Archive for the ‘Romans’ Category

The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Part IX   1 comment

icon-of-the-crucifixion

Above:  Icon of the Crucifixion

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:

Nahum 2:1-13 or Isaiah 48:1-22

Psalm 71:15-24

Matthew 27:31b-56 or Mark 15:20b-44 or Luke 23:33-49 or John 19:17-30

Romans 13:1-7; 14:13-23

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Romans 13:1-7 is a troublesome passage.  Should one always submit to government?  Some of my heroes from the past include those who helped slaves escape to freedom in violation of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and sheltered Jews or helped them escape in defiance of the Third Reich.  Besides, merely obeying law is what Kohlberg called Conventional Morality, which is not the highest form of morality on that scale, nor should it be.

Anyhow, reading Romans 13:1-7 on the same day with the crucifixion of Jesus seems ironic.

The readings, taken together, point toward mercy.  Even the judgment of God, as in Nahum 2:1-13, exists in the context of mercy for the rescued.  The mighty acts of God also testify to mercy.  And the death of Jesus does too.  One should, of course, complete that story with the resurrection, or else one will have a dead Jesus perpetually.  Sometimes mercy requires defiance of civil authority; so be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 21, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/devotion-for-proper-27-year-d/

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The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Part VII   1 comment

christ-and-pilate-by-nicholas-ge

Above:  Christ and Pilate, by Nicholas Ge

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:

Nahum 1:1-8

Psalm 33:(1-12) 13-22

Matthew 27:3-31a or Mark 15:2-20a or Luke 23:2-25 or John 18:29-19:16

Romans 10:14, 16-21 or Romans 11:2b-28 (29-32) 33-36

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Judgment and mercy relate to each other in the readings for this Sunday.  Divine judgment and mercy coexist in Nahum 1, with judgment falling on the Neo-Assyrian Empire.  The two factors also coexist in Psalm 33, but with the emphasis on mercy.  Psalm 33, in the context of the readings from the Gospels and Romans 10 and 11, seems ironic, for rejection of Jesus does not fit with

Happy is the nation whose God is the LORD!

happy is the people he has chosen to be his own.

–Psalm 33:12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

The options for the Gospel reading bring us to the verge of the crucifixion of Jesus, who was, of course, innocent of any offense (in the eyes of God), especially one that any Roman imperial official would consider worthy of crucifixion.  To kill a person that way was to make an example of him, to extinguish him, and to convince (via fear) anyone from doing what he had done or had allegedly done.  It was a form of execution usually reserved for criminals such as insurrectionists.  The fact of the crucifixion of Jesus actually reveals much about the perception of Jesus by certain people.

Jesus was a threat to the religious establishment at a place and in a time when the separation of religion and state did not exist.  He was not an insurrectionist, however.  He was a revolutionary though.  He was a revolutionary who continues to threaten human institutions and social norms by calling their morality into question.

Attempts to domesticate Jesus are nothing new.  We can, however, access the undomesticated Jesus via the Gospels.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL TAIT, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN BLEW, ENGLISH PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/20/devotion-for-proper-25-year-d/

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Esther VI: Whom to Glorify   1 comment

Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther

Above:  Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther, by Rembrandt van Rijn

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 6:1-7:6

Psalm 55:16-23

Romans 9:30-10:4

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They attack those at peace with them,

going back on their oaths;

though their mouth is smoother than butter,

enmity is in their hearts;

their words more soothing than oil,

yet sharpened like swords.

–Psalm 55:20-21, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Our journey through the Book of Esther takes us through the sixth chapter and part of the seventh.  Ahasuerus, finally growing some part of a spine, recalls that Mordecai had saved his life in Chapter 2.  The monarch asks if the loyal courtier has received a reward for such fidelity and learns that the answer is negative.  Ahasuerus plans to reward Mordecai properly as Haman, who seeks to have the monarch send Mordecai to die, enters the royal presence.  Haman never has the opportunity to say what is on his mind, for Ahasuerus asks him what should happen to the man the monarch wishes to honor.  Haman, imagining that Ahasuerus means to honor him, explains details of an impressive ceremony.  The monarch turns the tables on Haman by instructing him to make those arrangements for Mordecai.  Haman, now in a desperate situation, is about to be in a worse situation, for Ahasuerus responds favorably to Queen Esther’s request for the deliverance of the Jews.  The monarch is angry to learn that Haman has manipulated him into nearly committing genocide.  Haman cringes in terror before the king and queen consort.

I propose that, as one reads that story from the Bible, one should imagine tones of voice and facial expressions.  Doing so makes the account come to life.

I have spent much time contemplating the Law of Moses recently.  Pondering timeless principles illustrated by culturally specific laws which assume a certain level of technology and other factors no longer applicable to many of us today has increased my regard for those principles, such as the truths that we human beings are completely dependent upon God, are responsible for each other, and are responsible to each other.  Obeying divine law is properly a matter of obedience to God, not works-based righteousness.  As Jesus says in John 14:15 (The New Jerusalem Bible, 1985),

If you love me you will keep my commandments.

I suppose, then, that St. Paul the Apostle objected not to the Law of Moses itself but to the misuse of it.  He favored focusing on what God has done, not what we mere mortals have done.  St. Paul was especially fond of fixating on what Jesus has done.

Haman, a proud, spiteful, and amoral man, sought to destroy innocent others to promote himself in the royal court.  Although he was a fictional character, real-life scoundrels who have been willing to sacrifice others (innocent or not) for their own glorification have populated seats of power throughout time.  They have not practiced righteousness, much less works-based righteousness.

May we seek to glorify God, not ourselves.  May we seek to love our fellow human beings as we love ourselves.  May we choose the higher path.

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-tuesday-after-proper-12-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Sexism and Disruptions   1 comment

probably_valentin_de_boulogne_-_saint_paul_writing_his_epistles_-_google_art_project

Above:  Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

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 5:1-11

Psalm 115

1 Corinthians 14:26-40

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Not to us, O LORD, not to us,

but to your Name give glory;

because of your love and because of your faithfulness.

–Psalm 115:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The pericope from 1 Corinthians 14 contains a troubling passage which might be a later addition to it.  In the context of cautions against seeking glory for oneself and thereby causing disruption in the church we read that women (actually, wives, in Greek) should be silent and subordinate in church.  The meaning is probably that a wife who disagrees with or contradicts her husband in church will cause discord in the congregation, maybe by embarrassing him.  Furthermore, some women in the Corinthian congregation were questioning speakers during worship.  On the other hand, St. Paul the Apostle worked well with other women (such as St. Prisca/Priscilla, wife of St. Aquila), who taught, and many of the troublemakers in the Corinthian congregation were men.  (For details regarding St. Prisca/Priscilla, read Acts 18:1-28; Romans 16:3; 1 Corinthians 16:19; and 2 Timothy 4:19.)  One might also refer to Pauline assertions of equality in Christ, as in Galatians 3:27-29.  And, with respect to the pericope from Judges 5, Deborah was a chieftain of the Israelites.

One of the contexts in which to interpret a passage of scripture is the entirety of the Bible.  Another is the immediate environs (textual, historical, and geographical) of the passage.  Nevertheless, sexist attitudes consistent with patriarchy permeate the Bible.  I refuse to validation.  Each of us learns from culture.  This curriculum is of mixed quality.  May we recognize the bad, reject it, and refuse to call it holy.

Meanwhile, may we refrain from causing disruptions in church.

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-monday-after-the-fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Causing Dissensions and Offenses, Part I   1 comment

Stoning of St. Stephen

Above:  The Stoning of St. Stephen, by Paolo Uccello

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Ever-living God, your Son gives himself as living bread for the life of the world.

Fill us with such knowledge of his presence that we may be strengthened and sustained

by his risen life to serve you continually,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 11:1-20 (Thursday)

Job 12:1-25 (Friday)

Job 13:1-19 (Saturday)

Psalm 34:9-14 (All Days)

Acts 6:8-15 (Thursday)

Romans 16:17-20 (Friday)

John 4:7-26 (Saturday)

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See that you never say anything wrong;

do not deceive people by telling lies.

Turn from bad behaviour to good,

try your best to live in peace.

–Psalm 34:14-15, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

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One might start by refraining from blaming victims for their plights.

The titular character of the Book of Job, the opening of that composite text informs us, suffered not because of any sin he had committed.  No, God had permitted Satan, then an employee of God in the Hebrew theology of the time, to test the loyalty of Job.  (The adversary did not become God’s rival in Jewish theology until much later.  Many readers miss that point and read the Book of Job anachronistically.)  The primary guilty party in the case of the suffering of the impatient Job, then, was God.  (The expression “the patience of Job” makes no sense to me, based on the text which bears his name.)  Job’s alleged friends, including Zophar the Naamathite, argued however that God, being just, would not permit the innocent to suffer, so Job must have done something wrong.  Job gave as good as he got, as Chapters 12 and 13 indicate:

But you invent lies;

All of you are quacks.

If you would only keep quiet

It would be considered wisdom on your part.

–Job 13:4-5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Nevertheless, much of what Job’s alleged friends said sounds like what one reads elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, especially in the Books of Psalms and Proverbs, stated authoritatively.  (Those books are too naively optimistic in places.  Of course some of those raised to follow God grow up and depart from the proper path, despite Proverbs 22:6, for example.)  These alleged friends were not entirely wrong, but they proceeded from a false assumption, one common in antiquity as well as today.  Old ideas–including demonstrably false ones–persist.  If one’s sins necessarily lead to one’s suffering, how does one explain the crucifixion of Jesus, the living bread, the living water, and the sinless one?  One must also, if one is to be intellectually thorough and honest, contend with the sufferings and martyrdoms of many faithful, mere mortals, from antiquity to current events.

There are, of course, various reasons for suffering.  The Buddhist statement that suffering results from wrong desiring covers much of that territory well.  One might suffer because of the wrong desiring of another person or because of one’s own wrong desiring.  Even that, however, does not account for the suffering one must endure apart from that with causation in wrong desiring.  Why do some children enter the world with terrible diseases with genetic causes, for example?

St. Paul the Apostle, writing in Romans 16:17, urged his audience

to keep an eye on those who cause dissensions and offenses, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

I file Zophar the Naamathite and the false witnesses against St. Stephen in that category.

A complicating factor is that “those who cause dissensions and offenses” usually do not think of themselves as such.  They might even consider themselves as righteous people, or at least as people who perform necessary, if unpleasant, deeds for the greater good.  Furthermore, you, O reader, and I might be among these people, according to others.  The only infallible judge of such matters is God.

We can attempt to act kindly, at least, and to refrain from blaming victims for their afflictions.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, APOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-15-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Flawed Agents of Grace   1 comment

Jacob's Ladder William Blake

Above:  Jacob’s Ladder, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and eternal God, you show perpetual lovingkindness to us your servants.

Because we cannot rely on our own abilities,

grant us your merciful judgment,

and train us to embody the generosity of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 27:1-29 (Monday)

Genesis 28:10-17 (Tuesday)

Psalm 106:1-12 (Both Days)

Romans 16:1-16 (Monday)

Romans 16:17-20 (Tuesday)

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Remember me, O LORD, with the favor you have for your people,

and visit me with your saving help;

That I may see the prosperity of your elect

and be glad with the gladness of your people,

and I may glory with your inheritance.

–Psalm 106:4-5, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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One of the challenges one faces in reading the Bible intelligently is understanding cultural nuances.  What does it matter, for example, that a father imparts a blessing on his son?  That was important in the culture of Isaac, Jacob/Israel, and Esau/Edom, for the blessing or curse, in the minds of many people, determined the destiny of the recipient of the pronouncement.

Isaac was a pitiful character.  The fact that his father, Abraham, had tried to kill him once must have messed him up psychologically.  Wife Rebekah plotted to deceive him in order to promote her second son, Jacob.  She succeeded, and the promise flowed through the second son again, Isaac having been the second son of Abraham.  The confirmation of the promise came in a dream about angels on a ladder.  But Jacob remained a trickster, one whom Laban fooled.  The promise of God, this chain of events tells me, does not depend on purity of human character or motivation.  This is good news, for it the divine promise did depend on such factors, it would be vain hope.

St. Paul the Apostle, after a long list of commendations in Romans 16, advised people to avoid

those who stir up quarrels and lead others astray, contrary to the teaching you received

–Romans 16:17b, The Revised English Bible (1989).

The process of sorting out core Christian doctrines entailed centuries of debates among those who asked sincere questions.  Many of these seekers of the truth were objectively wrong about certain details, but at least they proceeded from a good motivation.  When they were wrong, their contribution led to the formulation of correct doctrines, so we Christians of the twenty-first century are indebted to them.  St. Paul the Apostle might have considered some of these individuals to be among “those who stir up quarrels and lead others astray,” for he was quite opinionated.  There were also actual mischief-makers.  Maybe you, O reader, have encountered the type–people who ask questions to provoke, not to seek an answer.

Those who sow the seeds of dissension seem to have great internal discord, for those at peace with themselves make peace and troubled people cause trouble.  I have witnessed these dynamics in congregations.  And I recognize it in family life, such as in the account in Genesis 27 and 28.  Much of the narrative of the Old Testament reads like a catalog of bad parenting and of sibling rivalry.  The texts are honest about character flaws, though, so we modern readers need not feel guilty about thinking of them as less than heroic all the time.  These were flawed people–as we are–and God worked through them as God works through us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 16. 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN DIEFENBAKER AND LESTER PEARSON, PRIME MINISTERS OF CANADA; AND TOMMY DOUGLAS, FEDERAL LEADER OF THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY

THE FEAST OF JOHN JONES OF TALYSARN, WELSH CALVINISTIC METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN TUNE COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF BROTHER ROGER OF TAIZE, FOUNDER OF THE TAIZE COMMUNITY

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY WOMEN OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-20-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Seeking the Common Good   2 comments

31620v

Above:  Samuel Ryeschenski, Nine-Year-Old Chess Player, at the United States Capitol, April 6, 1922

Photographer = Harris & Ewing

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-hec-31620

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The Collect:

O Lord God, merciful judge, you are the inexhaustible fountain of forgiveness.

Replace our hearts of stone with hearts that love and adore you,

that we may delight in doing your will,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 48:8-22 (Monday)

Genesis 49:29-50:14 (Tuesday)

Genesis 50:22-26 (Wednesday)

Psalm 133 (All Days)

Hebrews 11:23-29 (Monday)

Romans 14:13-15:2 (Tuesday)

Mark 11:20-25 (Wednesday)

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Oh, how good and pleasant it is,

when brethren live together in unity!

It is like fine oil upon the head

that runs down upon the beard,

Upon the beard of Aaron,

and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

It is like the dew of Hermon

that falls upon the hills of Zion.

For there the LORD has ordained the blessing:

life for evermore.

–Psalm 133, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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So then, let us be always seeking the ways which lead to peace and the ways in which we can support each other.  Do not wreck God’s work for the sake of food.

–Romans 14:19-20a, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The ethic of building up the common good is part of the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  In the Law of Moses we have responsibilities to and for each other.  A healthy communitarianism respects individual consciences while avoiding rugged individualism on hand and the tyranny of the majority on the other hand.  Our human reality is that we depend on God for everything and on each other.  We are, therefore, dependent and interdependent.  May we behave toward each toward each other according to the ethic of seeking the best for each other.  Joseph sought the best for his family members, even those who had almost killed him.  He should have sought the best for the Egyptians instead of reducing them to a state of serfdom in Genesis 47, however.  (The man was not entirely heroic.)

Sometimes the common good works via authority figures; sometimes it works around them.  Joseph’s boss was sympathetic to him, but the Pharaoh whom Moses knew was hostile.  Under the best possible circumstances authority figures will function as agents of the common good, but often we humans must work around them or even replace them.  Such is life.  If we can muster enough faith we will discover that God’s grace is more than sufficient for our required tasks.

As we go about the work of seeking the common good and building each other up, may we avoid ridiculous extremes which function mainly as fodder for criticisms of religion.  I recall that, when I was quite young, my sister and I were not supposed to play in the parsonage yard on Sunday afternoons.  My father was the local United Methodist pastor in a conservative rural community, some members of which retained overly strict–Puritanical, even–notions regarding Sabbath-keeping.  I mention this example to make a point:  If we place too much emphasis on what others think, we will restrict our own range of options (and that of our children, if we have any) needlessly.  Spiritually uptight people will have to deal with the consequences of their own constipation of the soul for themselves, without cramping my style.  Besides, my personal life is quiet, quite boring by many standards of what is “interesting,” and nobody’s business.  So I will persist in my behaviors, which according to many killjoys through the ages, are sinful:  playing chess, reading novels, dancing on occasion, eating meat, drinking tea, watching movies, et cetera.  I like intellectual stimulation, artistic fulfillment, antioxidants, and the taste of meat, none of which cause moral harm to anyone.  So why should anyone object?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 16. 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN DIEFENBAKER AND LESTER PEARSON, PRIME MINISTERS OF CANADA; AND TOMMY DOUGLAS, FEDERAL LEADER OF THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY

THE FEAST OF JOHN JONES OF TALYSARN, WELSH CALVINISTIC METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN TUNE COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF BROTHER ROGER OF TAIZE, FOUNDER OF THE TAIZE COMMUNITY

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY WOMEN OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

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Adapted from this post:

link

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This is post #1150 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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