Archive for the ‘March 25: Annunciation’ 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 the Feast for the Annunciation, Years A, B, C, and D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Annunciation

Image in the Public Domain

Glorious Paradoxes

MARCH 25, 2020

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The Collect:

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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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 7:10-14

Psalm 45 or 40:5-10

Hebrews 10:4-10

Luke 1:26-38

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The date of the Feast of the Annunciation of Our Lord is theological, not historical, as I have written elsewhere.  Scholarship regarding the development of the Western Christian calendar reveals that, by the 200s, March 25, according to popular Christian belief in the West, was the

beginning of creation, the date of the incarnation, and the date of the crucifixion, symbolically tying the creation and the new creation together.  The date thus became the new year’s day throughout Europe from the sixth century and remained so in England (and America) until 1752.

–Philip H. Pfatteicher, Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship:  Lutheran Liturgy in Its Ecumenical Context (Minneapolis, MN:  Augsburg Fortress, 1990), 315-316.

If one reads the pericope from Isaiah 7 in the context of that chapter, one reads a story about Ahaz, an impious King of Judah under threat from the forces of Aram and Israel.  Ahaz puts on airs of piety, prompting First Isaiah to retort,

Is it not enough for you to treat men as helpless, that you also treat my God as helpless?

–Isaiah 7:13, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The divine sign (the one Ahaz refused to seek) of deliverance from the Syro-Ephraimite crisis is that a young woman in the court will give birth to a son, we read.  The crisis will end in Judah’s favor by the time that boy has moral reasoning, we read.

Ahaz was quite unlike the king of Psalm 45 and the author of Psalm 40–that is, pious men.  Yet, if he received a sign without asking, and while mocking God, one might have good cause to wonder what God will give to the righteous, not that obedience to God ensures an easy life.  (Ask Jesus.)

God has never been helpless–or has He?  (Untangling Trinitarian knots is risky theological business.)  Certainly the young incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity was helpless, for a time.  And Jesus seemed helpless on the cross, where, as the author of the thoroughly misnamed Letter to the Hebrews wrote, the “offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” has consecrated believers (10:10).

The Incarnation was paradoxical.  God assuming human form and becoming fully human–an infant, even–was paradoxical.  God simultaneously being in Heaven and on Earth was paradoxical.  God simultaneously being helpless and not helpless was paradoxical.  All these paradoxes were glorious.

So is the symbolic tying together of the creation and the new creation.  This tying together is something I do not pretend to understand, but that I affirm via faith, regardless of when the conception of Jesus actually occurred.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 24, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS SELNECKER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JACKSON KEMPER, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDITH MARY MELLISH (A.K.A. MOTHER EDITH), FOUNDRESS OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE SACRED NAME

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/05/24/glorious-paradoxes/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After the Third Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Zedekiah

Above:  King Zedekiah of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

Spiritual Responsibility

MARCH 25 and 26, 2019

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The Collect:

Eternal God, your kingdom has broken into our troubled world

through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son.

Help us to hear your word and obey it,

and bring your saving love to fruition in our lives,

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:

Jeremiah 11:1-17 (Monday)

Ezekiel 17:1-10 (Tuesday)

Psalm 39 (Both Days)

Romans 2:1-11 (Monday)

Romans 2:12-16 (Tuesday)

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You chastise mortals in punishment for sin,

consuming like a moth what is dear to them;

surely everyone is a mere breath.

–Psalm 39:11, The Book of Worship of North India (1995)

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The judgment of God is righteous, the readings for these days tell us.

Ezekiel 17:1-10 requires explanation, for it uses metaphorical language.  The references involving the cedar, the vine, and the eagles refer to international relations from 598 to 588 B.C.E.  In verses 3-6 the meaning is that King Nebuchadnezzar II of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire had taken many prominent people of Judah, including King Jehoiachin (reigned in 597 B.C.E.), into exile, after which King Zedekiah (reigned 597-586 B.C.E.), who was initially loyal to Nebuchadnezzar II, came to the throne of Judah.  The eagle in verses 7-8 is the Pharaoh of Egypt, to whom Zedekiah transferred his loyalty.  The pericope concludes that the survival of Zedekiah and Judah is impossible.

Part of the background of the assigned passage from Ezekiel is the position that pursuing those alliances with dangerous foreign leaders was not only foolish but faithless.  Obey and trust in God instead, prophets said.  Theological interpretation in the context of the Babylonian Exile reinforced that position.  The people and bad kings of Judah reaped what they sowed, the final versions of certain books of the Hebrew Bible argued.  (There were, of course, good kings of Judah.)

God is angry with Judah in Jeremiah 11:1-17.  The people, having generally (with some notable exceptions) refused to obey the covenant with God, will suffer the punishments for noncompliance which the covenant contains.  Among the accusations is rampant idolatry.

The first word of Romans 2 is “therefore,” which leads me back into chapter 1.  The essence of Romans 1 is that Gentiles have no excuse for persistent unrighteousness, including idolatry.  Divine punishment for them for these offenses is therefore justified.  Then, in Romans 2, St. Paul the Apostle tells his Jewish audience not to be spiritually complacent.

The very fact that the Jew agrees so entirely with Paul’s charge against the Gentile shows that he himself is without excuse and subject to the wrath of God.

–Anders Nygren, Commentary on Romans (1944); Translated by Carl C. Rasmussen (Philadelphia, PA:  Muhlenberg Press, 1949), page 113

Furthermore, some Gentiles have the law of God inscribed on their hearts, when even some Jews do not.  Doing is better than merely hearing, according to the Apostle.

Three thoughts come to my mind at this point.  The first is that St. Paul was correct.  He echoed Jeremiah 31:31f (the inner law), but expanded the text to include Gentiles.  St. Paul also sounded much like Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5.

Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  For as you judge others, so will yourselves be judged, and whatever measure you deal out will be dealt to you.

–Matthew 7:1-2, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The Gospel of Matthew did not exist during St. Paul’s lifetime, but the Apostle did have some familiarity with oral traditions and perhaps some written sayings of Jesus, from which the author of the Gospel of Matthew drew.

My second thought is that St. Paul’s challenge to question one’s assumptions and prejudices is timeless.  Who are those we define as spiritual outsiders?  Some of them might be closer to God than we are, and we might not be as close to God as we think we are.

My final thought in this collection is that St. Paul sounds very much like the perhaps later Letter of James.

Exhibit A:

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

–Romans 2:13, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The emphasis here is on active faith.  The Pauline definition of faith was confidence, in the absence of evidence for or against, which leads to actions.  Thus, later in the epistle, St. Paul argued:

Therefore since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ….

–Romans 5:1, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Romans 2:13 and 5:1 stand as portions of a unified, steadily building case in a theological treatise.

Exhibit B:

What good is it, my friends, for someone to say he has faith when his actions do nothing to show it?  Can faith save him?…So with faith; if it does not lead to action, it is by itself a lifeless thing.

–James 2:14, 17, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Exhibit C:

Do you have to be told, you fool, that faith divorced from action is futile?…You see then it is by action and not by faith alone that a man is justified.

–James 2:20, 24, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Faith, in the Letter of James, is intellectual, hence the necessity of pairing it with deeds.  On the surface the theologies of justification in the Letter of James and the Letter to the Romans might seem mutually contradictory, but they are not.  No, they arrive at the same point from different destinations.

The judgment of God exists alongside divine mercy.  The balance of the two factor resides solely in the purview of God.  Our actions influence divine judgment and mercy in our cases, however.  One can find that teaching in several places in the Bible, including Ezekiel 18, Matthew 7:1-5, Romans 2:6f, and James 2:8f.  Yes, the legacies of ancestors influence us, but our spiritual responsibility for ourselves remains intact.  May we exercise it properly.

Related to one’s spiritual responsibility for oneself is one’s spiritual responsibility for others, as in Romans 2:17-24.  That, however, is a topic for another post.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 19, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN HERMANN SCHEIN, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF F. BLAND TUCKER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/spiritual-responsibility/

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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, 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 Twenty-Fifth Day of Lent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

03713v

Above:  Mosaic of Jesus Healing the Two Blind Men, Mosquee Karie, Constantinople, Ottoman Empire, 1892

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-03713

Lashing Out in Desperation and Fear

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25, 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:

Isaiah 60:17-22

Psalm 146

Matthew 9:27-34

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The Lord shall reign for ever,

your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.  Alleluia.

–Psalm 146:10, Common Worship (2000)

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James D. G. Dunn wrote in Jesus Remembered (2003):

The point is this:  within Jewish prophetic/apocalyptic tradition there was some sort of recognition that the partial fulfillment of a hope did not nullify or falsify that hope.  Instead the earlier hope became the basis and springboard for a fresh articulation of the same hope.

–Page 481

Neither immediately Post-Exilic Judea nor the Hasmonean kingdom nor Roman-occupied Palestine resembled the positive future promised in Isaiah 60.  Yet, in Matthew 9, there were powerful works of God via Jesus, who healed two blind men and a mute man, the latter of which spoke afterward.

…and the people were amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”

–Verse 33b, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

The cultural assumption regarding the causation of many conditions held that evil spirits were responsible.  Thus the Gospels assign blame for muteness, epilepsy, and metal illness to demonic possession and describe many healings as exorcisms.  This is not my understanding of reality, for modern science informs my thinking.  Yet my worldview is not a major issue here; that of the characters Matthew 9:32-34 is.  Within that context some Pharisees accused our Lord and Savior of exorcising demons by means of an alliance with Satan.  That alleged logic makes no sense even with a certain cultural milieu.  No, that that allegation was an example of striking out in desperation and fear.

As we wait for a complete fulfillment of the hope of Isaiah 60, what do we fear wrongly?  May we refrain from calling that which is of God evil, no matter how much it threatens our status and ego.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 27, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/lashing-out-in-desperation-and-fear/

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

DSC08019

Above:  Easter Vigil, St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, Dunwoody, Georgia, April 8, 2012

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

(https://picasaweb.google.com/114749828757741527421/EasterVigilStPatrickS?noredirect=1#5729171578836326034)

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The congregational response to “We pray to God” is “Lord, hear our prayer.”

As we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus of Nazareth, we bring our thanksgivings and concerns to the throne of grace.

We pray for

  • Justin, the Archbishop of Canterbury;
  • Katharine, our Presiding Bishop;
  • Robert and Keith, our Bishops;
  • Beth, our Rector;

and all lay and clergy members of the the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for economic justice, environmental stewardship, good government, and a better society.  We pray especially for

  • those who struggle with financial, career, job, and/or vocational issues;
  • those who suffer because of tyrants and violence; and
  • those who suffer because of the apathy or prejudices of their neighbors.

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for shalom among people everywhere.

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We give thanks for everything which causes God to rejoice, especially

  • the beauty of the natural world;
  • the beauty which people have created;
  • [the birth of G, son/daughter of H and I;]
  • loving relationships;
  • X, Y, and Z, who celebrate their birthdays this week; and
  • A and B, C and D, and E and F, who celebrate their anniversaries this week.

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for all military personnel, especially (insert list here).

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for others for whom we care, especially (insert list here).

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for those who have died, that they will have eternal rest.

We pray to God.

Lord, hear our prayer.

[The celebrant concludes with a Collect.]

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT KATHARINE DREXEL, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT CUNEGOND OF LUXEMBOURG, HOLY ROMAN EMPRESS THEN NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT GERVINUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN AND CHARLES WESLEY, ANGLICAN PRIESTS

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