Archive for the ‘Ark of the Covenant’ Tag

The Church Militant and the Church Triumphant   2 comments

Above:  Saint John on Patmos, by the Limbourg Brothers

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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Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 24

Revelation 7:9-17

John 11:32-44

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Three of the four readings for this day come from the context of tribulation.  The other reading (Psalm 24) is a text composed for the procession of the Ark of the Covenant.

God is the King of Glory, as Psalm 24 attests, but appearances contradict that truth much of the time.  The apocalyptic tone on Isaiah 25:6-9 and Revelation 7:9-17 confirms the discrepancy between appearances and reality.  In John 11, with the story of the raising of Lazarus, immediately precedes the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (John 12).  Furthermore, the Gospel of John tells us, the raising of Lazarus was the last straw before the decision to execute Jesus (John 11:47f).

Despite the violence and other perfidy of the world, we read, God will remain faithful to the righteous and will defeat evil.  That will be a day of rejoicing and the beginning of a new age.  To be precise, it will be a day of rejoicing for the righteous and of gnashing of teeth for the unrighteous.

That day seems to be far off, does it not?  Perhaps it is.  I dare not add my name to the long list of those who have predicted the date of the parousia.  I do, however, rejoice that the Church Triumphant exists and constitutes that great cloud of witnesses surrounding the Church Militant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 26, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANNE AND JOACHIM, PARENTS OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2019/07/26/devotion-for-all-saints-day-year-b-humes/

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Psalms 82-85   1 comment

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POST XXXII OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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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 everlasting 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 226

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Show us, O LORD, Your faithfulness;

grant us your deliverance.

–Psalm 85:8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Show us, O Yahweh, your kindness,

and give us your prosperity.

–Psalm 85:8, Mitchell J. Dahood translation

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Show us your steadfast love, O LORD,

and grant us your salvation.

–Psalm 85:7, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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LORD, show us your love

and grant us your deliverance.

–Psalm 85:7, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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The act of comparing translations can yield much.  For example, the Hebrew word hesed can mean “faithfulness,” “kindness,” “love,” and “steadfast love.”  Likewise, another Hebrew word can mean “deliverance,” “salvation,” and “prosperity.”  In the context of Psalm 85 it is deliverance from the Babylonian Exile and prosperity that only God can provide.  Related to these matters is the fact that “righteousness” and “justice” are the same in the Bible.  I bring up this point because of Psalm 82, which tells us that God’s justice is universal.

The author of Psalm 83 assumes that enemies of ancient Israel are automatically enemies of God also.  Thus he has no hesitation to ask God to smite them.  Yet, as we read in Psalm 81, God has enemies in ancient Israel also.  Furthermore, a recurring theme in the Hebrew Bible is the faithfulness of certain Gentiles, including the prostitute Rahab and her family (Joshua 2 and 6) and the Aramean general Naaman (2 Kings 5), both from national enemies.  In the Book of Jonah, a work of satirical fiction from the post-Babylonian Exilic period, God recognizes the possibility that enemies of ancient Israel will repent and desires that they do so.   Reality is more complicated than the author of Psalm 83, in his understandable grief and anger, perceives it to be.

A faithful response to God includes both gratitude and obedience.  This segue brings me to Psalm 84, my favorite psalm, one which Johannes Brahms set to music gloriously in A German Requiem.  The psalmist writes as a pilgrim to the Temple at Jerusalem.  He approaches the Presence of God humbly and filled with awe.  The author delights to be in the Presence of God, which he understands to exist physically (via the Ark of the Covenant) at the Temple.

If Rahab and her family could become part of Israel, surely divine judgment and mercy crossed national barriers in antiquity.  If the Gentile Ruth could become the grandmother of David, YHWH was never just a national deity.  If the alien Naaman could recognize the power of YHWH, there was an opening to Gentiles at the time of the divided monarchy.

If divine justice is universal, as I affirm, we will do well to cease imagining that God is on our side and strive instead to be on God’s side.  We can succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROFT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS, EPISCOPAL SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS CLAUDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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Keeping Faith   1 comment

Ark of the Covenant in the Temple of Dagon

Above:  The Ark of the Covenant in the Temple of Dagon

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, judge eternal, you love justice and hate oppression,

and you call us to share your zeal for truth.

Give us courage to take our stand with all victims of bloodshed and greed,

and, following your servants and prophets, to look to the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,

your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 7:1, 10-26 (Thursday)

1 Samuel 5:1-12 (Friday)

1 Samuel 6:1-16 (Saturday)

Psalm 82 (All Days)

Hebrews 10:26-31 (Thursday)

Hebrews 10:32-39 (Friday)

Matthew 24:15-27 (Saturday)

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God takes his stand in the divine assembly,

surrounded by the gods he gives judgement.

–Psalm 82:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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In 1 Samuel 5 and 6 Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant, which proved to be more than they knew how to handle.  Idols bowed down to the Ark.  The Ashdodites came down with what was most likely venereal disease, although other translations include hemorrhoids and the bubonic plague.  The Philistines returned the Ark promptly.

God is more than we mere mortals can handle or contain.  Some of our theological propositions are true (at least partially), but the combination of these does not equal the truth of God.  There is always a glorious mystery of divinity; one should accept and embrace it.  We ought to persevere in faith and good works, especially when doing so is difficult.  Doing the right thing during good times is easy, and every day is a good day for faith and good works.  Yet keeping faith during challenging times is when, as an old saying tells us, the rubber meets the road.  When we fail, we have an obligation to express remorse and to repent.

Writing these words and creating this post is easy.  Living these words is more difficult, however.  I have to work on that task daily.  The results vary from day to day and from time of day to time of day.  To keep trying is crucial.  To do so while trusting in God, who is always somewhat mysterious, and in the existence of grace makes succeeding more likely.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 23, 2016 COMMON ERA

WEDNESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF GEORGE RUNDLE PRYNNE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR, PATRIARCH OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH VON LAUFENBERG, GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGROVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-15-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Christ, the Temple of Yahweh   1 comment

Temple of Solomon

Above:   The Temple of Solomon

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Christ, the Temple of Yahweh

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The Collect:

Merciful Lord God, we do not presume to come before you

trusting in our own righteousness,

but in your great and abundant mercies.

Revive our faith, we pray; heal our bodies, and mend our communities,

that we may evermore dwell in your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 6:23-38 (Thursday)

1 Kings 8:14-21 (Friday)

1 Kings 8:31-40 (Saturday)

Psalm 96:1-9 (All Days)

2 Corinthians 5:11-17 (Thursday)

2 Corinthians 11:1-6 (Friday)

Luke 4:31-37 (Saturday)

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Great is Yahweh, worthy of all praise,

more awesome than any of the gods.

All the gods of the nations are idols.

–Psalm 96:4-5a, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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King Solomon presided over the construction of the first Temple at Yahweh.  That process entailed forced labor, unfortunately.  That structure functioned both religiously, housing the Ark of the Covenant, and politically, boosting the monarchy.  The crown controlled the place where God dwelt, according to the orthodoxy of the day.  How convenient was that?

Jesus engaged in conflicts with people attached to the successor of Solomon’s Temple.  The Second Temple, expanded by the order of King Herod the Great as a political and self-serving policy, was the seat of collaboration with the occupying Roman forces.  Yes, much of the Jewish populace of Palestine had great respect for the Temple, but the fact of the exploitative system rooted in that place remained.  That Jesus competed with the Temple and the priesthood, healing people and offering reconciliation with God, contributed to animosity between him and people invested in the Temple system financially.

Christ became the new Temple, the figure via whom people can become new creations.  He was the figure whom St. Paul the Apostle proclaimed jealously, defending his version of the Christian gospel.  Christ became the timeless Temple free of corruption, the Temple no power can control or destroy.

May all nations worship God at that Temple.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 28, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR C 

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BINNEY, ENGLISH CONFORMIST MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND “ARCHBISHOP OF NONCONFORMITY”

THE FEAST OF ANDREW REED, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ANNA JULIA HAYWOOD COOPER AND ELIZABETH EVELYN WRIGHT, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATORS

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH C. CLEPHANE, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/02/28/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-4-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Presence of God, Part V   1 comment

women-at-the-empty-tomb-fra-angelico

Above:  Women at the Empty Tomb, by Fra Angelico

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you give us the joy of celebrating our Lord’s resurrection.

Give us also the joys of life in your service,

and bring us at last to the full joy of life eternal,

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 32

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Samuel 6:1-15

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Luke 24:1-12

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The presence of God was a frightful thing in much of the Old Testament.  It was not always so, for Abraham and God got along quite well and casually, according to much of Genesis.  God seems to have been the patriarch’s best friend.  God seems to have been more distant (at least in presentation) by the Book of Exodus.  In 2 Samuel 6 unfortunate Uzzah, who reached out to steady the Ark of the Covenant because the oxen pulling the cart had stumbled, died.

The LORD was incensed at Uzzah.  And God struck him down on the spot for his indiscretion, and he died there beside the Ark of God.

–Verse 7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Why acting to prevent the Ark of the Covenant from falling to the ground constituted an indiscretion, much less an act worthy of death by the proverbial hand of God, eludes me.  I do not think that it was indiscretion, but a faithful and respectful action.  Nevertheless, I acknowledge that the faith community which repeated this story as part of its oral tradition until someone thought to write it down understood the matter differently.

Getting too close to the presence of God was, according to many for a long time, fraught with peril.  But what about those stories of God and Abraham taking strolls together, once with the patriarch haggling with God over the lives of people he did not know?  Perceptions of God have changed much over time.

This is a devotion for Wednesday in Easter Week, hence the reading from the beginning of Luke 24.  There the tomb is empty and Jesus is elsewhere.  The narrative catches up with him in the pericope which begins with verse 13.  The link between the two main assigned readings is the physical presence of God.  It is a cause of peril for one who touches the Ark of the Covenant in 2 Samuel 6 yet not in the Gospels.  There Jesus walks, talks, and dines with people, much as God did with Abraham.

To focus on the resurrection theme in Luke 24 I turn to two other readings.  I imagine certain followers of Jesus, once they had recovered from the shock of the resurrection, reciting part of Psalm 118:

The same stone which the builders rejected

has become the chief cornerstone.

This is the LORD’s doing,

and it is marvelous in our eyes.

On this day the LORD has acted;

we will rejoice and be glad in it.

–Verses 22-24, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

I think also of 1 Corinthians 15:17-19 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989):

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those who have died in Christ have perished.  If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

I admit to doubts regarding certain doctrines and dogmas of the Church, but affirming the resurrection of Jesus is mandatory if one is to be a Christian.  Without the resurrection we are left with Dead Jesus, who cannot redeem anybody from anything.  The resurrection is therefore an indispensable of the process of atonement.  Actually, the resurrection is the final stage in that process, one I understand as having commenced with the Incarnation.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/devotion-for-wednesday-after-easter-sunday-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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Faults of the Temple   1 comment

Temple of Solomon

Above:  Temple of Solomon

I scanned the image from a Bible salesman’s sample book from the late 1800s.  The volume is falling apart, unfortunately, but it is quite nice to have nevertheless.

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The Collect:

Holy God, through your Son you have called us to live faithfully and act courageously.

Keep us steadfast in your covenant of grace,

and teach us the wisdom that comes only 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:

1 Kings 6:1-4, 21-22 (Monday)

2 Chronicles 29:1-11, 16-19 (Tuesday)

Ezra 6:1-6 (Wednesday)

Psalm 84 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 3:10-23 (Monday)

Hebrews 9:23-28 (Tuesday)

Mark 11:15-19 (Wednesday)

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How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!

My soul has a desire and a longing to enter the courts of the Lord;

my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

–Psalm 84:1, Common Worship:  Daily Prayer (2005)

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The Temple at Jerusalem was the heart of Judaism for a long time.  There, for centuries, was the Ark of the Covenant.  The Temple was where one had an especially palpable sense of the presence of God, although God dwelt everywhere.  King Solomon, using forced labor (see 1 Kings 5:27-30), oversaw the construction of the first Temple, an elaborate structure.  Forces of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire destroyed Solomon’s Temple in 587 B.C.E., but the Persian Empire provided support for the construction of the Second Temple.  King Herod the Great, a client ruler within the Roman Empire, expanded the Second Temple greatly, creating the Temple of which we read in the Gospels.  That Temple was the seat of Judean collaboration with the Roman occupiers.  It was also the site of the sacrifices of animals which poor people had purchased with currency they had exchanged for a fee; Roman currency was technically idolatrous.  The rich got richer and the poor got poorer in the name of piety.  The Temple system was corrupt.

This was why our Lord and Savior criticized that system and competed with it.  Thus many of his staunchest opponents benefited from that system.  Regardless of the number of purifications and rededications of the Temple, the flaw therein remained, for the upkeep of the Temple depended greatly upon money from people who could not afford to pay.

Thus Jesus, in the New Testament, replaces the Temple and the accompanying system.  In him are no political conflicts of interest related to collaboration with an occupying power.  In him are no demands for fees the poor cannot afford to pay.  In him there is no corruption.  He is the Passover lamb, whose blood, death, and Resurrection have atoned for sins.  (The Passover lambs in the Book of Exodus protected Israelites from the sins of Egyptians, not themselves, by the way.)  He is the Alpha and the Omega.  He is, in the words of 1 Corinthians 3, the foundation of the Church, God’s building.

And Judaism has done quite well without a Temple since 70 C.E., not that one should celebrate the Roman destruction of Jerusalem during the First Jewish War.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN ROBERTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HOWELL ELVET LEWIS, WELSH CONGREGATIONALIST CLERGYMAN AND POET

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF THOMAS MERTON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-third-sunday-in-lent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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