Archive for the ‘Repentance’ Tag

Devotion for the Second Sunday of Advent, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

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

Image in the Public Domain

Repentance

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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Isaiah 40:1-11

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

2 Peter 3:8-15a

Mark 1:1-8

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The readings, overall, have toned down and become less daunting since the previous Sunday in the Humes lectionary.  Not everything is all puppies and kittens, though.

The readings from the Hebrew Bible flow from the theology that sin led to collective suffering–exile in Isaiah 40 and drought in Psalm 85.  Isaiah 40 announces pardon and the imminent end of the Babylonian Exile.  Psalm 85 prays for both forgiveness and rain.

Apocalyptic expectations are plain in the reading from 2 Peter.  Believing in the return of Jesus Christ is no excuse to drop the ball morally, we read.

The pericope from Mark 1 contains two major themes that jump out at me.  The text, which quotes Isaiah 40 and relates it to the Incarnation, indicates the call to repentance and makes plain that St. John the Baptist modeled humility, but not timidity.

Repentance is a recurring theme throughout the Bible.  Many devout people are aware of their need to change their minds and ways.  Being aware of that necessity is relatively easy.  Then the really difficult elements follow.  Can we see past our cultural blinders and our psychological defense mechanisms?  Are we humble enough to acknowledge our sins?  And, assuming that we can and are, changing our ways is difficult.  We need not rely on our puny, inadequate power, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANKLIN CLARK FRY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA AND THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANÇON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, ABBOT, MONK, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/06/06/repentance-part-v/

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Devotion for the Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Abraham

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Faithful Servants of God, Part VI

FEBRUARY 17, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 or Ecclesiastes 6 or Ezekiel 33:1-11

Psalm 7:1, 11-18

Galatians 3:19-29

Matthew 5:21-37

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Words matter, for they have power.  Today we read this in Ecclesiastes 5 and Matthew 5.  We have a moral obligation to refrain from all abusive language (such as Raqa, in the context of the culture of Matthew 5) and evasive language purposefully devoid of meaning (such as clever oaths in Matthew 5).

Actions matter also.  As much as God desires that the wicked repent, we mere mortals ought to seek reconciliation in disputes.  Accomplishing this is not always possible, for reconciliation requires more than one conciliatory party.  In such a case the desire to reconcile is laudable, at least.

The prayer from Psalm 7:9 that the wicked would cease to do harm and the reign of righteousness would begin is a timeless one.  I pray it often, for that would be a welcome change of reality.  Such a radical restructuring of the world requires an act of God, whose law Christ fulfills.

These admonitions can prove difficult to keep in one’s life.  We cannot succeed by our own strength of will.  Yes, our good intentions are laudable; God can work with them.  Yet we require grace to succeed in this noble endeavor.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 21, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH, CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, AND JOHANN CHRISTIAN BACH, COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF FLÜE AND HIS GRANDSON, SAINT CONRAD SCHEUBER, SWISS HERMITS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SERAPION OF THMUIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM EDWARD HICKSON, ENGLISH MUSIC EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL REFORMER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/faithful-servants-of-god-part-viii/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/12/devotion-for-proper-4-year-a-humes/

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

the-wrath-of-elihu-william-blake

Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part VII

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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Job 36:14-37:24

Psalm 11

Matthew 8:5-13 or John 4:43-54

Jude 1-25 or Hebrews 13:9-14, 17-25

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Elihu’s speeches contain much that sounds pious.  Job 36:24-37:24 supports this generalization.  We read, among other things, that we should praise God and that divine grandeur exceeds our knowledge of it.  Elihu even sounds like God in Job 38-41, the “I am God and you are not” speeches:

Mediate on God’s wonders.

Can you tell how God controls them

or how his clouds make the lightning flash?

Can you tell how he holds the clouds in balance:

a miracle of consummate skill?

When your clothes are hot to your body

and the earth lies still under the south wind,

can you help him to spread the vault of heaven,

Or temper the mirror of cast metal?

–Job 37:14b-18, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

I prefer the God of Job 42:7-8 to the God of Job 38-41, for the former acknowledges that Job was correct.  For some reason I have really noticed Job 43:7-8 during the preparation for this series of posts, despite the many times I have read that passage over the years.  Part of the wonder of scripture is that one can always find something one has missed.

Among my favorite aspects of Judaism is the practice of arguing faithfully with God.  The character of Job exemplifies that well.  He is, contrary to an inaccurate cliché, impatient and argumentative–justifiably, I contend.  Yes, we can take refuge in God, but this does preclude a good argument now and then.

We should repent of and express remorse for our sins, as grace helps us to recognize them.  As we do so, we ought to follow the advice of Hebrews 13:13-15 and follow Jesus, who healed people around whom he was not present, into the world as pilgrims each day.  We might suffer reproach, but the servant is not greater than the master.  Sometimes we will suffer for reasons neither we nor others understand, or because of the sins of others.  That is simply reality.

One lesson to learn from the Book of Job is the difference between speaking the truth in love and blaming the victim.  Unfortunately, recognizing that distinction can prove difficult in the moment.  May we, by grace, prove innocent of being like Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, Zophar the Naamathite, and Elihu, who were sincerely wrong and not helpful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 11, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 19:  THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAPHNUTIUS THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF UPPER THEBAID

THE FEAST OF NARAYAN SESHADRI OF JALNA, INDIAN PRESBYTERIAN EVANGELIST AND “APOSTLE TO THE MANGS”

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATIENS OF LYONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/09/11/the-oratory-and-theology-of-elihu-part-vii/

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

the-wrath-of-elihu-william-blake

Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part III

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 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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Job 34:1-20

Psalm 28

Matthew 6:7-15

Hebrews 13:9-14 (15-16) 17-25

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Elihu seems like a rather annoying person.  He is eager to defend God against Job’s complaints and to offer a more vigorous theodicy than that of Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite.  Elihu argues, in part:

So far is God removed from wickedness,

and Shaddai from injustice,

that he requites a man for what he does,

treating each one as his way of life deserves.

God is never wrong, do not doubt that!

Shaddai does not deflect the course of right.

–Job 34:10b-12, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Translation:  Job sinned, and these sufferings of his are divine punishment for those sins.  If he repents, God will forgive Job and end his sufferings.  This conclusion contradicts Job 1 and 2, which offer a truly disturbing answer:  God has permitted an innocent man to suffer as part of a wager.

This seems like an excellent place at which to add the analysis of John Job, author of Job Speaks to Us Today (Atlanta, GA:  John Knox Press, 1977), pages 102-103.  The author asks, “Why are Job’s friends not truly wise?”  He concludes, in part:

The friends, first of all, are shameless utilitarians.  Repentance, in the estimation of Eliphaz, is a kind of insurance policy.  Making petition to God is advocated, not for the intrinsic value of a relationship with him, but simply for the pay-off in material terms–as when he says, “Come to terms with God and you will prosper; that is the way to mend your fortune” (22:21).  The interesting point here is that the friends adopt precisely the position which Satan regards as universally occupied by those who make a show of being god-fearing.  “Does Job fear God for nothing?” he had asked.  Eliphaz makes no secret of the grounds on which he is advising Job to fear God.  It is all too shallow.  Faith is depersonalized:  it becomes self-centered instead of God-centered.  Its character as faith is destroyed.  Fear of God is simply not the right way to describe it.

If one replaces “Eliphaz” with “Elihu” and changes the citation from Job 22 to one from Chapter 34, this analysis remains valid.

The Book of Job defies the desire for easy answers that fundamentalism typifies.  God is just, correct?  Then how does one explain the wager in Job 1 and 2?  And does not Job deserve better than the “I am God and you are not” speeches in Job 38-41?  In Job 42, however, God expresses his displeasure with Eliphaz and company for speaking falsely about him and praises Job for speaking honestly about him (God).  Those two responses seem incompatible, do they not?  Of course, one came from one source and the other came from another.  Elihu, who states correctly that God does not meet human measures (Job 33:12b), also spouts foolishness.  The Book of Job provides no easy answers and offers a false, Hollywood ending, at least in its final, composite form.  The original version ends with Job’s repentance for overreaching a few verses into Chapter 42.

Job needed good friends, not Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu.  He needed people who came to comfort him, to listen to him, and to let him cry on their shoulders.  He needed friends who followed advice from Hebrews 13:16:

Never neglect to show kindness and to share what you have with others; for such are the sacrifices which God approves.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

The standard we apply to others will be the standard God applies to us; we read this in Matthew 7:1-5.  Forgiveness is something we are to extend to others, and divine forgiveness of our sins depends on our forgiveness of the sins of others.  This is a lesson the author of Psalm 28 had not yet learned.  This is a lesson with which I have struggled mightily and with which I continue to struggle.  Success in the struggle does not depend on my own power, fortunately; grace is abundant.  The desire to do something one knows one ought to do is something with which God can work.  It is, metaphorically, a few loaves and fishes, which God can multiply.

In Job 42 God burned with anger toward Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar.  (The text does not mention Elihu, most likely because the text of the Book of Job did not yet contain the Elihu cycle.)  The alleged friends had not spoken truthfully of God, but Job had.  Job interceded on their behalf, however, and God excused their folly and forgave their sins.  Job, who had complained bitterly to his alleged friends, who had taunted him and sometimes even enjoyed his sufferings, all while imagining that they were pious and that he had done something to deserve his plight, prayed for their forgiveness.

That is a fine lesson to draw from the Book of Job.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 9, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CONSTANCE AND HER COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF ANNE HOULDITCH SHEPHERD, ANGLICAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ISAAC THE GREAT, PATRIARCH OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CHATTERTON DIX, HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/09/09/the-oratory-and-theology-of-elihu-part-iii/

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

Rode

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

Image in the Public Domain

Building Communities of Shalom

JANUARY 19, 2020

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Isaiah 26:7-27:1

Psalm 109

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

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

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May my accusers be clothed with dishonor;

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

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

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

Lo, I have it all put away,

Sealed up in My storehouses,

To be My vengeance and recompense,

At the time that their foot falters.

Yea, their day of disaster is near,

And destiny rushes upon them.

For the LORD will vindicate His people

And take revenge for His servants,

When He sees that their might is gone,

And neither bond nor free is left….

O nations, acclaim His people!

For He’ll avenge the blood of His servants,

Wreak vengeance on His foes,

And cleanse the land of His people.

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE SIXTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKERS AND PEACE ACTIVISTS

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

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

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Devotion for Christmas Day (Year D)   1 comment

Adoration of the Shepherds, by Mikael Toppelius

Above:  The Adoration of the Shepherds, by Mikael Toppelius

Image in the Public Domain

Deciding or Refusing to Repent

DECEMBER 25, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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

Psalm 35 or 94

John 12:17-19, 37-50

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

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

O Lord, do not be far from me!

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

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Happy are those whom you discipline, O LORD,

and whom you touch out of your law,

giving them respite from days of trouble,

until a pit is dug for the wicked.

For the Lord will not forsake his people;

he will not abandon his heritage;

for justice will return to the righteous,

and all the upright in heart will follow it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 30, 2016 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

The Sacrifice of the Old Covenant

Above:  The Sacrifice of the Old Covenant, by Peter Paul Rubens

Image in the Public Domain

Forgiveness

FEBRUARY 27, 2019

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The Collect:

O Lord Jesus, make us instruments of your peace,

that where there is hatred, we may sow love,

where there is injury, pardon,

where there is despair, hope.

Grant, O divine master, that we may seek

to console, to understand, and to love in your name,

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

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 5:1-13

Psalm 38

Luke 17:1-4

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O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger;

do not punish me in your wrath.

–Psalm 38:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Few details make this goy‘s eyes glaze over faster than particulars of Hebrew purification offerings from Leviticus.  Professor Luke Timothy Johnson, in his Great Courses DVD series Jesus and the Gospels (2004), states plainly that the Book of Leviticus is not among the reasons that the Bible is a bestseller.  Besides, the Law of Moses does not apply to me.  Nevertheless, I, after having read Leviticus 5:1-13 and Luke 17:1-4 together, along with Psalm 38, detect a timeless, common theme, which is forgiveness.  The author of Psalm 38 asks God for forgiveness.  Leviticus 5:1-13 prescribes culturally specific rituals for atonement and forgiveness.  And Jesus commands in Luke 17:1-4 that a person forgive someone who repents.

Forgiving might not help the forgiven party (or it might do so), but it certainly benefits the one who forgives.  Anger is a strangely appealing burden to carry around in life.  It might cause no harm to its target (or it might do so), but it definitely damages the one who nurses it.  One should forgive even if the other person does not repent, apologize, or request forgiveness, for selfish reasons alone make forgiving sensible.  Nevertheless, as I know well, letting go of resentment is frequently difficult.  That reality, I think, has more to do with one’s self-image than with anything else.

I am righteous.  I am the injured party.  That S.O.B. owes me something.

It is little or no consolation, is it?

None of us can become the person God wants us to become by holding on to grudges.  Also, forgiving feels better than the alternative.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2015 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 JOSEPH GRIGG, ENGLISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/forgiveness-2/

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