Archive for the ‘Atonement’ Tag

Devotion for Palm/Passion Sunday, Year C (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  A Crucifix

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Innocence

MARCH 28, 2011

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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:

Liturgy of the Palms:

Luke 19:28-44

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

Liturgy of the Word:

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Psalm 31:9-16

Philippians 2:1-13

Luke 23:1-56

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Some texts are standard for Palm/Passion Sunday on the Humes lectionary.  The account of the Triumphal Entry varies from year to year; each of the four versions gets its year.  Likewise, the Gospel reading varies each year.  It is always the Passion, though.  The readings from Psalm 31, Psalm 118, Isaiah 50, and Philippians 2 are evergreen, though.

I focus on Luke 23:1-56 in this post.

The Gospel of Luke hits us over the head with Jesus’s innocence.  Christ’s innocence is a theme in 23:4, 14-15, 22, 40-42, and 47.  Whenever the Bible keeps repeating a theme, we need to pay attention to that theme.

The execution of Jesus was a travesty and an example of judicial murder.

There is an interesting moral and legal question:  Is it better for a court to convict an innocent person or to acquit a guilty person?  The answer is obvious:  the latter.  Innocence should always lead to the absence of a conviction, incarceration, and execution.  I gaze with moral horror at those who would ever approve of convicting any innocent person.

The crucifixion of Jesus has more than one meaning.  It is, for example, a component of the atonement; the resurrection equals the final act.  The crucifixion of Christ should also spur us on to affirm that convicting and punishing the innocent is never acceptable.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF CHARLES VILLIERS STANFORD, COMPOSER, ORGANIST, AND CONDUCTOR

THE FEAST OF DORA GREENWELL, POET AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN KEBLE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JONAS AND BARACHISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 327

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/03/29/innocence/

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Devotion for Holy Saturday, Years A, B, C, and D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Harrowing of Hell

Image in the Public Domain

The Light of Christ, Part I

APRIL 3, 2021

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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:

Job 14:1-4 or Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24

Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16

1 Peter 4:1-8

Matthew 27:57-66 or John 19:38-42

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To permit Jess to remain dead liturgically until late Holy Saturday or early Easter Sunday morning–until the Great Vigil of Easter–is spiritually helpful.  By doing this one will derive more spiritual benefit from Easter than if one rushes into it.  Spiritual peaks mean as much as they do because of the valleys.

The audience for 1 Peter consisted of Gentile Christians in Asia Minor suffering for their faith.  The call to witness to Christ in their lives made sense.  (It still makes sense for we Christians today), in all our cultural contexts, regardless of the presence or absence of persecution.)  In that textual context the author (in 3:19 and 4:6) referred to Christ’s post-crucifixion and pre-Resurrection descent to the dead/into Hell.  These references have led to several interpretations for millennia, but the linkage to these verses to the Classic Theory of the Atonement, that is, the Conquest of Satan, has been easy to recognize.

A note in The Orthodox Study Bible (2008), for obvious reasons flowing from Eastern Orthodox theology, affirms the descent of Christ into Hell.  It reads in part:

As Christ fearlessly faced His tormenters, death, and hell, so we through Him can confidently face mockers and tormenters–and yes, bring His light to them.

–Page 1687

That is a great responsibility.  To bring the light of Christ to others–especially our enemies–is a high calling.  We can succeed in it, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PERCY DEARMER, ANGLICAN CANON AND TRANSLATOR AND AUTHOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONA OF PISA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC AND PILGRIM

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, LUTHER OF THE SLAVS AND FOUNDER OF SLOVAK HYMNODY

THE FEAST OF JOACHIM NEANDER, GERMAN REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/05/29/the-light-of-christ-part-iii/

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Devotion for Good Friday (Year D)   1 comment

christ-on-the-cross

Above:  Christ on the Cross, by Gerard David

Image in the Public Domain

Kyrie Eleison

APRIL 10, 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:

Ezra 9:5-15 or Jeremiah 25:15-38 or 2 Chronicles 7:1-22

Psalm 88

Luke 23:(1-12) 13-49

1 Peter 4:(1-8) 9-11 (12-14) 15-19

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The readings for this day speak of fiery ordeals.  In 2 Chronicles 7, Jeremiah 25, Ezra 9, and Psalm 88, they occur because of faithlessness to God.  These ordeals–divine punishment–lie in the future for the first two readings and in the past and the present in the last two lections.  In the first three readings he sins are collective, but they are individual in Psalm 88.  When we turn to Luke 23 and 1 Peter 4 we find that the suffering does not constitute divine punishment.  Faith tells us that Jesus did not sin, and the predicted fiery ordeals in 1 Peter 4 result from one’s righteousness and the lack of righteousness of others.

God is unpleasant in the assigned readings from the Hebrew Bible.  Perhaps the most concise passage to this effect is Jeremiah 25:27 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989):

Then you shall say to them, Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel:  Drink, get drunk and vomit, fall and rise no more, because of the sword that I am sending among you.

I reject Penal Substitutionary Atonement, the idea that Jesus died for my sins.  That theory of the atonement portrays God as one in whom to stand in terror, not to love and respect.  It depicts God as one who says,

I will not be content until some people torture and execute my innocent Son.

No, I am closer to the Classic Theory of the Atonement, or Christus Victor, of the Conquest of Satan.  This theory of the atonement emphasizes the resurrection of Jesus.  This makes sense to me because, without the resurrection, Jesus is dead.  Dead Jesus cannot save anyone from anything–sins or damnation, especially.  Actually, I propose that the entire earthly life of Jesus was the means of atonement.  I prefer to leave the mechanics of the atonement vague, in full Eastern Orthodox style.

Good Friday is among the holiest days of the year.  It is an occasion to reflect on the atonement and on social structures and institutions that kill the innocent.  Good Friday is an especially appropriate day to pray for forgiveness for the evil we have done and the evil done on our behalf.  Innocent people still suffer at the hands of other people.  Scapegoating continues.  State-sponsored violence is not just a matter of the past.  The prayer of our Lord and Savior (“Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.”–Luke 23:34a, The Jerusalem Bible, 1966) remains relevant.  Furthermore, sometimes they (we) do not know what they (we) are doing.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN NITSCHMANN, SR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN LUDWIG BRAU, NORWEGIAN MORAVIAN TEACHER AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/kyrie-eleison-2/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Easter Sunday, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Women at the Empty Tomb--Fra Angelico

Above:  Women at the Empty Tomb, by Fra Angelico

Image in the Public Domain

Jesus, the Resurrection, and the Presence of God

APRIL 24, 2019

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you give us the joy of celebrating our Lord’s resurrection.

Give us also the joys of life in your service,

and bring us at last to the full joy of life eternal,

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 32

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Samuel 6:1-15

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Luke 24:1-12

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The presence of God was a frightful thing in much of the Old Testament.  It was not always so, for Abraham and God got along quite well and casually, according to much of Genesis.  God seems to have been the patriarch’s best friend.  God seems to have been more distant (at least in presentation) by the Book of Exodus.  In 2 Samuel 6 unfortunate Uzzah, who reached out to steady the Ark of the Covenant because the oxen pulling the cart had stumbled, died.

The LORD was incensed at Uzzah.  And God struck him down on the spot for his indiscretion, and he died there beside the Ark of God.

–Verse 7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Why acting to prevent the Ark of the Covenant from falling to the ground constituted an indiscretion, much less an act worthy of death by the proverbial hand of God, eludes me.  I do not think that it was indiscretion, but a faithful and respectful action.  Nevertheless, I acknowledge that the faith community which repeated this story as part of its oral tradition until someone thought to write it down understood the matter differently.

Getting too close to the presence of God was, according to many for a long time, fraught with peril.  But what about those stories of God and Abraham taking strolls together, once with the patriarch haggling with God over the lives of people he did not know?  Perceptions of God have changed much over time.

This is a devotion for Wednesday in Easter Week, hence the reading from the beginning of Luke 24.  There the tomb is empty and Jesus is elsewhere.  The narrative catches up with him in the pericope which begins with verse 13.  The link between the two main assigned readings is the physical presence of God.  It is a cause of peril for one who touches the Ark of the Covenant in 2 Samuel 6 yet not in the Gospels.  There Jesus walks, talks, and dines with people, much as God did with Abraham.

To focus on the resurrection theme in Luke 24 I turn to two other readings.  I imagine certain followers of Jesus, once they had recovered from the shock of the resurrection, reciting part of Psalm 118:

The same stone which the builders rejected

has become the chief cornerstone.

This is the LORD’s doing,

and it is marvelous in our eyes.

On this day the LORD has acted;

we will rejoice and be glad in it.

–Verses 22-24, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

I think also of 1 Corinthians 15:17-19 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989):

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.  Then those who have died in Christ have perished.  If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

I admit to doubts regarding certain doctrines and dogmas of the Church, but affirming the resurrection of Jesus is mandatory if one is to be a Christian.  Without the resurrection we are left with Dead Jesus, who cannot redeem anybody from anything.  The resurrection is therefore an indispensable of the process of atonement.  Actually, the resurrection is the final stage in that process, one I understand as having commenced with the Incarnation.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/jesus-the-resurrection-and-the-presence-of-god/

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Devotion for Tuesday After Easter Sunday, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Yael Killing Sisera

Above:  Yael Killing Sisera, by Palma the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

Violence, Victory, Hatred, and Perfect Love

APRIL 23, 2019

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you give us the joy of celebrating our Lord’s resurrection.

Give us also the joys of life in your service,

and bring us at last to the full joy of life eternal,

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 32

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 4:17-23; 5:24-31a

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Revelation 12:1-12

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The reading from Revelation, told in the language of symbols, is about the persecution of Christians.  Martyrs in Heaven have conquered evil forces by dying, but their counterparts in the Church Militant remain vulnerable.  Their day to sing, in the words of Psalm 118:16 (The Book of Common Prayer, 1979),

The right hand of the LORD has triumphed!

the right hand of the LORD is exalted!

the right hand of the LORD has triumphed!

resides in the future.

Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite, knew how to triumph.  She used a mallet to drive a tent pin through the temple of Sisera, the Canaanite army commander, until the pin went into the ground.

This is a devotion for Tuesday in Easter Week.  Liturgically the death and resurrection of Jesus are therefore recent events.  According to the Classic Theory of the Atonement, or Christus Victor for short, the proper emphasis falls on the reality that Jesus was dead only briefly.  His resurrection thwarted evil plots, making clear the superior power of God, of perfect love.  Jesus was a sacrifice, not a person committing or condoning deadly violence.

As I have written online many times, I am not naive.  I understand that some evildoers will refuse to amend their ways.  I grasp that human sinfulness necessitates a rescue operation sometimes, and that such missions have body counts much of the time.  Yet I cannot imagine Jesus advocating for needless violence and militant religion.  He was, after all not a zealot, a member of that group which sought to expel the Romans from Palestine forcefully.

The call to love my neighbors as I love myself reminds me that even those who would destroy me are my neighbors.  Jesus interceded on behalf of such as these; should any of us who claim to follow him do any less?

The battle is God’s.  We have the right to defend ourselves against threats, but may we never give in to hatred, a greater foe.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/violence-victory-hatred-and-perfect-love/

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Devotion for Monday after the First Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Crucifixion Icon Rublev

Above:  Icon of the Crucifixion by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

Struggling with Concepts of God

MARCH 11, 2019

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The Collect:

O Lord God, you led your people through the wilderness and brought them to the promised land.

Guide us now, so that, following your Son, we may walk safely through the wilderness of this world

toward the life you alone can give, 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Chronicles 21:1-17

Psalm 17

1 John 2:1-6

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Hear my just cause, O Lord; consider my complaint;

listen to my prayer, which comes not from lying lips.

Let my vindication come forth from your presence;

let your eyes behold what is right.

Weigh my heart, examine me by night,

refine me, and you will find no impurity in me.

–Psalm 17:1-3, Common Worship (2000)

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The stories of the plague God inflicted on the Kingdom of Israel bother me.  The account in 1 Chronicles 21 differs significantly from the one in 2 Samuel 24.  In 2 Samuel 24:1, for example, “the anger of the LORD” (as the New Revised Standard Version renders the text), somehow operating independently of God, incites King David to take a census in violation of God’s desire.  Satan replaces “the anger of the LORD” as the agent of incitement in 1 Chronicles 21:1.  That is just one difference.  My major problem, however, is an element of the two versions of the story have in common.  God is terrifying and cruel, sending a plague upon innocent people.  It seems that the author of Psalm 17 is not the only one with impurity.  No, God, who harms innocents, seems impure in 1 Chronicles 21 and 2 Samuel 24.

The concept of God in 1 Chronicles 21 and 2 Samuel 24 is foreign to me.  Likewise, the idea that God was not satisfied until Roman soldiers tortured and executed Jesus (allegedly in lieu of each sinner, including subsequent ones, such as me) is familiar yet repugnant to me.  God, for me, is love.  Divine power resurrected Jesus, thereby defeating evil schemes.  Yes, O reader, I just repudiated Penal Substitutionary Atonement and affirmed the core of Christus Victor, the Classic Theory of the Atonement.  We who claim to follow God ought to exercise great caution regarding what we say and write about God.  Do we portray God as love or as a monster?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWIN HATCH, ANGLICAN PRIEST, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEO THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/struggling-with-concepts-of-god/

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Devotion for the Forty-Fourth, Forty-Fifth, and Forty-Sixth Days of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

PAT_2017

Above:  Thanksgiving Meal at Malachi’s Store House, St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, Dunwoody, Georgia, November 19, 2013

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Service and Glory

MONDAY-WEDNESDAY, MAY 25-27, 2020

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The Collect:

O God of glory, your Son Jesus Christ suffered for us

and ascended to your right hand.

Unite us with Christ and each other in suffering and joy,

that all the world may be drawn into your bountiful presence,

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 35

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 9:1-11, 22-24 (44th Day)

Numbers 16:41-50 (45th Day)

1 Kings 8:54-65 (46th Day)

Psalm 99 (All Days)

1 Peter 4:1-6 (44th Day)

1 Peter 4:7-11 (45th Day)

John 3:31-36 (46th Day)

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The LORD is great in Zion

and is high above all peoples.

Let them confess the name of the LORD,

which is great and awesome;

the LORD is the Holy One.

–Psalm 99:2-3, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Atonement liberates those who accept it and functions as an indictment of others.  C. H. Dodd explained this well in The Founder of Christianity (1970):

In [Jesus’] words and actions he made men aware of [the kingdom of God] and challenged them to respond.  It was “good news” in the sense that it meant opportunity for a new start and an unprecedented enrichment of experience.  But when a person (or a society) has been presented with such a challenge and declines it, he is not just where he was before.  His position is the worse for the encounter.  It is this that gives point to the tremendous warnings that Jesus is reported to have uttered about the consequences of rejection….The coming of the kingdom meant the open possibility of enhancement of life; it also meant the heightening of moral responsibility.

–Page 58 of the 1970 paperback edition

Hence we have another example of the juxtaposition of judgment and mercy.

Atonement, accomplished initially by animal sacrifices and an Aaronic priesthood then by Jesus, liberates people to glorify God and serve the needs of each other–to devote themselves to God and keep divine commandments.  There are many needs and therefore a host of specific ways to accomplish this goal.  One which a certain person might consider trivial another person might find vital, so may nobody say that he or she has little or nothing to offer.  No, grace has a multiplying effect on “minor” gifts and supplies us with “major” ones.  Nothing is too mundane for serving each other and glorifying God.

Part of the responsibility which free (yet not cheap) grace imparts to us is to pass grace along.  We might not be able to see God, but we can detect each other via senses.  Although none of us can solve every problem we detect, each of us can do something to ease some of them.  Each of us an do his or her part.  May each of us prove faithful in his or her part, responding positively to the call of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF KATHERINA VON BORA LUTHER, WIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/service-and-glory/

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