Archive for the ‘Year D (Timothy Matthew Slemmons)’ Category

Devotion for the Second Sunday After the Epiphany (Year D)   1 comment

Rode

Above:  Christ Heals a Man Paralyzed by the Gout, by Bernhard Rode

Image in the Public Domain

Building Communities of Shalom

JANUARY 19, 2020

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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 26:7-27:1

Psalm 109

Matthew 8:1-4; 9:1-8 or Luke 5:12-26

Hebrews 10:1-4 (10-14) 26-39

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May my accusers be clothed with dishonor;

may they be wrapped in their own shame as in a mantle.

–Psalm 109:29, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Justice, according to Psalm 109 and Isaiah 26, is for God to deliver the faithful and to smite the evildoers.  I understand the sentiment well, just as I also grasp the reality that prolonged anger can easily become a spiritual toxin.  In small doses and for brief periods of time it might help one make the proper decisions, but its toxicity becomes apparent quickly.  One does better to pray for one’s persecutors, that they may repent, and leave the rest to God.  Not all will repent, unfortunately, and those who persist in perfidy will bring their fates upon themselves.

Lo, I have it all put away,

Sealed up in My storehouses,

To be My vengeance and recompense,

At the time that their foot falters.

Yea, their day of disaster is near,

And destiny rushes upon them.

For the LORD will vindicate His people

And take revenge for His servants,

When He sees that their might is gone,

And neither bond nor free is left….

O nations, acclaim His people!

For He’ll avenge the blood of His servants,

Wreak vengeance on His foes,

And cleanse the land of His people.

–Deuteronomy 32:34-36, 43, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

In the Lukan account of the healing of the paralyzed man he glorifies God immediately, and witnesses become filled with amazement because of the miracle.  It is easy to maintain faith in God during good times, but a different matter during difficult times.  That is part of the reason for the existence of the Letter to the Hebrews, with its encouragement of perseverance and warning against committing apostasy, of falling away from God.

I have learned via living that faith in God is essential to getting through dark chapters in life as well as possible.  I have also learned that the light of God seems to burn brightest in the darkness and that grace seems most evident during times of distress.  The faithful do not walk exclusively in paths of pleasantness.  Neither do they walk alone.  They trusting in God, can focus on the positive and seek to build communities of shalom.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE SIXTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKERS AND PEACE ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/09/04/building-communities-of-shalom/

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Devotion for the First Sunday After the Epiphany (Year D)   1 comment

Salome with the Head of John the Baptist

Above:  Salome with the Head of John the Baptist, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

Atonement and the Sovereignty of God

JANUARY 12, 2020

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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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Leviticus 16:1-34

Psalm 69

Matthew 14:1-12

Hebrews 9:1-28

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O God, you know my folly;

the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.

–Psalm 69:5, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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The contents of Leviticus 16 might seem odd to a Gentile, especially one who is a Christian.  Part of a note from The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) explains it well:

The preceding chs have established that sins and bodily impurities contaminate the Tabernacle.  Regular atonement for unintentional sin and the routine eradication of impurity eliminate as much of both types of defilement as possible.  Yet, since not all unintentional wrongs are discovered and not everyone is diligent about atonement, a certain amount of defilement remains.  In particular, deliberate crimes, which contaminate the inner sanctum where the divine Presence is said to dwell, are not expurgated by the regular atonement rituals.  This ch thus provides the instructions for purging the inner sanctum along with the rest of the Tabernacle once a year, so that defilement does not accumulate.  It logically follows the laws of purification (chs 12-15), as they conclude with the statement that only by preventing the spread of impurity can the Israelites ensure God’s continual presence among them (15:31).  The annual purification ritual, briefly alluded to in Ex. 30:10, is to be performed on the tenth day of the seventh month (v. 29).  Elsewhere (23:27, 28; 25:9) this day is referred to as “yom hakippurim”–often translated as “Day of Atonement.”

–Page 231

When we turn to the Letter to the Hebrews we read an extended contrast between the annual rites for Yom Kippur and the one-time sacrifice of Jesus.  We also read a multi-chapter contrast between human priests and Jesus, who is simultaneously the priest and the victim.

How much more will the blood of Christ, who offered himself, blameless as he was, to God through the eternal Spirit, purify our conscience from dead actions so that we can worship the living God.

–Hebrews 9:14, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

St. John the Baptist, of whose death we read in Matthew 14:1-12, was the forerunner of Jesus.  Not only did John point to Jesus and baptize him, but he also preceded him in violent death.  The shedding of the blood of St. John the Baptist on the orders of Herod Antipas was a political and face-saving act.  Antipas had, after all, imprisoned John for political reasons.  The alleged crime of St. John the Baptist was to challenge authority with his words, which was one reason for the crucifixion of Jesus also.

Part of the grace evident in martyrdom (such as that of St. John the Baptist) and of the crucifixion of Jesus was that those perfidious deeds glorified not those who ordered and perpetrated them but God.  We honor St. John the Baptist, not Herod Antipas, and thank God for John’s faithful witness.  We honor Jesus of Nazareth and give thanks–for his resurrection; we do not sing the praises of the decision-making of Pontius Pilate on that fateful day.  Another part of the grace of the crucifixion of Jesus is that, although it was indeed a perfidious act, it constituted a portion of the process of atonement for sins–once and for all.

Certain powerful people, who found Jesus to be not only inconvenient but dangerous, thought they had gotten rid of him.  They could not have been more mistaken.  They had the power to kill him, but God resurrected him, thereby defeating their evil purposes.  God also used their perfidy to affect something positive for countless generations to come.  That was certainly a fine demonstration of the Sovereignty of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE SIXTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKERS AND PEACE ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/09/04/atonement-and-the-sovereignty-of-god/

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Devotion for the Epiphany (Year D)   1 comment

Votive Candles

Above:  Statue of Jesus with Votice Candles Baltimore Basilica, Baltimore, Maryland, by Carol Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-16721

The Light of Christ

JANUARY 6, 2020

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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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Deuteronomy 4:(9) 10-24 (25-31) 32-40

Psalm 75 or 76

John 5:31-47

1 John 2:3-29

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We give thanks to you, O God;

we give thanks; your name is near.

People tell of your wondrous deeds.

–Psalm 75:1, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Glorious are you, more majestic than the everlasting mountains.

–Psalm 76:4, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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One should read Deuteronomy 4 in the knowledge that someone wrote it long after the time of Moses then placed it in the great man’s mouth.  Thus one will read that text while knowing what the real audience is a later generation of Hebrews.  “Learn from the past and refrain from repeating those mistakes,” the text really says.  Unfortunately, as we know, that message fell mostly on deaf ears, and the negative consequences of actions ensued.

Rejection of Jesus occupies the readings from John and 1 John.  In John 5 Jesus was speaking to a hostile Jewish audience.  Nevertheless, as in Deuteronomy 4, the text came from a later time and the actual audience was contemporary to the time of composition.  The text still challenges audiences.  Do we rest on our spiritual laurels while lacking the love of God in ourselves?  If we have the love of God in ourselves, we will act on it with regard to others.  We will seek their best and have compassion for them.  We will, to cite 1 John 2, keep the commandments of Jesus.  If they seem new, we have not been paying (sufficient) attention, for they are old.

Whoever claims to be in light

but hates his brother

is still in darkness.

Anyone who loves his brother remains in light

and there is in him nothing to make him fall away.

But whoever hates his brother is in darkness

and is walking about in darkness

not knowing where he is going,

because darkness has blinded him.

–1 John 2:9-11, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

The Feast of the Epiphany is about the light of Christ shining among Gentiles.  May we who bear that light do so as effectively as possible, by grace.  May we glorify and enjoy God forever, and thereby inspire others to do the same.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 2, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM OF ROSKILDE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF DAVID CHARLES, WELSH CALVINISTIC MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF NEW GUINEA

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/09/02/the-light-of-christ-2/

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Devotion for the Second Sunday of Christmas (Year D)   1 comment

John the Baptist in Prison

Above:  John the Baptist in Prison, by Josef Anton Hafner

Image in the Public Domain

Good Liturgy and the Covenant Written on Our Hearts

JANUARY 5, 2020

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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 25:1-40

Psalm 73

Matthew 11:1 (2-11) 12-15 (16-19) 20-24 (25-30) or Luke 7:18-35

Hebrews 8:1-13

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But for me it is good to be near God;

I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,

to tell of all your works.

–Psalm 73:28, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Hebrews 8 speaks of an internalized covenant, the law written on human hearts.  This is an echo of Jeremiah 31:31-34.  It is a covenant not written on the hearts of certain Pharisees and scribes in Luke 7.  When one reads the entirety of Luke 7 one realizes that the Pharisees and scribes in question were guilty of obsessing over minor details while twisting the law to accept financial donations that impoverished innocent third parties.  Thus these particular religious people were guilty of violating the principle of the Law of Moses that prohibits economic exploitation.  One also learns that a Gentile woman had the covenant written on her heart.  Likewise, those who criticized St. John the Baptist for his asceticism and Jesus for eating and drinking were seeking excuses to condemn others.  They did not have the covenant written on their hearts.

There is no fault in maintaining sacred spaces and beautiful rituals.  We mere mortals need sacred spaces that differ from other spaces and rituals that inspire our souls.  Good liturgy should make us better people.  It if does not, the fault is with us.  May it inspire us to recognize and serve God in each other.  May good liturgy, in conjunction with the covenant written on our hearts, help us find ways to act as effectively on divine principles, for the maximum benefit to others and the greatest possible glory to God.  May we refrain from carping language that tears others down and seek ways to build them up, for we are stronger together in the body of faith.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 1, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SUNDAR SINGH, INDIAN CHRISTIAN EVANGELIST

THE FEAST OF DAVID PENDLETON OAKERHATER, EPISCOPAL DEACON

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIACRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/09/01/good-liturgy-and-the-covenant-written-on-our-hearts/

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Devotion for the First Sunday of Christmas (Year D)   1 comment

Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee

Above:  Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, by Ludolf Bakhuizen

Image in the Public Domain

Liberation in God

DECEMBER 29, 2019

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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 14:1-24

Psalm 110

Matthew 8:14-34 or Mark 5:1-20

Hebrews 7:1-28

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The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind,

“You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”

–Psalm 110:4, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Psalm 110 is a text that speaks of divine assurance of victory for a priest-king.  “Priest-king” is a description that applies to the mysterious Melchizedek, King of (Jeru)Salem, perhaps a Gentile follower of YHWH.  The meaning of Psalm 110 is vague and the text of Genesis 14 concerning Melchizedek is ambiguous, but the political use of the Melchizedek story, centuries later was clear.  David and his descendants are worthy to perform certain priestly roles, subsequent royal publicity experts claimed.

The use of certain passages of scripture to convince people to obey their leaders is an old strategy.  My bias in this question is to resist the use of scripture to control people.  No, I argue, following God is about liberation–to follow God and to build up communities and other groups of people.  The truth of God is frequently contrary to the message of many human authority figures.  I think also of Samuel’s warning about the dangers of monarchy in 1 Samuel 8:10-18.

Jesus liberates us to love others as we love ourselves.  He frees to build up the whole, not seek selfish gains and hurt others in the short, medium, and long terms, as well as ourselves in the long run.  Jesus liberates us to take up a cross and follow him.  He frees us to glorify and enjoy God forever.  Jesus invites us to die–to self, at least–and perhaps, literally, for him.  Jesus liberates us to become our best selves in God.

How do we respond to Jesus?  Do we seek to honor him one way or another?  Or do we make excuses for why we refuse to follow him?  Perhaps we find Jesus threatening, maybe to our livelihood, and/or our identity (regarding who and what we are not, rather than who and what we are) and demand that he leave us alone.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF KARL OTTO EBERHARDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/08/31/liberation-in-god/

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Devotion for Christmas Day (Year D)   1 comment

Adoration of the Shepherds, by Mikael Toppelius

Above:  The Adoration of the Shepherds, by Mikael Toppelius

Image in the Public Domain

Deciding or Refusing to Repent

DECEMBER 25, 2019

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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 6:(8) 9-13 or Jeremiah 10:1-16 (17-25)

Psalm 35 or 94

John 12:17-19, 37-50

Romans 11:2b-28 (29-32) 33-36

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You have seen, O LORD, do not be silent!

O Lord, do not be far from me!

–Psalm 35:22, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Happy are those whom you discipline, O LORD,

and whom you touch out of your law,

giving them respite from days of trouble,

until a pit is dug for the wicked.

For the Lord will not forsake his people;

he will not abandon his heritage;

for justice will return to the righteous,

and all the upright in heart will follow it.

–Psalm 94:12-15, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Some of the readings for this occasion seem to indicate that God has, at various times, designated entire populations and refused to permit them to repent of their sins.  This reading is at odds with the theology of unlimited atonement (by Jesus, via his death and resurrection), which ends a process begun by the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth.  My understanding is that (A) all of us are sinners, (B) God desires all sinners to repent, and (C) many sinners simply refuse to repent.  In Judaism one can find an interpretation of the lection from Isaiah that insists that God predicted that many people would not understand and did not desire them to fail to understand.  In this reading First Isaiah’s mission was to help people to repent, not to prevent it.  This makes sense to me.

Why might one not repent?  One might identify a set of reasons, but perhaps the most basic reason is that one must recognize something as an error before one seeks to correct it.  Spiritual blindness is a major problem from which all people suffer.  We can, by grace, see what occupies our blind spots.  Assuming that we do this, do we want to change?  Maybe we think that necessary change is pointless or too difficult.  Or perhaps we are simply afraid to take action by trusting in God and venturing into unknown (to us) spiritual territory.  Either way, one does not repent.

Whoever loves himself or herself more than God is lost, we read in John 12.  To be a Christian is to follow Jesus, who went to a cross then a tomb, which he occupied only briefly.

To think this much about Good Friday and Easter Sunday on Christmas Day might seem odd, but it is theologically correct.  The recognition of this reality is hardly new.  Indeed, Johann Sebastian Bach incorporated the Passion Chorale tune into his Christmas Oratorio.

Grace is free to all, fortunately.  Yet many will not accept it and the demands accompanying it.  Each of us has a responsibility to say “yes” to God, whose grace is always free and never cheap.  Each of us has a responsibility to love his or her neighbors as he or she loves himself or herself.  Doing so will, for different people, lead to different ends in this life, and translate into action in a variety of ways, depending on circumstances.  The principle is constant, however.  Jesus, who came to us first as a baby, demands nothing less than taking up one’s cross and following him.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 30, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRIETTE LUISE VON HAYN, GERMAN MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/08/30/deciding-or-refusing-to-repent/

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Devotion for Christmas Morning (Year D)   1 comment

Micah

Above:  Icon of the Prophet Micah

Image in the Public Domain

The Universal and Timeless Love of God

DECEMBER 25, 2019

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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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Ecclesiastes 7:15-29 or Micah 7:1-20

Psalm 44

Matthew 10:9-23 or Luke 12:1-12

Romans 3:1-22a

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Rouse yourself!  Why do you sleep, O Lord?

Awake, do not cast us off forever!

Why do you hide your face?

Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?

For we sink down to the dust;

our bodies cling to the ground.

Rise up, come to our help.

Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love.

–Psalm 44:23-26, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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The readings for this occasion present a realistic appraisal of the world, not only in antiquity or today, but during all the times in between.  Certain powerful empires conquer weaker neighbors.  Wicked people flourish.  Good people perish.  Persecution of people of God occurs.  Nevertheless, one should avoid committing the theological error of assuming or otherwise concluding that the existence of God, of whom caring is an essential property, precludes the reality of suffering for many righteous people.  At this point one might point to the Book of Job and the crucifixion of Jesus as Exhibits A and B in that case.

Although suffering (for righteousness, sin, and simply having a pulse) occurs, that fact does not negate or contradict the mercy of God.  That mercy is available regardless of ethnic and cultural factors and boundaries.  That love is evident in the form of baby Jesus, born into a place and time at which his life was in danger.  That love is and always has been evident in many ways.  That love is worth pondering every day, but especially on Christmas Day.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 23, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARTIN DE PORRES AND JUAN MACIAS, HUMANITARIANS AND DOMINICAN LAY BROTHERS; SAINT ROSE OF LIMA, HUMANITARIAN AND DOMINICAN SISTER; AND SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGROVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN COPELAND, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/08/23/the-universal-and-timeless-love-of-god/

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