Archive for the ‘Psalm 138’ Category

Esther IV: Fear Itself   1 comment

Esther--John Everett Millais

Above:  Esther, by John Everett Millais

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you are always more ready than we are to pray,

and you gladly give more than we either desire or deserve.

Pour upon us your abundant mercy.

Forgive us those things that weigh on our conscience,

and give us those good things that come only through your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Esther 4:1-17

Psalm 138

Luke 8:22-25

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Though I live surrounded by trouble

you give me life–to my enemies’ fury!

You stretch out your right hand and save me,

Yahweh will do all things for me.

Yahweh, your faithful love endures for ever,

do not abandon what you have made.

–Psalm 138:7-8, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The story in the Book of Esther resumes with the fourth chapter and includes the Greek addition The New American Bible labels Chapter C.  Mordecai and Esther digest the royal decree of genocide against the Jews.  Mordecai is not safe; neither is Esther, although she is the queen consort.  If she goes to visit Ahasuerus without him summoning her first, she risks death.  And if he does not order her death for that reason, he might have her killed for being Jewish.  In Chapter C Mordecai prays for God to deliver the Jews and Esther prays for guidance and for deliverance from fear.

Deliverance from fear occupies the core of Luke 8:22-25, in which Jesus calms a storm.  Although I affirm the proposition that he could have done that, I find the metaphor in the story helpful and the question of the literal story irrelevant to this post.  We experience storms in life.  Sometimes God delivers us from them.  On other occasions, however, God accompanies us through them and delivers us from fear instead.

Esther was correct to know fear.  Ahasuerus had probably ordered the death of Queen Vashti, whose offense had been to refuse to degrade herself.  He was also an easily manipulated monarch through whom others, especially Haman, governed.  Ahasuerus was not powerless, however, for he had the authority to order the execution of someone who went to him uninvited.  Furthermore, he had just ordered genocide against Esther’s people, the Jews.  She could have yielded to fear and laid low.  Esther could have preserved herself at the expense of her fellow Jews, but she found her courage and prayed,

O God, whose power is over all, hear the voice of those in despair.  Save us from the power of the wicked, and deliver me from my fear.

–Esther C:30, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

On March 4, 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said,

…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself–nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

Out of fear we human beings become more stingy and selfish.  Out of fear we think and act hatefully toward others or merely condone the hateful actions of others.  Out of fear we retreat into passivity when the occasion demands courageous actions.  Out of fear we violate the Golden Rule, often while assuring ourselves of our imagined righteousness.

May we trust in God and act courageously, according to the Golden Rule.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, BISHOP OF ARMAGH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/17/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-12-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Esther III: National Security   1 comment

Caiaphas

Above:  Caiaphas

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you are always more ready than we are to pray,

and you gladly give more than we either desire or deserve.

Pour upon us your abundant mercy.

Forgive us those things that weigh on our conscience,

and give us those good things that come only through your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Esther 3:7-15

Psalm 138

Acts 2:22-36

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Though I live surrounded by trouble

you give me life–to my enemies’ fury!

You stretch out your right hand and save me,

Yahweh will do all things for me.

Yahweh, your faithful love endures for ever,

do not abandon what you have made.

–Psalm 138:7-8, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The story in Esther picks up at the point at which Haman persuades Ahasuerus to order genocide against the Jews.  The official reason for the decree, according to the royal decree (as contained in Chapter B, as The New American Bible labels it) is national security.  The Jews allegedly follow laws which set them at opposition to all other people and to royal decrees.  The official purpose of the planned genocide is to restore the stability of the Persian Empire.  The actual reasons, of course, are Haman’s egotism and anti-Semitism.  As Dr. Samuel Johnson stated,

Patriotism is the last resort of a scoundrel.

The reading from Acts 2 concerns the crucifixion of Jesus.  Roman imperial personnel executed Jesus, of course, but certain Jewish religious leaders were complicit in the unjust act.  As Caiaphas said in John 11:50,

You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die than to have the whole nation destroyed.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

National security is a legitimate concern, one which requires difficult decisions sometimes.  Nevertheless, genocide is never a justifiable practice.  Just as national security has its place, so does patriotism.  My point is that some scoundrels hide behind these virtues and convince other people to support them in unjust actions.  I would like to be a pacifist, but my sense of reality prevents me from doing that.  I do propose, however, that most violence is immoral and unnecessary.  This is especially true of the violence planned in Esther 3 and the crucifixion of Jesus.

There is a proper balance between individual rights and the common good.  There is also such a thing as the tyranny of the majority or of a powerful minority.  The common good, by definition, cannot justify genocide or judicial murder.  Those with power have no moral right to victimize any person or population.  And nobody has a moral right to be complicit in such a plot or effort.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, BISHOP OF ARMAGH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/17/devotion-for-friday-before-proper-12-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Esther II: Heroes and Villains   1 comment

Mordecai and Haman

Above:  Mordecai and Haman

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you are always more ready than we are to pray,

and you gladly give more than we either desire or deserve.

Pour upon us your abundant mercy.

Forgive us those things that weigh on our conscience,

and give us those good things that come only through your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Esther 2:19-3:6

Psalm 138

Acts 1:15-20

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I praise your name for your faithful love and your constancy;

your promises surpass even your fame.

–Psalm 138:2b, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The plot thickens in Esther 2 and 3.  Mordecai thwarts an assassination plot against King Ahasuerus.  The two eunuchs who plotted to kill the monarch die after Mordecai alerts Ahasuerus via Queen Esther.  The loyal courtier receives no reward immediately; he must wait until Chapter 6 for Ahasuerus to think about doing that.  Mordecai refuses to bow to Haman, who receives a promotion for no apparent reason and who seeks to destroy not just Mordecai but all Jews in the Persian Empire.

The reason for Mordecai’s refusal to bow down is unclear in the Hebrew text.  However, in Chapter C, as The New American Bible labels it, Mordecai explains in a prayer that he bows only to God.  This is consistent with a later rabbinical interpretation.  The germane notes in The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) mention that argument yet prefers a different explanation, that Mordecai refused to honor an enemy of the Jews.  Those notes also argue that, in the Hebrew Bible, bowing to a human superior is permissible, as in Genesis 23:7; Genesis 43:28; Exodus 18:7; and 1 Kings 1:23.  Another interpretation from Jewish tradition is that, if Haman were wearing an idol on his chest, Mordecai would have bowed refused to bow to the object.

In the Acts of the Apostles the eleven surviving Apostles completed their number (twelve) by choosing one of the outer circle of 70 (or 72, depending on the translation) to replace the recently deceased Judas Iscariot.  They select St. Matthias, of whom we know little.  According to tradition he was a faithful evangelist who brought much glory to God and many people to salvation before becoming a martyr.

The main characters in the readings for today are Mordecai, Haman, and St. Matthias.  Haman seeks to glorify himself and harm others, Mordecai to glorify God and do his duty, and St. Matthias to glorify God, regardless of the cost to himself.  Two of the three died violently, one as a villain and the other as a martyr.

May we pursue righteousness, as demonstrated in the characters of Mordecai and St. Matthias and manifested by love of God and our fellow human beings, regardless of the cost to ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, BISHOP OF ARMAGH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/17/devotion-for-thursday-before-proper-12-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Turning Toward God   1 comment

Othniel

Above:  Othniel

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Most Holy God, the earth is filled with your glory,

and before you angels and saints stand in awe.

Enlarge our vision to see your power at work in the world,

and by your grace make us heralds of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 3:7-11

Psalm 138

Luke 4:42-44

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Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe;

you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies;

your right hand shall save me.

–Psalm 138:8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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That verse from Psalm 138 works well in a lectionary with his pericope from Judges 3, the story of chieftain Othniel of Kerizzite.  Living among and intermarrying with polytheistic Gentiles had led to idolatry and other offenses, the text tells us, and King Cushan-rishathaim (literally “Dark double-wickedness”) of Aram-naharaim (in upper Mesopotamia) oppressed the Israelites.  The people cried out to God, who selected Othniel to liberate them, and peace and holiness reigned for a few decades, until people repeated the cycle.

Repentance is turning around spiritually–something which proved to be a temporary turn for many people in the Book of Judges.  Is that not an accurate description for many of we mere mortals?  We turn away from sin and toward God then turn away from God again.  Repentance was among the components of our Lord and Savior’s teaching.  Repentance remains a germane topic, for human nature, with all of its virtues and vices, is constant over time.

May we, by grace, turn 180 degrees toward God and remain there, not turn 180 degrees again, thereby returning to where we had been before we repented.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS, AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUIS BERTRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF WILHELM WEXELS, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; HIS NIECE, MARIE WEXELSEN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER; LUDWIG LINDEMAN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN ORGANIST AND MUSICOLOGIST; AND MAGNUS LANDSTAD, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, FOLKLORIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted October 9, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Judges, Luke 4, Psalm 138

Tagged with , , , ,

Leadership   1 comment

Icon of Aaron

Above:  Icon of Aaron

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Most Holy God, the earth is filled with your glory,

and before you angels and saints stand in awe.

Enlarge our vision to see your power at work in the world,

and by your grace make us heralds of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 20:22-29 (Thursday)

Numbers 27:12-23 (Friday)

Psalm 138 (Both Days)

Acts 9:19b-25 (Thursday)

Acts 9:26-31 (Friday)

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The LORD will make good his purpose for me;

O LORD, your love endures for ever;

do not abandon the works of your hands.

–Psalm 138:9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Moses and Aaron had been leaders of the Israelite community in the desert for decades.  Both of them had, however, rebelled against God.  Their penalty was never to enter the Promised Land.  Aaron died, and a son became the next priest.  Moses passed the torch of leadership to Joshua son of Nun before dying.  God’s work continued via different people.

Saul of Tarsus had also rebelled against God before God intervened directly and Saul became St. Paul the Apostle, one of the greatest and most influential Christian theologians and evangelists.  The Apostle’s life after his conversion was much more hazardous than it had been prior to his fateful journey to Damascus.  Apart from biography, perhaps the greatest difference between Moses and Aaron on one hand and St. Paul on the other hand was that Moses and Aaron rebelled against God while on duty for God.  St. Paul was a reformed rebel.  Richard Elliott Friedman wrote,

Leaders of a congregation cannot violate the very instruction that they uphold and teach to others.

Commentary on the Torah with a New English Translation and the Hebrew Text (2001), page 497

Or rather, they can violate that instruction yet may not do so.

A leader is one whom others follow.  If one thinks that one might be a leader, one should turn around and see if anybody is following one.  If no person is following one, one is merely walking.

With leadership comes the responsibility to lead well.  Among the best forms of leadership is setting a good example.  Hypocrisy creates scandal much of the time and weakens one’s ability to lead properly.  For example, one who condemns gambling (a good thing to criticize) yet frequents casinos or a casino and gets caught doing so justly loses credibility.

Are you a leader, O reader?  If so, may you lead well, as God directs you, for the glory of God and the benefit of those who follow you.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS, AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUIS BERTRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF WILHELM WEXELS, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; HIS NIECE, MARIE WEXELSEN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER; LUDWIG LINDEMAN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN ORGANIST AND MUSICOLOGIST; AND MAGNUS LANDSTAD, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, FOLKLORIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-the-fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Exile and Restoration   1 comment

Foundation of the Tower of Antonia

Above:  Foundation of the Tower of Antonia, Jerusalem, Palestine, 1921

Image Creators = Jamal Brothers

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/item/mamcol.045/#about-this-item)

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The Collect:

O God, with all your faithful followers in every age, we praise you, the rock of our life.

Be our strong foundation and form us into the body of your Son,

that we may gladly minister to all the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 36:33-38

Psalm 138

Matthew 16:5-12

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All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord,

for they have heard the words of your mouth.

They shall sing of the ways of the Lord,

that great is the glory of the Lord.

–Psalm 138:4-5, Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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That was part of the vision of the Book of Ezekiel.  The theology of that text held that exile was divine punishment for persistent national sins and that God would act mightily to restore the fortunes of Israel for the glory of the divine name and the benefit of the people.  Surely such an impressive act would convince many skeptical people that God (YHWH) was not only real but great.  It was a hopeful vision, but life in post-exilic Judea fell far short of those expectations.  At the time of Christ the Roman Empire ruled in military might and with economic exploitation, with the collaboration of Jerusalem Temple officials in Jerusalem.  The exilic experience persisted, with the ironic twist that the exiles were home.

We human beings have a tendency to use logic to confirm our opinions.  Thus we tend to seek prooftexts, cherry-pick evidence, and seek not to become “confused by the facts.”  This reality helps to explain much political discord, especially when disputing partisans cannot agree even on the definition of objective reality.

Sadducees and Pharisees disagreed on many substantive issues, but members of both camps were in league with the Roman Empire and challenged Jesus.  Of course their stations in life and their theological opinions reinforced each other in a repeating feedback loop, but I suspect that many Sadducees and Pharisees were sincere in their doctrine.  They followed the Law of Moses as they understood it and recalled lessons from Hebrew tradition about the relationship between national sin and fortunes.  And certainly they understood our Lord and Savior as a threat in the overlapping realms of economics, politics, and religion.

I know which side I support, for I am a Christian, a partisan of Christ.  Both the Pharisees and Sadducees sought to perpetuate forms of piety dependent on wealth.  Peasants could not find enough time to keep all the Pharisaic rules and regulations, for they had to work for so many hours.  And Sadducees, who rejected the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, channeled considerable efforts into maintaining aristocratic status and estates for the next generation to inherit.  That brought them into disagreement with Jesus.

Exile can assume many forms.  People can be in exile at home or abroad, physically or spiritually.  Exiles might not even know that they are in exile and therefore in need of restoration.  Informing such exiles of their actual status might prompt not return, restoration, and gratitude but hostility and even violence.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you will preserve me;

you will stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies;

your right hand will save me.

The Lord shall make good his purpose for me;

your loving-kindness, O Lord, endures for ever;

forsake not the work of your hands.

–Psalm 138:7-8, Book of Common Prayer (2004)

The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VI (1956), page 266, offers a germane analysis:

God does not impose his gracious purpose on us, but waits until we ourselves desire it of him.  We sometimes hear it argued that if God is really eager to bless us, he will give up now what we need and not wait till we ask him.  But is that so?  Surely God is never concerned merely to give us things, but only in and through what he gives us to train to be his children, true men and women.  He can adequately bless us only when we ourselves are ready and eager for his blessing.  Thus some of us discover for the first time what if it really means to relish our food–because we come to it hungry.  It is as simple as that.

So, how eager are you, O reader, to receive the grace God has for you and the responsibilities which come with it?  Grace is free to us; we cannot purchase it.  But it is not cheap, for it costs us much.  Many have even died in faithful response.  They have died as free people–not exiles–in Christ.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALEN POSTEL, FOUNDER OF THE POOR DAUGHTERS OF MERCY

THE FEAST OF JOHN MOORE WALKER, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF THE RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

THE FEAST OF WALTER CRONKITE, JOURNALIST

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This post owes much to the scholarship of Richard Horsley.  Perhaps the most compact book in his oeuvre is Jesus and Empire:  The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder (Minneapolis, MN:  Fortress Press, 2003).

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-16-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Living Compassionately   1 comment

Church of the Multiplication

Above:  Byzantine Mosaic, Church of the Multiplication, Taghba, Israel

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, with all your faithful followers in every age, we praise you, the rock of our life.

Be our strong foundation and form us into the body of your Son,

that we may gladly minister to all the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 28:11-19 (Thursday)

Ezekiel 31:15-18 (Friday)

Psalm 138 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 6:1-11 (Thursday)

2 Corinthians 10:12-18 (Friday)

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The LORD is high, yet the LORD cares for the lowly

and perceives the haughty from afar.

–Psalm 138:6, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The assigned readings for these two days focus on the question of how we should treat others as opposed to how we behave toward them much of the time.  Exploitation comes in more than one form; economic, judicial, and sexual varieties of such bad behavior come to mind immediately.  That which builds one up at the expense of others–by taking from them wrongly or denying them what they should have–is immoral.  Yet many people already wealthy pile up more riches by taking from those who have less or by denying others that which they ought to have–sufficient means–by right.  Yes, I am writing about greed, a predatory force.

The essence of compassion is to dethrone oneself from the center of one’s life or never to place oneself there.  Selfishness (of which greed is a symptom) can result from a variety of issues, including two related to the ego.  One is pride–hubris, to be precise.  Taking pride in one’s work is positive, for it contributes to better work.  Yet hubris goes before the fall.  This is a phenomenon of the ego run amok.  I have known this temptation and yielded to it in the realm of intellectual arrogance.  The causes were understandable, given the circumstances, but that fact did not–and still does not–constitute an excuse or justification.  I continue to struggle with intellectual arrogance at times, but at least I know about the problem and recognize it as such.  I am imperfect, but I have made progress, by grace.   At the opposite end of the spectrum is the inferiority complex.  People with this problem who do not deal with it constructively lead self-centered lives dedicated to making themselves feel better about themselves.  (I have one person, who will remain unnamed in this post, in mind.)  In cases of both extremes the offenders injure themselves and others, for what one person does affects others.  That is the way of the universe.

To have a balanced ego is the better course.  And following the advice of St. Paul the Apostle to boast only of the Lord is a spiritually healthy path to take in life.  The desire to do these things is a good start, one possible only by grace.  This desire might constitute our proverbial few loaves of bread and fishes, and therefore seem woefully inadequate for the task.  It is inadequate for the task, of course, but God can multiply it.  This is not about what we do.  No, it is about what God does.  Our task is to cooperate with God–to be the faithful ministers of grace God calls us to be.  May we, by grace, serve effectively, thereby glorifying God and helping others–building them up as God leads us to do.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALEN POSTEL, FOUNDER OF THE POOR DAUGHTERS OF MERCY

THE FEAST OF JOHN MOORE WALKER, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF THE RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

THE FEAST OF WALTER CRONKITE, JOURNALIST

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-16-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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