Archive for the ‘John 3’ Category

Community and Faith   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Pentecost, by Phiddipus

Image in the Public Domain

Community and Faith

MAY 20, 2018

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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:

Deuteronomy 16:9-12

Isaiah 60:19-22

Galatians 3:1-5

John 3:31-36

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“Pentecost” comes from “fifty,” as in the formulation in Deuteronomy 16.  The harvest festival described in that text is a community celebration of gratitude to God.

That communal ethos, rampant in the Bible, runs counter to much of Western Civilization, with its emphasis on individualism.  To read past the blindness of individualism when pondering the Bible can be difficult, but it is essential.  The glory of YHWH, we read in Isaiah 60, will shine on the faithful community.  We also read of a foolish community (or a group of communities) in Galatians 3.

As St. Paul the Apostle argued correctly, one cannot break one part of the Law of Moses without violating the entire law code.  And nobody can keep all of the Law.  The emphasis on the Holy Spirit in Galatians 3:1-5 is appropriate for this Sunday, a commemoration of an extraordinary event–the birth of the Church.

In the Gospel of John (17:3) eternal life is simply knowing God via Jesus; time and timelessness has nothing to do with the definition.  There is no such thing as an eternity without God, for eternity is, by definition, in God.  Eternity is a quality of life, not the afterlife.  One can have an afterlife without God; the term for that is Hell.  Eternity, however, begins in this life and continues into the next one.  Eternal life comes via the Holy Spirit.  Community can reinforce this faith.

I will not attempt to explain the Holy Trinity, for a set of heresies has originated from such efforts.  No, I ponder the Trinity and affirm that God is at least that and certainly far more.  I cannot grasp the Trinity, so how can I understand the full nature of God?  What we mere mortals are worthy of grasping, however, is sufficient for salvation and justification.  That which is left for us is to stand in the awe of God, to trust in God, to recognize our complete dependence on God, and, by grace, to love each other selflessly and self-sacrificially, thereby following the example of Jesus, the visible manifestation of God.  We can do this via the power of the Holy Spirit.

Happy Pentecost!

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-pentecost-sunday-ackerman/

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Our Common Life   2 comments

Above:   Adam and Eve Expelled from Paradise, by Marc Chagall

Use of Image Permissible According to Fair Use

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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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Genesis 3:1-7, 22-24

Isaiah 4:2-6

Acts 15:22-35

John 3:22-30

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The reading from Genesis 3 always prompts me to ask what is wrong with being able to discern between good and evil.  I tend to argue with the story.  I also recognize an opposite vision in Isaiah 4:  the return from exile.

The Bible opens with God creating the world and people messing it up.  The sacred anthology concludes with God restoring the world.  Genesis and Revelation are the best possible bookends for the Bible, which contains stories about the relationship between God and mere mortals.  We should learn, among other lessons, to obey certain ethical teachings, to rely on God completely, to love each other as we love ourselves, and to emphasize God, not ourselves.  We, as Christians, must say with St. John the Evangelist,

He must increase

while I must decrease.

–Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John (I-XII) (1966), page 150

When we seek to glorify ourselves, we set out on a fool’s errand.  Yet the world praises such men and women.  Often these individuals build themselves up at the expense of others, according to the ethic of the old economic theory of mercantilism, according to which there is a finite supply of wealth, hence more for one means less for others.  In contrast we consider Jesus, who humbled and sacrificed himself.  He was a failure, according to worldly standards of success.  Yet we know him to have been successful, do we not?  So much for worldly standards!

May we increase in love for God and each other and in our understanding of our complete reliance on God and our interdependence.  As The Book of Common Prayer (1979) reminds us:

O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live in and the life we live:  Watch over those, both night and day, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Page 134

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES LEWIS MILLIGAN, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCULF OF NANTEUIL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-ackerman/

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To Glorify and Enjoy God   1 comment

St. John the Baptist Preaching

Above:  St. John the Baptist Preaching, by Mattia Preti

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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Numbers 14:1-25

Psalm 144

John 3:22-38

Hebrews 5:11-6:20

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Happy are the people to whom such blessings falls;

happy are the people whose God is the LORD.

–Psalm 144:15, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Timothy Matthew Slemmons, in creating his proposed Year D, has grouped stories of rebellion against God and cautions against opposing God together in Advent.  It is a useful tactic, for, as much as one might know something, reminders prove helpful.

In Hebrews we read of the reality of apostasy (falling away from God) and the imperative of not doing so.  It is a passage with which those whose theology precludes the possibility of apostasy must contend.  I, as one raised a United Methodist and, as of a few years ago, converted to affirming Single Predestination, know much about the theology of free will in relation to salvation.  On a lighter note, I also recall an old joke about Methodists:  Not only do they believe in falling from grace, but they practice it often.  (If one cannot be religious and have a well-developed sense of humor, one has a major problem.)  Although I like Methodism in general (more so than certain regional variations of it), I cannot be intellectually honest and return to it, given Methodist theology regarding the denial of Single Predestination.

As Hebrews 6:19-20 tells us, the faithfulness of God is the anchor of our souls, and Jesus is a forerunner on our behalf.  In John 3:22-38 we read of his forerunner, St. John the Baptist, who pointed to Jesus, not to himself.  I have no doubt that

He must grow greater; I must become less.

–John 3:30, The Revised English Bible (1989),

words attributed to St. John the Baptist, are not historical.  Neither do I doubt their theological truth.  St. John the Baptist probably said something to the effect of that sentence, I argue.  I also insist that those words apply to all of us in the human race.  Jesus must grow greater; each of us must become less.  To act according to the ethos of glorifying oneself might lead to short-term gain, but it also leads to negative consequences for oneself in the long term and for others in the short, medium, and long terms.

The call of God entails the spiritual vocation of humility, or, in simple terms, of being down to earth.  The highest and chief end of man, the Westminster Catechisms teach us correctly, is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.  To arrive at that point one must trust in and follow God, whom we ought not to forget or neglect at any time, but especially in December, in the immediate temporal proximity of the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 22, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JACK LAYTON, CANADIAN ACTIVIST AND FEDERAL LEADER OF THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/08/22/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-d/

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Pointing to God, Not Ourselves   1 comment

Moses Striking the Rock in Horeb

Above:  Moses Strikes the Rock in Horeb, 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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Numbers 12:1-16 or 20:1-13 (14-21) 22-29

Psalm 106:(1) 7-18, 24-18 (43-48) or Psalm 95

Luke 1:(57) 58-67 (68-79) 80

Hebrews 3:1-19

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Many times he delivered them,

but they were rebellious in their purposes,

and were brought low through their iniquity.

Nevertheless he regarded their distress

when he heard their cry.

–Psalm 106:43-44, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,

as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,

when your ancestors tested me,

and put me to the proof, though you had seen my work.

–Psalm 95:8-9, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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In most of the readings for this day we read of grumbling against God and/or Moses despite God’s proven track record, frequently in the presence of those who go on to grumble.  Miriam and Aaron question the authority of Moses in Numbers 12. Miriam becomes ritually unclean because of this (Do not question Moses!), but her brother intercedes for her.  People witness then seem to forget God’s mighty acts in Psalms 95 and 106, as well as in Hebrews 3.  And, in Numbers 20, Moses disobeys instructions from God.  He is supposed to speak to a rock to make water come out of it, but he strikes it instead.

By word and act Moses is thus appropriating to himself an act of God.  In doing this he is undoing the message that God and Moses himself have been conveying to the to the people up to this point.  The people have continuously directed their attention to Moses instead of to God….Until this episode Moses has repeatedly told the people, “It is not from my own heart,” and “You are congregating against YHWH,” but now his words and actions confirm the people’s own perception.

–Richard Elliott Friedman, Commentary on the Torah with a New English Translation and the Hebrew Text (2001), page 495

Moses was generally trustworthy in the sight of God, per the positive assessment of him in Hebrews 3.  At Meribah he gave into human weakness.  All of us have caved into our own weaknesses on multiple occasions, have we not?  Have we not, for example, sought our own glory instead of that of God?  Have we not yielded to the temptation to be spectacular, which Henri J. M. Nouwen identified in The Way of the Heart (1981) as one of Satan’s temptations of Jesus in Luke 4 and Matthew 4?   If we have lived long enough, yes, we have.

And you, my child, will be called Prophet of the Most High,

for you will be the Lord’s forerunner to prepare his way

and lead his people to a knowledge of salvation

through the forgiveness of sins:

for in the tender compassion of our God

the dawn of heaven will break upon us,

to shine on those who live in darkness, under the shadow of death,

and to guide our feet in the way of peace.

–St. Zechariah in Luke 1:76-79, The Revised English Bible (1989)

St. John the Baptist grew up and became one who admitted the truth that he was not the Messiah (Luke 3:15-17 and Mark 1:7-8).  He pointed to cousin Jesus instead (Matthew 3:13-14 and John 3:25-36).

The spiritual vocations of Christians vary in details, but the common threads run through those calls from God.  We who call ourselves Christians have, for example, a responsibility to glorify God, not ourselves, and to point to Jesus.  We also have an obligation to lead lives defined by gratitude to God, not rebellion against God.  We can succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/08/20/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-of-advent-year-d/

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Timeless Principles   1 comment

Nicodemus and Jesus on a Rooftop

Above:  Jesus and Nicodemus on a Rooftop, by Henry Ossawa Tanner

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O Lord God, your mercy delights us, and the world longs for your loving care.

Hear the cries of everyone in need, and turn our hearts to love our neighbors

with the love of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 19:1-4, 32-37

Psalm 25:1-10

John 3:16-21

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Direct me in your paths, Yahweh,

and teach me your paths.

Encourage me to walk in your truth and teach me

since you are the God who saves me.

–Psalm 25:4-5, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The lection from Leviticus 19 commands the keeping of all of God’s laws.  The specific orders in the designated verses are:

  1. To belong to God (literally, to be holy),
  2. To honor one’s parents,
  3. To keep the Sabbath,
  4. To refrain from idolatry,
  5. To respect the elderly,
  6. To love strangers as one loves oneself, and
  7. To deal honestly in business.

In other words, God should be in all that one does.  These are some examples of how to live according to that principle, how to walk in the light, not the darkness.

Some people accused Jesus of violating the first and third items on the list above.  According to some, our Lord and Savior was in league with evil forces and committed blasphemy.  Furthermore, Jesus allegedly violated the Sabbath when he gathered food or healed someone on that day.  Were hunger and illness holy!

Timeless principles have culturally specific examples.  A common exegetical error is to confuse an example for a principle.  Legalism takes hold needlessly and unfortunately.  The grand organizing principles to follow are:

  1. Everybody depends on God completely,
  2. We depend on each other,
  3. We are responsible to each other,
  4. We are responsible for each other, and
  5. We have no right to exploit each other.

All of those principles are compatible with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Fulfilling a goal as lofty as obeying God’s laws is impossible by human power alone.  Fortunately, we do not need to rely on our own power, for we have access to grace.  May we accept that grace and its accompanying obligations relative to other people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATHILDA, QUEEN OF GERMANY

THE FEAST OF JOHN SWERTNER, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND HYMNAL EDITOR; AND HIS COLLABORATOR, JOHN MUELLER, GERMAN-ENGLISH MORAVIAN MINISTER, HYMN EDITOR, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-10-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted March 14, 2016 by neatnik2009 in John 3, Leviticus 19, Psalm 25

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Dashed Hopes and the Faithfulness of God   1 comment

Seleucid Empire

Above:  Map of the Seleucid Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

you anointed your beloved Son to be priest and sovereign forever.

Grant that all the people of the earth,

now divided by the power of sin,

may be united by the glorious and gentle rule of 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 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 7:1-8, 15-18

Psalm 93

John 3:31-36

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You, O LORD, are Sovereign;

you have put on splendid apparel;

you, O LORD, have put on your apparel

and girded yourself with strength.

You have made the whole world so sure

that it cannot be moved;

ever since the world began, your throne has been established;

you are from everlasting.

The waters have lifted up, O LORD,

the waters have lifted up their voice;

the waters have lifted up their pounding waves.

Mightier than the sound of many waters,

mightier than the breakers of the sea,

mightier is the LORD who dwells on high.

Your testimonies are very sure,

and holiness adorns your house, O LORD,

forever and forevermore.

–Psalm 93, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Sometimes our expectations exceed reality as events unfold.

The expectations in Daniel 7:1-8 and 15-18 was that, after the fall of the Seleucid Empire (extant 312-64 B.C.E.),

holy ones of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess the kingdom forever–forever and ever.

–Daniel 7:18, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The Seleucid Empire fell for several reasons, including weak leadership, pressures from the Armenians, and the expansion of the Roman Republic, soon to become the Roman Empire.  The fully realized Kingdom of God on Earth did not come to pass in 64 B.C.E. or at any time between then and the day I am writing these words.

St. John the Baptist had apocalyptic expectations regarding Jesus (Luke 3).  The clearly labeled voice of the forerunner said in John 3:30 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989),

He must increase, but I must decrease.

But who is speaking in John 3:31-36?  My reading has revealed three possibilities:

  1. St. John the Baptist, for the text indicates no change of speaker;
  2. Jesus, perhaps cut and pasted from the conversation with Nicodemus earlier in the chapter; or
  3. the author of the Fourth Gospel, making one of his occasional explanatory comments to the readers.

Either way, the pericope’s comment about the fidelity of God is what interest me.  Jesus did not fulfill the apocalyptic expectations of St. John the Baptist, but that fact did nothing to belie the fidelity of God.  The apocalyptic expectations of Daniel 7:1-8 and 15-18 proved baseless, but that fact has not disproved the fidelity of God.  Sometimes we human beings hope for events which never happen, at least as we anticipate.  Some of these dashed expectations have passed into the canon of scripture.  Nevertheless, the hope that one day God will abolish the world order built on violence and artificial scarcity and replace it with justice remains a valid promise.  God will keep it faithfully in divine time, if not according to human expectations.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SCHEFFLER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORG NEUMARK, GERMAN LUTHERAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN HINES, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-29-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Clinging to the Faithfulness of God   1 comment

Preaching of St. John the Baptist

Above:  The Preaching of St. John the Baptist, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, 1566

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

 Loving God, by tender words and covenant promise

you have joined us to yourself forever,

and you invite us to respond to your love with faithfulness.

By your Spirit may we live with you and with one another

in justice, mercy, and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 62:1-5

Psalm 45:6-17

John 3:22-36

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Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever,

a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your reign;

you love righteousness and hate iniquity.

–Psalm 45:6-7a, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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I have no idea who is speaking in John 3:31-36.  Father Raymond E. Brown’s Anchor Bible volume on John 1-12 (538 pages long!) claims that Jesus is the speaker and offers much textual evidence for that assertion.  John 3:31-36, Brown writes, is an isolated discourse of Jesus which the Evangelist placed behind the scene with St. John the Baptist to interpret it.  Brown might be correct.  Or the speaker might be St. John the Baptist, for there is thematic consistency in 3:22-30 and 3:31-36.  On a third hand, 3:31-36 might be in the voice of the Evangelist, addressing the audience directly.  I leave that dispute to New Testament scholars, for this is a devotional weblog.

Regardless of the identity of the speaker, John 3:31-36 exists in a theological context of living in exile in one’s homeland.  So does Isaiah 62:1-5, for life in the homeland after the Babylonian Exile was far from the idealized scenes some canonical texts predicted.  Judea was a backwater province in one empire after another for successive centuries, except for the period of the Hasmonean theocracy.

Yet the hopes for a bright future persisted.  Was Jesus the one to inaugurate that future?  Was the Messiah a political-military figure?  Many thought so, although Palestinian Jews were not of one mind regarding the nature of Messiahship, much less whether there would be a Messiah.  And Jesus became caught up in politics, which was intertwined with economics and religion.  The Roman Empire crucified him, so certain imperial authorities must have thought of him as a threat to law and order.

The throne of David remained vacant after exiles began to return to their ancestral homeland.  The revival of the Davidic Dynasty, as predicted in Hosea 3:5, never happened.  The Roman Empire crucified Jesus, but God resurrected him.  Nevertheless, the Roman Empire remained in power.  Hoped-for happy futures remain unrealized dreams of better times.  Yet we must, if we are to persevere faithfully, trust that God will remain faithful.  Perhaps we have misunderstood.  Maybe we are simply impatient.  But God is faithful and reliable.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 1, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF DANIEL MARCH, SR., U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST AND PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, POET, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILLIAN OF TREVESTE, ROMAN CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEOPHANES THE CHRONICLER, DEFENDER OF ICONS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-3-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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