Archive for November 2014

Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Healing_of_the_demon-possessed

Above:  An Exorcism

Image in the Public Domain

Idolatry and the Sovereignty of God

JANUARY 25, 2018

JANUARY 26, 2018

JANUARY 27, 2018

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The Collect:

Compassionate God, you gather the whole universe into your radiant presence

and continually reveal your Son as our Savior.

Bring wholeness to all that is broken and speak truth to us in our confusion,

that all creation will see and know your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 3:23-29 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 12:28-32 (Friday)

Deuteronomy 13:1-5 (Saturday)

Psalm 111 (All Days)

Romans 9:6-18 (Thursday)

Revelation 2:12-17 (Friday)

Matthew 8:28-9:1 (Saturday)

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The works of the Lord are great,

sought out by all who delight in them.

His work is full of majesty and honour

and his righteousness endures for ever.

–Psalm 111:2-3, Common Worship (2000)

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We have a batch of overlapping and difficult passages these three days.  Some (such as Moses in Deuteronomy and a herd of swine in Matthew) suffer for the offenses of others.  People also suffer for their own sins in other passages of Scripture.  All of this falls under the heading of the sovereignty of God in Romans 9, in the theological style of God’s speech at the end of the book of Job.

I recognize the mystery of God and am content to leave many questions unanswered.  Comfort with uncertainty is consistent with my Anglican theology.  Nevertheless, I understand that the sovereignty of God can become something it is not supposed to be–a copout and a seemingly bottomless pit into which to pour one’s ignorance and prooftexting tendencies.  We should never use God to excuse slavery, genocide, sexism, homophobia, racism, and a host of other sins.  Whenever God seems to agree with us all of the time, we ought to know that we have created God in our own image.  We have forged an idol.  And God, according to the Hebrew Scriptures, disapproves of idolatry.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 23, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 29–CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY–THE LAST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JOHN KENNETH PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS WIFE, HARRIET ELIZABETH “BESSIE” WHITTINGTON PFOHL, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN; AND THEIR SON, JAMES CHRISTIAN PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT I OF ROME, BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF MIGUEL AUGUSTIN PRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/idolatry-and-the-sovereignty-of-god/

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Devotion for Wednesday After the Third Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Jesus and His Apostles

Above:  Jesus and His Apostles

Image in the Public Domain

The Call of God, Part IV

JANUARY 24, 2018

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The Collect:

Almighty God, by grace alone you call us and accept us in your service.

Strengthen us by your Spirit, and make us worthy of your call,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 8:1-21

Psalm 46

Mark 3:13-19a

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The Lord of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

–Psalm 46:7, Common Worship (2000)

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One understanding of divine wisdom in the Bible is that it became part and parcel of Jesus, the incarnated Logos of God, per John 1.  That thought fills my mind as I read from Proverbs 8.  The cry to all humankind filled the preaching of Christ’s Apostles.  It echoes down the corridors of time.

I wonder how many of those men would have followed Jesus had they known what awaited them.  One became disappointed in Jesus, whom he betrayed before committing suicide.  Ten became martyrs.  The twelfth lived to a ripe old age and died in exile.  Will we also follow Jesus?  Will we become disappointed in him then betray him somehow also?  Might we face danger and perhaps die for the faith we profess?  If we knew what awaited us from the beginning of our walk with Christ, would we have accepted the invitation?

Sometimes wisdom literature of the Hebrew Bible promises prosperity as a reward for faithfulness to God.  Such passages lead to Prosperity Theology, a heresy.  Often, actually, fidelity to God leads to hardship.  As Proverbs 8, verse 19 states that the fruits of wisdom are superior to fine gold and verse 21 says that any financial reward for faithfulness will be honest wealth.  There is an offset to Prosperity Theology in that pericope.

May we follow God in Christ wherever the path leads.  If we become disappointed, may we realize that the fault resides within us, not God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 23, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 29–CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY–THE LAST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JOHN KENNETH PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS WIFE, HARRIET ELIZABETH “BESSIE” WHITTINGTON PFOHL, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN; AND THEIR SON, JAMES CHRISTIAN PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT I OF ROME, BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF MIGUEL AUGUSTIN PRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/the-call-of-god-part-iv/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After the Third Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Abraham_Journeying_into_the_Land_of_Canaan

Above:  Abraham Journeying into the Land of Canaan, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

The Call of God, Part III

JANUARY 22, 2018, and JANUARY 23, 2018

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The Collect:

Almighty God, by grace alone you call us and accept us in your service.

Strengthen us by your Spirit, and make us worthy of your call,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 12:1-9 (Monday)

Genesis 45:25-46:7 (Tuesday)

Psalm 46 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 7:17-24 (Monday)

Acts 5:33-42 (Tuesday)

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The Lord of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

–Psalm 46:7, Common Worship (2000)

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I refuse to defend St. Paul the Apostle’s consistent failure to condemn slavery.  Perhaps he thought that doing so was unnecessary, given his assumption that Jesus would return quite soon and correct societal ills.  The Apostle was wrong on both counts.  At least he understood correctly, however, that social standing did not come between one and God.

Whom God calls and why God calls them is a mystery which only Hod understands.  So be it.  To fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant partially via notorious trickster and con artist as well as his sons, some of whom sold one of their number into slavery, was to take a route which many people (including the author of this post) would have avoided.  And the eleven surviving Apostles (before the selection of St. Matthias) had not been paragons of spiritual fortitude throughout the canonical Gospels.  Yet they proved vital to God’s plan after the Ascension of Jesus.

Those whom God calls God also qualifies to perform important work for the glory of God and the benefit of others.  This is about God and our fellow human beings, not about those who do the work.  So may we, when we accept our assignments, fulfill them with proper priorities in mind.  May we do the right thing for the right reason.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 23, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 29–CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY–THE LAST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JOHN KENNETH PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS WIFE, HARRIET ELIZABETH “BESSIE” WHITTINGTON PFOHL, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN; AND THEIR SON, JAMES CHRISTIAN PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT I OF ROME, BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF MIGUEL AUGUSTIN PRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/the-call-of-god-part-iii/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Third Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

jeremiah-sistine-chapel

Above:  Jeremiah, from the Sistine Chapel, by Michelangelo Buonarroti

Image in the Public Domain

Apocalyptic Warnings

JANUARY 18, 2018

JANUARY 19, 2018

JANUARY 20, 2018

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The Collect:

Almighty God, by grace alone you call us and accept us in your service.

Strengthen us by your Spirit, and make us worthy of your call,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 19:1-15 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 20:7-13 (Friday)

Jeremiah 20:14-18 (Saturday)

Psalm 65:5-12 (All Days)

Revelation 18:11-20 (Thursday)

2 Peter 3:1-7 (Friday)

Luke 10:13-16 (Saturday)

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Those who dwell at the ends of the earth tremble at your marvels;

the gates of the morning and evening sing your praise.

–Psalm 65:7, Common Worship (2000)

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The prophet Jeremiah would have been thrilled for that statement to have applied to Jerusalem.  Alas, some people there even sacrificed their children to pagan gods at the valley whose name became the source for the label “Gehenna,” a place of suffering in the afterlife.  Jeremiah condemned such idolatrous and violent practices and pronounced divine punishment.  For his trouble he faced flogging and imprisonment.  Yet those who mistreated him would, he said, die as exiles in Babylon.  That prediction came true.

A common expectation in New Testament times was that Jesus would return quite soon.  It was an age of apocalyptic hopes that God would end the violent and exploitative rule of the Roman Empire, set the world right, and that the divine order would govern the planet.  In that context a lack of repentance was especially bad, as in Luke 10:13-16.  In Revelation 18 the Roman Empire had fallen (within the Johannine Apocalypse only), but the imperium survived well beyond the first century of the Common Era.  Discouragement and scoffing had become evident by the 80s and 90s, the timeframe for the writing of 2 Peter.  Yet the calls to repentance remained applicable.

Divine time and human time work differently, but some things remain the same.  Fearful theocrats react badly to honest prophets.  The realization that God has not met a human schedule leads to bad spiritual results.  Violent, oppressive, and exploitative governments continue to exist.  And the promise that God will destroy the evil order then replace it with a holy and just one remains a future hope.  In the meantime we would do well to consider the moral lessons of Revelation 18.  For example, do we benefit from any violent, oppressive, and/or exploitative system?  If so, what is the “Babylon” or what are the “Babylons” to which we have attached ourselves, from which we benefit, and whose passing we would mourn?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 23, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 29–CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY–THE LAST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JOHN KENNETH PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS WIFE, HARRIET ELIZABETH “BESSIE” WHITTINGTON PFOHL, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN; AND THEIR SON, JAMES CHRISTIAN PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT I OF ROME, BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF MIGUEL AUGUSTIN PRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/apocalyptic-warnings/

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Devotion for Wednesday After the Second Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Jesus Blessing Children

Above:  Jesus Blessing Children

Image Source = Father Lawrence G. Lovasik, S.V.D., New Catholic Picture Bible:  Popular Stories from the Old and New Testaments (New York:  Catholic Book Publishing Company, 1955, 1960)

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Children and the Kingdom of God

JANUARY 17, 2018

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The Collect:

Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, most merciful redeemer,

for the countless blessings and benefits you give.

May we know you more clearly,

love you more dearly,

and follow you more nearly,

day by day praising you, with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 16:1-14

Psalm 86

Luke 18:15-17

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Turn to me and have mercy upon me;

give your strength to your servant

and save the child of your handmaid.

–Psalm 86:16, Common Worship (2000)

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Abram had received a promise from God that he would become the father of nations.  There was just one problem:  he had no children.  Abram and Sarai took matters into their own hands, thereby creating a mess and causing injury immediately to Hagar and later compounding it and extending it to Ishmael.  The boy, whose existence was due to faithlessness, became a pawn.

Children were people without social standing in our Lord and Savior’s cultural context.  Sometimes parents even sold them into slavery to pay off debts.  One function of the Kingdom of God in the Gospels was to point out the ways in which the dominant society fell short of the divine mark.  Hence the Beatitudes (and, in the Gospel of Luke, the corresponding Woes) were counter-cultural.  Blessed are poor?  Woe to the rich?  Blessed are the peacemakers?  In the Kingdom of God, yes!  The description of the way things ought to be condemned the way they were.

That description continues to condemn societies.  For example, the exploitation of children–from child labor to sexual slavery to conscription as soldiers–constitutes current events.  Some patterns never change, although the places, dates, and certain other minor details regarding them do.  I live just outside the Atlanta Metropolitan Area.  Atlanta is a hub of human trafficking, unfortunately.

In the Gospel of Luke the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (18:9-14) and the conversation between Jesus and the rich ruler attached to his wealth (18:18-30) bookend the pericope about receiving the Kingdom of God as a little child does.  The cumulative message, therefore, is that social standing counts for nothing in the eyes of God and that wealth is irrelevant in the same context.  No, pride must go away and we must approach God humbly, aware of our powerlessness and limitations.

The exhortation in Luke 18:15-17 also points to inherent human dignity and links well with the plights of Hagar and Ishmael.  May we never use people as pawns, for that is unfair to them.  It also violates the commandments to care for one another and to be responsible to each other–orders which undergird much of the Law of Moses and are consistent with our Lord and Savior’s ethical teachings and lived example.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD WATSON GILDER, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF HENRY FRANCIS LYTE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LEO TOLSTOY, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT MECHTILD OF MAGDEBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/children-and-the-kingdom-of-god/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After the Second Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Saul Rejected as King

Above:  Saul Rejected as King

Image in the Public Domain

Excuses

JANUARY 15, 2018, and JANUARY 16, 2018

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The Collect:

Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, most merciful redeemer,

for the countless blessings and benefits you give.

May we know you more clearly,

love you more dearly,

and follow you more nearly,

day by day praising you, with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

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

1 Samuel 15:10-31 (Tuesday)

Psalm 86 (Both Days)

2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 (Monday)

Acts 5:1-11 (Tuesday)

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Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth;

knit my heart to you that I may fear your name.

–Psalm 86:11, Common Worship (2000)

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The assigned readings for these two days pertain to the theme of commitment to God.

The lessons from 1 Samuel tell us of King Saul of Israel.  We read first of God choosing him and Samuel anointing him.  In Chapter 15 we find one account of God and Samuel rejecting the monarch for violating the rules of holy war.   Saul’s army did not kill enough people and destroy enough property, apparently.  (1 Samuel 15 does not reflect my understanding of God.)  Two facts attract my attention:

  1. Saul simultaneously seeks forgiveness and shifts the blame.
  2.  1 Samuel 13 contains a different account of God and Samuel rejecting Saul.  There the monarch’s offense is to usurp the priest’s duty.  Making an offering to God properly was a major issue in the Old Testament, for some people died because they made offerings improperly.

When we turn to the New Testament readings we find fatal lack of commitment in Acts 5 and a stern Pauline warning regarding human relationships in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1.  The unified message of the pericopes is to commit to God–not to be content with half measures.  We should, I propose, feel free to ask questions about people dying because of deception in Acts 5 and why Saul’s offense in 1 Samuel 15 was such a bad thing to have done, for asking intelligent questions is not a faithless act.  Nevertheless, I recall the words of Jesus to a man who used an excuse to refuse our Lord and Savior’s call to discipleship.  Christ said:

Once the hand is laid on the plow, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.

–Luke 9:62, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

At that point in the Lukan narrative Jesus was en route to Jerusalem for the climactic week of Passover.  He was neither offering nor accepting excuses.  Who dares offer one?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD WATSON GILDER, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF HENRY FRANCIS LYTE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LEO TOLSTOY, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT MECHTILD OF MAGDEBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/excuses/

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Devotion for Saturday Before the Second Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Wise and Foolish Virgins

Above: The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

Disobedience to God, Part II

JANUARY 13, 2018

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The Collect:

Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, most merciful redeemer,

for the countless blessings and benefits you give.

May we know you more clearly,

love you more dearly,

and follow you more nearly,

day by day praising you, with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 2:21-21-25

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

Matthew 25:1-13

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Yahweh, you examine me and know me,

you know when I sit, when I rise,

you understand my thoughts from afar.

You watch me when I walk or lie down,

you know every detail of my conduct.

–Psalm 139:1-3, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Almighty God,

to whom all hearts are open,

all desires known,

and from whom no secrets are hidden:

cleanse the thoughts of our hearts

by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,

that we may perfectly love you,

and worthily magnify your holy name;

through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Common Worship (2000)

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The roots of the Anglican Collect for Purity, a contemporary version of which I have quoted immediately above, reach back to the 1200s C.E., although the echoes of Psalms, especially Psalm 51, take its history back much further.  The theology of the collect fits today’s devotion well.  The first question of the Larger (Westminster) Catechism asks:

What is the chief and highest end of man?

The answer is:

Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

–Quoted in Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), The Book of Confessions (1996), page 201

Fulfilling that high spiritual calling requires grace as well as a positive human response to God.  Grace marks that affirmative response possible.  Thus we exist in the midst of grace.  But what will we do with it?  There is, after all, the matter of free will.

The readings for today contain cautionary tales.  Eli was the priest prior to Samuel.  Eli’s sons were notorious and unrepentant sinners.  Their father rebuked them, but not as often and as sternly as he should have done.  Even if he had rebuked them properly, he could not have forced them to amend their attitudes and actions, for which they paid the penalty.  Eli’s successor became someone outside his family; that was the price he paid.  As for the foolish bridesmaids, they did not maintain their supply of lamp oil, as was their responsibility.

Some spiritual tasks we must perform for ourselves.  We cannot perform them for others, nor can others perform them for us.  Others can encourage us, assist us, and point us in the right direction, but only we can attend to certain tasks in our spiritual garden.  Will we do this or not?

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 19, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN HERMANN SCHEIN, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF HUNGARY, PRINCESS

THE FEAST OF F. BLAND TUCKER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF FRANZ SCHUBERT, COMPOSER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/disobedience-to-god-part-ii/

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