Archive for the ‘Job 29’ Category

The First Oracle of Haggai   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Haggai

Image in the Public Domain

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READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART II

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Haggai 1:1-15

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King Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (r. 559-530 B.C.E.) conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.E.  The following year, he issued a decree permitting Jewish exiles to return to their ancestral homeland (Ezra 1:1-4).  The first wave of exiles to return to the ruined homeland (Ezra 1:5-2:70; 1 Esdras 2:8-30; 1 Esdras 5:1-73).  The old, prophetic predictions of the homeland being a verdant paradise of piety and prosperity did not match reality on the ground.  Grief and disappointment ensued.  The land was not as fertile as in the germane prophecies, and the economy was bad.

As of 520 B.C.E., proper worship, as had occurred before the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.), had not resumed.  People had set up an altar–most likely in 520 B.C.E. (as 1 Esdras 5:47-55 indicates, not in 538 B.C.E. (as Ezra 3:1-8 indicates).

Construction of the Second Temple began (Ezra 3:10-13; 1 Esdras 5:56-65a).  Yet opposition to that effort caused a pause in construction (Ezra 4:1-23; 1 Esdras 5:65b-73).

Haggai 1:1-15 establishes two dates and three names:

  1. The first date (1:1), converted to the Gregorian Calendar, is August 9, 520 B.C.E.
  2. The first name is Haggai, who prophesied from August 9 to December 18, 520 B.C.E.
  3. The second name is Joshua ben Zehozadak, the chief priest.
  4. The final name is Zerubbabel ben Shealtiel (of the House of David), the satrap (governor).   Notice the lack of the Davidic monarchy, O reader.
  5. The final date (1:15) is September 21, 520 B.C.E.

Haggai offered a simple explanation of why the drought was severe and the economy was poor.  He blamed everything on the lack of a completed Temple in Jerusalem.  The prophet argued that such disrespect for God was the culprit, and that the poverty and drought were punishment.  Work on the construction of the Second Temple resumed.  Surely resuming construction of the Second Temple ended the drought and revived the economy, right?  No, actually, hence Haggai 2:10-10.

Haggai’s heart was in the right place, but he missed an important truth that predated Jesus:

[God] makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.”

–Matthew 5:45b, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Haggai could have recalled certain laments from Hebrew literature.  He could have remembered Psalm 73, for example.  Why did the wicked flourish and the righteous falter?  Haggai could have recalled the Book of Job, in which the innocent, titular character suffered.

I make no pretense of being a spiritual giant and a great spring of wisdom, O reader.  However, I offer you a principle to consider:  God is not a vending machine.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 11, 2021 COMMON ERA

PROPER 10:  THE SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF NATHAN SODERBLOM, SWEDISH ECUMENIST AND ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSULA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID GONSON, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 1541

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN GUALBERT, FOUNDER OF THE VALLOMBROSAN BENEDICTINES

THE FEAST OF SAINTS THOMAS SPROTT AND THOMAS HUNT, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1600

THE FEAST OF SAINT VALERIU TRAIAN FRENTIU, ROMANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR, 1952

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The Punishment of Zion   Leave a comment

Above:  Lamentations

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LAMENTATIONS, PART V

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Lamentation 4:1-22

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The main bright ray of hope in the Book of Lamentations is in Chapter 3.  Theological whiplash continues as the readings revert to…lamentations.  Chapter 4 describes the siege of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.. as well as the suffering and degradation of the city’s residents at the time.

Some points require explanation:

  1. In verse 1, gems and gold represent people.  They are precious yet discarded.
  2. Jackals (verse 3) had a reputation as despicable scavengers.
  3. Ostriches (verse 3) were supposedly cruel and neglectful parents (Job 39:13-18).
  4. Starving children were too weak to cry in verse 4.  (Ezekiel 3:16; Psalm 137:6; Job 29:10)
  5. The inhabitants of Sodom died quickly (Genesis 19:24-25), but the inhabitants of Jerusalem suffered a long agony.
  6. Coral and sapphire were colors associated with vigor in verses 7-8.  Those colors have disappeared.
  7. Fire represented divine wrath (Lamentations 2:3 and 4:11; Deuteronomy 32:22; Isaiah 10:17; Jeremiah 17:27).  There was also the literal fire that destroyed Jerusalem, of course.
  8. Contrary to popular belief (Psalms 46 and 48), Mount Zion was not inviolable.  The belief that God would not let Mount Zion fall came from foreigners (Lamentations 4:12).
  9. Shedding blood (verses 13 and 14), in this case, referred to committing idolatry (Ezekiel 22:1-5; Psalm 106:37-40).  The people most closely associated with purity were the most impure.  Those once among the most respected in society had become as impure as lepers (verse 15).
  10. The Poet spoke in verses 1-16 and 21-22.  The Community spoke in verses 17-20.
  11. The tone in verse 21 is ironic.  Edom comes in for condemnation here and in Amos 1:11-12; Isaiah 21:11-12; Obadiah; Jeremiah 49:7-22; Ezekiel 25:12-14; and Ezekiel 35:1-15.
  12. Verse 22 offers a glimmer of hope.  The Babylonian Exile will end, we read.  Justice will prevail because punishes sins, we read.

I ponder the idea of a world in which justice prevails because God punishes sins.  I think about the world as it is and perceive that it bears little resemblance to God’s ideal world.  The disparity between reality and the ideal is discouraging.  Were I more poetic, and if I had the desire to compose a set of lamentations for the world and United States of America in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, I would do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 19, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN DALBERG ACTON, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC HISTORIAN, PHILOSOPHER, AND SOCIAL CRITIC

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE TEAGUE CASE, EPISCOPAL PROFESSOR OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION, AND ADVOCATE FOR PEACE

THE FEAST OF MICHEL-RICHARD DELALANDE, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF VERNARD ELLER, U.S. CHURCH OF THE BRETHREN MINISTER AND THEOLOGIAN

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

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In Praise of Wisdom   Leave a comment

Above:  Jackson Mine, Negaunee, Michigan, 1912

Image in the Public Domain

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READING BARUCH AND THE LETTER OF JEREMIAH

PART III

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Baruch 3:9-4:4

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My recent Bible study and reading programs have brought me back to Job 28 twice in short order.  This has been serendipitous.  Job 28 was the model for much of Baruch 3:9-4:4.

Wisdom is inaccessible to human beings, Job 28 tells us.  Job 27 flows into Job 29.  Chapter 28 sits between for some reason.  Job 28 concludes with:

And [God] said to man,

“Wisdom?  It is fear of the Lord.

Understanding?–avoidance of evil.”

The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Baruch 3:9-4:4 embraces the Deutronomic teaching that God punishes sins and rewards righteousness.  The text urges people to obey God’s commandments, to keep the Law of Moses.  This is a prominent motif in the Bible:  Love God; keep divine commandments.

How, then, should exiles–or just people living under occupation–live while they wait for divine deliverance?  They ought to keep God’s laws?  They must hold God in awe and avoid evil.  The beginning of evil is the false idea that one can do whatever one wants and God will not care.  Evil also falsely assumes that one can and must act on one’s power, given the assumption that God either does not exist or does not care.

To quote Anthony J. Saldarini:

We either acknowledge and obey God in harmony with the world or reject God with a disobedience that leads to chaos.

The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VI (2001), 970

Without rejecting science and cultural tolerance, both of which are valuable, I take Saldarini’s point.  I take the point of the author of Baruch 3:9-4:4.  Divine wisdom is 

the book of the precepts of God.

–4:1

Monotheism is uncompromising.  It stakes its claim and rejects other deities.  Ethical monotheism proposes standard that may prove daunting to many people.  So be it.

As we stand firm, may we do so lovingly.  May we never be obnoxious as we assert the truth.  As we proclaim God, may we avoid erecting barriers to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-SECOND DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF BATES GILBERT BURT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF D. ELTON TRUEBLOOD, U.S. QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT MICHAL PIACZYNSKI, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1940

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Mutuality in God IV   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Augustine of Hippo, by Ambito Lombardo

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O God, who in the glorious Transfiguration of thy only begotten Son,

hast confirmed the mysteries of the faith by the testimony of the fathers,

and who, in the voice that came from the bright cloud,

didst in a wonderful manner vouchsafe to make us co-heirs with the King of his glory,

and bring us to the enjoyment of the same;

through the same Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord,

who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit,

ever one God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 134

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Job 28:1-28

Psalm 119:49-64

1 Corinthians 10:1-14

Matthew 15:14-29

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How should one interpret Job 28?  It does not flow from Chapter 27.  “He” (God) in 28:3 has no antecedent in Job 27.  And the identity of the speaker is uncertain.  Chapter 28 sits between Job 27 and Job 29, of the titular character.  Is the speaker Job, one of his alleged friends, or someone else?

The identity of the speaker is crucial.  To know who speaks in a particular passage of the Book of Job is to know how to read or hear that passage.  Job’s alleged friends are objectively wrong on many points within the Book of Job and within the full canon of Jewish scripture.  Yet they are right sometimes, too.  To quote a cliché, 

A broken clock is right twice a day.

A note in The Jewish Study Bible hypothesizes that the speaker is Elihu, a character shoe-horned into the Book of Job between Job’s concluding argument to God (at the end of Chapter 31) and the beginning of God’s reply to job in Chapter 38.  The epilogue to the Book of Job names Eliphz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite (42:9) yet never Elihu.

[God] said to man,

“See!  Fear of the Lord is wisdom;

To shun evil is understanding.

–Job 28:28, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

That verse is consistent with Psalm 119.

The trials you have had to bear are no more than people normally have.  You can trust God not to let you be tried beyond your strength, and with any trial he will give you a way out of it and the strength to bear it.

–1 Corinthians 10:13, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

I have heard a consistent misinterpretation of that verse for many years.  

To read “you” as singular is wrong.  1 Corinthians is a letter to a congregation, not an individual.  Individualistic assumptions of my Western culture may lead one to misread and mishear “you” as singular.  Reading the passage in a romance language helps to clear up the matter, too.

Aucune tentation ne vous est survenue qui n’ait été humaine; Dieu est est fidèle et ne permettra pas que vous soyez téntes au-delà de vos forces….

–1 Corinthiens 10:13a, Nouvelle Version Segond Révisée (1978)

Vous is plural, not formal singular, in this case.

Within the context of faith community, all the necessary spiritual resources exist.  The variety of spiritual gifts and the presence of God can fulfill each person’s spiritual needs.  Mutuality remains a theme.

Regarding Matthew 15:21-28, I refer you, O reader, to the category for Matthew 15.  Follow it to find my analysis of that story.

I prefer to focus on another aspect of the Gospel reading.  The dark side of human nature defiles one–makes one unclean–makes one “common,” as J. B. Phillips translated the Greek word.  The list in Matthew 19 is representative, not comprehensive.  One may ask what fornication, theft, perjury, and slander have in common.  They are ways to harm others–emotionally, legally, socially, economically, and physically.  They work against the model of mutuality in 1 Corinthians 10:13.

To tie up the readings with a figurative bow, mutuality fits with Job 28:28 and Psalm 119.  We should shun evil, individually and collectively.  And standing in awe of God (a better translation than “fearing God”) is wisdom.

As St. Augustine of Hippo wrote at length and more eloquently than I write, those who love God as they should can do whatever they want and still please God.  They want to live in faith community defined by mutuality.  These spiritual giants want to help, not harm.  They are in tune with God.

I make no pretense of being one of these spiritual giants.  I do, however, know in visceral, practical terms how mutuality works in a congregation.  I know how to give and receive.  Both are blessings from God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND HIS SON, MARKUS BARTH, SWISS LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HOWELL ELVET LEWIS, WELSH CONGREGATIONALIST CLERGYMAN AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN ROBERTS, WELSH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYR, 1610

THE FEAST OF PAUL EBER, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ROBERT MURRAY, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part I   1 comment

the-wrath-of-elihu-william-blake

Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

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 32:1-22

Psalm 89:5-18, 38-52

Luke 5:27-39

Hebrews 11:(1-3) 4-7, 17-28 (39-40)

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The Book of Job exists in layers, both prose and poetic.  This fact creates complexity in interpreting the text.  The best way to interpret the Book of Job is to read it as the composite text it has become.  Yes, the core of the poetic section of the Book of Job is its oldest portion, but I read that core in the context of the prose introduction (Chapters 1 and 2).  There we read why Job suffers:  God permits it to happen as part of a wager with the Satan, his loyalty tester.  Job suffers and two cycles of speeches follow.  Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite take turns arguing that Job’s protestations of his innocence cannot be accurate, for God, being just, would not permit an innocent person to suffer.  Job argues against his alleged friends, who cease speaking eventually.  Job makes his concluding argument in Chapters 29-31.  God answers him in Chapters 38-41, and Job repents in Chapter 42.  Then, in the prose epilogue in Chapter 42, God “burns with anger” toward Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar and favors Job.

The speeches of Elihu are obviously not original to the Book of Job.  As a matter of the structure of the Book of Job Elihu comes out of nowhere, goes away without any subsequent mention or appearance, and interrupts the narrative, filling the gap between Job’s final argument and God’s reply.

The prose section of Chapter 32 (verses 1-6) tells us that Elihu was angry with the three alleged friends and with Job.  He was angry with Job

for thinking that he was right and God was wrong

–Verse 2, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

and with Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar

for giving up the argument and thus admitting that God could be unjust.

–Verse 3, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Elihu is, in his words,

filled with words, choked by the rush of them

–Verse 18, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

within himself.

The Book of Job is also complex theologically.  Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu commit the same error.  The presume to know how God does and should act.  The premise of the Book of Job supports the main character’s claim of innocence, yet not everything the others say is inaccurate.  Much of it sounds like portions of the Books of Psalms and Proverbs, after all.  And Elihu, as he points fingers, does not err completely in what he says, even as he should justly point a finger at himself.

Do we Christians not speak at length about the love, mercy, and justice of God?  Yet does not Job, in the text bearing his name, deserve an honest answer, not the “I am God and you are not” speeches in Chapters 38-41?  The theodicy of Elihu, for all its errors, is not complete idiocy.

Psalm 89, which is about the divine covenant with David, alternates between thanksgiving for God’s faithfulness to the monarch and lament for divine renunciation of that covenant before ending on a hopeful note.  God has yet to end that renunciation, but the psalm ends:

Blessed be the LORD forever.

Amen and Amen.

–Verse 52, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Hebrews 11:35b-40 tells us that many faithful people of God have suffered, been poor and/or oppressed, and become martyrs.

The world was not worthy of them.

–Verse 38a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

They became beneficiaries of God’s better plan for them, we read in verse 40.  Their cases contradict the arguments of Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu.  The case of Jesus also contradicts their speeches.  We read an example of foreshadowing of his crucifixion in Luke 5:35.

Timothy Matthew Slemmons has stretched Elihu’s speeches across seven Sundays in his proposed Year D.  This is therefore the first of seven posts in which I will ponder Elihu’s argument in the context of other portions of scripture.  The journey promises to be interesting and spiritually edifying.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 8, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SHEPHERD KNAPP, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GOTTFRIED WILHELM SACER, GERMAN LUTHERAN ATTORNEY AND HYMN WRITER; AND FRANCES ELIZABETH COX, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN DUCKETT AND RALPH CORBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS IN ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF NIKOLAI GRUDTVIG, HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/09/08/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d/

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The Problem of Suffering   1 comment

Beheading of St. Paul

Above:  The Beheading of St. Paul, by Enrique Simonet

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God of creation, eternal majesty,

you preside over land and sea, sunshine and storm.

By your strength pilot us,

by your power preserve us,

by your wisdom instruct us,

and by your hand protect us,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 29:1-20 (Thursday)

Job 29:21-30:15 (Friday)

Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32 (Both Days)

Acts 20:1-16 (Thursday)

Acts 21:1-16 (Friday)

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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 redeemed them from the hand of the foe.

–Psalm 107:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Placing that Psalm in the lectionary for these two days seems ironic, especially when considering the other two pericopes.

The titular character of the Book of Job suffered, but not because of any sin he committed.  Compounding his plight was the fact that he had to endure alleged friends, who blamed him for his plight.  They insisted that, since God does not punish the innocent, Job must have sinned, thus prompting his extreme suffering.  They advised him to repent of his sins, therefore.  Actually, the text tells us, God permitted the suffering as a test of loyalty.  Job protested his innocence and lamented his fate.  Anyone who speaks of the “patience of Job,” as if he had any, ought to pay better attention to the story.

Meanwhile, in the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul the Apostle was traveling to Jerusalem.  He hoped to arrive in time for the first day of Pentecost.  At Caesarea the Apostle learned that his journey would take him to a bad fate.  He accepted the prophecy calmly, saying,

…I am ready not only to be bound but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.

–Acts 21:13c, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

He went on to die for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ at Rome “off-camera,” so to speak, after the end of the Acts of the Apostles.

The alleged friends of Job thought that suffering resulted necessarily from sins.  Yet St. Paul the Apostle suffered for the sake for the sake of righteousness.

Nevertheless, the assumption that we suffer solely or primarily because of our wrongdoing persists.  Also commonplace is a related assumption which says that, if we live righteously, we will prosper and be safe and well.  This is the heresy of Prosperity Theology.

Tell that heresy to Jesus and to the Christian martyrs, if you dare,

I say.  I conclude that false ideas live on because too many people pay little or no attention to the evidence around them.  Perhaps these individuals are merely incurious.  (Many people are not very inquisitive, intellectually or otherwise.)  Or maybe they are distracted among the other details of life.  Regardless of the reason(s), they need to pay better attention and respond to the situation that is, not the situation they imagine exists.

To claim that God never punishes the innocent or permits them to suffer is to make a pious comment–one which is false.  What is the functional difference between permitting innocent people to suffer and punishing them?  I recognize none.  One is passive and the other is active, but the results are the same.  The problem of suffering is complicated for we monotheists, for we lack the luxury of blaming an evil deity for misfortune while letting a good deity off the hook.  Yes, how we live on this plane of reality affects the afterlife, but the rain still falls on the just and on the unjust in this life.  Wicked people still prosper and righteous people still suffer on this side of Heaven.  All of this can be difficult to reconcile with the idea of a loving and just God, hence bad theology in defense of God.  I prefer an honest question to a false certainty, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, “FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC”

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR; AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, ECUMENTIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-7-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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