Archive for the ‘Transfiguration’ Tag

The Light of Christ, Part VI   2 comments

Above:  Icon of the Transfiguration

Image in the Public Domain

FOR THE FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION (AUGUST 6)

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Appearances can deceive.  That statement is true in many contexts.  Consider the historical figure we call Jesus (or Jeshua or Joshua) of Nazareth, O reader.  I am Christologically orthodox, so I affirm the Incarnation, but I also make a distinction between the Second Person of the Trinity prior to the Incarnation and the person we call Jesus.  The distinction I make is a purely historical one; I refer to Jesus as the incarnated Second Person.  Perhaps I am splitting a hair.  If so, so be it.

As I was writing, appearances can deceive.  We do not know what Jesus looked like, but we can be certain that he did not look like a northern European.  Reconstructions I have seen plausibly depict Jesus as someone with dark skin, short hair, and brown eyes.  One may realistically state that his appearance most days was dramatically different from that on the day of the Transfiguration.  One may also ask how the Apostles knew the other two figures were Moses and Elijah, who were not wearing name tags.

The Gospels are more works of theology than history, as I, trained in historical methodology, practice my craft.  One should never underestimate the four canonical Gospels as works of finely-honed theology, complete with literary structure.  I know this, so I choose not to let the absence of name tags bother me.   I accept the theological point that Jesus was and remains consistent with the Law and the Prophets.  I also accept the theological point that the Transfiguration revealed the divine glory present in Jesus, en route to die in Jerusalem.  The prose poetry, with echoes of Moses encountering God on a mountain, accomplishes its purpose.

What are we supposed to do with this story of Jesus?  2 Peter 1:19 points to the answer:

…the message of the prophets] will go on shining like a lamp in a murky place, until day breaks and the morning star rises to illumine your minds.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

May the light of Christ illumine our minds and shape our lives.  (As we think, we are.)  May that light direct our private and public morality, so that we (both individually and collectively) will not betray Jesus in either our deeds or our words.  May we take that light with us as we travel with Jesus, and not attempt to box it up, even out of reverence.   May the light of Christ shine in us, both individually and collectively, as we, in the words of Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church,

love like Jesus.

We know how Jesus loved, do we not?  We know that he loved unconditionally and all the way to the cross.  The call of Christian discipleship is the summons to follow Jesus, wherever he leads.  Details vary according to where, when, and who one is, but the call,

follow me,

is constant.  So is the command to transfigure societies, for the glory of God and for the common good, with the Golden Rule as the gold standard of private and public morals, ethics, and policies.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 7, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF COLBERT S. CARTWRIGHT, U.S. DISCIPLES OF CHRIST MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF GUGLIELMO MASSAIA, ITALIAN CARDINAL, MISSIONARY, AND CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN SCRIMGER, CANADIAN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, ECUMENIST, AND LITURGIST

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

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O God, who on your holy mount revealed to chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son,

wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening:

Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world,

may by faith behold the King in his beauty;

who with you, O Father, and you, O Holy Spirit,

lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Exodus 34:29-35

Psalm 99 or 99:5-9

2 Peter 1:13-21

Luke 9:28-36

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 509

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2019/08/07/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-transfiguration-august-6/

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Spiritual Journeys   2 comments

Above:  Landscape with the Parable of the Sower, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

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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2 Kings 2:1-12

Psalm 50:1-6

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Mark 8:34-9:13

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Pietism is an error-ridden system of thought.  One of its gravest mistakes is the rejection of ritualism, often due to a misinterpretation of Psalm 50.  The sacrificial system, commanded in the Law of Moses, is not the problem in Psalm 50.  No, the divorce between sacrifices and morality is the offense.  Mistaking sacrifices and other acts of public piety for a talisman is wrong.  People need to walk the walk, in other words.  Their acts of public piety will be genuine.

Speaking of sacrifices, the context of the Transfiguration in Mark 8-9 is the foretelling of the death and resurrection of Jesus.  The prose poetry of the account tells us of Elijah (representing the prophets) and Moses (representing the Law) appearing with the glorified Jesus.  This is, in context, an apocalyptic scene, as anyone steeped in the culture of Palestinian Judaism would have known.  The attempt to institutionalize such a moment is always misguided, for one should keep on moving with Jesus, toward Jerusalem.  Faith is a journey, not a permanent shrine.

My journey will not be identical to yours, O reader, nor should it be.  Our journeys will properly contain many of the same landmarks, though.  The destination will also be the same–God in Christ.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 19, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES ARTHUR MACKINNON, CANADIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

THE FEAST OF ALFRED RAMSEY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CHARITIE LEES SMITH BANCROFT DE CHENEZ, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PIERSON MERRILL, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/devotion-for-transfiguration-sunday-year-b-humes/

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Faithfulness and Egos   Leave a comment

Above:  Moses Striking the Rock, by Pieter de Grebber

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Almighty God, who hast created man in thine own image:

grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil, and to make no peace with oppression;

and, that we may reverently use our freedom,

help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice among men and nations, to the glory of thy holy name;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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

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Deuteronomy 34:1-8

Ephesians 4:10-16

Matthew 17:1-8

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The assigned readings for this day give us two mountains–in Deuteronomy 34 and Matthew 17.

The sin of Moses in Numbers 20:9-13 was the lack of trust in God.  He disobeyed orders, striking the rock–twice, actually–instead of speaking to it–to release the water contained therein.  He took glory intended for the Name of God.  Also, as one Jewish commentary on the Book of Numbers has taught me regarding this passage, wrath and leadership ought not to go together.  Moses and Aaron, having become resigned by the continued faithlessness of their people, lost faith in the continuity of the divine faithfulness to those people.  Therefore, Moses did not cross over into the Promised Land; he did see it, though.

Ephesians 4:10-16 reminds us that spiritual gifts exist for the glory of God and the building up of faith communities, not the sake of the ego and the reputation of those who receive those gifts.  We are stewards of our spiritual gifts.

The account of the Transfiguration of Jesus in Matthew 17, set en route to die in Jerusalem, reminds us of the full glory of Jesus shortly prior to his Passion.  We read of the presence of Moses (representing the Law) and Elijah (representing the prophets), figures who, although great, were not as great as Jesus.  One should note the story of the assumption of Elijah (2 Kings 2:1-18) as well as Deuteronomy 34:6, which tells us that God buried Moses.  An especially observant reader of ancient Jewish traditions knows of the alleged assumption of Moses.

Losing faith in divine promises is relatively easy, for God frequently acts in ways that defy our expectations.  The problem is human, not divine.  Faithlessness is not always malicious, but it does indicate weakness.  Yet, as Martin Luther insisted, we can trust in the faithfulness of God, even when we lose faith.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS

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Divine Glory and Sacrificial Love   2 comments

Above:  The Transfiguration, by Raphael

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-90565

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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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Exodus 24:12-18

Psalm 2

2 Peter 1:16-21

Matthew 17:1-9 (or 1-13)

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Interestingly, the Transfiguration account in Matthew follows on the heels of Jesus saying,

Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.

–16:28, The New American Bible (1991)

In that scene, Jesus, looking very much like Moses (and standing with Moses and Elijah) on a mountaintop, stands in divine glory.  We can read another version of the Transfiguration in Luke 9:28-36, shortly before Jesus sets his face literally and figuratively toward Jerusalem–to die.

It is appropriate that we read of the Transfiguration on the Sunday immediately preceding Lent, at the end of which are Good Friday and Holy Saturday.  We are supposed to recall the supreme divine love behind the Incarnation and the Atonement, as well as to remember that God calls us to love like Jesus, who loved all the way to a cross.

That is a variety of love that carries a high price tag.  The grace, although free, is certainly not cheap.  It is, however, the path to life at its fullest and most abundant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR AND ISAAC THE GREAT, PATRIARCHS OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF MEISTER ECKHART, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN AND MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT METODEJ DOMINIK TRCKA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTORIAN OF HADRUMETUM, MARTYR AT CARTHAGE, 484

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/23/devotion-for-transfiguration-sunday-year-a-humes/

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Proclaiming Jesus the Son of God   1 comment

Above:   St. Joseph, by William Dyce

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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Isaiah 7:10-17

Isaiah 12 (at least verses 2-6)

Romans 1:1-7

Matthew 1:18-24

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Ahaz, King of Judah (reigned 743/735-727/715 B.C.E.) was hardly a pious monotheist.  In fact, he practiced idolatry openly.  2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28 gave him scathing reviews.  Ahaz, confronted with an alliance of Israel and Aram against him, chose to rely on Assyria, not God.  That was a really bad decision.  Nevertheless, God sent a sign of deliverance; a young woman of the royal court would have a baby boy.  God would not only protect Judah but judge it also.

Surely God is our salvation, but how often do we take the easy way out and not trust in God?  When God arrives in the form of a helpless infant, as in Matthew 1, one might not recognize the divine presence.  What we expect to see might prevent us from seeing what is in front of us for what it is.  God approaches us in many guises, many of them unexpected.

At first reading Romans 1:4 might seem surprising, perhaps even similar to the Adoptionist heresy.

…and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord….

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

One might think of John 1:1-18, which declares that the Son is co-eternal with the Father.  One might also ponder the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:32-34) as well as the preceding testimony of St. John the Baptist in each Gospel.  One might even recall the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-8; Matthew 17:1-13; Luke 9:28-36).

The proclamation mentioned in Romans 1:4 need not contradict those other proclamations.  No, one should interpret it as a subsequent proclamation that Jesus was the Son of God.  One should notice the theological context in Romans 1:  Easter as the beginning and foretaste of the prophesied age of divine rule on Earth.

“Kingdom of God” has more than one meaning in the New Testament.  Usually, though, it indicates divine rule on Earth.  This kingdom is evident in the ministry of Jesus in the Gospels, written after the death of St. Paul the Apostle.  The Kingdom of God is both present and future; it is here, yet not fully.

As we, being intellectually honest readers of scripture, acknowledge the existence of certain disagreements regarding the dawning of the age of God, according to St. Paul and the authors of the canonical Gospels, may we also never cease to trust in God, regardless of how much evil runs rampant and how much time has elapsed since the times of Jesus and St. Paul.  God keeps a schedule we do not see.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 15, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZACHARY OF ROME, POPE

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JAN ADALBERT BALICKI AND LADISLAUS FINDYSZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS IN POLAND

THE FEAST OF OZORA STEARNS DAVIS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF VETHAPPAN SOLOMON, APOSTLE TO THE NICOBAR ISLANDS

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/15/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-a-humes/

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The Glory of the Lord, Part IV   1 comment

Crucifix III July 15, 2014

Above:  One of My Crucifixes, July 15, 2014

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

O God, form the minds of your faithful people into one will.

Make us love what you command and desire what you promise,

that, amid all changes of this world, our hearts

may be fixed where true joy is found,

Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 35

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 3:12-21

Psalm 29

Luke 9:18-27

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The voice of the LORD is a powerful voice;

the voice of the LORD is a voice of splendor.

–Psalm 29:4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Ezekiel, having received his prophetic commission from God, sat stunned for seven days.  He probably needed that time to digest what had just occurred.

A major theme in Luke 9 is the identity of Jesus.  Herod Antipas (reigned 4 B.C.E.-39 C.E.) wonders who Jesus might be (verses 7-9).  The Roman client ruler, who had already ordered the execution of St. John the Baptist (Matthew 14:1-12), so who could Jesus be?  Some even claimed to Jesus was Elijah, returned to the earth to prepare the way for the Messiah/Son of Man.  The chapter refutes that claim, for the Feeding of the Five Thousand men plus uncounted women and children was greater than the feeding of a multitude (2 Kings 4:43-44) by Elisha, Elijah’s protege.  Furthermore, Elijah (representing the prophets) stands with Jesus at the Transfiguration (verses 28-36).  St. Simon Peter grasps that Jesus is actually the Messiah (verse 20).  Yet, Jesus tells his Apostles, following him entails taking up one’s cross.

As I have written in this miniseries of four posts, the Presence/glory of God was evident in the acts of God, including in nature and human events.  Jesus of Nazareth was the physical manifestation of the divine Presence/glory in human flesh.  The Gospel of John, not containing an account of the Transfiguration, interpreted Christ’s deeds and resurrection as evidence of the Presence/glory of God.  The Gospel of Luke depicted that Presence/glory via an account of the Transfiguration, set shortly before 9:51, when Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem–to die yet not to remain dead for long.

I try to imagine the scene in Luke 9:18-27 as if I had been present:

I heard Peter identify Jesus as the Messiah of God and think, “Jesus is the Messiah, but what does that mean?” I  After all, I know of competing interpretations of Messiahship.  The Master answered my unspoken question immediately by identifying himself as the Son of Man–an apocalyptic figure from the Book of Daniel.  Furthermore, he said that he will die then rise from the dead a few days later.  As if that were not enough, he ordered us to follow him, even to take up a cross, literal or metaphorical.

I must take time to consider these words.  These are difficult sayings.  Understanding them fully will require the passage of time.  When was the last time a dead person returned to life?  And do I really want to take up a cross, literal or metaphorical?  I used to lead a quiet life as a fisherman.  What have I gotten myself into?  Nevertheless, I will keep walking with Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 8, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THORFINN OF HAMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF GALILEO GALILEI, SCIENTIST

THE FEAST OF HARRIET BEDELL, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/01/08/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Epiphanies of God   1 comment

Moses on Mount Sinai

Above:  Moses on Mount Sinai, by Jean-Leon Gerome

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Holy God, through your Son you have called us to live faithfully and act courageously.

Keep us steadfast in your covenant of grace,

and teach us the wisdom that comes only 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 28

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 19:1-9a (Thursday)

Exodus 19:9b-15 (Friday)

Exodus 19:16-25 (Saturday)

Psalm 19 (All Days)

1 Peter 2:4-10 (Thursday)

Acts 7:30-40 (Friday)

Mark 9:2-8 (Saturday)

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The law of the LORD inspires reverence and is pure;

it stands firm for ever,

the judgements of the LORD are true;

they form a good code of justice.

–Psalm 19:10, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers, Harry Mowvley (1989)

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We are always in the presence of God.

Where can I go from your spirit?

Or where can I flee from your presence?

If I climb up to heaven, you are there;

if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

Even there your hand shall lead me,

your right hand hold me fast.

–Psalm 139:6-9, Common Worship:  Daily Prayer (2005)

Nevertheless, sometimes the presence of God becomes evident in an unusually spectacular way.  How one ought to respond to those occasions is one topic in the assigned readings for these three days.

1 Peter 2 and Exodus 19 bring up the point of the faithful people of God having the responsibility to be a light to the nations.  First, however, the faithful people must become that light.  This was originally the call of the Jews, who retain that call as well as their status as the Chosen People.  Far be it from me to give short shrift to the Jews, my elder siblings in faith!  I, a Gentile, belong to the branch which God grafted onto their tree.

But how should one respond to a spectacular manifestation of the presence of God?  Those details, I suppose, are culturally specific, as is much of the Law of Moses.  Moses removed his sandals in the presence of the burning bush.  At Mt. Sinai the people were to wash their clothing, abstain from sexual relations for three days, and avoid touching the mountain.  There was a case of fatal holiness, a repeated motif in the Hebrew Scriptures.  People were supposed to maintain a safe distance from God.  As for sexual activity, it would cause ritual impurity (see Leviticus 15:18) in the Law of Moses, which they were about to receive.  And, in the words of scholar Brevard S. Childs:

The holy God of the covenant demands as preparation a separation from those things which are normally permitted and good in themselves.  The giving of the covenant is different from an ordinary event of everyday life.  Israel is, therefore, to be prepared by a special act of preparation.

The Book of Exodus:  A Critical Theological Commentary (Philadelphia, PA:  Westminster Press, 1974), page 369

As for women and the Law of Moses, I cannot help but notice that the code reflects a negative view of gynaecology.  May such sexism become increasingly rare in today’s world.

One pious yet misguided response to a spectacular manifestation of the presence of God is to seek to institutionalize it.  That was just one error St. Simon Peter committed at the Transfiguration, the description of which I understand as being more poetic than literally accurate.  (Could any description do the event justice?)  Another error was that the three proposed booths would be the same size; one should have been larger than the others.

Although we dwell in the presence of God and might even be aware of that reality most of the time, we still need moments when we experience it in unusual and spectacular ways.  Mundane blessings are wonderful and numerous, but sometimes we need another variety of blessing and a reminder of the presence of God.  I have had some of them, although they were substantially toned down compared to the Transfiguration, the burning bush, and the giving of the Law of Moses.  They were, however, out of the ordinary for me.  Thus I remember them more vividly than I do the myriads of mundane blessings and encounters with God.  These unusual epiphanies have edified me spiritually at the right times.  They have also called me to continue on my spiritual walk with God through easy and difficult times.  That journey is one for the glory of God and the benefit of others–perhaps including you, O reader.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN ROBERTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HOWELL ELVET LEWIS, WELSH CONGREGATIONALIST CLERGYMAN AND POET

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF THOMAS MERTON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-third-sunday-in-lent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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