Archive for the ‘March 20’ Category

Thoughts and Questions About the Temptations of Jesus   1 comment

Above:  The Temptations of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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For St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia

Lent 2019

 

Texts:  Mark 1:12-13; Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13

Reading the Bible for spiritual formation is an ancient Benedictine practice.  My primary purpose in writing this short piece is to ask, how do the accounts (mainly the Lukan and Matthean ones) of the temptations of Jesus challenge us, both as individuals and a parish, to follow Jesus better than we do.

The Temptation to Turn Stones into Bread

Bread was especially precious in ancient Palestine, with relatively little arable land.

We are blessed to be able to purchase our bread inexpensively at stores.  Bread is abundant in our context, so we probably take it for granted more often than not.  We can, however, think of some tangible needs related to scarcity.

One challenge is not to permit tangible needs to overtake intangible necessities.  We all depend entirely on God and dwell within a web of mutual responsibility and dependence.  According to the late Henri Nouwen, this temptation is the temptation to be relevant.  Relevance is not necessarily bad; in fact, it is frequently positive.  However, maintaining the proper balance of tangible and intangible needs is essential.  Furthermore, Christ’s refusal to cave into the temptation to use his power to make bread—to cease to depend on God—ought to remind us never to imagine that we do not depend entirely on God.

Questions

  1. Do we permit tangible needs to distract us from intangible necessities?  If so, how?
  2. Do we manifest the vain idea that we do not depend entirely on God?  If so, how?

The Temptation to Jump from the Pinnacle of the Temple

Many scholars of the New Testament have proposed what the pinnacle of the Temple was.

That matter aside, this temptation is, according to Nouwen, the temptation to be spectacular.  It is also the temptation to attempt to manipulate God by trying to force God to intervene in a miraculous way.  That effort, like turning stones into bread, would indicate a lack of faith.

We humans frequently like the spectacular, do we not?  We tell ourselves and others that, if only God would do something spectacular, we will believe.  We are like those who, in the Gospels, only wanted Jesus to do something for them, and not to learn from him.

Questions

  1. Does our attraction to the spectacular distract us from the still, small voice of God?  If so, how?
  2. Does our attraction to the spectacular reveal our lack of faith?  If so, how?
  3. Does our attraction to the spectacular unmask our selfishness?  If so, how?

The Temptation to Worship Satan in Exchange for Earthly Authority

Many Palestinian Jews at the time of Christ thought of Satan as the power behind the Roman Empire and of the Roman pantheon as a collection of demons.  Jesus affirmed God the Father as the only source of his identity.

This temptation is about idolatry, power, and morally untenable compromises.

Many well-intentioned people—ministers, politicians, and appointed office holders, for example—have, in the name of doing good, become corrupt and sacrificed their suitability to do good.  They have sacrificed their moral integrity on the altar of amoral realism.

Some compromises are necessary, of course.  As Reinhold Niebuhr reminded us, we cannot help but commit some evil while trying to do good, for human depravity has corrupted social systems and institutions.

Questions

  1. Have we established our identity apart from God?  If so, how?
  2. How have we, with good intentions, committed or condoned evil?
  3. Have we made morally untenable compromises?  If so, how?

The Good News

The good news is both collective and individual.

I discover the principle, then:  that when I want to do right, only wrong is within my reach.  In my inmost self I delight in the law of God, but I perceive in my outward actions a different law, fighting against the law that my mind approves, and making me a prisoner under the law of sin which controls my conduct.  Wretched creature that I am, who is there to rescue me from this state of death?  Who but God?  Thanks be to him through Jesus Christ our Lord!  To sum up then:  left to myself I serve God’s law with my mind, but with my unspiritual nature I serve the law of sin.

–Romans 7:21-25, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Jesus has modeled the way to resist temptation—to trust God and to understand scripture.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 10, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF MARIE-JOSEPH LAGRANGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT AGRIPINNUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT GERMANUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT DROCTOVEUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OGLIVIE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACARIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/03/10/thoughts-and-questions-about-the-temptations-of-jesus/

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Devotion for Wednesday After the Second Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

SKD405728 Doorway in Meissen, 1827 (oil on canvas) by Friedrich, Caspar David (1774-1840); Galerie Neue Meister, Dresden, Germany; (add.info.: Toreingang in Meissen;); © Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden; German,  out of copyright

SKD405728 Doorway in Meissen, 1827 (oil on canvas) by Friedrich, Caspar David (1774-1840); Galerie Neue Meister, Dresden, Germany; (add.info.: Toreingang in Meissen;); © Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden; German, out of copyright

Above:  Doorway in Meissen (1827), by Caspar David Friedrich

Image in the Public Domain

Of Divine Mercy, Divine Judgment, the Narrow Door, and the Closed Door

MARCH 20, 2019

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The Collect:

God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross

you promise everlasting life to the world.

Gather all peoples into your arms, and shelter us with your mercy,

that we may rejoice in the life we share in your Son,

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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 20:1-22

Psalm 105:1-15 [16-41] 42

Luke 13:22-31

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Glory in God’s holy name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Search for the LORD and the strength of the LORD;

continually seek the face of God.

–Psalm 105:3-4, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The three assigned readings for this day teach us to turn toward God at all times–in good times, in bad times, and in times between those two poles.  If we have turned away from God, we need to turn back toward God–to repent.  This is still the time of God’s mercy, as our Mennonite brothers and sisters in faith say.  Eventually, however, the narrow door of salvation will become the closed door outside of which will be many frantic and disappointed people who had understood themselves to be spiritual insiders.

The concept of God in hellfire-and-damnation theology terrifies me and does not satisfy me.  Likewise, the teddy-bear God of Universalism seems insufficient to me.  Somewhere in the middle is a balanced God concept which takes into account both judgment and extravagant mercy.  I do not pretend to know the proper balance of judgment and mercy, but I affirm the reality of both factors and reject excessive emphasis on either one to the exclusion or improper minimization of the other.  God, to my understanding, is frequently more merciful than many human beings.  King David was correct:

I am in great distress; let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great;  but let me not fall into human hands.

–2 Samuel 24:14, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The context of that passage is divine anger over a military census in the Kingdom of Israel.  Even in the midst of a plague in the realm, the author of that portion of 2 Samuel tells us, David understood God to be more merciful than many people.

I disagree with the theology of 2 Samuel 24 as a whole, for I question understanding a plague affecting innocents as divine punishment for a census they did not order.  God seems to have bad aim in that chapter.  Should not God have punished David, who commanded that the census take place, instead?  Nevertheless, the verse I have quoted stands as a testimony to divine mercy amid divine judgment.  The theology of 2 Samuel 24:14 is impeccable.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 17, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND PIANO BUILDER; AND HIS SON, JACOB CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN PIANO BUILDER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/17/of-divine-mercy-divine-judgment-the-narrow-door-and-the-closed-door/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

Fleeing from Grace

MARCH 18-20, 2021

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The Collect:

O God, rich in mercy, by the humiliation of your Son

you lifted up this fallen world and rescued us from the hopelessness of death.

Lead us into your light, that all our deeds may reflect your love,

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 28

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 30:15-18 (Thursday)

Exodus 30:1-10 (Friday)

Habakkuk 3:2-13 (Saturday)

Psalm 107:1-16 (All Days)

Hebrews 4:1-13 (Thursday)

Hebrews 4:14-5:4 (Friday)

John 12:1-11 (Saturday)

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Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness;

in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

Wash me through and through from my wickedness

and cleanse me from my sin.

–Psalm 51:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Through all generations you have made yourself known,

and in your wrath you did not forget mercy.

–Habakkuk 3:2b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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For thus said my Lord GOD,

The Holy One of Israel,

“You shall triumph by stillness and quiet;

Your victory shall come about

Through calm and confidence.”

But you refused.

“No,” you declared.

“We shall flee on our steeds”–

Therefore you shall flee!

“We shall ride on swift mounts”–

Therefore your pursuers shall prove swift!

One thousand before the shout of one–

You shall flee at the shout of five;

Till what is left of you

Is like a mast on a hilltop,

Like a pole upon a mountain.

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Truly, the LORD is waiting to show you grace,

Truly, He will arise to pardon you.

For the LORD is a God of justice;

Happy are all who wait for Him.

–Isaiah 30:15-18, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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The concept of God changes between the covers of the Bible.  God is physically immediate to Abraham, for example, yet proximity to God is fatal in much of the Hebrew Scriptures.    Even touching the Ark of the Covenant accidentally proved fatal, according to the texts.  There was no fatal holiness in Jesus, however; St. Mary of Bethany anointed him in John 12:1-11, shortly before the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.

So we can draw near to God, who has drawn close to us and become incarnate (however that worked) as one of us.  The theological point of the full humanity and divinity of Jesus is one of those difficult knots great minds have tried to understand.  (For details, consult a history of Christian theology.)  I will not tread in their steps here except to assert that one ought to seek a balance between the humanity and the divinity of Jesus; one should not emphasize one at the expense of the other.  My experience in congregations (especially during my formative years) has been that people have usually been more comfortable with the divinity of Christ than with his humanity.  They have committed the heresy of Apollinarianism, or acknowledging his humanity while giving short shrift to it.

If attempting to untangle the mysteries of the Incarnation and of the nature(s) and will(s) of Christ proves insufficiently challenging, what about the balance between divine judgment and mercy?  I can provide a partial answer; the rest I am content to leave as a mystery.  Some things we do to ourselves, so we suffer the consequences of our actions.  Forgiveness of sins does not remove those consequences in this realm of existence, however.  Also, sometimes good news for the oppressed is catastrophic news for oppressors who refuse to change their ways.  That is the way life works.  In addition, some divine judgment is discipline meant to prompt repentance.  In such cases the metaphor of God as parent works well.  In some circumstances (especially from the Hebrew Scriptures) I refuse to affirm the argument that God has commanded people to commit genocide and other atrocities.  Maybe those who committed those deeds thought they were fulfilling a divine mandate, but they were wrong.  Against which population would Jesus commit or condone genocide?

Often we seek to use theology to justify our sins when we ought to confess and repent of those offenses.  Frequently we seek not God–in the context of whose holiness our sinfulness becomes evident–but confirmation of our imagined righteousness.  We flee from God, so we doom ourselves to face certain consequences.  We run away from God, who waits to show us mercy.  Maybe doing that is easier than facing the reality of our spiritual lives.  If that is true, this statement is a sad one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BENSON POLLOCK, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/fleeing-from-grace/

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The Death of Dreams and Aspirations   Leave a comment

Death of Dreams and Aspirations

Above:  The Original Text

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Loving God, who loves us, mourns with us, and rejoices with us,

the death of dreams and aspirations is among the most traumatic losses to endure.

It cuts to the emotional core of a person, causing great anguish, grief, and anger.

Regardless if the dream was indeed the one a person should have followed

(assuming that it was not morally wrong, of course),

the pain and disappointment are legitimate, I suppose.

I have known these emotions in this context more than once.

I wish them upon nobody, not even those who inflicted them upon me.

May we, by grace, function as your ministers of comfort

to those experiencing such a death or the aftermath of one

and who are near us or whom you send our way.

And may we, by grace, help others achieve their potential

and refrain from inflicting such pain upon others.

In the name of Jesus, who identified with us, suffered, died, and rose again.  Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 19, 2014 COMMON ERA

HOLY SATURDAY, YEAR A

Posted April 19, 2014 by neatnik2009 in 2020, 2021, April 1, April 10, April 11, April 12, April 13, April 14, April 15, April 16, April 17, April 18, April 19, April 2, April 20, April 21, April 22, April 23, April 24, April 25, April 26, April 27, April 28, April 29, April 3, April 30, April 4, April 5, April 6, April 7, April 8, April 9, Ascension, Ash Wednesday, Easter Sunday, February 10, February 11, February 12, February 13, February 14, February 15, February 16, February 17, February 18, February 19, February 20, February 21, February 22, February 23, February 24, February 25, February 26, February 27, February 28, February 29, February 4, February 5, February 6, February 7, February 8, February 9, Friday in Easter Week, Good Friday, Holy Monday, Holy Saturday-Easter Vigil, Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday, June 1, June 10, June 11, June 12, June 13, June 2, June 3, June 4, June 5, June 6, June 7, June 8, June 9, March 1, March 10, March 11, March 12, March 13, March 14, March 15, March 16, March 17, March 18, March 19, March 2, March 20, March 21, March 22, March 23, March 24, March 25: Annunciation, March 26, March 27, March 28, March 29, March 3, March 30, March 31, March 4, March 5, March 6, March 7, March 8, March 9, Maundy Thursday, May 1, May 10, May 11, May 12, May 13, May 14, May 15, May 16, May 17, May 18, May 19, May 2, May 20, May 21, May 22, May 23, May 24, May 25, May 26, May 27, May 28, May 29, May 3, May 30, May 31: Visitation, May 4, May 5, May 6, May 7, May 8, May 9, Monday in Easter Week, Palm Sunday, Pentecost, Saturday in Easter Week, Thursday in Easter Week, Tuesday in Easter Week, Wednesday in Easter Week

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Devotion for the Twentieth, Twenty-First, and Twenty-Second Days of Lent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Kind_en_Kaars

Above:  Lighting a Votive Candle

Image Source = AutoCCD

The Light Shining in the Darkness

THURSDAY-SATURDAY, MARCH 19-21, 2020

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The Collect:

Bend your ear to our prayers, Lord Christ, and come among us.

By your gracious life and death for us, bring light into the darkness

of our hearts, and anoint us with your Spirit, for you live and reign

with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 15:10-21 (20th Day)

1 Samuel 15:22-31 (21st Day)

1 Samuel 15:32-34 (22nd Day)

Psalm 23 (All Days)

Ephesians 4:25-32 (20th Day)

Ephesians 5:1-9 (21st Day)

John 1:1-9 (22nd Day)

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You revive my spirit:

and guide me in right pathways

for your name’s sake.

–Psalm 23:3, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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1 Samuel 15 confuses me.  The readings from Ephesians tell me to follow Christ as an example, to forgive people, to love them, and to deal generously with them.  But 1 Samuel 15 tells a story in which King Saul falls out of favor with God for not committing enough violence.  In a holy war an army was supposed to destroy and kill completely, but Saul’s forces did not do that.  The concept of God in that chapter is not the one in my head.

No, I follow Jesus, who did not slaughter yet whom Roman imperial forces crucified.  I follow Christ—victim and victor, sacrifice and priest.  I follow Jesus, the light of the world, the light which

shines in the darkness.

Yet

…the darkness has never mastered it.

–John 1:5, The Revised English Bible (1989)

I read the Bible through the lenses of what the late Donald Armentrout called

Gospel glasses.

Thus I acknowledge the superiority of the four canonical gospels to the rest of the canon of Scripture.  And I recognize Jesus of Nazareth as the template to follow.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 26, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN BERCHMANS, ROMAN CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN

THE FEAST OF ISAAC WATTS, HYMN WRITER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/the-light-shining-in-the-darkness/

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Prayers of the People for Lent–Second Order   Leave a comment

Lent

Above:  Lent Wordle

I found the image in various places online, including here:  http://standrewauh.org/a-study-for-lent/

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The congregational response to “We pray to you, O God” is “Hear our prayer.”

We pray for the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, that it may show the face of Christ to the world and draw people to you,

We pray to you, O God.

We pray for

  • Katharine, our Presiding Bishop;
  • Robert and Keith, our Bishops; and
  • Beth, our Rector;
  • and all clergy and lay members,
  • that they may serve you faithfully,

We pray to you, O God.

We pray for

  • Barack, our President;
  • Nathan, our Governor;
  • Nancy, our Mayor; and
  • all others who hold positions of authority and influence,

that justice may prevail,

We pray to you O God.

That we may, by grace, do your will each day,

We pray to you, O God.

That all who suffer may find succor,

We pray to you, O God.

We pray for (_____) and all who have died, that they may enjoy and glorify you forever,

We pray to you, O God.

We pray for our own needs and those of others.

Congregationally specific petitions follow.

The Celebrant adds a concluding Collect.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 2, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF JESUS IN THE TEMPLE

Devotion for the Twenty-Eighth Day of Lent (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   9 comments

Above:  Jerome Pradon as Judas Iscariot in Jesus Christ Superstar (2000)

(A Screen Capture I Took Via PowerDVD)

Genesis and Mark, Part XXIV:  Disappointment, Grudges, Revenge, and Forgiveness

MARCH 20, 2021

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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:

Genesis 49:29-50:7, 14-26

Psalm 43 (Morning)

Psalms 31 and 143 (Evening)

Mark 14:1-11

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A Related Post:

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/06/prayer-for-saturday-in-the-fourth-week-of-lent/

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After everything from Genesis 45 forward, Joseph’s brothers still feared that he might bear a grudge against them.  He did not, fortunately.  Yet, in Mark 14:10-11, Judas Iscariot had a reason (which made sense to him) to agree to betray Jesus.  The placement of those verses immediately after an unnamed woman anointed our Lord’s head implies a link (explicit elsewhere) between the two.

The story of a woman anointing Jesus, by the way, occurs in some form in each of the four canonical Gospels.  The other citations are Matthew 26:6-13, Luke 7:36-50, and John 12:1-8.  Each account, although different from the others, contains the same core.

Back to our regular programming…..

Jesus will be at Gethsemane before Mark 14 ends.  That is how close to the end of that Gospel we are.  Yes, one unifying thread between the Old Testament and the New Testament readings is death.  Jacob died in Genesis 49 and Jesus was about to die in Mark 14.  And how did fears and anger play out at these occasions?  Joseph repeated his forgiveness of his brothers.  Chief priests, scribes, and Judas Iscariot plotted our Lord’s death.

Judas was arguably disappointed in Jesus, who seemed insufficiently zealous against the occupying Romans.  Those with whom Judas conspired collaborated with the Romans.  So these were natural enemies who became temporary allies for the sake of convenience.  It was all very unseemly.

Joseph could afford to forgive, of course; he was a powerful man in Egypt.  Yet powerful people have nursed old grudges.  But, even more impressive than Joseph’s forgiveness was that of Jesus, who did not even take a grudge to his cross.  That is a fine example to ponder.

As for me, I know about deep, abiding, and justified anger.  My time as a doctoral student at the Department of History of The University of Georgia was traumatic, ending prematurely.  I never came close to the desired credential.  My anger was justified.  Yet it was also spiritually poisonous, so I had to relinquish it.  I harmed myself inwardly while those who committed academic abuse faced no consequences.  The grudge was a burden too heavy to continue to bear.

As for judgment or mercy, I leave that to God.

Revenge is always a burden too heavy to bear; may each of us in the human race drop it if we are carrying it and refuse to  pick it up if we are not carrying it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 23, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DESIDERIUS/DIDIER OF VIENNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT GUIBERT OF GORZE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN BAPTIST ROSSI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS COPERNICUS, SCIENTIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/genesis-and-mark-part-xxiv-disappointment-grudges-revenge-and-forgiveness/

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https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/uga-and-me/