Archive for the ‘Jeremiah IV: 31-52’ Category

Eschatological Ethics III: Passing Judgment   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. John the Baptist

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday of Advent, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Lord, keep us watchful for the appearing of thy beloved Son,

and grant that, in all the changes of this world, we may be strengthened by thy steadfast love;

through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with

thee and the Holy Spirit be glory, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 117

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Jeremiah 33:14-16

1 Corinthians 3:18-4:5

Matthew 3:1-11

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Until God ushers in Matthew’s Kingdom of Heaven–the fully realized rule of God on Earth, replacing corrupt systems and institutions, the question of eschatological ethics remains current and germane.

We read some of St. Paul the Apostle’s advice in 1 Corinthians 4–pass no premature judgment.  We also read St. John Baptist’s critique of many Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew 3–

Brood of vipers.

I propose that St. John’s judgment was not premature, but based on evidence.

One might supplement St. Paul’s counsel with that of Christ in Matthew 7:1-5 (The New Jerusalem Bible, 1985):

Do not judge, and you will not be judged; because the judgements you give will be the judgements you get, and the standard you use will be the standard used for you.  Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the great log in your own?  And how dare you say to your brother, “Let me take that splinter out of your eye,” when, look, there is a great log in your own?  Hypocrite!  Take the log out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.

One who knows the Bible well can think of examples of various Hebrew prophets, Jesus, and St. Paul issuing judgments, usually while speaking with authority from God.  However, one must, if one is to be intellectually honest, admit that some judgments are wrong, in more than one way.

“Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons.” That testimony is true.

–Titus 1:12b-13a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Whether St. Paul affirmed that nasty statement about Cretans or someone writing in his name did remains a matter of scholarly debate.  The unfortunate statement exists within the canon of the New Testament, though.

Sometimes we must make judgments–ones based on objective evidence.  To call a spade a spade, so to speak; to condemn injustice; to speak truth to power; is a moral imperative.  True statements are neither slanderous nor libelous.  Cynical people and desperate partisans in a state of denial may call true statements “fake news,” but objective truth is never fake.  As John Adams observed,

Facts are stubborn things.

James 3:1-12 offers timeless advice regarding the use of the tongue; we have a moral duty to control it.  That counsel also applies to the written word and to social media.  Condemning the unjustifiable is appropriate, but ruining reputations and lives without evidence is always wrong.  It is also commonplace, unfortunately.

“Brood of vipers” indeed!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 22, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK PRATT GREEN, BRITISH METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMEW ZOUBERBUHLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF EMILY HUNTINGTON MILLER, U.S. METHODIST AUTHOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF KATHARINA VON SCHLEGAL, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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Schism and Reconciliation   1 comment

Above:  Wittenberg in 1540

Image in the Public Domain

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The Feast of the Reformation, celebrated first in the Brunswick church order (1528), composed by Johannes Bugenhagen (1485-1558), died out in the 1500s.  Initially the dates of the commemoration varied according to various church orders, and not all Lutherans observed the festival.  Original dates included November 10 (the eve of Martin Luther‘s birthday), February 18 (the anniversary of Luther’s death), and the Sunday after June 25, the date of the delivery of the Augsburg Confession.  In 1667, after the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), Elector of Saxony John George II ordered the revival of the commemoration, with the date of October 31.  Over time the commemoration spread, and commemorations frequently occurred on the Sunday closest to that date.

The feast used to function primarily as an occasion to express gratitude that one was not Roman Catholic.  However, since 1980, the 450th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession, the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute (of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement) and the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau have favored observing the feast as a time of reconciliation and of acknowledging the necessity of the Reformation while not celebrating the schism.

This perspective is consistent with the position of Professor Phillip Cary in his Great Courses series of The History of Christian Theology (2008), in which he argues that Protestantism and Roman Catholicism need each other.

I, as an Episcopalian, stand within the Middle Way–Anglicanism.  I am convinced, in fact, that I am on this planet for, among other reasons, to be an Episcopalian; the affiliation fits me naturally.  I even hang an Episcopal Church flag in my home.  I, as an Episcopalian, am neither quite Protestant nor Roman Catholic; I borrow with reckless abandon from both sides–especially from Lutheranism in recent years.  I affirm Single Predestination (Anglican and Lutheran theology), Transubstantiation, a 73-book canon of scripture, and the Assumption of Mary (Roman Catholic theology), and reject both the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the Virgin Birth of Jesus.  My ever-shifting variety of Anglicanism is sui generis.

The scandal of schism, extant prior to 1517, but exasperated by the Protestant and English Reformations, grieves me.  Most of the differences among denominations similar to each other are minor, so overcoming denominational inertia with mutual forbearance would increase the rate of ecclesiastical unity.  Meanwhile, I, from my perch in The Episcopal Church, ponder whether organic union with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is feasible and wise.  It is a question worth exploring.  At least we are natural ecumenical partners.  We already have joint congregations, after all.  If there will be organic union, it will require mutual giving and taking on many issues, but we agree on most matters already.

Time will tell.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PETER OF CHELCIC, BOHEMIAN HUSSITE REFORMER; AND GREGORY THE PATRIARCH, FOUNDER OF THE MORAVIAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF GODFREY THRING, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JANE CREWDSON, ENGLISH QUAKER POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF NARAYAN SESHADRI OF JALNI, INDIAN PRESBYTERIAN EVANGELIST AND “APOSTLE TO THE MANGS”

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Almighty God, gracious Lord, we thank you that your Holy Spirit renews the church in every age.

Pour out your Holy Spirit on your faithful people.

Keep them steadfast in your word, protect and comfort them in times of trial,

defend them against all enemies of the gospel,

and bestow on the church your saving peace,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 31:31-34

Psalm 46

Romans 3:19-28

John 8:31-36

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 58

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Revelation 14:6-7

Romans 3:19-28

John 8:31-36 or Matthew 11:12-19

Lutheran Service Book (2006), xxiii

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Adapted from this post:

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/09/13/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-reformation-october-31/

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The Unfortunate Cheapness of Human Life   1 comment

Above:  Massacre of the Innocents, by Pieter Brueghel the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

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Christmas is supposed to be a happy season, right?  Yet darkness exists within it.  Consider, O reader, the sequence of three great feasts:  St. Stephen (December 26)St. John the Evangelist (December 27), and the Holy Innocents (December 28).

The kingdom of the Earth has yet to become the Kingdom of God in its fullness.  Thus we read of exiles in Jeremiah 31.  Then we read the plausible story of the Holy Innocents in Matthew 2.  Herod the Great, we know from both Biblical and extra-Biblical sources, was a disturbed and violent man who had members of his family killed.  One need not stretch credibility to imagine him ordering the murder of strangers, even young children.  Reading the story from Matthew 2 then turning to Psalm 124 creates a sense of jarring irony; one is correct to wonder why God did not spare the Holy Innocents also.

On another note, the account of the Holy Innocents provides evidence for the Magi arriving when Jesus was about two years old.  According to the Western calendar, as it has come down to us, Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.E., placing the birth of Jesus circa 6 B.C.E.  I prefer to use the term “Before the Common Era” for the simple reason that speaking and writing of the birth of Jesus as having occurred “Before Christ”–six years, perhaps–strikes me as being ridiculous.

Back to our main point, while admitting the existence of morally ambiguous and difficult scenarios with only bad choices, and in which doing our best cannot help but lead to unfortunate results….

Human life is frequently cheap.  From abortions to wars, from gangland violence to accidental shootings and crimes of passion, from genocidal governments to merely misguided policies, human life is frequently cheap.  The innocent and the vulnerable suffer.  People who are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time suffer.  May God have mercy on us all, for each of us is partially responsible, for merely being part of the social, economic, and political systems that facilitate such suffering.

The kingdom of the Earth has yet to become the Kingdom of God in its fullness.  Only God can make that happen.  We mere mortals can and must, however, leave the world better than we found it.  We can and must do this, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod.

Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims;

and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and

establish your rule of justice, love, and peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 31:15-17

Psalm 124

Revelation 21:1-7

Matthew 2:13-18

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 143

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/fourth-day-of-christmas-feast-of-the-holy-innocents-december-28/

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God, Gloriously Subversive   Leave a comment

Above:  Pentecost Dove

Scanned from a Church Bulletin by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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FOR PENTECOST SUNDAY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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O God, who at this time teaches the heart of your faithful people,

by sending them the light of your Holy Spirit:

Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things

and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort;

through the merits of Christ Jesus our Savior, who lives and reigns with you,

in the unity of the same Spirit, one God, world without end.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), pages 127-128

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Jeremiah 31:31-34

Psalm 30

Acts 2:1-8, 12-21

John 14:15-17, 25-27

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Robert C. Wright, the Episcopal Bishop of Atlanta, and my bishop, likes to repeat the slogan,

Love like Jesus.

That teaching is consistent with the reading from John 14, in which the test of loving Jesus is obeying his commandments.  May we recall how Jesus loved and lived–sacrificially and unconditionally.  The ethics of Jesus, as we read them in the Gospels, are those of Judaism–love the LORD with all one’s heart, soul, and mind, and one’s neighbor as oneself.  That is certainly the summary of the Torah, according to Rabbi Hillel, who died when Jesus was a boy.

The Holy Spirit is a great leveler.  A recurring theme in varieties of Christianity, from the Quakers to the Arminians, is equality via the Holy Spirit.  This teaching is, according to those who favor spiritual hierarchy, heretical.  Equality via the Holy Spirit cuts through social–gender, economic, racial, ethnic, et cetera–distinctions, much to the discomfort of those invested in those categories as indications of inequality.  God writes the new covenant on hearts metaphorically without regard to social status.  God, who turns mourning into dancing, is no respecter of persons.  God is, according to human standards, subversive.

This is wonderful news to ponder on any day, but especially on Pentecost, the last day of the Easter season and the birthday of the Church.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 19, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF RAOUL WALLENBERG, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF CHICO MENDES, “GANDHI OF THE AMAZON”

THE FEAST OF ROBERT CAMPBELL, SCOTTISH EPISCOPALIAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC SOCIAL ADVOCATE AND HYMN WRITER

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This is post #1800 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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Repentance and Restoration, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Baruch, by Gustave Dore

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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Jeremiah 36:1-4, 20-32

Psalm 119:81-88

2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11

John 8:21-30

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Restoration is one purpose of repentance; after judgment follows mercy, if one is fortunate.  This depends on repentance, of course.  We read of a rejected opportunity for repentance in Jeremiah 36.  We also read of Jeremiah (already a fugitive) and his scribe (newly a fugitive) continuing to be faithful to God.  One might imagine them repeating the lament in Psalm 119:81-88.

Repentance and restoration are also available in 2 Corinthians 2.  There must be discipline for the man (from 1 Corinthians 5) in a relationship with his stepmother, but the punishment must not be excessive.  The time for restoration has arrived.

Jesus, as did Jeremiah and Baruch before him, speak the words of God and suffer the consequences from hostile earthly authorities.  Yet he experienced the restoration of resurrection, through which the rest of us have much hope.  The display of the power of God at the resurrection of Jesus was astounding yet not convincing for some in Jerusalem at the time.  How oblivious they were!

May we not be oblivious when God acts to bring us to repentance and restoration.  May we not burn the scroll.  No, may we accept the offer gratefully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BERNARD ADAM GRUBE, GERMAN-AMERICAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, COMPOSER, AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT BAIN OF FONTANELLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, MONK, MISSIONARY, AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JOHANN FRIEDRICH HERTZOG, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/20/devotion-for-proper-20-ackerman/

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Judgment, Mercy, Hope, and Repentance   1 comment

Above:  Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery, by Guercino

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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Jeremiah 32:36-44

Psalm 119:73-80

2 Corinthians 1:3-11

John 7:53-8:11

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Judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Bible.  In Jeremiah 32:36-44, for example, we read that the Babylonian Exile will come yet will also end.  The author of Psalm 119 understands that God, whom he trusts, has humbled him.  In 2 Corinthians 1 the emphasis is on mercy, via Christ.

Judgment and mercy also coexist in John 7:53-8:11, a frequently misunderstood and subtle passage with some ambiguity.  It has been part of the Johannine Gospel since the 200s and is actually of Synoptic origin–probably from the Gospel of Luke.  It flows naturally in some manuscripts from Luke 21:37-38 and into Luke 22.  John 7:53-8:11 us a free-floating pericope; I treat it as such.  Indeed, one can skip over it, reading 7:52 then 8:12, and not miss a beat.

Certain religious leaders set a trap for Jesus.  This was quite a pastime in the canonical Gospels.  These particular officials, in setting this trap, violated the Law of Moses.  First, the man and woman involved in adultery were subject to the death penalty (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22).  Where was the man?  Second, there were supposed to be witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15).  The Roman authorities had deprived the Jewish authorities of the right to execute under the Law of Moses (John 18:31), so there was probably a political element to the trap–Rome or Torah?  (Those who set the trap were Roman collaborators.)  Jesus, being intelligent and perceptive, recognized the trap for what it was.  He reversed the trap.  What did he write with his finger?  Some Patristic exegetes suggested Jeremiah 17:13:

LORD, on whom Israel’s hope is fixed,

all who reject you will be put to shame,

those who forsake you will be inscribed in the dust,

for they have rejected the source of living water, the LORD.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

But we cannot be sure.

Also, the witnesses were to be the first to stone the adulteress (Deuteronomy 17:7):

Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.

–John 8:7b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The woman’s accuser, of course, left the scene.  Jesus, instead of condemning her, instructed her to repent.

Then, if we accept the Lukan placement of the pericope, the chief priests and scribes plotted the death of Jess that fateful Passover week.

(Aside:  I have heard a Roman Catholic joke based on the pericope.  After John 8:11 Jesus and the woman were standing together.  Then a stone came, seemingly from nowhere.  Jesus exclaimed, “O, mother!”)

In God exists judgment and mercy.  Mercy includes opportunities to repent–to turn one’s back on sin.  God likes repentance, I keep reading in the Bible.  There is hope in repentance.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 19, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES COFFIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/19/devotion-for-proper-19-ackerman/

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The In-Between Time   1 comment

Above:  Jeremiah Lowered into the Dungeon

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:

Jeremiah 38:1-13

Psalm 142

Revelation 21:15-21

John 7:32-36

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This is Ascension Sunday.  For this date David Ackerman schedules an interesting set of readings.  The lives of Jeremiah and Jesus are in peril.  Certain officials arrest the prophet.  Other officials seek to arrest Jesus.  One might imagine Jeremiah uttering Psalm 142 while in the muddy pit on the prison grounds.  As Ackerman writes, in Jeremiah 38 we have a story about

a righteous Gentile raising a faithful Jewish prophet from the mud of death to new life.

Beyond the Lectionary (2013), page 60

Opposite the ascension of Jeremiah is the descent of what the Gospel of Matthew usually–not always– called the Kingdom of Heaven (not out of piety but for other theological reasons; see the germane works of Jonathan Pennington) to the earth.

The imagery of the ascension of Jesus and the descent of the Kingdom of God/Heaven comes from a three-tiered cosmology in which the realm of dead is the underworld, God lives above the sky, and we mere mortals reside in the middle.  I know that this cosmology is scientifically inaccurate yet recognize that the ancient world view informs the narrative.   To quote Galileo Galilei, my favorite theologian,

The Bible tells us how to go to Heaven, not how the heavens go.

Thus I interpret the ascension of Jesus and the descent of the Kingdom of God/Heaven as metaphors.  I accept that Jesus, for lack of a better explanation, went home, not necessarily upward.  I suppose that one might file the event under the heading of

You had to be there,

so even the best words prove inadequate to describe the event adequately.  As for Revelation 21, the entire book is replete with imagery, given its genre (apocalyptic writing).  To read the Apocalypse of John literally is to miss to point and to read the text in a manner in which the author did not intend.

Hang in there, the Book of Revelation tells persecuted Christians.  God will win eventually, the last book of the New Testament says, even if the victory follows one’s martyrdom.  The Bible opens with God creating order from chaos then with people ruining paradise.  The sacred anthology concludes with God’s creative destruction of human-made chaos and the restoration of paradise.  We live in the in-between time, with those, who like Jeremiah, long ago, suffer for the sake of righteousness and do not necessarily meet happy ends in this life.  But we must hang in there.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HANS ADOLF BRORSON, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2017/06/14/devotion-for-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter-ackerman/

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