Archive for the ‘Judgment’ Tag

Faithful Community, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:   Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Give us, O Lord, a right understanding and a sincere love of thy Word;

that we may not be deceived and carried away by any falsehood,

but grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 123

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Malachi 3:16-4:3

Romans 14:10-19

John 16:1-15

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Divine judgment hangs over the readings from Romans 14 and Malachi 3 and 4 (Malachi 3 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Bibles, which, despite having all the verses, have an extended Chapter 3 and no Chapter 4).  In the context of judgment falling into the purview of God, our human responsibilities include obeying divine commandments and, in particular, supporting one another in faithful community.  The latter point is especially important when the faith community is marginalized and facing conflict.

The assigned portion of John 16 operates on two levels.  The first level is narrative–in this case, shortly before the crucifixion of Jesus.  The text reads as spiritual counsel at the last minute.  The second level is historical, given the Johannine Jewish community’s poor relations with their fellow Jews:

They will ban you from the synagogue….

–Verse 16:2a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Mutual support in faith community is a practice people undertake with divine support.  The delusion of self-sufficiency–the denial of interdependence–lies at the root of evil.  When one thinks that one can–and must–rely on one’s powers, one opens the door to seeking to improve one’s lot by harming others.  Yet when we accept that we depend fully on God and on each other, we realize the necessity of building each other up.

Poorly informed and uninformed judgment works against building people up.  I differentiate between poorly informed judgment on one hand and proper judgment on the other.  One may recall Jesus calling certain religious opponents on the Judean carpet and Hebrew prophets issuing stern condemnations.  The verses against judging do not condemn telling the truth.  They do, however, condemn destructive comments, written and oral.  The truth, in contrast, may prompt one to repent.  It works toward the goal of building up in the context of faithful community.

A major difficulty is a distinguishing poorly informed and uninformed judgment from proper judgment.  Often–probably most of the time–we commit the latter when imagining that we are doing the former.  In the context of conflict avoiding the latter is especially challenging, for anger leads naturally and predictably to invective.  Words matter; invective leads to unfortunate results, not reconciliation.  No, it feeds further conflict.

May we, by grace, build each other up, in the context of faithful community.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS, FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF THE CONSECRATION OF SAMUEL SEABURY, FIRST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROMANIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Posted November 14, 2018 by neatnik2009 in John 16, Malachi 3, Malachi 4, Romans 14

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Spiritual Blindness, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  Jesus Healing the Blind Man, by Eustache Le Sueur

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Grant, we beseech thee, merciful God, that thy church, being gathered together in unity by the Holy Spirit,

may manifest thy power among all peoples, to the glory of thy name:

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with thee and the same Spirit,

one God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 120

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Jeremiah 8:4-7

1 Peter 2:7-10

Luke 18:31-43

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The theme of rebellion against God unites the three assigned readings.  This is especially appropriate liturgically on the Sunday preceding Lent, with its focus on confession of sin and on repentance.

I advise you, O reader, to read all of Jeremiah 8, with its vivid poetic language about divine judgment.  That is collective punishment for collective sin.  Western civilization, with its individualism, gives short shrift to collective responsibility, sin, and punishment.  The Hebrew Bible is not a product of Western civilization, though.  Likewise, “you” is plural in 1 Peter 2:7-10.

The blind man in Luke 18:35-43 was more perceptive than the Apostles and the crowd at Jericho.  His story, set in contrast to 18:31-34 by the author of the Gospel of Luke, has long pointed out the spiritual blindness of the other people.

Spiritual and moral blindness is both collective and individual; they influence each other.  We, as members of society, are subject to societal influences.  But what is society but people?  When enough people change their minds, societal norms shift.  We, collectively and individually, need to move toward a state in which the Golden Rule is normative and nothing–not even citations of religious laws–is an acceptable reason to violate the Golden Rule.  This will not usher in the Kingdom of God, for only God can do that.  This will, however, create societies with less spiritual and moral blindness.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SOULS/THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL FAITHFUL DEPARTED

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Being Good Soil, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parable of the Sower

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Grant, we beseech thee, merciful God, that thy church,

being gathered together in unity by thy Holy Spirit,

may manifest thy power among all peoples, to the glory of thy name;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with thee and

the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 120

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Amos 8:11-12

1 Peter 2:1-6

Luke 8:4-15

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Hell is real–a reality, not a place with geography and coordinates–I affirm.  I also argue that God sends nobody there.  No, people send themselves there.

The reading from Amos 8 is one of the more difficult passages of the Bible.  Divine punishment is in full strength, punishing collective disregard for God with divine silence.  The divine judgment consists of giving people in times of trouble what they desire in times of affluence and spiritual indifference.  In other words, be careful what you wish for; you may receive it.

The word of God (what God says) is readily available.  It is proverbial seed in the story usually called the Parable of the Sower yet properly the Parable of the Four Soils.  The sower sows seeds in the usual manner for that time and place.  The emphasis in the parable is on the types of soil and on the fate of the weeds cast upon them.  The story encourages us to be good soil, to be receptive to the words of God.

Being good soil entails focusing on God, not on distractions, or idols.  The definition of “idol” is functional; if an object, activity, or idea functions as an idol in one’s life, it is an idol for once.

Perhaps the major idol these days is apathy.  In much of the world the fastest-growing religious affiliation is “none.”  Atheism and its militant variation, antitheism (to use Reza Aslan’s word) are chic.  Ironically, many atheists and antitheists know more about certain religions and holy books than many adherents of those religions, with their corresponding sacred texts.  These atheists and antitheists also understand less simultaneously.

God remains in charge, though.  Whether that ultimately comforts or terrifies one depends on one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SOULS/THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL FAITHFUL DEPARTED

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Facing God, Other People, and Ourselves   1 comment

Above:  The Reunion of Esau and Jacob, by Francesco Hayez

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 33:1-11 or Isaiah 17:7-14

Psalm 17:1-8

1 Corinthians 4:1, 9-21

Matthew 10:16-33

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One might suffer for any one of a variety of reasons.  One might suffer (as in the case of Damascus, in Isaiah 17) as punishment for idolatry and injustice.  Maybe (as in 1 Corinthians 4 and Matthew 10) one might suffer for the sake of righteousness.  Perhaps one is merely unfortunate.  Or maybe another explanation fits one’s circumstances.

Either way, the commandment to remember, honor, and obey God remains.  Also, judgment for disobedience is both collective and individual.

As worthwhile as those points are, another one interests me more.  Certain verses in Genesis 32 and 33 refer to faces–of Jacob, Esau, and God.  Karen Armstrong, writing in In the Beginning:  A New Interpretation of Genesis (1996), makes a vital point:  they are all the same face.  Jacob, in confronting Esau, also confronts God and himself.

We human beings go to great lengths to avoid facing God, other people, and ourselves.  In the city in which I live, seldom do I enter a store or a restaurant in which music is not playing; silence is apparently anathema.  Unfortunately, the music is almost always bad, especially in one thrift store, the management of which pipes contemporary Christian “seven-eleven” songs over the speakers.  (I avoid that thrift store more often than not.)  Or, if there is no music, a television set is on.  Sensory stimulation is the order of the day.

But when we are alone and silent, we cannot ignore God and ourselves so easily.  And if we cannot face ourselves honestly, we cannot face others honestly either.  If we persist in running away, so to speak, we will cause our own suffering.  It will not be a matter of God smiting us, but of us smiting ourselves.

One would think that silence would be welcome in more churches.  The silence at the end of the Good Friday service in The Episcopal Church is potent, for example.  Yet many churchgoers have an aversion to silence.  And I recall that, one Good Friday, during that potent silence after the service had ended, someone’s cellular telephone rang, causing spiritual and liturgical disruption.

if we are to become the people we are supposed to be in God, we need to take time to turn off the distracting stimulation and face God, others, and ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 30, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE JORDAN, SOUTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHRYSOLOGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF RAVENNA AND DEFENDER OF ORTHODOXY

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICENTA CHÁVEZ OROZCO, FOUNDRESS OF THE SERVANTS OF THE HOLY TRINITY AND THE POOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM PINCHON, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/devotion-for-proper-13-year-a-humes/

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A Faithful Response, Part X   1 comment

Above:  Parable of the Great Banquet, by Jan Luyken

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:

Acts 5:1-11

Psalm 66

1 Peter 4:1-11

Matthew 22:1-14

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The king’s action–burning the city in which the murderers lived–seems excessive in Matthew 22:7.  Yet, if one interprets that passage and the parable from which it comes in the context of the destruction of Jerusalem (70 C.E.), it remains problematic, but at least it makes some sense.  Might one understand the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. as divine judgment?  One might, especially if one, as a marginalized Jewish Christian in the 80s C.E., were trying to make sense of recent events.  A note in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003) links this passage to Matthew 24:27-31  and divine judgment on the Roman Empire.

Scholar Jonathan T. Pennington, rejecting the consensus that “Kingdom of Heaven,” in the Gospel of Matthew, is a reverential circumlocution, contends that the Kingdom of Heaven is actually God’s apocalyptic rule on Earth.  The kingdoms of the Earth are in tension with God and will remain so until God terminates the tension by taking over.  That understanding of the Kingdom of Heaven fits well with the motif of divine judgment in the Gospel of Matthew.

We also read of divine judgment in Acts 5:1-11, which flows from the end of Acts 4.  The sins of Ananias and Sapphira against the Holy Spirit were greed and duplicity.  As I read the assigned lessons I made the connection between Acts 5:1-11 and Psalm 66:18 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989):

If if had cherished iniquity in my heart,

the LORD would not have listened.

The brief reading from 1 Peter 4 is packed with themes and some theologically difficult verses, but the thread that fits here naturally is the call (in verse 8) to love one another intensely while living in and for God.  That fits with Acts 5:1-11 (as a counterpoint to Ananias and Sapphira) well.  That thought also meshes nicely with Psalm 66 and juxtaposes with the judged in Matthew 22:1-14.  At the wedding banquet a guest was supposed to honor the king by (1) attending and (2) dressing appropriately.  Infidelity to God brings about divine judgment, just as faithfulness to God (frequently manifested in how we treat others) pleases God.

That is a concrete and difficult standard.  It is one we can meet more often than not, though, if we rely on divine grace to do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST AND MARTYR

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

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/06/01/devotion-for-the-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-a-humes/

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Faithfulness and Faithlessness   1 comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  The Exorcism

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:

Deuteronomy 31:30-32:27 or Isaiah 5:8-17

Psalm 142

Matthew 17:9-20 or Mark 9:9-29 or Luke 9:18-27 (28-36) 37-45

Philippians 2:14-30

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A typically Jewish way of speaking and writing about God is to recall what God has done.  After all, God is like what God has done.  Furthermore, we are like what we have done, although we are far more than the worst deeds we have committed.  The relevant issue is the pattern of what we have done and of what we are doing.  Repentance is possible, after all, and the past is not necessarily accurate in predicting the future.

Consider with me, O reader, the assigned readings for this Sunday.  The two options for the First Reading proclaim divine judgment upon the faithless, for whom God has done much.  The faithless should know better.  Perhaps they do know better, but they are not acting as if they do.  The lection from Isaiah 5 follows the famous passage likening rebellious Israel to a well-tended vineyard that yields wild grapes.  God will judge that vineyard, we read.  Likewise, we read of faithless Israel in Deuteronomy.  If Richard Elliott Friedman is correct, lurking in the background of the text is a condemnation of polytheism.  God is, after all, insistent upon monotheism in the Hebrew Bible.  If Dr. Friedman is correct, faithlessness to YHWH entails turning to supposedly subordinate deities, members of the divine council–a concept Hebrew prophets opposed vigorously.

In contrast to those lections we read Psalm 142, the lament of a dying man whom other mortals have abandoned.  This man, contemplating the imminent unknown, turns to God alone.  One may assume safely that God is faithful to those who demonstrate fidelity.

The passage from Philippians belongs to a section of that epistle in which one finds advice regarding how to live faithfully in community.  People are to think about each other and model their lives after Jesus, whose humility and selflessness is certainly challenging to emulate.  In this context the customary verses about people with polysyllabic names take on more importance than they might otherwise; these verses model the attitudes and behaviors the preceding verses extol.  People are like what they do.

The three options for the Gospel reading are parallel versions of the same story, set immediately after the Transfiguration of Jesus.  One might fixate on the typically Hellenistic diagnosis of epilepsy as demonic possession, but to do so would be to miss the point.  In the narrative the Apostles have just learned of Christ’s true identity in all of its glory, yet they have not grasped this revelation, and were therefore ineffective.  The lesson for we who read these stories thousands of years later is to ponder whether we grasp who Jesus is and whether we are as effective as we can be in our discipleship.

Our challenge in this regard is to render proper thanksgiving to God in our lives.  We can do this only be grace, of course, but our desire to pursue this course of action is also essential.  Obstacles include laziness, fear, selfishness, cultural conditioning, the pressure to conform, and simple obliviousness.  If we are to grow into our full spiritual stature, however, we must seek to follow and honor God and to trust in divine grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT FILIP SIPHONG ONPHITHAKT, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN THAILAND

THE FEAST OF MAUDE DOMINICA PETRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MODERNIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF RALPH ADAMS CRAM AND RICHARD UPJOHN, ARCHITECTS; AND JOHN LAFARGE, SR., PAINTER AND STAINED GLASS MAKER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/devotion-for-proper-4-year-d/

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Defensive Violence   1 comment

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Above:  An Icon of Christ the Merciful

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, from you come all holy desires,

all good counsels, and all just works.

Give to us, your servants, that peace which the world cannot give,

that our hearts may be set to obey your commandments,

and also that we, being defended from the fear of our enemies,

may live in peace and quietness,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 5:1-9 (Monday)

Amos 9:1-4 (Tuesday)

Amos 9:11-15 (Wednesday)

Psalm 142 (All Days)

Acts 21:27-39 (Monday)

Acts 23:12-35 (Tuesday)

Luke 7:31-35 (Wednesday)

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 I cry to the LORD with my voice;

to the LORD I make loud supplication.

I pour out my complaint before you, O LORD,

and tell you all my trouble.

When my spirit languishes within me, you know my path;

in the way wherein I walk they have hidden a trap for me.

I look to my right hand and find no one who knows me;

I have no place to flee to, and no one cares for me.’

I cry out to you, O LORD,

I say, “You are my refuge,

my portion in the land of the living.”

Listen to my cry for help, for I have been brought very low;

save me from those who pursue me,

for they are too strong for me.

Bring me out of the prison, that I may give thanks to your name;

when you have dealt bountifully with me,

the righteous will gather around me.

–Psalm 142, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The Book of Amos, after all of its predictions of destruction, takes a sudden turn at the end and concludes with a promise that God will restore the Hebrew nation.  Hope of restoration was on the minds of many whom Jesus encountered in Roman-occupied Judea.  Many others, however, benefited from that occupation, for they had made their peace with Roman authorities.  Some of these elites plotted to kill Jesus then St. Paul the Apostle, who were indeed threats to their power, although not in ways many people thought and in ways many people did not expect.  Hostility was often inconsistent in its standards:

For John the Baptist came, neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, “He is possessed.”  The Son of Man came, eating and drinking, and you say, “Look at him! A glutton and a drinker, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!”

–Luke 7:33-34, The Revised English Bible (1989)

As a sign I have reads,

FOR EVERY ACTION THERE IS AN EQUAL AND OPPOSITE CRITICISM.

The term “Kingdom of God” has more than one meaning in the Bible.  It refers to the afterlife in some passages yet to the reign of God on earth in others, for example.  The latter definition interests me more than does the former.  One function of the latter definition is to criticize human institutions and social structures as falling short of divine standards, which is the definition of sin.  Some people hear criticism and respond by trying to change them for the better.  Others ignore the criticism.  A third group reacts violently in defense of themselves and their beloved institutions and social structures.

Repentance is better than defensive violence.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE EVE OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN HALL KENNEDY, GREEK AND LATIN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEORGE THE YOUNGER, GREEK ORTHODOX BISHOP OF MITYLENE

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-10-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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