Archive for the ‘April 11’ Category

Feast of George Zabelka (April 11)   Leave a comment

Above:  Tokyo, September 2, 1945

Photographer = Stanley Troutman

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, NYWT&S Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USZ62-90145]



U.S. Roman Catholic Priest, Military Chaplain, and Advocate for Christian Nonviolence


You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thy enemy.  But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumnate you: That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the good, and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust.  For if you love them that love you, what reward shall you have?  do not even the publicans do this?  And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more?  do not also the heathens do this?  Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.

–Matthew 5:43-48 (Rheims New Testament, 1582; revised by Richard Challoner, 1749-1752)


Communion with Christ cannot be established on disobedience to his clearest teachings.  Jesus authorized none of his followers to substitute violence for love; not me, not you, not the president, not the pope, not a Vatican council, not even an ecumenical council.

–Father George Zabelka (1980); quoted in Jim Wallis and Joyce Hollyday, eds., Cloud of Witnesses, 2d. ed. (2005), 236


For the last two decades of his life, Father George Zabelka had to courage to say daily that he had been terribly and sinfully wrong regarding wrong and the Allied conduct of World War II, in particular.

George Benedict Zabelka came from Moravian immigrant stock.  He, born in Michigan on May 8, 1915, was a son of John J. Zabelka (1883-1957) and Katrina Zolek (Zabelka) (1874-1940), who had left the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  Our saint grew up on a farm.  He studied at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary, Cincinnati, Ohio.  Zabelka, ordained a priest in 1941, served as the assistant pastor of Sacred Heart Church, Flint, Michigan, from 1941 to 1943.

Zabelka was a chaplain in the United States Army Air Corps from 1943 to 1946.  After serving at Wright Field, Riverside, Ohio, our saint transferred to Tinian Island in 1945.  He ministered to the airmen who bombed Japanese civilians (including the at least 75,000 who burned to death in Tokyo on one night, due to U.S. conventional weapons) and dropped two atomic bombs on Japan.  Zabelka, in hindsight, recognized himself as having been brainwashed (along with much of the U.S. Roman Catholic hierarchy) into accepting violations of Roman Catholic moral teaching during time of war.  The targeting of civilians constituted a prima facie violation of Catholic moral teaching.  Shortly after the bombing of Nagasaki, the Japanese city with the largest Catholic city in Japan, Zabelka stood in the ruins of the Catholic cathedral in that city.  That church, he thought at the time,

had asked for it.

He defended the atomic bombing of three orders of Catholic nuns until the early 1970s.  In 1980, the penitent Zabelka, discussing his support for such conduct of war and his acceptance of just war theory, said,

So you see, that is why I am not going to the day of judgment looking for justice in this matter.  Mercy is my salvation.

Zabelka, transferred to Japan in 1945, returned to civilian life the following year.  He served as a chaplain in the National Guard until the 1960s.  Our saint returned to parish ministry in 1946.  He became the pastor of Sacred Heart Church, Flint, Michigan, in 1955.  The parish was on track to close soon.  It remained open until 2008, though.  Our saint courageously kept the parish and parochial school open to African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement.  He also advocated for economic justice in Flint in beyond.  In 1968, for example, he participated in the Poor People’s March, Washington, D.C.

Zabelka met Charles C. McCarthy, an attorney and theologian, in 1972.  McCarthy had founded the Center for the Study of Nonviolence at the University of Notre Dame.  Under McCarthy’s influence, in the early 1970s, our saint became a pacifist and repented of his former militancy.  Zabelka spent the rest of his life vocally opposing violence and ecclesiastical support for it.  He argued against just war theory and taught that loving enemies was mandatory for Christians.  Zabelka took the Sermon on the Mount seriously.

Zabelka, aged 76 years, died in Flint, Michigan, on April 11, 1992.

Loving and praying for enemies is difficult.  I do not pretend to have mastered this spiritual task.  It remains, however, part of the process of reconciliation.  Loving and praying for enemies remains consistent with the ethics and commandments of Jesus.  It is also a guaranteed way to create controversy in an ecclesiastical setting.  How ironic!


Loving and gracious God, your love encompasses

those with whom we agree, those similar to us, those with whom we disagree, and those dissimilar to us.

Your love extends to our enemies.

If that scandalizes and offends us, forgive us and lead us to repentance.

When we have difficulty loving and prayer for our enemies, forgive us and lead us to repentance.

May we, like your servant Father George Zabelka, recognize the dignity of every human being,

including enemies and those merely different from us, and act accordingly.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Genesis 33:1-17

Psalm 23

2 Corinthians 5:11-21

Matthew 5:43-48









Feast of George Augustus Selwyn (April 11)   4 comments

Above:  George Augustus Selwyn

Image in the Public Domain



Anglican Bishop of New Zealand, Primate of New Zealand, and Bishop of Lichfield; Missionary

Bishop George Augustus Selwyn comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Church of England, The Episcopal Church, The Anglican Church of Canada, the Scottish Episcopal Church, and The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

Selwyn was English.  He, born in London on April 5, 1809, studied at Eton then at St. John’s College, Cambridge.  Selwyn, a fellow of St. John’s College, Cambridge, became an Anglican deacon in 1833 then a priest the following year.  Our saint, simultaneously a curate at Windsor and a tutor at Eton, married Sarah Richardson (d. 1907) in 1839.  During a time of political and societal upheaval, Selwyn advocated for the autonomy of The Church of England and for ecclesiastical responsibilities in society.  He spent much of his time working in education.

Selwyn became the first Bishop of New Zealand in October 1841, after his brother William had declined the offer.  Our saint arrived in New Zealand in 1842.  He organized the Anglican Church in New Zealand and Melanesia, as well as the Church Missionary Society work in Melanesia.  He founded schools, especially for the Maori.  One of these institutions was St. John’s School, which ultimately settled in Auckland, New Zealand.  Our saint also established ministries to miners, homeless people, and itinerant workers.  Furthermore, Selwyn forged the constitution of the Anglican Church in his missionary realm.  He modeled the ecclesiastical constitution after the constitutions of The Episcopal Church and the Scottish Episcopal Church.  The constitution Selwyn crafted created a synod with three houses–bishops, clergy, and laity.  The empowerment of the laity was crucial.

Selwyn’s ministry overlapped with that of John Coleridge Patteson (1827-1871).  Selwyn created the first missionary system in Melanesia.  Indigenous youth spent summers at St. John’s School then returned to their communities as Christian influences.  Patteson, who arrived in 1855, inherited this system.  Patteson, whom Selwyn had consecrated the first Bishop of Melanesia on February 24, 1861, found that conducting missionary work directly in indigenous languages was more effective.

Selwyn oversaw the expansion of the Anglican Church in New Zealand and Melanesia.  As the church expanded, the number of dioceses increased.  He went from being the Bishop of New Zealand to the Primate of New Zealand yet still based in Auckland.

Selwyn was, compared to many colonists, radically progressive regarding indigenous people.  He respected the dignity of the Maori and pled with colonists to treat them justly.  Many colonists ignored these pleas, however.  Maori uprisings resulted during the 1860s.  Selwyn’s position cost him the support of many settlers.  On the other hand, the bishop served as a Royal Army chaplain.  This cost him much Maori support.

Selwyn was, according to purist standards of 2020, defective; he was, to some extent, a cultural imperialist.  Yet, as I wrote in the previous paragraph, he was radically progressive, according to the standards of his time.

Without justifying the unjustifiable, I ask, why not focus on the positive?

The orthodoxy of cultural anthropology teaches that two opposite fallacies exist.  One is ethnocentrism, the idea that the observer’s culture sets the standards by which to evaluate all other cultures.  Ethnocentrism leads one to ignore faults in one’s culture and virtues in other cultures.  The other fallacy is cultural relativism, or the absence of standards.  Cultural relativism leads one to turn a blind eye to offenses against human dignity in the name of respecting diversity.  The truth is in the middle, of course.  Standards do exist, and every culture falls short of them in some ways.  Furthermore, members of different cultures can learn from each other.

Selwyn was somewhere in the middle, between ethnocentrism and cultural relativism.

Selwyn served as the Bishop of Lichfield, in England, from 1868 to 1878.  He reluctantly accepted that offer at the Lambeth Conference of 1867.

Selwyn died in Lichfield on April 11, 1878.  He was 69 years old.

The Church of the Province of New Zealand reorganized in 1992.  It became The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

The reorganized church respects cultural differences and has three primates.

The Anglican Church of Melanesia became a separate province of the Anglican Communion in 1975.









Almighty God, you called George Augustus Selwyn

to be bishop of the church in New Zealand

and to lay a firm foundation for its life;

grant that, building on his labours

and encouraged by his gifts of heart, hand, and mind,

we too may extend your kingdom,

in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.


Jesus, Jewish Saviour, served by George, the English bishop in Aotearoa,

give us grace to build on his foundations.  Amen.

Isaiah 49:1-6, 13

Psalm 16 or 126

1 Corinthians 3:7-13

John 4:31-38

–The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia


Almighty God, hear our prayers and supplications

as we remember your servant George Augustus Selwyn

and enrich your Church in every land with the manifold gifts of service,

that by constant witness and selfless devotion we may share with one another,

and with all the world, the immeasurable wealth of your salvation;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

1 Corinthians 12:4-13

Psalm 96:1-7

Matthew 10:7-16

–The Anglican Church of Canada


Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for your servant George Augustus Selwyn,

whom you called to preach the Gospel to the people of New Zealand and Melanesia,

and to lay a firm foundation for the growth of your Church in many nations.

Raise up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of your kingdom,

that your Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Genesis 12:1-4

Ephesians 2:11-18

Psalm 28:7-11

Matthew 10:7-16

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 323


Feast of the Confession of St. Martha of Bethany (March 8-April 11)   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Raising of Lazarus

Image in the Public Domain


A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days is one of my hobbies, not a calendar of observances with any force or a popular following.  It does, however, constitute a forum to which to propose proper additions to church calendars.

Much of the Western Church observes January 18 as the Feast of the Confession of St. Peter the Apostle, the rock upon which Christ built the Church.  (Just think, O reader; I used to be a Protestant boy!  My Catholic tendencies must be inherent.)  The celebration of that feast is appropriate.  The Church does not neglect St. Martha of Bethany, either.  In The Episcopal Church, for example, she shares a feast with her sister (St. Mary) and her brother (St. Lazarus) on July 29.

There is no Feast of the Confession of St. Martha of Bethany, corresponding to the Petrine feast, however.  That constitutes an omission.  I correct that omission somewhat here at my Ecumenical Calendar as of today.  I hereby define the Sunday immediately prior to Palm/Passion Sunday as the Feast of the Confession of St. Martha of Bethany.  The reason for the temporal definition is the chronology inside the Gospel of John.

This post rests primarily on John 11:20-27, St. Martha’s confession of faith in her friend, Jesus, as

the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.

The combination of grief, confidence, and faith is striking.  It is one with which many people identify.  It is one that has become increasingly relevant in my life during the last few months, as I have dealt with two deaths.

Faith frequently shines brightly in the spiritual darkness and exists alongside grief.  Faith enables people to cope with their grief and helps them to see the path through the darkness.  We need to grieve, but we also need to move forward.  We will not move forward alone, for God is with us.  If we are fortunate, so are other people, as well as at least one pet.


Loving God, who became incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth

and enjoyed the friendship of Saints Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany:

We thank you for the faith of St. Martha, who understood that

you were the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who was coming into the world.

May we confess with our lips and our lives our faith in you,

the Incarnate, crucified, and resurrected Son of God, and draw others to you;

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Jeremiah 8:18-23

Psalm 142

1 Corinthians 15:12-28

John 11:1-44





Feast of Charles Stedman Newhall (April 11)   1 comment

Charles Stedman Newhall

Above:  Part of an Advertisement from The New York Times, Saturday, April 13, 1901, Page 29

Accessed via



U.S. Naturalist, Hymn Writer, and Congregationalist and Presbyterian Minister

The name of Charles Stedman Newhall is not famous in 2016.  That is unfortunate, for he was a holy man, a knowledgeable naturalist, and a skilled writer.

Our saint was a native of Boston, Massachusetts.  He, born on October 4, 1842, was son of Henry A. Stedman and Sarah Luther Stedman.  He studied at Williston Seminary, Easthampton, Massachusetts.  During the Civil War Newhall served in Company K of the 45th Regiment of the Massachusetts Volunteers, enlisting on September 30, 1862, and mustering out as a Corporal on July 7, 1863.

Newhall studied at Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts.  He joined the Psi Upsilon fraternity, won the Athene Prize in 1866 and the Minerology Prize in 1869, served as his class president in 1868 and 1869, and spoke at his commencement (with his A.B. degree) in 1869.

Our saint’s first career was in the ordained ministry.  He studied at Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York, from 1869 to 1872, graduating with his B.D. degree.  Ordination followed at Oriskany Falls, New York, on December 11, 1872.  There he served as pastor of the Congregational Church until 1874.  From 1874 to 1879 Newhall was the pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Oceanic, New Jersey.  Our saint traveled in the Middle East in 1879 and 1880.  Then he returned to the United States and became pastor of the Congregational Church at Postville, Iowa, serving until 1882.  Congregational pastorates at Tipton, Iowa (1882-1884), and Plainfield, New Jersey (1884-1885), followed.  From 1885 to 1898 Newhall was a Presbyterian minister, starting at Keeseville, New York.

[Aside:  I located Newhall’s ministerial record from December 1872 to March 1888 in The Tenth General Catalogue of the Psi Upsilon Fraternity (1888), available via Google Books.  I also found Newhall’s name in records of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. into the early twentieth century.  I have not, however, been able to reconstruct his ministerial record from 1888 to 1898.]

From 1898 to 1905 our saint worked for the United States Forestry Service in California.  This made sense, for he had, during his time as a pastor, established himself as an expert on plant life in the Northeast.  He published works in that area of study were:

  1. The Trees of Northeastern America (1890);
  2. The Leaf Collector’s Handbook and Herbarium:  An Aid in the Preservation and in the Classification of Specimen Leaves of the Trees of Northeastern America (1891);
  3. The Shrubs of Northeastern America (1893); and
  4. The Vines of Northeastern America; Fully Illustrated from Original Sketches (1897).

Newhall retired from the Forestry Service in 1905 and spent his final decades in Berkeley, California, where he died on April 11, 1935, aged 92 years.

Our saint also wrote for young people.  Those volumes were:

  1. Joe and the Howards, Armed with Eyes (1869);
  2. Boy in Palestine (year unknown);
  3. Harry’s Trip to the Orient (1885, American Tract Society); and
  4. Ruthie’s Story (1888, Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work, Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.), the story of Jesus told by one child to other children.

Newhall was a family man.  In 1881 he married Catherine A. “Kittie” Harvey, about 20 years his junior, of Oceanic, New Jersey.  They remained married for about 54 years, until he died.  The couple had three children:

  1. Charles A. (born circa 1882),
  2. Luther N. (born in 1884 or 1885), and
  3. Katherine (born in 1886 or 1887).

Newhall came to my attention via a hymn, “O Jesus, Master, When Today,” which he wrote in 1913 and published in the January 3, 1914, issue of The Survey then in Social Hymns of Brotherhood and Aspiration (1914).  I found a three-stanza version in The Pilgrim Hymnal (1931/1935), but located the complete four-stanza version in Christian Worship:  A Hymnal (1941) and Baptist Hymnal (1956).  Collecting old hymnals has proven to be a rewarding hobby.

The text of that hymn, which has, unfortunately fallen out of favor with hymnal committees in recent decades, indicates that Newhall had internalized the Biblical defense of human dependence upon God.  It is an ethos societies need to have in greater quantity.








God of grace and glory, you create and sustain the universe in majesty and beauty:

we thank you for Charles Stedman Newhall and all in whom you have planted

the desire to know your creation and to explore your work and wisdom.

Lead us, like them, to understand better the wonder and mystery of creation;

through Jesus your eternal Word, through whom all things were created.

Genesis 2:9-20

Psalm 34:8-14

2 Corinthians 13:1-6

John 20:24-27

–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 738


Feast of Henry Hallam Tweedy (April 11)   1 comment


Above:  Yale Divinity School, Between 1900 and 1915

Publisher = Detroit Publishing Company

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-D4-39339



U.S. Congregationalist Minister, Liturgist, and Hymn Writer

I launch this, the next wave of new saints, with the Reverend Henry Hallam Tweedy, an impressive person.  He earned his B.A. and M.A. from Yale University and continued his education at Union Theological Seminary and the University of Berlin.  Our saint, ordained in 1898, pastored two Congregational churches–Plymouth Church, Utica, New York (1898-1902), and South Church, Bridgeport, Connecticut (1902-1909).  From 1909 to 1937 he was Professor of Practical Theology at Yale Divinity School.

Tweedy, fascinated by church architecture, was especially interested in matters of liturgy, art, and music–all overlapping pursuits.  His written works reflected the union of the liturgical, artistic, and mundane.  His credits included the following:

Our saint also wrote hymn texts, three of which I have added to my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.  “O Gracious Father of Mankind” (1925) won first place in a hymn competition which the Homiletic Review sponsored.  Tweedy, dissatisfied with barely singable hymns, set out to write a very singable hymn with substance.  He succeeded.  “Eternal God, Whose Power Upholds” (1929), a missionary hymn, won another contest.  And “O Spirit of the Living God”  is another lovely, meaningful text.

The native of Binghamton, New York, died at Brattleburg, Vermont.

In 1942 Albert W. Palmer, President of The Chicago Theological Seminary, wrote the following in the Introduction to The Art of Conducting Public Worship:

The real miracle of worship is the actual spiritual communion with the divine which may take place, the imparting of transforming peace and power to jangled, beaten, discouraged lives.

–page 2

Henry Hallam Tweedy understood this well and wrote accordingly.





Holy God, whose majesty surpasses all human definitions and capacity to grasp,

thank you for those (especially Henry Hallam Tweedy)

who have nurtured and encouraged the reverent worship of you.

May their work inspire us to worship you in knowledge, truth, and beauty.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 25:1-8

Psalm 145

Revelation 15:1-4

John 4:19-26





Feast of Heinrich Theobald Schenck (April 11)   Leave a comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  Saint John on Patmos


German Lutheran Pastor and Hymn Writer

Sometimes, during my voyages of historical discovery through hymnals, I find the name of a hymn writer about which little information is available.  Yet that data does impress me.  Such is the case with Heinrich Theobald Schenck (1656-1727).

Schenck’s life, as best I can determine, was that of a scholar-pastor.  Born near Hesse (in modern-day western Germany) in 1656, Schenck studied at the University of Giessen (also in modern-day western Germany).  In 1676 he joined the faculty of his alma mater as a professor of the classics.  Thirteen years later, Schenck became a pastor at that city.  He tended to his flock for the rest of his life and wrote at least one hymn.

That hymn, which dates to 1719, exists in English translations.  One follows:

Who are these, like stars appearing,

These before God’s throne who stand?

Each a golden crown is wearing:

Who are all this glorious band?

Alleluia! hark they sing,

Praising loud their heavenly King.


Who are these, of dazzling brightness,

These in God’s own truth arrayed,

Clad in robes of purest whiteness,

Robes whose lustre ne’er shall fade,

Ne’er be touched by time’s rude hand–

Whence comes all this glorious band?


These are they who have contended

For their Savior’s honour long,

Wrestling on till life was ended,

Following not the sinful throng;

These, who well the fight sustained,

Triumph through the Lamb have gained.


These are they whose hearts were riven,

Sore with woe and anguish tried,

Who in prayer full oft have striven

With the God they glorified;

Now, their painful conflict o’er,

God has bid them weep no more.


These like priests have watched and waited,

Offering up to Christ their will;

Soul and body consecrated,

Day and night to serve Him still:

Now in God’s most holy place,

Blest they stand before His face.

–Translated by Frances Elizabeth Cox (1812-1897)

I ponder Schenck and recall a portion of Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:

Let us now sing the praises of famous men,

our ancestors in their generations.

The Lord apportioned to them great glory,

his majesty from the beginning.

There were those who…gave counsel because they were intelligent;

those who spoke in prophetic oracles;

those who led the people by their counsels and by their knowledge of the people’s lore;

they were wise in their words in instruction;

those who composed musical tunes,

or put verses into writing….

all of these were honored in their generations,

and were the pride of their times.

Some of them have left behind a name,

so that others declare their praise.

But of others there is no memory;

they have perished as thought they had never existed;

they have become as though they had never been born,

they and their children after them.

But they also were godly men,

whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten….

–Verses 1-10, New Revised Standard Version

Schenck’s name survives, as do a few facts and a hymn.  That is more than I can say or write honestly about most people.   But God knows everything; I am glad that someone does.





Eternal God, light of the world and Creator of all that is good and lovely:

We bless your name for inspiring Heinrich Theobald Schenck

and all those who with words have filled us with desire and love for you;

through Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 29:14b-19

Psalm 90:14-17

2 Corinthians 3:1-3

John 21:15-17, 24-25

–Adapted slightly from Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 728

Eighth Day of Easter: Second Sunday of Easter, Year B   Leave a comment

Robert De Niro as Captain Mendoza in The Mission (1986)

(Image = A Screen Capture via PowerDVD)

Forgiving and Retaining Sins

APRIL 11, 2021


Acts 4:32-35 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

Psalm 133 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Oh, how good and pleasant it is,

when brethren live together in unity!

2 It is like fine oil upon the head

that runs down upon the beard,

3 Upon the beard of Aaron,

and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

It is like the dew of Hermon

that falls upon the hills of Zion.

5 For there the LORD has ordained the blessing;

life for evermore.

1 John 1:1-2:2 (New Revised Standard Version):

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life– this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us– we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

John 20:19-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said,

Peace be with you.

After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again,

Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.

When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,

Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him,

We have seen the Lord.

But he said to them,

Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said,

Peace be with you.

Then he said to Thomas,

Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.

Thomas answered him,

My Lord and my God!

Jesus said to him,

Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Eighth Day of Easter:  Second Sunday of Easter, Year A:

Eighth Day of Easter:  Second Sunday of Easter, Year B:

Acts 4:


If you forgive men’s sins,

their sins are forgiven;

if you hold them,

they are held fast.

–John 20:23 (The Anchor Bible)

This is an interesting passage, is it not?  How one interprets it probably says much about where one stands in relation to the Protestant and Counter Reformations.  That, at least, has been my impression, based on a review of commentaries on the Gospel of John.  Almost without failing, Roman Catholic commentators favor the interpretation that the Christian community has the power to absolve and retain sins, but almost all Protestant scholars have argued that all the church has the power to do is pronounce what God has done.  I belong a tradition in the middle.  The Reconciliation of a Penitent in the 1979 Book of Common Prayerpermits the priest either to absolve sins or to announce the forgiveness of sins.  Pick your flavor:  Catholic or Protestant; both are Christian.

I took some time to explore this passage.  It can, depending on how one wants to read the Greek, read in the present tense or the passive past perfect tense; the sins are either retained or forgiven or they have been forgiven and have been retained.  Also, to forgive means to “let go,” and a both “retain” an “hold” are literal translations of the same Greek word.  There is apparently some slight ambiguity in the text as to whether one or one’s sins are retained or forgiven (in whatever tense and voice), but, as Father Raymond Brown points out in Volume II of his massive commentary on the Gospel of John, textual parallelism points to the sins being retained or forgiven.

There is one more very interesting fact:  This is the only time the Greek words for “to forgive” and “to retain” appear in the Johannine Gospel.

With that much resolved, there is another question: Who retains the unforgiven sins?  The text seems to indicate that the unforgiven person does.

The major purpose of the series of devotional blog posts is to offer thoughts one can apply in life.  Fortunately, I have three such thoughts today:

  1. If we do not forgive the sins of those who have wronged us, we carry those sins around with us.  Grudges can become very heavy and cumbersome luggage we need not take from place to place.
  2. We need not, despite our Reformation heritage and/or Western individualistic asssumptions, overlook or give short shrift to the communal setting of forgiveness in John 20:23.  The Church, empowered by the Holy Spirit, must carry on Christ’s work of loving people, making them whole again, and building and restoring faith communities.
  3. There is great power in both the human forgiveness and the human proclamation of the forgiveness of sins.  In The Mission (1986), set in South America in the middle 1700s, a group of Jesuits works with the Guarini tribe in the rain forest.  Captain Mendoza, a former slave trader who has hunted the Guarini, changes his life after he kills his brother because the two of them love the same woman.  Father Gabriel, the Jesuit priest in charge of the Guarini mission, takes Mendoza to the Guarini.  Along the way, Mendoza lugs a heavy and rather inconvenient net containing instruments of war and violence.  At the mission site, the Guarini chief orders a tribesman to cut the burden away from Mendoza.  The former slave captain, forgiven by the people he once hunted, begins a new life among them.  First, however, he breaks down emotionally.

Here ends the lesson.



Published in a nearly identical form at LENTEN AND EASTER DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on July 28, 2011

Saints’ Days and Holy Days for April   Leave a comment


Image Source = WiZZiK

1 (Frederick Denison Maurice, Anglican Priest and Theologian)

  • Giuseppe Girotti, Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1945
  • John Gray, Scottish Presbyterian Minister, Mythologist, Biblical Scholar, and Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages
  • Ludovico Pavoni, Roman Catholic Priest and Educator
  • Syragius of Autun and Anarcharius of Auxerre, Roman Catholic Bishops; and Valery of Leucone and Eustace of Luxeuit, Roman Catholic Abbots

2 (James Lloyd Breck, “The Apostle of the Wilderness”)

  • Carlo Carretto, Spiritual Writer
  • John Payne and Cuthbert Mayne, Roman Catholic Priests and Martyrs, 1582 and 1577
  • Joseph Bernardin, Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago
  • Sidonius Apollinaris, Eustace of Lyon, and His Descendants, Roman Catholic Bishops

3 (Luther D. Reed, U.S. Lutheran Minister and Liturgist)

  • Burgendofara and Sadalberga, Roman Catholic Abbesses, and Their Relatives
  • Marc Sangnier, Founder of the Sillon Movement
  • Mary of Egypt, Hermit and Penitent
  • Reginald Heber, Anglican Bishop of Calcutta, and Hymn Writer
  • Sidney Lovett, U.S. Congregationalist Minister and Chaplain of Yale University

4 (Benedict the African, Franciscan Friar and Hermit)

  • Alfred C. Marble, Jr., Episcopal Bishop of Mississippi then Assisting Bishop of North Carolina
  • Ernest W. Shurtleff, U.S. Congregationalist Minister and Hymn Writer
  • Martin Luther King, Jr., U.S. Civil Rights Leader, and Martyr, 1968 (also January 15)

5 (Emily Ayckbowm, Founder of the Community of the Sisters of the Church)

  • Mariano de la Mata Aparicio, Roman Catholic Missionary and Educator in Brazil
  • Pauline Sperry, Mathematician, Philanthropist, and Activist; and her brother, Willard Learoyd Sperry, Congregationalist Minister, Ethicist, Theologian, and Dean of Harvard Law School
  • William Derham, Anglican Priest and Scientist

6 (Marcellinus of Carthage, Roman Catholic Martyr, 413)

  • Benjamin Hall Kennedy, Greek and Latin Scholar, Bible Translator, and Anglican Priest
  • Daniel G. C. Wu, Chinese-American Episcopal Priest and Missionary
  • Emil Brunner, Swiss Reformed Theologian
  • Milner Ball, Presbyterian Minister, Law Professor, Witness for Civil Rights, Humanitarian
  • Nokter Balbulus, Roman Catholic Monk

7 (Tikhon of Moscow, Russian Orthodox Patriach)

  • André Trocmé, Magda Trocmé, and Daniel Trocmé, Righteous Gentiles
  • George the Younger, Greek Orthodox Bishop of Mitylene
  • Jay Thomas Stocking, U.S. Congregationalist Minister and Hymn Writer
  • Montford Scott, Edmund Gennings, Henry Walpole, and Their Fellow Martyrs, 1591 and 1595
  • Randall Davidson, Archbishop of Canterbury

8 (Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, Patriarch of American Lutheranism; his great-grandson, William Augustus Muhlenberg, Episcopal Priest, Hymn Writer, and Liturgical Pioneer; and his colleague, Anne Ayres, Founder of the Sisterhood of the Holy Communion)

  • Dionysius of Corinth, Roman Catholic Bishop
  • Godfrey Diekmann, U.S. Roman Catholic Monk, Priest, Ecumenist, Theologian, and Liturgical Scholar
  • Hugh of Rouen, Roman Catholic Bishop, Abbot, and Monk
  • Julie Billiart, Founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame
  • Timothy Lull, U.S. Lutheran Minister, Scholar, Theologian, and Ecumenist

9 (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Lutheran Martyr, 1945

  • Johann Cruger, German Lutheran Organist, Composer, and Hymnal Editor
  • John Samuel Bewley Monsell, Anglican Priest and Poet; and Richard Mant, Anglican Bishop of Down, Connor, and Dromore
  • Lydia Emilie Gruchy, First Female Minister in the United Church of Canada
  • Mikael Agricola, Finnish Lutheran Liturgist, Bishop of Turku, and “Father of Finnish Literary Language”
  • William Law, Anglican Priest, Mystic, and Spiritual Writer

10 (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Roman Catholic Priest, Scientist, and Theologian)

  • Fulbert of Chartres, Roman Catholic Bishop
  • Henry Van Dyke, U.S. Presbyterian Minister and Liturgist
  • Howard Thurman, Protestant Theologian

11 (Heinrich Theobald Schenck, German Lutheran Pastor and Hymn Writer)

  • Charles Stedman Newhall, U.S. Naturalist, Hymn Writer, and Congregationalist and Presbyterian Minister
  • George Augustus Selwyn, Anglican Bishop of New Zealand, Primate of New Zealand, and Bishop of Lichfield; Missionary
  • George Zabelka, U.S. Roman Catholic Priest, Military Chaplain, and Advocate for Christian Nonviolence
  • Henry Hallam Tweedy, U.S. Congregationalist Minister, Liturgist, and Hymn Writer

12 (Henry Sloane Coffin, U.S. Presbyterian Minister, Theologian, and Hymn Translator; and his nephew, William Sloane Coffin, Jr., U.S. Presbyterian Minister and Social Activist)

  • David Uribe-Velasco, Mexican Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1927
  • Julius I, Bishop of Rome
  • Zeno of Verona, Bishop

13 (Joseph Barber Lightfoot, Bishop of Durham)

  • Henri Perrin, French Roman Catholic Worker Priest
  • John Gloucester, First African-American Presbyterian Minister
  • Lucy Craft Laney, African-American Presbyterian Educator and Civil Rights Activist
  • Martin I, Bishop of Rome, and Martyr, 655; and Maximus the Confessor, Eastern Orthodox Monk, Abbot, and Martyr, 662
  • Rolando Rivi, Roman Catholic Seminarian and Martyr, 1945

14 (Edward Thomas Demby and Henry Beard Delany, Episcopal Suffragan Bishops for Colored Work)

  • Anthony, John, and Eustathius of Vilnius, Martyrs in Lithuania, 1347
  • George Frederick Handel, Composer
  • Wandregisilus of Normandy, Roman Catholic Abbot; and Lambert of Lyons, Roman Catholic Abbot and Bishop
  • Zenaida of Tarsus and her sister, Philonella of Tarsus; and Hermione of Ephesus; Unmercenary Physicians

15 (Olga of Kiev, Regent of Kievan Russia; Adalbert of Magdeburg, Roman Catholic Bishop; Adalbert of Prague, Roman Catholic Bishop and Martyr, 997; and Benedict and Gaudentius of Pomerania, Roman Catholic Martyrs, 997)

  • Damien and Marianne of Molokai, Workers Among Lepers
  • Flavia Domitilla, Roman Christian Noblewoman; and Maro, Eutyches, and Victorinus of Rome, Priests and Martyrs, Circa 99
  • Hunna of Alsace, the “Holy Washerwoman”

16 (Bernadette of Lourdes, Roman Catholic Visionary)

  • Calvin Weiss Laufer, U.S. Presbyterian Minister and Hymnodist
  • Isabella Gilmore, Anglican Deaconess
  • Mikel Suma, Albanian Roman Catholic Priest, Friar, and Martyr, 1950
  • Peter Williams Cassey, African-American Episcopal Deacon; and his wife, Annie Besant Cassey, African-American Episcopal Educator

17 (Daniel Sylvester Tuttle, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church)

  • Emily Cooper, Episcopal Deaconess
  • Lucy Larcom, U.S. Academic, Journalist, Poet, Editor, and Hymn Writer
  • Max Josef Metzger, Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1944
  • Wilbur Kenneth Howard, Moderator of The United Church of Canada

18 (Roger Williams, Founder of Rhode Island; and Anne Hutchinson, Rebellious Puritan)

  • Cornelia Connelly, Founder of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus
  • Maria Anna Blondin, Founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Anne
  • Mary C. Collins, U.S. Congregationalist Missionary and Minister
  • Murin of Fahan, Laserian of Leighlin, Goban of Picardie, Foillan of Fosses, and Ultan of Peronne, Abbots; Fursey of Peronne and Blitharius of Seganne, Monks
  • Roman Archutowski, Polish Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1943

19 (Alphege, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Martyr, 1012)

  • Emma of Lesum, Benefactor
  • Olavus Petri, Swedish Lutheran Theologian, Historian, Liturgist, Minister, Hymn Writer, Hymn Translator, and “Father of Swedish Literature;” and his brother, Laurentius Petri, Swedish Lutheran Archbishop of Uppsala, Bible Translator, and “Father of Swedish Hymnody”

20 (Johannes Bugenhagen, German Lutheran Theologian, Minister, Liturgist, and “Pastor of the Reformation”)

  • Amator of Auxerre and Germanus of Auxerre, Roman Catholic Bishops; Mamertinus of Auxerre, Roman Catholic Abbot; and Marcian of Auxerre, Roman Catholic Monk
  • Christian X, King of Denmark and Iceland; and his brother, Haakon VII, King of Norway
  • Marion MacDonald Kelleran, Episcopal Seminary Professor and Lay Leader
  • Robert Seymour Bridges, Anglican Hymn Writer and Hymn Translator

21 (Roman Adame Rosales, Mexican Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1927)

  • Conrad of Parzham, Capuchin Friar
  • David Brainerd, American Congregationalist then Presbyterian Missionary and Minister
  • George B. Caird, English Congregationalist then United Reformed Minister, Biblical Scholar, and Hymn Writer and Translator
  • Georgia Harkness, U.S. Methodist Minister, Theologian, Ethicist, and Hymn Writer
  • Simeon Barsabae, Bishop; and His Companions, Martyrs, 341

22 (Gene Britton, Episcopal Priest)

  • Donald S. Armentrout, U.S. Lutheran Minister and Scholar
  • Hadewijch of Brabert, Roman Catholic Mystic
  • Kathe Kollwitz, German Lutheran Artist and Pacifist
  • Vitalis of Gaza, Monk, Hermit, and Martyr, Circa 625

23 (Toyohiko Kagawa, Renewer of Society and Prophetic Witness in Japan)

  • Martin Rinckart, German Lutheran Minister and Hymn Writer
  • Teresa Maria of the Cross, Founder of the Carmelite Sisters of Saint Teresa of Florence
  • Walter Russell Bowie, Episcopal Priest, Seminary Professor, and Hymn Writer

24 (Genocide Remembrance)

  • Egbert of Lindisfarne, Roman Catholic Monk; and Adalbert of Egmont, Roman Catholic Missionary
  • Fidelis of Sigmaringen, Capuchin Friar and Martyr, 1622
  • Jakob Böhme, German Lutheran Mystic
  • Johann Walter, “First Cantor of the Lutheran Church”
  • Mellitus, Bishop of London, and Archbishop of Canterbury


26 (William Cowper, Anglican Hymn Writer)

  • Adelard of Corbie, Frankish Roman Catholic Monk and Abbot; and his protégé, Paschasius Radbertus, Frankish Roman Catholic Monk, Abbot, and Theologian
  • Robert Hunt, First Anglican Chaplain at Jamestown, Virginia
  • Ruth Byllesby, Episcopal Deaconess in Georgia
  • Stanislaw Kubista, Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1940; and Wladyslaw Goral, Polish Roman Catholic Bishop and Martyr, 1945
  • William Stringfellow, Episcopal Attorney, Theologian, and Social Activist

27 (George Washington Doane, Episcopal Bishop of New Jersey; and his son, William Croswell Doane, Episcopal Bishop of Albany; Hymn Writers)

  • Antony and Theodosius of Kiev, Founders of Russian Orthodox Monasticism; Barlaam of Kiev, Russian Orthodox Abbot; and Stephen of Kiev, Russian Orthodox Abbot and Bishop
  • Christina Rossetti, Poet and Religious Writer
  • Remaclus of Maastricht, Theodore of Maastricht, Lambert of Maastricht, Hubert of Maastricht and Liege, and Floribert of Liege, Roman Catholic Bishops; Landrada of Munsterbilsen, Roman Catholic Abbess; and Otger of Utrecht, Plechelm of Guelderland, and Wiro, Roman Catholic Missionaries
  • Zita of Tuscany, Worker of Charity

28 (Jaroslav Vajda, U.S. Lutheran Minister, Hymn Translator, and Hymn Writer)

  • Jozef Cebula, Roman Catholic Priest and Martyr, 1941
  • Pamphilius of Sulmona, Roman Catholic Bishop and Almsgiver
  • Peter Chanel, Protomartyr of Oceania, 1841

29 (Catherine of Siena, Roman Catholic Mystic and Religious)

  • Bosa of York, John of Beverley, Wilfrid the Younger, and Acca of Hexham, Roman Catholic Bishops
  • James Edward Walsh, Roman Catholic Missionary Bishop and Political Prisoner in China
  • Simon B. Parker, United Methodist Biblical Scholar
  • Timothy Rees, Welsh Anglican Hymn Writer and Bishop of Llandaff

30 (James Montgomery, Anglican and Moravian Hymn Writer)

  • Diet Eman; her fiancé, Hein Sietsma, Martyr, 1945; and his brother, Hendrik “Henk” Sietsma; Righteous Among the Nations
  • James Russell Woodford, Anglican Bishop of Ely, Hymn Translator, and Hymn Writer
  • John Ross MacDuff and George Matheson, Scottish Presbyterian Ministers and Authors
  • Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, Poet, Author, Editor, and Prophetic Witness



  • The Confession of Saint Martha of Bethany (the Sunday immediately prior to Palm Sunday; March 8-April 11)


Lowercase boldface on a date with two or more commemorations indicates a primary feast.