Archive for the ‘December’ Category

Feast of the Holy Innocents (December 28)   2 comments

Above:  Massacre of the Innocents, by Pieter Brueghel the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

The Unfortunate Cheapness of Human Life

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Christmas is supposed to be a happy season, right?  Yet darkness exists within it.  Consider, O reader, the sequence of three great feasts:  St. Stephen (December 26)St. John the Evangelist (December 27), and the Holy Innocents (December 28).

The kingdom of the Earth has yet to become the Kingdom of God in its fullness.  Thus we read of exiles in Jeremiah 31.  Then we read the plausible story of the Holy Innocents in Matthew 2.  Herod the Great, we know from both Biblical and extra-Biblical sources, was a disturbed and violent man who had members of his family killed.  One need not stretch credibility to imagine him ordering the murder of strangers, even young children.  Reading the story from Matthew 2 then turning to Psalm 124 creates a sense of jarring irony; one is correct to wonder why God did not spare the Holy Innocents also.

On another note, the account of the Holy Innocents provides evidence for the Magi arriving when Jesus was about two years old.  According to the Western calendar, as it has come down to us, Herod the Great died in 4 B.C.E., placing the birth of Jesus circa 6 B.C.E.  I prefer to use the term “Before the Common Era” for the simple reason that speaking and writing of the birth of Jesus as having occurred “Before Christ”–six years, perhaps–strikes me as being ridiculous.

Back to our main point, while admitting the existence of morally ambiguous and difficult scenarios with only bad choices, and in which doing our best cannot help but lead to unfortunate results….

Human life is frequently cheap.  From abortions to wars, from gangland violence to accidental shootings and crimes of passion, from genocidal governments to merely misguided policies, human life is frequently cheap.  The innocent and the vulnerable suffer.  People who are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time suffer.  May God have mercy on us all, for each of us is partially responsible, for merely being part of the social, economic, and political systems that facilitate such suffering.

The kingdom of the Earth has yet to become the Kingdom of God in its fullness.  Only God can make that happen.  We mere mortals can and must, however, leave the world better than we found it.  We can and must do this, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod.

Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims;

and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and

establish your rule of justice, love, and peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Jeremiah 31:15-17

Psalm 124

Revelation 21:1-7

Matthew 2:13-18

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 143

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/fourth-day-of-christmas-feast-of-the-holy-innocents-december-28/

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Posted March 17, 2018 by neatnik2009 in December, Saints of 29-199 C.E.

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Feast of St. John the Evangelist, Apostle (December 27)   2 comments

Above:  Saint John the Evangelist in Meditation, by Simone Cantarini

Image in the Public Domain

The Beloved Apostle

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The assigned readings, taken together, speak of the fidelity of God and the imperative of human fidelity to God, whose face Moses did not get to see.  Yet this deity is the same one who became incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth (however those Trinitarian dynamics actually worked; I have learned to avoid trying to explain the Holy Trinity, for attempting to make sense of the Trinity leads to a host of heresies.)

St. John was a brother of St. James (one of the two St. Jameses among the Apostles) and a first cousin of Jesus; Zebedee was the father of Sts. James and John, as well as an uncle (by marriage) of Jesus.  Our Lord and Savior called his first cousins Boanerges, usually translated

sons of thunder.

A now-deceased seminary professor I heard speak decades ago said, however, that the word actually meant

hell raisers.

Jesus and St. John were apparently emotionally close, not that St. John always understood his cousin.  After the resurrection and ascension of Jesus St. John helped to spread the nascent Gospel, a mission that filled the rest of his long life, which ended in exile.  Of the twelve Apostles Jesus called, St. John was, excluding Judas Iscariot, the only one not to die as a martyr.

According to tradition St. John wrote the Gospel of John, the three letters of John, and Revelation, a book with no “s” at the end of its title.  Certainly he did not write all of the above, although how much he wrote has long been a matter of scholarly debate.

Nevertheless, the life of St. John the Evangelist is a good one to consider.  If an overly ambitious hell raiser can learn the value of serving God endure suffering for the sake of righteousness, and survive opportunities for martyrdom only to die in exile, each of us can, by grace, take up his or her cross and follow Jesus, wherever he leads.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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Shed upon your Church, O Lord, the brightness of your light, that we,

being illumined by the teaching of your apostle and evangelist John,

may so walk in the light of your truth, that at length we may attain to the fullness of eternal life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

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

Exodus 33:18-23

Psalm 92 or 92:1-4, 11-14

1 John 1:1-9

John 21:19b-24

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 141

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/third-day-of-christmas-feast-of-st-john-the-evangelist-apostle-december-27/

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Posted March 17, 2018 by neatnik2009 in December, Saints of 29-199 C.E.

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Feast of St. Stephen, Deacon and Martyr (December 26)   3 comments

Above:  St. Stephen, by Luis de Morales

Image in the Public Domain

The First Christian Martyr

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The readings for the Feast of St. Stephen remind us of the grim reality that suffering for the sake of righteousness is frequently a risk.  We read of one of the many difficulties of the faithful prophet Jeremiah, a man who spoke truth to power when that power was dependent upon hostile foreigners.  The historical record tells us that the Pharaoh of Egypt chose both the King of Judah and his regnal name, Jehoiakim.  Matthew 23, set in the Passion Narrative, reminds us of some of the prophets and teachers, whom God had sent and authorities at Jerusalem had martyred.  Contrary to the wishes of the author of Psalm 31, God does not always deliver the faithful from enemy hands.

St. Stephen, one of the original seven deacons, was probably a Hellenized Jew.  As a deacon, his job in the Church was, in the words of Acts 6:2,

to wait on tables.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The deacons were to provide social services while the Apostles preached and taught.  St. Stephen also debated and preached, however.  His speech to the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:1-53) led to his execution (without a trial) by stoning.  St. Stephen, like Jesus before him, prayed for God to forgive his executioners (Acts 7:60), who, in their minds, were correct to execute him for blasphemy, a capital offense in the Law of Moses.  Saul of Tarsus, the future St. Paul the Apostle, was prominent in the killing of St. Stephen.  The Apostle recalled the death of St. Stephen and his role in it in Acts 22:20.

Religion, by itself, is generally morally neutral; one can be a moral atheist just as easily as one can be a moral or immoral adherent.  Good religion and bad religion certainly exist.  The test, in moral terms, yet not theological ones, is what kind of adherents they create and nurture.  Regardless of the name of a religion or the content of its tenets, does the reality of living it make one a loving, merciful human being or a judgmental person who might be quick to execute dissenters or consent to that?  This question is always a relevant one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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We give you thanks, O Lord of glory, for the example of the first martyr Stephen,

who looked up to heaven and prayed for his persecutors to your Son Jesus Christ,

who stands at your right hand; where he lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Jeremiah 26:1-9, 12-15

Psalm 31 or 31:1-15

Acts 6:8-7:2a; 51c-60

Matthew 23:34-39

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 139

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/second-day-of-christmas-feast-of-st-stephen-deacon-and-martyr-december-26/

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That Old Sweet Song of Angels   Leave a comment

nativity-and-annunciation-to-the-shepherds

Above:  Nativity and Annunciation to the Shepherds

Image in the Public Domain

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Long ago the angels vanished–

But their song is sounding still!

Millions now with hope are singing,

“Peace on earth, to men good will.”

Sing, my heart!  Tho’ peace may tarry,

Sing good will mid human strife!

Till that old sweet song of angels

Shall attune to heav’n our life.

–William Allen Knight (1863-1957), “Come, My Heart, Canst Thou Not Hear It” (1915), quoted in The Pilgrim Hymnal (1931/1935), Hymn #77

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Part of the mystery of the Incarnation is its counterintuitive nature:  a vulnerable baby was God incarnate.  This truth demonstrates the reality that God operates differently than we frequently define as feasible and effective.  Then again, Jesus was, by dominant human expectations, a failure.  I would never claim that Jesus was a failure, of course.

If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat;

and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink;

for you will heap coals of fire on their heads,

and the LORD will reward you.

–Proverbs 25:22, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Speaking of counterintuitive ways of God, shall we ponder the advice of St. Paul the Apostle in Romans 12:14-21?

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.  Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  No, if your enemies are hungry, feed them, if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That old sweet song of angels will not attune to heaven our life if we ignore this sage advice–if we fail to overcome evil with good.  How we treat others indicates more about what kind of people we are than about what kind of people they are.  If we react against intolerance with intolerance, we are intolerant.  We also add fuel to the proverbial fire.  Is not a fire extinguisher better?

As the Master said,

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

–Matthew 5:43-48, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Perfection, in this case, indicates suitability for one’s purpose, which is, in the language of the Westminster Shorter Catechism,

to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

–Quoted in The United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, The Book of Confessions (1967)

As the annual celebration of the birth of Christ approaches again, may we who follow him with our words also follow him with our deeds:  may we strive for shalom on a day-to-day basis.  Only God can save the world, but we can leave it better than we found it.

Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 21, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Feast of Henry Budd (December 22)   1 comment

henry-budd

Above:  Henry Budd

Image in the Public Domain

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HENRY BUDD (CIRCA 1812-APRIL 2, 1875)

First Anglican Native Priest in North America; Missionary to the Cree Nation

The Book of Alternative Services (the Anglican Church of Canada, 1985) lists April 2 as the feast of “Henry Budd, First Canadian Native Priest, 1850.”  Budd’s feast, introduced to The Episcopal Church in 2009 and first included in Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), falls on December 22.  A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  A Calendar of Commemorations (2016) retains his feast on that date.  Both volumes list him as “Henry Budd, Priest, 1875.”

Sakachuwescum (literally “Going Up the Hill”), baptized as Henry Budd, became the first Native American ordained to priesthood in North America (in 1850).  In contrast, The Episcopal Church (in the U.S.A.) ordained Enmegahbowh (died in 1902), of the Odawa (Ottawa) Nation to the diaconate in 1859 and the priesthood in 1867.  Another pioneer in the U.S.A. was David Pendleton Oakerhater (circa 1851-1931), of the Cheyenne Nation; he, ordained deacon in 1881, never became a priest.  Budd’s date of birth has remained unknown; sources have listed his year of birth as either 1810 or 1812.  His father died circa 1811.  Our saint’s mother was Washesooesquew, a.k.a. Mary Budd.  Our saint, orphaned, attended a mission school backed by the Hudson’s Bay Company in Rupert’s Land.  His spiritual mentor in the Red River Colony was the Reverend John West (1778-1845; Canadian Anglican feast day = December 31), Church of England missionary and founder of the colony. Budd, a member of the Cree Nation, worked as a clerk for the Hudson’s Bay Company before embarking upon religious vocations.

Budd joined the Church Missionary Society (CMS).  At first he worked as a teacher n what is now Manitoba.  In 1836 he married Elizabeth “Betsy” Work (1820-1874), of Irish and Cree ancestry.  They had six children.  In 1837 the CMS sent Budd to lead the Day School at the Upper Church in the Red River Valley.  Three years later the CMS transferred our saint to The Pas (now in Manitoba) to establish a new mission.  He was a productive missionary who improved the lives of his fellow Cree physically and spiritually.  He remained there for a decade.

On December 22, 1850 (hence Budd’s feast day in The Episcopal Church) our saint became a priest.  The CMS, which paid him half the salary of a white missionary, sent him to Nipowewin (now Nipawin, Saskatchewan), where he remained until 1867.  Then Budd returned to The Pas, where he lived for the rest of his life.  Throughout his missionary career he endured the elements and physical injuries, buried his wife and several of his children, and covered vast territories.  Budd also translated The Book of Common Prayer and the Bible into Cree.

Our saint died at The Pas on April 2, 1875 (hence his Canadian Anglican feast day).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 11, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF ANNE STEELE, FIRST IMPORTANT ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

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Creator of light, we thank you for your priest Henry Budd,

who carried the great treasure of Scripture to his people and the Cree Nation,

earning their trust and love.  Grant that his example may call us to

reverence, orderliness, and love, that we may give you glory in word and action;

through Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 11:1-6, 14, 17

Psalm 29

1 Thessalonians 5:13-18

John 14:15-21

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 131

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Feast of Raoul Wallenberg (December 19)   Leave a comment

raoul-wallenberg

Above:  Raoul Wallenberg

Image in the Public Domain

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RAOUL GUSTAV WALLENBERG (AUGUST 4, 1912-JULY 17, 1947?)

Righteous Gentile

Raoul Wallenberg was a merely decent human being.

Robert Ellsberg explains:

Unlike many rescuers, Wallenberg left no record of soul-searching, conversion, or even profound reflection on the meaning of his efforts.  He did not come from a particularly religious family, and his privileged upbringing had fairly insulated him from much contact with suffering.  He simply rose to the ethical demands of the situation as though it were the self-evident duty of a human being.  He did what needed to be done.  The Nazis did not know what to make of this.  More than once it seems they put the question to him:  “Why would a Christian go to such trouble to save some Jews?”  There is no record of his ever having dignified the question with a reply.

All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), pages 556-557

Wallenberg, born at Lidingo, Sweden, on August 4, 1912, came from a prominent family that included bankers and industrialists.  He, an excellent student, preferred architecture and commerce to banking, the profession for which certain members of his family were grooming him.  After graduating from high school and serving the mandatory eight months in the Swedish Army our saint studied architecture at the University of Michigan from 1931 to 1935.  He graduated with honors then returned to Sweden briefly.  Wallenberg’s grandfather sent him to work at a building materials firm in Cape Town, South Africa, for six months.  Then the grandfather arranged for our saint to work in a Dutch bank office in Haifa, Palestine.  There the part-Jewish Wallenberg encountered Jews who had escaped from Germany.

The Protestant Wallenberg returned to Sweden in 1936.  Eventually he became a joint owner and international director of the Mid-European Trading Company.  In that capacity he traveled across Europe.  In July 1944 our saint arrived in Budapest, Hungary.  Officially, he was part of the Swedish legation there.  He was actually in Hungary because of a diplomatic agreement between the governments of Sweden and the United States; he was associated with the U.S. War Refugee Board.

Wallenberg saved the lives of many Jews in Budapest.  By the time he arrived the Hungarian Jewish population, once nearly 750,000, had shrunk to about 230,000.  Our saint distributed Swedish passports to many of them and helped them leave the country.  He also protected Jews by bribing, browbeating, and threatening to blackmail Hungarian government officials, who were subject to the Nazis.  Our saint also confronted Adolf Eichmann, the chief architect of the Holocaust.  Wallenberg’s diplomatic status protected him for a few months.

Then that protection failed.  He could have left Hungary with other diplomats in December 1944, but our saint remained behind to protect Jews he could not get out of the country.  The NKVD arrested him on January 16, 1945; they thought he was a spy for the United States of America.  The last confirmed sighting of Wallenberg alive was on the following day.  According to Soviet government sources, our saint died of a heart attack on July 17, 1947.  A revised version of the story retained the date of death but changed the cause of death to execution.  Nevertheless, reports of him being alive continued into the 1960s.

Wallenberg laid down his life for strangers in a foreign land.  He made the supreme sacrifice for his neighbors.  His deeds revealed his creed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 11, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF ANNE STEELE, FIRST IMPORTANT ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

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Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servant Raoul Wallenberg, to work for justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

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

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Feast of Chico Mendes (December 19)   Leave a comment

mendes

Above:  Ilza and Chico Mendes

Image Source = Miranda Smith, Miranda Productions, Inc.

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FRANCISCO ALVES MENDES FILHO (DECEMBER 15, 1944-DECEMBER 22, 1988)

“Gandhi of the Amazon”

The Amazon rainforest is crucial to the well-being of the global ecosystem; this is a scientific fact.  Another fact is that both are in peril due to greed and short-term thinking.  A third fact is the mounting body count as certain landowners and their agents murder defenders of the rainforest.  This post tells the story of one of those martyrs.

Francisco Alves “Chico” Mendes Filho, born at Xapuri, Acre, Brazil, on December 15, 1944, was a lifelong rubber tapper in the Amazon rainforest.  He was a son of rubber tappers, his father having moved from northeastern to northwestern Brazil in 1943 to become part of the “rubber tapper army” supplying rubber to the Allies during World War II.  One did not become wealthy performing this work, so Mendes grew up a part of the working poor.

Our saint, influenced by his Roman Catholic faith and by Liberation Theology in particular, resisted non-violently the burning of parts of the rainforest for the purpose of clearing the land for cattle ranching or other reasons.  In 1977 he founded a union of rubber tappers.  This threatened the interests of many landowners, some of whom not only threatened but committed or authorized violence.  Mendes knew that someone might kill him, but he persisted in his efforts anyway.  His widow, Ilzamar “Ilza” Gadelha Mendes, recalled:

Sometimes I’d say to Chico, “Chico, they’re going to kill you!  Why don’t you take care of yourself and go away?”  But Chico wasn’t afraid of death.  He told me that we would never stop defending the Amazon forest–never!

–Quoted in Robert Ellsberg, All Saints:  Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time (1997), page 558

Mendes came to understand the link between the “cry of the poor” and the “cry of the Earth”:

At first I thought I was fighting to save rubber trees, then I thought I was fighting to save the Amazon rainforest.  Now I realize I am fighting for humanity.”

–Quoted in The Guardian, December 20, 2013

In 1987 the United Nations recognized Mendes with its Global 500 Award for Environmental Protection.  Shortly thereafter the Brazilian government declared four areas of the Amazon rainforest protected.  Mendes had protection too, at least theoretically.  On December 22, 1988, he was home when rancher Darcy Alves killed him.  The police officers assigned to guard Mendes were playing dominoes at the kitchen table.  Alves likened murdering Mendes to shooting a jaguar.

Ilza stated later:

Chico had a lot of faith.  When he died, I was filled with despair.  But God comforted me and inspired me to work alongside others to carry on Chico’s work.  They killed him, but they didn’t kill his idealism or crush the struggle.

–Quoted in Ellsberg, All Saints (1997), pages 558-559

The struggle continues.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 9, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROSWELL, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHANN(ES) MATTHAUS MEYFART, GERMAN LUTHERAN EDUCATOR AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF MARTIN CHEMNITZ, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

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

We thank you for Chico Mendes 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 Christ your eternal Word, through whom all things were made.  Amen.

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

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This is post #1500 of SUNDRY THOUGHTS.

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