Archive for the ‘Rahab’ Tag

God’s Big Circles   1 comment

18662v

Above:  The Adoration of the Magi, by Giuseppe Niccolo Vicentino

Woodcut Created Between 1540 and 1560

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2008678931/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-18662

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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:

Isaiah 60:1-6

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

Ephesians 3:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 60:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/first-day-of-epiphany-feast-of-the-epiphany-january-6/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-december-31-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Ephesians 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/first-day-of-epiphany-feast-of-the-epiphany-january-6/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/week-of-proper-24-wednesday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-24-thursday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/devotion-for-september-1-2-and-3-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Matthew 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/first-day-of-epiphany-feast-of-the-epiphany-january-6/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/second-sunday-after-christmas-years-a-b-and-c/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-december-27-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Give your king your justice, O God:

and your righteousness to a king’s son,

that he may judge your people rightly:

and uphold the poor with justice.

Let the mountains bring forth peace for the people:

and the hills prosperity with justice.

May the king defend the cause of the poor among the people:

save the children of the needy and crush the oppressor.

May he live as long as the sun endures:

as long as the moon from age to age.

May he come down like rain upon the grass:

like showers that water the earth.

In his days may righteousness flourish:

And abundance of peace till the moon is no more.

May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles pay tribute:

the kings of of Sheba and Seba bring their gifts.

May all the kings fall prostrate before him:

and all the nations render him service.

He shall deliver the needy when they cry:

and the poor who have no helper.

He shall have pity on the weak and the needy:

and save the lives of the poor.

He shall rescue them from oppression and violence:

and their blood shall be precious in his sight.

–Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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Psalm 72 is a coronation prayer.  The king is responsible for assuring the physical safety and well-being of his people.  This mandate includes economic justice and deliverance from violence.  Such an accomplishment will earn the monarch international respect.

But who is the king in each reading?  He is probably Solomon in Psalm 72.  The king delivering the exiles in Isaiah 60 is Yahweh via a human monarch, Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes.  There are two kings in Matthew 2.  One is Herod the Great, a client ruler for the Roman Empire, a violent man, and a mentally unstable person.  The other king is young Jesus, who receives visitors–Persian scholar-astrologers who have put their lives on hold for a long time to undertake the perilous journey.  They do not understand much about the boy, but they know more than others do and act affirmatively toward him.

God’s wisdom, Ephesians 3:10 (The New Jerusalem Bible) tells us, is

many-sided.

That passage, in The Revised English Bible, speaks of

the wisdom of God in its infinite variety.

The New Revised Standard Version mentions

the rich variety

of divine wisdom.  And the Common English Bible speaks of

the many different varieties

of God’s wisdom through the church.  This wisdom God makes known to people via the church.

This many-sided divine wisdom which exists in rich, infinite variety is for all people, although not everyone will embrace it.  And one need not understand completely to receive and accept such wisdom, for nobody can grasp it fully.  There are spiritual mysteries too great for human minds to comprehend ; so be it.  Such mystery comforts me, for it reminds me that there is much in the exclusive purview of God.

And this multi-faceted divine wisdom is for people are are like us and for those who are very different from us.  God loves us all, even when we do not love ourselves, much less each other.  God moves well beyond our comfort zones.  If that bothers us, the fault lies with us, not God.

Each of us carries prejudices, probably learned from friends, relatives, and classmates.  We like to draw a small circle of acceptability, being sure to include ourselves and those like us inside it.  But egocentric “purity” is a huge lie and a spiritual detriment.  God seems to prefer larger circles–even those which include some Zoroastrian Persian astrologers, a heroic Canaanite prostitute, a Moabite woman, and many Samaritans.  How scandalous this is to self-righteous purists!  As St. Simon Peter told the household of St. Cornelius the Centurion in Acts 10:34-35:

I now understand that God has no favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

The New Jerusalem Bible

If you, O reader, arrive in heaven, whom might you be surprised to encounter there?  That question gets to the heart of the meaning of the Feast of the Epiphany.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Greatness in Service   1 comment

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Above:  Le Songe de St. Joseph, Circa 1880

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003671485/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-02061

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come!

With your abundant grace and might,

free us from the sin that hinders our faith,

that eagerly we may receive your promises,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 37:2-11

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Matthew 1:1-17

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 37:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/devotion-for-the-nineteenth-and-twentieth-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

1 Samuel 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/devotion-for-july-17-and-18-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Matthew 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-17/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-december-25-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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The LORD kills and brings to life;

he brings down to Sheol and raises up.

The LORD makes poor and makes rich;

he brings low; he also exalts.

He raises the poor from the dust;

he lifts the needy from the heap,

to make them sit with princes

and inherit a seat of honor.

–1 Samuel 2:6-8a, The New Revised Standard Version

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Joseph son of Jacob was a twit as a young man.  His dreams fueled his out-of-control ego and enraged his (mostly older) brothers.  Their reaction was unjustified, of course.  Young Joseph did not realize that true greatness is located in service.  This was a lesson which old Joseph also failed to learn, for he did reduce the vast majority of Egyptians to serfdom.

In contrast to the story of Joseph son of Jacob we have the genealogy of Jesus, son of St. Mary of Nazareth(http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-st-mary-of-nazareth-mother-of-god-august-15/).  A very different Joseph(http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/feast-of-st-joseph-of-nazareth-march-19-2/) raised him.  This Joseph did no harm to nobody so far as the Bible indicates.  This Joseph spared the life of his betrothed, embroiled in a scandal, fled to Egypt with his family, and built a family life for the Son of God.  And in this Joseph’s family history, the only named women were:

  • Tamar, who seduced her father-in-law by posing as a temple prostitute to become pregnant with the child he owed her according to levirate marriage.  She got twins;
  • Rahab, a prostitute who saved the lives of Israelite spies; and
  • Ruth, a foreign woman who adopted her mother-in-law’s religion and seduced her mother-in-law’s kinsman, thereby securing her future and that of her mother-in-law.

Unnamed yet referenced was Bathsheba, wife of Uriah then of David.  Their affair became the stuff of a major Bible story and a turning point in the history of the Kingdom of Israel.  These four, though not as great as people measure greatness, were sufficiently notable to received such posthumous notice.

Through these women God worked great deeds despite their questionable sexual activities and reputations.  Rahab was a prostitute, for example, and Tamar posed as one.  At least two were seductresses and two were foreigners.  All of them violated respectable social customs, and three of them receive positive press in the Bible.  And none of them reduced a population to serfdom.  All of them were preferable to Joseph son of Jacob.

May we help others–not harm them–and find the greatness which exists in service.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2013 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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1 Samuel and Acts, Part I: God’s Favor   1 comment

hophni-and-phinehas

Above:  Hophni and Phinehas

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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:

1 Samuel 2:18-36

Psalm 51 (Morning)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening)

Acts 15:22-41

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A Related Post:

Acts 15:

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

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One of many recurring themes in the Hebrew Scriptures is how God’s grace sometimes defies human preferences for inheritance and/or succession.  The promise passed through the lines of two second sons, Isaac and Jacob.  Eli’s sons did not succeed him; Samuel, who was unrelated to him, did.  David was not the eldest in his family.  And Solomon was not David’s firstborn son.  As I ponder these examples, I conclude that divine favor is the unifying thread.  Jacob was a notorious trickster, and David and Solomon were hardly moral giants.  I care less about the sexual sins of the latter two than about their economically exploitative policies, which affected more people negatively.  But many of my fellow human beings focus so much on matters of sexuality that they overlook or downplay economic exploitation, a topic on which the Bible has much more to say.

But I digress.  Back to my regularly scheduled program….

The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod daily lectionary from the Lutheran Service Book (2006), with these readings, returns to the Acts of the Apostles after a detour through the Letter to the Galatians.  The message from the Council of Jerusalem reminds us that God’s favor crosses other lines and extends to Gentiles.  There are favored Gentiles in the Hebrew Bible, of course; Rahab and Ruth come to mind immediately.  But I detect a new level of this theme in the New Testament.  I, as a Gentile, am grateful.

Where will God’s favor flow next?   I wonder.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 7, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTRICIUS OF ROUEN, ROMAN CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR AND ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIXTUS II, BISHOP OF ROME, AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF JOHN MASON NEALE, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERHOOD OF SAINT MARGARET

THE FEAST OF MARION HATCHETT, LITURGIST AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/devotion-for-july-19-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Judges and Galatians, Part III: Gentiles and Fidelity   1 comment

samson-statue

Above:  Statue of Samson

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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:

Judges 14:1-20 (July 14)

Judges 15:1-16:3 (July 15)

Judges 16:4-30 (July 16)

Psalm 103 (Morning–July 14)

Psalm 5 (Morning–July 15)

Psalm 42 (Morning–July 16)

Psalms 117 and 139 (Evening–July 14)

Psalms 84 and 29 (Evening–July 15)

Psalms 102 and 133 (Evening–July 16)

Galatians 3:1-22 (July 14)

Galatians 3:23-4:11 (July 15)

Galatians 4:12-31 (July 16)

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Some Related Posts:

Galatians 3-4:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/first-sunday-after-christmas-years-a-b-and-c/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/devotion-for-january-19-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/week-of-proper-22-thursday-friday-and-saturday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/proper-7-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/week-of-proper-23-monday-year-2/

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Samson boasted of his own strength, gave God no credit much of the time, and had bad taste in women.  His first love pleased him.  She was, according to the Alexandrian Greek text of Judges 14:1,

…the right one in his eyes.

She was also a Gentile.

The full view of Gentiles in the Hebrew Scriptures is not

Jews good, Gentiles bad.

Rahab the prostitute recognized Yahweh as God, so the Israelite forces spared her and her family.  Later in the Bible, Ruth, a Moabite, became an ancestor of King David.  Both women were, according to the beginning of Matthew 1, ancestors of Jesus.  The reality that most Gentiles would continue in their traditions led to the command for Jews to choose life partners faithful to God.

The Law of Moses defined that fidelity for a long time.  The Law, in Pauline theology, was like a house slave responsible for raising children.  No matter how capable that disciplinarian was, the children outgrew their need for him or her.  And Jesus, in whom there is no longer a distinction between Jew or Greek, has fulfilled the Law.

I do not pretend to understand all the implications of the previous statement, but that is fine.  Reliance on knowledge for salvation is Gnosticism, a grave heresy.  Rather, I accept readily the limits of my understanding and leave the details to God, who does grasp them.

I do know at least one thing, however:  seeking companionship of various forms with people who are faithful to God remains crucial.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 7, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTRICIUS OF ROUEN, ROMAN CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR AND ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIXTUS II, BISHOP OF ROME, AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF JOHN MASON NEALE, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERHOOD OF SAINT MARGARET

THE FEAST OF MARION HATCHETT, LITURGIST AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/devotion-for-july-14-15-and-16-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Joshua and Acts, Part IV: God, Love, Violence, and Moral Responsibility   1 comment

jericho

Above:  Jericho, 1925-1946

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2005008789/PP/)

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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:

Joshua 5:1-6:5 (June 30)

Joshua 6:6-27 (July 1)

Joshua 7:1-26 (July 2)

Psalm 67 (Morning–June 30)

Psalm 51 (Morning–July 1)

Psalm 54 (Morning–July 2)

Psalms 46 and 93 (Evening–June 30)

Psalms 85 and 47 (Evening–July 1)

Psalms 28 and 99 (Evening–July 2)

Acts 10:1-17 (June 30)

Acts 10:18-33 (July 1)

Acts 10:34-48 (July 2)

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Some Related Posts:

Acts 10:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-the-baptism-of-our-lord-year-a/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/first-day-of-easter-easter-sunday-year-a-principal-service/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/first-day-of-easter-easter-sunday-year-b-principal-service/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/thirty-sixth-day-of-easter-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-b/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/01/first-day-of-easter-easter-sunday-year-c-principal-service/

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Much of the Old Testament wearies me with its persistent violence.  The God of Joshua 5-7 is the warrior deity.  Excepting Rahab and her family,

They exterminated everything in the city with the sword:  man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and ass.

–6:21, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Yet, according to the story, Achan, one soldier, took some souvenirs for himself, thereby bringing down divine wrath on the nation and causing about thirty-six men to die.  Everyone was responsible for one man’s fault.

Huh?  And, to my previous point,

Whom would Jesus exterminate?

The cases of Rahab and her family and of Cornelius the Centurion and his household point to one great lesson:  Acceptability in God’s sight has nothing to do with nationality.  Rahab had acknowledged YHWH in Joshua 2, thus the Israelites spared her and her family.  Cornelius was a Roman officer–a centurion–in command of 100 men.  He was also a Gentile.  And, according to tradition, he became host to a house church and the first Bishop of Caesarea.  I wonder what would have happened had St. Simon Peter not received and accepted his new understanding (Acts 10:34-43).

Although the decision of others affect us, we are morally responsible for ourselves unless a severe brain problem renders us incapable of acting responsibly.  Christ calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves and to serve one another, not to exterminate each other in the name of God.  And, in Christ, one spiritual brethren come from a wide variety of backgrounds, some of them surprising to us.  Perfect love casts out fear and violence; may we never forget that great lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BARTOLOME DE LAS CASAS, WITNESS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/devotion-for-june-30-july-1-and-july-2-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Joshua and Acts, Part II: Religion and Nationalism   2 comments

baptism-of-the-eunuch-rembrandt

Above:  The Baptism of the Eunuch, by Rembrandt van Rijn

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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:

Joshua 2:1-24

Psalm 36 (Morning)

Psalms 80 and 27 (Evening)

Acts 8:26-40

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Some Related Posts:

Acts 8:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/nineteenth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/twenty-ninth-day-of-easter-fifth-sunday-of-easter-year-b/

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Among the few named women in the Matthew version of our Lord’s family tree is Rahab, a prostitute of Jericho.  Danna Nolan Fewell, in her chapter on the Book of Joshua (pages 63-66) from The Woman’s Bible Commentary (1992), edited by Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe, makes much of Rahab’s marginal status.  Yet the prostitute recognized Yahweh’s power, and thereby became an insider.  Four chapters later, she and her family found refuge in the midst of slaughter.

The notes on page 466 of The Jewish Study Bible (2004) explain how Jewish and Christian interpreters have dealt with a Bible story in which a prostitute is a heroic figure.  One tradition says that she converted, married Joshua, and became the mother of prophets.  Or perhaps, some have said, she was an innkeeper, not a harlot.  They point to the linguistic similarity between two Hebrew words.  Yet I think that the scandal of the story is something to accept, not from which to flee.

Another outsider who became an insider was the Ethiopian eunuch who struggled with Isaiah 53 until St. Philip the Evangelist, one of the early deacons, helped him to understand.  Of St. Philip we know little, but he did obey God and aid the eunuch in coming to Christ.

These stories point toward the universality of God’s call to we human beings.  The old (and yet current) notion of a tribal deity who favors just one nation or country is both inadequate and inaccurate.  Unfortunately, that tribal God notion pervades the Book of Joshua, which also contains the Rahab story, which offers a different vision.  The concept of a tribal God can prove quite appealing and comforting, for we assume quite often that God is on our side.  If, for example, God favors the State of Israel, what about the oppressed Palestinians? (They are people too.)  When does one cross a dangerous line and erect a national religion?  I am an American.  Is God always on the my country’s side in wars?  No!  My leaders, like those of all other countries, are mere mortals.

In my country’s past the Confederate States of America (CSA) fought for, among other things, the preservation of slavery; its founders said so before they claimed otherwise after the Civil War.  The CSA understood God to be on its side.  This was a great misapprehension.  I have read postwar church documents from the South.  In late 1865, for example, the newly-renamed Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS), founded four years earlier as the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America (PCCSA), expressed official shock and confusion over Confederate defeat.  God could not have been angry about the existence of slavery, for the Bible condoned and commanded that institution, they reasoned.  So maybe Southerners had not managed the institution properly, they said.  They misunderstood the situation.  As Abraham Lincoln said, the real question is not whether God is on our side but whether we are on God’s side.

May we–you, O reader, and I–be on guard against religious nationalism, which misrepresents God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 17, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BENNETT J. SIMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF COMPIEGNE

THE FEAST OF SAINT NERSES LAMPRONATS, ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF TARSUS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/devotion-for-june-27-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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