Archive for the ‘Genesis IV: 37-50’ Category

Spiritual Nutrition   1 comment

Above:   Give Us This Our Daily Bread Print, Currier & Ives, 1872

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC2-2453

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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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Genesis 41:9-40

Psalm 37:23-28a

Acts 6:1-7

Mark 8:14-21

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Depart from evil, and do good,

so you shall abide forever.

For the LORD loves justice;

he will not forsake his faithful ones.

The righteous shall be kept safe forever,

but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.

–Psalm 37:27-28, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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David Ackerman omits the second part (the passage contrasting the righteous and the children of the wicked) in Beyond the Lectionary (2013).

On another topic, the Psalmist might not have seen the children of the righteous begging for bread, but I have.  I am not alone in this.

The Joseph of the Book of Genesis bears little resemblance to the figure of whom I have read in many a book of Bible stories retold for children.  I read Genesis 37 and 39-50 (the Joseph Epic) and encounter a spoiled brat who grew up because he had no choice.  I also meet an interpreter of dreams who rose to a position of prominence, reunited his family, and in Chapter 47, fed the Egyptian population during a time of severe drought by returning their food (which he had ordered confiscated) to them in exchange for serfdom.   Joseph is an imperfect protagonist.

The surviving Apostles (plus St. Matthias) feed the hungry then decide to focus on preaching and teaching.  So they appoint deacons to wait tables.  This is the origin of the Christian diaconate.  There is no insistence upon serfdom here.  No, we find quite the opposite.

When we turn to the reading from Mark 8 it is useful to understand that we pick up immediately following Jesus feeding “about four thousand people” with seven loaves and a few small fish.  There are many leftovers.  Then some Pharisees demand, of all things, a sign.  Jesus warns his Apostles against the yeast–a metaphor for diffused or veiled evil (see Luke 12:1; 1 Corinthians 5:6; and Galatians 5:9) of the Pharisees.  The literal-minded Apostles, confused, think that Christ refers to bread.  Jesus is angry with them.

The depiction of the Apostles in the Gospel of Mark is interesting and part of a larger theme.  The earliest canonical Gospel argues that those who think they are insiders might not be that.  There are the condemnations of the religious establishment, of course.  Furthermore, those closest to Jesus do not understand him.  To the contrary, evil spirits recognize him immediately.  This depiction of the twelve Apostles as being clueless is stronger in Mark than in Luke-Acts, for narrative reasons.

A sufficient supply of food is essential to sustaining life.  Too little food leads to starvation, just as an excess of it leads to obesity.   Furthermore, the wrong type of food leads to health problems.  Likewise, improper spiritual nutrition leads to negative consequences.  Do we not yet understand this?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 16, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE BERKELEY, IRISH ANGLICAN BISHOP AND PHILOSOPHER; AND JOSEPH BUTLER, ANGLICAN BISHOP AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN FRANCIS REGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF NORMAN MACLEOD, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS COUSIN, JOHN MACLEOD, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RUFUS JONES, QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/16/devotion-for-proper-7-ackerman/

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Vindication   1 comment

Above:   Judah and Tamar, by the School of Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Vindication

JUNE 17, 2018

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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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Genesis 38:1-26

Psalm 35:19-25

Acts 5:1-11

Matthew 12:43-45

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In June 1996 my father became the pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church in rural Appling County, Georgia, U.S.A.  One of the adult Sunday School classes was reading and discussing the Book of Genesis at the rate of a chapter per week.  I recall that, on the Sunday morning after they had read and discussed Chapter 37, the teacher skipped directly to Chapter 39.

Genesis 38 is a hot potato.  What are we to make of a story that approves of a childless widow pretending to be a pagan temple prostitute, seducing her father-in-law, and becoming pregnant with twins, his children?  Judah (the father-in-law) understands the deception by Tamar (the widow) as justified, per the rules governing levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).  As Professor Amy-Jill Levine says, we must accept that people did things differently then.

The author of Psalm 35 prays for divine vindication against enemies.  Perhaps that mindset informs the treatment of the selfish people (struck dead by God) in Acts 5.  The sense of grievance certainly informs Matthew 12:43-45, which literally demonizes Jewish leaders who opposed Jesus.  One can reasonably imagine members of a marginalized Jewish Christian community demonizing the non-Christian Jews circa 85 C.E.

The desire for divine vindication can be legitimate.  Yet may we who seek vindication never surrender to hatred and thereby become as those who seek to harm us or otherwise deny us that which is rightfully ours.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/devotion-for-proper-6-ackerman/

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Taking Difficult Passages of Scripture Seriously   1 comment

tamar-and-judah

Above:  Tamar and Judah, by Aert de Gelder

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 38:1-30 or Ecclesiastes 5:1-20

Psalm 10

Matthew 22:23-33 or Mark 12:18-27 and Luke 20:39-40

2 Corinthians 7:2-16

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I recall that, in 1996, my father began his tenure as pastor of the Asbury United Methodist Church, north of Baxley, in Appling County, Georgia.  Shortly after this I began to attend to services at St. Thomas Aquinas Episcopal Church in town, for I had been an Episcopalian for a few years.  Nevertheless, I was never a stranger at Asbury Church during my father’s tenure there.

One of the adult Sunday School classes at Asbury was discussing the Book of Genesis at the pace of a chapter a week.  On one Sunday morning in the summer of 1996 the leader of the group, having covered Chapter 37 the previous week, skipped over Chapter 38 to Chapter 39, with little explanation.  The story of Judah, Tamar, levirate marriage (the background of the question in the readings from the Gospels), and temple prostitution was a really hot potato, so to speak.  The narrative in Genesis 38 does not criticize a young, childless widow for having sexual relations with her father-in-law at a pagan temple and becoming pregnant with twins.  In her situation she did what she needed to do to secure her future.

Deuteronomy 25:5-10 commands the practice of levirate marriage, for the benefit of a childless widow in a patriarchal society without a government-defined social safety net.  In the case of Genesis 38 the practice, applied to a particular set of circumstances, makes many modern readers of the Bible squirm in their theological seats.  This is no excuse for ignoring the chapter, of course.  Whenever a portion of scripture makes one uncomfortable, one should study it more closely and, in the highest meaning of the word, critically.

The Sadducees in the parallel readings of Matthew, Mark, and Luke did not ignore levirate marriage, but they did employ it in a question meant to entrap Jesus.  They did not affirm the resurrection of the dead.  That is why, according to a song for children,

they were sad, you see.

For the Sadducees the emphasis on this life helped to justify the accumulation of wealth in a society in which economic injustice was ubiquitous.  They, like others, failed to ensnare Jesus verbally.  He was that capable.

Koheleth, writing in Ecclesiastes, noted that economic injustice and other forms of social injustice ought not to surprise anyone.  After all, he mentioned, perpetrators of injustice protect each other.  Nevertheless, as the author of Psalm 10 understood, those who exploited the poor (in violation of the Law of Moses) could not escape divine justice.

Just as the painful letter of St. Paul the Apostle to the Corinthian congregation led to the changing of hearts there, the study of difficult passages of scripture can lead people to learn more about the Bible, ask vital questions, think more critically about scripture, and grow spiritually.  It can also change hearts and minds for the better.  May we who call ourselves followers of God neither ignore nor use such passages flippantly, but take them seriously instead.  Then may we act accordingly.  We might even learn that we are committing or condoning social injustice, perhaps that of the economic variety.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 11, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP THE EVANGELIST, DEACON

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-d/

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Troublemakers   1 comment

Judah and Tamar--School of Rembrandt van Rijn

Above:   Judah and Tamar, by the School of Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, our eternal redeemer, by the presence of your Spirit you renew and direct our hearts.

Keep always in our mind the end of all things and the day of judgment.

Inspire us for a holy life here, and bring us to the joy of the resurrection,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 25:5-10 (Thursday)

Genesis 38:1-26 (Friday)

Psalm 17 (Both Days)

Acts 22:22-23:11 (Thursday)

Acts 24:10-23 (Friday)

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Let my vindication come forth from your presence,

let your eyes be fixed on justice.

–Psalm 17:2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Genesis 38 serves several functions.  One is to mark the passage of time between Genesis 37 and 39.  Another is to make people squirm.  What should one make of a story in which Tamar, the heroine, the wronged woman denied what was due her according to levirate marriage (described in Deuteronomy 25), had to resort to posing as a pagan temple prostitute to seduce her father-in-law to get the child(ren) she deserved, according to social customs meant to protect childless widows?  Due to problems with her first husband’s brothers the duty fell to Judah, her father-in-law.

I remember that, in 1996, at Asbury United Methodist Church, north of Baxley in Appling County, Georgia, an adult Sunday School class read the Book of Genesis at the rate of a chapter per week.  One Sunday that summer the time came to ponder Chapter 38.  The leader of the class skipped to Genesis 39, for he found the contents to be too hot a potato, so to speak.

The story of Judah and Tamar continues to make many readers of the Hebrew Bible uncomfortable.  Tamar remains a troublemaker of sorts, long after her death.  Perhaps modern readers who struggle with the tale should think less about our comfort levels and more about the lengths to which certain people need to go to secure basic needs.

St. Paul the Apostle got into legal trouble (again) in Acts 21.  The trumped-up charge boiled down to him being a troublemaker, a disturber of the peace.  As Tertullus, the attorney for chief priest Ananias and Temple elders argued before Felix, the governor:

We found this man to be a pest, a fomenter of discord among the Jews all over the world, a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.  He made an attempt to profane the temple and we arrested him.

–Acts 24:5-6, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Were not those who plotted and attempted to kill St. Paul the real troublemakers?  He planned or committed no violence toward those with whom he disagreed.  The Apostle knew how to employ strong language, but he avoided resorting to violence after his conversion.

How we deal with alleged troublemakers reveals much about our character.  What, then, does this standard reveal about your character, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILL CAMPBELL, AGENT OF RECONCILIATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LIPHARDUS OF ORLEANS AND URBICIUS OF MEUNG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF UGANDA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MORAND OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/06/03/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-27-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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In Honor of Epaphroditus   1 comment

Paul the Apostle

Above:  St. Paul, by Lucas van Leyden

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Direct us, O Lord God, in all our doings by your continual help,

that all our works, begun, continued, and ended in you,

may glorify your holy name; and finally, by your mercy,

bring us to everlasting life, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 39:1-23

Psalm 1

Philippians 2:25-30

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Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,

nor lingered in the seat of sinners,

nor sat in the seats of the scornful.

–Psalm 1:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Psalm 1 is overly optimistic, for it says of the righteous in verse 3 that

everything they do shall prosper.

St. Paul the Apostle spent much time in prison and died as a martyr.  Joseph son of Jacob was in prison for a crime he did not commit.  As other portions of scripture (including certain psalms) indicate, sometimes the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper.

I think of a story Archbishop Desmond Tutu told.  During the Holocaust a Nazi guard was taunting a Jew who had to clean especially disgusting toilets.

Where is your God now?

the guard taunted the Jew, who replied,

Right here, beside me in the muck.

God was beside Joseph in the Egyptian prison and St. Paul in the prison (wherever it was) when Epaphroditus, sent by the church at Philippi, was there to tend to the Apostle’s needs.  Epaphroditus almost died performing that duty.  God was present with St. Paul directly and indirectly.

I have learned via experience that grace seems more evident during times of crisis than during good times.  Perhaps grace is in greater supply during the dark times; perhaps not.  That is a matter for God to know and for me to ponder.  What I know for sure is that grace seems more evident in difficult times, much as a light is more obvious in a dark room than in a well-lit one.  Like Joseph and St. Paul, I have experienced grace directly and indirectly (via people) during dark times.  I have also rejoiced and felt worthy simultaneously.

Has God called you, O reader, to be Epaphroditus to someone experiencing great hardship, for the sake of righteousness or another reason?  Or has someone been Epahproditus to you?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MALTBIE DAVENPORT BABCOCK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN I, BISHOP OF ROME

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/18/devotion-for-thursday-after-proper-18-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Esther II: Heroes and Villains   1 comment

Mordecai and Haman

Above:  Mordecai and Haman

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you are always more ready than we are to pray,

and you gladly give more than we either desire or deserve.

Pour upon us your abundant mercy.

Forgive us those things that weigh on our conscience,

and give us those good things that come only through your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Esther 2:19-3:6

Psalm 138

Acts 1:15-20

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I praise your name for your faithful love and your constancy;

your promises surpass even your fame.

–Psalm 138:2b, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The plot thickens in Esther 2 and 3.  Mordecai thwarts an assassination plot against King Ahasuerus.  The two eunuchs who plotted to kill the monarch die after Mordecai alerts Ahasuerus via Queen Esther.  The loyal courtier receives no reward immediately; he must wait until Chapter 6 for Ahasuerus to think about doing that.  Mordecai refuses to bow to Haman, who receives a promotion for no apparent reason and who seeks to destroy not just Mordecai but all Jews in the Persian Empire.

The reason for Mordecai’s refusal to bow down is unclear in the Hebrew text.  However, in Chapter C, as The New American Bible labels it, Mordecai explains in a prayer that he bows only to God.  This is consistent with a later rabbinical interpretation.  The germane notes in The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) mention that argument yet prefers a different explanation, that Mordecai refused to honor an enemy of the Jews.  Those notes also argue that, in the Hebrew Bible, bowing to a human superior is permissible, as in Genesis 23:7; Genesis 43:28; Exodus 18:7; and 1 Kings 1:23.  Another interpretation from Jewish tradition is that, if Haman were wearing an idol on his chest, Mordecai would have bowed refused to bow to the object.

In the Acts of the Apostles the eleven surviving Apostles completed their number (twelve) by choosing one of the outer circle of 70 (or 72, depending on the translation) to replace the recently deceased Judas Iscariot.  They select St. Matthias, of whom we know little.  According to tradition he was a faithful evangelist who brought much glory to God and many people to salvation before becoming a martyr.

The main characters in the readings for today are Mordecai, Haman, and St. Matthias.  Haman seeks to glorify himself and harm others, Mordecai to glorify God and do his duty, and St. Matthias to glorify God, regardless of the cost to himself.  Two of the three died violently, one as a villain and the other as a martyr.

May we pursue righteousness, as demonstrated in the characters of Mordecai and St. Matthias and manifested by love of God and our fellow human beings, regardless of the cost to ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, BISHOP OF ARMAGH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/17/devotion-for-thursday-before-proper-12-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Good and Bad Fruit   1 comment

Joseph Explaining the Dream to Pharoah, Jean Adrien Guignet

Above:  Joseph Explains Pharaoh’s Dreams, by Adrien Guignet

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O Lord God, your mercy delights us, and the world longs for your loving care.

Hear the cries of everyone in need, and turn our hearts to love our neighbors

with the love of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 41:14-36 (Thursday)

Genesis 41:37-49 (Friday)

Psalm 25:1-10 (Both Days)

James 2:14-26 (Thursday)

Acts 7:9-16 (Friday)

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Adoration I offer, Yahweh,

to you, my God.

But in my trust in you do not put me to shame,

let not my enemies gloat over me.

–Psalm 25:1-2, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Joseph son of Jacob overcame adversity, including servitude (including incarceration for an offense of which he was innocent) to become the second most powerful man in Egypt.  His policy of storing grain was in Genesis 41 was wise, but the means of feeding the population during years of famine was unfortunate.  In Genesis 47 He sold the grain back to Egyptians in exchange for money.  When they had no more funds, he accepted livestock as payment.  When they were out of livestock, he accepted their land as payment, making them serfs.

According to the author of the Letter of James, faith without works is useless and dead.  In other words, one can know a tree by its fruit.  The fruit of Joseph included servitude for the masses.  May our fruit be more positive than negative.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATHILDA, QUEEN OF GERMANY

THE FEAST OF JOHN SWERTNER, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND HYMNAL EDITOR; AND HIS COLLABORATOR, JOHN MUELLER, GERMAN-ENGLISH MORAVIAN MINISTER, HYMN EDITOR, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-10-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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