Archive for September 2013

Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Fourth Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

Millet_Gleaners

Above:  The Gleaners, by Jean-Francois Millet

Image in the Public Domain

Caring for Others

JANUARY 30 and 31, 2020

FEBRUARY 1, 2020

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The Collect:

Holy God, you confound the world’s wisdom in giving your kingdom to the lowly and the pure in heart.

Give us such a hunger and thirst for justice, and perseverance in striving for peace,

that in our words and deeds we may see the life of your Son, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 16:18-20 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 24:17-25:4 (Friday)

Micah 3:1-4 (Saturday)

Psalm 15 (all days)

1 Peter 3:8-12 (Thursday)

1 Timothy 5:17-24 (Friday)

John 13:31-35 (Saturday)

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Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle?

Who may abide upon your holy hill?

Those who lead a blameless life and do what is right,

who speak the truth from their heart;

they do not slander with the tongue,

they do no evil to their friends;

they do not cast discredit upon a neighbor.

In their sight the wicked are rejected,

but they honor those who fear the LORD.

They have sworn upon their health

and do not take back their word.

They do not give their money in hope of gain,

nor do they take bribes against the innocent.

Those who do these things shall never be overthrown.

–Psalm 15, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006)

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The Law of Moses and other segments of the Bible speak of the responsibilities we humans have toward each other.  Authors thunder condemnations of judicial corruption and economic exploitation from the pages of the Bible.  And the Law of Moses provides culturally-specific applications of the universal, timeless standard to care for the less fortunate.  The texts for today offer examples of these generalizations.

Furthermore, those in authority are supposed to look out for the best interests of their people.  Often, however, many of them do not even try to do this.  Too often I read news stories of the vulnerable members of society suffering from cuts in government social programs as either

  1. no private sector agents step up to do the work as well or better,
  2. no private sector agents can do the work as well or better, or
  3. no private sector agents do the work, but not as effectively.

Something is terribly wrong and socially sinful when one or more of these scenarios is part of reality.  That which is most effective is the strategy I favor in any given case.  This is about ideology, not “please do not confuse me with the facts” ideology.

Perhaps the most difficult advice from the readings for these days is this:

Never repay one wrong with another, or one abusive word with another; instead, repay with a blessing.  That is what you are called to do, so that you inherit a blessing.

–1 Peter 3:9-10, The New Jerusalem Bible

We have all violated that rule, have we not?  The desire for revenge is natural yet wrong.  And the goal of having the last word might satisfy one in the short term yet does not help matters.  And, when forgiveness comes slowly, the desire to forgive might precede it.  Giving up one’s anger (even gradually) and the target(s) of it to God and moving on with life is a positive thing to do.  And praying for–not about–people can change the one who prays.  That is also good.

There is also the question of violence, which can prove to be complicated.  Sometimes, when the oppressors insist on continuing to oppress, the best way to deliver their victims is devastating to the perpetrators.  Yet, on other occasions, violence does not resolve the issue at hand and creates new problems instead.  It is often easier to make such distinctions with the benefit of hindsight, which, of course, does not exist in the heat of the moment of decision.  So I offer no easy one-size-fits-all formulas here, for none exist.  The best I can do is pray that those in authority will decide and behave wisely.

Yes, sometimes life offers a choice between just the bad and the worse.  In such cases I favor choosing the bad, for at least it is not worse.  The best we can do is all that anyone ought to expect of us.  And, if we strive to love one another as actively and effectively as possible, we are at least on the right track.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 7, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE PACIFIC

THE FEAST OF ELIE NAUD, HUGUENOT WITNESS TO THE FAITH

THE FEAST OF JANE LAURIE BORTHWICK, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, POET

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/caring-for-others/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After the Third Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

11402v

Above:  Gideon’s Fountain, Between 1900 and 1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-11402

The God of Surprises

JANUARY 27-29, 2020

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The Collect:

Lord God, your loving kindness always goes before us and follows us.

Summon us into your light, and direct our steps in the ways of goodness

that come through he cross of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 6:11-24 (Monday)

Judges 7:12-22 (Tuesday)

Genesis 49:1-2, 8-13, 21-26 (Wednesday)

Psalm 27:1-6 (all days)

Ephesians 5:6-14 (Monday)

Philippians 2:12-18 (Tuesday)

Luke 1:67-79 (Wednesday)

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You speak in my heart and say, “Seek my face.”

Your face, LORD, will I seek.

–Psalm 27:8, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Gideon, in Judges 6:13-14a, lamented:

Pray, my lord, if the LORD really is with us, why has all this happened to us?  What has become of all those wonderful deeds of his, of which we have heard from our forefathers, when they told us how the LORD brought us up from Egypt?

The Revised English Bible 

He received his answer and won a victory by God’s power, the subsequent narrative tells us.  This saving, delivering deity was the same God of Jacob and of Sts. Mary and Joseph of Nazareth.  This deity is the God of the baby Jesus also.

I do not pretend to have arrived at a complete comprehension of the nature of God, for some matters exist beyond the range of human capacity to grasp.  Yet I do feel confident in making the following statement:  God is full of surprises.  So we mere mortals ought to stay on the alert for them, remembering to think outside the box of our expectations, a box into which God has never fit.  This is easy to say and difficult to do, I know, but the effort is worthwhile.

The Bible is full of unexpected turns.  Gideon’s army needed to be smaller, not larger.  God became incarnate as a helpless infant, not a conquering hero.  The selling of Joseph son of Jacob into slavery set up the deliverance of two nations.  The hungry will filled and the full will be sent away empty, the Gospel of Luke says.  Outcasts became heroes in parables of Christ.  Saul of Tarsus, a persecutor of nascent Christianity, became one of its greatest evangelists.  The list could go on, but I trust that I have made my point sufficiently.

So, following God, however God works in our lives, may we walk in the light, for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 7, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE PACIFIC

THE FEAST OF ELIE NAUD, HUGUENOT WITNESS TO THE FAITH

THE FEAST OF JANE LAURIE BORTHWICK, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, POET

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/the-god-of-surprises/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Third Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Brugghen,_Hendrick_ter_-_The_Calling_of_St._Matthew_-_1621

Above:  The Calling of St. Matthew, by Hendrick ter Brugghen

(Image in the Public Domain)

Vindication and Faithfulness

JANUARY 23-25, 2020

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The Collect:

Lord God, your loving kindness always goes before us and follows us.

Summon us into your light, and direct our steps in the ways of goodness

that come through he cross of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 1:1-20 (Thursday)

1 Samuel 9:27-10:8 (Friday)

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13 (Saturday)

Psalm 27:1-6 (all days)

Galatians 1:11-24 (Thursday)

Galatians 2:1-10 (Friday)

Luke 5:27-32 (Saturday)

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One thing I have asked of the LORD;

one thing I seek;

that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life;

to behold the fair beauty of then LORD,

to seek God in the temple.

–Psalm 27:4, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The readings for these three days tell of faithfulness to God, of faithlessness, and of vindication.  Along the way we read of two different Sauls.

Hannah was childless.  For this her husband’s other wife mocked her.  But Elkanah loved Hannah, his wife.   And God answered Hannah’s prayer for a child, giving her the great prophet Samuel.  He, following divine instructions, anointed two kings of Israel–Saul and David, both of whom went their own sinful ways.  Yet Saul, no less troublesome a figure than David, faced divine rejection.  Saul’s attempts at vindication–some of them violent–backfired on him.

Saul of Tarsus, who became St. Paul the Apostle, had to overcome his past as a persecutor of the nascent Christian movement as well as strong opposition to his embrace of the new faith and to his mission to Gentiles.  Fortunately, he succeeded, changing the course of events.

And Jesus, who dined with notorious sinners, brought many of them to repentance.  He, unlike others, who shunned them, recognized the great potential within these marginalized figures.  For this generosity of spirit our Lord and Savior had to provide a defense to certain respectable religious authorities.

Sometimes our quests for vindication are self-serving, bringing benefit only to ourselves.  Yet, on other occasions, we have legitimate grounds for vindication.  When we are in the right those who cause the perceived need for vindication–for whatever reason they do so–ought to apologize instead.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 6, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALLAN CRITE, ARTIST

THE FEAST OF CHARLES ELLIOTT FOX, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF MADELEINE L’ENGLE, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF PETER CLAVER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/vindication-and-faithfulness/

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Devotion for Wednesday After the Second Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Restless Weaver

Above:  The Copyright Information for “Restless Weaver,” an Excellent 1988 and 1993 Hymn, Number 658 in Chalice Hymnal (1995)

The Old and the New

JANUARY 22, 2020

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The Collect:

Holy God, our strength and our redeemer,

by your Spirit hold us forever, that through your grace we may

worship you and faithfully serve you,

follow you and joyfully find you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 48:12-21

Psalm 40:6-17

Matthew 9:14-17

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Let all who seek you rejoice in you and be glad;

let those who love your salvation say always, “The Lord is great.”

–Psalm 40:17, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The words of a dying church, I have heard, are

We’ve never done it that way before.

The Bible speaks again and again of God doing new things and provides examples–the main one being the Incarnation and all that flowed from it.  The tension between the traditional and the innovative is an old story.  One can find both gold and dross among both the old and the new.  Yet how can one distinguish between the dross and the gold?

That is a difficult question, one worth wrestling with over time.  My study of the past tells me that hindsight proves useful.  Traditional interpretations of the Bible in the Antebellum U.S. South affirmed chattel slavery.  Thus, according to that standard, abolitionists were heretics.  Yet the alleged heretics were really the orthodox and the alleged orthodox were really the heretics.  The new was superior to the old.   Yet hindsight does not exist in the moment.  That is a problem.

Here is another example:  I like hymns with theologically deep words.  These hymns might be old or new.  Their value does not depend on their age.  But “seven-eleven songs”–songs with seven words one sings eleven times–are dross.  Thus I despise praise songs and choruses, heaping upon them a great amount of undying contempt for their shallowness.

Striking the proper balance between the old and the new can prove difficult.  I propose a standard from Philip H. Pfatteicher, an expert on Lutheran liturgy.  He wrote:

…the new is not always found in opposition to the old but arises from the old as its natural growth and development.  Stability and continuity are essential elements of catholic Christianity.

Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship:  Lutheran Liturgy in Its Ecumenical Context (Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 1990), page 10

It is good to remember that our traditions began as innovations.  They became traditions only with the passage of time.  And neither theology nor liturgy should function as museums.  Yet neither ought the faddish displace the tried-and-true, as my studies of liturgical development have revealed.  (Some 1970-1972 liturgies have not aged well.)

Furthermore, some issues are questions purely of taste, with no right or wrong involved.  One ought to recall that also.

Isaiah 48:12-21 condemns the faithlessness of both Chaldea and Judah yet ends with the promise of the redemption of the latter.

If you had only listened to my commands,

verse 18a reads in The Revised English Bible (1989).  The commands of God are old sometimes and new on other occasions, from our temporal perspectives.  May we, by grace, identify these commands and follow them, separating the new and worthy from the new and faddish and the old and worthy from the old and erroneous.  So, with the worthy old and the worthy new, may we rejoice in the Lord.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 5, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MOTHER TERESA OF CALCUTTA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF GREGORIO AGLIPAY, PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENT BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/the-old-and-the-new/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After the Second Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

The baptism of the Eunuch *oil on panel *64 x 47.5 cm *signed b.r.: RH 1626

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

Image in the Public Domain

Divine Grace and Mutual Responsibility

JANUARY 20 and 21, 2020

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The Collect:

Holy God, our strength and our redeemer,

by your Spirit hold us forever, that through your grace we may

worship you and faithfully serve you,

follow you and joyfully find you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 12:1-13, 21-28 (Monday)

Isaiah 53:1-12 (Tuesday)

Psalm 40:6-17 (both days)

Acts 8:26-40 (Monday)

Hebrews 10:1-4 (Tuesday)

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O Lord my God,

great are the wonderful things you have done,

and the things you have in mind for us:

there is none to be compared with you.

I would proclaim them and speak of them:

but they are more than can be numbered.

–Psalm 40:6-7, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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The laws of God which are written on hearts and minds are laws of grace, love, and responsibility for and to each other.  They are laws of love for and responsibility to God.  The essence of them is to love God fully and others as ourselves.  The rest is commentary–mostly culturally-specific commentary–examples (bound by time, space and circumstances) of universal principles.  Therefore to become so fixated on examples as to ignore or minimize the universal principles is to miss the point and fall into legalism.

This internalized covenant is for all people, not that everyone embraces it or will do so.  It is for Hebrews and Gentiles alike.  It is for those like us and those quite different from us.  It is as much as for Hebrews as it was for a confused Ethiopian eunuch who needed a good catechist.  Fortunately, God sent him one.

The reading from Exodus speaks of the Passover meal instructions and of the importance of blood in deliverance–the latter being a theme in other readings for these days.  In the case of the Passover, the blood protected the Hebrews not from their own sins, but those of Egyptians.  This is a point which one might overlook out of imagined familiarity with the text.  Anyhow, the metaphor of the Passover as applied to Jesus (perhaps most explicitly applied to Jesus in the Gospel of John, where he dies on Passover itself–is the sacrificial lamb) carries meaning beyond just saving us from ourselves–from our sins.

A traditional American hymn speaks of

What wondrous love

that

caused the Lord of bliss

to

lay aside his crown for my soul.

May we–you, O reader, and I–respond favorably to that grace with heart and mind engaged fully, giving neither short shrift.  May we understand correctly and act accordingly, helping others to whom God sends us and others whom God sends to us, to do likewise.  For we are all responsible to and for each other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 5, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MOTHER TERESA OF CALCUTTA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF GREGORIO AGLIPAY, PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENT BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/divine-grace-and-mutual-responsibility/

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Devotion for Saturday Before the Second Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

V&A_-_Raphael,_The_Miraculous_Draught_of_Fishes_(1515)

Above:  The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, by Raphael

(Image in the Public Domain)

Called to Serve God

JANUARY 18, 2020

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The Collect:

Holy God, our strength and our redeemer,

by your Spirit hold us forever, that through your grace we may

worship you and faithfully serve you,

follow you and joyfully find you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 19:19-21

Psalm 40:1-11

Luke 5:1-11

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He has put a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to our God;

many shall see and fear

and put their trust in the Lord.

–Psalm 40:3, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The ELCA Daily Lectionary of 2006 pairs two stories of people called to discipleship.  First we read of Elisha leaving his family behind to follow Elijah.  Then we have an account of Jesus calling his first several Apostles, already acquainted with him.  Sts. James and John, sons of Zebedee, were our Lord’s cousins through St. Mary’s sister.  And St. Simon (Peter) was their business partner whose mother-in-law Jesus had cured in the previous chapter.

None of these men (except Jesus) were perfect.  St. Simon Peter was quick to speak before he thought sufficiently.  The brothers jostled for positions of privilege in the Kingdom of God.  And Elisha, as Walter Harrelson wrote n the 1962 Encyclopedia Americana,

offered no word of protest against Jehu’s bloody purge of Ahab’s 70 sons and others of his kin, of Ahaziah’s 42 brethren, and of the worshipers of Baal (II Kings 10).

And he

cursed playful children for mocking him, whereupon bears devoured them (II Kings 2:23-24).

–Volume 10, page 214

Yet, as Harrelson notes, Elisha also showed mercy on Syrian captives, healed Naaman, and cared about the common people of the kingdom.  The good came mixed with the bad.

Elisha and the Apostles did much that was great in the name of God.  They changed the world the better.  And so can I.  So can you, O reader.  The same power which flowed through them is available to us.  We can be effective instruments of God by divine grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 5, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MOTHER TERESA OF CALCUTTA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF GREGORIO AGLIPAY, PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENT BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/called-to-serve-god/

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Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before the Second Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

17546v

Above:  An Abandoned Barn Overwhelmed by Kudzu, 1980

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-17546

Human Weaknesses, the Kingdom of God, and Kudzu

JANUARY 16 and 17, 2020

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The Collect:

Holy God, our strength and our redeemer,

by your Spirit hold us forever, that through your grace we may

worship you and faithfully serve you,

follow you and joyfully find you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 22:15-25 (Thursday)

Genesis 27:30-38 (Friday)

Psalm 40:1-11 (both days)

Galatians 1:6-12 (Thursday)

Acts 1:1-5 (Friday)

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Blessed are those who have put their trust in the Lord:

who have not turned to the proud,

or to those who stray after false gods.

A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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Shebna was a high-ranking official in the court of the King of Judah.  This royal steward, according to Isaiah, was unworthy of the position he held and of the elaborate tomb he had had built for himself.  The prophet predicted Shebna’s demotion and the promotion of Eliakim to the post of steward.  As the notes on page 826 of The Jewish Study Bible tell me, Isaiah 36:3; Isaiah 37:2; and 2 Kings 18:18 refer to Eliakim as royal steward.  Isaiah also predicted the downfall of Eliakim, who was also vulnerable to human weaknesses and failings.

Human weaknesses and failings were on full display in Genesis 27:30-38.  Certainly Rebecca and Jacob did not emerge from the story pristine in reputation.  And St. Paul the Apostle, a great man of history and of Christianity, struggled with his ego.  He knew many of his weaknesses and failings well.

Fortunately, the success of God’s work on the planet does not depend upon we mere mortals.  Yes, it is better if we cooperate with God, but the Kingdom of God, in one of our Lord and Savior’s parables, is like a mustard tree–a large, generally pesky weed which spreads where it will.  Whenever I ponder that parable I think about the kudzu just an short drive from my home.  The Kingdom of God is like kudzu.  The divine message of Jesus is like kudzu.  I take comfort in that.

Yet we humans, despite our weaknesses and failings, can cooperate with God.  It is better that way.  It is better for us, certainly.  And it is better for those whom God will reach through us.  The transforming experience of cooperating with God will prove worth whatever price it costs us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 5, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MOTHER TERESA OF CALCUTTA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF GREGORIO AGLIPAY, PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENT BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/human-weaknesses-the-kingdom-of-god-and-kudzu/

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