Archive for the ‘Civil Rights’ Tag

Respecting the Image of God in Others, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  The Pool, by Palma il Giovane

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday of the Season of God the Father, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty God, who hast given us authority to rule the earth according to thy will:

enable us to manage things with reason and love,

that the whole creation may give thee praise;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 127

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Genesis 1:24-27

Romans 8:18-23

John 5:1-17

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We humans are not the only intelligent beings on the planet.  Studies of animal intelligence prove this point.  Mimi, the stray cat I feed and pet, possesses intelligence, is self-aware, and responds to her environment in a manner that keeps her alive, for example.  I suspect that she knows more about me than I know about her, actually.  Furthermore, dolphins and whales are highly intelligent.  We humans have a responsibility to protect our neighbors who belong to other species, for the common good.

We humans are the only ones, however, to bear the image of God, metaphorically.  God is spirit, after all.  We have dominion over stewardship, not ownership, of the planet and all that dwells therein.  With great power comes great responsibility.  May we exercise that responsibility well and faithfully, thereby leaving creation better than we found it.

May we also leave each other better than we found each other.  May we ignore irrelevant, dehumanizing, categories and respect the image of God in each other from womb to tomb.  This position cuts across the political spectrum, for, in this matter, labels such as liberal, moderate, and conservative are irrelevant and unhelpful.  The label “loving” is germane and helpful, though, especially when navigating morally gray areas and difficult decisions according to which harm will come to somebody regardless of the choice one makes.  A slogan I heard decades ago says,

YOU CANNOT NOT DECIDE.

When we decide, may the love of Christ compel us.

What would Jesus do?  Which families would Jesus separate at the U.S.-Mexican border?  Whom would Jesus insult with racism?  Whom would Jesus exploit?  Whom would Jesus force to reside in substandard housing?  Whose life would Jesus disregard?  Which people would Jesus see and not recognize the image of God in them?

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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Good Religion and Bad Religion   Leave a comment

Above:  Neighbors Sign, Athens, Georgia, October 12, 2017

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Nobody must imagine that he is religious while he still goes on deceiving himself and not keeping control over his tongue; anyone who does this has the wrong idea of religion.  Pure, unspoiled religion, in the eyes of God our Father is this:  coming to the help of orphans and widows when they need it, and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.

–James 1:26-27, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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Theoretical arguments are marginally interesting to me, for I value the verdict of tangible results.  I, as a student of history-or religious and civil rights history in particular–know that innocuous-sounding slogans and talking points can conceal institutional immorality.

Local solutions to local problems,

for example, was, during many political campaigns of 1970 in the U.S. South an affirmation of de jure segregation of public schools (about to end), not of federalism per se.

During the last few days I have been immersing myself in the lives of saints, drafting 28 hagiographies (for July 21-August 13) in preparation for a few days of intensive blogging at SUNDRY THOUGHTS, the parent of this weblog.  Certain saints have lingered in my thoughts.  When Clarence Jordan (1912-1969) grew up in Talbotton, Georgia, he wondered how many church-going people could support Jim Crow laws.  Jordan (pronounced JER-dun) grew up to become a radical figure–a pacifist and a supporter of racial integration–in reactionary southwestern rural Georgia.  St. Dominic (c. 1170-1221), founder of the Order of Preachers, also known as the Dominicans and the Black Friars, eagerly preached orthodoxy in the face of heresy while he deplored the Church’s use of violence against heretics.  Correct methods were essential to success, he said.

The relationship between one’s attitudes and one’s religion can be complicated.  Yes, one who is unapologetically bigoted might gravitate toward a racist, xenophobic, dare I say it–deplorable–theology.  And yes, one who is progressive might choose a liberal theology.  Nevertheless, one should not underestimate the power of religion to transform a person for good or for ill.  You, O reader, probably know or have known someone with whom you could get along easily before he or she had a conversion experience.  Likewise, religion can also make one one charitable in spirit and in deeds.

Staying true to my standard of tangible results, I assert that good religion makes one a better person–a loving, generally tolerant human being.  Good religion does not lead one to deny any person his or her basic human rights.  Good religion flows from the selfless, unconditional love of God.  Good religion makes one an agent of that love.  Good religion encourages decency.

I admit freely to the role of my background in formulating these thoughts.  I recall living in Alapaha, Georgia, from June 1989 to June 1991, when my father was the pastor of the Alapaha United Methodist Church in town and the Glory United Methodist Church a few miles outside of town.  One of our neighbors, as well as a parishioner, I remember, was Henry, an older man.  I cannot forget the day I overheard Henry announce that he was about to perform some “Afro-American engineering,” an undisguised racist term he used in lieu of the even more offensive “nigger rigging.”  I remember feeling uncomfortable as I heard those words and knowing that Henry should have known better.  I know, based on clear memories, that Henry was no outlier.

I, as a historian, understand that context matters greatly.  I, as a historian who, in academic writing, has quoted offensive statements, many of them containing slurs, grasp that the only morally acceptable way  to repeat some language is to quote it while making clear that I disapprove of the content of that quote.  I also know that Henry was not quoting.

Good religion does not make excuses for any prejudice directed at a human being or any population.  No, good religion recognizes the image of God in others.  Good religion follows a consistent ethic of divine love, regardless of where on the political spectrum that love places one.  Besides, terms such as liberal, conservative, reactionary, and revolutionary are inherently relative, having no fixed, timeless meaning with regard to policy proposals.

I, as a Christian, point to Jesus as the embodiment of good religion.  If I were to do otherwise, I would have only a pretense of a legitimate claim to call myself a Christian.  I recognize Jesus in his historical, socio-political-economic, and religious contexts as a figure still radical by contemporary standards, even in much of organized Christianity.

Good religion is a high calling–seemingly an impossible standard.  It is an impossible standard, relying on human strengths.  It is possible only via grace.  Each of us falls short of good religion in its fullness, and always will on this side of Heaven.  By grace we can do better, though.  May we do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBA OF IONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIOVANNI MARIA BOCCARDO, FOUNDER OF THE POOR SISTERS OF SAINT CAJETAN/GAETANO; AND HIS BROTHER, SAINT LUIGI BOCCARDO, “APOSTLE OF MERCIFUL LOVE”

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSÉ DE ANCHIETA, APOSTLE OF BRAZIL AND FATHER OF BRAZILIAN NATIONAL LITERATURE

THE FEAST OF THOMAS JOSEPH POTTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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Moral Renewal   Leave a comment

Above:   Cyrus II

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY OF KINGDOMTIDE, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Almighty God, in a world of change you have placed eternity in our hearts

and have given us power to discern good from evil:

Grant us sincerity that we may persistently seek the things that endure,

refusing those which perish, and that, amid things vanishing and deceptive,

we may see the truth steadily, follow the light faithfully,

and grow ever richer in that love which is the life of the people;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 155

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Ezra 1:2-4; 3:10-13

Psalm 51

Jude 17-21, 24-25

Luke 13:22-24, 34-35

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The readings from Mark 13 and Jude share the warning to avoid following false teachers and to remain in eternal life, which, according to John 17:3, is knowing God via Jesus.  In Mark 13 and Jude this warning comes in the context of apocalyptic expectations.  Mark 13 also occurs in the context of the imminent crucifixion of Jesus.  The question of how to identify false teachers is an important one.  This is frequently a difficult matter, given the reality of the existence of theological blind spots.  If one backs up just one verse to Jude 16, however, we read a description of false teachers:

They are a set of grumblers and malcontents.  They follow their lusts.  Bombast comes rolling from their lips, and they court favour to gain their ends.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

That helps somewhat.

False teachers distract us from God, in whom we can have new beginnings.  The new beginning in Ezra 1 and 3 (Chapter 2 is a list of returning exiles.) culminates in the laying and dedication of the foundation of the Second Temple at Jerusalem.  The narrative of the construction of that Temple continues through Chapter 6.  In The Episcopal Church we read Psalm 51, a prayer for healing and moral renewal, on Ash Wednesday.  Moral renewal is of the essence.

That is also a frequently disputed project.  What constitutes moral renewal?  I know enough about history to be able to speak or write extemporaneously about “moral” defenses of offenses including serfdom, chattel slavery, Apartheid, Jim Crow laws, and the economic exploitation of industrial workers.  Anyone who defends any of those sins in any circumstance needs moral renewal.  All of those sins violate the law of love, which is a helpful guide for determining what is moral.

The truth is that all of us need moral renewal.  The most pious and kind-hearted person has the need of moral renewal in some parts of his or her life.  We can find that renewal by turning to God and avoiding false teachers, many of whom offer easy answers to difficult questions.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILARY OF POITIERS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS, “ATHANASIUS OF THE WEST,” AND HYMN WRITER; MENTOR OF SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN KEIMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENTIGERN (MUNGO), ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF GLASGOW

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

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Difficulty   1 comment

Above:  St. Titus

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:

Genesis 9:18-27

Psalm 39:4-8a

Titus 2:1-10

Matthew 12:38-42

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Some of the readings for this Sunday are difficult.  Genesis 9:18-27 gives us the misnamed Curse of Ham (“Cursed be Canaan,” verse 25 says).  This curse follows a euphemistic description of either the castration or the incestuous and homosexual rape of Noah by his son Ham.  As one acquainted with the shameful history of racism, slavery, and institutionalized racial segregation  in the United States knows well, the misuse of this passage to justify these sins is an old story.  I know that story well, due to reading in both primary and secondary sources.  Primary sources include back issues of The Presbyterian Journal (founded as The Southern Presbyterian Journal), a publication by and for ardent defenders of racism and institutionalized racial segregation in the 1940s forward, some of whom went on to found the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), schismatic to the Presbyterian Church in the United States, or, informally, the old Southern Presbyterian Church, in 1973.  (The events of 1942-1972 are not ancient history!)  I have index cards from which I can cite many examples of quoting this and other passages of scripture to criticize efforts to work for the civil rights of African Americans, so nobody should challenge me regarding the facts of this objective matter.

Titus 2:1-10 is likewise troublesome.  Insisting upon submissive wives and slaves is indefensible.  If one thinks that Jesus might return during one’s lifetime, one might not argue for social reform.  God will take care of that, right?  Maybe not!  Besides, do we not still have the moral obligation to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  The epistle dates to the first century C.E.  I am typing this post in  2017, however.  The passage of time has proven the inaccuracy of the expectation that Jesus would return in the first century C.E.

David Ackerman summarizes these two readings as focusing

on ways in which God calls Christians to repent of misusing the Bible to the unjust exclusion and oppression of others.

Beyond the Lectionary (2013), pages 37-38

The lack of faith of certain scribes and Pharisees is evident in Matthew 12, for they request a sign from Jesus.  (Faith requires no signs.)  Our Lord and Savior replies in such a way as to indicate

rejection experienced in death yet God’s victory over it.

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003), page 1768

The possibility of death is evident in Psalm 39.  A sense of awareness of one’s mortality and vulnerability pervades the text.  The author turns to God for deliverance.

Sometimes deliverance from death does not come.  Yet, in God, there is victory over death.

May, via God, there also be an end to

unjust exclusion and oppression of others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANKLIN CLARK FRY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA AND THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANCON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2017/06/06/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-in-lent-ackerman/

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Mutuality in God and Human Dignity   1 comment

Brooms

Above:  Brooms and Charcoal for Sale, Jeanerette, Louisiana, October 1938

Photographer = Lee Russell

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USF33-011853-M3

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The Collect:

Sovereign God, you have created us to live

in loving community with one another.

Form us for life that is faithful and steadfast,

and teach us to trust like little children,

that we may reflect the image of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 22:13-30 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 24:1-5 (Tuesday)

Psalm 112 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 7:1-9 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 7:10-16 (Tuesday)

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Alleluia.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord

and have great delight in his commandments.

–Psalm 112:1, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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I make no excuses for much of the content from Deuteronomy.  Consider, for example, O reader, the following passage regarding an allegation that a young woman has lost her virginity prior to her marriage:

But if the charge proves true, the girl was found not to have been a virgin, then the girl shall be brought out of the entrance of her father’s house, and the men of her town shall stone her to death; for she did a shameful thing in Israel, committing fornication while under her father’s authority.  Thus you will sweep away evil from your midst.

–22:20-21, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

As we continue to read, we learn that a man a married woman caught committing adultery, an engaged virgin and another man who have had sex, and a man who rapes an engaged young woman are to die.  Furthermore, an engaged young woman who has become a victim of rape incurs no legal penalty, but a man who rapes a virgin not yet engaged must pay a bride price and marry his victim.  (But what about the young woman’s wishes?)

Thus you will sweep away evil from your midst

repeats throughout Deuteronomy 22, echoing after each death sentence.

The readings from Deuteronomy exist in the context of responsibility to the community and to God.  Deuteronomy 24:5 makes plain the responsibility of the married people to each other.  All of these ethics exist also in 1 Corinthians 7.

The ethics of responsibility to God, the community, and each other apply well in other circumstances.  A healthy society avoids the tyranny of the majority or a powerful minority.  The historical record tells that sometimes (if not often) powerful groups will, given the opportunity, deny civil rights and liberties to members of other groups, thereby denying human dignity.  One might think of race-based slavery, civil rights struggles in many nations, struggles for equal rights for men and women, the oppression of the Gypsies, and the experience of Apartheid in South Africa.  Sadly, not all of those examples exist in the past tense.  Often people oppress each other in the name of God, whose image both the oppressed and the oppressors bear.  However, a proper ethic of responsibility to the community contains a sense of mutuality, which denies anyone the right to oppress or exploit anyone else.

May mutuality in God, informed by a sense of dignity inherent in the image of God, inspire proper treatment of each other.  That means, among other things, refraining from executing young women for not being virgins or forcing any woman to marry the man who raped her.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 2, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WALTER RAUSCHENBUSCH, WASHINGTON GLADDEN, AND JACOB RIIS, ADVOCATES OF THE SOCIAL GOSPEL

THE FEAST OF CHARLES ALBERT DICKINSON, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE DUFFIELD, JR., AND HIS SON, SAMUEL DUFFIELD, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTERS

THE FEAST OF HENRY MONTAGU BUTLER, EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-22-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Loving Our Enemies   1 comment

Salt March 1930

Above:  Mohandas Gandhi Leading the Salt March in India, 1930

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you revealed the incarnation of your Son by the brilliant shining of a star.

Shine the light of your justice always in our hearts and over all lands,

and accept our lives as the treasure we offer in your praise and for your service,

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 21

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 22:1-9

Psalm 110

Luke 6:27-31

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The king at your right hand, O Lord,

shall smite down kings in the day of his wrath.

In all his majesty, he shall judge the nations,

smiting heads over all the wide earth.

–Psalm 110:5-6, Common Worship (2000)

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Luke 6:27-31 uses hyperbole to make crucial ethical points:

  1. God’s love extends to our enemies and oppressors (Psalm 110 not withstanding), and
  2. We ought to have a benevolent attitude toward them.  Whatever we do, it must be in the best interest of our oppressors and enemies.  Since whatever we do to others we do to ourselves, what could be better for oppressors than to cease oppressing?

Gandhian nonviolence serves an excellent example of Luke 6:27-31 in action.  I think especially of those bold African-American men and women who chose not to fight racist violence with their own violence during the Civil Rights Movement.  Their nonviolence denied their attackers any pretense of moral justification and troubled the consciences of many of those who committed violence against them.  Hopefully such nonviolence detracted many from committing more violence.

Proverbs 22:8-9 tells us:

He who sows injustice shall reap misfortune;

His rod of wrath shall fail.

The generous man is blessed,

For he gives of his bread to the poor.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

We reap what we sow.  Our fruits will reveal what kind of tree we are.  May we sow righteousness and compassion.  May we be healthy trees.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 10, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWIN HATCH, ANGLICAN PRIEST, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEO THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/devotion-for-january-5-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted November 10, 2014 by neatnik2009 in Luke 6, Proverbs 22, Psalm 110

Tagged with , , ,

Inclusion and Exclusion, Part III   1 comment

Peter's Vison of the Sheet with Animals

Above:  Peter’s Vision of the Sheet with Animals

Image in the Public Domain

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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:

Isaiah 4:2-6

Psalm 27

Acts 11:1-18

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One thing have I asked of the LORD;

one thing I seek;

that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life;

To behold the fair beauty of the LORD

and to seek him in his temple.

–Psalm 27:5-6, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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For the love of God is broader

than the measure of man’s minds

and the heart of the Eternal

is most wonderfully kind.

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But we make his love too narrow

by false limits of our own;

and we magnify his strictness

with a zeal he will not own.

–Frederick William Faber, “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy” (1854)

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The vision of Jerusalem in Isaiah 4 is that of a city purified from moral corruption, such as economic exploitation (3:13-15).   The purified city, which the text describes in imagery reminiscent of the Exodus, will be a glorious place.

That is all very nice, but I become nervous when mere mortals become judges of purity.  Then, in the worst cases, people undertake inquisitions, Donatism, and allegedly holy wars in the name of God.  Less extreme cases also offend me greatly, for they violate the inclusive spirit of Acts 11:1-18.  Besides, I fail the purity tests which other people design.  I recall something which Philip Yancey wrote in a book.  He attended a Bible college in the 1960s.  That institution’s grooming standards for men would have excluded Jesus, as artists have depicted him traditionally.  And there was no emphasis on social justice, such as civil rights.

So may we strive, by grace, to love our neighbors as ourselves and to respect the dignity of every human being.  May we not be too afraid to act compassionately toward each other.  May mere human decency be a hallmark of our behavior.  And may we leave matters of purity to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 26, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 25:  THE TWENTIETH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT CEDD, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF LONDON

THE FEAST OF DMITRY BORTNIANSKY, COMPOSER

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

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/10/26/devotion-for-tuesday-after-the-second-sunday-of-advent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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