Archive for the ‘July 4’ Category

Devotion for Independence Day (U.S.A.) (July 4)   2 comments

Above:  Statue of Liberty, 1894

Photographer = John S. Johnston

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-40098

God and Country–God First and Foremost

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Patriotism is a virtue, but jingoism and blind obedience to civil authority are vices.  Nationalism can be a virtue, but it can also be a vice.  To worship one’s nation-state is to commit idolatry, for one should worship God alone.

The way denominations handle the relationship to civil government can be interesting.  According to the North American Lutheran service books I have consulted, neither July 1 (Canada Day) nor July 4 is on the ecclesiastical calendar, but there are propers for a national holiday of those sorts.  Given the historical Lutheran theology of obedience to civil government, the lack of feast days for Canada Day and Independence Day (U.S.A.) surprises me.  Perhaps it should not surprise me, though, given the free church (versus state church) experience of Lutherans in North America since the first Lutheran immigrants arrived, during the colonial period.  (I, an Episcopalian, have read more U.S. Lutheran church history than many U.S. Lutherans.)  The Anglican Church of Canada, a counterpart of The Church of England, a state church, has no official commemoration of Canada Day on its liturgical calendar, but The Book of Alternative Services (1985) contains prayers for the nation, the sovereign, the royal family, and the Commonwealth.  (God save the Queen!)  The Episcopal Church, another counterpart of The Church of England, has an ecclesiastical commemoration for Independence Day, but that feast (except for an attempt to add it in 1786) dates to 1928.

My context is the United States of America, a country in which all of us are either immigrants or descendants of immigrants.  Even the indigenous peoples descend from immigrants.  My context is the United States of America, a country in which xenophobia and nativism have a long and inglorious legacy, and constitute elements of current events.  My country is one dissidents from the British Empire founded yet in which, in current, increasingly mainstream political discourse, or what passes for political discourse, dissent is allegedly disloyal and treasonous.  My country is one with a glorious constitution that builds dissent into the electoral system, but a country in which, in July 2018 (as I write this post), support for those who espouse authoritarian ideas and tactics is growing stronger.  my country is one founded on noble ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence (1776), but one in which denying inalienable rights to one portion or another of the population is a tradition (often wrapped sacrilegiously in the cloak of the moral and the sacred) older than the republic.

Patriotism entails recognizing both the good and the bad.  It involves affirming the positive and seeking to correct the negative.  I am blessed to be a citizen of the United States of America.  The reality of my birth here provides me with advantages many people in much of the rest of the world lack.  My patriotism excludes the false idea of American Exceptionalism and embraces globalism.  My knowledge of the past tells me that we in the United States have never been cut off from the world, for events and trade patterns in the rest of the world have always affected us.  My patriotism, rooted in idealism (including anti-colonialism), seeks no form of empire or hegemony, but rather warm, respectful relations with democratic, pluralistic allies and insistence on essential points, such as human rights.  My patriotism eschews the false, self-justifying mockery of patriotism that Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) correctly labeled as

the last refuge of a scoundrel.

(Johnson, that moralist, word expert, and curmudgeon, has never ceased to be relevant.)  Some of those who are officially enemies of the state are actually staunch patriots.  To quote Voltaire (1694-1778),

It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.

I seek, however, to avoid becoming too temporally bound in this post.  For occasional temporally specific critiques, consult my political statements at SUNDRY THOUGHTS, my original weblog, from which I spun off this weblog.

As much as I love my country, I do not worship it or wrap the Stars and Stripes around a cross.  No, God is bigger than that.  A U.S. flag properly has no place in a church; I support the separation of church and state as being in the best interests of the church.  The church should retain its prophetic (in the highest sense of that word) power to confront civil authority when necessary and to affirm justice when it is present.  No person should assume that God is on the side of his or her country, but all should hope that the country is more on God’s side than not.

Finally, all nations and states will pass away, as many have done.  Yet God will remain forever.  As St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) taught, that which is temporary (even if long-lasting from human perspective) can be worthy of love, but only so much.  To give too much love to that which is temporary is to commit idolatry.  And, in Augustinian theology, what is sin but disordered love?  So yes, may we love our countries with the highest variety of patriotism, but may we love God more, for God is forever.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY SAVIOR; AND HER DAUGHTER, SAINT CATHERINE OF SWEDEN, SUPERIOR OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY SAVIOR

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE TEAGUE CASE, PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP EVANS AND JOHN LLOYD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF THEODOR LILEY CLEMENS, ENGLISH MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, AND COMPOSER

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Lord God Almighty, in whose Name the founders of this country won liberty for themselves and for us,

and lit the torch of freedom for nations then unborn:

Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 10:17-21

Psalm 145 or 145:1-9

Hebrews 11:8-16

Matthew 5:43-48

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 453

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Lord of all the worlds, guide this nation by your Spirit to go forward in justice and freedom.

Give to all our people the blessings of well-being and harmony,

but above all things give us faith in you, that our nation may bring to your name and blessings to all peoples,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Jeremiah 29:4-14

Psalm 20

Romans 13:1-10

Mark 12:13-17

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 63

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Almighty God, you rule all the peoples of the earth.

Inspire the minds of all women and men to whom you have committed

the responsibility of government and leadership in the nations of the world.

Give to them the vision of truth and justice,

that by their counsel all nations and peoples may work together.

Give to the people of our country zeal for justice and strength of forbearance,

that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will.

Forgive our shortcomings as a nation; purify our hearts to see and love the truth.

We pray all these things through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

–Andy Langford in The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992)

Deuteronomy 10:12-13, 17-21

Psalm 72

Galatians 5:13-26

John 8:31-36

The United Methodist Book of Worship (1992)

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Almighty God, you have given us this good land as our heritage.

Make us always remember your generosity and constantly do your will.

Bless our land with honest industry, sound learning, and an honorable way of life.

Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way.

Make us who come many nations with many different languages a united people.

Defend our liberties and give those whom we have entrusted

with the authority of government the spirit of wisdom,

that there might be justice and peace in the land.

When times are prosperous, let our hearts be thankful,

and, in troubled times, do not let our trust in you fail.

We ask all this through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Book of Common Worship (1993), 816

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Devotion for Thursday Before Proper 9, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Manasseh

Above:  King Manasseh

Image in the Public Domain

Sin and Repentance

JULY 4, 2019

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The Collect:

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus,

you are the city that shelters us, the mother who comforts us.

With your Spirit accompany us on our life’s journey,

that we may spread your peace in all the world,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 21:1-15

Psalm 66:1-9

Romans 7:14-25

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Acclaim God, all the earth,

sing psalms to the glory of his name,

glorify him with your praises,

say to God, “How awesome you are!”

–Psalm 66:1-3a, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The reading from Romans 7 is among the most famous portions of Pauline literature.  St. Paul the Apostle notes that, although he knows right from wrong, he frequently does that which he knows he ought not to do.  He admits his spiritual weakness, one with which I identify.  Yes, I resemble that remark, as an old saying goes.

One wonders if King Manasseh of Judah (reigned 698/687-642) knew that conflict.  The depiction of him in 2 Kings 21 is wholely negative , mentioning his idolatry and bloodshed.  One verse after the end of the lection we read:

Moreover, Manasseh put so many innocent person to death that he filled Jerusalem [with blood] from end to end–besides the sin he committed in causing Judah to do what was pleasing to the LORD.

–2 Kings 21:16, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Yet, when one turns to 2 Chronicles 33:1-20, one reads that, while a captive in Assyria, Manasseh came to his senses and repented, that God heard his plea, and that the monarch, back in Jerusalem, reversed course regarding his previous idolatry–in the spirit of the designated psalm of this day.  The apocryphal Prayer of Manasseh, a masterpiece of penitential writing, is among the canticles for use in Morning Prayer in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).

Was the Chronicler making Manasseh, a member of the Davidic Dynasty, seem better than he was?  If so, it would not be the first time that author told a story in such a way as to flatter the dynasty.  (1 Chronicles 11 omits the civil war between the forces of David and those of Ish-bosheth.  One can read of that conflict in 2 Samuel 2-4.)  Yet, if we accept that Manasseh repented, we have an example of the fact that there is hope for even the worst people to change their ways, if only they will.  That is a valuable lesson to learn or which to remind oneself.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 9, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SOPHRONIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY OF NYSSA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF MARY ANN THOMSON, EPISCOPAL HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ROBERT HALL BAYNES, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF MADAGASCAR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/09/sin-and-repentance/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 8, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Hezekiah

Above:  King Hezekiah of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

For the Glory of God

JULY 4, 2018

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The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God,

we implore you to hear the prayers of your people.

Be our strong defense against all harm and danger,

that we may live and grow in faith and hope,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 20:1-11

Psalm 88

Mark 9:14-29

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Do you work wonders for the dead?

will those who have died stand up and give you thanks?

–Psalm 88:11, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The two main pericopes for today contain accounts of healing.  Prayer is a component in both stories, and medicine and contrition augment it in the case of King Hezekiah of Judah.

Biblical healing stories cover a wide range of territory, so to speak, but they have consistent markers.  The healing is for the glory of God and the benefit of the healed person, for example.  Often healings draw others to God while improving the circumstances of the beneficiary.  Restoration is ideally for the community, not just the healed person;  the healing restores the person to wholeness and hopefully to his or her community and family.  In some healing stories the community and/or family seems less than supportive, however.  That points to their sins.

In this post I focus on divine healing for the glory of God.  One who continues to read 2 Kings 20 after verse 11 learns that Hezekiah used part of his extended lifespan to glorify himself in the presence of Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian envoys.  That was a bad decision, for that empire went on to destroy the Kingdom of Judah after this lifetime.  Nevertheless, God remained faithful to the divine promise to protect Judah from the Assyrian Empire.

May we seek to serve and glorify God, not to glorify ourselves and seek our self-interests at the expense of others.  May we succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES VILLIERS SANFORD, COMPOSER, ORGANIST, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF CHARLES HENRY BRENT, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WESTERN NEW YORK

THE FEAST OF JOHN MARRIOTT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT RUPERT OF SALZBURG, APOSTLE OF BAVARIA AND AUSTRIA

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/27/for-the-glory-of-god/

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Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 9, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Snapshot_20140603

Above:  One of My Favorite Books

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Significance and Insignificance

JULY 4, 2020

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The Collect:

You are great, O God, and greatly to be praised.

You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

Grant that we may believe in you, call upon you, know you, and serve you,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 4:1-7

Psalm 145:8-14

Luke 10:21-24

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The LORD is faithful in all his words

and merciful in his deeds.

–Psalm 145:14, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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At that moment Jesus exulted in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the wise, and reveal them to the simple.  Yes, Father, such was your choice.”

–Luke 10:21, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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Those Hebrews who returned to their ancestral homeland to rebuild their society, Jerusalem, and the Temple during the Persian period had to contend with major obstacles.  These included people who plotted, lied, and otherwise obstructed plans.  And Persian kings and/or certain underlings were not always sympathetic to the Hebrews.  Within this context First Zechariah received a message from God for Zerubbabel, the governor of Davidic descent:

Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the LORD of hosts.

–Zechariah 4:6b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Often that divine spirit falls not upon the prominent and the powerful, but upon the marginalized and other powerless people.  This segue brings me to our Lord and Savior’s prayer in Luke 10:21.  What are we to make of it?

Reinhold Niebuhr, one of the greatest and most influential theologians of the twentieth century, reflected on that prayer in the intellectual autobiography he wrote for the Library of Living Theology volume about his thought (New York:  Macmillan Company, 1961).  He wrote of two dying elderly women who were parishioners at the Bethel Evangelical Church, Detroit, Michigan, which he served fresh out of seminary.  (“Evangelical” here was in the German sense of word, that is Protestant, in this case, a Lutheran-Reformed hybrid.)  The first lady was filled with anxiety and resentment, not serenity, during the illness which took her life.  This woman, Niebuhr wrote,

was too preoccupied with self.

–page 6

The second woman had experienced much difficulty during her life.  She had functioned as both breadwinner and homemaker for her two daughters because her husband, prone to insanity, could not provide for the family.  At the end of the lady’s life, when she was dying of cancer, she was serene and filled with gratitude to God for mercies and her daughters, however.  This contrast, Niebuhr wrote, taught him the meaning of Christ’s prayer.

The major difference between the two women seems to have been the way each approached death and dying.  In that context Niebuhr wrote that

the ultimate problem of human existence is the peril of sin and death in the way that these two perils are so curiously compounded; for we fall into sin by trying to evade or to conquer death  or our own insignificance, of which death is the ultimate symbol.  The Christian faith holds out the hope that our fragmentary lives will be completed in a total and larger plan than any which we control or comprehend, and that a part of the completion is forgiveness of sins, that is the forgiveness of the evils into which we fall by our frantic efforts to complete our own lives or to endow them with significance.

–pages 6 and 7

Then Niebuhr wrote that

we in the churches ought to admit more humbly than is our wont that there is a mystery of grace which no one can fathom.

–page 7

That mystery was available to our Lord and Savior’s Apostles and other disciples, whom N. T. Wright described as

the diverse and motley group

Luke for Everyone (Louisville, KY:  Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), page 125

with whom he had chosen to associate.

May we recognize that our significance resides in God alone and that the greatest in the Kingdom of God is the servant of all.  Then may we, by grace, act on that reality and succeed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARGARET E. SANGSTER, HYMN WRITER, NOVELIST, AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF LYONS (A.K.A. SAINT BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS)

THE FEAST OF REINHOLD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN, BISHOP, AND MARTYR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/significance-and-insignificance/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Trinity Sunday, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Snapshot_20140516

 

Above:  One of My Globes

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

The World and the Kingdom of God

JUNE 4-6, 2020

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The Collects:

Almighty Creator and ever-living God: we worship your glory, eternal Three-in-One,

and we praise your power, majestic One-in-Three.

Keep us steadfast in this faith, defend us in all adversity,

and bring us at last into your presence, where you live in endless joy and love,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

or

God of heaven and earth, before the foundation of the universe

and the beginning of time you are the triune God:

Author of creation, eternal Word of salvation, life-giving Spirit of wisdom.

Guide us to all truth by your Spirit, that we may proclaim all that Christ has revealed

and rejoice in the glory he shares with us.

Glory and praise to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 38:1-11 (Thursday)

Job 38:12-21 (Friday)

Job 38:22-38 (Saturday)

Psalm 8 (All Days)

2 Timothy 1:8-12a (Thursday)

2 Timothy 1:12b-14 (Friday)

John 14:15-17 (Saturday)

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What we do not understand about God and related topics outweighs what we know about them. Why, for example, do good people suffer? The Book of Job tells us that God permitted the suffering of the eponymous character. That is a difficult answer, but it is the one the text provides in Chapters 1 and 2. We know of the reasons for the sufferings of the Apostle Paul; his witness created many enemies. The Gospel of Christ does that frequently. Jesus did, after all, die on a cross—and not for any sin he had committed, for he had committed none.

The glorification of our Lord and Savior in the Fourth Gospel was his crucifixion. This was a twist many people did not expect, for crucifixion was a mode of execution the Roman Empire reserved for those it considered the worst of the worst. It was a mark of shame and public humiliation. And this became Christ’s glorification? The twist was—and remains—a wonderful one.

In the name of that crucified and resurrected Lord and Savior, through whom we have access to the gift of the Holy Spirit—God’s active power on earth—in John 14:16, we can have eternal life in this world and the next one. The same world which did not know Jesus or the Holy Spirit killed him, St. Paul the Apostle, and a great company of martyrs. It continues to make martyrs. Yet the Kingdom of God, like a great week, goes where it will.

So may we say with the author of Psalm 8,

O Lord our governor,

how glorious is your name in all the world.

–Verse 1, Common Worship (2000)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 16, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANDREW FOURNET AND ELIZABETH BICHIER, COFOUNDERS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF THE CROSS; AND SAINT MICHAEL GARICOITS, FOUNDER OF THE PRIESTS OF THE SACRED HEART OF BETHARRAM

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN NEPOMUCENE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF SUDAN

THE FEAST OF TE WARA HAURAKI, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/the-world-and-the-kingdom-of-god/

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Devotion for July 4 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Tel Deweir (Lachish), 1936

Image Source = Library of Congress

Joshua and Acts, Part VI:  Love, Holiness, and Violence

SATURDAY, JULY 4, 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:

Joshua 10:1-25

Psalm 143 (Morning)

Psalms 81 and 116 (Evening)

Acts 11:19-30

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Here is a story:

Once, a long time ago, a group of people moved into territory foreign to them.  They were descendants of people from that land, but those forebears had migrated from the land centuries previously.  These “returning” descendants made war on local inhabitants, burning towns and cities, killing kings, and slaughtering civilian populations.  They even enslaved a group of people whose leaders had tricked them (the “returning” descendants).  They did all this in the name of their deity.

Would you, O reader, think favorably of these “returning” descendants?  What if I told you that I have summarized part of the story of the Israelites during the conquest of Canaan?

I prefer the positive atmosphere in Acts 11:19-30.  Barnabas includes Paul, Gentiles come to God, and people raise funds to buy food for starving Christians.  That is a narrative which speaks of holiness.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 21, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALBERT JOHN LUTHULI, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS IN SOUTH AFRICA

THE FEAST OF J. B. PHILLIPS, BIBLE TRANSLATOR AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/joshua-and-acts-part-vi-love-holiness-and-violence/

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Before a Bible Study   Leave a comment

Above:  An Old Family Bible

Image Source = David Ball

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God of glory,

as we prepare to study the Bible,

may we approach the texts with our minds open,

our intellects engaged,

and our spirits receptive to your leading,

so that we will understand them correctly

and derive from them the appropriate lessons.

Then may we act on those lessons.

For the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Amen.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 7, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG, SHEPHERD OF LUTHERANISM IN THE AMERICAN COLONIES

THE FEAST OF FRED KAAN, HYMNWRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN WOOLMAN, ABOLITIONIST

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