Archive for the ‘Mark 9’ Tag

Devotion for Transfiguration Sunday, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Landscape with the Parable of the Sower, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Image in the Public Domain

Spiritual Journeys

FEBRUARY 23, 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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2 Kings 2:1-12

Psalm 50:1-6

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Mark 8:34-9:13

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Pietism is an error-ridden system of thought.  One of its gravest mistakes is the rejection of ritualism, often due to a misinterpretation of Psalm 50.  The sacrificial system, commanded in the Law of Moses, is not the problem in Psalm 50.  No, the divorce between sacrifices and morality is the offense.  Mistaking sacrifices and other acts of public piety for a talisman is wrong.  People need to walk the walk, in other words.  Their acts of public piety will be genuine.

Speaking of sacrifices, the context of the Transfiguration in Mark 8-9 is the foretelling of the death and resurrection of Jesus.  The prose poetry of the account tells us of Elijah (representing the prophets) and Moses (representing the Law) appearing with the glorified Jesus.  This is, in context, an apocalyptic scene, as anyone steeped in the culture of Palestinian Judaism would have known.  The attempt to institutionalize such a moment is always misguided, for one should keep on moving with Jesus, toward Jerusalem.  Faith is a journey, not a permanent shrine.

My journey will not be identical to yours, O reader, nor should it be.  Our journeys will properly contain many of the same landmarks, though.  The destination will also be the same–God in Christ.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 19, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES ARTHUR MACKINNON, CANADIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

THE FEAST OF ALFRED RAMSEY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CHARITIE LEES SMITH BANCROFT DE CHENEZ, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PIERSON MERRILL, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/spiritual-journeys/

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

Above:   St. Joseph, by William Dyce

Image in the Public Domain

Proclaiming Jesus the Son of God

DECEMBER 23, 2018

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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 7:10-17

Isaiah 12 (at least verses 2-6)

Romans 1:1-7

Matthew 1:18-24

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Ahaz, King of Judah (reigned 743/735-727/715 B.C.E.) was hardly a pious monotheist.  In fact, he practiced idolatry openly.  2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28 gave him scathing reviews.  Ahaz, confronted with an alliance of Israel and Aram against him, chose to rely on Assyria, not God.  That was a really bad decision.  Nevertheless, God sent a sign of deliverance; a young woman of the royal court would have a baby boy.  God would not only protect Judah but judge it also.

Surely God is our salvation, but how often do we take the easy way out and not trust in God?  When God arrives in the form of a helpless infant, as in Matthew 1, one might not recognize the divine presence.  What we expect to see might prevent us from seeing what is in front of us for what it is.  God approaches us in many guises, many of them unexpected.

At first reading Romans 1:4 might seem surprising, perhaps even similar to the Adoptionist heresy.

…and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord….

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

One might think of John 1:1-18, which declares that the Son is co-eternal with the Father.  One might also ponder the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:32-34) as well as the preceding testimony of St. John the Baptist in each Gospel.  One might even recall the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-8; Matthew 17:1-13; Luke 9:28-36).

The proclamation mentioned in Romans 1:4 need not contradict those other proclamations.  No, one should interpret it as a subsequent proclamation that Jesus was the Son of God.  One should notice the theological context in Romans 1:  Easter as the beginning and foretaste of the prophesied age of divine rule on Earth.

“Kingdom of God” has more than one meaning in the New Testament.  Usually, though, it indicates divine rule on Earth.  This kingdom is evident in the ministry of Jesus in the Gospels, written after the death of St. Paul the Apostle.  The Kingdom of God is both present and future; it is here, yet not fully.

As we, being intellectually honest readers of scripture, acknowledge the existence of certain disagreements regarding the dawning of the age of God, according to St. Paul and the authors of the canonical Gospels, may we also never cease to trust in God, regardless of how much evil runs rampant and how much time has elapsed since the times of Jesus and St. Paul.  God keeps a schedule we do not see.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 15, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZACHARY OF ROME, POPE

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JAN ADALBERT BALICKI AND LADISLAUS FINDYSZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS IN POLAND

THE FEAST OF OZORA STEARNS DAVIS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF VETHAPPAN SOLOMON, APOSTLE TO THE NICOBAR ISLANDS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/03/15/proclaiming-jesus-the-son-of-god/

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

Elijah

Above:  Icon of Elijah

Image in the Public Domain

Arrogant People and Evildoers

DECEMBER 16, 2020

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The Collect:

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God,

and open our ears to the words of your prophets,

that, anointed by your Spirit, we may testify to your light;

through 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 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Malachi 3:16-4:16

Psalm 125

Mark 9:9-13

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Show your goodness, O LORD, to those who are good

and to those who are true of heart.

As for those who turn aside to crooked ways,

the LORD will lead them away with evildoers;

but peace be upon Israel.

–Psalm 125:4-5, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Malachi 3:16-4:6 (as Protestant versification labels it), or 3:16-21 (as Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox versification calls it), speaks of divine judgment and mercy–the former for evildoers and the latter for the righteous.  The evildoers, back in Malachi 3:14-15, had said:

It is useless to serve God.  What have we gained by keeping His charge and walking in abject awe of the LORD of Hosts?  And so, we account the arrogant happy:  they have indeed dared God and escaped.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Certain forces of wickedness attempted to kill the prophet Elijah.  Some of their successors succeeded in executing St. John the Baptist then Jesus.  Yet, as Malachi wrote:

All the arrogant ones and those doing evil will become straw.

–4:1b/3:19b, Common English Bible (2008).

Jesus died, but the Resurrection followed.  Elijah went to Heaven directly.  St. John the Baptist remained dead, but his legacy has survived to today.  Executing a person is easier than killing an idea.  Arrogant people and evildoers have been slow to learn this lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AEDESIUS, PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; AND SAINT FRUDENTIUS, FIRST BISHOP OF AXUM AND ABUNA OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH

THE FEAST OF THE VICTIMS OF THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/arrogant-people-and-evildoers/

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

Brueghel_l'Ancien_-_La_Prédication_de_Saint_Jean-Baptiste

Above:  The Preaching of Saint John the Baptist, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder

Image Source = Yelkrokoyade

Humility Before God and the Reality of Unexpected Suffering

FEBRUARY 22, 2020

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The Collect:

O God, in the transfiguration of your Son you confirmed the

mysteries of the faith by the witness of Moses and Elijah,

and in the voice from the bright cloud declaring Jesus your beloved Son,

you foreshadowed our adoption as your children.

Make us heirs with Christ of your glory, and bring us to enjoy its fullness,

through 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 25

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 21:20-29

Psalm 2

Mark 9:9-13

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Now therefore be wise, O kings;

be prudent, you judges of the earth.

–Psalm 2:10, Common Worship (2000)

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Of those who are sleeping in the Land of Dust, many will awaken, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting disgrace.  Those who are wise will shine as brightly as the expanse of the heavens, and those who have instructed many in uprightness, as bright as stars for all eternity.

–Daniel 12:2-3, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Look, I shall send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes.  He will reconcile parents to their children and children to their parents, lest I come and put the land under a ban to destroy it.

–Malachi 4:4-6, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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“It is quite true,” he told them, “that Elijah does come first, and begins the restoration of all things.  But what does the scripture say about the Son of Man?  This:  that he must go through much suffering and be treated with contempt.  I tell you that not only has Elijah come already but they have done to him exactly what they wanted–just as the scripture says of him.”

–Mark 9:12-13, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

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There is much happening in the background of the Gospel lection for today:

  1. The resurrection of the dead is associated with the Day of the Lord in Daniel 12:2-3.
  2. In Malachi 3:23-24/4:5-6 (depending on which versification system one follows), Elijah will return before judgment day and function as an agent of reconciliation.
  3. Jesus identifies the late St. John the Baptist as Elijah in Mark 9:13.
  4. Yet is not the expectation in Malachi that Elijah will prevent suffering?

The account in Mark overturns old assumptions.  For that matter, the entire Gospel of Mark argues against a certain understanding of Messiahship.  In the earliest canonical Gospel, the crucifixion of Jesus makes his status as the Messiah unmistakable.  That has become a common reading of Messiahship since the first century of Christianity yet was once a radical notion.  The same rule applies to St. John the Baptist as “Elijah.”  Our Lord and Savior’s cousin was also his forerunner in suffering and death.

If humbling oneself before God postpones punishments (at least in some cases), the fact remains that the consequences of misdeeds and sins of omission will fall in time–perhaps upon the next generation, as unfair as that might seem.  But that is how reality works, is it not?  Yet the fact remains that one generation leaves legacies–positive and negative–which affect people into the future.  However the Atonement works (I side with the Eastern Orthodox, who argue against the Western Christian tendency to explain away certain mysteries), I like to think that it leaves a positive legacy of negating much of the negative which would have come down to us otherwise.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 22, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK PRATT GREEN, BRITISH METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMEW ZOUBERBUHLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF PAUL TILLICH, LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/humility-before-god-and-the-reality-of-unexpected-suffering/

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Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B   7 comments

Above: Church of the Transfiguration, Mount Tabor

Jesus, Who Was and Is Superior to His Persecutors

FEBRUARY 14, 2021

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2 Kings 2:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha,

Stay here; for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel.

But Elisha said,

As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.

So they went down to Bethel. The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him,

Do you know that today the LORD will take your master away from you?

And he said,

Yes, I know; keep silent.

Elijah said to him,

Elisha, stay here; for the LORD has sent me to Jericho.

But he said,

As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.

So they came to Jericho. The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him,

Do you know that today the LORD will take your master away from you?

And he answered,

Yes, I know; be silent.

Then Elijah said to him,

Stay here; for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.

But he said,

As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.

So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha,

Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.

Elisha said,

Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.

He responded,

You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.

As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out,

Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!

But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

Psalm 50:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The LORD, the God of gods, has spoken;

he has called the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.

2  Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty,

God reveals himself in glory.

3  Our God will come and will not keep silence;

before him there is a consuming flame,

and round about him a raging storm.

4  He calls the heavens and the earth from above

to witness the judgment of his people.

5  “Gather before me my loyal followers,

those who have made a covenant with me

and sealed it with sacrifice.”

6  Let the heavens declare the rightness of his cause;

for God himself is judge.

2 Corinthians 4:3-6 (New Revised Standard Version):

Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said,

Let light shine out of darkness,

who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Mark 9:2-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus,

Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.

He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice,

This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!

Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

The Collect:

O God, who before the passion of your only ­begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/last-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

O Wondrous Type, O Vision Fair:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/o-wondrous-type-o-vision-fair/

Feast of the Transfiguration:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-the-transfiguration-of-jesus-august-6/

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One of the recurring themes in Mark 9 is that Jesus was quite powerful.  That theme is evident in Mark’s account of the Transfiguration.  Isolating this passage and lifting it out of its textual context hides what occurs around it.  Namely, Jesus has just said to take up one’s cross.  And, a few verses later, he predicts his own passion again.

Jesus is on the way to his death and resurrection, the latter of which reaffirms a major point of the Transfiguration:  Jesus, regardless of any appearances to the contrary, is far more powerful than any persecutor or empire.

I feel succinct today, so leave you, O reader, with that thought, as well as with this one:  Jesus remains more powerful than any persecutor.  Thanks be to God!

KRT

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Week of 7 Epiphany: Thursday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  Logo of Lehman Brothers, a Firm Defunct Since 2008

Bad Priorities and Good Priorities

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

FEBRUARY 27, 2014

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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James 5:1-6 (Revised English Bible):

Now a word to you who are rich.  Weep and wail over the miserable fate overtaking you:  your riches have rotted away; your fine clothes are moth-eaten; your silver and gold have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and consume your flesh like fire.  You have piled up wealth  in an age that is near to its close.  The wages you never paid to the men who mowed your fields are crying aloud against you, and the outcry of the reapers has reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts.  You have lived on the land in wanton luxury, gorging yourselves–and that on the day appointed for your slaughter.  You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who offers no resistance.

Psalm 49:12-19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

12  Such is the way of those who foolishly trust in themselves,

and the end of those who delight in their own words.

13  Like a flock of sheep they are destined to die;

Death is their shepherd;

they go down straightaway to the grave.

14  Their form shall waste away,

and the land of the dead shall be their home.

15  But God will ransom my life;

he will snatch me from the grasp of death.

16  Do not be envious when some become rich,

or when the grandeur of their house increases;

17  For they will carry nothing away at their death,

nor will their grandeur follow them.

18  Though they thought highly of themselves while they lived,

and were praised for their success,

19  They shall join the company of their forebears,

who will never see the light again.

Mark 9:42-50 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

If anyone causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck.  If your hand causes your downfall, cut if off; it is better for you to enter into life maimed than to keep both hands and go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.  If your foot causes your downfall, cut if off; it is better to enter into life crippled than to keep both your feet  and be thrown into hell.  And if your eye causes your downfall, tear it out; it is better to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than to keep both eyes and be thrown into hell, where the devouring worm never dies and the fire is never quenched.

Everyone will be salted with fire.

Salt is good; but if the salt loses its saltness, how will you season it?

You must have salt within yourselves, and be at peace with one another.

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The Collect:

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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A Related Post:

Week of 7 Epiphany:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/week-of-7-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

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What I wrote for the Year 1 counterpart of this post works well.  Besides, how many ways can I repackage the same thoughts?  So, without further ado, I offer those original thoughts.

KRT

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Self-reliance is a lie and an illusion.  It is one of the most cherished lies and illusions of my North American culture, where “self-made men” are ideals.  The truth, however, is that there is no such thing as a “self-made man” (or woman); everybody relies on God.  And we humans rely on each other.  What affects one affects another,  immediately or in time.  If we get greedy and reckless, this affects a great many people, hence the old Lehman Brothers logo at the top of this post.

So much for Gordon Gecko and Horatio Alger.  These signify bad priorities.

The reading from Mark is a continuation of the discourse of Jesus in which he states he who wants to the greatest must be the servant of all, and in which he says that anyone who receives a child (a vulnerable and powerless member of society) receives not only Jesus himself but YHWH God.  Then our Lord and Savior engages in hyperbole.  No part of the body causes one to sin, and he is not advocating self-mutilation.  Sin arises from inside ourselves, and the point of the hyperbole is to say to flee from sin.  As Ben Sira reminds us in the first reading, God’s patience does have limits.

And then there are lines about salt.  First we have, “Everyone will be salted with fire.”  This is a reference to salt used on a ritual sacrificial item or animal. As William Barclay observes in his commentary on the Gospel of Mark, the salt made the sacrifice acceptable to God.  And fire signifies that which purifies life.  Hence being salted with fire is obeying God and undergoing discipline and the risk (at least the risk) of persecution.

“Salt is good; but if the salt loses its saltness, how will you season it?”

Salt, in proper quantities, improves the taste of food.  It also preserves food.  Salt was valuable in the ancient world.  Sometimes it was a form of currency, so an underperforming employee was “not worth his salt.”  We Christians, then, are supposed to give to our world a positive flavor and to preserve and promote goodness.  Are you worth your salt?  I cannot answer that question for you, no more than you can answer that question for me.

“You must have salt within yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

Salt, in this case, is a metaphor the the purifying Spirit of Christ.  This is not purity of the ritual kind, as the Pharisees practiced.  No, this is the inner variety of purity.  Jesus said that nothing that enters a person defiles (or “makes common”) a person, but that what comes out a person does that.  Ritual purity was about making oneself a member of the spiritual elite, unlike the “impure” rabble.  But Jesus advocated a different understanding of purity:  love, forgiveness, altruism, et cetera.  There is no divine law against such things.  These are good priorities.

The fire will come to you and to me.  Will it consist of flames destroying treasures laid up on earth, or will it be the disciplining fire likened to salt?

KRT

Week of 7 Epiphany: Wednesday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  The Doctor (1901), by Samuel Luke Fildes

Lasting Treasure

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

FEBRUARY 26, 2014

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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James 4:13-17 (Revised English Bible):

Now a word with all who say,

Today or the next day we will go off to such and such a town and spend a year there trading and making money.

Yet you have no idea what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life after all?  You are no more than a mist, seen for a little while  and then disappearing.  What you ought to say is:

If it be the Lord’s will, we shall live to do so and so.

But instead, you boast and brag, and all such boasting is wrong.  What it comes to is that anyone who knows the right thing to do and does not do it is a sinner.

Psalm 49:1-9, 16-20 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hear this, all you peoples;

hearken, all you who dwell in the world,

you of high degree and low, rich and poor together.

2 My mouth shall speak of wisdom,

and my heart shall meditate on understanding.

I will incline my ear to a proverb

and set forth my riddle upon the harp.

Why should I be afraid in evil days,

when the wickedness of those at my heels surrounds me,

5 The wickedness of those who put their trust in their goods,

and boast of their great riches?

6 We can never ransom ourselves,

or deliver to God the price of our life;

7 For the ransom of our life is so great,

that we should never have enough to pay it,

8 In order to live for ever and ever,

and never to see the grave.

9 For we see that the wise die also;

like the dull and the stupid they perish

and leave their wealth to those who come after them.

16  Do not be envious when some become rich,

or when the grandeur of their house increases;

17  For they will carry nothing away at their death,

nor will their grandeur follow them.

18  Though they thought highly of themselves while they lived,

and were praised for their success,

19  They shall join the company of their forebears,

who will never see the light again.

20  Those who are honored, but have no understanding,

are like the beasts that perish.

Mark 9:38-41 (Revised English Bible):

John said to him,

Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and as he was not one of us, we tried to stop him.

Jesus said,

Do not stop him, for no one who performs a miracle in my name will be able the next moment to speak evil of me.  He is not against us is on our side.  Truly I tell you:  whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you are followers of the Messiah will certainly not go unrewarded.

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The Collect:

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 7 Epiphany:  Wednesday, Year 1: 

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/week-of-7-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

Luke 9 (Parallel to Mark 9):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/week-of-proper-21-monday-year-1/

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Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

–Matthew 6:19-21, Revised Standard Version

Once, in Alapaha, Georgia, there lived a kindly elderly woman named Emily.  Her house was an unofficial museum of local history.  There one could find old maps and photographs, an antique telephone, et cetera.  Most impressive of all was her memory of the local past, though.  One day she told me a story about a doctor, a general practitioner who made house calls.  He kept track of who owed him how much.  The doctor died with people still owing him money, but they never had pay up because he destroyed those records.  His wife, he knew, would try to collect the money, and the patients probably could not pay.  The man had a good heart, and he acted accordingly.

He knew, as did St. Laurence of Rome, that people matter more than money.  The doctor also knew that, as Psalm 49 reminds us in eloquent words, we cannot take our earthly wealth with us when we die.

The biblical ethic concerning money is not anti-wealth.  It is, rather, opposed to the arrogance and presumption many wealthy people have.  We all depend on God for everything, but some people do not realize this because of their attitude toward their money and possessions.  Some people have dealt with this spiritual matter by shedding their wealth.  This an appropriate corrective action for many people.  Yet others can remain wealthy and have a proper attitude, with their philanthropy demonstrating their sincerity.  Proper attitude is essential in this spiritual matter, regardless of the action God calls one to take.

That proper attitude is recognition and acceptance of one’s total dependence on God for everything.  May this guide our actions toward ourselves, each other, and God.

KRT

Week of 7 Epiphany: Tuesday, Year 2   13 comments

Above:  Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Image Source = Turelio

True Greatness = Serving Others

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

FEBRUARY 25, 2014

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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James 4:1-12 (Revised English Bible):

What causes fighting and quarrels among you?  Is not their origin the appetites that war in your bodies?  You want what you cannot have, so you murder; you are envious, and cannot attain your ambition, so you quarrel and fight.  You do not get what you want, because you pray from the wrong motives, in order to squander what you get on your pleasures.  Unfaithful creatures!  Surely you know that love of the world means enmity to God?  Whoever chooses to be the world’s friend makes himself God’s enemy.  Or do you suppose that scripture has not point when it says that the spirit which God implanted in us is filled with envious longings?  But the grace he gives is stronger; thus scriptures says,

God opposes the arrogant and gives grace to the humble.

Submit then to God.  Stand up to the devil, and he will turn and run.  Come close to God, and he will draw close to you.  Sinners, make your hands clean; you whose motives are mixed, see that your hearts are pure.  Be sorrowful, mourn, and weep.  Turn your laughter into mourning and your gaiety into gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Friends, you must never speak ill of one another.  He who speaks ill of a brother or passes judgement on him speaks ill of the law and judges the law.  But if you judge the law, you are not keeping it but sitting in judgment upon it.  There is only one lawgiver and judge:  he who is able to save life or destroy it.  So who are you to judge your neighbour?

Psalm 51:1-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence

and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

14 I shall teach your ways to the wicked,

and sinners shall return to you.

15 Deliver me from death, O God,

and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,

O God of my salvation.

16 Open my lips, O Lord,

and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

17  Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice,

but you take no pleasure in burnt-offerings.

18  The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Mark 9:30-37 (Revised English Bible):

They left that district and made their way through Galilee.  Jesus did not want anyone to know, because he was teaching his disciples, and telling them,

The Son of Man is now to be handed over into the power of men, and they will kill him; and three days after being killed he will rise again.

But they did not understand what he said, and were afraid to ask.

So they came to Capernaum; and when he had gone indoors, he asked them,

What were you arguing about on the way?

They were silent, because on the way they had been discussing which one of them was the greatest.  So he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,

If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself the last of all and servant of all.

Then he took a child, set him in front of them, and put his arm round him.

Whoever receives a child like this in my name,

he said,

receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.

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The Collect:

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 7 Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/01/week-of-7-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

Matthew 17 and 18 (Parallel to Mark 9):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/week-of-proper-14-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/week-of-proper-14-tuesday-year-1/

Luke 9 (Parallel to Mark 9):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/14/week-of-proper-20-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/week-of-proper-21-monday-year-1/

A Germane Hymn Text:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/lord-help-us-walk-your-servant-way/

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Humility is a topic I have covered in other devotional posts, for many passages of scripture address it.  So most of what I write here duplicates the essence of what I have written elsewhere.

True greatness comes in service to others.  Jesus modeled this behavior, and some of the Apostles did not learn the lesson immediately.  But the life of Mother Teresa of Calcutta exemplified the principle of service which our Lord taught by his words and deeds.  Not everyone has a vocation to help the poor of Calcutta, but every person does have a calling to help others as able.  Given the variety of needs, there is a wide range of ways to help others.

Sometimes we judge others, claiming that they do not do enough.  But we have limited knowledge of the circumstances they must face and the resources they have at their disposal.  And maybe they are doing certain good works anonymously.  Furthermore, God knows better than we do how others ought to help.

Mother Teresa said at least once that God calls us to be faithful, not successful.  Of all the messages contained in these readings and this devotional, that might be the most counter-cultural, the one we need to hear the most.  In faithfulness we will find true greatness, that is, greatness as God defines it.  May we succeed in that, by grace.

KRT

Week of 7 Epiphany: Monday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  The Missal, by John William Waterhouse, 1902

Trust

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

FEBRUARY 24, 2014

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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James 3:13-18 (Revised English Bible):

Which of you is wise or learned? Let him give practical proof of it by his right conduct, with the modesty that comes of wisdom.  But if you are harbouring bitter jealousy or the spirit of rivalry in your hearts, stop making false claims in defiance of the truth.  This is not the wisdom that comes from above; it is earth-bound, sensual, demonic.  For with jealousy and rivalry come disorder and the practice of every kind of evil.  But the wisdom from above is in the first place pure; and then peace-loving, considerate and sincere, rich in compassion and in deeds of kindness that are its fruit.  Peace is the seed-bed of righteousness, and the peacemakers will reap its harvest.

Psalm 19:7-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures forever;

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends?

cleanse me from my secret faults.

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;

let them not get dominion over me;

then shall I be whole and sound,

and innocent of a great offense.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

Mark 9:14-29 (Revised English Bible):

When they came back to the disciples they saw a large crowd surrounding them and scribes arguing with them.  As soon as they saw Jesus the whole crowd were overcome with awe and ran forward to welcome him.  He asked them,

What is this argument about?

A man in the crowd spoke up:

Teacher, I brought my son for you to cure.  He is possessed by a spirit that makes him dumb.  Whenever it attacks him, it flings him to the ground, and he foams at the mouth, grinds this teeth, and goes rigid.  I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.

Jesus answered:

What an unbelieving generation!  How long shall I be with you?  How long must I endure you?  Bring him to me.

And they brought the boy to him; and as soon as the spirit saw him it threw the boy into convulsions, and he fell on the ground and rolled about foaming at the mouth.  Jesus asked his father,

How long has he been like this?

He replied,

From childhood; it has often tried to destroy him by throwing him into the fire or into water.  But if it is at all possible for you, take pity on us and help us.

Jesus said,

It is possible!  Everything is possible to one who believes.

At once the boy’s father cried:

I believe; help my unbelief.

When Jesus saw that the crowd was closing in on him, he spoke sternly to the unclean spirit.

Deaf and dumb spirit,

he said,

I command you, come out of him and never go back!

It shrieked aloud and threw the boy into repeated convulsions, and then came out, leaving him like a corpse; in fact, many said,

He is dead.

But Jesus took hold of his hand and raised him to his feet, and he stood up.

Then Jesus went indoors, and his disciples asked him privately,

Why could we not drive it out?

He said,

This kind cannot be driven out except by prayer.

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The Collect:

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 7 Epiphany:  Monday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/31/week-of-7-epiphany-monday-year-1/

Faith in Romans vs. Faith in James:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/week-of-proper-23-tuesday-year-1/

Matthew 17 (Parallel to Mark 9):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/week-of-proper-13-saturday-year-1/

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God blesses those who realize their need for him,

for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them.

–Matthew 5:3, New Living Translation, First Edition (1996)

The traditional English-language rendering is, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…,” but what I have quoted above cuts to the chase nicely.  And it relates to our reading from Mark 9.

Today we would diagnose the boy’s problem in organic terms; we would identify a disease he had.  In the times of Jesus, however, the commonly held understanding was that spirits caused epilepsy and other ailments.  So that was how the story’s author described the reality of the events.  None of that pertains to what interests me there, however.  No, I care more about this line:

I believe; help my unbelief.

To believe, in biblical terms, is to trust.  So the line should be,

I trust; help my lack of trust.

Does this not describe us at least some of the time?  Jesus accepted the trust the father had to offer.  Likewise, Jesus accepts the trust we have to offer. Jesus gave the father good reason to trust more.  And he gives us good reasons to trust more.

In a dog-eat-dog world in which “Do unto others before they do unto you” seems like the Golden Rule to many people, where laying aside jealousies and rivalries is “being soft,” a negative thing is some quarters, do we trust in Jesus, divine love incarnate?  Do we listen and obey the call of the Hebrew prophets ringing down through the ages and off the pages of Scripture, the call to trust God more than wealth and  instruments of warfare?  Are we afraid of being “soft,” or do we trust in  God, who is strong?

KRT

Week of 6 Epiphany: Saturday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  Tragic Mask

Image Source = Holger.Ellgaard

The Power of Words

FEBRUARY 22, 2020

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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James 3:1-12 (Revised English Bible):

My friends, not many of you should become teachers, for you may be certain that we who teach will ourselves face severer judgement.  All of us go wrong again and again; a man who never says anything wrong is perfect and is capable of controlling every part of his body.  When we put a bit into a horse’s mouth to make it obey our will, we can direct the whole animal.  Or think of a ship:  large though it may be and driven by gales, it can be steered by a very small rudder on whatever course the helmsman chooses.  So with the tongue; it is small, but its pretensions are great.

What a vast amount of timber can be set ablaze by the tiniest spark!  And the tongue is a fire, representing in our body the whole wicked world.  It pollutes our whole being, it sets the whole course of our existence alight, and its flames are fed by hell. Beasts and birds of every kind, creatures that crawl on the ground or swim in the sea, can be subdued and have been subdued by man; but no one can subdue the tongue.  It is an evil thing, restless and charged with deadly venom.  We use it to praise our Lord and Father; then we use it to praise our Lord and Father; then we use it to invoke curses on our fellow-men, though they are made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and curses.  This should not be so, my friends.  Does a fountain flow with both fresh and brackish water from the same outlet?  My friends, can a fig tree produce olives, or a grape vine produce figs?  No more can salt water produce fresh?

Psalm 12:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Help me, LORD, for there is no godly one left;

the faithful have vanished from among us.

2  Everyone speaks falsely with his neighbor;

with a smooth tongue they speak from a double heart.

3  Oh, that the LORD would cut off all smooth tongues,

and close the lips that utter proud boasts!

4  Those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail;

our lips are our own; who is lord over us?”

5  “Because the needy are oppressed

and the poor cry out in misery,

I will rise up,” says the LORD,

“and give them the help they long for.”

6  The words of the LORD are pure words,

like silver refined from ore

and purified seven times in the fire.

7  O LORD, watch over us

and save us from this generation for ever.

Mark 9:2-13 (Revised English Bible):

Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  And in their presence he was transfigured; his clothes became dazzling white, with a whiteness no bleacher on earth could equal.  They saw Elijah appear and Moses with him, talking with Jesus.  Then Peter spoke:

Rabbi,

he said,

it is good that we are here!  Shall we make three shelters, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah?

For he did not know what to say; they were so terrified.  Then a cloud appeared, casting its shadow over them, and out of the cloud came a voice:

This is my beloved Son; listen to him.

And suddenly, when they looked around, only Jesus was with them; there was no longer anyone else to be seen.

On their way down the mountain, he instructed them not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.  They seized upon those words, and discussed among themselves what this “rising from the dead” could mean.  And they put a question to him:

Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?

He replied,

Elijah does come first to set everything right.  How is it, then, that the scriptures say of the Son of Man that he is to endure great suffering and be treated with contempt?  However, I tell you, Elijah has already come and they have done to him what they wanted, ans the scriptures say of him.

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The Collect:

O  God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 6 Epiphany:  Saturday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/week-of-6-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

Faith in Romans vs. Faith in James:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/week-of-proper-23-tuesday-year-1/

Transfiguration:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/last-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

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By what we write and say, whether in person or on paper or via telephone or on the Internet, has the power to affect others positively or negatively.  At best, they can ennoble, edify, enrich our lives.  At worst, however, they can devastate.  And there is, of course, a range of possibilities in the middle.

Let us consider the very bad first.  The bullying of many young people has ended in the bullied committing suicide.  Infamously, David Greenglass,who was a spy, committed perjury in the early 1950s and thereby contributed to the conviction and execution of his sister, Ethel Rosenberg, who was not a spy.  And, more recently, in Canada, a court cleared the name of Tammy Marquardt, who had served thirteen years of a life sentence for allegedly murdering her two-year-old son, Kenneth, in 1995.  The damning testimony had been that of a now-disgraced forensic pathologist, who had claimed that Marquardt had strangled or suffocated her son.  The boy actually died of an epileptic seizure.  Not only did Tammy Marquardt lose thirteen years of her life; she also lost two children to adoption.  Here are two links regarding the Marquardt case:  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2011/06/07/toronto-tammy-marquardt.html and http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/06/tammy-marquardt-justice-stephen-goudges.html.

Now let us turn toward the positive.  Words can also improve a person’s mood, make his or her day.  A well-timed joke can have this effect, for example.  Great literature can uplift our spirits, poetry can exalt our souls, and excellent dramatic performances can appeal to the more elements of human nature.  President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, during the Great Depression, delivered the famous “fireside chats,” which were wonderful exercises in civics.

God, in the beautiful mythology from Genesis, spoke the world into existence.  Our words have the power affect that world and others who live on it.  Our words matter; may we make them count for positive purposes.

KRT