Archive for the ‘Habakkuk 3’ Category

Deferred Hope   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Bartholomew, by Gregorio Bausa

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Lord, who commanded your apostles to go into all the world,

and to preach the Gospel to every creature,

Let your name be great among the nations from the rising of the Sun

to the going down of the same.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 86

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Habakkuk 2:18-20; 3:2-4

Psalm 52

1 Peter 2:4-10

John 1:35-51

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The assigned reading from 1 Peter is too brief.  One should, for full comprehension of 2:4-10, back up into chapter 1 and start reading.  We read that Gentile Christians are a holy people, a priesthood set apart to serve God, and a holy people, a priesthood set apart to serve God, and a temple all at once, via divine mercy.  With grace come obligations, of course.  We ought to put away

all wickedness and deceit, hypocrisy and jealousy and malicious talk of any kind.

–1 John 2:1, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Not putting them away is inconsistent with being a light to the nations.

1 John 2:3 affirms that God is good, in an echo of Psalm 34:8.  That segue brings me to Habakkuk.  Once again the assigned reading is unfortunately truncated.  The overall context of the Book of Habakkuk is the Babylonian Exile.  The text struggles with how to affirm the goodness of God in light of a violent and exploitative international order.  The author seems less certain than the man who wrote Psalm 52.  The central struggle of Habakkuk is timeless, for circumstances change and time passes, but certain populations experience oppression at any given moment.

I have no easy answer to this difficult question, nor do I aspire to have one.  God has some explaining to do, I conclude.

The Roman occupation of the Holy Land was in full effect at the time of Christ.  A portion of the Jewish population sought a military savior who would expel the Romans.  Jesus disappointed them.  He did, however, astound St. Nathanael/Bartholomew.  All Jesus had to do was say he had seen the future Apostle under a fig tree.

This is an interesting section of John 1.  Every time I study 1:47-51 I consult resources as I search for more answers.  The Gospel of John is a subtle text, after all; it operates on two levels–the literal and the metaphorical–simultaneously.  St. Nathanael/Bartholomew acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah and follows him.  The fig tree is a symbol of messianic peace in Micah 4:4 (one verse after nations end their warfare and beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks) and in Zechariah 3:10 (one verse after God promises to remove the Israelites’ collective guilt in one day, in the context of the Babylonian Exile.  The context of the confession of St. Nathanael/Bartholomew then, is apocalyptic; an ideal future in which God reigns fully on the Earth is the hope.  So as for Jesus seeing St. Nathanael/Bartholomew under a fig tree, that feat seems to have indicated to the future Apostle that possessed unique insights.

The apocalyptic nature of the vision of St. Nathanael/Bartholomew sitting under a fig tree is juicier material, though.  I also wonder how well the future Apostle understood the messiahship of Jesus at the time of his confession.  The answer is that he did so incompletely, I conclude.  I do not mean that as a criticism; I merely make a statement of what I perceive to have been reality.

The question of now to make sense of the divine goodness in the context of a violent and exploitative world order remains.  I offer a final thought regarding that:  Is not hope superior to hopelessness?  Deferred hope is still hope.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2017 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

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Sharing the Distress of Others   1 comment

Above:  Madonna and Child

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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Habakkuk 3:17-19

Isaiah 54:1-10

Philippians 4:10-14

Luke 2:1-20

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The readings from Habakkuk 3 and Isaiah 54 exist in the context of exile.  They also teach the wisdom of trusting God, even when the darkness seems darkest and hope seems lost.  God is faithful, these scriptures tell us.

For the mountains may move

And the hills be shaken,

But my loyalty shall never move from you,

Nor My covenant of friendship be shaken

–said the LORD, who takes you back in love.

–Isaiah 54:10, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

In Philippians 4 St. Paul the Apostle writes of his contentment in a variety of circumstances, from hardship to ease.  This is an inner freedom and a great spiritual gift.  St. Paul can do all things with God’s help, we read.

In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress.

–Philippians 4:14, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Was that not what God did via the Incarnation?  Did not God share our distress?

Does not God call on us to be agents of divine kindness by sharing the distress of others?  To be a Christian is to follow Christ, who suffered and died for our benefit.  The author of Hebrews, in 10:24, writing in the context of persecution and of faith community, challenges us to

consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

You, O reader, and I are supposed to be ambassadors for Christ.  What we do might bring someone to faith, turn someone off from God, deepen his or her faith, or damage it.  One way to be an agent of Christ to someone is to share in that person’s distress and offer compassion, not judgment.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 29, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS BOSA OF YORK, JOHN OF BEVERLEY, WILFRID THE YOUNGER, AND ACCA OF HEXHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATHERINE OF SIENA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY REES, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LLANDAFF

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2017/04/29/devotion-for-christmas-eve-ackerman/

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Prelude to the Passion, Part II   1 comment

fig-tree-1930

Above:  Fig Tree Cleaving a Rock, Transjordan, Circa 1930-1933

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-14982

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 3:1-7 (8-15) 16-24 or Jeremiah 8:4-13 or Jeremiah 24:1-10 or Habakkuk 3:1-19

Psalm 140

Matthew 21:12-22 or Mark 11:12-25 (26)

Colossians 1:29-2:5 (16-19) 20-23

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God is the only proper source of confidence, human philosophies and accomplishments are puny and transitory at best and deceptive at worst.  They are also seductive.  Consequences of giving into them in the assigned readings include exile, pestilence, famine, and destruction.

The readings from Matthew and Mark, despite their slight chronological discrepancy, are mostly consistent with each other.  In the narrative they follow the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem immediately.  We read that Jesus takes great offense to people profiting by converting Roman currency (technically idols, given the image of the Emperor, described as the “Son of God”) into money theologically suitable for purchasing sacrificial animals.  He also curses and kills a fig tree for not bearing figs.  We who read these accounts are supposed to ask ourselves if we are fruitful or fruitless fig trees.  One will, after all, know a tree by its fruits.

Are we the kind of people who would have followed Jesus all the way to Golgotha or are we the variety of people who would have plotted or ordered his execution or at least denied knowing him or would have shouted “Crucify him!”?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST AND FEMINIST; AND MARIA STEWART, ABOLITIONIST, FEMINIST, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB AND DOROTHY BUXTON, FOUNDERS OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF MARY CORNELIA BISHOP GATES, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/17/devotion-for-proper-16-year-d/

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The Victory of God   1 comment

Dead Christ

Above:  St. John the Evangelist, St. Mary of Nazareth, and St. Mary Magdalene with the Dead Christ, by an Anonymous Painter

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Creator God, you prepare a new way in the wilderness,

and your grace waters our desert.

Open our hearts to be transformed by the new thing you are doing,

that our lives may proclaim the extravagance of your love

given to all through your Son, 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 29

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The Assigned Readings:

Habakkuk 3:2-15

Psalm 20

Luke 18:31-34

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Now I know that the LORD has given deliverance to his king;

from his heavenly sanctuary he responds to him,

sending his mighty power which always saves.

Some draw attention to their chariots, some to their horses,

 but for our part we draw attention to the LORD, our God.

They crumble and fall,

but we will rise and continue on our way.

The LORD had delivered the king;

he answers us when we call.

–Psalm 20:7-10, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

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The book of the prophet Habakkuk wrestles with the difficult question of suffering and the seeming triumph of evil in the context of the existence and character of God.  The conclusion of that text of the evil will not evade the consequences of their wicked actions and that God will triumph in the end.  That summary applies well to the pericope from Luke 18, a prediction of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

I am old enough to remember the latter phase and the end of the Cold War.  I am not naive.  The Cold War was a dangerous time during which the human race almost faced the ravages of atomic warfare on many occasions, most of them not in the realm of common knowledge.  Although the leaders of the two blocs were not suicidal, human frailties came close on many occasions to rendering much of the planet uninhabitable.  Yet the Cold War world was stable compared to the current reality, which comes with many suicidal terrorists.

The hope to which I cling is that the wicked of the world will face justice in this life or in the next and that God will triumph in the end.  Whether God is on my side is not a question I should ask.  No, I should ask if I am on God’s side.  The standard for defining God’s side is Jesus of Nazareth, who violated social norms out of comparison, confronted corrupt religious leaders in cahoots with the occupying Roman forces, and rose from the dead.  One of the three oldest definitions of the atonement in Christian theology is Christus Victor–the Conquest of Satan.  This is, in fact, the Classic Theory of the Atonement.  The Resurrection of Jesus, the Classic Theory tells us, reversed the death of Jesus, thereby demonstrating the superior power of God.  Evil continues to exist and act, but its inferior power is obvious.  As St. Paul the Apostle dictated in an epistle while partially quoting Hosea 13:14 at the beginning of the quote:

“O Death, where is your victory?  O Death, where is your sting?”  The sting of death is sin, and sin gains its power from the law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

–1 Corinthians 15:55-57, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The Classic Theory of the Atonement has inspired Christianity-based movements for social justice.  It has been apparent in the writings of great men such as Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple (1881-1944) and the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. (1939-1968), who sought to defeat institutionalized evil in their societies.

The victory of God will occur in time, if not according to any of a host of human schedules.  God is never late, but we mere mortals are frequently impatient.  That lack of patience is often understandable, but that fact does nothing to change the reality that God is never late.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS COTTERILL, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CALABRIA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SERVANTS AND THE POOR WOMEN SERVANTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Fleeing from Grace   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, rich in mercy, by the humiliation of your Son

you lifted up this fallen world and rescued us from the hopelessness of death.

Lead us into your light, that all our deeds may reflect your love,

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 28

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 30:15-18 (Thursday)

Exodus 30:1-10 (Friday)

Habakkuk 3:2-13 (Saturday)

Psalm 107:1-16 (All Days)

Hebrews 4:1-13 (Thursday)

Hebrews 4:14-5:4 (Friday)

John 12:1-11 (Saturday)

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Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness;

in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

Wash me through and through from my wickedness

and cleanse me from my sin.

–Psalm 51:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Through all generations you have made yourself known,

and in your wrath you did not forget mercy.

–Habakkuk 3:2b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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For thus said my Lord GOD,

The Holy One of Israel,

“You shall triumph by stillness and quiet;

Your victory shall come about

Through calm and confidence.”

But you refused.

“No,” you declared.

“We shall flee on our steeds”–

Therefore you shall flee!

“We shall ride on swift mounts”–

Therefore your pursuers shall prove swift!

One thousand before the shout of one–

You shall flee at the shout of five;

Till what is left of you

Is like a mast on a hilltop,

Like a pole upon a mountain.

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Truly, the LORD is waiting to show you grace,

Truly, He will arise to pardon you.

For the LORD is a God of justice;

Happy are all who wait for Him.

–Isaiah 30:15-18, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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The concept of God changes between the covers of the Bible.  God is physically immediate to Abraham, for example, yet proximity to God is fatal in much of the Hebrew Scriptures.    Even touching the Ark of the Covenant accidentally proved fatal, according to the texts.  There was no fatal holiness in Jesus, however; St. Mary of Bethany anointed him in John 12:1-11, shortly before the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.

So we can draw near to God, who has drawn close to us and become incarnate (however that worked) as one of us.  The theological point of the full humanity anddivinity of Jesus is one of those difficult knots great minds have tried to understand.  (For details, consult a history of Christian theology.)  I will not tread in their steps here except to assert that one ought to seek a balance between the humanity and the divinity of Jesus; one should not emphasize one at the expense of the other.  My experience in congregations (especially during my formative years) has been that people have usually been more comfortable with the divinity of Christ than with his humanity.  They have committed the heresy of Apollinarianism, or acknowledging his humanity while giving short shrift to it.

If attempting to untangle the mysteries of the Incarnation and of the nature(s) and will(s) of Christ proves insufficiently challenging, what about the balance between divine judgment and mercy?  I can provide a partial answer; the rest I am content to leave as a mystery.  Some things we do to ourselves, so we suffer the consequences of our actions.  Forgiveness of sins does not remove those consequences in this realm of existence, however.  Also, sometimes good news for the oppressed is catastrophic news for oppressors who refuse to change their ways.  That is the way life works.  In addition, some divine judgment is discipline meant to prompt repentance.  In such cases the metaphor of God as parent works well.  In some circumstances (especially from the Hebrew Scriptures) I refuse to affirm the argument that God has commanded people to commit genocide and other atrocities.  Maybe those who committed those deeds thought they were fulfilling a divine mandate, but they were wrong.  Against which population would Jesus commit or condone genocide?

Often we seek to use theology to justify our sins when we ought to confess and repent of those offenses.  Frequently we seek not God–in the context of whose holiness our sinfulness becomes evident–but confirmation of our imagined righteousness.  We flee from God, so we doom ourselves to face certain consequences.  We run away from God, who waits to show us mercy.  Maybe doing that is easier than facing the reality of our spiritual lives.  If that is true, this statement is a sad one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BENSON POLLOCK, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Faith Manages   1 comment

Rising Star Delenn

Above:  Ambassador Delenn, from Rising Star, a 1997 Episode of Babylon 5 (1994-1998)

A screen capture I took via PowerDVD and a legal DVD

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The Collect:

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God,

and open our ears to the words of your prophets,

that, anointed by your Spirit, we may testify to your light;

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 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Habakkuk 2:1-5 (Thursday)

Habakkuk 3:2-6 (Friday)

Habakkuk 3:13-19 (Saturday)

Psalm 126 (All Days)

Philippians 3:7-11 (Thursday)

Philippians 3:12-16 (Friday)

Mathew 21:28-32 (Saturday)

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Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the watercourses of the Negev.

Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,

will come in again with joy, shouldering their shears.

–Psalm 126:5-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The readings for these three days combine to constitute a tapestry of hope, faith, violence, and judgment.

The lessons from Habakkuk complain to God about persistent injustice and report a divine reply that (A) God will settle scores one day, and (B) the righteous must remain faithful during trying times.  Some of the material is disturbing:

You tread the earth in rage,

You trample nations in fury.

You have come forth to deliver Your people,

To deliver Your anointed.

You will smash the roof of the villain’s house,

Raze it from foundation to top.

You will crack [his] skull with Your bludgeon;

Blown away will be his warriors,

Whose delight is to crush me suddenly,

To devour a poor man in an ambush.

–Habakkuk 3:12-14, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Happier is the end of the book:

Though the fig tree does not bud

And no yield is on the vine,

Though the olive crop has failed

And the fields produce no grain,

Though sheep have vanished from the fold

And no cattle are n the pen,

Yet will I rejoice in the LORD,

Exult in the God who delivers me.

My Lord GOD is my strength:

He makes my feet like the deer’s

And lets me stride upon the heights.

–Habakkuk 3:17-19, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

As I have written many times, I understand the reality that some oppressors will not cease oppressing until someone forces them to do so.  Thus a rescue mission becomes necessary.  This is good news for the oppressed and a catastrophe for the oppressors.  Yet the imagery of God cracking open skulls bothers me.

The note of judgment continues in Matthew 21:28-32, set in the context of the final days leading up to our Lord and Savior’s crucifixion.

Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.  For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

–Matthew 21:31b-32, New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The bad news for chief priests and elders, beneficiaries of the Temple system, comes amid a series of controversies in the Gospel of Matthew.  The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Matthew 21:33-45) follows on the heels of those harsh words, for example.

St. Paul the Apostle picks up the theme of remaining faithful during difficult times in Philippians.  His reference to the righteous living by faith echoes a line from Habakkuk–a nice touch, which the lectionary amplifies.  Faith, in the Pauline sense of that word, is inherently active, compelling one to do something.  In contrast, the definition of faith in the Letter of James is intellectual, hence that author’s insistence on pairing works with faith.  So no disagreement between Sts. Paul and James regarding faith and works exists.  Maintaining that active faith under great pressure is both difficult and crucial, as St. Paul knew well.

When times and circumstances challenge our trust in God, may we say with St. Paul:

But even beyond that, I consider everything a loss in comparison to the superior value of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord.   I have lost everything for him, but whatever I have lost I think of as sewer trash, so that I might gain Christ and be found with him.

–Philippians 3:8-9a, Common English Bible (2008)

Faith (in the Pauline sense) functions in the absence of proof for or against a given proposition.  As Ambassador Delenn, a character from Babylon 5 (1994-1998), one of my favorite science fiction series, said,

Faith manages.

(Indeed, that was one of the major themes of the series.)  Faith keeps one on the proper path when, as Habakkuk wrote, the crops have failed and the livestock have vanished.  If we give up, we have decided to act in a way which will create a more negative future.  Yet if we persist, we act based on hope.  Such hope as overcome incredible odds many times, from ancient to contemporary times.  Many people have suffered and died so that members of subsequent generations can lead better lives.

Advent is a season of hope and violence.  Some of the violence is contemporary.  Other violence comes from the texts we read.  For example, St. Mary of Nazareth, the mother of our Lord and Savior, would have died by stoning if not for the graciousness of St. Joseph.  Faith manages during times of doubt, despair, and suspicion.  It persists during protracted periods of whisper campaigns and rumor-mongering, such as Jesus and his mother had to endure.

May we, by grace, have healthy faith from God in God, in whom both judgment and mercy exist.  And may we leave the judgment to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 26, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 25:  THE TWENTIETH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALFRED THE GREAT, KING OF THE WEST SAXONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CEDD, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF LONDON

THE FEAST OF DMITRY BORTNIANSKY, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF PHILLIP NICOLAI, JOHANN HEERMANN, AND PAUL GERHARDT, HYMN WRITERS

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/10/26/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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