Archive for the ‘James 5’ Category

Grace, Part I   3 comments

Above:  Landscape with the Parable of the Sower, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

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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Job 42:1-17 or Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Psalm 48

James 5:12-20

Mark 4:1-20

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At the end of the Season After the Epiphany or the beginning of the Season After Pentecost (depending on the year), we finish hopping and skipping through three books–Job, Deuteronomy, and James.  If we pay attention, we notice that Job granted his daughters the right to inherit from his estate–a revolutionary move at that time and place.

Overall, when we add Psalm 48 and Mark 4:1-20 to the mix, we detect a thread of the goodness of God present in all the readings.  Related to divine goodness is the mandate to respond positively to grace in various ways, as circumstances dictate.  The principle is universal, but the applications are circumstantial.

Consider, O reader the parable in our reading from Mark 4.  The customary name is the Parable of the Sower, but the Parable of the Four Soils is a better title.  The question is not about the effectiveness of the sower but about the four soils.  Are we distracted soil?  Are we soil that does not retain faith in the face of tribulation or persecution?  Are we soil into which no roots sink?  Or are we good soil?  Do we respond positively to grace, which is free yet not cheap, or do we not?

Job 42:11 tells that all Job’s “friends of former times” visited him and “showed him every sympathy.”  (Job is a literary character, of course, so I do not mistake him for a historical figure.)  I imagine Zophar, Bildad, Eliphaz, and even Elihu, who went away as quickly as he arrived, having realized their errors, dining with Job in shalom.  That is indeed a scene of grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 19, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES ARTHUR MACKINNON, CANADIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

THE FEAST OF ALFRED RAMSEY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CHARITIE LEES SMITH BANCROFT DE CHENEZ, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PIERSON MERRILL, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/devotion-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-humes/

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Presumption   2 comments

Above:  Jesus and His Apostles

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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Job 38:1-41 (portions) or Deuteronomy 30:5-6, 11-20

Psalm 46

James 5:1-11

Mark 3:20-34

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The law of God may be on our hearts and lips, if we are in a healthy spiritual state, but we should not assume healthy spirituality where none exists.  Besides, even if one is spiritually healthy at one moment, one still has weaknesses lurking in the shadows.  As Bernhard Anderson wrote in various editions of his Introduction to the Old Testament, Job and his alleged friends committed the same sin–presumption regarding God.  That is what the poem indicates.  However, God agrees with Job in the prose portion of Job 42.

Presumption is one of the sins on display in Mark 3:20-34.  I hope that none of us will go so far into presumption as to mistake the work of God for evil, but some will, of course.

Presumption rooted in high socio-economic status is a theme in James 4 and 5.  The epistle makes clear that God disapproves of the exploitation and other bad treatment of the poor.  The Letter of James, in so doing, continues a thread from the Hebrew Bible.  The Bible contains more content about wealth and poverty, the rich and the poor, than about sex, but one does know that if one’s Biblical knowledge comes from reactionary ministers dependent on large donations.  Presumption rooted in high socio-economic status remains current, unfortunately.  Human nature is a constant factor.

There is also the presumption that we know someone better than we do, as in Mark 3:31-34.  This is a theme in the Gospel of Mark, in which those who were closest to Jesus–his family, the disciples, and the villagers who saw him grow up–did not know him as well as they thought they did.  On the other hand, the the Gospel Mark depicts strangers and demons as recognizing Jesus for who he really was.  People we think we know will surprise us, for good or ill, sometimes.

May God deliver us from the sin of presumption present in ourselves and in others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 18, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ADOLPHUS NELSON, SWEDISH-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINSTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHANN FRANCK, HEINRICH HELD, AND SIMON DACH, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MASSIE, HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM BINGHAM TAPPAN, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2019/06/18/devotion-for-the-eighth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-humes/

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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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God’s Inscrutable Grace   1 comment

cain-and-abel

Above:  Cain and Abel

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 4:1-16 or Isaiah 63:(7-9) 10-19

Psalm 101

John 8:31-47

Galatians 5:(1) 2-12 (13-25) or James 5:1-6 (7-10) 11-12 (13-20)

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Divine judgment and mercy share the stage with repentance in these readings.  We who sin (that is, all of us) make ourselves slaves to sin, but Christ Jesus liberates us from that bondage and empowers us to become people who practice the Golden Rule–to be good neighbors, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, et cetera.  Christ breaks down spiritual barriers yet many of us become psychologically attached to them.  In so doing we harm others as well as ourselves.

Much of Psalm 101 seems holy and unobjectionable:

I will walk with integrity of heart within my house;

I will not set before my eyes anything that is base.

–Verses 2b-3a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

So far, so good.  But then we read verse 8:

Morning by morning I will destroy

all the wicked in the land,

cutting off all evildoers

from the city of the LORD.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That psalm is in the voice of the king.  Given the human tendency to mistake one’s point of view for that of God, is smiting all the (alleged) evildoers morally sound public policy?

A clue to that psalm’s point of view comes from Genesis 4, in which we read that sin is like a predator:

And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.

–Genesis 4:7b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

This quote, from God to Cain, comes from after God has rejected his sacrifice of “fruit of the soil” in favor of Abel’s sacrifice of “the choicest of the firstlings of his flock” and before Cain kills Abel.  I know of attempts to explain God’s rejection of Cain’s sacrifice by finding fault with him.  The text is silent on that point; God never explains the reason for the rejection.  Nevertheless, we read of how badly Cain took the rejection, of how he reacted (violently), of how he expressed penitence and repented, and of how God simultaneously punished and acted mercifully toward the murderer.

The irony is pungent:  The man who could not tolerate God’s inscrutable grace now benefits from it.

The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014), page 17

Cain, spared the death penalty, must relocate and enjoys divine protection.

“God’s inscrutable grace” frequently frustrates and offends us, does it not?  Is is not fair, we might argue.  No, it is not fair; it is grace, and it protects even those who cannot tolerate it.  “God’s inscrutable grace” breaks down barriers that grant us psychological comfort and challenges to lay aside such idols.  It liberates us to become the people we ought to be.  “God’s inscrutable grace” frees us to glorify and to enjoy God forever.  It liberates us to lay aside vendettas and grudges and enables us to love our neighbors (and relatives) as we love ourselves (or ought to love ourselves).

Will we lay aside our false senses of justice and embrace “God’s inscrutable grace”?

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-fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-d/

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Trust in God, Part II   1 comment

Agony in the Garden

Above:   The Agony in the Garden, by El Greco

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O Lord God, tireless guardian of your people,

you are always ready to hear our cries.

Teach us to rely day and night on your care.

Inspire us to seek your enduring justice for all the suffering world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 25:2-22 (Monday)

1 Samuel 25:23-35 (Tuesday)

1 Samuel 25:36-42 (Wednesday)

Psalm 57 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 6:1-11 (Monday)

James 5:7-12 (Tuesday)

Luke 22:39-46 (Wednesday)

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Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful,

for I have taken refuge in you;

in the shadow of your wings will I take refuge

until this time of trouble has gone by.

–Psalm 57:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Yet sometimes suffering does happen.  Jesus goes on to die after Luke 22:39-46.  Furthermore, James 5:11 refers to Job.  In addition, much suffering of the innocent results from the actions of others.

Several of the assigned readings for these days speak of deferred yet certain divine justice.  The length of the delay might be relatively brief (as in 1 Samuel 25) or part of an eschatological plan.  Regardless of the duration of the wait, having patience can be quite difficult.  In Revelation 6:10-11 the impatience extends into the afterlife.  How much more difficult will patience be for us on this side of Heaven?

We must try to trust in God.  That is the meaning of belief in the Bible:  to trust.  We can strive for that goal on our own power, but can succeed only by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-24-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Individual and the Collective I   1 comment

Christ and the Rich Young Ruler

Above:   Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich Hofmann

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, rich in mercy, you look with compassion on this troubled world.

Feed us with your grace, and grant us the treasure that comes only from you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 6:8-14 (Monday)

Hosea 9-15 (Tuesday)

Hosea 12:2-14 (Wednesday)

Psalm 62 (All Days)

Revelation 3:14-22 (Monday)

James 5:1-6 (Tuesday)

Matthew 19:16-22 (Wednesday)

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For God alone my soul in silence waits;

truly, my hope is in him.

He alone is my rock and salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.

In God is my safety and honor;

God is my strong rock and my refuge.

Put your trust in him always, people,

pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.

–Psalm 62:6-9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The assigned readings for these three days, taken together, condemn the following:

  1. Collective hubris (Amos 6),
  2. Collective iniquity, especially economic injustice (Hosea 10 and 12, James 5),
  3. Collective iniquity, especially idolatry (Hosea 12),
  4. Collective lukewarmness in relation to God (Revelation 3), and
  5. Trusting in wealth, not God (James 5, Matthew 19).

One might notice that four of the five sins are collective and that the fifth sin has both collective and individual elements.  This is a partial list of sins, of course, but it is a fine beginning to one’s process of spiritual self-examination or another stage in that process.  Does one have hubris?  If so, that is a sin.  Does one participate in collective hubris?  If so, one needs to confess and to repent of that sin.  One can repeat those forms of questions for the remaining four items on the list above.

Protestantism, for all of its virtues, does place too much emphasis on the individual and too little stress on the collective elements of spiritual life.  May we strive to seek the proper balance between the two and succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, ABBOT OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF JOHN JAMES MOMENT, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LUCY ELIZABETH GEORGINA WHITMORE, BRITISH HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-21-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Humility Before God, Part I   1 comment

house-of-naaman-damascus

Above:  House of Naaman, Damascus, 1900-1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

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The Collect:

O God, our teacher and guide,

you draw us to yourself and welcome us as beloved children.

Help us to lay aside all envy and selfish ambition,

that we may walk in your ways of wisdom and understanding

as servants of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 5:1-14 (Monday)

2 Kings 11:21-12:16 (Tuesday)

Psalm 139:1-18 (Both Days)

James 4:8-17 (Monday)

James 5:1-6 (Tuesday)

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LORD, you have searched me out and known me;

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

–Psalm 139:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Temple at Jerusalem was approximately 140 years old.  The Ark of the Covenant was there.  Repairing the structure of the Temple, which, like all buildings, required maintenance, should have been a priority long before King Jehoash made it one.  The lack of upkeep indicated an improper attitude toward God.

The proper attitude toward God includes humility.  God is God; none of us is God.  We depend entirely upon God (and rely upon each other), so any thought to the contrary is mistaken.  Our interdependence and mutual responsibility (to and for each other) leaves no room for sins such as oppression, exploitation, and gossiping.  Our total dependence on God leaves no room for excessive pride.

Naaman learned humility and monotheism.  Unfortunately, the narrative ended with the beginning of his journey back home.  I wonder how the experience at the River Jordan changed him and how that altered reality became manifest in his work and daily life.  I also wonder if that led to any negative consequences for him.

Martin Luther referred to James as an “epistle of straw.”  The letter’s emphasis on works (including justification by them) offended the reformer, who was reacting, not responding, to certain excesses and abuses of the Roman Catholic Church.  The epistle’s emphasis on works was–and remains–necessary, however.  The book’s condemnations of exploitation and hypocrisy have called proper attention to injustices and other sins for millennia.

I am not a wealthy landowner exploiting impoverished workers (James 5:1-6), but part of these days’ composite reading from the epistle speaks to me.  The condemnation of judging others (4:1-11) hits close to home.  My estimate is that judging others is the sin I commit most often.  If I am mistaken, judging others is one of the sins I commit most frequently.  I know better, of course, but like St. Paul the Apostle, I know well the struggle with sin and my total dependence upon God.  Knowing that one has a problem is the first step in the process of resolving it.

Caution against moral perfectionism is in order.  Public statements by relatives of victims of the White supremacist gunman who killed nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, South Carolina, have been impressive.  The capacity for forgiveness has come quickly to some.  I rejoice that divine grace is so richly evident in their lives.  For some of us (including the author), however, the capacity to forgive those who have committed lesser offenses has arrived later rather than sooner.  For others it remains in transit.  In any circumstance may it arrive in God’s time.  May the rest of us refrain from judging those struggling with that (and other) issues.

The Didache, an essential Christian text from the second century of the Common Era, opens with an explanation of the Way of Life (filling a page and a half in my copy) and the Way of Death (just one paragraph–about one-third of a page).  The accent on the positive aspect of morality is laudable.  The section on the two Ways ends with two sentences:

Take care that nobody tempts you away from the path of this Teaching, for such a man’s tuition can have nothing to do with God.  If you can shoulder the Lord’s yoke in its entirety, then you will be perfect; but if that is too much for you, do as much as you can.

Early Christian Writings:  The Apostolic Fathers (Penguin Books, 1987), p. 193

We, to succeed, even partially, depend on grace.  Even so, I am still trying to do as much as I can, to borrow language from the Didache, for human efforts are not worthless.  I am imperfect; there is much room for improvement.  Much has improved already, by grace.  The potential for spiritual growth excites me.  The only justifiable boast will be in God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 30, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN OLAF WALLIN, ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSALA AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR JAMES MOORE, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH LONAS, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND LITURGIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-20-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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