Archive for the ‘1 Thessalonians’ Category

Leaving the World Better Than We Found It   1 comment

The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70AD -- a painting by David Roberts (1796-1849).

The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70AD —
a painting by David Roberts (1796-1849).

Above: The Destruction of Jerusalem, by David Roberts

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection alert us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and redeem us for your life of justice,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Nehemiah 9:6-15 (Thursday)

Nehemiah 9:16-25 (Friday)

Nehemiah 9:26-31 (Saturday)

Psalm 76 (All Days)

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (Thursday)

1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 (Friday)

Luke 21:20-24 (Saturday)

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For all those who hope in you shall not be ashamed:

but only those who wantonly break faith.

–Psalm 25:2, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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One message from the Hebrew Bible is that God liberated the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and gave them orders to live in a just society.  Yet, as prophets attested, rebellion against God became the norm, not the exception to the rule.  Consequences ensued and God showed both judgment and mercy to the Hebrews.

The Jews of Nehemiah 9 were returned exiles living in a province (a satrapy, technically) of the Persian Empire.  They were home, but circumstances did not live up to high expectations and they lived in a foreign empire.  Living under occupation remained the reality of Jews in Judea for most of the time during the following centuries.  In the time of Jesus of Nazareth the occupying power was the Roman Empire, against whom many Jews fought a war from 66 to 73 C.E.  The writing of the four canonical Gospels occurred in the context of the First Jewish War, shaping the telling of stories of Jesus.  Certainly that context influenced the understanding of Luke 21:20-24.  Jesus might have said something similar to those words, but the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. by Roman forces made that text poignant after the fact.

In 1 Thessalonians, which St. Paul the Apostle probably dictated circa 50 C.E., about four decades prior to the composition of the Gospel of Luke, apocalyptic expectations were alive and well.  Some members of that community either used the hope that Jesus would return quite soon as a reason or an excuse to refrain from good works and necessary, even mundane tasks.  The Apostle’s sage advice was to keep working.  That remains wise counsel, for Jesus has yet to return as of the writing of this sentence, and the necessities of life continue to exist.  Waiting for God to act is a poor excuse not to work for justice and to attempt to leave one’s corner of the world better than one found it.  The world might not resemble the best hopes for it, but that fact is a reason to continue working, not to become lazy or to give into apathy or hopelessness.  God will save the world, but we have a moral imperative to leave it better than we found it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SCHEFFLER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORG NEUMARK, GERMAN LUTHERAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN HINES, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Living in Community, Part I   1 comment

Joshua and the Israelite People

Above:  Joshua and the Israelite People

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Holy God, your word feeds your people with life that is eternal.

Direct our choices and preserve us in your truth,

that, renouncing what is evil and false, we may live in you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 22:1-9 (Thursday)

Joshua 22:10-20 (Friday)

Joshua 22:21-34 (Saturday)

Psalm 34:15-22 (All Days)

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (Thursday)

Romans 13:11-14 (Friday)

Luke 11:5-13 (Saturday)

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The man who does right may suffer many misfortunes,

but the LORD rescues him from them all.

He keeps him safe from physical harm,

not a bone of his body is broken.

–Psalm 34:20-21, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

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I have read and written of martyrs, such as St. James Intercisus (died circa 421), whose lives contradicted those verses.  Reality has proven much of the Book of Psalms to be naively optimistic.

The theme of this post comes from Romans and 1 Thessalonians.  I begin with Romans 13:12b-13a:

Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day….

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

I continue with 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11:

God destined us not for his retribution, but to win salvation through our lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that, awake or asleep, we should still be united to him.  So give encouragement to each other, and keep strengthening one another, as you do already.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Rabbi Hillel, who was an old man when Jesus was a juvenile, summarized the Torah by quoting the Shema then saying,

The rest is commentary; go and learn it.

I apply the same statement to the remainder of the pericopes from Romans 13 and 1 Thessalonians 5.  It is commentary; go and learn it.

Living properly in community before God requires much of us.  It means that we must put up with inconveniences sometimes, for the sake of hospitality, which was frequently a matter or life or death in Biblical times.  It also means that, among other things, we must lay aside misunderstandings and encourage one another.  The altar in Joshua 22 was, in fact, not a threat to the central place of worship.  Neither did it constitute evidence of any variety of treachery before God, contrary to the charge in verse 16.  How many people might have died needlessly had the planned war against the transjordan tribes, based on a misunderstanding, occurred?

Often those who plot and commit errors seek to behave correctly, but they proceed from false assumptions and understandings.  This statement remains correct in current times, unfortunately.  More people (especially those who decide policies) need to check their information more often.  The rest of us (not the policy makers) carry erroneous assumptions in our heads.  As I heard a professor who is an expert in critical thinking say years ago, our most basic assumptions are the ones we do not think of as being assumptions.  How can we live in peace with our neighbors if we do not understand their actions correctly?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, APOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-16-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Benefits of Cracks   1 comment

Time of the Doctor 02

Above:  The Crack in the Fabric of the Universe, from Doctor Who:  The Time of the Doctor (2013)

A screen capture via PowerDVD and a legal DVD

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The Collect:

Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.

By his coming strengthen us to serve you with purified lives;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Hosea 6:1-6

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

1 Thessalonians 1:2-10

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I will listen to what the LORD God is saying,

for he is speaking peace to his faithful people

and those who turn their hearts to him.

–Psalm 85:8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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To repent is to change one’s mind or to turn around.  The idea that it means merely to apologize or to express regret is false yet commonplace.  No, repentance is active.  After one has expressed regret and, if possible, apologized to those against whom one has offended, what will one do next?  That is the essence of repentance.

In Hosea God called the Hebrews back to covenant relationship, which rivalry between the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah as well as the ill-advised alliance with Assyria violated.  Divine judgment was a means to bring the people to repentance.  The pseudo-repentance of Hosea 6:1-3 displeased God, who demanded sincerity, not sycophantic, ingratiating, and vain words.  Where were the deeds?

St. Paul the Apostle, writing in 1 Thessalonians 2, mentioned deeds.  He understood the importance of orthodoxy and orthopraxy being of one piece.  As we think, we are, he wrote elsewhere.

Few offenses raise my hackles more than hypocrisy.  Recently I read a news story about a U.S. Congressman who had voted to require the drug testing of food stamps recipients.  Authorities caught him in possession of illegal drugs.  (Whom should the federal government test for drug use?)  I think also of stories of professional moral crusaders (including critics of gambling, which I oppose also) gambling in casinos.  And how many people who have condemned sexual promiscuity as sinful have been habitually sexually promiscuous while issuing those pronouncements?  “Do as I say, not as I do” does not inspire confidence.

All of us are broken, sinful people who, as St. Paul wrote elsewhere of himself, are frequently doing that which they know they ought to do.  Also, each of us carries secrets, mixed motives, and other flaws of characters.  But we can, bu grace, do the right thing when the opportunity presents itself.  Often our flaws, by grace, become factors which enhance our effectiveness in ministering to others and our drive to do so.  Yes, all of us have cracks, but, as Leonard Cohen has sung, the cracks let the light in.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARY A. LATHBURY, U.S. METHODIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERTILLA BOSCARDIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND NURSE

THE FEAST OF JOHN HARRIS BURT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF TARORE OF WAHAORA, ANGLICAN MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/devotion-for-thursday-before-the-second-sunday-of-advent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Hope, Joy, and Gloom   1 comment

Last Judgment (Russian)

Above:  The Last Judgment

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Righteous God, our merciful master,

you own the earth and all its people,

and you give us all that we have.

Inspire us to serve you with justice and wisdom,

and prepare us for the joy of the day of your coming,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 1:7-17 (Monday)

Zechariah 2:1-5; 5:1-4 (Tuesday)

Job 16:1-21 (Wednesday)

Psalm 9:1-14 (All Days)

Romans 2:1-11 (Monday)

1 Thessalonians 5:12-18 (Tuesday)

Matthew 24:45-51 (Wednesday)

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Sing praises to the LORD who dwells in Zion;

proclaim to the peoples the things he has done.

The Avenger of blood will remember them;

he will not forget the cry of the afflicted.

–Psalm 9:11-12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Thus we have a segue to the hopeful message of Zechariah 1 and 2.  The rest of the material is mostly dark and joyless, however.  Especially memorable is the fate of the servant who was not ready when his master returned unexpectedly in Matthew 24:51 (The Revised English Bible, 1989):

[The master] will cut him in pieces and assign him a place where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.

My concept of God is one which encompasses judgment and mercy, with the two falling simultaneously sometimes; judgment for one person can constitute mercy for another.  Nevertheless, the recent fixation on judgment in the lectionary has proven tiresome.  I want more of the joy the Lutheran collect mentions.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 7, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE PACIFIC

THE FEAST OF ELIE NAUD, HUGUENOT WITNESS TO THE FAITH

THE FEAST OF JANE LAURIE BORTHWICK, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, POET

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-28-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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A Light to the Nations   1 comment

Candle

Above:  A Candle

Image Source = Martin Geisler

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The Collect:

O God of justice and love,

you illumine our way through life with the words of your Son.

Give us the light we need, and awaken us to the needs of others,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 8:7-14 (Monday)

Joel 1:1-14 (Tuesday)

Joel 3:9-21 (Wednesday)

Psalm 63 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 14:20-25 (Monday)

1 Thessalonians 3:6-13 (Tuesday)

Matthew 24:29-35 (Wednesday)

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The hit parade of judgment comes in these days’ readings.  Among the themes therein is the final judgment, which a glorious future for God’s people will follow.  First, however, one must survive the judgment, if one can.

A theme from the New Testament informs the Old Testament lessons nicely.  Faith–by which I mean active faith, in the Pauline sense of the word, not in sense of purely intellectual faith one reads about in the Letter of James–is not just for one’s benefit and that of one’s faith community.  No, faith is for the good of those whom one draws to God and otherwise encourages spiritually.  The people of God have the assignment to function as a light to the nations.  That was the mission in which many Hebrews failed in the days of the Old Testament.  They became so similar to other nations that they could not serve as a light to those nations.  The same holds true for much of Christianity, whether liberal, moderate, or conservative, for organized religion has a knack for affirming certain prejudices while confronting others.  Some denominations, especially in then U.S. South, formed in defense of race-based slavery.  Others, especially in the U.S. North, formed in opposition to that Peculiar Institution of the South.  Many nineteenth-century and twentieth-century U.S. Protestants recycled pro-slavery arguments to defend Jim Crow laws, and one can still identify bastions of unrepentant racism in churches.  Also, mysogyny and homophobia remain entrenched in much of organized Christianity.

To separate divine commandments from learned attitudes and behaviors can prove difficult.  It is, however, essential if one is to follow God faithfully and to function as a light to others.  May those others join us in praying, in the words of Psalm 63:8:

My soul clings to you;

your right hand holds me fast.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 7, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE PACIFIC

THE FEAST OF ELIE NAUD, HUGUENOT WITNESS TO THE FAITH

THE FEAST OF JANE LAURIE BORTHWICK, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, POET

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-27-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Neglecting Human Needs in the Name of God   1 comment

Woe Unto You, Scribes and Pharisees James Tissot

Above:  Woe Unto You, Scribes and Pharisees, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, generous and supreme, your loving Son lived among us,

instructing us in the ways of humility and justice.

Continue to ease our burdens, and lead us to serve alongside of him,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 5:18-31 (Monday)

Lamentations 2:13-17 (Tuesday)

Proverbs 16:21-33 (Wednesday)

Psalm 5 (All Days)

1 Thessalonians 2:13-20 (Monday)

Acts 13:1-12 (Tuesday)

Matthew 15:1-9 (Wednesday)

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Braggarts cannot stand in your sight;

you hate all those who work wickedness.

You destroy those who speak lies;

the bloodthirsty and deceitful, O LORD, you abhor.

–Psalm 5:6-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The dominant theme of these days’ readings is that false prophets are bad people whom God will punish.  Related to that theme is another:  following false prophets leads to a bad end.  I have summarized that point, which the lessons state eloquently, so I will not dwell on it.  A side comment germane to the topic is that nobody who taught me in Sunday School when I was a child mentioned the story from Acts 13, in which St. Paul the Apostle blinds Elymas the sorcerer with only the power of words and the Holy Spirit.  I could have sworn also that Jesus said to love one’s enemies and that the Apostle wrote that people should overcome evil with good, so I have some unanswered questions about that story.  Maybe those in charge of my childhood Sunday School classes considered the tale too troublesome, assuming that they knew of it.  Many of my childhood Sunday School teachers seemed to know remarkably little about the Bible and much of what they did “know” was objectively wrong.  But I digress.

I choose to focus instead on Matthew 15:1-9.  Jesus chastises some Pharisees for obsessing over an extra-biblical point of ritual hand-washing–a matter of the theology of cleanliness and uncleanliness, of purity and impurity–while accepting gifts which should go instead to support the aging parents of the donors.  Donating wealth to the Temple for the support of professional religious people could be a pious act or a dodge of one’s obligation to honor one’s parents; motivation made all the difference.  Our Lord and Savior’s driving point remains relevant, for how we treat each other (especially within families) matters to God.  Related to that point is a second:  do not obsess about minor points and imagine that doing so makes one holy while one violates major points.

I, as an Episcopalian, embrace the Anglican Three-Legged Stool:  Scripture, tradition, and reason.  A better mental image is a tricycle, with Scripture as the big wheel.  My theology places tradition in a place of respect, where it belongs.  Thus I reject certain Protestant interpretations of Matthew 15:1-9 as a condemnation of all extra-biblical tradition.  My reasoning extends beyond the fact of my chosen denomination, for I understand that even those who criticize extra-biblical traditions of others for being extra-biblical have their own.  Such criticism reeks of hypocrisy.

No, I situate my criticism of those Pharisees where Jesus did:  neglecting human needs while providing theological cover for the practice.  Those who engage in such behaviors are truly false teachers who harm others.  And God is watching them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 7, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE PACIFIC

THE FEAST OF ELIE NAUD, HUGUENOT WITNESS TO THE FAITH

THE FEAST OF JANE LAURIE BORTHWICK, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, POET

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-26-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Righteousness and Results   2 comments

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Above:  The Civil Rights March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, 1965

Photographer = Peter Pettus

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003675346/)

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ6-2329

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The Collect:

God of compassion, you have opened the way for us and brought us to yourself.

Pour your love into our hearts, that, overflowing with joy,

we may freely share the blessings of your realm and faithfully proclaim

the good news of your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

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The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 1:1-11 (Monday)

1 Samuel 3:1-9 (Tuesday)

Proverbs 4:10-27 (Wednesday)

Psalm 105:1-11, 37-45 (All Days)

1 Thessalonians 3:1-5 (Monday)

2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5 (Tuesday)

Luke 6:12-19 (Wednesday)

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Seek the Lord and his strength;

seek his face continually.

–Psalm 105:4, Common Worship (2000)

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The Psalm tells us to seek God and divine strength continually. That is good advice at all times and in all places. It is also advice consistent with the rest of the assigned readings.

The lections from Joshua and Proverbs are overly optimistic. They follow a certain formula: Obey God and good results will follow; one will prosper, et cetera. This is the overly optimistic viewpoint which leads to the heresy of Prosperity Theology: love God, do the right things, and get rich.

Tell that to Jesus (crucified), St. Paul the Apostle (beheaded after many years of troubles), and most of the original twelve Apostles (the majority of whom died violently). Tell that to the Thessalonian Christians. Tell that to nearly 2000 years’ worth of Christian martyrs and about 5000 years’ worth of faithful Hebrews.

When we challenge social institutions and systems which violate th law of love we confront powerful forces. In so doing we challenge people who might even cite God in attempts to justify their unjustifiable actions and attitudes. And we place ourselves at great risk. We need divine strength to live faithfully and to avoid the pitfalls of hatred, vengeance, and misdirected anger. We should be angry sometimes, for righteous anger does exist. But we ought to channel it properly, lest it corrupt our cause and compromise us.

We can succeed only by the power of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS MAKEMIE, FATHER OF U.S. PRESBYTERIANISM

THE FEAST OF EDWARD HENRY BICKERSTETH, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF EXETER

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROBERTS/IEUAN GWYLLT, FOUNDER OF WELSH SINGING FESTIVALS

THE FEAST OF NGAKUKU, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-6-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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