Archive for the ‘Mark 8’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 20, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Elijah in the Wilderness, by Washington Allston

Image in the Public Domain

Signs

SEPTEMBER 20, 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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Exodus 32:1-14 or 1 Kings 19:1-15

Psalm 59:1-5, 16-17

Hebrews 4:1-13

Mark 8:22-33

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Yahweh, God of Hosts, God of Israel!

Awake to punish all the nations,

show no mercy to wicked traitors.

–Psalm 59:6, Mitchell J. Dahood (1968)

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That attitude is consistent with God’s Plan A in Exodus 32, after the idolatry and apostasy at the base of the mountain.  Aaron’s poor excuse still makes me laugh, though.

So I said to them, “Whoever has gold, take it off!  They gave it to me and I hurled it into the fire and out came this calf!

–Exodus 32:24, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Exodus and Mark contain stories of dramatic, powerful encounters with God.  We read of visual and tactile experiences. We also read of short-lived faithfulness, of much grumbling, of obliviousness, of recognition followed by official denial, and of fidelity.

The juxtaposition of the formerly blind man (Mark 8:22-26) and the obliviousness of St. Simon Peter (Mark 8:32-33) highlights the spiritual blindness of the latter man.  The stories also challenge us to ponder our spiritual blindness.

Even Elijah, who had recently confronted the prophets of Baal Peor then presided over their slaughter (1 Kings 18), had to deal with his spiritual blindness.  While hiding from Queen Jezebel and feeling sorry for himself, he encountered God, who, in that context, revealed self not in dramatic ways (as Baal Peor would have done), but in a still, small voice, or, as The New Jerusalem Bible (1985) renders the text,

a light murmuring sound.

Do we fail to notice messages from God because we seek dramatic signs?

Sometimes, in the Gospels, one reads of Jesus performing a miracle, followed by people demanding a sigh.  One’s jaw should drop.  One should seek God for the correct reasons and not become attached to dramatic signs.  God whispers sometimes.  God whispers to us, to those similar to us, and to those quite different from us.  God judges and forgives.  Signs are abundant.  How many do we notice?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/07/25/signs-part-ii/

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Devotion for Proper 19, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Elijah Slays the Prophets of Baal

Image in the Public Domain

Uncomfortable and Difficult

SEPTEMBER 13, 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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Exodus 24:12-18 or 1 Kings 18:1, 17-40

Psalm 58

Hebrews 3

Mark 8:14-21

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I teach a Sunday School class in which I cover each week’s readings according to the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL).  The RCL has much to commend it, but it is imperfect.  (Of course, it is imperfect; it is a human creation.)  The RCL skirts many challenging, violent passages of scripture.  This post is is a devotion for a Sunday on an unofficial lectionary, however.  The note on the listing for Psalm 58 reads,

Not for the faint of heart.

Indeed, a prayer for God to rip the teeth from the mouths of one’s enemies is not feel-good fare.  Neither is the slaughter of the prophets of Baal Peor (1 Kings 18:40).

I remember a Sunday evening service at my parish years ago.  The lector read an assigned passage of scripture with an unpleasant, disturbing conclusion then uttered the customary prompt,

The word of the Lord.

A pregnant pause followed.  Then the congregation mumbled its proscribed response,

Thanks be to God.

The theme uniting these five readings is faithfulness to God.  Jesus, we read, was the paragon of fidelity.  We should be faithful, too, and avoid committing apostasy.  We should also pay attention and understand, so we can serve God better.  Hopefully, metaphors will not confuse us.

I perceive the need to make the following statement.  Even a casual study of the history of Christian interpretation of the Bible reveals a shameful record of Anti-Semitism, much of it unintentional and much of it learned.  We who abhor intentional Anti-Semitism still need to check ourselves as we read the Bible, especially passages in which Jesus speaks harshly to or of Jewish religious leaders in first-century C.E. Palestine.  We ought to recall that he and his Apostles were practicing Jews, too.  We also need to keep in mind that Judaism has never been monolithic, so to speak of “the Jews” in any place and at any time is to open the door to overgeneralizing.

To condemn long-dead Jewish religious leaders for their metaphorical leaven and not to consider our leaven would be to miss an important spiritual directive.  To consider our leaven is to engage in an uncomfortable, difficult spiritual exercise.  It does not make us feel good about ourselves.

We also need to ask ourselves if we are as dense as the Apostles in the Gospel of Mark.  To do that is uncomfortable and difficult, also.

Sometimes we need for scripture to make us uncomfortable.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/07/25/uncomfortable-and-difficult/

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Devotion for Proper 18, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Elijah Resuscitating the Son of the Widow of Zarephath, by Louis Hersent

Image in the Public Domain

God of the Jews and the Gentiles

SEPTEMBER 6, 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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Exodus 20:1-20 or 1 Kings 17:8-24

Psalm 57

Hebrews 1:1-2:12

Mark 8:1-13

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Scholars of the Hebrew Bible debate whether the commandment,

You shall have no other god besides me,

in its original context, refutes the existence of other gods or merely places them off limits to Hebrews.  Subsequent monotheistic developments point to refutation of other gods in today’s context, though.

Scholars of the Hebrew Bible agree, however, that Canaanite religion influenced Hebrew religion in more than one way.  The Bible tells us that polytheism influenced Hebrew folk religion, much to the consternation of the orthodox.  We also detect linguistic influences of Canaanite religion in certain names of God, as in Psalm 57.  Furthermore, some of the Psalms are rewritten Canaanite texts.

Three of the assigned readings pertain to Gentiles.

  1. The widow of Zarephath and her son were Gentiles.
  2. The 4000 or so people Jesus fed in Mark 8:1-13 were Gentiles.
  3. The audience for the so-called Epistle to the Hebrews (not an epistle) consisted of Gentiles.

I, as a Gentile, find this comforting.

How likely are we to write off populations as being beyond hope, help, salvation, et cetera?  Take courage; God has not, does not, and will never write you, O reader, off.  But will you write yourself off?  I pray that you will not.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/07/25/god-of-the-jews-and-the-gentiles-part-ii/

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Devotion for Proper 7 (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:   Give Us This Our Daily Bread Print, Currier & Ives, 1872

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC2-2453

Spiritual Nutrition

JUNE 21, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Genesis 41:9-40

Psalm 37:23-28a

Acts 6:1-7

Mark 8:14-21

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Depart from evil, and do good,

so you shall abide forever.

For the LORD loves justice;

he will not forsake his faithful ones.

The righteous shall be kept safe forever,

but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.

–Psalm 37:27-28, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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David Ackerman omits the second part (the passage contrasting the righteous and the children of the wicked) in Beyond the Lectionary (2013).

On another topic, the Psalmist might not have seen the children of the righteous begging for bread, but I have.  I am not alone in this.

The Joseph of the Book of Genesis bears little resemblance to the figure of whom I have read in many a book of Bible stories retold for children.  I read Genesis 37 and 39-50 (the Joseph Epic) and encounter a spoiled brat who grew up because he had no choice.  I also meet an interpreter of dreams who rose to a position of prominence, reunited his family, and in Chapter 47, fed the Egyptian population during a time of severe drought by returning their food (which he had ordered confiscated) to them in exchange for serfdom.   Joseph is an imperfect protagonist.

The surviving Apostles (plus St. Matthias) feed the hungry then decide to focus on preaching and teaching.  So they appoint deacons to wait tables.  This is the origin of the Christian diaconate.  There is no insistence upon serfdom here.  No, we find quite the opposite.

When we turn to the reading from Mark 8 it is useful to understand that we pick up immediately following Jesus feeding “about four thousand people” with seven loaves and a few small fish.  There are many leftovers.  Then some Pharisees demand, of all things, a sign.  Jesus warns his Apostles against the yeast–a metaphor for diffused or veiled evil (see Luke 12:1; 1 Corinthians 5:6; and Galatians 5:9) of the Pharisees.  The literal-minded Apostles, confused, think that Christ refers to bread.  Jesus is angry with them.

The depiction of the Apostles in the Gospel of Mark is interesting and part of a larger theme.  The earliest canonical Gospel argues that those who think they are insiders might not be that.  There are the condemnations of the religious establishment, of course.  Furthermore, those closest to Jesus do not understand him.  To the contrary, evil spirits recognize him immediately.  This depiction of the twelve Apostles as being clueless is stronger in Mark than in Luke-Acts, for narrative reasons.

A sufficient supply of food is essential to sustaining life.  Too little food leads to starvation, just as an excess of it leads to obesity.   Furthermore, the wrong type of food leads to health problems.  Likewise, improper spiritual nutrition leads to negative consequences.  Do we not yet understand this?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 16, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE BERKELEY, IRISH ANGLICAN BISHOP AND PHILOSOPHER; AND JOSEPH BUTLER, ANGLICAN BISHOP AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN FRANCIS REGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF NORMAN MACLEOD, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS COUSIN, JOHN MACLEOD, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RUFUS JONES, QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/16/spiritual-nutrition/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 25, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ in Majesty Icon

Above:  Icon of Christ in Majesty

Image in the Public Domain

Prejudices and Prophecy

OCTOBER 25, 26, and 27, 2018

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The Collect:

Eternal light, shine in our hearts.

Eternal wisdom, scatter the darkness of our ignorance.

Eternal compassion, have mercy on us.

Turn us to seek your face, and enable us to reflect your goodness,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 23:9-16 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 26:12-24 (Friday)

Jeremiah 29:24-32 (Saturday)

Psalm 126 (All Days)

Hebrews 7:1-10 (Thursday)

Hebrews 7:11-22 (Friday)

Mark 8:22-26 (Saturday)

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When the Lord turned again the fortunes of Zion:

then we were like men restored to life.

Then was our mouth filled with laughter:

and our tongue with singing.

Then said they among the heathen:

“The Lord has done great things for them.”

Truly the Lord has done great things for us:

and therefore we rejoiced.

Turn again our fortunes, O Lord:

as the streams return to the dry south.

Those that sow in tears:

shall reap with songs of joy.

He who goes out weeping bearing the seed:

shall come again in gladness, bringing his sheaves with him.

–Psalm 126, Alternative Prayer Book 1984

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The prophet Jeremiah labored faithfully for and argued with God during especially dangerous times.  The Kingdom of Judah was a vassal state, false prophets were numerous, and true prophets were targets of the theocratic royal regime.  The process of exiling populations had begun, and the full-scale Babylonian Exile had not started yet.  False prophets predicted a glorious future and condemned faithful prophets.  Yet even Jeremiah, who predicted doom and gloom, stated that divine deliverance and restoration would come in time.

The appearance of Melchizedek in Genesis 14:17-21 linked Abram/Abraham to the Davidic Dynasty, for Melchizedek was the King of Salem (Jerusalem).  Hebrews 7 linked Melchizedek to Jesus (“resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever”–verse 3b, The New Revised Standard Version).  At the end of the line of faithful Hebrew prophets (ending with St. John the Baptist) stands Jesus, greater than all of them.  He is, as Hebrews 7:22 states,

the guarantee of a better covenant.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Jesus, permanently a priest (7:24), is the Messiah (“Christ” in Greek) unbounded by time.  Now he exists beyond human capacity to harm him, but he did die via crucifixion.  There was a resurrection, fortunately.

Often we mortals desire to hear words which confirm our prejudices and belie hard truths.  Perhaps we know sometimes that what we want to hear is inaccurate, but we accept it anyway because doing so is bearable.  Or perhaps we are so deluded that we cannot distinguish between true and false prophecy, prophecy often having more to do with the present day and the near future than the more distant future.  Yet, even when we seek to distinguish between true and false prophecy, our ignorance can prove to be a major obstacle.  I know of no easy way out of this conundrum.  No, the best advice I can offer is to seek to live according to affirming human dignity and loving others as one loves oneself.  Following the Golden Rule is sound advice.  One might err in the execution of it, but I propose that God will not condemn one for loving one’s neighbors.  As for the details of prophecy, they will unfold according to course.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/prejudices-and-prophecy/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 15, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Premium Yeast Powder

Above:  Premium Yeast Powder, 1870

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ61-1537

Causing Dissensions and Offenses, Part II

AUGUST 20, 21, and 22, 2018

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The Collect:

Ever-living God, your Son gives himself as living bread for the life of the world.

Fill us with such knowledge of his presence that we may be strengthened and sustained

by his risen life to serve you continually,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 43:1-15 (Monday)

Genesis 45:11-15 (Tuesday)

Genesis 47:13-26 (Wednesday)

Psalm 36 (All Days)

Acts 6:1-7 (Monday)

Acts 7:9-16 (Tuesday)

Mark 8:14-21 (Wednesday)

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The daily readings of the Revised Common Lectionary continue the motif of good and drink.  Jesus, in a pericope (John 4:7-26) for the previous post, was the living water.  Joseph, of whom St. Stephen spoke in Acts 7, fed not only his family but the entire Egyptian Empire.  Unfortunately, he enslaved the populace in the process.  On the other hand, Jesus brings freedom and serves as the ultimate thirst quencher (John 4:13-14).  Speaking of spiritual food and drink, one might, like the Pharisees of Mark 8:15, have bad food and not know it.  Herod Antipas was not a sympathetic figure either, but he lacked the pretense of holiness.  Sometimes deceivers are unambiguously bad, but others think they are righteous.

Yeast functions as a metaphor in Mark 8.  It indicated

the diffusion of veiled evil.

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003), page 1823

Herod’s veil was the authority of the Roman Empire, legitimized by violence and oppression.  The Pharisaic veil was the Temple system, which depended on economic exploitation and a form of piety which favored the wealthy.  One lesson I have derived from these passages is that political legitimacy does not necessarily indicate moral fitness.

Do not let an arrogant man approach me,

do not let the wicked push me off course.

There they have fallen, those wicked men,

knocked down, unable to rise.

–Psalm 36:12-13, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

Yet many such arrogant people thrive in this life for a long time, for many of the godly suffer because of them.  Economically exploitative systems continue to exist, and many people who consider themselves righteous defend them.  Oppressive violence persists, and many who consider themselves godly defend it.  Yet the testimony of faithful people of God, from antiquity to current times, against it remains also.  The words of Hebrew prophets thunder from the pages of the Old Testament, for example.  The condemnations of repression and exploitation are ubiquitous.  Dare we listen to them and heed them?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, APOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/causing-dissensions-and-offenses-part-ii/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 13, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Church of the Multiplication, Tabgha, Israel

Above:  Church of the Multiplication, Tabgha, Israel

Image in the Public Domain

With God There Are Leftovers

AUGUST 8, 2018

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The Collect:

O God, eternal goodness, immeasurable love,

you place your gifts before us; we eat and are satisfied.

Fill us and this world in all its need with the life that comes only from you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 55:1-9

Psalm 107:1-3, 33-43

Mark 8:1-10

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Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

and his mercy endures for ever.

Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim

that he rendered them from the hand of the foe.

He gathered them out of the lands;

from the east and from the west,

from the north and from the south.

–Psalm 107:1-3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Repentance is an option, even late in the game, so to speak.  God, who glorifies the chosen people and remains faithful to divine promises, invites those who need to change their minds and ways to do so.  The more people who are present at the divine banquet, the merrier.

Speaking of banquets, Mark 8:1-10 tells of Jesus feeding 4000 people (not just men) with a few fishes and loaves of bread.  I refuse to try to explain the Feeding of the 4000 and the 5000 (Plus) (Mark 6:30-44) rationally for the same reason, which is that to do so is address the wrong question.  I focus instead on one detail:  there was more afterward than before.

Some people think that they have nothing to offer or that what they have to offer is inadequate, so they do not offer it to God for divine purposes.  God, however, can multiply those gifts and talents, leaving leftovers.  Many people need to repent of their failure to trust in God’s strength instead of their own.  These are not evil people, just weak ones with psychological and emotional issues.  At some point in each of us has been among this population.  Others of us remain in their ranks.

The graciousness of God to the Hebrews in Isaiah 55 benefited the world (verse 5).  God’s blessings to any one of us can and should benefit others.  If we trust God to multiply that which we have to offer, as meager as it might seem, it will enrich the lives of more people than we can imagine, for the glory of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 6, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF DANIEL G. C. WU, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO CHINESE AMERICANS

THE FEAST OF FREDERIC BARKER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF SYDNEY

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/with-god-there-are-leftovers/

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