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The Mind of Christ   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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FOR THE NINTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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God, you know that we are set amid so many and great dangers,

and that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright.

Grant us to such strength and protection, as may support us in all dangers,

and carry us through all temptations;  through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 86

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Proverbs 4:10-18

Psalm 3

1 Corinthians 2:1-16

Mark 1:14-22

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Two errors of the wicked are the assumptions that (A) they can rely on themselves alone and (B) that they must do so.  These errors lead to others, such as the exploitation of people.  In a dog-eat-dog world the wicked prefer to feast.  The righteous, however, seek God.

Unspiritual people, we read in 1 Corinthians 2, lack the mind of Christ, for they cannot grasp the Holy Spirit, which imparts the mind of Christ, which is superior to human wisdom.  The hidden wisdom of God is folly to the unspiritual.  Yet, throughout the Gospel of Mark (including in 1:23:28, which one should read after 1:22), we find that evil spirits (whatever that category translates into outside of the Hellenistic worldview of the time) recognized Jesus for what he was, unlike those closest to Christ.  Recognition does not necessarily lead to repentance, does it?

Whose authority do we acknowledge as being spiritually supreme?  Or do we recognize and accept any such authority?  To state that one follows God as the supreme authority is easy; to act on that is more difficult.  Furthermore, how does one tell the difference between what God commands and what one merely wants to hear?  We humans often create a concept of God that agrees with us.  How convenient for us, at least in the short term!  Not one of us is exempt from this trap all of the time.  Shall we be honest about that?

Good news is that we need not rely on our own power to deal effectively with this trap.  Nor can we do so anyway.  No, we need to rely on God, if we are to succeed in knowing the difference between divine dictates and human prejudices and other preferences.  I do not pretend to have mastered this matter.  I do, however, notice that the Golden Rule seems to be prominent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2017 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

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Posted September 4, 2017 by neatnik2009 in 1 Corinthians 2, Mark 1, Proverbs, Psalm 3

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The Golden Rule and Other Timeless Principles   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE EIGHTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Lord, you have taught us that all our doings without unconditional, sacrificial love are worth nothing.

Send your Holy Spirit, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love,

the very bond of peace and of all virtues, without whosoever lives is counted dead before you.

Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 86

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Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18

Psalm 47

Ephesians 4:17-32

Luke 10:25-37

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God is the King, Psalm 47 reminds us.  Furthermore, the text states, all nations should acknowledge this reality.  Not only is this true, but so are the following statements:

  1. We depend on God for everything.
  2. We depend on each other.
  3. We are responsible for each other.
  4. We are responsible to each other.
  5. We are interdependent and dependent, not independent.
  6. We have no moral right to exploit one another.
  7. How we treat each other matters.
  8. Piety (or at least the appearance thereof) does not justify not helping each other.

Those statements, taken together, summarize the readings from Leviticus 19, Ephesians 4, and Luke 10 well.  To that list of statements I add another:  The identity of those who help us might prove so surprising as to be scandalous to many.

I notice the selective reading from Leviticus 19.  I have no desire to insult the deaf or to place a stumbling block before the blind, for example, so verse 14 does not disturb me.  Many other omitted verses also prompt me to respond with, “Of course that is a fine law.”  Some of them are timeless principles, but others are culturally specific examples of such principles.  The particulars of verses 9 and 10 might not apply at all times and in all places, but the commandment to provide for the poor remains.  I note, however, that verses 20-22 allow for slavery.  Furthermore, the wardrobe prohibition in verse 19 applies neither to priestly vestments (see Exodus 28:6 and 39:29) nor forbids mandatory fringes on Israelite clothing (see Numbers 15:37-40).  The wording of certain passages of the Law of Moses, taken out of context, makes those passages seem more cut-and-dried than they really are.

Biblical interpretation is a frequently complicated and subtle enterprise.  So as to avoid becoming lost in the proverbial forest and slipping into legalism, I side with the tradition of Rabbi Hillel:

That which is deplorable to you, do not do to your fellow; this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary; go and learn it.

We read in Matthew 5:17-20 that Jesus came to fulfill, not to abolish, the law.  The critique of scribes and Pharisees in the Gospel of Matthew is that they do not keep the law properly.  We also read the following in Matthew 7:12:

In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That is the Golden Rule.  It means no slavery, does it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2017 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

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Deferred Hope   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Bartholomew, by Gregorio Bausa

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Lord, who commanded your apostles to go into all the world,

and to preach the Gospel to every creature,

Let your name be great among the nations from the rising of the Sun

to the going down of the same.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 86

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Habakkuk 2:18-20; 3:2-4

Psalm 52

1 Peter 2:4-10

John 1:35-51

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The assigned reading from 1 Peter is too brief.  One should, for full comprehension of 2:4-10, back up into chapter 1 and start reading.  We read that Gentile Christians are a holy people, a priesthood set apart to serve God, and a holy people, a priesthood set apart to serve God, and a temple all at once, via divine mercy.  With grace come obligations, of course.  We ought to put away

all wickedness and deceit, hypocrisy and jealousy and malicious talk of any kind.

–1 John 2:1, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Not putting them away is inconsistent with being a light to the nations.

1 John 2:3 affirms that God is good, in an echo of Psalm 34:8.  That segue brings me to Habakkuk.  Once again the assigned reading is unfortunately truncated.  The overall context of the Book of Habakkuk is the Babylonian Exile.  The text struggles with how to affirm the goodness of God in light of a violent and exploitative international order.  The author seems less certain than the man who wrote Psalm 52.  The central struggle of Habakkuk is timeless, for circumstances change and time passes, but certain populations experience oppression at any given moment.

I have no easy answer to this difficult question, nor do I aspire to have one.  God has some explaining to do, I conclude.

The Roman occupation of the Holy Land was in full effect at the time of Christ.  A portion of the Jewish population sought a military savior who would expel the Romans.  Jesus disappointed them.  He did, however, astound St. Nathanael/Bartholomew.  All Jesus had to do was say he had seen the future Apostle under a fig tree.

This is an interesting section of John 1.  Every time I study 1:47-51 I consult resources as I search for more answers.  The Gospel of John is a subtle text, after all; it operates on two levels–the literal and the metaphorical–simultaneously.  St. Nathanael/Bartholomew acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah and follows him.  The fig tree is a symbol of messianic peace in Micah 4:4 (one verse after nations end their warfare and beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks) and in Zechariah 3:10 (one verse after God promises to remove the Israelites’ collective guilt in one day, in the context of the Babylonian Exile.  The context of the confession of St. Nathanael/Bartholomew then, is apocalyptic; an ideal future in which God reigns fully on the Earth is the hope.  So as for Jesus seeing St. Nathanael/Bartholomew under a fig tree, that feat seems to have indicated to the future Apostle that possessed unique insights.

The apocalyptic nature of the vision of St. Nathanael/Bartholomew sitting under a fig tree is juicier material, though.  I also wonder how well the future Apostle understood the messiahship of Jesus at the time of his confession.  The answer is that he did so incompletely, I conclude.  I do not mean that as a criticism; I merely make a statement of what I perceive to have been reality.

The question of now to make sense of the divine goodness in the context of a violent and exploitative world order remains.  I offer a final thought regarding that:  Is not hope superior to hopelessness?  Deferred hope is still hope.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2017 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

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A Light to the Nations VII   Leave a comment

Above:  Kent Lighthouse at Night

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Master of us all, you have given us work to do.

Also give us strength to perform it with gladness and singleness of heart;

and when it is completed grant us a place in your kingdom;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 86

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Jeremiah 10:1-7

Psalm 50

Acts 8:26-35

John 4:7-26

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We have a fine set of readings (as usual) this time.  My only negative comment regards not the portions of scripture themselves but the old lectionary itself; the lessons from Jeremiah, Acts, and John are too short.  One should read through Jeremiah 10:16, Acts 8:40, and John 4:42 for full effect.

God (in Jeremiah 10) and Jesus (in John 4) notably avoided condemning anyone.  (The condemnation came in Psalm 50 instead.)  God, speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, condemned idolatry and cautioned against practicing it, but proclaimed (in that passage) no punishment of practitioners of idolatry.  No, God did that elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible.  And Jesus, scandalously speaking at great length to the Samaritan woman at the well, did not condemn her for anything.  No, he, like God in Jeremiah 10:1-16, encouraged repentance.  That strategy worked on the woman.

A recurring theme in this series of posts has been being a light to the nations.  This has been appropriate, given the theme of the Season after the Epiphany, with the message of Christ spreading to the Gentiles, or to the nations.

Find the good and praise it.

–Alex Haley

A light to the nations stands out among them; it does not blend in.  Neither is a light to the nations a reflexive contrarian.  No, such a light affirms the positive and names the negative.  It does so in the proper way, so as to avoid defeating divine purposes by making unnecessary scenes.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ, by its nature, offends many, but the record of Christian missionary efforts is sadly replete with examples of evangelists who, out of racism, ethnocentrism, and other faults, sabotaged their work and actively (yet accidentally) discouraged many people from coming to God.

May we be lights to the nations properly.  May we be like St. Philip the Deacon (not the Apostle), who, in Acts 8, engaged constructively with the Ethiopian eunuch.  May we be like Jesus, who, in John 4, spoke the truth gently and persuasively to the Samaritan woman.  May we draw people to God and encourage discipleship.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2017 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

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As the Dew   Leave a comment

Above:  Dew

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Lord God, you see that we do not put our trust in anything that we do.

Mercifully grant that by your power we may be defended against all adversity;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 86

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Hosea 6:1-3

Psalm 49

Colossians 1:21-29

John 1:19-30

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Deeds reveal creeds.

That is one of my favorite statements.  It is also consistent with the readings for this day.

On the surface Hosea 6:1-3 sounds good, does it not?  However, it is actually cynical, self-serving, and transactional, as the full context of the Book of Hosea reveals.  The setting of the Book of Hosea is the middle of the eighth century B.C.E., during the final period of strength of the northern Kingdom of Israel, shortly before its fall to the Assyrians in 722 B.C.E.  As one reads the book one finds strong condemnations of pervasive and repeated societal sins.  After one reads Hosea 6:1-3 one should continue reading.  In 6:4-11 alone God likens the goodness of the people to the dew in the morning (quickly gone) and states the principle of the primacy of morality over sacrifices.  Ritual acts, even ones God has commanded, are not talismans that protect us from the consequences of sins for which we are not sorry.

Actual repentance is something God welcomes, however.  It works toward the purposes of improving the quality of human lives and of glorifying God, in whom we can trust during evil days.  Cynical sacrifice offends, not glorifies, God, but sacrificing one’s ego, so as to walk humbly with God, is spiritually healthy.

To sin is literally to miss the mark.  One might sin while attempting to hit the target.  Alternatively, one might not even try.  In the former case, one needs to repent of having bad aim.  In the latter case, however, one is in a far worse situation.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.”

–Luke 23:34a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Jesus made that intercession at his crucifixion.  He was being quite generous of spirit.  Yes, many of the people for whom he prayed in that moment were ignorant of what they were really doing.  Others, however, did know exactly what they were doing.  They needed forgiveness also.

So it is with us, collectively and individually.  Sometimes we know what we are doing when we sin; at other times we do not.  Either way, we need to repent and to receive forgiveness.  Our goodness should never be temporary, like the dew.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2017 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

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Posted September 4, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Colossians 1, Hosea, John 1, Luke 23, Psalms I: 1-76

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Hesed and Repentance   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Jonah

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Almighty and everlasting God, look mercifully upon our infirmities,

and all dangers and necessities stretch forth your right hand to help and defend us.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 86

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Jonah 3:1-5

Psalm 21

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

John 12:20-36a

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These are the words of the LORD:

Let not the wise boast of their wisdom,

nor the valiant of their valour;

let not the wealthy boast of their wealth;

but if anyone must boast, let him boast of this:

that he understands and acknowledges me.

For I am the LORD, I show unfailing love,

I do justice and right on the earth,

for in these I take pleasure.

This is the word of the LORD.

–Jeremiah 9:23-24, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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Therefore, in the words of scripture,

“If anyone must boast, let him boast of the Lord.”

–1 Corinthians 1:31, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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1 Corinthians 1:18 interests me.  The Revised English Bible (1989) reads:

The message of the cross is sheer folly to those on the way to destruction, but to us, who are on the way to salvation, it is the power of God.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989), however, renders that verse as follows:

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The active agent in that instance of the passive voice is God, in whom we find not only the process (not event) of salvation but the only proper boast.

I take it as an article of faith that God wants all people to repent and to come to salvation.  Yet I am not a universalist, for I understand that many will refuse to do so.  I rejoice with Jesus when people, regardless of their ethnicity, seek him.  I stand with God in the theologically accurate yet fictional story of Jonah and his mission; enemies should repent.

God saw what they did, how they were turning back from their evil ways.  And God renounced the punishment He had planned to bring upon them, and did not carry it out.

This displeased Jonah greatly, and he was grieved.

–Jonah 3:10-4:1, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The character of Jonah does not recognize the irony of lamenting divine compassion for national enemies as he acknowledges that God is compassionate and prays for death.  Jonah, like the authors of many psalms, including Psalm 21, does not want enemies to repent and receive forgiveness.  That is no reason to boast.

Would it not be convenient for us if God were compassionate only toward ourselves and people like us?  Perhaps it would be, but that sort of deity would not be one worthy of boasting about, would He?  Human wisdom is limited.  Human valor is finite.  Human wealth can do only so much, and we can take none of our wealth with us when we die.  God’s hesed–faithfulness, mercy, steadfast love, et cetera–is infinite, however.  It is also available to everyone.  Do we rejoice when sinners repent?  God does.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2017 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

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Dedicated to God   Leave a comment

Above:  Hannah Giving Her Son Samuel to the Priest, by Jan Victors

Image in the Public Library

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FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EPIPHANY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Almighty and everlasting God, who governs all things in heaven and earth,

Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and grant us your peace all the days of our life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 85

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 1 Samuel 1:19c-28

Psalm 16

2 Corinthians 4:1-6

Luke 2:39-52

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The theme of being dedicated to God unites these readings.

Psalm 16 reflects the spiritually healthy ethic of avoiding idolatry and seeking divine guidance.  All of us need to do better in those regards, I propose; idols are plentiful and tempting, and we frequently imagine that we know more than we do.  Furthermore, recognizing divine guidance might be more challenging than asking for it.

We read of two dedicated boys and their devoted parents in other lessons.  We meet Samuel and his parents in 1 Samuel.  Perhaps nobody can imagine accurately the gratitude of Hannah as well as the difficulty of lending her precious son to the service of God.  Her story demonstrates the essence of sacrifice in the Bible; one gives of what is dearest to one.  It is a real sacrifice.  Although I do pretend to know how Sts. Joseph and Mary of Nazareth must have felt when raising Jesus, I suppose that parenting him was especially challenging quite often.  I also conclude that they did a fine job.  If one accepts that Jesus was fully human and fully divine, one must agree that the incarnate God needed good parents, who influenced him positively.

It is not ourselves that we proclaim; we proclaim Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’s sake.

–2 Corinthians 4:5, The Revised English Bible (1989)

May we never lose heart as we proclaim Christ, glorify God, renounce idolatry, and seek and recognize divine guidance.  May we grow to achieve our full spiritual stature as we deepen our relationship with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2017 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

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