Archive for the ‘Ecclesiastes 4-6’ Category

Faithful Servants of God, Part VIII   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Abraham

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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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 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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Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 or Ecclesiastes 6 or Ezekiel 33:1-11

Psalm 7:1, 11-18

Galatians 3:19-29

Matthew 5:21-37

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Words matter, for they have power.  Today we read this in Ecclesiastes 5 and Matthew 5.  We have a moral obligation to refrain from all abusive language (such as Raqa, in the context of the culture of Matthew 5) and evasive language purposefully devoid of meaning (such as clever oaths in Matthew 5).

Actions matter also.  As much as God desires that the wicked repent, we mere mortals ought to seek reconciliation in disputes.  Accomplishing this is not always possible, for reconciliation requires more than one conciliatory party.  In such a case the desire to reconcile is laudable, at least.

The prayer from Psalm 7:9 that the wicked would cease to do harm and the reign of righteousness would begin is a timeless one.  I pray it often, for that would be a welcome change of reality.  Such a radical restructuring of the world requires an act of God, whose law Christ fulfills.

These admonitions can prove difficult to keep in one’s life.  We cannot succeed by our own strength of will.  Yes, our good intentions are laudable; God can work with them.  Yet we require grace to succeed in this noble endeavor.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 21, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH, CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, AND JOHANN CHRISTIAN BACH, COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF FLÜE AND HIS GRANDSON, SAINT CONRAD SCHEUBER, SWISS HERMITS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SERAPION OF THMUIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM EDWARD HICKSON, ENGLISH MUSIC EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL REFORMER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/devotion-for-the-sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a-humes/

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Faithful Servants of God, Part VII   1 comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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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 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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Ecclesiastes 4:1-12 or Ezekiel 22:23-31

Psalm 6

Galatians 3:1-11

Matthew 5:13-21

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Peeking behind the Law of Moses is a spiritually helpful practice.  Some commandments in the Law of Moses are timeless principles.  Others, however, are culturally specific examples.  Failure to recognize between an example bound by time and space and a timeless principle leads to legalism.

Reading Galatians 3:1-11 and Matthew 5:13-20 together is quite helpful.  We read that Jesus never objected to the Law of Moses, but to the misinterpretation, bad teaching, and flawed execution of it.  That also seems to have been an objection of St. Paul the Apostle.

The other readings pertain to oppression.  We read of violations of one timeless principle in the Law of Moses–do not exploit anyone.  We read of religious figures and royal officials who were predators of the weak and vulnerable.  Alas, this problem is as current in 2018 as it was in antiquity.  So is the sin of certain religious figures supporting those predatory potentates and officials.

The timeless principles of the Law of Moses continue to condemn those who sin thusly.  Indeed, apart from variations on themes, there is nothing new under the sun.

Do we condemn or condone such perfidy?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 21, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH, CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, AND JOHANN CHRISTIAN BACH, COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF FLÜE AND HIS GRANDSON, SAINT CONRAD SCHEUBER, SWISS HERMITS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SERAPION OF THMUIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM EDWARD HICKSON, ENGLISH MUSIC EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL REFORMER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a-humes/

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In Jesus’s Name   1 comment

Madonna and Child

Above:  Icon of Mary and Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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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 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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Ecclesiastes 5:1-20 or 7:1-14 or Ezekiel 33:23-33

Psalm 21

Philippians 3:1-4a; 4:10-21 or James 1:17-27

Matthew 12:22-50 or Luke 11:14-54

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Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength!

We will sing and praise your power.

–Psalm 21:13, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Sincere praise of God is a virtue and insincere spiritual speech is an affront to God.  Often such insincere speech, externally pious, disguises willful and/or institutionalized social injustice, especially that of the economic variety.  The mercy and judgment of God coexist.  Often we prefer to hear of the mercy yet not of the judgment.  That is at least as bad an error as committing the opposite fallacy.

That is a concise summary of several of the elements of the lections for Christmas Eve (Year D).  One might recognize my summary as being accurate while wondering what it has to do with Christmas Eve, however.  That is a legitimate question.  Timothy Matthew Slemmons, in Year D (2012), acknowledges the challenge of selecting germane and neglected texts for December 24 and 25.  He explains that his suggested readings contain relevant themes, such as the universality of sin.

The world that the Second Person of the Trinity, incarnated as Jesus, entered was dangerous and corrupt.  That description still applies to the world, does it not?  Jesus continues to come to us in the guise of the poor, the lame, the exploited, the young, the middle-aged, and the elderly.  Do we content ourselves with pious platitudes while we do little or nothing to help them (as we are able, of course) and/or to justify systems that harm them?  And, as we enjoy hearing about divine mercy, do we give proper attention to God’s judgment on those who exploit the vulnerable?

The celebration of the birth of Jesus, linked to his death and resurrection, is more than a time to celebrate.  It is also an occasion for us to commit or recommit ourselves to living according to the incarnational principle.  God is present all around us intangibly in tangible elements of creation.  These tangible elements include the defenseless and the exploited.  May we commit or recommit ourselves to recognizing the image of God in them and to acting accordingly, in Jesus’s name.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 22, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JACK LAYTON, CANADIAN ACTIVIST AND FEDERAL LEADER OF THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/08/22/devotion-for-christmas-eve-year-d/

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Waiting for God, Part I   1 comment

Abraham

Above:  Icon of Abraham

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you sent your Holy Spirit to be the life and light of your church.

Open our hearts to the riches of your grace,

that we may be ready to receive you wherever you appear,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 21:1-16 (Thursday)

Ecclesiastes 6:1-6 (Friday)

Genesis 11:27-32 (Saturday)

Psalm 33:12-22 (All Days)

Romans 9:1-9 (Thursday)

Acts 7:1-8 (Friday)

Matthew 6:19-24 (Saturday)

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We are waiting for Yahweh;

he is our help and our shield,

for in him our heart rejoices,

in his holy name we trust.

Yahweh, let your faithful love rest on us,

as our hope has rested in you.

–Psalm 33:20-22, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Sometimes the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer.  This reality has frustrated many for ages and contradicted incarnations of Prosperity Theology (a heresy that does not die) since antiquity.  In the Book of Job the titular character’s alleged friends insisted that he must have done something to deserve his suffering.  The text, with all of its layers of authorship, explains in Chapters 1 and 2 why Job suffered; God allowed it.  Job was a pawn in a heavenly wager.

We who follow God wait for God, but, if we are realistic, we will not expect that doing so will lead to life on Easy Street.  Sometimes, in fact, it will lead to suffering for the sake of righteousness.  On other occasions suffering will just happen, seemingly for no reason.  Suffering is a part of life, I have become convinced.

Yet we need not suffer alone.  In Christ Jesus God suffered in human flesh, after all.  The divine promise is not that a proper relationship with God will be present during suffering.  This has been my experience.  We are members of God’s household via grace, not lineage, and the pilgrimage of faith begins with one step.  In God we find intangible and eternal (in the Johannine sense of that word, that is, “of God,” see 17:3) treasures, the variety that outlasts and is vastly superior to the most appealing temporal prizes.

Of course we should love God for selfless reasons; the rewards will come.  I recall a story about a woman who walked around carrying a torch and a bucket of water.  The torch, she said, was to burn up heaven and the water was to extinguish the flames of hell so that nobody would seek to follow God to enter heaven or to avoid hell.  Yet we humans seem to have mixed motivations much of the time, do we not?  Certain evangelists emphasize the possibility of damnation to frighten people into salvation.  Although I affirm the existence of both heaven and hell, I argue that terror is not a basis for a mature relationship with God, whom many Jews and Christians describe as loving and compassionate.

May we wait for Yahweh, who is our loving and compassionate help and shield, in whom our hearts rejoice.  May we wait for God in times of prosperity and of scarcity, of suffering and of ease, of pain and of pleasure.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 23, 2016 COMMON ERA

WEDNESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF GEORGE RUNDLE PRYNNE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR, PATRIARCH OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH VON LAUFENBERG, GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGROVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-14-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Gracious Speech Seasoned With Salt   1 comment

Salt Shaker

Above:  A Salt Shaker

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Benevolent God, you are the source, the guide, and the goal of our lives.

Teach us to love what is worth loving,

to reject what is offensive to you,

and to treasure what is precious in your sight,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

Ecclesiastes 2:1-17 (Monday)

Ecclesiastes 3:16-4:8 (Tuesday)

Psalm 127 (Both Days)

Colossians 3:18-4:1 (Monday)

Colossians 4:2-6 (Tuesday)

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If Yahweh does not build a house

in vain do its builders toil.

If Yahweh does not guard a city

in vain does its guard keep watch.

–Psalm 127:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The key word from the readings from Ecclesiastes is “futility.”  The quest for wealth is futile.  Seeking happiness in wealth is futile.  At least one can obtain some enjoyment from possessions, not that one can take them along for the journey after death.

Colossians 3:18-4:6 offers some uncomfortable material.  First we encounter the verse about wives being subject to their husbands.  The next verse mitigates it somewhat by speaking of a husband’s obligation to love his wife and never to be harsh with her.  At least in Ephesians 5, when these topics arise, they do so in the context of

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

–5:21, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

The next difficult topic is slavery, which the New Testament condemns nowhere.  Slavery in the Roman Empire was different from race-based chattel slavery, of courrse, but I posit that all forms of slavery are wrong at all times and at all places.  The expectation that Jesus would return soon and inaugurate social justice informed the absence of a condemnation of slavery, but (A) that was nearly 2000 years ago, (B) Jesus did not return, and (C) the mandate to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself applies in all places an at all times.  At least the text noted that there is no partiality with God.

The parting advice from Colossians 4 is timeless:

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer every one.

4:6, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

Graciousness flows from and imparts grace.  Salt preserves and amplifies flavor.  Contrary to the term “salty language,” gracious speech seasoned with salt builds up others.  It edifies them; it does not insult them.  And it is not futile.

May your speech, O reader, be gracious and seasoned with salt more often that it is already.  May mine be likewise.  May we glorify God, not ourselves.  May we function as effective agents of grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 18, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEONIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR; ORIGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN; SAINT DEMETRIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSELM II OF LUCCA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRIL OF JERUSALEM, BISHOP, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF CYPRUS, EASTERN ORTHODOX MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-13-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Ecclesiastes and John, Part IV: Hypocrisy   1 comment

fresco-of-king-solomon

Above:  Fresco of King Solomon, Elmali Kilise, Cappodocia, Turkey, 1935

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2005003194/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:

Ecclesiastes 5:1-20/4:17-5:19 (May 28)

Ecclesiastes 6:1-7:10 (May 29)

Ecclesiastes 7:11-29 (May 30)

Psalm 123 (Morning–May 28)

Psalm 15 (Morning–May 29)

Psalm 36 (Morning–May 30)

Psalms 30 and 86 (Evening–May 28)

Psalms 48 and 4 (Evening–May 29)

Psalms 80 and 27 (Evening–May 30)

John 8:1-20 (May 28)

John 8:21-38 (May 29)

John 8:39-59 (May 30)

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Some Related Posts:

John 8:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/week-of-2-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/devotion-for-february-24-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/devotion-for-february-25-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/devotion-for-february-26-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twenty-ninth-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirtieth-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-first-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-second-day-of-lent/

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TECHNICAL NOTE:

Ecclesiastes 4:17-5:19 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox) = 5:1-20 (Protestant).

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 Koheleth, in Ecclesiastes, was King Solomon, at least according to tradition.  If Solomon did not write these words someone intended readers to think that he did.  Either day, the text of Ecclesiastes 5-7 seems ironic, coming from Solomon or jut placed in his voice.  He would have fared better had he followed the advice contained therein.

In John 8, the unity of which I have maintained, Jesus faced critics who clung to a holy label yet behaved in a contrary manner.  Their deeds, informed by their attitudes, belied their words.  Trying to kill a man over a theological dispute seems unjustifiable to me.  Of course, the offenders in John 8 would have cited the death penalty for blasphemy in the Law of Moses to justify their actions.  But there was much in the Law of Moses they did not keep strictly, so they were hypocrites on that front also.

Few offenses disturb me more than hypocrisy.  Of course, I realize immediately my need to examine myself spiritually for just that violation.  At least knowing that a problem exists increases the probability of addressing it successfully; that is sufficient grounds for some optimism.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERARD, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF PORTUGAL, QUEEN

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-28-29-and-30-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Ecclesiastes and John, Part III: Ethics and Loyalty   1 comment

winfield-scott-hancock

Above:  General Winfield Scott Hancock, United States Army

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/90714300/)

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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:

Ecclesiastes 4:1-16

Psalm 136 (Morning)

Psalms 97 and 112 (Evening)

John 7:32-53

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Some Related Posts:

John 7:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/devotion-for-february-23-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twenty-eighth-day-of-lent/

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Recently, in the wake of a financial scandal related to a large British investment bank, I listened to a BBC World Service radio program which provided analysis.  I heard an interview with an anthropologist who studies the cultures of large investment banks.  These, according to him, tend to foster dog-eat-dog attitudes, for the quests to earn large bonuses and not to lose one’s job due to perceived redundancy override the ethical drive to work toward the best interests of one’s clients.  There is little or no loyalty in the workplace.  I thought about that interview while reading Ecclesiastes 4:1-16.

Loyalty can be a precious and rare commodity.  And it is something which one ought not to give away like candy on Halloween.  Some people deserve it; others do not.  The test, I suppose, is reciprocity.  My favorite Civil War general was Winfield Scott Hancock.  He knew that his job entailed risking the lives of the men under his command, but he put himself at risk next to the lowest-ranking men.  He was loyal to them, and they to him.  General Hancock earned their loyalty.

When oppression comes people need to act out of loyalty to each other and fidelity to the truth.  That is no time to have an “every man for himself” attitude.  Nicodemus, in John 7, had legal procedure on his side.  He wanted to see his peers follow their own rules.  These were the same people who were accusing Jesus of breaking the rules, so should they not have followed theirs?  Would that not have been ethical?

When we must answer to God, may unethical behavior not be among our offenses.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERARD, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF PORTUGAL, QUEEN

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-27-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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