Archive for the ‘Repentance’ Tag

Living in Community, Part III   3 comments

Above:  St. Peter Paying the Temple Tax

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 43:1-15, 26-30 or Isaiah 55:1-13

Psalm 28

1 Corinthians 10:19-33

Matthew 17:22-18:5

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We have obligations to each other.  Even what we do (or do not do) in private affects other people.  We should, for example, want scoundrels and wicked people to repent (as in Isaiah 55:7), not give up on them (as in Psalm 28:4).  We should seek reconciliation, as Joseph was preparing to instigate, in Genesis 43.  We should not abuse our freedom to the detriment of others.  In Christ we are free to become our best selves.

The story in Matthew 17:24-27 requires unpacking.

The tax in question was the Temple tax of one didrachmon–a half-shekel.  Every Jewish male was to pay it annually, although enforcement was not rigorous.  The scriptural basis of the Temple tax was Exodus 30:13.  It was a controversial tax for more than one reason.  For the poor the tax–two days’ wages of a laborer–was a burden.  Essenes argued that the tax was properly a once-in-a-lifetime payment.  Sadducees thought that the tax should be voluntary.  Jesus, who seemed to have a low opinion of taxation (see also Matthew 22:15-22), nevertheless decided not to cause offense.

I have no difficulty accepting this story as genuine.  Yet it, like so many stories, carries more than one meaning, depending on the time of the reading or hearing of it.  Consider, O reader, the year of the composition of the Gospel of Matthew–85 C.E. or so.

There was no more Temple yet a version of tax remained.  Roman forces had destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 C.E.  A two-drachma tribute to Rome was due annually, and Roman authorities enforced tax laws.  In the Christian context giving to the church was properly voluntary.  For Jewish Christians, marginal within Judaism, their identity remained Jewish; they did not seek to offend.

In my cultural-political setting–North America in 2018–the culture is moving in more than one direction simultaneously.  On one hand politics and culture are coarsening.  On the other hand efforts to avoid causing offense are become more prominent, sometimes to ridiculous extremes.  Meanwhile, people from various points on the spectrum have become more likely to take offense.  “Snowflakes” come in various political stripes.  Everything is controversial; there is probably nothing that does not offend somebody, somewhere.

I, as a human being, have responsibilities to my fellow human beings, who have responsibilities to me.  I, for example, have no moral right to spout racial and ethnic slurs and/or stereotypes, not that I would ever do that.  Quoting them in certain contexts, in which one’s disapproval is plain, is justifiable, however.  I have a responsibility to consider the sensibilities of others–to a reasonable point.  Yet I know that, whatever I do, I will offend someone, for somebody will be of a mind to take offense.  I am responsible for doing my best to be respectful.  I am also responsible to others not to be ridiculously sensitive, thereby doing nothing or too little.

Where should one draw the line separating responsible self-restraint in the name of not offending the consciences of others from overdoing it and still failing in not causing offense because some people are snowflakes?  The answer to that question varies according to circumstances.  One, relying on grace, should do one’s best.  If one needs to do better, one can do that, by grace.  One is not responsible for the thin skins of others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 28, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF AMBROSE OF MILAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT MONICA OF HIPPO, MOTHER IF SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO; AND SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF HIPPO REGIUS

THE FEAST OF DENIS WORTMAN, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LAURA S. COPERHAVER, U.S. LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER AND MISSIONARY LEADER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MOSES THE BLACK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/08/28/devotion-for-proper-21-year-a-humes/

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Receive the Holy Spirit, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Pentecost Dove

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

as you sent upon the disciples the promised gift of the Holy Spirit,

look upon your Church and open our hearts to the power of the Spirit.

Kindle in us the fire of your love,

and strengthen our lives for service in your kingdom;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Joel 2:21-32

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Acts 2:1-21

John 7:37-39

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Joel 2:21-32 (Protestant and Anglican versification) = Joel 2:21-3:5 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox versification)

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Dating the Book of Joel is difficult, but its message is simple:  After the judgment of God and the repentance of Israel divine mercy will be abundant and God will pour out His spirit on all people.  The assigned reading, quoted partially in Acts 2:1-21, fits well with Psalm 104.  The future age predicted in Joel 2:21-32/2:21-3:5 remains for our future, but its message of God’s universal outpouring of the Holy Spirit is timeless.  For the sake of completeness, however, one should not that Chapter 4 (if one is Jewish, Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox)/Chapter 3 (if one is Anglican or Protestant) contains both judgment and mercy.

By means of both the witness of the Holy Spirit and Single Predestination, taken together, salvation is available to all people, but many people reject it, hence divine judgment.  This is unfortunate, as well as beyond any mere mortal’s pay grade, so to speak.  Nevertheless, the extent of the boundaries of divine grace would probably shock most of us, if we knew all the details.  These are properly matters in the purview of God.

John 7:37-38, in the original Greek, is a somewhat ambiguous text, due to the question of punctuation.  Related to that issue is the matter of theological interpretation, as commentaries reveal.  I feel comfortable asserting that Jesus, not the believer, is the source of the rivers of living water.  In Christianity we must look to Jesus.  God is central; we are not.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS, THE MARTYRS OF LYONS, 177

THE FEAST OF ANDERS CHRISTENSEN ARREBO, “THE FATHER OF DANISH POETRY”

THE FEAST OF MARGARET ELIZABETH SANGSTER, HYMN WRITER, NOVELIST, AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY, BISHOP, AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/06/02/devotion-for-pentecost-year-a-humes/

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The Inner Jonah, Part IV   1 comment

Above:  A Stamp Depicting Jonah

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:

Jonah 4

Psalm 130

Philippians 4:1-14, 19-23

Matthew 26:69-75

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Be known to everyone for your consideration of others.

–Philippians 4:5a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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That sentence puts Jonah in his place.

My studies of the Book of Job have provided a lesson applicable to the Book of Jonah.  Job and his alleged friends committed the same error:  they presumed to know how God does and should act.  That, at least, was a lesson of one layer of the authorship of the Book of Job; the prose epilogue threw a wrench into the supposed sin of Job–supposing to know how God does and should act, for God agreed with Job in that epilogue.

When Yahweh had said all this to Job, he turned to Eliphaz of Teman.  “I burn with anger against you and your two friends,” he said, “for not speaking truthfully about me as my servant Job has done.  So now find seven bullocks and seven rams, and take them back to my servant Job and offer a holocaust for yourselves, while Job, my servant, offers prayers for you.  I will listen to him with favor and excuse your folly in not speaking of me properly as my servant Job has done.”  Eliphaz of Teman, Bildad of Shuah and Zophar of Naamath went away to do as Yahweh had ordered, and Yahweh listened to Job with favor.

–Job 42:7-9, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Jonah, anyway, supposed to know how God does and should act.  When God extended mercy to Jonah’s national enemy, the reluctant prophet–“that clown,” as a Roman Catholic priest once described him in writing–became disappointed with God.  Yet Jonah depended on divine mercy as much as the people of Nineveh did.

If you, O LORD, should make iniquities,

Lord, who could stand?

But there is forgiveness with you,

so that you may be revered.

–Psalm 130:3-4, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The Book of Jonah ends on an ambiguous note.  God and the prophet have an unresolved theological confrontation.  The text, concluding thusly, invites us to consider who we are more like in the story.

Each of us has an inner Jonah.  We object to the scandal of grace on occasion.  We tell ourselves that we want justice when we actually seek retribution.  We want God to draw the circle tightly around us and people similar to ourselves, not to draw it wide and call even our foes to repentance.  Yet there are also those who want God to exclude us.

I do not pretend to know the mind of God; that is a glorious mystery too great for me.  I do, however, study scripture, read theology, and recognize patterns.  One of these patters is that we are not God.  Another pattern is that no theological box defines God.  Judgment and mercy exist side-by-side throughout the Bible.  Where one ends and the other begins resides in the purview of God, as it should.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 25, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BEDE OF JARROW, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND FATHER OF ENGLISH HISTORY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALDHELM OF SHERBORNE, POET, LITERARY SCHOLAR, ABBOT OF MALMESBURY, AND BISHOP OF SHERBORNE

THE FEAST OF SAINT MADELEINE-SOPHIE BARAT, FOUNDRESS OF THE SOCIETY OF THE SACRED HEART; AND ROSE PHILIPPINE DUCHESNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT MYKOLA TSEHELSKYI, UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/25/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-a-humes/

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The Inner Jonah, Part III   1 comment

Above:  Jonah Preaching to the Ninevites

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:

Jonah 3

Psalm 143

Philippians 3:7-21

Matthew 26:57-68

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The reading from Matthew 26 depicts a scene of perfidy.  Religious leaders, in violation of the Law of Moses, seek false testimony (a capital offense, at least theoretically) to send Jesus to his execution, we read.  Their charge against him is blasphemy, a capital offense, according to Leviticus 24:16.

These men were really defending their power base as they committed a great sin.  Yet God used their actions to work abundant grace, culminated, in a few days, in the resurrection.  Those religious leaders must have had some interesting private discussions about that.

Divine grace is so abundant that it falls upon individuals as well as groups, and believers as well as heathens.  Grace calls us to repentance.  We all need to repent–to turn our backs to sin–daily.

Each of us has an inner Jonah.  We rejoice when God extends mercy to us and people similar to ourselves, but we, like some of the psalmists, want God to smite our enemies.  God loves them too, however.  God rejoices when they repent; so should we.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 24, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS SELNECKER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JACKSON KEMPER, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDITH MARY MELLISH (A.K.A. MOTHER EDITH), FOUNDRESS OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE SACRED NAME

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/24/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-a-humes/

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The Inner Jonah, Part I   1 comment

Above:  A Stamp Depicting Jonah in the Boat

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:

Jonah 1

Psalm 121

Philippians 1:15-30

Matthew 26:20-35

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The story of Jonah is a work of satirical fiction that teaches timeless truths.  It is the tale of a reluctant prophet who flees God’s call before finally accepting the vocation and succeeding, much to his disappointment.  The book is a story about repentance, God’s mercy on our enemies, God’s refusal to conform to our expectations, and the foolishness of religious nationalism.

St. Paul the Apostle, perhaps writing from prison in Ephesus, circa 56 C.E., wrote:

It is my confident hope that nothing will prevent me from speaking boldly; and that now as always Christ will display his greatness in me, whether the verdict be life or death.

–Philippians 1:20, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Christ, in Matthew 26, was obedient to God–soon to the point of death.  His final journey to Jerusalem had a result far different from that of the trek of pilgrims who sang Psalm 121.

Each of us has an inner Jonah.  Each of us likes certain categories more than we ought and other categories we should reject.  We like for God to bless people like ourselves and overlook our sis, and to smite our enemies, collective and individual.  To some extent, we define ourselves according to who we are not.  Therefore, if our enemies and those we dislike change, what does of identity become?

Defense mechanisms are frequently negative.  When we embrace them and flee from God, they certainly are.  When we embrace them and find divine grace scandalous, they are surely negative.  When we embrace them and choose not to speak the words of God boldly or at all, they certainly are idolatrous.

May we, by grace, eschew this and all other forms of idolatry.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 23, 2018  COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/23/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-in-lent-year-a-humes/

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Yielding the Full Harvest of Righteousness   1 comment

Above:  Harvest

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:

Obadiah 1-4, 11-15

Psalm 32

Philippians 1:1-14

Matthew 26:1-16

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The pericopes from Obadiah and Matthew recount perfidy.  In Obadiah, the briefest book in the Jewish Bible, with 291 Hebrew words, we read of the perfidy of the Edomites, descendants of Esau who, in the words of verses 12 and 13, gazed with glee and participated in the Fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.  We read of God’s displeasure and promised judgment on the people of Edom.  The perfidy of Matthew 26:1-16 is that of those (including Caiaphas and Judas Iscariot) who plotted to kill Jesus.  In stark contrast to them, we read, was the unnamed woman of Bethany who anointed Jesus.

The author of Psalm 32 had recovered from a serious illness.  In his culture a common assumption was that such an illness was divine punishment for sin, regardless of what the Book of Job argued in its fullness.  The author seemed to accept that assumption, thus he focused on the confession of sins and linked that confession to his recovery.

Yielding the full harvest of righteousness (per Philippians 1:11) is possible only via grace.  One might have the best and most righteous of intentions, but free will, with which God can work, is a good start.  It is also insufficient by itself.  Confessing one’s sins is part of the process; repentance needs to follow it.  Loving one’s fellow human beings to the point of being ready, willing, and able to sacrifice for them, if that is what circumstances and morality require, is also part of yielding the harvest of righteousness, which we can do in community, not in isolation.

May our words and deeds glorify God and benefit others.  The difference between words and deeds proves hypocrisy, which undermines claims to moral authority.  Words also have power; they can tear down or build up.  Words can inspire justice or injustice, reconciliation or alienation, hatred or love or indifference, selflessness or selfishness.  Words can defile the one who utters or writes them or demonstrate one’s good character.

Yielding the full harvest of righteousness is a high and difficult calling.  It is a daunting challenge, but it is one we have a responsibility to accept.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 22, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK HERMANN KNUBEL, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF GEORG GOTTFRIED MULLER, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN FOREST AND THOMAS ABEL, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1538 AND 1540

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIA OF CORSICA, MARTYR AT CORSICA, 620

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/22/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-in-lent-year-a-humes/

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A Faithful Response, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Ash Wednesday Cross

Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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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:

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

Psalm 51:1-17

2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

Matthew 6:1-21 or 6:1-6, 16-21

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Ash Wednesday is an ancient holy day.  Its origins are as old as the early Church, which created methods of disciplining sinners, as well as restoring them to the communion of the Church.  The record of Church history tells us that the penitential season of Lent, which grew to forty days in the sixth century, used to begin on a Monday, but came to start of Wednesday in the 500s.  One can also read that the reconciliation of the penitents occurred at the end of Lent–on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, depending on where one was, in the sixth century.

Interestingly, The Church of Ireland is unique in the Anglican Communion for having an Ash Wednesday ritual that does not require the imposition of ashes.

One function of the announcement of divine judgment is to prompt repentance–literally, turning one’s back to sin.  We cannot turn our backs to all our sins, given our nature, but (1) God knows that already, and (2) we can, by grace, improve.  Judgment and mercy exist in balance.  That God knows what that balance is, is sufficient.

That we do what we should matters; so does why we do it.  In Christianity and Judaism the issue is properly the faithful response to God; the issue is not the pursuit of legalism.  Stereotypes of Judaism (especially among many Christians) and Christianity aside, these are not legalistic religions when people observe them properly.  (There are, of course, legalistic Jews and Christians, hence the stereotypes.)  The standard of faithful response is love of God and, correspondingly, of one’s fellow human beings.  We have accounts of the unconditional and self-sacrificial love of God in the Bible.  The readings from 2 Corinthians and Matthew include commentary on that principle.  To paraphrase Rabbi Hillel, we should go and learn it.

May we do this while avoiding the trap of legalism, into which so many pious people fall easily.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 22, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK HERMANN KNUBEL, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF GEORG GOTTFRIED MULLER, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN FOREST AND THOMAS ABEL, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1538 AND 1540

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIA OF CORSICA, MARTYR AT CORSICA, 620

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/22/devotion-for-ash-wednesday-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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