continue on the journey but only to speak as God, not Balak wishes.

To digress briefly, who stops Balaam and his donkey in their tracks?  The narrative, in 22:22-26, uses a Hebrew term for “the adversary,” or the Satan.  The theology of Satan changed from the beginning of the Bible to the New Testament.  Here, in the Book of Numbers, as in the Book of Job, the Satan was an angel who worked for God.  Free agency, such as we see in the New Testament, came later.  This is a well-documented pattern of facts, one which serious study of the texts reveals.  There are even entire books on just this subject.

While I am wearing my higher criticism hat….

Luke 22:24-27, set immediately after our Lord’s betrayal by Judas Iscariot and the institution of the Holy Eucharist and the Last Supper, bears a striking resemblance to Matthew 20:25-28 and Mark 10:42-45, both of which follow on the heels of James and John, sons of Zebedee, asking for high status for themselves (or their mother, our Lord’s aunt, asking for them, depending on the account one reads) in the Kingdom of God.  And the passages from Matthew and Mark precede the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem almost immediately.  Such discrepancies did not trouble the Church Fathers who approved the New Testament canon, so I will not permit them to disturb me either.  Besides, I know that the Gospels are not documentaries.

Anyhow, the theme of obedience we find in Numbers 22 runs through Luke 22 also.  Jesus obeys God.  Those who defy the Greco-Roman system of age and patronage, a system which oppressed people while impressing them with moments of generosity, obey God.  Those who stand by Jesus obey God.  Even Judas Iscariot played his part in salvation history.  If nobody had betrayed Jesus, would he have suffered, died, and risen?  Again we see the sovereignty of God playing out in the texts.

Sometimes agents in these dramas of the sovereignty of God are less than savory characters.  Consider the Numbers and Luke readings for examples of this, O reader.  Balaam, for example, obeyed God until he did not; consult Numbers 31:16.  And, elsewhere in the Bible, the narrative presents the Assyrians and the Babylonians as agents of divine sovereignty and punishment–agents those texts also condemn.  The fact that you, O reader, and I have roles to play in divine plans does not necessarily bode well for us.  Yet may we be on God’s side.  It is better for us, and I propose that God prefers it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 26, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEREMIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-in-pentecost-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Numbers and Luke, Part IX: Fairness and Grace   1 comment

conquest-of-the-amorites-james-tissot

Above:  The Conquest of the Amorites, by James Tissot

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 21:10-35

Psalm 93 (Morning)

Psalms 136 and 117 (Evening)

Luke 21:20-38

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Some Related Posts:

Luke 21:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/first-day-of-advent-first-sunday-of-advent-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/week-of-proper-29-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/week-of-proper-29-friday-year-1-and-week-of-proper-29-saturday-year-1/

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NOTE:

The sequence to which this post belongs continues at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS, beginning with the following URL:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-in-pentecost-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/.

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Israelite victories and conquests prior to the arrival in Canaan fill Numbers 21:10-35.  The narrative tells us that so long as they obeyed God, they won.  I wish that life were always as simple as obedience to God leading to success and prosperity.  Yet, as we read in Luke 21:12-19, sometimes it leads to persecution and betrayal.  Indeed, the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot opens the next chapter.

I have no easy answers as to why bad things happen to good people.  Observation and the study of history have taught me some lessons.  Jealousies arise.  We see those who are better than ourselves and we seek to tear them down rather than to improve ourselves.  Or we misunderstand others, and we learn to hate those we do not understand.  Sometimes people are just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Yet some people seem to have all the luck while others seem to have none.  The fact that I know all this does mean than I understand it very well.

I do know that the world is an unfair place.  I have railed against this to God.  The world is still horribly unfair, however.  But perhaps fairness is not the proper standard.  Grace is not fair either, but I try not to complain about that reality.  No, the standard I really seek is grace–to everybody.  And, when I perceive the absence of it, I become disturbed.  And I rail about it to God.  But to what extent are we–you, O reader, and I–supposed to function as agents of that grace more than we do?

Now that is a hard lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 23, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETAS OF REMESIANA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WIREMU TAMIHANA, MAORI PROPHET AND KINGMAKER

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/devotion-for-the-fiftieth-day-of-easter-day-of-pentecost-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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