Archive for the ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ Tag

Paradoxes and Faith   1 comment

Above:  Jacob’s Ladder, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O Lord, keep us watchful for the appearing of thy beloved Son,

and grant that, in all the changes of this world, we may be strengthened by thy steadfast love;

through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with

thee and the Holy Spirit be glory, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 117

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Genesis 28:10-22

1 John 5:1-5

Matthew 11:2-10

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First, who is a child of God?

1 John 5:1 tells us:

Whosoever believes that Jesus is the Christ

is a child of God,

and whoever loves the father

loves the son.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Jacob/Israel lived and died long before the Incarnation, so he was not responsible for affirming Jesus, but he was responsible for keeping a moral code he had recently violated, with the help of his mother, in Genesis 28.  Jacob/Israel was a trickster.  Yet, we read, God was with him.  Obviously, this was not due to any merit of Jacob/Israel, by grace, a child of God.

Second, do children of God overcome the world?  1 John 5:4-5, echoing Jesus in John 16:33, says they do.  One may recall the execution of St. John the Baptist on the order of Herod Antipas.  One may also recall that John 16:33 is near to the crucifixion of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel.

God frequently makes little or no sense, according to human standards.  These two paradoxes point to that truth.  Grace is scandalous, as in the case of Jacob/Israel.  The world, as it is, does not conform to the divine order.  Furthermore, we mere mortals see and comprehend only in part.  We need to abandon the idol of false certainty, however psychologically satisfying it may be.  We need to walk in faith instead.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VENERABLE MATTHEW TALBOT, RECOVERING ALCOHOLIC IN DUBLIN, IRELAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY GIANELLI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF SAINT ALPHONSUS LIGUORI AND THE SISTERS OF MARY DELL’ORTO

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK LUCIAN HOSMER, U.S. UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SEATTLE, FIRST NATIONS CHIEF, WAR LEADER, AND DIPLOMAT

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The Call of God VII   1 comment

Above:  Jacob’s Dream, by William Blake

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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Genesis 28:10-19 or Isaiah 5:1-7

Psalm 13

1 Corinthians 2:1-16

Matthew 8:18-34

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Isaiah 5:1-7 and Psalm 13 point in one theological direction.  Genesis 28:10-19 points in another direction.  The note of judgment for injustice and iniquity sounds in Isaiah 5:1-7 and Psalm 13, but God shows mercy to the deceitful Jacob, on the run from Esau, his vengeful brother, whom he had cheated more than once, in Genesis 28:10-19.  Via the dream of Jacob’s Ladder (more of a stairway or a ramp, actually), God confirms that Jacob is the carrier of the patriarchal promise.  Sometimes the wisdom of God seems foolish.

The call of God on our lives is to follow without making excuses.  The call of God on our lies is to follow even when doing so is inconvenient–or more.  The call of God on our lives is to function as vehicles of grace, to leave others better than they were when first our paths crossed theirs, the owners of the herd of swine in Matthew 8:23-24 not withstanding.

That which we do to others, we do to ourselves; this is a profound statement.  If one takes it seriously, one will be less likely to act in selfish ways that benefit me (at the expense of others) in the short term.  If one takes this truth seriously, one will be less likely to fail to recognize problems of others, as being problems that God will also affect one.  If we internalize this truth, we will be less likely to make excuses and shirk our responsibilities.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 24, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS À KEMPIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, PRIEST, AND SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN NEWTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WALTER RAUSCHENBUSCH, U.S. BAPTIST MINISTER AND THEOLOGIAN OF THE SOCIAL GOSPEL

THE FEAST OF SAINTS VINCENTIA GEROSA AND BARTHOLOMEA CAPITANIO, COFOUNDERS OF THE SISTERS OF CHARITY OF LOVERE

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/24/devotion-for-proper-10-year-a-humes/

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The Scandal of Grace II: Enemies   Leave a comment

Above:  Jacob’s Ladder, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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O Lord, we ask you mercifully to hear us;

and grant that we, to whom you have given a hearty desire to pray,

may by your mighty aid be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 138

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Genesis 28:10-22

Psalm 3

Acts 9:22, 26-31

John 3:4-17

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One might have enemies for various reasons.  If one is like Jacob, a schemer and a trickster, one antagonizes others easily.  However, if one is like St. Paul the Apostle, one might antagonize via one’s occasional brusqueness as well as one’s obedience to God.

The scandal of grace is also evident.  Why else would Jacob become an agent of the divine covenant?  Why else would God choose Saul of Tarsus?  And why else would the Second Person of the Trinity incarnate, live, die, and resurrect, for the benefit of the human race?

We humans seem to like the scandal of grace when it benefits us and those similar to us yet to resent it when it works to the benefit of those we do not like.  That is sinful.  Should we not rejoice that God is so generous?  One might think of the satirical character of Jonah, from the book that bears his name.  One of the points of the Book of Jonah is not to be like Jonah, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH ANN SETON, FOUNDRESS OF THE AMERICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF LANGRES, TERTICUS OF LANGRES, GALLUS OF CLERMONT, GREGORY OF TOURS, AVITUS I OF CLERMONT, MAGNERICUS OF TRIER, AND GAUGERICUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN LUDWIG FREYDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

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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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Genesis and Mark, Part XV: Epiphanies and Reactions or Responses Thereto   1 comment

jacobs-ladder-william-blake

Above:  Jacob’s Ladder, by William Blake

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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 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 27:30-45; 28:10-22

Psalm 84 (Morning)

Psalms 42 and 32 (Evening)

Mark 9:1-13

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 27-28:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/20/week-of-proper-9-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/31/proper-11-year-a/

Mark 9:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/week-of-6-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-1-saturday-year-1/

The Feast of the Transfiguration of Jesus (August 6):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-the-transfiguration-of-jesus-august-6/

Kings (2009):

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/17/kings-2009/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/prayer-for-the-third-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-third-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/prayer-of-confession-for-the-third-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/02/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-third-sunday-in-lent/

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Sometimes poetry can convey truth better than a straight-forward account .  That, I am convinced, is why the Gospel accounts of the Transfiguration work so well; they are prose poetry.

Back in Mark 8:27-38, Peter had confessed Jesus as Messiah.  then our Lord had predicted his death and resurrection, which Peter did not take well.  So Jesus rebuked him.  One must take up one’s cross and follow me, Jesus said.  Then, in 9;1, came a prediction many have misunderstood:

In truth I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.  (The New Jerusalem Bible)

The Markan account of the Transfiguration follows immediately.  Textual context matters very much.

In the Transfiguration we have the true identity of James revealed to Peter, James, and John.  The trouble with the proposed three booths (or shelters) was at least two-fold.  First, any attempt to institutionalize the moment would have prevented them from moving forward to Jerusalem and the ultimate Holy Week.  Second, the three booths would have been the same size, I presume.  What would have differentiated Jesus from Moses and Elijah?

All of that builds up to my main point.  The three Apostles were terrified.  They did not know what to say, but Peter spoke anyway.  In contrast, in Genesis 28, Jacob the schemer was

shaken (verse 17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures),

was confident, and did know what to say.  When God becomes present in a spectacular manner, we might be terrified or shaken.  Yet, if we are spiritually where we ought to be, confidence is the proper result, for God is with us.  But if we are on the wrong side of God….

Recently I found Kings, a 2009 NBC television series, on DVD.  It is a retelling of sorts of the Saul-David story from 1 Samuel.  The setting is a parallel reality, in contemporary times.  Silas Benjamin is the absolute monarch of the Kingdom of Gilboa, the newly-rebuilt capital city of which is Shiloh.  Gilboa is at war with Gath, its northern neighbor.  The series ran only twelve episodes (including the two-part pilot), for it audience did not find it, unfortunately.  In the last episode King Silas, once the chosen of God, hears from God for the first time in a while.  God appears in a thunderstorm and tells Silas that David Shepherd is the new chosen king.  Silas does not take this well, and David must go into exile in Gath.

That scene culminated a series which began one Reverend Samuels confronting Silas and delivering a message of God’s rejection.  Silas said in reaction,

To hell with God.

With an attitude like that, what else was God to say at the end?

May our attitude be much better.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MALTBIE DAVENPORT BABCOCK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ERIK IX OF SWEDEN, KING AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF JOHN I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF TAMIHANA TE RAUPPARAHA, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-in-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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God = Hope   1 comment

Above: Jacob’s Ladder, by William Blake (Circa 1800)

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Genesis 28:10-22 (An American Translation):

Leaving Beersheba, Jacob set out for Haran.  Reaching a certain sanctuary, he spent the night there.  He took one of the stones of the sanctuary, and using it for a pillow, he lay down in that sanctuary.  He had a dream in which he saw a ladder set up on the earth, with its top reaching the sky, and angels of God were ascending and descending on it,  Then the LORD stood over him, and said,

I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and of Isaac.  The land on which you are lying, I am going to give to you and your descendants.  Your descendants shall be like the dust on the ground; you shall spread to the west, to the east, to the north, and to the south, so that all the races of the earth will invoke blessings on one another through you and your descendants.  I will be with you, and guard you wherever you go, and bring you back to this land; for I will never forsake you, until I have done what I have promised you.

When Jacob woke from his sleep, he said,

The LORD must surely be in this place–and I did not know it!

He was awe-struck, and said,

What an awesome place this is!  This can be nothing other the house of God, and that the gate of the sky.

Accordingly, he called the name of that sanctuary Bethel [house of God] whereas the earlier name of the city had been Luz.

So when Jacob rose in the morning, he took the stone which he had used as a pillow, and setting it up as a sacred pillar, he poured oil on its top.  Jacob then made this vow:

If God go with me, and watch over me on this journey that I am making, and give me food to eat and clothes to wear, so that I come home safely to my father’s house, then the LORD shall be my God, and this stone which I have set up as a sacred pillar shall be God’s house, and I will give to thee a portion of everything that thou givest me.

Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High,

abides under the shadow of the Almighty.

He shall say to the LORD,

“You are my refuge and my stronghold,

my God in whom I put my trust.”

He shall deliver you from the snare of the hunter,

and from the deadly pestilence.

4 He shall cover you with his pinions,

and you shall find refuge under his wings.

You shall not be afraid of any terror by night,

nor of the arrow that flies by day;

Of the plague that stalks in the darkness,

nor of the sickness that lays waste at mid-day.

14 Because he is bound to me in love,

therefore I will deliver him;

I will protect him, because he knows my name.

15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him;

I am with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and bring him to honor.

16 With long life will I satisfy him,

and show him my salvation.

Matthew 9:18-26 (An American Translation):

Just as he [Jesus] said this to them, an official came up to him and bowing down before him said to him,

My daughter has just died.  But come!  Lay your hand on her and she will come to life!

And Jesus got up and followed him with his disciples.  And a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel of his cloak.  For she said to herself,

If I can just touch his cloak, I will get well.

And Jesus turned and saw her, and he said,

Courage, my daughter!  Your faith has cured you!

And from that time the woman was well.

When Jesus reached the official’s house,and saw the flute-players and the disturbance the crowd was making, he said,

Go away, for the girl is not dead; she is asleep.

And they laughed at him.  But when he had driven the people out, he went in and grasped herhand, and the girl got up.  And the news of this spread all over that part of the country.

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The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; 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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Jacob was a schemer, far from a pillar of faith and integrity.  He had stolen his brother’s Esau birthright and paternal blessing.  And Jacob enjoyed the company of Hittite women, a fact which disturbed Rebekah, his mother.  So he was off (per orders) to visit the household of his kinsman Laban and meet a suitable wife.

Along his way, Jacob had to sleep on a rocky hilltop.  It was a barren, foreboding place, but it was what was available.  There Jacob had a dream; This was a gateway to heaven itself, and he was indeed the heir to God’s promise to Abraham.

This dream impressed Jacob deeply, for it filled him with reverence for God.

God does not call the qualified; God qualifies the called.

God came to Jacob, an unexpected person, in an unusual way.  And God, via Jesus, came to desperate people in ways onlookers did not expect.  The woman with a hemorrhage had a severe physical problem that rendered her ritually unclean and that deprived her of a means of supporting herself.  The physical condition was bad, but the stigma compounded her pain.  She approached Jesus, and he restored her to wholeness, health, and ritual cleanliness.

It makes sense that Jesus had compassion on her.  His existence was a scandal, and if anyone knew the sting of stigma, he did.  Some people did not refer to him as “Son of Joseph,” per the norm in his society, but as “Son of Mary,” slurring his mother’s sexual history and his paternity.  The human potential for cruelty toward the vulnerable, despised, and marginalized was old in Jesus’ time, and he refused to participate in that process.

This is another excellent reason for us to refuse, as well.

The Jewish community elder had a dead daughter.  The desperate father asked Jesus to help her, a request which led to the first instance of a raising from the dead in the Gospel of Matthew.  Of course the claim that the girl was not dead, only sleeping, seemed ridiculous.  But what other hope did the father have?

And what hope of becoming anything other than schemer did Jacob have?  How possible did it seem that, after twelve years, the woman could be healed and restored to society?  They all seemed dim, did they not?

But consider what happened, and become filled with awe.  Then respond accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF KATHARINA VON BORA LUTHER, WIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER

THE FEAST OF PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/20/week-of-proper-9-monday-year-1/

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Posted August 26, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 28, Matthew 9, Psalm 91

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