Archive for the ‘John 20’ Category

Seeing and Believing   Leave a comment

Above:   The Miraculous Draft of Fishes, by Konrad Witz

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday after Easter, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Grant, we pray thee, O God, that we who have celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

may demonstrate his victory in our daily conduct and face the future unafraid;

through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 122

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Exodus 15:1-13

1 Corinthians 15:12-20

John 20:19-31

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I choose to focus on the New Testament readings, with a brief analysis of Exodus 15:1-13 before I start in earnest.  The foreshadowing of subsequent grumbling and punishment is not accidental, given that the editors know how the story ended.  The necessity of responding faithfully to (free) grace is a timeless principle.

St. Clement I of Rome, writing to the church in Corinth circa 100 C.E., argued against doubting the resurrection of Jesus.  He cited natural cycles and the myth of the phoenix (which he apparently thought was real) to support his position.

I understand why many of the close associates of Jesus doubted the resurrection at first; how often does something like that happen?  I also read that they they encountered him again.  I do not have the luxury of meeting Jesus in the flesh.  I must, therefore, have faith to affirm the resurrection.

Encountering Jesus again dramatically proved insufficient for some of the Apostles.  After the encounter in John 20, some of them tried to return to fishing in Chapter 21.  They had seen him again yet acted that way just a few days later.

We are not so different from those Apostles as we may imagine.  Do we tell ourselves that seeing is believing?  And, when we see something much less dramatic than Jesus walking through a locked door, do we really believe?

Martin Luther was correct; we must and can rely on the faithfulness of God, for human behavior frequently indicates a lack of fidelity.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CORNELIUS HILL, ONEIDA CHIEF AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HUGH THOMSON KERR, SR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST; AND HIS SON, HUGH THOMSON KERR, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES MOFFATT, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SCHOLAR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GEORGIAN, ABBOT; AND SAINTS EUTHYMIUS OF ATHOS AND GEORGE OF THE BLACK MOUNTAIN, ABBOTS AND TRANSLATORS

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Astounding News from God   Leave a comment

Above:   Manna

Image in the Public Domain

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For Easter Sunday, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Mighty God, who raised up Jesus from the dead:

give us such trust in thee, that all our days we may rejoice,

looking to that perfect day when we shall feast in paradise with Christ our Lord,

to whom be praise and glory evermore.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 122

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Exodus 16:4-17

Revelation 1:1-8

John 20:1018

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These three readings tell of astounding news.

God always provides enough, often through mundane and natural methods.  Manna and quail, for example, occur naturally.  Perhaps the technical description of manna (crystalized insect excrement) disgusts one, but the substance is not harmful.  People still consume it safely, in fact.

Manna was not miraculous, but it was astounding at the time.  The resurrection of Jesus was both astounding and miraculous, though.  Doubts in real time were understandable.

The Christ of Revelation 1:1-8 is the risen, ascended, and glorified figure descending to a mixed reaction.  Judgment and mercy come mixed in that description.  Yet one may recall Christ’s intercession–his prayer from the cross that God forgive those who did not know what they were doing.  That intercession seems at first to conflict with Revelation 1:1-8.  The two do not conflict, though; God condemns nobody, but people condemn themselves.

How do we respond to the astounding news from God daily?  Do we grumble or do we rejoice?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 26, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, U.S. JOURNALIST, TRANSLATOR, AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDRA GIACINTO LONGHIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TREVISO

THE FEAST OF PHILIP DODDRIDGE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF VIRGIL MICHEL, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ACADEMIC, AND PIONEER OF LITURGICAL RENEWAL

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Restoration, Resurrection, and Reconciliation   1 comment

Above:  Pentecost Dove

Scanned from a Church Bulletin by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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

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O Thou who sent the promised fire of thy Spirit to make saints of ordinary men:

grant that we, waiting and together now, may be enflamed with such love for thee

that we may speak out boldly in thy name; through Jesus Christ the Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 123

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Ezekiel 37:1-14

Acts 10:34-48

John 20:19-23

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The three assigned readings focus on restoration and resurrection.  The vision of the dry bones in Ezekiel 37 refers mt to the resurrection of the dead but to the resurrection of Israel after the Babylonian Exile.  The resurrection of Jesus, the context of John 20 and a reference in Acts 10, is one of the items in the catalog of literal events, albeit on historians can neither prove nor disprove.  No, the resurrection of Jesus resides in the realm of that which one either accepts by faith or rejects by the absence of faith.

Notice, O reader, that God is the primary actor in the readings.  God restores Israel.  God resurrects Jesus.  God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, arrives.  God is even active in the Greek divine passive voice, as in John 20:22-23, or at least the first part of verse 23:

After saying this he breathed on them, and said:

“Receive the Holy Spirit.

If you forgive anyone’s sins,

they are forgiven;

if you retain anyone’s sins,

they are retained.”

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

“They,” in that passage, refers to sins.

Suppose, O reader, that I have sinned against you, another person, and God.  Suppose, furthermore, that I have realized my sin, confessed it to both people and to God, and asked for forgiveness from everyone involved.  Suppose that one person and God have forgiven me, but that the other person has refused to do so.

Who retains the sin?  The person who refuses forgiveness does.

It is to him [Jesus] that all the prophets testify, declaring that everyone who trusts in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

–Acts 10:43, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Forgiveness can be a difficult spiritual practice, but it is an essential one.  It is crucial to restoration and resurrection of individuals, families, communities, and societies.  Forgiveness facilitates reconciliation.  Forgiveness enables on to lay grudges aside and to progress spiritually as one should.  Forgiveness is part of the mission of the church.

Decades ago, in the United States, a man burgled a church and stole audio equipment.  The police arrested him and the District Attorney prosecuted.  At the trial the pastor of the church testified on the thief’s behalf and asked for leniency.  The court rendered its verdict. The thief, a changed man, joined that church.

Extending forgiveness is crucial if the Church is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ as far and wide as possible, to facilitate faithful responses to the witness of the Holy Spirit.  Extending forgiveness is also a matter of faithful response.  Certainly we, who acknowledge that we receive forgiveness daily, have an obligation to forgive.  Grace is free yet not cheap, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 30, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Vindication, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O God, who through the resurrection of Jesus Christ has freed us

from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of your love:

Grant, we ask you that, as by his death he has recalled us into life,

so by his abiding presence he may bring us to the joys eternal;

through him who for our sakes died and rose again, and is ever with us in power,

the same your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 119

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Job 19:1, 23-27

Psalm 43

1 Corinthians 15:12-22

John 20:19-31

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I am not one given to complex theological purity tests, for I almost always fail them.  That is fine, for I have never sought to please those who have written and applied these purity tests.

I do, however, assert that the following passage is crucial to Christianity:

…and of Christ has not been raised, the our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.

–1 Corinthians 15:14, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

One must affirm the resurrection of Jesus to be a Christian.  To work through doubts is fine, for doubt is a feasible route to knowledge.  Besides, St. Thomas the Apostle is my favorite Biblical character.  I harbor strong suspicions that people who never doubt never think deeply.

Vindication is a theme uniting Psalm 43 and Psalm 19.  In the latter reading the titular character, in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985), expresses confidence that his Vindicator (verse 25) lives.  Job means that he will see his Vindicator during his (Job’s) lifetime, not in the afterlife.  One might think of George Frederick Handel‘s Messiah, which uses the text (as “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth” in reference to Jesus, consistent with much of Christian tradition.  Job understands his Vindicator to be one, probably a relative, who will defend his (Job’s) rights.  The author of Psalm 43 identifies God as his Vindicator.  If we apply this theme to Jesus, we arrive at the ultimate vindication of Jesus and ourselves–his resurrection.

I like to ponder stories the Biblical authors chose not to tell or could not tell.  For example, news of the resurrection reached Temple authorities.  How could it not have done so?  I wonder what Caiaphas and company say in meetings?  Perhaps they sent spies out to observe Jesus.  What did these religious authorities make of the reality of Christ’s restoration to life?

What do we make of it?  More importantly, what do we and will we do with it?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIULIA VALLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

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

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Christ, Violence, and Love   1 comment

icon-of-the-resurrection

Above:  Icon of the Resurrection

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:

Exodus 34:27-28 (29-35) or Deuteronomy 9:8-21

Psalms 71:15-24 or Psalm 75 or Psalm 76

John 21:20-25 or Luke 24:36-49 or John 20:19-31

2 Corinthians 3:7-11 (4:16-5:1) 5:2-5 (6-10) or Revelation 1:1-3 (4-8) 9-20

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Once again we read of the coexistence of divine judgment and mercy.  This time the emphasis is on mercy, given the context of the assigned lessons.  The bleakest reading comes from Genesis 34, where we learn of two brothers committing violence (including honor killings) in reaction to either the rape of their sister (Dinah) by a foreign man or to her consensual non-marital sexual relations with a foreigner.  This story contrasts with the crucifixion of Jesus, in which those complicit in that act of violence unambiguously targeted an innocent man.

We who call ourselves Christians have a responsibility to follow Jesus–Christ crucified, as St. Paul the Apostle wrote.  St. Paul, as Saul of Tarsus, had approved of the execution of at least one Christian, St. Stephen (Acts 7:54-8:1a).  Saul of Tarsus had also dragged other Christians to prison (Acts 8:1b-3).

We who call ourselves Christians also have a responsibility to follow Jesus, the resurrected one.  May we die to our sins.  May we die to our desires to commit or condone violence against those we find inconvenient and/or who threaten our psychological safety zones.  May we die to the desire to repay evil for evil.  May we die to the thirst for revenge.  And may God raise us to new life in the image of Christ.  May we seek to glorify God alone and succeed in that purpose, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN NITSCHMANN, SR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN LUDWIG BRAU, NORWEGIAN MORAVIAN TEACHER AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/devotion-for-easter-sunday-evening-year-d/

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Forgiving and Retaining Sins, Part II   1 comment

Confessional

Above:  The Confessional Booth, the Church of the Nativity, Menlo Park, California

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = HABS CAL,41-MENPA,2–15

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The Collect:

Mighty God, you breathe life into our bones,

and your Spirit brings truth to the world.

Send us this Spirit,

transform us by your truth,

and give us language to proclaim your gospel,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 36

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 37:1-14

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

John 20:19-23

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You send forth your Spirit, and they are created;

and so you renew the face of the earth.

–Psalm 104:31, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Ezekiel 37:1-14, the Vision of the Dry Bones, is an allegory of the restoration of the people Israel.  Subsequent interpretations include a literal reading regarding the physical resurrection of the dead, hence the pairing with John 20:19-23, an account of a post-Resurrection appearance of Jesus to ten of the eleven surviving Apostles.  There our Lord and Savior says:

Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

–John 20:22b-23, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The use of the passive voice leaves room for ambiguity in that saying.  (The active voice is stronger and more definitive.)

If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them,…

is clear for the sentence identifies “them” as the forgiven party, but

…if you retain the sins of any, they are retained

is vague.  Who retains the unforgiven sins?  One might interpret the passage to mean that, via the Holy Spirit, the Church has the authority to forgive sins and to refuse to do so.  That might be accurate.  If so, the one who committed the sins retains them.  But what if refusing to forgive sins means that the one who refuses to forgive the sins retains them?

Forgiving can be quite difficult; I know this firsthand.  I also know that, according to the Gospels, there is a relationship between one’s willingness to forgive and God’s willingness to forgive one.  (The measure one gives will be the measure one gets.)  I am also aware that a grudge is too heavy a burden to carry.  It might not even lead to any harm of its target(s), but it injures the one who hauls it around like too much luggage.  I have retained the sins of others to my detriment, but letting those sins go has improved my life and been something I should have done much sooner.

According to an old story, two monks (Monk #1 and Monk #2, I call them) were traveling when they came to a river.  Waiting at the river was a prostitute, whom Monk #1 carried on his shoulders as he crossed the river.  On the other side of the river the monks and the prostitute parted company.  The monks continued their journey, during which Monk #2 complained repeatedly about Monk #1 having carried the woman.  Monk #1 replied,

I put her down at the river, but you are still carrying her.

Here ends the lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 13, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PLATO OF SYMBOLEON AND THEODORE STUDITES, EASTERN ORTHODOX ABBOTS; AND SAINT NICEPHORUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT HELDRAD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINTS RODERIC OF CABRA AND SOLOMON OF CORDOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/13/devotion-for-wednesday-after-pentecost-sunday-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted March 17, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Ezekiel 37, John 20

Tagged with ,

The Corporeal and the Spiritual   2 comments

Jesus Bookmark

Above:  A Jesus Bookmark

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

Almighty and eternal God,

the strength of those who believe and the hope of those who doubt,

may we, who have not seen,

have faith in you and receive the fullness of Christ’s blessing,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 32

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The Assigned Readings:

Song of Songs 2:8-15 (5th Day)

Song of Songs 5:9-6:3 (6th Day)

Song of Songs 8:6-7 (7th Day)

Psalm 16 (All Days)

Colossians 4:2-5 (5th Day)

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (6th Day)

John 20:11-20 (7th Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Song of Songs:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-21/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/proper-9-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/proper-17-year-b-3/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-18-19-and-20-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-21-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-22-and-23-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Colossians 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/02/25/devotion-for-september-15-16-and-17-lcms-daily-lectionary/

1 Corinthians 15:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/first-day-of-easter-easter-sunday-year-b-principal-service/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/week-of-proper-19-thursday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-19-friday-year-2/

John 20:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/third-day-of-easter-tuesday-in-easter-week/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/devotion-for-june-23-24-and-25-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;

my body also shall not rest in hope.

–Psalm 16:9, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The Song of Songs, I heard growing up, is about the relationship between Christ and the Church.  Balderdash!  There is also a Jewish allegorical interpretation which claims that the book is about the relationship between God and Israel.  I do not accept that either.  No, the Song of Songs is exactly what it appears to be–a series of poetic texts about a love affair between a man and a woman who may or may not be married to each other but who are in danger because of their love.

Hence the Song of Songs is about human erotic relationships.  And it belongs in the Canon of Jewish and Christian Scripture.  As J. Coert Rylaardsdam writes in Volume 10 (1964) of The Layman’s Bible Commentary:

Its [the Song of Songs’] respect for life is expressed in the savoring of it; and it is this that makes it a very important commentary on the meaning of the confession that God is the Creator of all things.  The presence of the Song in Scripture is a most forceful reminder that to confess God as Creator of all things visible and invisible is to deny that anything is “common” (see Acts 10:9-16) or, to use the cliché of today, “secular.”  This book teaches that all life is holy, not because we, as Christians, make it so, but because it is made and used by the living God.

–page 140

If that analysis seems odd to one, that fact indicates a different worldview than the Song’s authors had.  As Rylaardsdam writes on page 138:

The people who wrote the Bible had no equivalent of our notion of the “secular”; they did not separate the natural from the sacred as we often do, for they took very seriously the confession of God as Creator of all.

As Dr. Amy-Jill Levine says in her 2001 Teaching Company Course, The Old Testament, much of what was normative in biblical times has ceased to be so.  That is certainly true for those of us in the global West, shaped by the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment.  Modernity differs greatly from antiquity, in ways both good and bad.

Much of the Christian tradition–including the legacy of St. Paul the Apostle, a great evangelist who suffered much, to the point of martyrdom–contains discomfort with the corporeal.  Human bodies can be messy and otherwise unpleasant, to be sure, but their potential for temptation has attracted much attention.  Much of Christian tradition has obsessed about the latter fact excessively, even encouraging a universal, false dichotomy between the flesh and the spirit–a dichotomy absent from the Song of Songs.

That frequent and erroneous distrust of the flesh has influenced the Christology of many people negatively, leading them to commit heresy.  To say that Jesus was fully human and fully divine is easy.  To deal with the “fully divine” aspect of that formulation can prove relatively uncontroversial.  Yet to unpack the “fully human” aspect holds the potential–often realized–to upset people.  In the early 1990s, for example, my father said in a sermon in southern Georgia, U.S.A., that Jesus had a sense of humor.  One lady, a longtime member of the congregation, took offense, claiming that he had insulted her Jesus.

Yet the Incarnation is about both the corporeal and the spiritual.  And the resurrected Jesus was no phantom, for he had a physical form.  The Incarnation means several things simultaneously.  Among them is an affirmation of the goodness of creation, including human physicality.  If that physicality makes us uncomfortable–if we perceive it as antithetical to spiritual well-being–we have a spiritual problem, one of erroneous categories and at least on false dichotomy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 14, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT VENANTIUS HONORIUS CLEMENTIUS FORTUNATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS

THE FEAST OF CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/devotion-for-the-fifth-sixth-and-seventh-days-of-easter-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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