Archive for the ‘Isaiah II: 40-55’ Category

Psalms 56-58   2 comments

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POST XXI OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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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 226

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The righteous man will rejoice when he sees revenge;

he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.

Men will say,

“There is, then, a reward for the righteous;

there is, indeed, divine justice on the earth.”

–Psalm 58:11-12, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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So much for loving one’s enemies and praying for one’s enemies!

“You have heard that they were told, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’  But what I tell you is this:  Love your enemies and pray for your persecutors; only so you can be children of your heavenly Father, who causes the sun to rise on the good and bad alike, and sends the rain on the innocent and the wicked.  If you love only those who love you, what reward can you expect?  Even the tax-collectors do as much as that.  If you greet only your brothers, what is there extraordinary about that?  Even the heathen do as much.  There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds.”

–Matthew 5:43-48, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The vengeful tone of Psalm 58 troubles me.  It is inconsistent with the highest ideals of Judaism (such as healing the world) and with the ethics of Jesus of Nazareth, who forgave those who had him crucified and who consented to his crucifixion (Luke 23:24).  I argue with the author of Psalm 58; the righteous man grieves when he sees vengeance and rejoices when he witnesses reconciliation and repentance.  After all, revenge is not justice.  This seems to be a point lost on the upset martyrs in Heaven in Revelation 6:9-11.

Consider, O reader, Psalm 57, allegedly of David after having fled from King Saul, who was trying repeatedly to kill him.  The superscription refers to a story of which two versions–in 1 Samuel 24 and 26–exist, thanks to the reality of multiple sources edited together into one narrative.  In both versions of the story David, who has the opportunity to kill Saul, spares the monarch’s life instead and lets him know it.  David refuses to take revenge, even though his magnanimity continues to place his life at great risk.

A note regarding Psalm 56 in Volume IV (1996) of The New Interpreter’s Bible makes a wonderful point.  J. Clinton McCann, Jr., writes that the author of that psalm

professes that true security is a divine gift rather than a human achievement.  The fundamental mistake of the wicked is their belief that they can make it on their own, that they can find hope in exploiting others (v. 6; see Isa. 47:10).  The psalmist knows better.  Because security is ultimately a gift from God, no human action can take it away.

–Page 902

The true security from God is a form of security that the world does not recognize as security at all.  Indeed, many of the faithful (as in Revelation 6:9-11) have difficulty seeing it for what it is.  Who can blame them?  This is, after all, counter-intuitive.  This true security is the security of the Jew (whose name has not come down to me) who, during the Holocaust, while having to perform a degrading task as a concentration camp guard taunted him with the question,

Where is your God now?,

answered,

He is here beside me, in the muck.

This is inner security, so no outside human source can take it away.

May we, thusly secure, refrain from seeking revenge.  This is a matter of our character, not that of our enemies.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NEOCAESAREA; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF COMANA “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF AUGUSTUS MONTAGUE TOPLADY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE POOR CLARES

THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS LOY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; AND CONRAD HERMANN LOUIS SCHUETTE, GERMAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Part IX   1 comment

icon-of-the-crucifixion

Above:  Icon of the Crucifixion

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:

Nahum 2:1-13 or Isaiah 48:1-22

Psalm 71:15-24

Matthew 27:31b-56 or Mark 15:20b-44 or Luke 23:33-49 or John 19:17-30

Romans 13:1-7; 14:13-23

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Romans 13:1-7 is a troublesome passage.  Should one always submit to government?  Some of my heroes from the past include those who helped slaves escape to freedom in violation of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and sheltered Jews or helped them escape in defiance of the Third Reich.  Besides, merely obeying law is what Kohlberg called Conventional Morality, which is not the highest form of morality on that scale, nor should it be.

Anyhow, reading Romans 13:1-7 on the same day with the crucifixion of Jesus seems ironic.

The readings, taken together, point toward mercy.  Even the judgment of God, as in Nahum 2:1-13, exists in the context of mercy for the rescued.  The mighty acts of God also testify to mercy.  And the death of Jesus does too.  One should, of course, complete that story with the resurrection, or else one will have a dead Jesus perpetually.  Sometimes mercy requires defiance of civil authority; so be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 21, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/devotion-for-proper-27-year-d/

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Prelude to the Passion, Part III   1 comment

Moses

Above:  Moses

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:

Numbers 11:1-30 or Isaiah 45:14-25 or Jeremiah 4:19-31 or Zechariah 8:1-23

Psalm 68:11-31 (32-35) or Psalm 120 or Psalm 82

John 10:19-21 (22-30) 31-42

1 Corinthians 14:1-40

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The assigned readings, taken together, present a balanced picture of divine judgment and mercy.  Sometimes God’s judgment on one group is in the service of mercy on another group.  And, as much as God is angry with the Israelites in Numbers 11, He still provides manna to them and advises Moses to share his burden with 70 elders.  Judgment is dominant in Jeremiah 4, but mercy rules in Zechariah 8.

1 Corinthians 14, sexism aside, offers the timeless principle that all people do in the context of worship should build up the faith community.

As for the “Prelude to the Passion” part of this post, we turn to John 10.  Jesus survives an attempt to arrest (then execute) him for committing blasphemy, per Leviticus 24:10-16.  He was innocent of the charge, of course.  The story, however, does establish that Jesus kept avoiding death traps prior to Holy Week.

A point worth pondering is that the accusers of Jesus in John 10 were most likely sincere.  This should prompt us who read the account today to ask ourselves how often we are sincerely wrong while attempting to follow the laws of God.  Those who oppose God and agents thereof are not always consciously so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT:  THE TWENTY-SECOND DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIULIA VALLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ISAAC HECKER, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/18/devotion-for-proper-17-year-d/

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Suffering and Grace   1 comment

Ecce Homo

Above:  Ecce Homo, by Elias Garcia Martinez

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God of mercy and might, in the mystery of the passion of your Son

you offer your infinite life to the world.

Gather us around the cross and Christ,

and preserve us until the resurrection,

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 29

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 53:10-12 (Thursday)

Isaiah 54:9-10 (Friday)

Psalm 31:9-16 (Both Days)

Hebrews 2:1-9 (Thursday)

Hebrews 2:10-18 (Friday)

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Take pity on me, Yahweh,

I am in trouble now.

Grief wastes away my eye,

my throat, my inmost parts.

For my life is worn out with sorrow,

my years with sighs;

my strength yields under misery,

my bones are wasting away.

To every one of my oppressors

I am contemptible,

loathsome to my neighbors,

to my friends a thing of fear.

Those who see me in the street

hurry past me;

I am forgotten, as good as dead in their hearts,

something discarded.

I hear their endless slanders,

threats from every quarter,

as they combine against me,

plotting to take my life.

But I put my trust in you, Yahweh,

I say, “You are my God.”

My days are in your hand, rescue me

from the hands of my enemies and persecutors;

let your face smile on your servant,

save me in your love.

–Psalm 31:9-16, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is a song of the suffering servant.  The text is familiar to me, a person steeped in the scriptures from an early age.  In some ways my early learning constitutes a problem, for it has bequeathed me a set of assumptions through which I need to bore a hole so I can read the full meaning of such a familiar text.  The Christological identification of the suffering servant with Jesus does not fit the immediate context of Deutero-Isaiah, where the suffering servant is most likely the Jewish nation or a pious minority thereof.  God vindicates the suffering servant in Isaiah 53:10-12.  Next in the book God comforts returned exiles:

For this to Me is like the waters of Noah:

As I swore that the waters of Noah

Nevermore would flood the earth,

So I swear that I will not

Be angry with you or rebuke you.

For the mountains may move

And the hills be shaken,

But my loyalty shall never move from you,

Nor My covenant of friendship be shaken

–said the LORD, who takes you back in love.

–Isaiah 54:9-10, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Likewise, God comes to the aid of the afflicted author of Psalm 31, albeit after verse 16.

The Letter to the Hebrews, addressed to persecuted Jewish Christians, encourages the faithful to remain so.  Jesus, who has suffered greatly and endured temptations, can identify with human problems, the text says.  That message is timeless.  A recurring theme in human suffering is the illusion that nobody else can understand one’s pain and distress.  In reality, though, many other people have suffered in similar ways, and Jesus has suffered more than most of us ever will.  Comfort is available, if only one will accept it.

I have learned much via suffering.  I have learned how plentiful grace is and who my true friends are.  I have learned the full extent to which I depend on God and my fellow human beings.  And I have learned that I have gained more potential to help others in their time of great need, pain, and suffering.  I lack any desire to repeat the experience of that suffering, but I thank God for the grace which has flowed from it and continues to do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 7, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GERARD THOMAS NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER; BROTHER OF BAPTIST WRIOTHESLEY NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST, ENGLISH BAPTIST EVANGELIST, AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS NIECE, CAROLINE MARIA NOEL, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AMBROSE OF MILAN, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF ANNE ROSS COUSIN, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA JOSEPHA ROSSELLO, COFOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF OUR LADY OF PITY

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/07/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-palm-sunday-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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How Long, O Lord?   1 comment

Herodian Temple with Antonia Fortress

Above:  The Herodian Temple and the Antonia Fortress

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Sovereign God, you turn your greatness into goodness for all the peoples on earth.

Shape us into willing servants of your kingdom,

and make us desire always and only your will,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 47:1-9 (Friday)

Isaiah 47:10-15 (Saturday)

Psalm 91:9-16 (Both Days)

Revelation 17:1-18 (Friday)

Luke 22:24-30 (Saturday)

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In the Life of Brian (1979), a brilliant spoof of organized religion and of old-school Biblical movies, but not of Jesus or the Bible, Jewish Palestinian rebels meet to discuss how little the Roman Empire has done for them.  The partisans come up with a long list, however.  The scene is funny, but it does not constitute a defense of imperialism.  The fact is that imperialism can bring many benefits to the conquered and occupied populations, but a host of indignities and abuses accompanies the benefits.  For all the roads, schools, bridges, and aqueducts, living under occupation comes with a psychological burden.  This reality indicates that the main beneficiary of imperialism is the imperial power.

On a literal level Isaiah 47 condemns the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire and Revelation 17 does the same with regard to the Roman Empire.  In a broader sense, however, they condemn all authorities based on violence, oppression, and hubris.  Such authorities exist, as some always have at any given time.  Names, locations, and ideological foundations change, but such tyranny has never ceased to exist since the dawn of human governments.

Our Lord and Savior rejected the standards of these authorities.  They claim to be benefactors, he said, but they are not.  Jesus went on to propose a different standard of greatness:  service.

But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and are called benefactors.  But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves.  For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves?  Is it not the one at the table?  But I am among you as one who serves.

–Luke 22:25-27, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Psalm 91 seems too optimistic to me, for it speaks of the faithful finding deliverance (via God) from peril.  This happens sometimes and has occurred often, of course, but many of the faithful have become martyrs instead.  I think of the martyrs in Heaven in the Revelation of John asking “how long?”  Nevertheless, I affirm that God provides justice for the faithful eventually and that all violent regimes collapse in time–frequently too late for my taste, however.  That is an issue to take up with God faithfully, in the tradition of other Psalms and those martyrs from the Apocalypse of John.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/devotion-for-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-24-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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With God There Are Leftovers   1 comment

Church of the Multiplication, Tabgha, Israel

Above:  Church of the Multiplication, Tabgha, Israel

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, eternal goodness, immeasurable love,

you place your gifts before us; we eat and are satisfied.

Fill us and this world in all its need with the life that comes only from you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 55:1-9

Psalm 107:1-3, 33-43

Mark 8:1-10

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Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

and his mercy endures for ever.

Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim

that he rendered them from the hand of the foe.

He gathered them out of the lands;

from the east and from the west,

from the north and from the south.

–Psalm 107:1-3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Repentance is an option, even late in the game, so to speak.  God, who glorifies the chosen people and remains faithful to divine promises, invites those who need to change their minds and ways to do so.  The more people who are present at the divine banquet, the merrier.

Speaking of banquets, Mark 8:1-10 tells of Jesus feeding 4000 people (not just men) with a few fishes and loaves of bread.  I refuse to try to explain the Feeding of the 4000 and the 5000 (Plus) (Mark 6:30-44) rationally for the same reason, which is that to do so is address the wrong question.  I focus instead on one detail:  there was more afterward than before.

Some people think that they have nothing to offer or that what they have to offer is inadequate, so they do not offer it to God for divine purposes.  God, however, can multiply those gifts and talents, leaving leftovers.  Many people need to repent of their failure to trust in God’s strength instead of their own.  These are not evil people, just weak ones with psychological and emotional issues.  At some point in each of us has been among this population.  Others of us remain in their ranks.

The graciousness of God to the Hebrews in Isaiah 55 benefited the world (verse 5).  God’s blessings to any one of us can and should benefit others.  If we trust God to multiply that which we have to offer, as meager as it might seem, it will enrich the lives of more people than we can imagine, for the glory of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 6, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF DANIEL G. C. WU, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO CHINESE AMERICANS

THE FEAST OF FREDERIC BARKER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF SYDNEY

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-13-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Short-Term Thinking   1 comment

Hezekiah

Above:  King Hezekiah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, in signs and wonders your Son revealed the greatness of your saving love.

Renew us with your grace, and sustain us by your power,

that we may stand in the glory of your name,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 38:1-8 (Friday)

Isaiah 39:1-8 (Saturday)

Psalm 41 (Both Days)

Hebrews 12:7-13 (Friday)

Luke 4:38-41 (Saturday)

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By this I know that you are pleased with me;

because my enemy has not triumphed over me.

But you have upheld me because of my integrity,

and set me in your presence forever.

–Psalm 41:11-12, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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That text functions as a counterpart to the story of King Hezekiah of Judah, as we read it in Isaiah 38-39 and 2 Kings 20.

In the lectionary we read of two main healings–one of King Hezekiah and the other of St. Simon Peter’s mother-in-law.  The former seemed not to have improved spiritually.  In fact, he acted recklessly, showing off for a Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian envoy seeking an ally against Assyria.  This happened about a century (maybe a little more than, perhaps slightly less than) before that would-be ally ended the existence of the Kingdom of Judah.  The monarch took comfort that he would be dead by then.  St. Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, however, extended hospitality to her house guests.

As Hebrews 12:7-13 reminds us, God disciplines people for their own good.  Healing and holiness follow in that divine plan.  Some people are oblivious, however; Hezekiah comes to mind immediately.

Hezekiah answered, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good,” for he was thinking to himself that peace and security would last out his lifetime.

–2 Kings 20:19, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Such self-interest does not indicate proper concern for others, especially those of the future.  This kind of short-term thinking is what damages the planet and ravages ecosystems.  Future generations and members of other species will pay the high price for a lack of concern and imagination and for the quest for convenience and immediate gratification in the present day.  But we, unlike Hezekiah, will pay part of the price for our folly also.  Are we not supposed to be stewards of blessings, including the Earth?  Should we not extend hospitality to those around us and those not yet born?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARUTHAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MAYPHERKAT AND MISSIONARY TO PERSIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNARD OF PARMA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY TO ASIA

THE FEAST OF JOHN OWEN SMITH, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/12/03/devotion-for-friday-and-saturday-before-the-seventh-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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