Archive for the ‘1 Thessalonians 1’ Category

Judgment and Mercy, Part X   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Moses

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O God, who hast prepared for those who love thee such good things as pass man’s understanding:

pour into our hearts such love toward thee, that we, loving thee above all things,

may obtain thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124-125

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Deuteronomy 30:1-10

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

John 17:6-11

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I am no longer in the world,

but they are in the world,

and I am coming to you.

Holy Father,

keep those you have given me true to your name,

so that they may be one like us.

–John 17:11, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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One’s cultural assumptions frequently function as obstacles to proper interpretation of the Bible.  Western individualism, for example, may obscure the plural nature of “you” in many Biblical passages; perhaps one reads “you” and automatically thinking of it as being singular.  Responsibility, judgment, and mercy are both individual and collective in the Bible.  There is an individual aspect to collective matters, of course, but may we never ignore the reality of collective matters.

Faithfulness and faithlessness are collective in the assigned readings.  Those God (the Father) gave to Jesus are supposed to be one, as Jesus and God (the Father) are one.  News of the faithfulness of the Thessalonian congregation, evident in the actions of that assembly and its members, continues to spread, for people continue to read 1 Thessalonians.  Deuteronomy 30:1-10, with its assurance of divine mercy on the people following divine judgment on them for faithlessness, contradicts Deuteronomy 29:15f (with an emphasis on verse 19), where forgiveness and restoration are absent.

I like divine mercy.

Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Bible.  This principle applies to both Testaments, contrary to stereotypes of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.  Actions and the lack thereof have consequences, both positive and negative.  Yet the love of God continues to seek us out, to offer us new chances to do as we should, to be as we ought.  Do we (both as individuals and as collectives) care?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 9, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTH DAY OF ADVENT:  THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND HIS SON, MARKUS BARTH, SWISS LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GEORG FRIEDRICH HELLSTROM, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER FOURIER, “THE GOOD PRIEST OF MATTAINCOURT;” AND SAINT ALIX LE CLERC, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF NOTRE DAME OF CANONESSES REGULAR OF SAINT AUGUSTINE

THE FEAST OF WALTER CISZEK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST AND POLITICAL PRISONER

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Benefits of Cracks   1 comment

Time of the Doctor 02

Above:  The Crack in the Fabric of the Universe, from Doctor Who:  The Time of the Doctor (2013)

A screen capture via PowerDVD and a legal DVD

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The Collect:

Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.

By his coming strengthen us to serve you with purified lives;

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:

Hosea 6:1-6

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

1 Thessalonians 1:2-10

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I will listen to what the LORD God is saying,

for he is speaking peace to his faithful people

and those who turn their hearts to him.

–Psalm 85:8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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To repent is to change one’s mind or to turn around.  The idea that it means merely to apologize or to express regret is false yet commonplace.  No, repentance is active.  After one has expressed regret and, if possible, apologized to those against whom one has offended, what will one do next?  That is the essence of repentance.

In Hosea God called the Hebrews back to covenant relationship, which rivalry between the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah as well as the ill-advised alliance with Assyria violated.  Divine judgment was a means to bring the people to repentance.  The pseudo-repentance of Hosea 6:1-3 displeased God, who demanded sincerity, not sycophantic, ingratiating, and vain words.  Where were the deeds?

St. Paul the Apostle, writing in 1 Thessalonians 2, mentioned deeds.  He understood the importance of orthodoxy and orthopraxy being of one piece.  As we think, we are, he wrote elsewhere.

Few offenses raise my hackles more than hypocrisy.  Recently I read a news story about a U.S. Congressman who had voted to require the drug testing of food stamps recipients.  Authorities caught him in possession of illegal drugs.  (Whom should the federal government test for drug use?)  I think also of stories of professional moral crusaders (including critics of gambling, which I oppose also) gambling in casinos.  And how many people who have condemned sexual promiscuity as sinful have been habitually sexually promiscuous while issuing those pronouncements?  “Do as I say, not as I do” does not inspire confidence.

All of us are broken, sinful people who, as St. Paul wrote elsewhere of himself, are frequently doing that which they know they ought to do.  Also, each of us carries secrets, mixed motives, and other flaws of characters.  But we can, bu grace, do the right thing when the opportunity presents itself.  Often our flaws, by grace, become factors which enhance our effectiveness in ministering to others and our drive to do so.  Yes, all of us have cracks, but, as Leonard Cohen has sung, the cracks let the light in.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARY A. LATHBURY, U.S. METHODIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERTILLA BOSCARDIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND NURSE

THE FEAST OF JOHN HARRIS BURT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF TARORE OF WAHAORA, ANGLICAN MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/devotion-for-thursday-before-the-second-sunday-of-advent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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There Is No Other   1 comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 33:12-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

Moses said to the LORD,

See, you have said to me,”Bring up this people’; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found favor in my sight.’ Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.”

He said,

My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.

And he said to him,

If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.

The LORD said to Moses,

I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.

Moses said,

Show me your glory, I pray.

And he said,

I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, ‘The LORD’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,

he said,

you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.

And the LORD continued,

See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.

Psalm 99 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The LORD is King;

let the people tremble;

he is enthroned upon the cherubim;

let the earth shake.

The LORD is great in Zion;

he is high above all peoples.

3 Let them confess his Name, which is great and awesome;

he is the Holy One.

4 “O mighty King, lover of justice,

you have established equity;

you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.”

Proclaim the greatness of the LORD our God

and fall down before his footstool;

he is the Holy One.

Moses and Aaron among his priests,

and Samuel among those who call upon his Name,

they called upon the LORD, and he answered them.

He spoke to them out of the pillar of cloud;

they kept his testimonies and the decree that he gave them.

8 “O LORD our God, you answered them indeed;

you were a God who forgave them,

yet punished them for their evil deeds.”

9 Proclaim the greatness of the LORD our God

and worship him upon his holy hill;

for the LORD our God is the Holy One.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Isaiah 45:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus,

whose right hand I have grasped

to subdue nations before him

and strip kings of their robes,

to open doors before him–

and the gates shall not be closed:

I will go before you

and level the mountains,

I will break in pieces the doors of bronze

and cut through the bars of iron,

I will give you the treasures of darkness

and riches hidden in secret places,

so that you may know that it is I, the LORD,

the God of Israel, who call you by name.

For the sake of my servant Jacob,

and Israel my chosen,

I call you by your name,

I surname you, though you do not know me.

I am the LORD, and there is no other;

besides me there is no god.

I arm you, though you do not know me,

so that they may know, from the rising of the sun

and from the west, that there is no one besides me;

I am the LORD, and there is no other.

I form light and create darkness,

I make weal and create woe;

I the LORD do all these things.

Psalm 96:1-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Sing to the LORD a new song;

sing to the LORD, all the whole earth.

2 Sing to the LORD and bless his Name;

proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day.

3 Declare his glory among the nations

and his wonders among all peoples.

4 For great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;

he is more to be feared than all gods.

5 As for the gods of the nations, they are but idols;

but it is the LORD who made the heavens.

Oh, the majesty and magnificence of his presence!

Oh, the power and the splendor of his sanctuary!

7 Ascribe to the LORD, you families of the peoples;

ascribe to the LORD honor and power.

Ascribe to the LORD the honor due his Name;

bring offerings and come into his courts.

Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness;

let the whole earth tremble before him.

10 Tell it out among the nations:  ”The LORD is King!

he has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved;

he will judge the peoples with equity.”

11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;

let the sea thunder and all that is in it;

let the field be joyful and all that is therein.

12 Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy

before the LORD when he comes,

when he comes to judge the earth.

13 He will judge the world with righteousness

and the peoples with his truth.

SECOND READING

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Grace to you and peace.

We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead– Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 22:15-22 (New Revised Standard Version):

The Pharisees went and plotted to entrap Jesus in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying,

Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?

But Jesus, aware of their malice, said,

Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.

And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them,

Whose head is this, and whose title?

They answered,

The emperor’s.

Then he said to them,

Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.

When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

1 Thessalonians 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/week-of-proper-16-monday-year-1/

Mark 12 (Parallel to Matthew 22):

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/09/week-of-last-epiphany-tuesday-year-1-shrove-tuesday/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/week-of-proper-4-tuesday-year-1/

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If I were to compile a list of historical hints and send them back through time, one of them would be not to try to trap Jesus in a question.  The man knew how to evade the snare, and those who asked such questions came across looking like what they were.

As YHWH/Adonai says via Deutero-Isaiah in Isaiah 45, there is no other God, regardless of what others, including some instruments of God, might think.  Cyrus II of Persia was a Zoroastrian, for example.  He worshiped a pantheon, but he was a tool of YHWH/Adonai in ending the Babylonian Exile.  Cyrus was a generally benevolent overlord.

Tiberius, Emperor of Rome, was not.  The Roman Empire imposed a poll tax on Jews.

This was not a major source of imperial revenue, but it did remind the Jews living under occupation in their homeland who was in charge, at least in the temporal realm.  This poll tax was payable in a coin bearing the image of the emperor and a written reminder of the official line, which was he was the “Divine Caesar.”  Such a coin was a purposeful affront to Jewish sensibilities.  The tax was in the amount a denarius, or one day’s wage, and men aged 14-65 years and women aged 12-65 had to pay it.  This was a despised tax, and the Romans were rubbing the Jews’ noses in it.

This was a dicey political situation for Jesus.  If he said, “No, this is unjust taxation,” he would be in trouble with the Romans.  And many soldiers were in town during the days leading up to the Passover, the annual commemoration of God’s deliverance of the Jews from slavery in Egypt.  Some of them could arrest Jesus at a moment’s notice.  But if he said,

Yes, Tiberius is our emperor, and he deserves our respect too,

Jesus would lose much public support.   Our Lord and Savior, being perceptive and intelligent, delivered a faultless answer:  The coin belongs to Tiberius; pay it.  But give to God what is due to God.  And what is due to God?  We owe God the pattern of our daily living.

There is only one God, and Jesus of Nazareth was the incarnate form of that deity in human history.  Tiberius died and was buried.  He stayed dead.  But Jesus died, was buried, and rose again.  He has conquered death; may we follow him in life.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 7, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMITIAN OF HUY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF HARRIET STARR CANNON, COFOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF SAINT MARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROSE VENERINI, FOUNDER OF THE VENERINI SISTERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODARD OF NARBONNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP; AND SAINTS JUSTUS AND PASTOR, MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/07/proper-24-year-a/

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Influences, Positive and Negative   1 comment

Above:  Ancient Ruins and Modern Buildings in Saloniki, Greece

(Courtesy of http://www.saloniki.org/)

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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With this post I change translations again.  This is a helpful practice, for it refreshes one’s view of the Scriptures.  My studies of French have revealed to me the accuracy of the statement that any text loses something in translation from Language A into Language B.  So, as I read and study the Bible in English, I seek out various translations.  What one version misses, hopefully another retains.  And this practice helps me to read and hear the texts as if for the first time, for the familiar cadences of the Authorized (King James) Version, with which I grew up, can become obstacles to paying attention to the content.  This principle holds true, regardless of which translation to which one’s brain is attuned.

So, for the next unknown number of weeks, may we read and hear the words of Scripture according to the great Jerusalem Bible, from 1966.

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1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 (The Jerusalem Bible):

From Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, to the Church in Thessalonika which is in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; wishing you grace and peace.

We always mention you in our prayers and thank God for you all, and constantly remember before God our Father how you have shown your faith in action, worked for love and persevered through hope, in our Lord Jesus Christ.

We know, brothers, that God loves you and that you have been chosen, because when we brought the Good News to you, it became to you not only as words, but as power and as the Holy Spirit and as utter conviction.  And you observed the sort of life we lived when we were with you, which was for your instruction, and you were led to become imitators of us, and of the Lord; and it was with the joy of the Holy Spirit that you took to the gospel, in spite of the great oppression all round you.  This has made you the great example to all believers in Macedonia and Achaia since it was from you that the word of the Lord started to spread–and not only throughout Macedonia and Achaia, for the news of your faith in God has spread everywhere.  We do not need to tell other people about it; other people tell us how we started to work among you, how you broke with idolatry when you converted to God and became servants of the real, living God; and how you are now waiting for Jesus, his Son, whom he raised from the dead, to come down from heaven to save us from the retribution which is coming.

Psalm 149:1-5 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Sing to the LORD a new song;

sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful.

Let Israel rejoice in his Maker;

let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.

Let them praise his Name in the dance;

let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.

For the LORD takes pleasure in his people

and adorns the poor with victory.

5 Let the faithful rejoice in triumph;

let them be joyful on their beds.

Matthew 23:13-22 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who shut up the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces, neither going in yourselves nor allowing others to go in who want to.

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who travel over sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when you have him you make him twice as fit for hell as you are.

Alas for you, blind guides!  You who say, ‘If a man swears by the Temple, it has no force; but if a man swears by the gold of the Temple, he is bound.’  Fools and blind!  For which is of greater worth, the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred?  Or else, ‘If a man swears by the altar it has no force; but if a man swears by the offering that is on the altar, he is bound.’  You blind men!  For which is of greater worth, the offering or the altar that makes the offering sacred?  Therefore, when a man swears by the Temple he is swearing by that and the One who dwells in it.  And when a man swears by heaven he is swearing by the throne of God and by the One who is seated there.

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The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Acts 17:1-10 tells of the Apostle Paul’s short (three weeks or so) stay in Thessalonica (modern-day Salonika), a prosperous crossroads and center of commerce in Greece.  He met with much hostility from certain Jews, but apparently made a strong and favorable impression on other people, as 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10 testifies.  This epistle dates to approximately 50 C.E., a fact which places it roughly equidistant in chronology between the crucifixion (one of Paul’s great themes) and the writing of the Gospel of Mark, the earliest of the canonical Gospels.  So, when we read 1 Thessalonians, we read one of the oldest documents of the Christian faith.

Paul needed to plant Christianity in Thessalonica because of the three most important factors in real estate:  location, location, and location.  The road that connected Rome to the East was the main thoroughfare in Thessalonica.  So planting a church there helped to spread the Good News of Jesus to many other places.

Paul was in very good spirits in Chapter 1.  His mood darkened as the epistle continued, however.  But let us not get ahead of ourselves.  The Canadian Anglican lectionary I am following covers almost every word of 1 Thessalonians, so I will get to the rest very shortly.  For now let us focus on the text for today;  Paul opens with praise for the renowned faithfulness of the Thessalonian congregation.  He had drawn them to Christ by a lived example, and they were doing likewise for others.  Paul had been a positive influence.

Jesus, in contrast, was angry in Matthew 23.  As much as I have strong disagreements with the Jesus Seminar, I must admit that their Annotated Scholars Version of the Gospels is the most direct rendering of that text for today.

Alas to you

in The Jerusalem Bible becomes

Damn you!

(So much for the Sweet Jesus of many juvenile Sunday School classes!)  But it is clear that Jesus was not being sweet in Matthew 23.  Rather, he was being justifiably critical of professional religious people who imposed needless religious burdens on well-meaning individuals.  These religious elites were, as we say in North America, too clever by half.  They favored ridiculously complicated rules about when swearing an oath was valid.  Jesus cut through these traditions like a knife through soft butter; all religious oaths involved God.

So stop playing games

is my paraphrase of Jesus here.

This seems like a good time to quote Matthew 5:33-37 (The Jerusalem Bible).  This is part of the Sermon on the Mount:

Again, you have learnt how it was said to our ancestors:  You must not break your oath, but must fulfil your oaths to the Lord.  But I say this to you:  do not swear at all, either by heaven, since that is God’s throne; or by the earth, since that is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great king.  Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black.  All you need say is ‘Yes’ if you mean yes, ‘No’ if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

My cumulative lesson is this:  Lived faithfulness will result from proper attitudes.  How can it not?  Anyhow, we are all examples.  But what kind are you?  What kind of example am I?  We are examples of that which animates us.  May this animating force be God Incarnate, Jesus of Nazareth.  And may his concern for others (in all aspects) be ours as well.  May we follow him.  And as we do this, may we remember these words, from Matthew 6:1:

Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven.

Jesus was not always sweet, but he was inspiring and wise.  He still is.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 28, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ANNA JULIA HAYWOOD COOPER, EDUCATOR

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/week-of-proper-16-monday-year-1/

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