Archive for the ‘Isaiah’ Category

Exile, Liberation, and Lamentation   5 comments

Above:   The Dream of Nebuchadnezzar

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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Isaiah 64:1-9

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Mark 13:14-37

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There is good news and there is bad news.

The readings from the Hebrew Bible hail from different times.  Psalm 80 is a national lament from the final days of the northern Kingdom of Israel.  One may recall that the theology written into much of the Old Testament regarding the Assyrian and Babylonian Exiles was that persistent, collective sin had brought them on.  Isaiah 64 comes from the Third Isaiah portion of the Book of Isaiah, after return from the Babylonian Exile.  The text, which one understands better if one reads Isaiah 63 first, indicates collective disappointment with the shambles the ancestral homeland had become.

Good news follows bad news in Mark 13.  In a passage that obviously invokes the descent of “one like a Son of Man” in Daniel 7, Jesus will return.  Yet one also reads a note of caution (“Keep awake.”) in the context of language to which one can correctly add,

or else.

St. Paul the Apostle anticipated that day was he wrote to the argumentative congregation in Corinth.  Before he pointed out their faults he remined them that God had granted them awareness of the truth regarding God and Jesus Christ, as well as the means to speak of that truth.

The two great themes of the Hebrew Bible are exodus and exile.  When exile ends, we may find that we have new problems.  Yet we can rely on God, who continues to perform loving, mighty acts.  Will we accept divine liberation, or will we exile ourselves?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOROTHEUS OF TYRE, BISHOP OF TYRE, AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2019/06/05/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-b-humes/

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This is post #2000 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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Judgment and Mercy, Part IX   Leave a comment

Above:  Halstead & Company, Beef & Pork Packers, Lard Refiners & Co.

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-01454

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For the Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Startle us, O God, with thy truth, and open our minds to thy Spirit,

that this day we may receive thee humbly and find hope fulfilled in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124

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Isaiah 64:1-9

Ephesians 1:3-14

Mark 7:14-23

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The end of the Babylonian Exile, according to a portion of prophecy, was supposed to bring about paradise on Earth for returning exiles.  It did not.  Third Isaiah, after recounting some mighty acts of God in Isaiah 63, immediately asked where God was and why such mighty acts were absent.  The recorded divine response (in Isaiah 65) cataloged national sins and insisted that the divine promise remained.

God, ever an active agent, dispenses both judgment and mercy.  Divine judgment terrifies and divine mercy amazes.  The centrality of Christ, certainly a figure of mercy, also functions as a defining agent of the terms of judgment.  On one hand we have the atonement and unity in Christ.  On the other hand, however, we have those who refuse to participate in that unity, with all its moral requirements, both individual and collective.  As C. H. Dodd wrote, the Incarnation, good news, made more apparent what was already true, and those who rejected Christ were worse off for having done so.

The author of the Gospel of Mark (let us call him “Mark,” for the sake of convenience) included an aside to the reader or hearer of Chapter 7; he wrote that Jesus pronounced all foods clean.  The dating of the Markan Gospel (either shortly before or after 70 C.E., most likely) aside, that news flash about food laws did not reach many early Jewish Christians.  It also countermanded the condemnation of those who ate pork in Isaiah 64.  Moral impurity was an internal matter, Jesus said.

That principle applies both individually and collectively.  Human nature is what it is, for both good and ill.  That simple statement does not constitute an excuse for any bad behavior and improper inaction, of course.  Besides, grace is available to help us become better people, societies, families, et cetera.  We are imperfect, but we need not be shamelessly sinful and degraded.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST DAY OF ADVENT:  THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF ALICE FREEMAN PALMER, U.S. EDUCATOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSMUND OF SALISBURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Building Up the Common Good, Part II   1 comment

Above:   Scenic View of Desert in Spring

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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Isaiah 35:1-10

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

James 5:7-10

Matthew 1:1-17

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In Isaiah 34 we read of God turning the territory of the enemies of Judah into a desert.  In Chapter 35, however, we read of God transforming a desert–making waters burst forth in it–so that exiles from Judah may return to their ancestral homeland in a second Exodus on a highway God has put in place for them.  Judgment for some is an occasion of mercy for others.  The restoration prayed for in Psalm 80 becomes a reality.

Building up the common good was a theme in the readings for the Second Sunday of Advent.  That theme, consistent with the lesson from James 5, has never ceased to be germane.  When has habitual grumbling built up the common good or been even selfishly beneficial?  It certainly did not improve the lot of those God had liberated from Egypt.  The admonition to avoid grumbling has never meant not to pursue justice–not to oppose repressive regimes and exploitative systems.  Certainly opposing such evils has always fallen under the heading of building up the common good.

I do find one aspect of James 5:7-11 puzzling, however.  That text mentions the endurance of Job, a figure who complained bitterly at great length, and justifiably so.  Juxtaposing an admonition against grumbling with a reference to Job’s endurance seems as odd as referring to the alleged patience of the very impatient Job.

The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:1-17 is theological, not literal.  The recurrence of 14, the numerical value of the Hebrew letters forming David’s name, is a clue to the theological agenda.  The family tree, with surprisingly few named women in it (We know that women were involved in all that begetting.), includes monarchs, Gentiles, and three women with questionable sexual reputations.  That is quite a pedigree!  That genealogy also makes the point that Jesus was human.  This might seem like an obvious point, but one would do well to consider the other alleged sons of deities who supposedly atoned for human sins in competing religions with followers in that part of the world at that time.  We know that not one of these figures, such as Mithras, ever existed.  The physicality of Jesus of Nazareth, proving that he was no figment of imaginations, is a great truth.

We also know that the Roman Empire remained firmly in power long after the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.  The promised reign of God on Earth persists as a hope reserved for the future.  In the meantime, we retain the mandate to work for the common good.  God will save the world, but we can–and must–leave it better than we found it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FANNIE LOU HAMER, PROPHET OF FREEDOM

THE FEAST OF ALFRED LISTER PEACE, ORGANIST IN ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND

THE FEAST OF HARRIET KING OSGOOD MUNGER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF NEHEMIAH GOREH, INDIAN ANGLICAN PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/14/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-a-humes/

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Psalms 98-101   1 comment

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POST XXXVIII 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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Each morning I will destroy

all the wicked of the land,

to rid the city of the LORD

of all evildoers.

–Psalm 101:8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Morning after morning I shall reduce

all the wicked to silence,

ridding the LORD’s city of all evildoers.

–Psalm 101:8, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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Like cattle I destroyed

all the wicked in the land,

Cutting off from the city of Yahweh

the evildoers one and all.

–Psalm 101:8, Mitchell J. Dahood translation

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This post covers four psalms united by the theme of kingship.  God is the ideal king, we read; hesed (faithfulness/love/steadfast love/kindness) and justice define His reign.  Justice for the oppressed often has detrimental effects on oppressors, predictably.  All of us depend completely on God, who has been kind enough to give us law and who has demonstrated judgment and mercy as well as discipline and forgiveness.  The ideal human king strives to govern justly and avoid corruption.  This is a high standard, one which is impossible to achieve fully.  Even the best and most well-intentioned rulers, for example, cannot help but effect some injustice.

The last verse of Psalm 101 interests me.  The consensus of the five commentaries I consulted is that the scene is a familiar one in the ancient Near East:  a prince sitting at the gate early in the morning and dispensing justice.  (See Jeremiah 21:12; Psalm 46:5 or 6, depending on versification; Isaiah 37:36; and Lamentations 3:23.)  Mitchell J. Dahood, however, departs from the standard translations (“each morning” and “morning after morning”), noting that they create

the impression that the king was singularly ineffectual; an oriental king who each morning had to rid his land of undesirable citizens was destined for a very short reign.

Psalms III:  101-150 (1970), page 6

Therefore his rendering of the opening of Psalm 101:8 calls back to Psalm 49:14 or 15 (depending on versification), for that art of the Hebrew text of 101:8 is similar to the Hebrew for “like a calf,” which is parallel to “sheeplike.”

Linguistic nuances are fascinating.

Sin permeates and corrupts our entire being and burdens us more and more with fear, hostility, guilt, and misery.  Sin operates not only within individuals but also within society as a deceptive and oppressive power, so that even men of good will are unconsciously and unwillingly involved in the sins of society.  Man cannot destroy the tyranny of sin in himself or in his world; his only hope is to be delivered from it by God.

–From A Brief Statement of Belief (1962), Presbyterian Church in the United States

Living up to divine standards is an impossible task for we mere mortals because of the reality of sin, both individual and collective.  God knows that, however.  May we strive to come as close as possible to that standard, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 17, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL JOHNSON, CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, ANGLICAN PRIEST, PRESIDENT OF KING’S COLLEGE, “FATHER OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN CONNECTICUT,” AND “FATHER OF AMERICAN LIBRARY CLASSIFICATION;” TIMOTHY CUTLER, CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, ANGLICAN PRIEST, AND RECTOR OF YALE COLLEGE; DANIEL BROWNE, EDUCATOR, CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST; AND JAMES WETMORE, CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JONATHAN FRIEDRICH BAHNMAIER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Compassion, Not Checklists   1 comment

Above:   A Checklist

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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Isaiah 57:14-19

Psalm 106:47-48

1 John 3:11-14a; 4:1-6

Luke 1:1-4

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The assigned readings for this Sunday, taken together, speak of the importance of knowing God.  Those who love God keep divine commandments, or at least attempt to do so.  One can succeed by grace, fortunately.  The faithful who receive the crown of martyrdom are still more fortunate than those who trust in idols.

Discerning divine commandments does seem difficult sometimes.  As I read 1 John 3:14b-24, I find some guidance regarding that topic:

  1. Do not hate.
  2. Love each other so much as to be willing to die for each other.
  3. Help each other in financial and material ways.
  4. Do not mistake lip service for sincerity.

Those instructions are concrete, not abstract.  And, by acting accordingly, we demonstrate the presence of the Holy Spirit within ourselves.

I notice the emphasis on compassion, not checklists.  Legalism is a powerful temptation.  Indeed, many who fall into that trap do so out of the sincere desire to honor God.  Yet they wind up fixating on minor details and forgetting compassion frequently instead of remembering the big picture:  compassion, such as that of the variety that Jesus modeled all the way to the cross.

Living compassionately is far more rigorous a standard than is keeping a moral checklist.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 30, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JAMES MONTGOMERY, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROSS MACDUFF AND GEORGE MATHESON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTERS AND AUTHORS

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2017/04/30/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-after-christmas-ackerman/

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Posted April 30, 2017 by neatnik2009 in 1 John 3, 1 John 4, Isaiah, Luke 1, Psalm 106

Tagged with , , ,

The Sin of Not Loving   1 comment

st-augustine

Above:  Saint Augustine, by Philippe de Champaigne

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:

Isaiah 54:1-17 or 37:14-38

Psalm 39

John 8:12-30

James 4:(1-3) 4-6 (7-8a) 8b-17 or Galatians 4:1-3 (4-7) 8-3, 5:1

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Love, and do what you will:  whether you hold your peace, through love hold your peace; whether you cry out, through love cry out; whether you correct, through love correct; whether you spare, through love do you spare; let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good.

–St. Augustine of Hippo

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The more familiar version of that excerpt from a sermon is:

Love God and do as you please:  for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.

One might identify a plethora of scriptural verses consistent with this nugget of wisdom from St. Augustine.  The reading from James comes to mind immediately.  In the background of St. Augustine’s counsel is the fidelity of God (evident in the readings from Isaiah).  Yes, we will not escape all the consequences of our sins, but, for the Hebrews in the Old Testament, divine mercy follows God’s judgment.  We are free in Christ to follow him.  Nevertheless, many choose the yoke of slavery to sin.  Maybe they prefer that which is familiar or seemingly easier.  After all, grace, although free, is never cheap; it costs us something.  Yet following Christ is the way of ultimate life, in this realm of existence as well as in the next one.

I like the advice from St. Augustine, for it cuts through legalism (as Jesus did, to the ire of certain religious people) and offers a concise path, one more different from legalism.  Legalism leans toward a checklist morality, which is shallow and typical, for example, of the alleged friends of Job.  Loving God (and, by extension, our fellow human beings) is about relationships.  The Holy Trinity itself is about, among other things, relationships.  We human beings are, by nature, relational.  We are, according to divine law, responsible to and for each other in a web of interdependence.

Taking up one’s cross and following Christ requires one to surrender much, including one’s selfish desires and illusions of independence.  It requires one to grow into a mindset that will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.  In so doing it liberates one to do as one pleases–as one ought to wish to do.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS, AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUIS BERTRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF WILHELM WEXELS, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; HIS NIECE, MARIE WEXELSEN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER; LUDWIG LINDEMAN, NORWEGIAN ORGANIST AND MUSICOLOGIST; AND MAGNUS LANDSTAD, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, FOLKLORIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-d/

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The Sin of Legalism   1 comment

christ-healing-the-paralytic-at-bethesda

Above:  Christ Healing the Paralytic at Bethesda, by Palma Giovane

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:

Isaiah 57:1-21

Psalm 102

John 5:1-18

James 1:1-16 or Ephesians 2:11-22 or Galatians 1:1-24

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Penitence is related to repentance.  Frequently, in everyday vocabulary, they become interchangeable terms, but they are different.  To repent is to turn one’s back on sin–sin in general and a particular sin or set of sins.  The theological focus on Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent is repentance.

Timothy Matthew Slemmons has done an excellent job of selecting appropriate texts for Ash Wednesday while avoiding the usual suspects.

  1. We read in Isaiah 57 that Judah needs to repent of idolatry.  We also read that judgment will ensue, but that mercy will follow it.
  2. The penitence in Psalm 102 is individual.  In that text the consequences of the sins have caught up with the author, who is in distress and pleading for mercy.
  3. James 1 advises us to rejoice and to trust in God during times of trial, not to yield to temptation during them.  We read that Jesus breaks down barriers between us and God and among us.  Why, then, do many of us insist on maintaining and erecting barriers, especially for others?
  4. Galatians 1 informs us that Jesus liberates us to serve, enjoy, and glorify God.
  5. In John 5 we read of Jesus liberating  man from a physical disability and intangible, related problems.  Then, we read, some strict Sabbath keepers criticize the newly able-bodied man for carrying his bed roll on the Sabbath.  I detect misplaced priorities in the critics.

Each of us has much for which to be pentitent and much of which to repent.  At this time I choose to emphasize legalism, which is a thread in some of the readings.  Legalism, in some cases, has innocent and pious origins; one seeks to obey divine commandments.  Out of good intentions one goes astray and becomes a master nit picker lost amid the proverbial trees and unable to see the forest.  Rules become more important than compassion.  This might be especially likely to happen when one is a member of a recognizable minority defined by certain practices.  Creating neat categories, thereby defining oneself as set apart and others as unclean, for example, can become quite easily an open door to self-righteousness.  It is a sin against which to remain vigilant as one notices a variety of sins in one’s vicinity.

The list of sins I have not committed is long.  So is the list of sins of which I am guilty.  The former does not make up for the latter.  The fact that I have never robbed a liquor store speaks well of me yet does not deliver me from my sins and the consequences thereof; it does, however, testify to what Lutheran theology calls civic righteousness.  Although I have the right to condemn the robbing of liquor stores, I have no become self-righteous and legalistic toward those who have.  They and I stand before God guilty of many sins.  All of us need to be penitent and to repent.  All of us need the mercy of God and the merits of Jesus Christ.

I am no less prone to legalism than any other person is.  My inclination is to break down roadblocks to God, not to create or maintain them.  Nevertheless, I recognize the existence of certain categories and approve of them.  This is healthy to an extent.  But what if some of my categories are false? This is a thought I must ponder if I am to be a faithful Christian.  Am I marginalizing people God calls insiders?  Are you, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 8, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ABRAHAM RITTER, U.S. MORAVIAN MERCHANT, HISTORIAN, MUSICIAN, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ERIK ROUTLEY, HYMN WRTIER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM DWIGHT PORTER BLISS, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND ECONOMIST; AND RICHARD THEODORE ELY, ECONOMIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/08/devotion-for-ash-wednesday-year-d/

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