Archive for the ‘Image of God’ Tag

Devotion for the Second Sunday in Lent, Year B (Humes)   3 comments

Above:  Belshazzar’s Feast, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Humility

MARCH 8, 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:

Daniel 5:1-7, 17-30

Psalm 22:23-31

2 Timothy 2:1-15

Mark 14:1-11

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Before I address my main point, I write about two historical problems with Daniel 5 and 6.  Belshazzar was never a king, for example.  His father was Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.), the last king of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  In 539 B.C.E. Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire .  Darius the Mede (6:1), a supposed predecessor of Cyrus II, was fictitious.  At best Belshazzar was the regent or viceroy his father when his father was away.  The chronology within the Book of Daniel makes no sense, regardless of whether one restricts oneself to the Hebrew version or the version with Greek additions. The Book of Daniel is not history; its chronology contradicts other portions of the Hebrew Bible.  That fact does not mean, of course, that we cannot read it in a spiritually profitable manner.

Humility before God is a theme running through the assigned readings.  Belshazzar was far from humble before God.  The author of Psalm 22 preached the virtues of being in the awe of God, a term we usually read or hear translated as “fear of God.”  St. Paul the Apostle, who knew much about ego, obeyed God and suffered for his obedience.  The unnamed woman who anointed Jesus at the home of Simon the leper in Bethany demonstrated extravagant love and humility; she did not care about how she looked.

To be humble is to be down to earth, literally.  In the context of God each of us should recognize his or her relative insignificance.  Yet we bear the image of God, as Cyrus II was.  Divine grace can flow through us to others.  That should be sufficient status for us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 21, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, JESUIT

THE FEAST OF BERNARD ADAM GRUBE, GERMAN-AMERICAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, COMPOSER, AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF CARL BERNHARD GARVE, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN JONES AND JOHN RIGBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/06/21/humility-before-god-part-v/

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Devotion for the Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year D)   1 comment

parable-of-the-wicked-servant

Above:  Parable of the Wicked Servant, by Domenico Fetti

Image in the Public Domain

Respecting the Image of God in Others

MAY 17, 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:

Deuteronomy 15:1-18 or 19:15-21

Psalm 129

Matthew 18:1-14 (15-20) or Luke 9:46-50; 17:1-4

2 Corinthians 9:1-15

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The reading for this Sunday, taken together, proclaim the mandate of economic and legal justice, condemn lying in court, command forgiving penitents, order valuing the powerless and the vulnerable, and extol the virtues of generosity of spirit and of giving.  On the other hand, we read a prayer for God to destroy Israel’s enemies and a permission slip to dun foreigners.  What are we supposed to make of all this?

First I call attention to the presence of both collective and individual sins and virtues.  My Western culture, steeped in individualism, understands individual sins better than collective and institutional ones.  I know that, as a matter of history, many professing Christians have obsessed over personal peccadilloes to the exclusion or minimizing of societal sins.

My second point is the value of foreigners who bear the image of God.  Focusing just on the Hebrew Bible for a few minutes, I recall certain passages that depict some goyim favorably:  Rahab the prostitute (Joshua 2:1-24 and 6:17-25), Ruth (Ruth 1-4), and Naaman (2 Kings 5:1-19).  And, of course, as one turns to the New Testament, one should think of the controversy regarding St. Paul the Apostle’s mission to the Gentiles.

Finally, forgiveness can be difficult, but it is the best policy.  According to a rule common among Jews at the time of Jesus, one was perfect if one forgave three times daily.  As we read in the Gospel readings, Jesus more than doubled that number, increasing it to seven.  (He affirmed spiritual challenges.)  Even if forgiving someone does not affect that person it changes for the better the one who forgives.  We also read in Matthew 7:1-5 that the standard we apply to others will be the standard God applies to us.  One might also consult Matthew 18:23-34, the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.

I understand the desire for God to smite one’s foes.  I have prayed for such results.  I have also learned that praying for their repentance–for their benefit and that of others–is a better way to proceed.  Even our foes bear the image of God, after all.  God loves them too, correct?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN DOBER, MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER; JOHANN LEONHARD DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; AND ANNA SCHINDLER DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDITH CAVELL, NURSE AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF SCOTLAND, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT NECTARIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, ARCHBISHOP

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/respecting-the-image-of-god-in-others/

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

Abimelech

Above:  Abimelech

Image in the Public Domain

Obeying or Resisting the Will of God

APRIL 9, 2019

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The Collect:

Creator God, you prepare a new way in the wilderness,

and your grace waters our desert.

Open our hearts to be transformed by the new thing you are doing,

that our lives may proclaim the extravagance of your love

given to all through 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 29

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 9:7-15

Psalm 20

1 John 2:18-28

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Now I know that the LORD has given deliverance to his king;

from his heavenly sanctuary he responds to him,

sending his mighty power which always saves.

Some draw attention to their chariots, some to their horses,

 but for our part we draw attention to the LORD, our God.

They crumble and fall,

but we will rise and continue on our way.

The LORD had delivered the king;

he answers us when we call.

–Psalm 20:7-10, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

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Psalm 20 contains a monarchical perspective, but Judges 9 does not.  In Judges 9 we read of Abimelech, son of Gideon (Jerubbabel).  We learn of Abimelech’s three-year-long local reign at Shechem, of his violent rise to power, and of his violent demise.  The text makes plain that Abimelech’s reign was contrary to the will of God and that of God was supposed to be the only king of the Israelites.  The thematic link of Samuel’s warning in 1 Samuel 8 is obvious.

1 John we find a letter to a congregation recovering from a traumatic schism.  The schismatics were probably Gnostics, based on internal evidence from the document.  The author, who was possibly St. John the Evangelist, advised his audience to remain strong in Christian faith and to continue to reject teachings of antichrists (note the plural form of the word, O reader), who reject Christ.  Gnostics seem like probable antichrists in this context, given their theological position that Jesus was not really incarnate and therefore could not have died on the cross.  That which is material, they said, is evil.  They taught, therefore, that Jesus was a phantom.  So much for Christianity!  There is no Christianity without the Incarnation and all that followed it in the earthly life of Jesus.

The thematic glue for this day’s assigned readings is the will of God–specifically, acting in accordance with it or contrary to it.  Stating that one should act according to the will of God is easy, but discerning that will can be difficult.  Many people who have claimed to know the divine will have acted such that their deeds have belied their protestations of righteousness.  I make no pretense of knowing the mind of God better than anyone else, but I affirm some helpful principles.  These include:

  1. Love you neighbor as you love yourself.
  2. Respect the image of God in all other people actively.
  3. Act toward others as you want them to behave toward you.
  4. Follow Jesus.
  5. Refrain from attempting to domesticate him and/or his message.
  6. If you must err, do so on the side of compassion, not fear or hatred.

Stating those principles is easier than practicing them, I realize, but one need not rely on one’s own power to live righteously in one’s society; grace abounds.  May God deliver each of us from all that stands between us and righteousness.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS COTTERILL, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CALABRIA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SERVANTS AND THE POOR WOMEN SERVANTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/obeying-or-resisting-the-will-of-god/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Vineyard in Summer

Above:  Vineyard in Summer

Image in the Public Domain

The Works of the Flesh and the Fruit of the Spirit

APRIL 30, 2018, and MAY 1, 2018

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The Collect:

O God, you give us your Son as the vine apart from whom we cannot live.

Nourish our life in his resurrection,

that we may bear the fruit of love

and know the fullness of your joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 34

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 5:1-7 (Monday)

Isaiah 32:9-20 (Tuesday)

Psalm 80 (Both Days)

Galatians 5:16-26 (Monday)

James 3:17-18 (Tuesday)

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O LORD God of hosts,

how long will you be angered

despite the prayers of your people?

–Psalm 80:4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The metaphor of the House of Israel as the vineyard of God works well in Isaiah 5.  God has done much that should result in a good vintage, yet:

…He hoped for justice,

But behold, injustice;

For equity,

But behold, iniquity!

–Isaiah 5:7b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The readings for these two days make clear that positive actions lead to good spiritual results and that negative actions lead to bad spiritual results.  Some of the consequences are also temporal, although the rain falls on both the just and unjust.  Also, righteous deeds lead to suffering sometimes.  Nevertheless, it is better to be on God’s side than to be elsewhere.

As for the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, I propose that the lists are not comprehensive.  One should focus on the big picture and not become lost in the weeds, mistaking the lists as mere checklists.  Checklist morality holds no appeal to me, for it tends toward a sense of works-based righteousness.

I have not committed x, y, and z, so I must be doing well,

checklist morality leads one to say.  Rather, focusing on the principles and pondering how to apply them within one’s daily situations is a better way to proceed.  The works of the flesh damage and destroy the person who commits them and the people around him or her.  In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit builds up people, communities, and societies.  This is consistent with mutuality–mutual dependence and responsibility–a core tenet within the Law of Moses.

May we, empowered by grace, work for the common good in our families, communities, and societies.  May we recognize and respect the image of God in others, especially those different from us.  May we value them and seek their best.  May fraternal love, grounded in love for God, prevail.  May it spread like a group of mustard plants.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 19, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKRESFRUD, LUTHERAN MISSIONARY

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/the-works-of-the-flesh-and-the-fruit-of-the-spirit/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After the Second Sunday of Easter, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Fiery Furnace

Above:  Fiery Furnace

Image in the Public Domain

God and Kosmos

APRIL 9, 2018, and APRIL 10, 2018

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The Collect:

Almighty God, with joy we celebrate the day of our Lord’s resurrection.

By the grace of Christ among us,

enable us to show the power of the resurrection in all that we say or do,

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:

Daniel 3:1-30 (Monday)

Daniel 6:1-28 (Tuesday)

Psalm 135 (Both Days)

1 John 2:3-11 (Monday)

1 John 2:12-17 (Tuesday)

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O LORD, your Name is everlasting;

your renown, O LORD, endures from age to age.

–Psalm 135:13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The readings from Daniel 3 and 6 tell of faithful Jews in deadly peril due to their fidelity to God, who delivered them.  After each deliverance a violent monarch became the earthly protector of the faithful.  Details of how this worked are not the content of warm and fuzzy lessons for children’s Sunday School.

1 John 2:15 says:

Do not love the world or the things in the world.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

“The world” refers not to the created order but to the evil order in which faithful people face persecution.

Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe?  The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone.  Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.  I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace.  In the world you face persecution.  But take courage; I have conquered the world!”

–John 16:31-33, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The extraordinary context for that portion of the Johannine Gospel is that Jesus was about to die.  In the Gospel of John he said that immediately prior to his betrayal and crucifixion.  The worst which people did to him was terrible indeed, but God was more powerful, as the Resurrection revealed.

The call to reject the world which Christ has conquered is not a command to eschew all aspects of culture, popular and otherwise, many of which are beneficial and others of which are harmless.  No, it is a mandate to establish and stick to proper priorities; God must come first.  So may we recognize and respect the image of God within others and act accordingly.  May we reject the fear which leads people to harm each other instead of building each other up.

And now, my friends, all that is true, all that is noble, all that is just and pure, all that is lovable and attractive, whatever is excellent and admirable–fill your thoughts with these things.

–Philippians 4:8, The Revised English Bible (1989)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF MARIA STEWART, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB, FOUNDER OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLYMPIAS, ORTHODOX DEACONESS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/god-and-kosmos/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday in Easter Week, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Paul Writing His Epistles

Above:  Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

Two Creations

APRIL 2, 2018, and APRIL 3, 2018

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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:

Genesis 1:1-19 (Monday)

Genesis 1:20-2:4a (Tuesday)

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 15:35-49 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 15:50-58 (Tuesday)

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I shall not die, but live,

and declare the works of the Lord.

–Psalm 118:17, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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We read of two creations–one of the perishable, the other of the imperishable.  Genesis 1:1-2:4a is a Jewish revision of a Babylonian creation myth.  This is evident from literary analysis and the study of the past, so I brook no Creationist foolishness.  Besides, my main purpose in this post is to put Genesis 1:1-2:4a beside 1 Corinthians 15:35-50 and write from that place of comparison and contrast.  So here we go:

  1. People bear the image of God in Genesis.
  2. People bear the image of perishable Adam and can bear the image of imperishable Christ in 1 Corinthians.
  3. The fruits of the old creation grow old, decay, die, and decompose.
  4. The fruits of the new creation do not perish.
  5. The two types of bodies in 1 Corinthians 15 are physical, but the spiritual body has a different composition than does the perishable body.  The spiritual body is something different.  It is not a reanimated corpse.
  6. God is crucial for both creations.

The nature of the spiritual body is mysterious, but is not some mystery beneficial?  If such unknown factors do anything, they prevent us from having even more swelled heads, I suppose.

More important than the mystery and the answer to it is something unambiguous:  the central role which St. Paul the Apostle attributes to God–Christ, to be precise.  To ponder that detail is more profitable spiritually than attempting to resolve a mystery we will probably never solve in this realm of reality.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF MARIA STEWART, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB, FOUNDER OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLYMPIAS, ORTHODOX DEACONESS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/two-creations/

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Devotion for the Forty-Eighth and Forty-Ninth Days of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   9 comments

Above:  Moses Striking the Rock, by Pieter de Grebber

Numbers and Luke, Part VIII:   The Sin of Pride

FRIDAY, MAY 29, 2020, and SATURDAY, MAY 30, 2020

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 20:1-21 (48th Day of Easter)

Numbers 20:22-21:9 (49th Day of Easter)

Psalm 96 (Morning–48th Day of Easter)

Psalm 92 (Morning–49th Day of Easter)

Psalms 50 and 138 (Evening–48th Day of Easter)

Psalms 23 and 114 (Evening–49th Day of Easter)

Luke 20:19-44 (48th Day of Easter)

Luke 20:45-21:9 (49th Day of Easter)

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The readings for today occur against the backdrop of death.  Miriam and Aaron die.  Jesus will die soon.  And, in the midst of all this, the main sin common to the readings from Numbers and Luke is pride, being spectacular.  That was the sin of Moses, whose disobedience detracted from the glory of God.  And the scribes in Luke 20:45-47 reveled in public acclaim while devouring the property of widows.  Furthermore, those who wasted our Lord’s time with a political trap and with sophistry earlier in Luke 20 probably thought their rhetorical powers and mind games clever.  They were mistaken.

To have a balanced self-image, or ego, is crucial.  We are neither worms nor demigods.  We are, however, bearers of the image of God.  And, as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote in poetic terms, we are slightly lower than the angels.  So we ought to acknowledge our potential, its source, and our limitations.  To miss the mark–to aim too high or too low–is to arrive at an inaccurate estimate of our true worth.

May we therefore think neither too highly nor too lowly of ourselves.  And may we let God appear as spectacular as possible.  Not to do so is to commit the sin of pride.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 23, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETAS OF REMESIANA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WIREMU TAMIHANA, MAORI PROPHET AND KINGMAKER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/numbers-and-luke-part-viii-the-sin-of-pride/

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