Archive for the ‘Holy Innocents’ Tag

Devotion for the Epiphany of Our Lord, Years A, B, and C (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Adoration of the Magi Stamp from Latvia, 1992

Image in the Public Domain

Extending the Borders

JANUARY 6, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 60:1-6

Psalm 72

Ephesians 3:2-12

Matthew 2:1-12

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Lord God, on this day you revealed your Son

to the nations by the leading of a star. 

Lead us now by faith to know your presence in our lives,

and bring us at last to the full vision of your glory,

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 15

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O God, by the leading of a star you once made known

to all nations your only-begotten Son;

now lead us, who know you by faith,

to know in heaven the fullness of your divine goodness;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 20

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Third Isaiah, in Isaiah 60, applied motifs of the Davidic Dynasty, not to the Messiah, but to the Israelite nation as a whole.  (The “you” in Isaiah 60:1-6 is plural.)  There is no Messiah in Third Isaiah, which teaches that in the future, God will rule directly on Earth.

Yet we have this assigned reading on the Feast of the Epiphany, about Jesus, the Messiah.

Psalm 72, originally for a coronation, describes the ideal Davidic monarch.  He will govern justly, defend the oppressed, crush the extortioners, and revere God, we read.  His renown spreads far and wide, we read.  These sentences describe few of the Davidic monarchs.  They do not even describe King David.  The Christian tradition of reading Jesus into every nook and cranny of the Hebrew Bible interprets Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of the text, though.

Call me a heretic if you wish, O reader, but I resist the tendency to read Jesus into every nook and cranny of the Hebrew Bible.  Call me a heretic if you wish; I will accept the label with pride.  I even own a t-shirt that reads:

HERETIC.

Father Raymond E. Brown, whom I admire and some of whose books I own, argued against the historicity of the birth narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  I take this point while disagreeing with another one:  Brown considered the account in the Gospel of Luke closer to reality than the one in the Gospel of Matthew.  I reverse that.  I posit that there may have been a natural phenomenon (poetically, a star) that attracted the attention of some Persian astrologers.  This scenario seems plausible.

I, being a detail-oriented person, as well as a self-identified heretic, also wince at the depictions of the shepherds and the Magi together at Bethlehem.  Even if one mistakes the germane accounts in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke for historical stories, one may notice that up to two years separated the stories.  St. Dionysius Exiguus, for all his piety, counted badly.  Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.E.  If one accepts the Massacre of the (Holy) Innocents as being plausible (as I do), then one may wish to notice that the Roman client king ordered the deaths of boys two years old and younger at Bethlehem.  This story, therefore, places the birth of Jesus circa 6 B.C.E.  Either way, St. Dionysius Exiguus still place the birth of Jesus “Before Christ.”  (This is why I use B.C.E. and C.E.)

Whoever wrote or dictated the Epistle to the Ephesians, I am grateful to St. Paul the Apostle, the great evangelist to the Gentiles.  I, as a Gentile, am happy to be in the club of Christ.  I also acknowledge that I, as a Christian, stand on the shoulders of Judaism, a faith I refuse to malign.

The Epiphany–set on the old Eastern date of Christmas–reminds us that God seeks to attract as many followers as possible.  We Gentiles, grafted onto the tree of faith, need to remember that we are a branch, not the trunk, of that tree.  The limits of divine mercy exist, but I do not know where the borders are.  I assume that Judaism and Christianity are the two true faiths.  Yet I do not presume to know who God’s “secret friends”–secret to me–are.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 17, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF EGYPT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND FATHER OF WESTERN MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DEICOLA AND GALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS; AND SAINT OTHMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AT SAINT GALLEN

THE FEAST OF JAMES WOODROW, SOUTHERN PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, NATURALIST, AND ALLEGED HERETIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT PACHOMIUS THE GREAT, FOUNDER OF CHRISTIAN COMMUNAL MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS A. DOOLEY, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PHYSICIAN AND HUMANITARIAN

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Head of Herod, by Giuseppe Arcimboldo

Image in the Public Domain

Five Kings

DECEMBER 18, 2022

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 7:10-14 (15-17)

Psalm 24

Romans 1:1-7

Matthew 1:18-25

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Stir up your power, O Lord, and come.

Take away the hindrance of our sins

and make us ready for the celebration of your birth,

that we may receive you in joy and serve you always,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 14

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Stir up your power, O Lord, and come among us with great might,

and because we are sorely hindered by our sins,

let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 14

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Kings populate the readings for this Sunday.

The kings in Isaiah 7:10-17 were Ahaz and Hezekiah of Judah.  Immediately–in context–God was with Judah and the leadership of that kingdom during the Syro-Ephraimite War.  The conception of the future King Hezekiah to an almah (young woman) was the sign of this.

YHWH is the King of Glory in Psalm 24.

Jesus was the king in Romans 1:1-7.  The death and resurrection of Christ revealed in yet another way that he was the Son of God.  (May we avoid the heresy of Adoptionism.)

Herod the Great was a client king of the Roman Empire.  To accuse Herod of being mean was to understate reality.  The man ordered the deaths of relatives and strangers alike.

Therefore, I, as a historian, attest that the story of the Massacre of the Innocents is plausible.  It is consistent with the character of Herod the Great.

Matthew 1:18 quotes and reapplies Jeremiah 31:15, a text about Israel, personified as Rachel, weeping for her lost children, exiles during the Babylonian Exile.  Jeremiah 31:16 predicts the return of the exiles, though.  There is hope, even if it is deferred sometimes.

That must have been cold comfort to grieving parents, though.

As we approach the twelve days of Christmas, may all of us cling to hope.  That hope may seem like cold comfort, especially if we grieve the absence of someone who has died or has not been able to attend for another reason.  I need encouragement to cling to hope as much as the next grieving person; I know the feeling of more than one “blue Christmas.”  Yet hope abides.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 8, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THORFINN OF HAMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF A. J. MUSTE, DUTCH-AMERICAN MINISTER, LABOR ACTIVIST, AND PACIFIST

THE FEAST OF ARCANGELO CORELLI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS COPERNICUS AND GALILEO GALILEI, SCIENTISTS

THE FEAST OF HARRIET BEDELL, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PEPIN OF LANDEN, SAINT ITTA OF METZ, THEIR RELATIONS, AND SAINTS AMAND, AUSTREGISILUS, AND SULPICIUS II OF BOURGES, FAITHFUL CHRISTIANS ACROSS GENERATIONAL LINES

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Fourth Day of Christmas: Feast of the Holy Innocents (December 28)   2 comments

Above:  Massacre of the Innocents, by Pieter Brueghel the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

The Unfortunate Cheapness of Human Life

DECEMBER 28, 2022

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Jeremiah 31:15-17

Psalm 124

Revelation 2:13-18

Matthew 2:13-18

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Christmas is supposed to be a happy season, right?  Yet darkness exists within it.  Consider, O reader, the sequence of three great feasts:  St. Stephen (December 26), St. John the Evangelist (December 27), and the Holy Innocents (December 28).

The kingdom of the Earth has yet to become the Kingdom of God in its fullness.  Thus we read of exiles in Jeremiah 31.  Then we read the plausible story of the Holy Innocents in Matthew 2.  Herod the Great, we know from both Biblical and extra-Biblical sources, was a disturbed and violent man who had members of his family killed.  One need not stretch credibility to imagine him ordering the murder of strangers, even young children.  Reading the story from Matthew 2 then turning to Psalm 124 creates a sense of jarring irony; one is correct to wonder why God did not spare the Holy Innocents also.

On another note, the account of the Holy Innocents provides evidence for the Magi arriving when Jesus was about two years old.  According to the Western calendar, as it has come down to us, Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.E., placing the birth of Jesus circa 6 B.C.E.  I prefer to use the term “Before the Common Era” for the simple reason that speaking and writing of the birth of Jesus as having occurred “Before Christ”–six years, perhaps–strikes me as being ridiculous.

Back to our main point, while admitting the existence of morally ambiguous and difficult scenarios with only bad choices, and in which doing our best cannot help but lead to unfortunate results….

Human life is frequently cheap.  From abortions to wars, from gangland violence to accidental shootings and crimes of passion, from genocidal governments to merely misguided policies, human life is frequently cheap.  The innocent and the vulnerable suffer.  People who are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time suffer.  May God have mercy on us all, for each of us is partially responsible, for merely being part of the social, economic, and political systems that facilitate such suffering.

The kingdom of the Earth has yet to become the Kingdom of God in its fullness.  Only God can make that happen.  We mere mortals can and must, however, leave the world better than we found it.  We can and must do this, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod.

Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims;

and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and

establish your rule of justice, love, and peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 31:15-17

Psalm 124

Revelation 21:1-7

Matthew 2:13-18

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 143

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https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/feast-of-the-holy-innocents-december-28/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/the-unfortunate-cheapness-of-human-life/

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Devotion for December 28, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

New Jerusalem

Above:  The New Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

The Kingdom of God

DECEMBER 28, 2021

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave us your only Son

to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 54:1-13

Psalm 148

Revelation 21:1-7

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Kings of the earth and all peoples,

princes and all rulers of the world;

Young men and maidens,

old and young together.

Let them praise the Name of the LORD,

for his splendor is over earth and heaven.

He has raised up strength for his people

and praise for all his loyal servants,

the children of Israel, a people who are near him.

Hallelujah!

–Psalm 148, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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God will dwell among mortals, we read in Revelation 21:3.  The context of that statement is a prediction of the fully realized Kingdom of God.  The partially evident Kingdom of God has been present on the planet since at least the time of Jesus, who was God dwelling among mortals.  That is one of many reasons to praise the LORD.

The existence and love of God do not indicate the absence of suffering and judgment.  In the pericope from Isaiah 54,  for example, divine grace follows divine judgment.  Sometimes we mere mortals must suffer the temporal consequences of our sins.  God still loves us, though.  Do we learn from our errors and love God?

As one thinks, so one is.  Only God can usher in the fully realized Kingdom of God, but we can, by grace, love God fully and love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  We can, by grace, make (more) evident the partially realized Kingdom of God in our midst.  And we can, with regard to our communities, societies, nation-states, and planet, by grace, pass the “leave it better than you found it” test.

December 28 is the Feast of the Holy Innocents.  They because King Herod the Great was mean, afraid, and paranoid, and because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time.  Unfortunately, the planet has never lacked murderous tyrants during all of recorded history.  The existence of such bad people points to the partial realization of the Kingdom of God.  We do, however, have a realistic hope of the fully realized Kingdom of God in the future.  Will we cling to that hope?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 23, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 16:  THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

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

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/08/23/the-kingdom-of-god-3/

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Devotion for Saturday Before the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Hen with Chicks

Above:  A Hen and Her Chicks

Image Source = Yann

Consolation and Lamentation

DECEMBER 18, 2021

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

With your abundant grace and might,

free us from the sin that binds us,

that we may receive you in joy and serve you always,

for you live and reign with the Father and

the Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 66:7-11

Psalm 80:1-7

Luke 13:31-35

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Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance,

and we shall be saved.

–Psalm 80:7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The reading from Isaiah 66 exists in an immediate literary context.  God does not need sacrifices, we read, but the system of sacrifices exists for human benefit.  Some people make a mockery of sacrifices; God mocks them in return.  No, God tends to the faithful and consoles Jerusalem.  Once again, divine judgment and mercy coexist.

Jesus laments over Jerusalem in Luke 13:31-35.  Many prophets have died unjustly there.  Christ’s life was at risk during the lamentation.

Advent, the time of preparation for Christmas, is an appropriate occasion to recall the violence of the world into which Jesus came, in which he lived, and in which he died.  Yes, the birth of Jesus is a cause for celebration, but even the Christmas season provides sobering moments.  December 26 is the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr.  December 28 is the Feast of the Holy Innocents.  And December 29 is the Feast of St. Thomas Becket, the “troublesome priest” and Archbishop of Canterbury whom agents of King Henry II killed at Canterbury Cathedral.  We should be happy during Advent and Christmas, but we should also note the coexistence of divine light and the darkness of the world.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 20, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/consolation-and-lamentation/

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Devotion for December 28, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Massacre of the Innocents

Above:  Massacre of the Innocents, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Image in the Public Domain

Grace Amid Grief and Violence

DECEMBER 28, 2020

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The Collect:

All-powerful and unseen God, the coming of your light

into our world has brightened weary hearts with peace.

Call us out of darkness, and empower us to proclaim the birth of your Son,

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 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 31:15-17

Psalm 148

Matthew 2:13-18

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Let kings and commoners,

princes and rulers over the whole earth,

youths and girls,

old and young together,

let them praise the name of the LORD,

for his name is high above all others,

and his majesty above earth and heaven.

He has exalted his people in the pride of power

and crowned with praise his loyal servants,

Israel, a people close to him.

Praise the LORD.

–Psalm 148:11-14, Revised English Bible (1989)

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Christmas Eve and December 25 are supposed to be joyous occasions, especially liturgically.  Yet, for many people, grief due to the absences of certain family members detracts from the celebration.  Such times ought to become occasions for grace to flow to those who grieve, with mere mortals functioning as agents of God.  We live in the midst of grace, which I liken to a lamp.  We notice its light more at night than we do earlier in the day.  Likewise, grace becomes more noticeable when we perceive the need for it to be greater.

Jeremiah 31 speaks of the return of the exiles from the ten lost tribes of Israel to their homeland, an event which has yet to occur.  Rachel weeps because of their absence, but there is hope, the text says.  The author of the Gospel of Matthew quoted part of that passage and related it to the Massacre of the Innocents.  Herod the Great was a mean and mentally unhinged monarch who derived his power from the Roman Empire.  He authorized violence against members of his own family, so ordering the killing of strangers was consistent with his character.

Some stories of violence follow the great festival of Christmas Eve and Day.  December 26 is the Feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr.  And December 28, of course, is the Feast of the Holy Innocents.  Jesus entered a world in which evil people commit or consent to violence to benefit themselves and many other people stand by and watch it happen.  Human nature has remained constant and the violence has continued.  We humans are creatures of habit.  That fact contributes to the imperative of fostering and pursuing positive habits, those which build up people and contribute to the common good.  This is possible, for God has bestowed ample grace upon us.  What will we do with it?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN VON STAUPITZ, MARTIN LUTHER’S SPIRITUAL MENTOR

THE FEAST OF JAMES THEODORE HOLLY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF HAITI

THE FEAST OF JOHN MILTON, POET AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/grace-amid-grief-and-violence/

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Devotion for December 28 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Above:  Massacre of the Innocents, by Matteo di Giovanni

The Distress and Suffering of the Innocent

DECEMBER 28, 2022

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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 everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 52:13-54:10

Psalm 2 (Morning)

Psalms 110 and 111 (Evening)

Matthew 2:13-23

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Some Related Posts:

Prayers for Those Who Suffer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/prayers-for-those-who-suffer/

A Prayer for Those Who Are Desperate:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-prayer-for-those-who-are-desperate/

A Prayer for the Healing of Minds:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-prayer-for-the-healing-of-minds/

A Franciscan Blessing:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-franciscan-blessing/

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Whom did the author of Isaiah 52:13-54:10 have in mind?  Perhaps the Jewish people themselves were the despised and suffering servant.  Or maybe a pious Jewish minority was the servant.  Another interpretation of the text is that it speaks of an in individual, perhaps Jeremiah.  This last option is plausible.  The text, unfortunately, does not say for sure.  And, of course, there is a Christian interpretation which applies the text to Jesus.  The imagery fits poetically, if not chronologically.

This is an interesting passage to read along with the Matthew account of the killing of the Holy Innocents.  The servant, in Isaiah 53:5, suffers for the sins of others.  This applies to the unfortunate young boys whom Herod the Great had killed.  Terrible fates fell upon these who had done nothing.  Terrible fates fell upon them because of the sins of one man and those who obeyed him.

Such violence continues to the present day, unfortunately.  The existence of a just God does not prevent them, obviously.  And the joyful tone of Isaiah 54:1-10 leaves many grieving and otherwise distressed people cold.  This is understandable; I do not condemn.  In fact, I have at least as many questions as do other people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 20, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS, ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF HENRY JUDAH MIKELL, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF AFRICA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM GRANT BROUGHTON, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF SYDNEY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/the-distress-and-suffering-of-the-innocent/

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