Archive for the ‘John 3’ Tag

Devotion for the First Sunday After the Epiphany (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:   Adam and Eve Expelled from Paradise, by Marc Chagall

Use of Image Permissible According to Fair Use

Our Common Life

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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Genesis 3:1-7, 22-24

Isaiah 4:2-6

Acts 15:22-35

John 3:22-30

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The reading from Genesis 3 always prompts me to ask what is wrong with being able to discern between good and evil.  I tend to argue with the story.  I also recognize an opposite vision in Isaiah 4:  the return from exile.

The Bible opens with God creating the world and people messing it up.  The sacred anthology concludes with God restoring the world.  Genesis and Revelation are the best possible bookends for the Bible, which contains stories about the relationship between God and mere mortals.  We should learn, among other lessons, to obey certain ethical teachings, to rely on God completely, to love each other as we love ourselves, and to emphasize God, not ourselves.  We, as Christians, must say with St. John the Evangelist,

He must increase

while I must decrease.

–Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John (I-XII) (1966), page 150

When we seek to glorify ourselves, we set out on a fool’s errand.  Yet the world praises such men and women.  Often these individuals build themselves up at the expense of others, according to the ethic of the old economic theory of mercantilism, according to which there is a finite supply of wealth, hence more for one means less for others.  In contrast we consider Jesus, who humbled and sacrificed himself.  He was a failure, according to worldly standards of success.  Yet we know him to have been successful, do we not?  So much for worldly standards!

May we increase in love for God and each other and in our understanding of our complete reliance on God and our interdependence.  As The Book of Common Prayer (1979) reminds us:

O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live in and the life we live:  Watch over those, both night and day, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Page 134

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES LEWIS MILLIGAN, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCULF OF NANTEUIL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/our-common-life/

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Devotion for the Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year D)   1 comment

St. John the Baptist Preaching

Above:  St. John the Baptist Preaching, by Mattia Preti

Image in the Public Domain

To Glorify and Enjoy God

DECEMBER 22, 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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Numbers 14:1-25

Psalm 144

John 3:22-38

Hebrews 5:11-6:20

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Happy are the people to whom such blessings falls;

happy are the people whose God is the LORD.

–Psalm 144:15, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Timothy Matthew Slemmons, in creating his proposed Year D, has grouped stories of rebellion against God and cautions against opposing God together in Advent.  It is a useful tactic, for, as much as one might know something, reminders prove helpful.

In Hebrews we read of the reality of apostasy (falling away from God) and the imperative of not doing so.  It is a passage with which those whose theology precludes the possibility of apostasy must contend.  I, as one raised a United Methodist and, as of a few years ago, converted to affirming Single Predestination, know much about the theology of free will in relation to salvation.  On a lighter note, I also recall an old joke about Methodists:  Not only do they believe in falling from grace, but they practice it often.  (If one cannot be religious and have a well-developed sense of humor, one has a major problem.)  Although I like Methodism in general (more so than certain regional variations of it), I cannot be intellectually honest and return to it, given Methodist theology regarding the denial of Single Predestination.

As Hebrews 6:19-20 tells us, the faithfulness of God is the anchor of our souls, and Jesus is a forerunner on our behalf.  In John 3:22-38 we read of his forerunner, St. John the Baptist, who pointed to Jesus, not to himself.  I have no doubt that

He must grow greater; I must become less.

–John 3:30, The Revised English Bible (1989),

words attributed to St. John the Baptist, are not historical.  Neither do I doubt their theological truth.  St. John the Baptist probably said something to the effect of that sentence, I argue.  I also insist that those words apply to all of us in the human race.  Jesus must grow greater; each of us must become less.  To act according to the ethos of glorifying oneself might lead to short-term gain, but it also leads to negative consequences for oneself in the long term and for others in the short, medium, and long terms.

The call of God entails the spiritual vocation of humility, or, in simple terms, of being down to earth.  The highest and chief end of man, the Westminster Catechisms teach us correctly, is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.  To arrive at that point one must trust in and follow God, whom we ought not to forget or neglect at any time, but especially in December, in the immediate temporal proximity of the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 22, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JACK LAYTON, CANADIAN ACTIVIST AND FEDERAL LEADER OF THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY

THE FEAST OF JOHN DRYDEN, ENGLISH PURITAN THEN ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND TRANSLATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/08/22/to-glorify-and-enjoy-god/

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

Moses Striking the Rock in Horeb

Above:  Moses Strikes the Rock in Horeb, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

Pointing to God, Not Ourselves

DECEMBER 8, 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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Numbers 12:1-16 or 20:1-13 (14-21) 22-29

Psalm 106:(1) 7-18, 24-18 (43-48) or Psalm 95

Luke 1:(57) 58-67 (68-79) 80

Hebrews 3:1-19

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Many times he delivered them,

but they were rebellious in their purposes,

and were brought low through their iniquity.

Nevertheless he regarded their distress

when he heard their cry.

–Psalm 106:43-44, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,

as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,

when your ancestors tested me,

and put me to the proof, though you had seen my work.

–Psalm 95:8-9, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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In most of the readings for this day we read of grumbling against God and/or Moses despite God’s proven track record, frequently in the presence of those who go on to grumble.  Miriam and Aaron question the authority of Moses in Numbers 12. Miriam becomes ritually unclean because of this (Do not question Moses!), but her brother intercedes for her.  People witness then seem to forget God’s mighty acts in Psalms 95 and 106, as well as in Hebrews 3.  And, in Numbers 20, Moses disobeys instructions from God.  He is supposed to speak to a rock to make water come out of it, but he strikes it instead.

By word and act Moses is thus appropriating to himself an act of God.  In doing this he is undoing the message that God and Moses himself have been conveying to the to the people up to this point.  The people have continuously directed their attention to Moses instead of to God….Until this episode Moses has repeatedly told the people, “It is not from my own heart,” and “You are congregating against YHWH,” but now his words and actions confirm the people’s own perception.

–Richard Elliott Friedman, Commentary on the Torah with a New English Translation and the Hebrew Text (2001), page 495

Moses was generally trustworthy in the sight of God, per the positive assessment of him in Hebrews 3.  At Meribah he gave into human weakness.  All of us have caved into our own weaknesses on multiple occasions, have we not?  Have we not, for example, sought our own glory instead of that of God?  Have we not yielded to the temptation to be spectacular, which Henri J. M. Nouwen identified in The Way of the Heart (1981) as one of Satan’s temptations of Jesus in Luke 4 and Matthew 4?   If we have lived long enough, yes, we have.

And you, my child, will be called Prophet of the Most High,

for you will be the Lord’s forerunner to prepare his way

and lead his people to a knowledge of salvation

through the forgiveness of sins:

for in the tender compassion of our God

the dawn of heaven will break upon us,

to shine on those who live in darkness, under the shadow of death,

and to guide our feet in the way of peace.

–St. Zechariah in Luke 1:76-79, The Revised English Bible (1989)

St. John the Baptist grew up and became one who admitted the truth that he was not the Messiah (Luke 3:15-17 and Mark 1:7-8).  He pointed to cousin Jesus instead (Matthew 3:13-14 and John 3:25-36).

The spiritual vocations of Christians vary in details, but the common threads run through those calls from God.  We who call ourselves Christians have, for example, a responsibility to glorify God, not ourselves, and to point to Jesus.  We also have an obligation to lead lives defined by gratitude to God, not rebellion against God.  We can succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

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

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/08/20/pointing-to-god-not-ourselves/

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

Ruins of the Temple of Apollo, Corinth

Above:  Ruins of the Temple of Apollo, Corinth

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment, Mercy, and Ethical Living, Part II

NOT OBSERVED IN 2015

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The Collect:

Loving God, by tender words and covenant promise you have joined us to yourself forever,

and you invite us to respond to your love with faithfulness.

By your Spirit may we live with you and with one another in justice, mercy, and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

Hosea 3:1-5 (Monday)

Hosea 14:1-9 (Tuesday)

Isaiah 62:1-5 (Wednesday)

Psalm 45:6-17 (All Days)

2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11 (Monday)

2 Corinthians 11:1-15 (Tuesday)

John 3:22-36 (Wednesday)

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Your throne is God’s throne, for ever;

the sceptre of your kingdom is the sceptre of righteousness.

You love righteousness and hate iniquity;

therefore God, your God, has anointed you

with the oil of gladness above your fellows.

–Psalm 45:6-7, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The readings for these three days, taken together, use marriage metaphors for the relationship between God and Israel and the relationship between God and an individual.  Idolatry is akin to sexual promiscuity, for example.  That metaphor works well, for there were pagan temple prostitutes.

Idolatry and social injustice are a pair in many Old Testament writings, for the Bible has much to say about how we ought to treat others, especially those who have less power or money than we do.  Thus Psalm 45, a royal wedding song, becomes, in part, a meditation on justice.  Also, as St. Paul the Apostle reminds us by words and example, nobody has the right to place an undue burden upon anyone or cause another person grief improperly.

May we recall and act upon Hosea 14:1-9, which states that, although God judges and disciplines, God also shows extravagant mercy.  May we forgive ourselves for our faults.  May we forgive others for their failings.  And may we, by grace, do all the above and recall that there is hope for us all in divine mercy.  Such grace calls for a positive response, does it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARBARA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF DAMASCUS, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CALABRIA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SERVANTS AND THE POOR WOMEN SERVANTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/judgment-mercy-and-ethical-living-part-ii/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   8 comments

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

An Advent Challenge

DECEMBER 19-21, 2019

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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 hinders our faith,

that eagerly we may receive your promises,

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

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Samuel 7:1-17 (Thursday)

2 Samuel 7:18-22 (Friday)

2 Samuel 7:23-29 (Saturday)

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 (all days)

Galatians 3:23-29 (Thursday)

Galatians 4:1-7 (Friday)

John 3:31-36 (Saturday)

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Hear, O Shepherd of Israel,

you that led Joseph like a flock;

Shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the Cherubim,

before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh.

Stir up your mighty strength

and come to our salvation.

Turn us again, O God;

show the light of your countenance,

and we shall be saved.

–Psalm 80:1-4, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The following content is appropriate all year yet especially in Advent.

We read in 2 Samuel that David, by God’s request, will not build a Temple (house) for God.  No, God will make David the founder of a dynasty (house) instead:

Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.

–Verse 16, The New Revised Standard Version

Such extravagant grace came with a great responsibility, which many members of the dynasty disregarded, unfortunately.

The New Testament readings for these days speak of Jesus of Nazareth, a descendant of David and a very different sort of king.  In Jesus, we read, eternal life–in this life and in the next one–and the gateway to eternal life exist.  In Jesus the Law of Moses is fulfilled and a new covenant of grace and adoption is ours if we accept and follow him.  In Jesus all human categories which divide us from each other cease to exist.

Yet many of us who have called ourselves Christians have maintained many or all of these categories–such as

Jew or Greek…slave or free…male and female

–Galatians 3:28, The New Revised Standard Version

(a partial list, I admit).  Other such divisions include native-born and foreign-born, heterosexual and homosexual, rich and poor, and lighter-skinned and darker-skinned.  In so doing we have sinned–missed the mark.  We have re-erected barriers which God destroyed.  And we feel righteous for all our unrighteousness, oddly enough.  We like barriers and categories, for they help us label others and therefore label ourselves.  In fact, however, if we are in Christ, that is the only label which really matters.  Why have so many of us been so oblivious for so long?  What does God have to do–send us a giant, flashing neon sign, a pillar of fire, a burning bush, or something else?  Why was the Incarnation insufficient to attract our attention to this spiritual truth?

My Advent challenge to all who read this post is the same I pose to myself:  To leave torn down that which our Lord and Savior tore down.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2013 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/an-advent-challenge/

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Devotion for February 9 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  Jesus and Nicodemus

Job and John, Part V:  “Received Wisdom”

FEBRUARY 9, 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 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:

Job 6:1-13

Psalm 104 (Morning)

Psalms 118 and 111 (Evening)

John 3:1-21

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Eliphaz the Temanite, in his speech, spoke of “received wisdom,” which he spouted.  It was received, but it was foolishness.  In reply, Job said that he had nothing–not even resourcefulness.  He could not help even himself.

The truth is that each of us depends on God for everything and that “received wisdom” is frequently received foolishness. Antiquity does not necessarily equal reliable authority.  As we read in John 3, many people reject the light in their presence because they prosper the darkness.  I suspect that they might not recognize it as being dark, for delusions can affect one’s perceptions that severely.

Eliphaz was not helpful.  In time he became sarcastic.  And he relied on dubious “received wisdom.”  But such “wisdom” must, in any time and circumstance, stand up to scrutiny if it is to prove valuable.  Eliphaz’s content proved worthless.  Yet there is a font of wisdom–and more–named Jesus.  And he is helpful.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 13, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMENEGILD, VISIGOTHIC PRINCE AND ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF ROUEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, ABBOT, AND MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARTIN I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF MIKAEL AGRICOLA, FINNISH LUTHERAN BISHOP OF TALLINN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/job-and-john-part-v-received-wisdom/

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Seventh Day of Epiphany   10 comments

Above:  Titian’s Painting of John the Baptist

Jesus Must Grow Greater; I Must Grow Less.

JANUARY 12, 2020

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1 John 5:13-20 (New Jerusalem Bible):

I have written this to you

who believe in the name of the Son of God

so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Our fearlessness towards him consists in this,

that if we ask anything in accordance with his will

he hears us.

And if we know that he listens to whatever we ask him,

we know that we already possess whatever we have asked of him.

If anyone sees his brother commit a sin

that is not a deadly sin,

has only to pray, and God will give life to this brother

–provided that it is not a deadly sin.

There is a sin that leads to death

and I am not sat saying that you must pray about that.

Every kind of wickedness is sin,

but not all sin leads to death.

We are well aware that no one who is a child of God sins,

because he who was born from God protects him,

and the Evil One has no hold over him.

We are well aware that we are from God,

and the whole world is in the power of the Evil One.

We are well aware also that the Son of God has come,

and has given us understanding

so that we may know the One who is true.

We are in the One who is true

as we are in his Son, Jesus Christ.

He is the true God

and this is eternal life.

Children, be on your guard against false gods.

Psalm 149 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Sing a new song to Yahweh:

his praise in the assembly of the faithful!

Israel shall rejoice in its Maker,

the children of Zion delight in their king;

they shall dance in praise of his name,

play to him on tambourines and harp!

For Yahweh loves his people,

he will crown the humble with salvation.

The faithful exult in glory,

shout for joy as they worship him,

praising God to the heights with their voices,

a two-edged sword in their hands,

to wreak vengeance on the nations,

punishment on the peoples,

to load their kings with chains

and their nobles with iron fetters,

to execute on the the judgment passed–

to the honour of all his faithful.

John 3:22-36 (New Jerusalem Bible):

After this, Jesus went with his disciples into the Judaean countryside and stayed with them there and baptized.  John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, where there was plenty of water, and people were going there and were being baptized.  For John had not yet been put in prison.

Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew about purification, so they went to John and said,

Rabbi, the man who was with you on the far side of the Jordan, the man to whom he bore witness, is baptizing now, and everyone is going to him.

John replied:

No one can have anything

except what is given him from heaven.

You yourselves can bear me out.  I said, ‘I am not the Christ; I am the one who has been sent to go in front of him.’

It is the bridegroom who has the bride;

and yet the bridegroom’s friend

who stands there and listens to him,

is filled with joy at the bridegroom’s voice.

This is the joy I feel, and it is complete.

He must grow greater,

I must grow less.

He who comes from above

is above all others;

he who is of the earth

is earthly himself and speaks in an earthly way.

He who comes from heaven

bears witness to the things he has seen and heard,

but his testimony is not accepted by anybody;

though anyone does not accept his testimony

is attesting that God is true,

since he whom God has sent

speaks God’s own words,

for God gives him the Spirit without reserve.

The Father loves the Son

and has entrusted everything to his hands.

Anyone who believes in the Son has eternal life,

but anyone who refuses to believe in the Son will never see life:

God’s retribution hangs over him.

The Collect:

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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From misplaced priorities (such as inflated egos) flow terrible results.  Most wars have been preventable and unnecessary, flowing from misunderstandings and wounded pride.  These have been, to borrow an explanation of the Falklands Islands War, like two bald men fighting over a comb.  Yet the proverbial bald men in question have done this out of national pride or the ego of the leader.

Often we humans seek poor substitutes for the God-shaped hole in the soul.  Out of this quest flow addictions, dependencies, preventable interpersonal conflicts, violent crimes, property crimes, and other social ills.  It would be better to seek God, assuming the humble attitude of St. John the Baptist, stating and living according the principle that Jesus must be increase but that we must decrease.

KRT

Written on June 9, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/jesus-must-grow-greater-i-must-grow-less/