Archive for the ‘Mohandas Gandhi’ Tag

Expanding Horizons for Better and Worse: Moravians, 1995-2015   1 comment

Books February 24, 2015

Above:  My Copies of the Moravian Book of Worship (1995) and Sing to the Lord a New Song:  A New Moravian Songbook (2013)

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LITURGY IN THE MORAVIAN CHURCH IN AMERICA, PART V

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The Moravian Book of Worship does not slavishly demand one style of tune or text, but attempts to recognize the wide diversity in our congregations’ worship patterns.

Moravian Book of Worship (1995), page iii

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I.  PREFACE AND INTRODUCTION

This post stands in lineage with the Preface and Parts I, II, III, and IV.

This post concludes the Liturgy in the Moravian Church in America series.  The process of researching and preparing the entries in this series has been an intellectually rewarding one, for I have learned much, and I have an inquiring mind.

I have not endeavored to provide thorough descriptions and analyses of the elements of the Moravian Book of Worship.  For that I refer you, O reader, to the Manual for Worship Planners and the companion volume to the service book-hymnal, which the Interprovincial Board of Communication sells.

Worship patterns in congregations of the Moravian Church in America (the Moravian Church in North America when one includes the Canadian congregations of the Northern Province of North America) have long been diverse.  This diversity has increased with the arrival of Moravian immigrants from Europe, Central America, and the Caribbean Basin, as well as with the spread of contemporary and charismatic forms of worship in the Protestant mainline since the 1970s.  My perusal of websites of North American Moravian congregations has confirmed summaries of the diversity of worship I have read in official denominational resources.  I have found evidence of the existence of styles of worship ranging from traditional, classical Moravian worship (brass choirs, et cetera) to Low Church, Southern Gospel music to contemporary “seeker” services to charismatic practices.  I also know that the rise of the charismatic movement within the Unitas Fratrum has divided or played a supporting role in the division of several provinces (Honduras, Czech Republic, and Alaska) of the global Moravian Church.

Official worship resources of the Northern and Southern Provinces in North America reflect the diversity of practice in their congregations.  The logic of that fact makes sense to me.  As I age, however, I find myself becoming more liberal and collegial in many matters theological and socio-political yet more conservative in matters liturgical.  European classicism appeals to me, and I have no desire to dilute that very much.  Guitars in church always make me uncomfortable, for not once have I heard classical guitar music in church.  Once, about fifteen years ago, at a conference in the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia, someone handed me a tambourine in the vain hope that I would play it.  I returned the instrument immediately silently as I looked at that person with an icy gaze.  Here I stand; I will do no other.  If that reality offends someone, I offer no apology, for I have committed no offense.

Now, without further ado, I commence the body of this post.

II.  MORAVIAN BOOK OF WORSHIP  AND SOME RELATED VOLUMES (1995)

Moravian Book of Worship (1995)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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General Comments

By 1995, the year the Moravian Book of Worship debuted, ecumenical influences had also transformed worship in the Moravian Church in America.  Celebrations of Holy Communion had become more frequent in many congregations.  Also, the Northern and Southern Provinces had adopted the Revised Common Lectionary.  The-gesimas were gone and Sundays after Pentecost replaced Sundays after Trinity.  These changes are evident in each annual edition of the Moravian Church Desk Calendar and Plan Book, available from the Interprovincial Board of Communication.

Moravian Church Desk Calendar and Plan Book 2014

February 2015 01

February 2015 02

Scans by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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One of the most obvious differences between the Moravian Book of Worship (1995) and the Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (1969) is the contemporary nature of the current service book-hymnal.  The services are in modern English, even providing two forms (King James and contemporary ecumenical) of the Lord’s Prayer.  52% of the hymns are new to American Moravian hymnals.  The 1995 hymnody is also more ecumenical than that of 1969, for 21% of the texts (excluding translations) are of Moravian authorship.  Many of the “new” texts are actually new and the products of authors alive in 1995.  Likewise, 42% of the tunes in the Moravian Book of Worship are new to American Moravian hymnals.  Many of those tunes are works of composers alive in 1995.

Hymns and Other Music

The Moravian Book of Worship, a new service book-hymnal, not a revision of its predecessor, offers more diversity of musical styles than does the Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (1969).  Most tunes in the 1969 volume were for four voices, with a smattering of other styles and arrangements.  In the 1995 book, however, one can find numerous representations of Lutheran chorales, Moravian chorales, contemporary four-part chorales, rounds, unison hymns, chords for guitar or autoharp, antiphonal songs, spirituals, and folk songs.  Also available is Singing from the Heart:  A Shorter Moravian Hymnal and Liturgies (2010), an abbreviated version of the Moravian Book of Worship with guitar chords included.  Singing from the Heart also contains thirteen original “Congregational Prayers for Moravian Worship,” brief forms for worship.

The arrangement of the 559 hymns is topical, with the church year establishing the first categories.  Hence the first category is Advent.  The count of 559 hymns in the Moravian Book of Worship is down from 594 in the Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (1969) and 952 in the Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum) (1923).  The 1995 book contains 33 selections of service music and 20 entries in its Psalms and Canticles section of the Liturgy.

On One Hand Yet On the Other Hand

Ecumenical convergence has its virtues, especially in liturgy.  Jettisoning the -gesimas and the Season after Trinity Sunday is good, as is adopting the Revised Common Lectionary, a near-twin of the current Roman Catholic lectionary.  These are visible signs of Christian unity.  Addressing God is “you,” not as “thee,” is also positive, for using the contemporary form of English restores the familiarity of language present in older forms of English when God, one’s parents, one’s friends, and one’s neighbors were all “thee.”  Much change is actually a return an older tradition.

As positive an ecumenical convergence is much of the time, it is not always a good thing, for it can lead to a “vanilla” hymnody.  I, as a collector of hymnals and service books-hymnals (especially old ones), like diversity in hymnody.  Moravian hymnals have always included a healthy representation of ecumenical hymnody, as they should.  I have found, however, that many wonderful ethnic hymns, present in older hymnals, seldom make the cut in subsequent hymn books.  (A comparison of U.S. Lutheran hymnals of the twentieth century, as ethnic synods merged into non-ethnic denominations, is an especially good way of documenting this fact.)  Sometimes ecumenism becomes an altar on which hymnal committees sacrifice beautiful ethnic hymns and quality texts.  Thus sometimes the best way to balance one’s heritage is to use more than one book, lest wonderful hymns fall into disuse and obscurity.

The Liturgy of 1995

The thoroughly revised Liturgy of 1995 bears many similarities to that of 1969, for the new Liturgy retains much of Moravian tradition–in modern English, however.  There is also evidence of textual nipping and tucking, one of the oldest games in liturgical practice.  The Liturgy of 1995 continues another Moravian practice–flexibility.  There are many rubrics such as the one on page 4, in General Liturgy 1:

All may join in The Church Litany, or the Shorter Church Litany, or the Service may proceed as the liturgist directs.

“Or…as the liturgist directs” occurs often in the Liturgy (pages 1-254 of the Moravian Book of Worship).

The Liturgy of 1995 contains six sections, which I will unpack in order:

  1. General Liturgies,
  2. The Church Year,
  3. Topical Liturgies,
  4. Rites and Sacraments,
  5. Services for Holy Communion, and
  6. Psalms and Canticles.

General Liturgies

There are seven General Liturgies.  (The Hymnal and Liturgies of 1969 has four of them.)

  1. General Liturgy 1, which contains the Church Liturgy and the Shorter Church Liturgy, is a variation on the traditional Moravian service.
  2. General Liturgy 2–Reconciliation contrasts divine perfection and the sinful world.
  3. General Liturgy 3–Adoration, unlike its 1969 predecessor, uses the Nicene Creed, not the Apostles’ Creed.  The Church in the Nicene Creed is “Christian,” not “catholic,” however.  There is an asterisk then a note explaining the original text reads “catholic” and states that “catholic” means “universal.”  (The Protestant Reformation, by traditional counting, started 497 and 1/2 years ago.  Can we finally get past a Protestant hang-up with Roman Catholicism, please?  Should not anti-Roman Catholicism be a thing of the past?  I write as one who, although not a Roman Catholic, acknowledges the riches of that tradition.)
  4. General Liturgy 4–Creation, a new service, contains contemporary music (by Jaroslav J. Vajda and Martin Nystrom) and a statement of faith drawn from the Ground of Unity in the Unity Book of Order.
  5. General Liturgy 5–Grace combines elements of the 1969 Liturgies of Confession, Trust, and Covenanting.  It also features a different statement of faith drawn from the Ground of Unity in the Unity Book of Order.
  6. General Liturgy 6–Discipleship combines traditional and contemporary music.
  7. General Liturgy 7–Celebration, a new service with a non-traditional arrangement of traditional elements, combines traditional and contemporary hymns.

Church Year

Some of the services in the Church Year section retain titles from the Hymnal and Liturgies (1969):

  1. Advent and Palm Sunday,
  2. Advent 2,
  3. Christmas,
  4. Easter Morning,
  5. Easter,
  6. Trinity, and
  7. All Saints.

The Liturgy of 1969 offers just one service in Lent, but the Moravian Book of Worship includes two–Lent 1 and Lent 2.

Two services in the Church Year section have slightly different names than their 1969 counterparts:

  1. “Epiphany and Christian Witness” has become “Epiphany and World Mission,” and
  2. “Pentecost (Whitsunday)” has become “Pentecost and Spiritual Renewal.”

New to the Church Year section is “Reign of Christ/Second Coming,” for the Sunday immediately preceding Advent more than any other Sunday.  The existence of this service indicates that the Moravian Church has authorized the observance of Christ the King Sunday, which the Roman Catholic Church has celebrated on the Sunday immediately preceding Advent since 1970.  And, just in case you, O reader, wonder about the linguistic difference between “Christ the King” and “Reign of Christ,” it is not just a matter of inclusive language (although Jesus was male).  The Bible does contain a distinction between a kingdom and a royal reign, as I have learned by reading scholarly books.  That reading has also taught me that often the distinction is one without much a difference, for the reality of a reign does imply the existence of a kingdom.

The Liturgy of 1995 omits the service for the Ascension, due to the rare use of that rite from the Liturgy and Hymnals (1969).  The Moravian Book of Worship does not include Ascension themes elsewhere, however.

Topical Liturgies

Most of the titles of the Topical Liturgies are new; only three repeat from the Hymnal and Liturgies (1969):

  1. Education,
  2. Thanksgiving, and
  3. National Occasions.

The other titles are:

  1. A General Prayer of Intercession,
  2. Intercessions in a Time of Crisis,
  3. Christian Hymns,
  4. Christian Unity,
  5. Evangelism (“The Spread of the Gospel” in 1969),
  6. New Year and Anniversaries,
  7. Peace and Justice, and
  8. Stewardship.

The National Occasions service contains a line as troublesome to me as those to which I objected in the Hymnal and Liturgies (1923) and the Hymnal and Liturgies (1969) in Part IV of this series.  On page 141 of the Moravian Book of Worship one can find the following petition:

Enable us to accept the authority of government for your sake….

Is there no embrace of civil disobedience?  And what about the authority of tyrannical governments?  (Sometimes I like to turn to my inner Mohandas Gandhi.)

Rites and Sacraments

The Moravian Book of Worship contains four Rites and Sacraments:

  1. Baptism,
  2. Confirmation and Affirmation of Baptism,
  3. Marriage, and
  4. Memorial Service and Burial.

One must consult the Manual for Worship Planners (1995) to find seldom-used services which would fit into this section otherwise.  They are:

  1. Ordination of a Deacon,
  2. Consecration of a Presbyter,
  3. Consecration of a Bishop,
  4. Special Celebration of Holy Communion (formerly Private Communion),
  5. A Service of Word and Sacrament,
  6. Groundbreaking for a Church Building,
  7. the Laying of a Cornerstone, and
  8. Dedication of a Church Building or other Structure.

Services for Holy Communion

The Liturgy of 1995 offers eight Services for Holy Communion, four of which the Moravian Book of Worship contains.  Those four are:

  1. In Celebration of Christ’s Coming,
  2. In Celebration of the Atonement,
  3. In Celebration of the Resurrection, and
  4. In Celebration of the Holy Spirit.

Four others are available in Services for Holy Communion (1996):

  1. In Celebration of the Chief Eldership of Jesus Christ (for November Thirteenth),
  2. In Celebration of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday,
  3. In Celebration of Unity and Renewal (for August Thirteenth and the Martyrdom of Jan Hus), and
  4. In Celebration of the Anniversary of a Congregation.

Psalms and Canticles

I have summarized the Psalms and Canticles section of the Liturgy of 1995 already.

End Matter

The church calendar, the obligatory acknowledgments, and a set of indices (minus biographical notes) complete the Moravian Book of Worship.

III.  READINGS FOR HOLY WEEK (1995)

This is an appropriate venue to write about another liturgical volume and its predecessors.  The Readings for Holy Week (1995), which exists in a regular edition, a large-print edition, a music edition, and an organ edition, is a successor of a series of books, reaching back to the time of Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-1760).  He prepared the first Moravian harmony of the Passion accounts in the canonical Gospels for liturgical use.  A second edition, picking up the story the day before Palm Sunday, debuted in 1769.

The line of English-language Passion Week Manuals began in 1771.  I found an 1877 edition at archive.org.  The Northern Province printed a new edition in 1932.  The innovative aspect of that version was printing hymn stanzas at appropriate places in the narratives.  Prior to then liturgists were supposed to select the hymn stanzas.  The following year the Revised Bethlehem Edition of the 1932 Passion Week Manual debuted, adding choir music and using the American Standard Version of the Bible (1901).  The Southern Province published its Passion Week Manual in 1943, using the text of the Authorized Version of the Bible and using fewer and different hymn stanzas than its Northern Province counterpart.  Readings for Holy Week (Passion Week Manual) (1969), keyed to the Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (1969), succeeded the 1932 and 1943 Passion Week Manuals.  The innovation in this edition was to cease breaking up the readings into different services, therefore allowing for more variety in congregational observance.

The Readings of Holy Week (1995), keyed to the Moravian Book of Worship (1995), uses the text of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (1989) and combines traditional and contemporary hymns from various genres.  The various editions (such as regular and music) break up the composite narrative by day and provide a resource for corporate and private devotion.

IV.  SING TO THE LORD A NEW SONG:  A NEW MORAVIAN SONGBOOK (2013)

Sing to the Lord a New Song (2013)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Hymnody and written liturgy is always changing–often for better, but sometimes for worse.  It is certainly never like an insect preserved for millions of years in amber.  Although I am a self-described and practicing European classicist and a liturgical conservative, I do not reject the new because it is new and affirm the old because it is old.  No, I seek quality and affirm it regardless of its age.  Unfortunately, much of recent church music is of inferior quality; mind-numbing praise choruses with few words one sings repeatedly come to mind immediately.  Verbose, theologically dense texts appeal to me, and most of those are old.

Sing to the Lord a New Song:  A New Moravian Songbook (2013), a product of the Moravian Music Foundation, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, contains gold, dross, and much in the middle.  The texts–liturgies, prayers, hymns, and songs–are all new, as are some of the tunes.  Most of the tunes, however, are standards.  Three examples follow:

  1. “Passion Chorale” is the tune for the familiar “O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded.”  In Sing to the Lord a New Song it is the tune for “Walk With Me Each Day, Savior.”
  2. “Slane” is the tune for “Be Thou My Vision” and “Lord of All Hopefulness” in many hymnals.  In Sing to the Lord a New Song it is the tune for “We Humbly Gather in This Place.”
  3. “Tallis’ Canon” is the tune for “All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night” in many hymnals.  In Sing to the Lord a New Song it is the tune for a new Communion hymn, “Gather All Sisters and Brothers.”

Those are three examples of good texts.  Unfortunately, some of the texts are bad.  Exhibit A in my case is a Christmas song, “In This Crowd, Sing Aloud,” set to “Jingle Bells.”    The unimpressive lyrics include the following:

What a big surprise!

The Savior was a child!

The Christmas story goes to show God’s plans are really wild!

That text is far removed from the exalted standards of the Moravian Youth Hymnal (1942), a volume whose creators sought to give young people “the best in sacred music.”

Sing to the Lord a New Song contains eight liturgies, some prayers, and 78 or so hymns and songs.  The liturgies are:

  1. Liturgy of Servanthood,
  2. The Good Shepherd,
  3. Examine Prayer,
  4. Reflections on Psalm 121,
  5. A Journey Through Psalm 23,
  6. Mothers’ Day,
  7. Fathers’ Day, and
  8. inTending commUnity:  A Reflection.

Some of the liturgies and prayers are of a higher literary quality than others, but I propose that none of the authors can claim to be stylistic heirs of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556).

My verdict regarding Sing to the Lord a New Song is that one should pretend that the liturgies, the prayers, and some of the hymns and songs do not exist–like Jar Jar Binks, Howard the Duck (1986), and the Sixth Doctor’s garish outfit.

Revelation of the Daleks (1985)

Above:  The Doctor and Davros in Revelation of the Daleks (1985)

A Screen Capture I took via PowerDVD

One can use most of the book in a spiritually and intellectually profitable manner, however.

The church calendar, the obligatory acknowledgments, and several indices complete the volume.  An index of hymn tunes is glaringly absent, however.

V.  CONCLUSION

I grew up in the State of Georgia–the southern part longer than in the north thereof.  There is only one Moravian congregation in the state–in the Atlanta suburb of Stone Mountain, to be exact.  Since 2005 I have lived in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, to the northeast of Atlanta.  The combination of the these facts means that I have viewed the Moravian Church from a distance and never entered a building of a congregation thereof.  My experiences of Moravian music and liturgy have come via books, compact discs, radio programs, and Internet videos.  Classical Moravian music has become one of my favorite genres and has functioned as the soundtrack to much of my blogging–especially regarding Moravians and the Moravian Church.

Much of what I have learned while researching and writing this series of posts bothers me.  Members of the Unitas Fratrum are heirs to an illustrious heritage of quality–one which many, to their credit, maintain.  More of them should honor it and extend it into the future.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 25, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS, NONNA, AND THEIR CHILDREN:  SAINTS GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE YOUNGER, CAESARIUS OF NAZIANZUS, AND GORGONIA OF NAZIANZUS

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FEDDE, LUTHERAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROBERTS, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY TO THE SHOSONE AND ARAPAHOE

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Updated and Corrected Slightly on April 25, 2015

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BIBLIOGRAPHY OF HARDCOPY SOURCES

Burcaw, Robert T.  Discovering the New Moravian Book of Worship.  Bethlehem, PA:  Interprovincial Women’s Board of the Moravian Church, 199

__________, ed.  The Moravian Book of Worship Manual for Worship Planners.  Bethlehem, PA:  Interprovincial Board of Publications and Communications, 1995.

Frank, Albert H.  Companion to the Moravian Book of Worship.  Winston-Salem, NC:  Moravian Music Foundation, 2004.

Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church.  Bethlehem, PA:  Moravian Church in America, 1969.

Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (Unitas Fratrum).  Bethlehem, PA:  Moravian Church in America, 1923.

Knouse, Nola Reed, ed.  The Music of the Moravian Church in America.  Rochester, NY:  University of Rochester Press, 2008.

Moravian Book of Worship.  Bethlehem, PA:  Moravian Church in America, 1995.

Moravian Church Desk Calendar and Plan Book 2014.  Bethlehem, PA:  Moravian Church in North America, 2013.

Moravian Youth Hymnal.  Bethlehem, PA:  Interprovincial Board of Christian Education, 1942.

Readings for Holy Week.  Bethlehem, PA:  Interprovincial Board of Communication, 2000.

Readings for Holy Week.  Music Edition.  Bethlehem, PA:  Interprovincial Board of Communication, 2000.

Sing to the Lord a New Song:  A New Moravian Songbook.  Winston-Salem, NC:  Moravian Music Foundation, 2013.

Singing from the Heart:  A Shorter Moravian Hymnal and Liturgies.  Winston-Salem, NC:  Moravian Church in America.  2010.

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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 , , ,

2 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part III: God, Undomesticated   1 comment

raiders-of-the-lost-ark-1981

Above:  Nazis and the Ark of the Covenant, from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

(A Screen Capture)

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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:

2 Samuel 6:1-19

Psalm 51 (Morning)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening)

1 Corinthians 9:1-23

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Some Related Posts:

2 Samuel 6:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/12/week-of-3-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/proper-10-year-b/

1 Corinthians 9:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/19/fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/week-of-proper-18-thursday-friday-and-saturday-year-2/

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Sometimes I argue with Bible stories.  The Bible, which people wrote, comes from antiquity, a time which predates many of the events which have shaped my worldview.  I am, for example, a product of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, and I have access to more knowledge than those who wrote the Bible could ever know about certain topics.  So I reject the idea that demon possession causes epilepsy, for example.

Yet other influences on my thought which cause me to argue with certain Bible stories come from the Bible itself.  God, depending on the part of the Old Testament one reads, is either approachable (as in the case of Abram/Abraham) or fearsome to be near (as in death for touching the Ark of the Covenant).  But God was most approachable in the person of Jesus of Nazareth; people not only touched him but had him over for dinner.

The stories of the power and menace of the Ark of the Covenant speak of God as an undomesticated force.  Jesus died for several reasons, among them the fact that he challenged domesticated views of God.  The study of the past uncovers examples of people who faced violence (often fatal) because they challenged beloved organizing ideas in society.  They include Jesus of Nazareth, Paul of Tarsus, Mohandas Gandhi, and numerous civil rights martyrs in the United States.  Violence, part of the darkness of human nature, rears its ugly head in defense of the indefensible and the merely traditional alike.  But one fact remains unchanged:  We cannot domesticate God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 29, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAUL MANZ, DEAN OF LUTHERAN CHURCH MUSIC

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE JORDAN, RENEWER OF SOCIETY

THE FEAST OF JAMES HANNINGTON AND HIS COMPANIONS, ANGLICAN MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF JOHN BUCKMAN WALTHOUR, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/devotion-for-august-16-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Numbers and Luke, Part XIV: Murder, Execution, and Forgiveness   1 comment

supper-at-emmaus-by-caravaggio

Above:  Supper at Emmaus, by Caravaggio

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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:

Numbers 35:9-30

Psalm 19 (Morning)

Psalms 81 and 113 (Evening)

Luke 24:28-53

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You shall not pollute the land in which you live; for blood pollutes the land, and the land can have no expiation for blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it.

–Numbers 35:33, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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The Law of Moses is a peculiar code.  It contains death penalties for a variety offenses yet provides cities of refuge for those who have committed manslaughter.  Its violence is not universal.  Yet a murderer must die, the Law says, for bloodshed pollutes the land and invites divine wrath.  Oddly enough, the logic of the Law of Moses requires more bloodshed to expiate for the initial bloodshed of murder.  So, since life is sacred and blood shed pollutes the land, people shed more blood.  Huh?  I do not understand.

I do not understand for several reasons.  Some might note correctly that I am a practicing and professing liberal, one who recalls certain quotes from great men.  Thaddeus Stevens, who argued for equality before God for all people, regardless of race or economics in the United States until his death in 1868, opposed capital punishment in Pennsylvania in the early 1840s, saying,

Society should know nothing of vengeance.

Mohandas Gandhi, who hopefully needs no introduction, commented that “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” leaves the world blind and toothless.  And Martin Luther King, Jr., who really ought to need no introduction, said on April 4, 1967, that one cannot create peace via violent means.  Mine is a Christian liberalism.  The same Jesus who died via crucifixion did not return to life with a vengeful attitude.  He seemed, in fact, quite forgiving.  and he did not die by manslaughter.  No, his was a judicial killing, a political execution.  I do not perceive the moral difference between an execution and a murder.  Jesus changes everything, including how I perceive the world.  The Jesus I know bears little resemblance to the one of which I hear from Fundamentalists.  No, he is much more complex, interesting, and forgiving.

With this post I end one sequence of posts; the lectionary will pair two different books beginning with the next post.  If I have helped you, O reader, encounter the Jesus I know, I have succeeded.  And I hope that the next sequence of posts will yield the same result.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CORNELIUS HILL, ONEIDA CHIEF AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GEORGIAN, ABBOT; AND SAINTS EUTHYMIUS OF ATHOS AND GEORGE OF THE BLACK MOUNTAIN, ABBOTS AND TRANSLATORS

THE FEAST OF PHILIP MELANCHTON, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN [WITH THE PRESENTATION OF THE AUGSBURG CONFESSION]

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/devotion-for-trinity-sunday-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Genesis and Mark, Part XX: Reform or Revolution?   1 comment

casting-out-of-the-money-changers-giotto

Above:  Expulsion of the Money Changers from the Temple, by Giotto

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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 41:28-57

Psalm 84 (Morning)

Psalms 42 and 32 (Evening)

Mark 11:20-33

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 41:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/week-of-proper-9-wednesday-year-1/

Mark 11:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/week-of-8-epiphany-friday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/week-of-8-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/14/week-of-proper-3-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/14/week-of-proper-3-saturday-year-1/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/prayer-for-the-fourth-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-fourth-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/prayer-of-confession-for-the-fourth-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-fourth-sunday-in-lent/

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 There is a time to work through the system.  And there is a time to confront it.

The Pharonic system was inherently exploitative, creating artificial scarcity.  It was also an absolute monarchy.  There was no constitution or a concept of civil liberties.  So nobody was preparing to found the Egyptian Civil Liberties Union (ECLU), with its infamous papyrus card-carrying members.  Tyranny was the political system.  Yet Joseph used it to feed many people (domestic and foreign) during a severe and prolonged famine.  (Later in Genesis he also enslaved Egyptians to the Pharoah in exchange for food, and the monarch moved people off what had once been their land.  There was no excuse for that, but I am getting ahead of myself.)  Joseph, at this point (Chapter 41) in Genesis, did something great, concrete, and positive.

The Temple system was also inherently exploitative, requiring poor people to pay money changers so that they (the poor) could buy sacrificial animals with currency not tainted with the Roman claim of imperial divinity, and therefore with idolatry.  And the currency changers turned a nice profit, as did the Temple itself.  So Jesus condemned religious profiteering.  Even worse, the Temple, next door to a Roman fortress which towered over it, was the center of collaboration with the occupying Romans.  The timing was also sensitive, for the Passover was the commemoration of God’s deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  So the politics added up, including another attempt to entrap Jesus in his own words.  He, of course, was the superior debater.

There is a time to work through the system in place and therefore to accomplish more good than staging a revolution would permit.  I have not doubt that the New Deal would have faced more difficulties and been less effective had President Franklin Delano Roosevelt pushed for civil rights for African Americans more than he did.  Jim Crow politicians in the South would have erected more barriers than they did.  The lesson is simple:  The perfect must not become the enemy of the good.

Yet there is also a time to confront the system.  The British did have to leave the Indian Subcontinent, for example:  Mohandas Gandhi was correct.  And Apartheid did have to end in the Republic of South Africa, just as Jim Crow had to fall in the United States.  So it is wrong to just a little good when one can do a great deal instead.

May we always know what time it is–time to work through the system and reform it or time to confront it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 22, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD BIGGS, ACTOR

THE FEAST OF ROTA WAITOA, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-in-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Rejecting Agape   4 comments

Above:  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.

Image Source = Library of Congress

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Jeremiah 1:1-10 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The words of Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin.  The word of the LORD came to him in the days of King Josiah son of Amon of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign, and throughout the days of Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of King Zedekiah son of Josiah son of Judah, when Jerusalem went into exile in the fifth month.

The word of the LORD came to me:

Before I created you in the womb, I selected you;

Before you were born, I consecrated you;

I appointed you a prophet concerning the nations.

I replied:

Ah, Lord GOD!

I don’t know how to speak,

For I am still a boy.

And the LORD said to me:

Do not say, “I am still a boy,”

But go wherever I send you

And speak whatever I command you.

Have no fear of them,

For I am with you to deliver them

–declares the LORD.

The LORD put out His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me:

Herewith I put My words into your mouth.

See, I appoint you this day

Over nations and kingdoms:

To uproot and to pull down,

To destroy and to overthrow,

To build and to plant.

Psalm 71:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  In you, O LORD, have I taken refuge;

let me never be ashamed.

2  In your righteousness, deliver me and set me free;

incline your ear to me and save me.

3  Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe;

you are my crag and my stronghold.

4  Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,

from the clutches of the evildoer and the oppressor.

5  For you are my hope, O Lord GOD,

my confidence since I was young.

6  I have been sustained by you ever since I was born;

from my mother’s womb you have been my strength;

my praise shall be always of you.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (New American Bible):

If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.  And if I have the gift of prophecy, and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind.   It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.  If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.  For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.  At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face.  At present, I know partially; then I shall know fully as I am known.  So faith, hope, and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Luke 4:21-30 (The Jerusalem Bible):

And he [Jesus] won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips.

They said,

This is Joseph’s son, surely?

But he replied,

No doubt you will quote the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”

And he went on,

I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of those; he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town.  And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged.  They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/24/forgive-our-lack-of-love-prayer-of-confession-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphan/

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Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,

Guilty of dust and sin.

But quickeyed Love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,

If I lacked anything.

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“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here.”

Love said, “You shall be he.”

“I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,

I cannot look on thee.”

Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,

“Who made the eyes but I?”

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“Truth, Lord, but I have marred them.  Let my shame

Go where it doth deserve.”

“And know you not,” says Love,  ”who bore the blame?

My dear, then, I will serve.

You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”

So I did sit and eat.

–George Herbert (1633)

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The love in 1 Corinthians 13 is agape.  There are four types of love in the New Testament, with agape being the highest form.  For a description of agape I turn to Volume X (1953), page 167 of The Interpreter’s Bible:

Agape is another kind of love which roots in the undeserved goodness men have received in Christ.

Agape is a type of love which extends to one’s enemies, looks past mutual interests, and is not merely sentimental.  It is the love which God has for us.  Thus agape is crucial, greater even than faith and hope, which are also commendable and of God.

This was the love which qualified Jeremiah and kept him company on his difficult vocation, one fraught with rejection.  And this was the love which Jesus, also rejected, embodied in a unique way.  This was the love those who tried to kill him at Nazareth lacked.

Agape is hard for many people to practice, for we are flawed.  This statement applies to me.  But I like agape; I seek to come nearer to living it.  One poetic expression of the essence of agape is the George Herbert poem I have quoted in this post.  My choir at St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, has sung the Ralph Vaughan Williams setting of it.  The text speaks to me of what I have received and continue to receive from God.  I can do better, by grace, and I am.  And I have much room for improvement.

Agape is also intolerable for many people.  They seek to destroy it.  The reason for this, I suppose, is that it reminds them of their shortcomings.  And, instead of admitting those failings, some people react defensively and fearfully.  Thus violent people have, throughout history and into the present day, persecuted pacifists, from Quakers to Anabaptists to Mohandas Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Jr.  New England Puritans hanged Quakers in colonial times.  Anabaptists in Europe and elsewhere have attracted a host of foes.  There was, for example, state-sanctioned persecution of Amish and Mennonite conscientious objectors in the United States during World War I.  And Gandhi and King became victims of assassins.  Before King’s death many of his self-identified conservative coreligionists condemned his stances on civil rights and the Vietnam War.  (I have notecards full of citations, quotes, and summaries from back issues of The Presbyterian Journal, which midwifed the Presbyterian Church in America in the early 1970s.  The Journal, publishing immediately after King’s death, continued to condemn him.)

Our human intolerance for agape has caused quite a body count to accumulate.  May God forgive us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY NEYROT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF GEORGE AUGUSTUS SELWYN, ANGLICAN PRIMATE OF NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF KRAKOW

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

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Freedom in Jesus   1 comment

Above:  Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones, by Gustave Dore

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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:

Ezekiel 36:33-37:14 (January 14)

Ezekiel 37:15-28 (January 15)

Psalm 136 (Morning–January 14)

Psalm 123 (Morning–January 15)

Psalms 97 and 112 (Evening–January 14)

Psalms 30 and 86 (Evening–January 15)

Romans 5:1-21 (January 14)

Romans 6:1-23 (January 15)

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Some Related Posts:

Ezekiel 36-37:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-fourth-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/fiftieth-day-of-easter-day-of-pentecost-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/08/week-of-proper-15-thursday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-15-friday-year-2/

Romans 5-6:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/first-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/first-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/proper-6-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/week-of-proper-24-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/proper-7-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/15/proper-8-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/week-of-proper-24-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/week-of-proper-24-thursday-year-1/

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The Ezekiel and Romans readings function best when one reads them continuously.  Lectionaries are useful, but sometimes they are too choppy.

We begin with the lessons from Ezekiel.  Exiles will return to their ancestral homeland; that is one meaning of the Valley of Dry Bones.  Another traditional interpretation infers the resurrection of the dead before the last judgment.  I see no reason that is flawed.  But, as a narrative matter, the former reading of the text takes me my next point, which is that, in the homeland, God and the people will commune:

I will make a covenant of friendship with them–it shall be an everlasting covenant with them–I will establish them, and I will place My Sanctuary among them forever.  My Presence shall rest over them; I will be their God and they shall be My People.  And when My Sanctuary abides among them forever, the nations shall now that I the LORD do sanctify Israel.

–Ezekiel 37:26-28, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

What Ezekiel understood as the Second Temple applies nicely to Jesus, in whom we have reconciliation with God, in whom our offenses are lifted from us and through whom we have justification.  It is in Jesus that we are free from slavery to sin.  Voltaire said that we human beings are free as we choose to be.  If we choose to give ourselves over to someone’s authority, we lose a measure of freedom.  And even coercion cannot deprive a person of inner freedom if he or she opts to retain it.  Mohandas Gandhi was a free man in some prison cells, for example.  Likewise, if we choose to enslave ourselves to sin and shame, we have ourselves to blame.  But, if we seek liberty in Christ, we have grace and enough free will to choose to follow him to thank.

One of the most difficult forms of slavery to break is that of honor and shame.  What others think of us does affect us, so we have to care about that somewhat.  What other people say about influences whether we obtain certain employment (or keep it), for example.  Yet the most important assessment comes from God.  May the divine assessment be,

Well done, good and faithful servant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 25, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD

THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR B

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/25/devotion-for-january-14-and-15-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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