Daily Devotions

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******** SCROLL DOWN FOR TODAY’S DEVOTION (NEW ENTRIES ARE IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER BY WEEKS):

WEEK BEGINNING JUNE 1, 2020–TIME AFTER PENTECOST

IntroductionPlease read this short introduction before you read Monday’s devotion.

Opener

I hope you are enjoying and benefiting from our walk through the Book of Acts as much as I believe I am.  The time I spend in study in Acts for these devotions is time that literally stands still.  Even with all the distractions of a pandemic, my study time is absolute communion with the Word and with our God who inspires these Holy Scriptures.

Are you seeing any clear “themes” in Acts?  Why do you think that the writer decided to write the Book of Acts?  We believe that Acts was written by the same writer as the Gospel of Luke.  Why would that writer take on his story, yes, HISTORY, of the early church?

The Book of Acts is more than a historical chronicle of milestones, events, and colorful characters of the early church.  The writer of the Book of Acts seems to sense that there is a need for this kind of writing and to further sense that Jesus’ coming again was not going to happen as soon as Jesus’ contemporaries hoped it would.

The Book of Acts is a collection of dramatic and inspiring stories about some of the most faithful followers of Jesus that have ever been chronicled.  It is a powerful story of the beginnings and expansion of the early church under the leadership of those faithful followers of Jesus.

Acts is a book of ACTION.  Yes—ACTION!!!  In this book we do not read about a church that is passive or held back in a holding pattern.  We see a church on the MOVE!  We see a church that is growing and expanding.  We see a church that is becoming robust—resilient—despite resistance and persecution—forming its foundation that holds TO THIS DAY!  While there is much decay of organized religion and of the church today in certain parts of the world—serious decline in Europe and North America—the fact is, the church is triumphant and overall across the world—the church is ALIVE AND WELL!!!  There are parts of the Global South—Latin and South America, parts of Africa, and parts of China, where Christianity is seeing extraordinary growth!

I believe that we, the church today, are at a fork in our road in North America.  It is time to give our churches and faith formation a jump-start after some years of steady decline in our country.  In Acts, churches were seen as living expressions and embodiments of God’s salvation.  Acts provides a blueprint for us TO THIS DAY!!!

One of my professors at Luther Seminary, Dr. Matthew Skinner puts it this way, “Acts was written to remind Christian audiences where they came from and why they exist, so they could [can] understand their purpose and carry out that purpose for the long haul”!!!  Amen, Brother!!!

Number 2

Monday, June 1, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 21:1-26

Food for Thought:

Luther seal Paul is going to live the words that we hear here from Martin Luther below.  Although Paul understands the risk and implications of going back to Jerusalem, he walks in faith and not in fear.  He knows (eyes wide open) that he is going to suffer, but in verse 14, he proclaims, “The Lord’s will be done”.

Martin Luther 1

In our passage today, we see Paul faced with an uncertain future.  The Prophet Agabus (in verses 10-11) foretells and demonstrates with Paul’s own belt, how he will be bound in his hands and his feet when he goes back to Jerusalem.  Paul marches on to Jerusalem and face the kind of “tomorrow” that Martin Luther is talking about in the quote below.  Paul moved forward despite the warnings and obvious danger.

Martin Luther 2

Paul makes the definitive proclamation of his faith in verse 13 when he says, “For I am ready not only to be bound but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

dialogue How resilient or robust is your faith?  Are you willing to make sacrifices for the Lord Jesus?  What or how are you willing to sacrifice for the Lord Jesus and your faith?  The questions are not meant to make us feel inadequate or guilty; they are simply to help us get a barometer on the depth of our commitment to the Lord Jesus.  Yes, we are saved by grace.  Period!  However, we are called to FULLY “live in” our FAITH in the Lord Jesus and to “live out” our FAITH in the Lord Jesus.

Prayer Prayer for the Week: Precious Lord, take our hands and lead us in the ways you would have us go.  We bow before you to lift our praise and our thanksgiving for life and all the blessings you so freely give us.  As we face new directions in your mission and in the church as we emerge from quarantine, give us strength and courage to face the opportunities and challenges that we will certainly encounter.  God, give us clarity in your mission.  Give us clarity in the directions you would have us move, as Saint Peter Lutheran Church, and as your greater Church in the world.  When our spirits are dimmed by gloom and despair, lift us up with your Spirit and renew our spirits in you and through you.  Give us hearts to love you more than anything and to love our neighbors as ourselves—in all we do in our lives.  We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 21:27-40

Paul is arrested at the Temple in Jerusalem:

Paul arrested

Food for Thought:

In verses 28-29, we read about Paul being cited for ‘actually’ bringing Greeks into the temple.  There is no evidence that Paul violates the temple law prohibiting Gentiles from entering the temple, except the area called the Court of the Gentiles.  Breaking this rule could result in the death of the Gentile.

The temple in Paul’s day—note the Court of the Gentiles:

Temple

Paul, the prisoner:

Paul in prison

Paul was held in the barracks in Antonia Fortress (verse 34):

Antonia Fortress

In verse 39, we hear Paul declare that he is a Jew.  Paul claims to be a Jew and criticizes the Jews also.  Paul turned the corner to fully accept the Good News of Jesus Christ, Salvation, and Resurrection.  He criticizes Jews that cannot turn that corner that he turned.  I don’t think I would see this as religious bigotry, but I see it as Paul’s unwavering PASSION that comes out in his conviction to the gospel of Jesus Christ!  Paul is all-or-none kind of Christian!!!

dialogue Are you an all-or-none kind of Christian?  If yes, PRAISE GOD!  If you are sometimes not an all-or-none kind of Christian, where do you tend to make compromises?

Prayer Prayer for the Week: Bound tightly by the Holy Spirit, joined together as the body of Christ in this world, and always to the glory of God the Father, we bow together to pray our Prayer for the Week.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 22:1-30

Food for Thought: In this passage, Paul appeals to the people as a fellow Jew.  He even addressed them in Hebrew.  The writer wants to show how faithful Paul is to his Jewish faith, including speaking the language of the Jews.  It almost reads like a resume in verse 3 as Paul outlines his credentials and identity as a respected Jewish leader.

Normally when Paul speaks or preaches, he uses a predictable order for his presentation including an explanation, proclamation of the gospel, and then a call to repentance. In this passage, Paul makes a personal appeal to the people as he tells about his life and coming to faith in Jesus Christ.  We see this in verses 3-21.  This is a testimony as we would call it.  At Luther Seminary, we refer to this as a Call Story.

When we consider our own Call Story and our own place in the church and in our faith journey, we should recall the words of Martin Luther that calls us all as ministers in the priesthood of all believers.

Luther seal Martin Luther said, “There is no true, basic difference between laymen and priests…between religious and secular, except for the sake of office and work, but not for the sake of status.  They are all of the spiritual estate, all are truly priests, bishops, and pope.  But they do not all have the same work to do.”  This levels the playing field as we consider that we are all called into continuing the ministry of Jesus Christ as the priesthood of all believers.

dialogue What is your Call Story?  How have you or how will you share this Call Story with others as your testimony to your belief in Jesus Christ?

Here are a couple of “technical points” in this passage:

  • In verse 24, Paul was “examined by flogging”. It was customary to flog a prisoner to get information or a confession.  This seems a bit like “water boarding” in our day.  Flogging involved beating the prisoner with a braided whip which often had pieces of bone or metal attached to it so as to create maximum pain and carnage.
  • In verse 28, Paul again declares that he was “born a citizen”. How Paul became a Roman citizen is not known.  His father may have purchased citizenship.

We all play a part, as Christ’s ministers:

we are the church

Prayer Prayer for the Week: Bound tightly by the Holy Spirit, joined together as the body of Christ in this world, and always to the glory of God the Father, we bow together to pray our Prayer for the Week.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 23:1-35

Food for Thought: In this passage, we see Paul, falsely accused, and batted around from one court to the next.  A plot to kill him is revealed and his nephew helps communicate his impending danger to the High Priest, but the nephew’s claims are all but ‘dismissed’.  Paul ends up standing before Felix in Caesarea, after being aided to get out of danger and to get out of Jerusalem.  He then stands before Felix in Caesarea, who commits to ‘hear his case’ when his accusers arrive.  Paul is still kept in prison.

Paul before Felix, the Governor:

Felix the Governor

We see a little “technicality” in verse 3, where there is a reference to a “whitewashed wall”.  The phrase indicates a hypocrite, someone who appears good on the outside, but really is not.

The plot to kill Paul was pretty substantial!   In verse 12, we hear that the conspirators were “bound by an oath”.  These individuals were likely Zealots, an extremist group of that day.  They later led the revolt against Rome.

The plotting Zealots:

Plotting Zealots

It was not out of sympathy for Paul that he was “rescued” and “transferred” to Governor Felix.  It was because he was a Roman citizen.  In verses 23-24, we see the “calvary” being assembled, including the “soldiers, horsemen, and spearmen.  The “tribune”—a Roman official—wants to make sure that Paul will be safe and treated fairly because he is a Roman citizen.

Paul is sent out at night, with 470 men:

Paul protected

Prayer Prayer for the Week: Bound tightly by the Holy Spirit, joined together as the body of Christ in this world, and always to the glory of God the Father, we bow together to pray our Prayer for the Week.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 24:1-27

Food for Thought: In this passage, the Apostle Paul remains “detained” (see what “detained” means later in this posting!):

Paul in Prayer

In verse 1, we hear that Ananias, the high priest, travels to oversee the trial of Paul.  This shows how important this trial and Paul’s outcome is to the Jewish leaders.  They want Paul “out of their hair”!

In verse 14, we see another reference to the “Way”.  This is also referenced with commitment to “God of our ancestors”.  Paul admits being a Jew who believes in Jesus Christ.  Believing Jews are called the “sect of the Nazarenes” in verse 5.

In verse 22, we read that the Governor Felix was “well informed about the Way”.  This trial is not the first time the governor has dealt with the growing Christian community.  I don’t know about you, but this whole story [again] shows me just how challenging it was for the early church and its leaders to ‘survive’ resistance, persecution, misunderstanding, skepticism, politics, traditions, resistance to changed….. and I could go on and on…..

No dollar bill In verse 26, there is talk about Governor Felix “hoping that money would be given [to him] [by Paul]”.  Felix apparently thinks that Paul has “money”.  Perhaps he thinks this because of the gits that Paul delivered in Jerusalem.  In fact, Paul is both UNABLE and UNWILLING to offer a bribe to Felix.

Yes, Paul remains “detained”.  In verse 23, we learn that Paul has “liberties” during his incarceration.  Paul is actually under house arrest.  This probably is true because he is a Roman citizen and has not been convicted of any crime.  BUT…. Paul is NOT off the hook yet!

Prayer Prayer for the Week: Bound tightly by the Holy Spirit, joined together as the body of Christ in this world, and always to the glory of God the Father, we bow together to pray our Prayer for the Week.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Genesis 1:1-2:4a; Psalm 8; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20

Food for Thought: Tomorrow is Sunday of the Holy Trinity—The First Sunday after Pentecost.  Though the word trinity is not found in the scriptures, today’s second reading includes the apostolic greeting that begins the liturgy.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  In the gospel, Jesus sends his disciples forth to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  More than a doctrine, the Trinity expresses the heart of our faith: we have experienced the God of creation made known in Jesus Christ and with us always through the Holy Spirit.  We celebrate the mystery of the Holy Trinity in word and sacrament, as we profess the creed, and as we are sent into the world to bear witness to our faith.  Please join us tomorrow for the Virtual Service of the Word.  Presiding Bishop of the ELCA Elizabeth Eaton will give the sermon tomorrow.  Here are a few thoughts about each of the scriptures for tomorrow:

The Passage in Genesis: At the beginning of time, God the Creator, God the powerful Word, and God the life-giving Spirit form the earth and all its inhabitants.  God sees that all this created work is good and then rests on the seventh day.

Creation

The Psalm: The Antiphon for Psalm 8 [tomorrow] is how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:1)

The Passage in 2 Corinthians: Paul closes a challenging letter to the Corinthians with an appeal to Christian fellowship ground in the triune harmony of Christ’s grace, God’s love, and the Spirit’s partnership.

The Gospel Reading in Matthew: After his resurrection, Jesus summons his remaining disciples and commissions them to baptize and teach all nations in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

There is much profound and beautiful art relating to the Trinity.

There are many images similar to the one below.  These images with three faces on one person have always spoken to me.  I always think of the words of Holy, Holy, Holy: “God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity”.  This painting is in the Museum of Art of Salzburg, Austria.  It was painted by an anonymous artist:

Trinity 1

Here is one by Botticelli.  The Holy Spirit is often represented by a dove:

Trinity 2

 A life in the Trinitarian God—Perichoresis—the dance of the Holy Trinity, as you heard in the sermon on May 17, 2020:

Trinity 3

God the Father, Jesus Christ—The Springs of Living Water, and the Holy Spirit represented by a Dove:

Trinity 4

Blessed Trinity:

Trinity 6

One more—by Rossetti:

Trinity 7

Prayer Prayer for the Week: Bound tightly by the Holy Spirit, joined together as the body of Christ in this world, and always to the glory of God the Father, we bow together to pray our Prayer for the Week.

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WEEK BEGINNING MAY 25, 2020–LAST WEEK OF EASTER BEFORE PENTECOST

IntroductionPlease read this short introduction before you read Monday’s devotion.

Hold the bus!!!  Hold the bus!!!

Stop sign

It would be so easy to STOP!  Huh?  It would be so easy to ‘throw in the towel’ on ministry and mission as we contemplate re-emerging from this time of pandemic and isolation.  It would be so easy to get caught up in what we have lost and how different things are in the new-normal that the need and CALL for the church into mission and ministry is eclipsed by the human struggle of adjustment to a new way of life and (at least for now) a new way to be the church—to be the church engaged in mission and ministry—EVANGELISM in response to Jesus’ own COMMISSION in Matthew 28.

BUT NO!!!  Now, more than ever, is the time to face the facts that things are different, and things are going to be different for the foreseeable future.  Now, more than ever, is the time to face that God’s mission—God’s presence in the world—God’s unending grace, compassion, love, and mercy do not take a hiatus during pandemics or any other challenges of the human condition.

So…… WHAT DO WE DO?  WHERE DO WE START AS THE RE-EMERGED CHURCH ON THE OTHER SIDE OF PANDEMIC?  The answers are not clear at this point.  We, the collection of believers that are identified as Saint Peter’s Lutheran Church in the City of Spokane, all have ideas, input, and (very importantly) we ALL have God’s ear in prayer and meditation.  Let’s come together as the church—as God’s people responding to our all-powerful God—and prayerfully discern the new and exciting directions where God is leading us.  Be sure of this—GOD IS WAY OUT FRONT OF ALL OF US AND WAY OUT FRONT OF COVID-19.  We will never catch up with God, but we can faithfully follow God’s path for the future in THE CHURCH and in our church!

Let’s spend more time in ACTS—learning from what the apostles—Paul, Silas, Timothy, and all experienced in their clear challenges to following the mission of God.  There is LIGHT and HOPE and ASSURANCE—when we, God’s children DON’T STOP BELIEVIN’!!!  Alleluia!

ACTS of the Apostles—THEN AND NOW!!!

Acts arrow

God is on a mission

Monday, May 25, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 18:1-28

Never give up

Food for Thought: Evangelism is NOT easy!  Period!  It takes courage, conviction, COURAGE, CONVICTION, and the power of the Holy Spirit to step out and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to a world that is ‘outside’ the safety of the four walls of the church.  We know that is true as we contemplate how to engage with and for our community of Hillyard here in Spokane.  We can certainly see the challenges that Paul was facing in our passage today.  But the bottom line is proclaimed in verses 9-10: “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to harm you, for there are many in this city who are my people.”  This verse contains another one of our “I AM” statements.  GOD, the GREAT “I AM” is WITH US in EVANGELISM and in everything that we face, encounter, or discover in this world.

I am with you

In verses 18:1-2, we encounter Aquila…Priscilla…as Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome.

Priscilla and Aquila and Paul:

Priscilla and Aquila and Paul

Priscilla and Aquila are probably Jews who believe in Jesus.  They left Rome because Claudius, the emperor, had ordered the Jews to leave.  A Roman historian, Suetonius, reports that the Jews were causing disturbances in Rome, probably because of the conflict between Jews who believe in Jesus and those who did not.

Jesus had ‘prepared’ his first disciples, that they, and the disciples to come after them, would indeed face opposition and persecution—maybe even persecution to death.  This is the price that many followers of Jesus Christ have paid through the centuries.  In verse 13-14, Paul is being accused of going against the law.  The Jews are accusing Paul of treason.  (Refer back to Acts 17:7, where acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor is referenced.  Acting against Caesar’s laws would indeed have been considered treason and could be punished )by death.

Dialogue How much are you willing to risk for your commitment to Jesus Christ and the gospel?  What does persecution look like in Washington in 2020?  Do you ever feel like you are being persecuted for your faith?

 

Prayer Prayer for the Week:  God of all time and all places, how excellent is your name in all the world.  We praise you and we thank you.  Restoring God, we lift the current condition of our world into your restoring hands.  There is so much uncertainty and anxiety in our world.  As things begin to open again, we are nervous to plunge back into life outside our quarantines.  God, restore the order of this world and help us navigate a safe return to life on the outside and worship back in our churches.  Healing God, so many people remain infected with this Covid-19.  Strengthen and guide our healthcare workers to bring comfort and your healing to those who are suffering.  Give your peace to families across the world who have lost loved ones.    Creative God, empower and guide the scientists who are working on immunizations and vaccines for Covid-19.  In your Omnipotence, we implore you to come to our aid at this time of great need in this world.  God of love and God of mission, amidst the disorder and pandemic, help us never lose sight of your mission and your church.  Bring us to the other side of this disruption and guide us as your church to serve you in mission and ministry in the world around us—church for the sake of the world.  We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 19:1-20

Tyrannus’ Lecture Hall as we read in verse 9:

Tyrannus Lecture Hall

Paul in Ephesus:

Paul in Ephesus 1

Food for Thought:

Come Holy Spirit

In Ephesus, the Holy Spirit came upon them and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.  In verse 6, we understand that the coming of the Spirit shows that these people are ‘accepted’ by God.  They receive the same gifts as those in Caesarea (as we read in Acts 10:44-46) and in Jerusalem (as we read in Acts 2:4).

Facing resistance, as we read in verse 9, Paul leaves the synagogue, where he usually teaches, due to the strong opposition.  He begins to teach in a public building (as seen above) where Gentiles would be welcome, the place where the philosopher Tyrannus taught.

I love verse 11.  Here Paul is the vessel as “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that when the handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were brought to the sick, their diseases left them, and the evil spirits came out of them.”

Paul holds a healing handkerchief:

Pauls holds a handkerchief

Prayer Prayer for the Week: Separated by space, BUT gathered as ONE, we kneel to pray TOGETHER our Prayer for the Week.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 19:21-41

The Theater in Ephesus:

The Theater in Ephesus

Food for Thought: In Paul’s day, commerce and money were a driving force in culture and society.  In our day, 2020, commerce and money are a driving force in culture and society.  In Paul’s day, the drive for commerce and money, profitability, and wealth resulted in (literally) the crafting of IDOLS and false gods.  Now, Paul clearly taught and preached against any kind of idols or false gods.  Paul’s message (verse 26) was cutting into the commerce, money, and wealth of the artisans that made these idols.  Paul had gotten ‘cross-wise’ with these artisans.  The uprising of these artisans caused a riot of sorts—much confusion among the people, who rushed together to the Theater.

Dialogue What organizations, movements, businesses, etc. create ‘idolatrous’ offerings to us today?  How do these ‘infiltrate’ our lives and how do we navigate the many opportunities we have in these regards?  How do we, Christians, respond to those many opportunities (temptations/lures) to engage in idols and paths to idolatrous movements in current times?

In reference to verse 24, Demetrius was a silversmith and likely a leader in the guild of silversmiths.  He had a good deal of influence over the other artisans and used his influence to stir up a riot against “the Way” (reference verse 23).  Artemis is the Greek name for the goddess Diana.  The temple of Artemis in Ephesus was famous, and many came to visit it and to purchase the wares of the silversmiths and artisans (personal idols and trinkets in praise to the Deity of Diana).

The Temple of Artemis in Ephesus:

The Temple of Artemis

One last thought as we read in verse 32, that “most of [the people who flocked into the Theater as part of this riot] did not know why they had come together”.

Dialogue How easily are we persuaded by popular opinion or media or popular culture or even political movements to ‘be present’ at the riot when we are not even sure why were a ‘there’?  What are those influential movements that sometimes take us down the wrong path?  How do you respond?

Prayer Prayer for the Week: Separated by space, BUT gathered as ONE, we kneel to pray TOGETHER our Prayer for the Week.

 

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 20:1-24

Paul looked ‘above’ for his guidance and inspiration and COURAGE!!!

Paul looking above for guidance

Food for Thought: In verse 20, Paul says, “I did not shrink from doing anything helpful proclaiming the message to you and teaching you publicly and from house to house, as I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus.”  I believe we can safely say that Paul was indeed BOLD in mission and ministry and his commitment to the Good News of Resurrection and Jesus Christ.  As we contemplate our future engagement in God’s mission in our world, Paul remains a stellar model for boldness and commitment to the Word!

Luther Seal What is the “theology of the cross”?  Lutherans teach that discipleship—following Jesus—often calls a person to make a sacrifice or “bear a cross,” especially for the sake of others.  Paul did this for the sake of the believers of the early church.  Some [others] taught then and many [others] each today, that coming to faith brings success fulfillment, wealth, riches, and other rewards.  Martin Luther called this the “theology of the cross” and warned that trusting such a message leads to disappointment and despair when success and wealth do not come.  The “theology of the cross” calls us to follow Jesus, to be “little Christs” to our neighbors in need, and to be ready to bear a cross as we live out our faith life.  (verses 22-23).

Dialogue When have you been a “little Christ”                           to a person in need?

Theology of the Cross vs. Theology of Glory/Self—’Do the math’:

Theology of the Cross

In the cross alone I glory—not in myself or my accomplishments, or wealth, or ………..

The Cross

Prayer Prayer for the Week: Separated by space, BUT gathered as ONE, we kneel to pray TOGETHER our Prayer for the Week.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 20:25-38

Paul, the tentmaker:

Paul the Tentmaker

Food for Thought: We read in verse 34 about Paul “supporting himself”.  Paul often worked as a tentmaker as he traveled and taught.  Tents in Paul’s day were made of leather or cloth.  This was a good way for Paul to making a living and to support his ministry.

Paul is unapologetic in this passage today (as we saw in yesterday’s passage) in proclaiming to the people the whole purpose of God through Jesus Christ.  Paul is bidding his fellow Christians in Ephesus farewell as he tells them that none of them will ever see his face again.  He knows that this “is goodbye”.  He know the persecution that he is about to face when he returns to Jerusalem, but he continue on his journey to Jerusalem with courage and conviction.  Indeed, he does not shrink in any way!!!

Prayer Prayer for the Week: Separated by space, BUT gathered as ONE, we kneel to pray TOGETHER our Prayer for the Week.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 2:1-21, Psalm 104:24-34, 35b, 1 Corinthians 12:3b-13, John 7:37-39

Food for Thought: Tomorrow is a High Festival Day!  It is the Day of Pentecost—the Coming of the Holy Spirit!!!

Come Holy Spirit Come

Let’s prepare for our worship together tomorrow:

Pentecost derives its name from the Jewish festival celebrating the harvest and the giving of the law on Mount Sinai fifty days after Passover.  Fifty days after Easter, we celebrate the Holy Spirit as God’s presence within and among us.  In Acts the Spirit arrives in a rushing wind and flame, bringing God’s presence to all people.  Paul reminds us that though we each have different capacities; we are unified in the Spirit that equips us with these gifts.  Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit on his disciples, empowering them to forgive sin.  We celebrate that we too are given the breath of the Holy Spirit and sent out to proclaim God’s redeeming love to all the world.

Here are a few thoughts about each passage:

The Passage in Acts: Here Luke portrays the Holy Spirit being poured out upon the disciples before the gathered and astonished people assembled in Jerusalem for the festival.  Filled with the Spirit, the disciples were able to witness to the power of Christ’s resurrection.

The Psalm: The Antiphon for our Psalm is: Send forth your Spirit and renew the face of the earth.

The passage in 1 Corinthians: Paul is helping the Corinthians understand the relationship between our God-given unity and Spirit-created diversity.  The Spirit creates the unity of faith and gives all Christians diverse gifts for the common benefit of all.  We need one another’s diverse spiritual gifts because the same Spirit has given them to each person for the common good.

The Gospel Reading in John:  Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as living water, quenching the thirst of all who come to him and filling the hearts of believers until they overflow.

There is much beautiful art for Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit:

Come Holy Spirit 2

Pentecost Flames

dove of the Holy Spirit

Dove the Holy Spirit 2

Living Waters

Empowered by the Holy Spirit

Prayer Prayer for the Week: Separated by space, BUT gathered as ONE, we kneel to pray TOGETHER our Prayer for the Week.

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WEEK OF MAY 18, 2020–SIXTH WEEK OF EASTER

IntroductionPlease read this short introduction before you read Monday’s devotion.

There are so many characters in Acts that help us understand the story and the message.  Here is a handy list of Key People in the Book of Acts (some from last week and several from this week):

James, the son of Zebedee (Son of Thunder), as we see in Acts 12:2: James, with his brother John is called by Jesus as a disciple.  In the Gospel of Mark (10:35-45), James and his brother ask Jesus for places of honor in the kingdom (at their mother’s request).  Herod Agrippa ordered James’ beheading.

Rhoda, Mary’s maid, as we see in Acts 12:12-17: Rhoda is the maid of Mary, John Mark’s mother.  Rhoda hears Peter, who was miraculously freed from prison, knocking at her door.  She recognizes his voice and runs to tell the others, “Peter is at the door!”  They think she is crazy until they open the gate and see Peter for themselves.

Peter knocking on Rhoda’s door:

Rhoda

Silas, an Apostle in Acts, as we see in Acts 15:22-18:5).  He is one of the leaders of the Jerusalem church and is also mentioned in Paul’s letters.  Silas is Paul’s companion on the second missionary trip to Macedonia.

Paul and Silas (in jail!):

Paul and Silas in Jail 1

Timothy, an emissary of Paul, as we read in Acts 16:1-5: Timothy is already an apostle when Paul meets him and invites him to join the mission in progress.  Paul sends Timothy to churches as his representative.

Paul walks with his young protégé, Timothy:

Paul and Timothy 1

Lydia, a merchant of purple cloth, as we read in Acts 16:14-15.  She is a merchant of purple-dyed cloth from the city of Thyatira.  Acts describes her as a “worshipper of God”, whose heart God opens to hear Paul.  She and her household are baptized.

Paul taught Lydia about Jesus and she and her household were baptized:

Paul and Lydia 1

Monday, May 18, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 14:1-28

Paul preaching

Food for Thought: In verses 1-7, we see both Jews and Greeks becoming believers.  This section identifies many of the key groups in the stories of Acts: Jews who believe in Jesus and Jews who do not believe; Gentiles who believe in Jesus and Gentiles who do not.  In the first century a person could be a Jew and a believer in Jesus at the same time.

In verse 4, Paul and Barnabas are called “apostles”.  Here, the word means not only Jesus’ original twelve disciples, but all those sent on a mission to preach and teach the good news about Jesus Christ.

dialogue Contemplate these questions: Who can be an apostle today?  What might an apostle do in our community?

In verse 12, Barnabas is called Zeus and Paul is called Hermes.  Zeus, the chief Greek god, was honored with a temple in the city of Lystra.  Hermes, the messenger of the Greek gods, was said to bring messages to humankind.  In verses 15-17, Paul responds to the peoples’ misunderstanding, when he tells them that “we are mortals just like you”.  This speech by Paul is primarily directed at a Gentile audience and the main topic is prohibitions of idolatry.

In verse 14, “they tore their clothes”.  This action is an expression of great sorrow an anguish.

In verse 23, we understand that the elders are to oversee the church and arrange for worship and teaching.  Paul and Barnabas may feel a need to appoint elders because these new churches have many Gentile members.

Image below—Paul sees this man, who has never been able to walk, and cries out, “Stand upright on your feet!”:

Man who cannot walk with Paul

The man sprang up and began to walk:

Man leaps to life and can walk

prayer Prayer for the Week: Holy and Ever-living God, we bow before you in praise and thanksgiving.  Lord, we need you.  In our human frailty, we are weak without you; we are nothing without you.  Help us envision your church and your mission as we face changing times in the landscape of living in this world.  When we feel like we are hitting dead ends in the mission and ministry of the church, give us clarity and creativity to find new and exciting ways to show our love to you and to others and to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.  When we feel weary and weathered in mission and ministry (and maybe even life in general), send the power of your Holy Spirit to lift us up to new energies and a fresh passion to carry on the Commission that Christ gave us.  Lord, you know the challenges we are facing in this world of pandemic.  Give your healing and wholeness to this world and empower us to navigate your mission in this world with new and heightened commitment as we face our new normal.  We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 15:1-21; Romans 3:21-31; Galatians 3:26-29

Food for Thought: Today we are reading verses 1-21 and tomorrow we will read the rest of this chapter.  In verses 1-35, the apostles and the elders met together.  This chapter tells of an important conflict in the early church.  Some devout Jews are teaching that Gentiles who become Christian must also accept and obey all of the Old Testament laws, including circumcision.  The resolution of the conflict makes it clear that Gentiles may come into the fellowship of believers without keeping the rules and customs of the Jewish community (we see this in the passages in Romans and Galatians).  This decision did not end this conflict.  Some believing Jews, who assume that the Jewish law applies to believing Gentiles, are called Judaizers.  They continue to oppose Paul and others who are reaching out to the Gentiles.

God knows peoples hearts

In verse 5, Peter stood up.  Peter is a leader in the church and the first apostle sent to the Gentiles, as we read in Acts 10 last week.

In verse 8, we see the Gentiles being given the Holy Spirit.  The coming of the Holy Spirit is hard proof that God accepts the Gentiles.

In verse 10, we see the word YOKE.  This refers to the burden of keeping the law (See Galatians 5:1).  More specifically, it probably refers here to circumcision.

Verse 11, “We believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will”.  The belief that salvation is a free gift of God’s grace is at the heart of the preaching of the gospel.

grace

Luther seal What would Martin Luther say?  The Law says, “do this”, and it is never done.  Grace says, “believe in this”, and everything is already done.  Martin Luther said in his Heidelberg Disputations in 1518: “Grace means that the Lord gives us forgiveness, love, and life with God forever, as free gifts.  Since God has given us all this through Jesus Christ, we don’t have to do anything to earn God’s favor (see Ephesians 2:8-9).  This grace drives us to worship God and share grace with our neighbor in word and deed (verse 11 in our Chapter today!)”.

prayer Prayer for the Week: No amount of social distancing can keep us apart as we are firmly connected as the body of Christ in this world through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Let’s pray our prayer for this week together.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 15:22-41

Food for Thought: There is still a struggle between Jews and Gentiles.  In verse 29 (today), we see the word “abstain” regarding food practices.  For groups of believers that include both Jews and Gentiles, this is a sensitive matter.  Gentile believers are expected to follow Jewish food laws in order to allow table fellowship with Jewish believers.  Those who eat food sacrificed to idols are seen as worshiping those idols.  Eating blood (including that of strangled animals) is forbidden by Jewish law (reference Leviticus 17:10-12) and would be offensive to Jews who believe in Jesus.

In verse 32, Judas and Silas are referred to as “prophets”.  This was one of the offices or positions in the early church and included speaking for God, offering instruction and encouragement.

Now, we are embarking on the Second Missionary Journey of Paul.

Here is a map of that Second Missionary Journey, starting in Antioch:

Pauls second missionary journey

In our passage today, in verse 15:39, Paul and Barnabas part ways.  Even though Barnabas is mentioned in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 9:6), he never again travels with Paul.  Paul joins Silas to begin his Second Missionary Journey which runs from 15:40—18:23.

A general outline of the Second Missionary Journey:

summary of pauls second missionary journey

prayer Prayer for the Week: No amount of social distancing can keep us apart as we are firmly connected as the body of Christ in this world through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Let’s pray our prayer for this week together.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 16:1-40

church grows 1

church grows 2            Food for Thought: In verse 1, we meet a disciple named Timothy, who was probably pretty young.  His mother was a faithful believer and his father was probably not a Christian.  In verse 3, Paul had Timothy circumcised according to the Jewish law.  This was a strategic move so that Timothy could work more effectively with the Jews that they would encounter in the mission.  It was known that Timothy’s father was Greek, so this circumcision was another way to solidify Timothy’s identity as a faithful believer embracing the Jewish laws and practices and proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.  It is challenging to reconcile this action with Paul’s very own words about circumcision in Galatians 5:1-6.  Perhaps this was done as a defense against accusations by believing Jews that Paul had abandoned the Jewish law.

In verse 13, we read about a “place of prayer”.  Apparently, there were so few Jews in Philippi that there was no synagogue.  They follow the custom of finding a quiet place by water for prayer.

quiet prayer

We meet Lydia in verses 14-15.  Lydia is a Gentile and a devout seeker after God.  She is able to offer hospitality to Paul and the others, so she is probably fairly wealthy.  God opens her heart, and the Spirit brings her to faith in Jesus.

Paul and Silas are stripped, beaten, and thrown into prison for getting on the wrong side of the customs that are not lawful “for us as Romans” (verse 21).  Religions that did not have Roman approval were considered ‘illegal’.  Judaism was recognized, but Christianity was not.

Paul and Silas in prison:

Paul and Silas in Jail 2

dialogue Ponder this: How do you hope you would respond if you were imprisoned because of your faith?  What might prepare you for this?

God is faithful to God’s own—Paul and Silas.  Through a series of extraordinary events, Paul and Silas are freed from prison.  These extraordinary events begin with an earthquake:

Earthquake

After they are freed, Paul is interested in establishing his innocence, not only for his own sake, but for the sake of the church at Philippi.  In verse 39, “they came and apologized to them.”  Paul and Silas were Roman citizens.  Romans citizens were entitled to special treatment by the authorities.  They were protected from imprisonment without conviction, from torture, and from public humiliation.  Paul and Silas experienced all of the above.

prayer Prayer for the Week: No amount of social distancing can keep us apart as we are firmly connected as the body of Christ in this world through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Let’s pray our prayer for this week together.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 17:1-34

Paul in Athens

Food for Thought: Today, we ask ourselves, how do we connect better with our community to bring young families and children and youth back into church….???….  There have been struggles with evangelism and ‘connecting’ since the early church.  We see a clear example in our passage today, as Paul has lukewarm effectiveness and ‘connection’ in Athens.  For perspective, Athens is in the province of Achaia, and it is the most important city in Ancient Greece.  It was THE center for art, culture, and philosophy.  It boasted a leading university in Paul’s day.  But Paul’s evangelism here has only modest success.  Paul finally leaves Athens because of lack of receptivity, not because disturbances incited his opponents.  (1 Thessalonians 3:1 gives a snapshot perspective on how it felt for them to ‘have’ to leave Athens!)

Paul shows his education and attempts to make a more solid ‘connection’ in Athens by drawing from the styles and words of some of the most known and respected Greek philosophers and poets.  An example of this is in verse 28, as you see the following image (reference 6th-century BCE poet Epimenides):

In him we live we move we exist

Paul challenges both the Stoics, who think that God is a sort of force in all nature, and the Epicureans, who think that all times, places, and events are simply ‘by chance’.  We see this in verses 17:24-27.

It was a hard pill to swallow for many of the Greeks in contemplating the resurrection of the dead (verses 31-32).  Many Greeks accepted the immortality of the soul but not the resurrection of the dead.  Here, in verse 31, at the end of his speech, Paul does mention Jesus, but does not actually call his name, but refers to Jesus as the one whom God has raised from the dead.

Paul preaching in Athens:

Paul preaching in athens 2

prayer Prayer for the Week: No amount of social distancing can keep us apart as we are firmly connected as the body of Christ in this world through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Let’s pray our prayer for this week together.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 1:6-14; Psalm 68:1-10 and 32-35; 1 Peter 12-14 and 5:6-11, John 17:1-11

Food for Thought: Yes indeed!  It is that time again…… time to prepare for our service tomorrow morning.  Bishop Kristen Kuempel will be our guest preacher in the morning.  We will still have a link for our Service of the Word and the Prayers for Saint Peter.  There will still be two links for the Virtual Service.  Let’s look at our readings for tomorrow morning.  Jesus has risen!  Alleluia!  But now—Jesus has also ascended to the Father.  In these days between Ascension and Pentecost, we gather with the disciples in the upper room, waiting for the Spirit to transform the church around the world.  In today’s gospel, Jesus prays for his followers and for their mission in his name.  Amid religious, social, and economic divisions, we seek unity that Jesus had with his Father.  Made one in baptism, we go forth to live our faith in the world, eager for the unity that God intends for the whole human family.  Here are a few thoughts about each reading for tomorrow morning:

The Passage in Acts:  Today’s reading in Acts is part of the introduction to the narrative of the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost.  These verses tell of the risen Lord’s conversation with his disciples on the eve of his Ascension, in which he promises that they will receive the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Psalm: The Antiphon for our Psalm is: Sing to God, who rides upon the clouds (Psalm 68:4).

The Passage in 1 Peter: Our faith in Christ does not make us immune from the scorn of others.  Nevertheless, we are to resist designs of evil when we experience disparagement from others because we trust that God’s grace will strengthen and guide us.

The Gospel Reading in John: On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus prays to his heavenly Father, asking that those who continue his work in this world live in unity.

Jesus promises the Holy Spirit

This is eternal life

Jesus prays for his people

and I have been glorified in them

Unity John 17

prayer Prayer for the Week: No amount of social distancing can keep us apart as we are firmly connected as the body of Christ in this world through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Let’s pray our prayer for this week together.

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WEEK OF MAY 11, 2020–FIFTH WEEK OF EASTER

IntroductionPlease read this short introduction before you read Monday’s devotion.

As we make our way through the Acts of the Apostles, what are the things that jump out at you?  Who are the people that are making an impression on you?  What do you see as a compelling reason that the Acts of the Apostles is a foundational piece of the New Testament?

I am sure that the answers vary across our group.  However, I am sure that we would agree that the book of Acts is a portrait of a church—THE CHURCH—on the move!   ACTION!!!  The first disciples of Christ are ‘moving and shaking’ as they follow Jesus’ Commission.  Yes, as we talked about last week, there were (ARE) bumps in the road when the church—THE CHURCH—is moving and shaking, BUT OUR FOUNDATION WILL NOT BE SHAKEN!!!

It seems that one of the compelling reasons that Acts was written and included in the Canon is for the very nature of ACTION that is undeniable in the book.  Yes—ACTION—that very thing we just highlighted.  It shows us a church on the move in that day and invites us into that ACTION—to be a church—THE CHURCH—on the move TODAY!

As we confess in all three of our Creeds (as the Lutheran Church), we believe that Christ WILL COME AGAIN!  However, we are called—not to sit around and wait for Christ to get here—but to live as Christ’s Church—THE CHURCH—in the mission that we have been called to and called for as Christ’s disciples TO THIS DAY!  After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, the first disciples were compelled to live their lives in commitment to Christ’s mission and to share the powerful stories of Jesus’ life of preaching and teaching and healing and driving out demons and even—resurrecting the dead.   This is the Good News of Jesus’ love and salvation AT WORK!  Of course, we, as confessing Lutherans, are always sensitive to calling any action of faith or action by faith as “works”.  Hear me now—we are not talking about works FOR salvation.  We are talking about works to share the GOOD NEWS OF SALVATION.  We are talking about works to live in to our calling and purpose as Christians in this world.

Acts reminds us why we even exist—as the church.  Our Presiding Bishop, Elizabeth Eaton helps us understand why we do exist as the church—as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America—with the following four fundamental thoughts of who we are:

We are church

We are Lutheran plus

WE are church together

We are church for the sake of the world

Monday, May 11, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 10:1-44

Here is a Biblical Map that shows Caesarea, where Cornelius was located, and Joppa, where Peter was at the time when Cornelius sent for him.  The distance between the two is about 24 miles.

Map caesarea and joppa

Food for Thought:  In verses 1-2, Cornelius is identified as a centurion and a devout man who feared God.  A centurion was a Roman military officer in charge of about one hundred men.  Cornelius, as a “God-fearer” is a Gentile who was associated with a Jewish synagogue.  “God-fearers” respected Jewish teachings such as the Sabbath observance and (very likely) followed the Jewish food laws.  We also note in verse 3 that Cornelius had this vision at “about three o’clock”.  This signifies that he is following the Jewish custom of observing the three o’clock hour as the traditional hour of prayer.

The Angel appears to Cornelius:

Cornelius and the Angel

In Verse 9, we read that Peter had gone up on the roof to pray.  Many houses in that day had flat roofs and an outside stairway to reach them.  The rooftops were often used as places of relaxation and prayer.  Below is an example of what that rooftop may have looked like:

Flat roof with outside stairs

Peter has a vision before his visit by Cornelius’ men:

Peters vision with the animals and the sheet

In verse 12, we read that there were all kinds of animals in this large sheet.  These included animals considered ritually clean and ritually unclean.  We can find the reference about the law regarding clean and unclean animals in Leviticus 11 in the Old Testament.  Peter later realizes, in verses 15 and 28, that these visions indicate that divisions between Jews and Gentiles are being overcome.

In verse 23, Peter invited them in and gave them lodging.  Jewish customs prohibited Jews from table fellowship with Gentiles who were not sensitive to Jewish food laws and or those who participated in community events that may have included worship of idols.  Peter, however, welcomes the men sent by Cornelius.  This clearly shows Peter’s willingness to reach out and accept Gentiles.

Peter visits Cornelius:

Peter visits Cornelius

Luther crest What would Martin Luther say here?  First, let’s ask: What is Christian freedom?  In his writing, The Freedom of a Christian in 1520, Luther wrote: “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.  A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all”.  JESUS CHRIST IS A CHRISTIAN’S ONLY LORD—A LORD WHO COMMANDS US TO LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR AS WE LOVE OURSELVES (ACTS 10).

Prayer Prayer for the Week: Mighty God—Holy God—God of All Life—We love you and we praise you.  We give you thanksgiving for your unending grace in every part of existence.  God, we know that you see the fractured world that we live in now—especially as a result of this Covid-19 Coronavirus.  God, continue to give your healing touch and wholeness to this fractured world.  Empower the health care professionals, the essential workers, the re-emerging businesses, and the elected officials who are working to mitigate this crisis.  Keep them, and us, all safe.  Heal those suffering from this virus.  Comfort those who have lost loved ones.  Guide the researchers who are working on vaccines and treatments.  Help us see your Light in the midst of this crisis.  Lord, help us, your church, imagine the church on the other side of this crisis, as we wade through the muddy waters of this sea of uncertainty and fear.  Empower us with creativity and commitment to re-create your church-post Covid-19 as a vibrant presence in this world for those who are seeking peace and wholeness and salvation.  Let us never forget that this is your mission and that you are well ahead of us in the directions where your church is headed in coming months and years and decades and beyond.  We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 11:1-30

Food for Thought: In verses 1-18, the apostles, who were in Judea, heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the Word of God.  Peter reports to them about the Gentiles’ conversions, however, he was heavily criticized for eating and mixing with the Gentiles.  Peter tells how the Spirit is working in the world and leading many Gentiles to faith.  This helps the Jews who do believe in Jesus Christ to begin to drop their objections and begin to accept Gentiles into the fellowship of believers.

In verse 22, Barnabas is sent to Antioch.  You can see Antioch on the map below:

May with Antioch

Barnabas was apparently sent to check on the new church in Antioch.  That “checkup” practice on new churches seems to be the practice of the church leaders in Jerusalem as they realized that these churches were viable and operating.

We use the term “Christians” so often today; it seems like a reflex.  However, the word “Christian(s)” was never used in Jesus’ lifetime.  In verse 26, we see the first use of the term “Christians” to describe believers in Jesus Christ.  It is not clear whether the name was first used by the enemies of the church or by the believers themselves.

will they know we are Christians

dialogue What does it mean to you to be called a Christian?

Prayer Prayer for the Week: Kneeling as one—the body of Christ in the world, let’s pray together our Prayer of the Week.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 12:1-25

Food for Thought: In verse 2, we learn that James, the brother of John was killed for his faith.  This is James, one of the first disciples of Christ, who was with Christ during significant events of his ministry on earth.  This is yet another account of martyrdom of the early followers of Jesus.

James—the Martyr:

James the Martyr

Peter was also arrested and kept in prison…. BUT, as we read in verses 6-19, the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.  This kind of miraculous escape from prison, Peter’s in this case, is a repeated theme through Acts.

Peter is miraculously freed from prison:

Chains are broken on Peters arms

The last word……in verses 19-23, we see Herod (this is Herod Agrippa, who was the grandson of Herod the Great, who ruled when Jesus was born), acting out-of-control against “Christians”.  God has the last word with Herod Agrippa in verse 23.  Herod’s resistance was no match for the momentum of the Holy Spirit in God’s mission in the world.

Bye-bye Herod Agrippa:

Herod dies

Prayer Prayer for the Week: Kneeling as one—the body of Christ in the world, let’s pray together our Prayer of the Week.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 13:1-12

Food for Thought: Beginning with Acts 13:1, we start to see ‘missionaries’ being sent out by the Holy Spirit.  13:1 to 14:28 describe the first missionary trip of Paul.  In verse 1, we read that the emerging church in Antioch has some prophets and teachers.  Niger is the Greek word for “black”, which likely means that Simeon had dark skin.  Lucius came from Cyrene and Manaen had served Herod Antipas.  This diversity among these prophets gives us an example of how the gospel was spreading.

Map of Paul’s First Missionary Trip:

map of Pauls first mission

In verse 5, we read that the proclaiming of the word of God is primarily done in and around the synagogues.  Jews had scattered to many countries and often established new communities and build new synagogues—places for learning and worship.  In Paul’s mission work, he encounters both Jews and God-fearing Gentiles.

In verse 9, it is noted that Saul is also known as Paul, which means “little” in Greek.  From this point in the book of Acts, Saul is referred to as Paul.  Perhaps using his Greek name helps Paul to be better received in Greek-speaking areas.

Paul—at work:

paul at work

Prayer Prayer for the Week: Kneeling as one—the body of Christ in the world, let’s pray together our Prayer of the Week.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 13: 13-52

Food for Thought: Paul and Barnabas’ mission continues…… They begin to preach and teach in Antioch.

The mission continues in Antioch:

MIssion in Antioch

In verses 16-41, Paul stands up and begins to speak.  His sermon is shaped to reach the Jews.  He quotes the Hebrew Bible several times (note verses 33-35 and 41).

It is important to note that, in verse 45, “Jews” refers to the Jews who rejected what Paul was teaching about Jesus.  It does NOT mean all Jews.

In verses 46-47, Paul feels an obligation to speak first to the Jews, because Paul loves his people and because Jesus had come from Jewish roots.  Paul quotes Isaiah 49:6 to convince the audience that there ought to be a mission to Gentiles.

In verse 50, we hear about the Jews who do not accept Jesus as Messiah.  These Jews consider Paul to be a false teacher and a threat.  They begin to harass Paul during his missionary journeys.

In verse 51, we read that they “shook off the dust on their feet”.  This was a way of showing that they acknowledged rejection.  Recall Jesus telling some of the earliest followers that he sent into the mission field to shake the dust off their feet when they were rejected (Luke 10:11 is one reference for that!).

Prayer Prayer for the Week: Kneeling as one—the body of Christ in the world, let’s pray together our Prayer of the Week.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 17:22-31; Psalm 66:8-20; 1Peter 3:13-22; John 14:15-21

Food for Thought: It is hard to believe, but here we are at the end of another week!  Let’s get ready for our Virtual Worship Service tomorrow morning!  Jesus never abandons his followers.  Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ comes to abide with his disciples OF EVERY GENERATION!  That means us also!!!  As the Day of Pentecost gets closer, we are reminded that the risen Christ dwells in us as the Spirit of Truth.  We receive this Spirit in baptism and pray that in our gathering around the Lord’s table, the Spirit will transform us to be the body of the risen Christ in the world.  Here are a few words about each of the Scripture passages for tomorrow morning:

The Passage from Acts:  In Athens, Paul faces the challenge of proclaiming the gospel to Greeks who know nothing about either Jewish or Christian traditions.  He proclaims that the “unknown god” whom they worship is the true Lord of heaven and earth who will judge the world with justice through Jesus, whom God has raised from the dead.

The Psalm:  Bless our God, you people; let the sound of praise be heard.

The Passage from 1Peter: The author of 1Peter encourages Christians to remain faithful even in the face of defamation and persecution.  In baptism, we are made clean to act in accordance with what is right.

The Gospel Passage in John: In final words to his disciples on the night of his arrest, Jesus encourages obedience to his commandments and speaks of the Spirit, who will be with them FOREVER!!!

If you love me....

Jesus promises the Holy Spirit

Image of Jesus promising the Holy Spirit to his disciples…..

Jesus promising the Spirit to his disciples

Come, Holy Spirit

Truth come down

Prayer Prayer for the Week: Kneeling as one—the body of Christ in the world, let’s pray together our Prayer of the Week.

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WEEK OF MAY 4, 2020-FOURTH WEEK OF EASTER

IntroductionPlease read this short introduction before you read Monday’s devotion.

Jesus Christ experienced “them”.  The apostles later experienced “them”.  We experience “them” today.  What are “THEY”?????

They are ‘bumps in the road’ and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Bumps ahead

In the early days of the church and its mission, the same persecution that Christ, himself, experienced (even unto death on a cross), was experienced by the apostles.  We see that throughout our studies for this week.  The resistance and persecution came from the threatened leaders (religious and otherwise) in the Jewish community and at the Temple.  The apostles showed strong resolve to continue Jesus’ ministry despite the opposition.

We face much opposition and persecution of the Good News and of the church today.  It may not look exactly like what the apostles saw in their day, but the resistance and opposition is very real in 2021 to faith—to God—to the church.

The worldly-world has evolved to be a strong front of resistance and yes, even persecution, of the church today and of those who are committed to live in and share the Good News of Jesus Christ.  The worldly-world has evolved to a point where its comforts and amenities are beyond sufficient for living the good life.  One of my professors at Luther Seminary, who is a Coptic Nun from Egypt and a brilliant scholar, says sheepishly, that America has evolved to “not need God” anymore.  “America is doing just fine without God.  People have money and wealth and possessions, etc., etc.  It becomes increasingly more difficult for God to have a place in the lives of a people who are already satisfied with who they are and what they have and the meaning they have derived in their lives.”  Be clear, she is not throwing in the towel on God’s mission in the world.  In context, she is simply pointing out that the resistance against the Good News is VERY great in our world today and when/if we deny this fact, we are only deceiving ourselves.

Peter says it well in our Monday passage and Monday’s devotion.  Peter proclaims to the Jewish leaders that “God must be obeyed over human commands.”  I would expand this for us today to say that God’s mission and ministry and presence must take precedence over the temptations and lures of the worldly-world.  BUT—the choice is OURS….. How will we respond—as individuals—as families—as a local church—as the Church in the world?  We are faced now with new challenges as a result of Covid-19….. BUT we are also faced with NEW OPPORTUNITIES AND HOPEFULLY A RENEWED STRENGTH to re-ignite God’s mission in the world and to re-affirm our commitment (self, family, church, CHURCH!) to Jesus Christ and the GOOD NEWS HE BRINGS!!!

Obey God not man

Monday, May 4, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 5:12-42

Food for Thought: This is powerful passage of Scripture that moves quickly across a whole lot of material.

In Verses 12 through 16, we see the apostles empowered for healing in the early days of their ministry.  Peter was not Jesus, but Peter was certainly trained, prepared, and EMPOWERED by Jesus Christ to continue the ministry after Jesus was ascended to the Father.  Verse 15 is a definitive testament to the healing power of God—not any power that Peter had.  Peter was a human being—just like us…….. Below, the image shows healing—the healing of Godthrough Peter:

Peter Healing at the Temple

We have said it before, from his birth, Jesus Christ posed a threat to religious and government leaders.  Even as a baby, Herod sought Jesus so that he could have him killed.  Jesus experienced resistance throughout his ministry from Jewish leaders and officials, whom Jesus threatened.  Jesus was charismatic and brought the message of trust and justice and healing and the power of loving one another.  Ultimately, Jesus was arrested—accused—convicted—crucified—died—and was buried.  This happened at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders that were threatened by Jesus and the Roman government officials that played into the hands of the Jewish leaders.  Jesus was persecuted during his public ministry.  We know the final outcome—that Jesus broke the chains of persecution, death, and sin and was gloriously resurrected.  That is the final word.  But……for the apostles, that same kind of persecution was experienced as they worked to continue Christ’s mission and ministry after Christ was ascended.  For Jesus, RESURRECTION was the final word.  The power of God resurrected Jesus from the dead.  That same power of resurrection, helped the apostles in this passage in Acts 5:17-42.  Just as the tomb cannot hold Jesus, the prison cannot contain the apostles.

Who Let the Apostles Out The Angel

The authorities do not ask how the apostles have escaped from prison.  However, they charge them with disobeying the command not to teach in Jesus’ name and for accusing the leaders themselves for the death of Jesus.  This short speech (by Peter) in Verses 29-32, both defends the apostle’s actions and announces (again) the preaching and proclamation of the Christian message—the Good News.  The Greek word for this preaching and proclamation is kerygma.  Peter asserts that God must be obeyed over human commands.  His supporting evidence is that God has raised up and exalted Jesus.  Even though they were whipped/flogged, they embraced the whipping because they realized that they were being whipped for proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ and they considered that honorable and true to their calling in the name of Jesus Christ.

Peter proclaims that God must be obeyed over human commands:

Peter proclaiming truth to the leaders

Prayer MarkerPrayer for the Week: God of Wisdom—God of Power—As we join to pray together today, we come to you with our arms and hearts lifted in praise and thanksgiving.  You are our good God and we know that you hold us in the palms of your hands.  Thank you.  In these times of uncertainty, God, lift our hearts, our minds, and our spirits—from the worries and woes of this world.  Help us set our sights on you and heavenly fulfillment.  God, we know that the realities of this world of Covid-19, financial issues, and the challenges of social distancing are absolutely valid.  We know we cannot ignore them.  We also know that only through you can we find peace and wholeness as we face the realities of all these concerns.  You are our hope.  You are our promise.  You are our defense in a world that is upside-down.  Give us strength.  Give us peace.  Give us wholeness as we lay up our treasures in heaven and not on earth.  We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 6:1-15; Leviticus 24:11-16; Exodus 34:29-35; Luke 9:29 and 32

Food for Thought: Well, the persecution that we have been talking about is certainly heating up in this passage today.  Let’s look closer at this passage.  In Verse 1, we hear “Hellenists”.  “Hellenists” refers to Jews (and Jewish Christians) who speak and pray only in Greek.  Hebrews are those who are able to speak not only in Greek, but also in Hebrew or Aramaic.  Cultural, ethnic, and linguistic differences come to light in this dispute about neglecting the daily distribution of food for widows.  The Twelve resolve the dispute by dividing the ministries into ministry of the WORD and ministering at the TABLE.  The Twelve dedicate themselves to ministering of the WORD.  The Seven others are appointed for ministering at the TABLE.  The number SEVEN is often used in Biblical times to symbolize COMPLETENESS.  Stephen is one of those men.  The Twelve laid their hands on the SEVEN men, as seen below.  This is NOT the institution of the Office of Deacon that we have today.  This is the drafting and empowerment of the Seven to aid the Twelve in important work, but work that the Twelve believed could be delegated to others.

Laying on hands for the SEVEN

This separation of WORD and TABLE does not hold up in the coming verses when we hear that Stephen has worked wonders and signs, debated in the Synagogue with wisdom and spirit, and preached before the Sanhedrin.  Stephen and Jesus have numerous similarities between them:  Both are filled with grace and power.  Both of them perform signs and wonders.  We will see others later.

When the Jewish leaders are not able to get the best of Stephen, they stir up a false charges against him.  Blaspheming God or cursing the divine name was punishable by death, according to Leviticus 24:11-16.

Stephen before the leaders:

Stephen before the leaders

Interesting to note:  In Verse 15, Stephen’s face was “like that of an angel”.  This reflects similarities of the time when Moses encountered God on Mt. Sinai in Exodus and like Jesus at the Transfiguration.

The face of an Angel:

Stephen has the face of an angel

Prayer MarkerPrayer for the Week: Bound together as the body of Christ, let us kneel in unity as we pray our Prayer for the Week.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 7:1-60

Stephen’s Speech to the Council:

Stephen on trial

Food for Thought: Stephen’s speech begins as a defense, but it quickly becomes a thumbnail sketch of the history of Israel for opposing the Spirit.  The speech has five parts and contains tradition that was tailored by Luke to serve his theological interests.  The speech underscores Israel’s rejection of Abraham (Verses 2-8), Joseph (Verses 9-19), and Moses (Verses 20-40).  God, however, has always been at work in Israel’s checkered history, accomplishing the divine purposes with a fallible people.  Opposition to God’s purposes through the rejection of Stephen and the Jesus whom he preaches about is not a surprise.  With this speech, the writer of Luke portrays how Jesus’ followers begin to break away from their Jewish roots.

This speech by Stephen, this sermon, is the longest in the Book of Acts.  With his debate and defense, Stephen gives this speech in order to “prove” to the leaders that Jesus is indeed God’s chosen one—the Messiah!

Ultimately, Stephen’s justification of Jesus as the chosen Messiah of God does not sway the Council or save Stephen’s life.  Stephen is stoned to death as the first Martyr of the early church—of those who were unashamedly living as witnesses to the gospel.  As Stephen’s story come to a climax, the parallels with Jesus become even more pronounced.  The engaged reaction against his words matches that of the Jews of Nazareth (Ref. Luke 4:25-27).  Stephen’s final prayer, entrusting his spirit to God is similar to Jesus’ words from the Cross when he commends his spirit into his Father’s hands.

Laying the cloaks at the feet of Saul implies that Saul played a major role in the plot against Stephen.

The Stoning of Stephen:

Stephen stoned to death

Prayer MarkerPrayer for the Week: Bound together as the body of Christ, let us kneel in unity as we pray our Prayer for the Week.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 8:1-40

Food for Thought: Yes, Saul approved of killing Stephen.  Saul is the Hebrew name that means “asked of God”.  Yes, this is the Saul who was converted and later called Paul and who is a central character in the later chapters of Acts.  Saul is introduced here as one opposed to Jews who are followers of Jesus Christ.  (My—my—how that pendulum will swing!!!)

In 8:5, we see that Philip went down to the city of Samaria.  Philip is one of “the seven” that we have already studied this week.  Philip’s work in Samaria indicates that the Good News is not only for those living and around Jerusalem.  The movement of mission and ministry—the spreading of the Good News of Jesus Christ is EXPANDING!!!

Please pay attention to Verse 8:17 where they “laid their hands on them”.  This action indicates healing, blessing, giving a new task or responsibility, or bestowing the gift of the Holy Spirit.  It suggests there was visible evidence that people had received the spirit.  This entices Simon to offer money to get this power of the Spirit for himself (Verse 8:18).  BUT…. Peter said to him (in Verse 20), “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God’s gift [of the Spirit] with money!  (Now…… I have to ask—what would Martin Luther say about this???????  Thinking you can buy gifts of the Spirit OR buy your way to salvation sounds like grounds for reformation to me!!!!  Go get ‘em Peter.  Go get ‘em Martin!!!!!

This passage also includes Philip’s encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch.  The eunuch is reading from Isaiah when Philip encounters him.  He is reading the words:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter, and like a lamb silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth.  In his humiliation, justice was denied him.  Who can describe his generation?  For his life is taken away from the earth”.  The eunuch did not understand who was being talked about here, so he asks Philip for guidance.  Philip gives him the Good News of Jesus Christ, and as they pass some water, the eunuch asks to be baptized.

Philip baptizes the Ethiopian eunuch:

Philip baptizes the Ethiopian Eunoch

Prayer MarkerPrayer for the Week: Bound together as the body of Christ, let us kneel in unity as we pray our Prayer for the Week.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 9:1-43

The following is a painting by Simeon Griswold—The Conversion of Saul—as displayed in the Smithsonian American Art Museum—painted in 1857.)

The Conversion of Saul

Food for Thought: In the first nineteen verses of this chapter, we see the conversion of Saul.  “Suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him”.  This dramatic “calling” of Saul (later Paul) indicates the Holy Spirit’s POWER TO CHANGE HEARTS AND LIVES.

In Verse 2, we see Saul targeting “anyone who belonged to the Way”.  The “Way” is simply another name for the fellowship of believers, based on Jesus naming himself—The Way-The Truth-The Life (as we read in John 14:6).

Luther MarkerWhat is vocation?  Paul was called and chosen for a new way of life—a life as a witness for Jesus.  Yet, for the early church to have grown as fast as it did, many ordinary believers must have taken the initiative to share the Good News about Jesus Christ.  They did not depend on leaders to do most of the work.  Martin Luther taught that all Christians are called through baptism to be “priests” in Christ’s church.  Luther names this the “priesthood of all believers” and said that “being a good and honest butcher or shoemaker” is as holy a vocation as being a priest of the church.  Lutherans teach that believers are called to live out their calling to serve God and others as they carry out their daily occupations.  Vocation is the call for all believers to proclaim the gospel through daily life and work.  We see this in Acts 9.

Dialogue MarkerHow do you live out your calling to follow Jesus in your home, at school, in your workplace, and/or in your neighborhood?

Prayer MarkerPrayer for the Week: Bound together as the body of Christ, let us kneel in unity as we pray our Prayer for the Week.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16; 1 Peter 2:2-10; John 14:1-14

Service for Tomorrow

Food for Thought: OK—let’s get ready for our Worship Service tomorrow morning.  As we continue to celebrate the fifty days of Easter, tomorrow’s gospel includes Jesus’ promise that he goes to prepare a place for his followers in his Father’s house.  Our baptism commissions us to share Jesus’ mission in the world.  As 1 Peter reminds us, we are a holy people, called to proclaim the one who calls us out of darkness and into light.  In words and deeds, we bear witness to the risen Christ—our way, our truth, our life.

Here are a few words on each passage for tomorrow:

The Acts Passage: Stephen was one of the seven men chosen by the apostles to serve tables so that the apostles could be free to serve the world (Acts 1:1-6).  Stephen does more than distribute food, however.  For his preaching of God’s word, he become the first martyr of the faith.

Our Psalm: Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit (Psalm 31:5).

The 1 Peter Passage: Christ is the cornerstone of God’s saving work and the foundation of our lives.  We are God’s chosen, holy people who continuously celebrate and declare mercy of the God we experience through Jesus Christ.

The Gospel: On the night he is to be arrested, Jesus shares final words with his disciples.  As the one through whom God is known, he promises to go before them and act on their behalf.

Do Not Let your hearts be troubled

Jesus' embrace

In My Fathers House are many dwelling places

I am the way the truth and the life

I AM

Final word of I am the way the truth and the life

Prayer MarkerPrayer for the Week: Bound together as the body of Christ, let us kneel in unity as we pray our Prayer for the Week.

WEEK OF APRIL 27, 2020–THIRD WEEK OF EASTER

IntroductionPlease read this short introduction before you read Monday’s devotion.

Opening Tag

Soul on Fire

Let’s continue our journey in the Acts of the Apostles.  In contemplating the ‘beginnings’ of the church in Acts and how the Holy Spirit infused the action, it is [to me], like the people being set on fire by the Holy Spirit.  I read the passages and literally fell the energy and excitement of the accounts and thoughts of being infused with the Holy Spirit.  I am feeling a convergence of three powerful times when the Holy Spirit “breathed” over the people.    I have this ‘image’ in my head of the people being ‘moved’ by the PEACE and the POWER of the Holy Spirit, as they are overcome by the Spirit.  Again, this creates a feeling of energy and excitement.  Those three times are:

  1.  What we read in our Gospel reading last Sunday in the Gospel of John, John 20:21-22, as Jesus appeared to the disciples (minus Thomas) in the locked room on Easter evening—after his resurrection. “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’.”
  2. The Coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost as we read in last week’s devotions in Acts 2:1-4. The Holy Spirit “suddenly” descended on them “from heaven”.  It came with a sound “like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting”.
  3. The openness we have TODAY with God as we call on the Holy Spirit to descend on us and lead and guide us and give us the positive energy and power to ACT in the name of God in a world that is often not open to the Good News.

Graphic

 All these three converge to EMPOWERMENT to live and ACT in mission and ministry as God’s Church in the world—doing God’s work with our hands as we are moved by the peace and power of the Holy Spirit.

This kind of EMPOWERMENT set the souls of the disciples [in that day] on fire and will set our souls on fire today when we open ourselves to the movement of the Holy Spirit.  This all makes me think of the “Contemporary Christian” song by Third Day called “Soul on Fire”.  Click here to hear “Soul on Fire”.  You may need to click ‘Skip Ads’.

SOUL ON FIRE:

God, I’m running for your heart—I’m running for your heart, ‘Till I am a soul on fire.
Lord, I’m longing for your ways—I’m waiting for the day—when I am a soul on fire,
‘Till I am a soul on fire.

Lord, restore the joy I had, and bring me back to you.  In this darkness, lead me through—
Until all I see is you.

God, I’m running for your heart—I’m running for your heart, ‘Till I am a soul on fire.
Lord, I’m longing for your ways—I’m waiting for the day—when I am a soul on fire,
‘Till I am a soul on fire.

Lord, let me burn for you again.  Let me return to you again.  And Lord, let me burn for you again.  Let me return to you again.

God, I’m running for your heart—I’m running for your heart, ‘Till I am a soul on fire.
Lord, I’m longing for your ways—I’m waiting for the day—when I am a soul on fire,
‘Till I am a soul on fire.

Soul on Fire ending pic

 Monday, April 27, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 3:1-10, Luke 5:17-26

Peter heals at the Beautiful Gate

Food for Thought: In this passage, Peter heals a crippled beggar at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple.  Just as Jesus embarked on his public ministry of teaching and preaching, HEALING, etc., the disciples, as commissioned by the Christ, also embarked on their journey of carrying God’s mission into the world.  This is the first healing story in Acts.  This story parallels Jesus’ first healing story as we read in Luke 5.

Acts 3:6 makes it very clear—that this healing is in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.  Peter makes sure that the people understand that the power of healing is NOT from any human source, but the power of healing comes only from God.  It is interesting to note that many Jewish men were named Jesus, so calling out Jesus as Jesus Christ of Nazareth makes it clear that this is Jesus THE Christ.

This image shows where the Beautiful Gate likely was located in the temple:

Temple Diagram

Prayer markerPrayer for the Week: God of Grace and God of Glory, we praise you for who you are—King of Kings—Lord of Lords—Conqueror of Death.  We give you our thanks for all the blessings you give us.  We are nothing without you.  Turn our spirits and our hearts to you in these challenging world times.  In our humanness, we tend to worry about and dwell on things that are out of our control.  Give us your peace—peace that can come from no other—and help us walk in faith of you and not in fear of the challenges that we see and face in the world.  Give us hearts of love for each other.  Give us hearts of compassion and forgiveness.  Give us open hearts to live in your ways and seek opportunities—now and in the coming days—to be your beacon of Light and Good News in the world.   We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 3:11-26

Peter Preaches on Solomons Portico

Food for Thought: In this passage, we read Peter’s second sermon at the Temple as he preaches in Solomon’s Portico.  This sermon follows the same pattern as his sermon on the Day of Pentecost: explanation of what happened, presentation of the Gospel of Jesus, and a call to repentance.

In Acts 3:15, we hear…. ” you killed…God raised…we are witnesses.”  These phrases are often repeated in Acts (4:10, 5:30-32, 10:39-41).  Peter is, of course, a Jew.  He is blaming his Jewish brothers and sisters for the death of Jesus.  Since both Peter and his audience are Jewish, this is like a family fight within the Jewish community.  We, as modern-day Gentiles (non-Jewish) readers of the Book of Acts, need to be careful not to blame Jews in general for the death of Jesus.  The Gospels and Acts tend to focus the blame on Jewish leaders in Jerusalem for the death of Jesus.  Peter extends God’s grace to them for their part (direct or indirect or simply being linked with the powers that were at that time) for the death of Jesus.  He tells them that they acted out of ignorance.  However, he clarifies that even in their ignorance, this was the way that God fulfilled God’s plan for redemption for humankind as had been foretold through all the prophets.  The prophets foretold that Messiah would indeed suffer.  Then, Peter calls them to repentance.

Please see the Temple diagram from yesterday (above) to get an idea of where Solomon’s Portico was likely located in the Temple.

Prayer markerPrayer for the Week: Joined in unity as the body of Christ in the world, let’s kneel together to pray our Prayer for the Week.  We praise God for always hearing our prayers.  Alleluia!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 4:1-22, Psalm 118:21-25, Matthew 21:42

Peter stirs up some trouble

Food for Thought: From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus attracted attention from leaders in the Temple who were [honestly] threatened by him.  They looked for anything they could to be able to use against Jesus—to take him ‘down’.  It is not surprising that the disciples attracted this same kind of attention when they began following their commission of teaching and preaching AND healing.  They first attracted the attention of “the Sadducees”, as we read in 4:1.  Recall that the Sadducees were one of the groups of the Jewish leaders and they did not believe in bodily resurrection.  The Sadducees were quite annoyed that Peter and the disciples were preaching and teaching resurrection.  In this passage, Peter and John are brought before Jewish officials, including the “rulers, elders, scribes, Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander”.  Together, all these officials would have been called the Sanhedrin, which included a group of seventy to one hundred men who acted as the ruling high court of the Jews.

As he appeared before the Sanhedrin, Peter is asked the question in 4:7 regarding by what authority or “power” was he acting as he stood before the people and proclaimed his message.  Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit (4:8-12).  Peter’s words in response to the leaders are guided by the Spirit of God.  Peter, empowered by the Spirit, does not back down  as he proclaims to the leaders that he did his good deed of healing “by the name of Jesus Christ, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead” (Verse 4:10).  Then he went on to say that “this Jesus” was “the stone that was rejected by you, the builders” but has now become the cornerstone (4:11).  In this verse, Peter is referring to Psalms 118:21-25, just as Jesus had referred in Matthew 41:42.

Peter before the Sanhedrin

Prayer markerPrayer for the Week: Joined in unity as the body of Christ in the world, let’s kneel together to pray our Prayer for the Week.  We praise God for always hearing our prayers.  Alleluia!

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 4:23-37

Food for Thought: In the Book of Common Prayer, which is the book containing all the orders of service and rituals of the Anglican Church, including the Episcopal Church in America, uses these words as an invitation to the Lord’s Prayer, “And now, as Christ taught us, we are bold to pray…Our Father, who art in heaven….”  That “boldness” for prayer stems back to this very passage today.  The following image originally read: BE BOLD.  It has been modified to read: PRAY BOLDLY.  In this change of the words, it takes the ‘self’ out of the action [of prayer] and centers [the prayer] on God—God’s will—“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”:

Pray boldly

Little question markerAsk yourself these two questions, “What does it mean to pray for boldness in faith?” and “When might you offer such a prayer?”

The second part of this passage is about how the ‘believers’ share their possessions—all their ‘goods’ were held in common.  Jesus’ followers chose to live in a close community and to literally share everything.  Barnabas is shown in this passage as a good example of sharing.  Below you see an image that shows the sharing of meals (refer to Acts 2:42):

koinonia

Prayer markerPrayer for the Week: Joined in unity as the body of Christ in the world, let’s kneel together to pray our Prayer for the Week.  We praise God for always hearing our prayers.  Alleluia!

Friday, May 1, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 5:1-11

Anannias and Sapphira

Food for Thought: OUCH!  The example of Barnabas at the end of Chapter 4 from yesterday stands in sharp contrast to the deception of Ananias and Sapphira.  This ‘situation’ brings up some theological and pastoral questions, including: “Why is Peter so harsh in not offering the couple an opportunity to repent?  Does God really punish sinners in such a drastic manner?

This story is more folkloric than historical.  It is meant to underscore the serious breach that occurs when members of the community LIE to one another.  Hoarding of possessions for oneself, as Ananias and Sapphira did, poses a particular danger to koinonia.

Koinonia is a transliterated form of the Greek word κοινωνία, which refers to concepts such as communion or fellowship, joint participation, the share which one has in anything, a gift jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution.

In 5:3-4, we see that Ananias’ heart has been filled by Satan, the personification of evil, rather than by the Holy Spirit.  Not only has Ananias kept back a portion of his property, but also his heart has not been wholly given to God.  Lying to the Spirit-filled community is equivalent to lying to the Holy Spirit—to God.  This story makes an impact to evoke fear in a way that one should consider how to avoid falling into the influence of Satan in one’s heart.  Luke (remember Luke-Acts) tells the story of Sapphira in parallel with the story of Ananias.  Luke does not say why Sapphira did not oppose her husband’s deception.  Whether actively approving or silently failing to resist him, as is often the case in a patriarchal marriage, she becomes complicit in his guilt, as she is accused of putting the Spirit of the Lord to the test.

Poor Annanias

Prayer markerPrayer for the Week: Joined in unity as the body of Christ in the world, let’s kneel together to pray our Prayer for the Week.  We praise God for always hearing our prayers.  Alleluia!

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Shepherd 1

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 2:42-47, Psalm 23, 1 Peter 2:19-25, John 10:1-10

Food for Thought: Here we are again—let’s get ready for service tomorrow morning, which is the Fourth Sunday of Easter.  Tomorrow is the day many people call the “Good Shepherd Sunday.”  Jesus is called the “gate” of the sheep in today’s gospel.  The risen Christ opens the way for abundant life.  He anoints our heads with oil and guides us beside the still waters of our baptism.  We go forth to be signs of the Resurrection and extend God’s tender care to all creation.  Here are a few words about each reading:

The Acts Passage: This reading is a description of life in the community following Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on God’s people.  The new community is sustained in worship and fellowship, shares what they have, and ensures that everyone has enough.

Little sheep markerThe Psalm:  This is probably the most familiar of all the Psalms.  The antiphon for this week is: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want”—from Psalm 23:1.

The Passage in 1 Peter:  Doing the right things does not guarantee that one will not experience difficulties, hardships, rejection, or even suffering.  Here Christ is presented as the model for our path of endurance and loyalty to God, particularly amid adversity.

Little sheep markerThe Gospel Passage in John:  Jesus uses an image familiar to the people of his day to make a point about spiritual leadership.  Those who listen to Jesus are led to abundant life!

Shepherd 2

Shepherd 3

Shepherd 4

Shepherd 5

Shepherd 6

Prayer markerPrayer for the Week: Joined in unity as the body of Christ in the world, let’s kneel together to pray our Prayer for the Week.  We praise God for always hearing our prayers.  Alleluia!

SEE YOU IN VIRTUAL CHURCH TOMORROW MORNING!  ALLELUIA!  CHRIST IS RISEN!  THE LORD IS RISEN INDEED ALLELUIA!

WEEK OF APRIL 20, 2020–SECOND WEEK OF EASTER

IntroductionPlease read this short introduction before you read Monday’s devotion.

Let’s spend a few weeks in Acts for our devotions.  The full title of this book is The Acts of the Apostles.  The word apostle comes from a Greek word meaning “one who is sent out”, or “a person sent to deliver a message”.  In Acts, apostles refers to the disciples Jesus chooses to carry on his teaching and ministry.  Acts records the activities of certain apostles—including Peter, Paul, and Stephen—after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus.  Acts was likely written around 80-85 CE.

Acts of the Apostles

The books of Luke and Acts were written by the same person.  Acts continues the story started in Luke.  We don’t know much about this writer, as there is no mention of the writer’s own background or life story.  Because of the skillful writing and the number of speeches by Jewish followers of Jesus, scholars generally believe the writer was a well-educated Jew who had come to faith in Jesus Christ.

Acts number 2

Both Luke and Acts are addressed to “Theophilus” (Acts 1:1; Luke 1:3).  This name, Theophilus, means “friend of God.”  Some scholars think this name is used to stand for all who follow Jesus.  Others believe Theophilus was a wealthy person, perhaps a Roman official, who paid for the recording and copying of this work.  Either way, the book is intended for a large audience.  It is likely that the first readers of Acts were Gentiles and Jews living on the northern coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

The Early Church and Key Locations in the BOOK OF ACTS:

Map

Acts tells the story of the early days of the Christian church.  The outline of this book follows Jesus’ words in Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Acts is divided up as seen below… (This includes the sections for the entire book of Acts.  We will read through many verses in the coming days.  It is not intended that you read the whole Book of Acts right now, but having the big picture is not a bad idea!)

  • Preparation for Christian witness (Acts 1:1-2:13)
  • Witnessing in Jerusalem (Acts 2:14-8:3)
  • Witnessing in Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:4-9:43)
  • Witnessing to the Gentiles (Acts 10:1-15:35)
  • Witnessing to the “ends of the earth” (15:36-28:31)

The Coming of the Holy Spirit as we see in Acts:

Pentecost 1

Monday, April 20, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Luke 24:36-53, Acts 1:1-11

Food for Thought: The Gospel of Luke ends with the account of Jesus ascended into heaven.  The Book of Acts begins with that same event.  In the passages today, please pay particular attention to Luke 24:50-53 and Acts 1:9-11.  These verses within our full readings are the parallel accounts of the Ascension.  Let’s focus on the Acts account.  The writer uses apocalyptic symbols to dramatize Jesus’ exaltation at the Ascension.  This is a very visible and visual account.  A cloud symbolizes God’s presence (shadows from the Old Testament and the Exodus of the Israelites when God was often present in a cloud.)  Figures dressed in white or in shining garments are heavenly messengers.  The writer uses this imagery multiple times in Luke and in Acts.  In Acts 1:2, we hear about instructions coming through the Holy Spirit.  In both Luke and Acts, the writer consistently emphasizes the Holy Spirit acting with and through the disciples.

In Acts 1:4, we hear about the promise of the father.  Jesus often used “Father” to refer to God.  This promise refers to the coming of the Holy Spirit.  We will get to the account of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in Chapter 2.  Jesus describes this coming of the Spirit as being “baptized” with the Holy Spirit (we see that in Acts 1:5).

Dove and Water

prayer hands to mark prayerPrayer for the Week: God of Resurrection—God of Life, as we kneel in prayer, we raise our songs of praise and thanksgiving.  You created us—you give us life.  We owe everything to you.   Help us live selflessly for you and for others as you taught us.  We thank you for this opportunity to be your hands in this world.  At this time of Resurrection, we thank you for your gifts of grace and salvation that you gave us with Christ’s own death and Resurrection.  Give us Resurrection in our lives and the life of the church as we listen to you for guidance, inspiration, and hope in how we navigate a new era of your mission and ministry.  Give us Resurrection in our hopes and struggles as we get ready to re-launch life after this Covid-19 pandemic.  Give us Resurrection when we are blinded by the distractions of the worldly-world and need your healing touch of wholeness and re-creation. We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 1:12-26

Matthias:

Matthias

Food for Thought: There were only eleven disciples after Judas took his own life—until Matthias was chosen to replace Judas.  The account of Matthias being called as a disciple is in our passage today.

We talked about the Field of Blood during our Maundy Thursday contemplations.  Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.  After he realized what he had done, we hear in Matthew that Judas repented and tried to return the silver.  The Chief Priests and Elders would not accept the silver back.  Judas threw it at them and went out and hanged himself.  The Chief Priests and the Elders retrieved the scattered pieces of silver; but they vowed they could do nothing with the silver because it was ‘blood money’.  However, they bought a piece of land with the money, a “field”, that would be used to bury the poor, refugees, and foreigners.  This field became known as the Field of Blood.  We hear about this in Acts 1: 18.

Pay close attention to the quotes cited in Acts 1:20. These quotations are from Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8.

In Acts 1:26, they “cast lots…and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.”  In the process of casting lots, marked stones or twigs were thrown or drawn to determine the answer to a question.  The eleven apostles probably cast lots to feel sure that the decision was God’s and not their own.  The number “Twelve” was considered a holy number.  For that reason, the apostles sought someone to replace Judas Iscariot.  With Matthias’ appointment, they were restored to a group of Twelve, just as Jesus had appointed at the start of his ministry.

prayer hands to mark prayerPrayer for the Week: In the joy of resurrection, let’s kneel together and pray our Prayer for the Week—united by the Holy Spirit as the body of Christ in this world.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Come Holy Spirit

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 2:1-36

Pentecost 2

Food for Thought: I know we are jumping ahead a bit in our Liturgical Calendar, but….. let’s stay in order in Acts.  Acts 2 is the account of the Day of Pentecost.  We celebrate Pentecost 50 days after Easter.  The Ascension of our Lord is the 40th Day of the Easter Season.  The Day of Pentecost comes shortly after.

So….. The word pentecost means fifty, so the Easter season end and the Day of Pentecost is celebrated on the 50th day after the Resurrection.  To be thorough, Pentecost, as we celebrate as Christians, coincides with the Jewish Feast of Weeks or Shavuot, that comes fifty days after Passover (see Leviticus 23:10-16).

In Acts 2:4, we see the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise in Luke 24:49.  The disciples are led by the Spirit—not only in what they say, but also in the languages they speak.  This miracle is sometimes seen as the reversal of what happened at the Tower of Babel (see Genesis 11:1-9), when God confused the languages to curb human pride.

Luther SealLet’s ask this question of ourselves today: What is the work of the Holy Spirit?

Lutherans believe that we come to faith, remain in faith, and live our lives of faith by the power of the Holy Spirit.  In his explanation of the Third Article of the Apostle’s Creed, Martin Luther taught, “… The Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with [his] gifts, made me holy and kept me in the faith, just as [he] called, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one common true faith”.  Ask yourself: “How do you see the Holy Spirit at work in your life?”

prayer hands to mark prayer Prayer for the Week: In the joy of resurrection, let’s kneel together and pray our Prayer for the Week—united by the Holy Spirit as the body of Christ in this world.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 2:14-36

Pentecost 3

Food for Thought: In this passage, Peter addresses the crowd on the Day of Pentecost.  Actually, it is far more like he is preaching and teaching to the crowd.  Peter follows a common (and familiar) pattern in this ‘sermon’ that was used by the early disciples.  That pattern is:

  • An explanation of “what was happening”
  • A presentation of the Good News about Jesus Christ, including his death, Resurrection, and Ascension
  • A Call to repentance and baptism.

If you were going to tell someone the Good News about Jesus Christ, what would you say?

prayer hands to mark prayerPrayer for the Week: In the joy of resurrection, let’s kneel together and pray our Prayer for the Week—united by the Holy Spirit as the body of Christ in this world.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 2:37-47

Repent Believe Baptize

Food for Thought: Let’s make some “Gospel connections” with the idea of “repentance”.  To repent means to turn back to God.  This means RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD—DEEP, MEANINGFUL, EVER-GROWING RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.  We, as Lutherans, understand and believe that we are saved by God’s grace and not by any kinds of ‘works’.  ‘Works’ or doing more for Jesus is NOT what we are talking about here.  We are talking about living in faith and flourishing in faith.  We are new creations in Christ.  We are resurrected with Christ as these new creations.  Think of it, like we, as those new creations, are planted as seedlings.  We all know that plants need water and sun, tender care, and “some love”.  We, as these new creations, are watered, given THE LIGHT, shown tenderness, and shown “the love” (GRACE AND MERCY) by God, through Jesus Christ and the Power of the Holy Spirit.  Without God’s “watering” and “nurture”, we will surely not fully ‘live into’ our gift(s) as NEW CREATIONS.

In Verse 42, there is a reference to teaching and fellowship…breaking bread and prayers.  These words describe the DAILY LIFE of these followers of Jesus.  “Fellowship” probably means worship—coming together to praise and worship our Triune God.  “Breaking of bread” may mean sharing meals or the Lord’s Supper—this is community.  When people push back on the relevance of church today, and the coming together into God’s Sanctuary to praise and worship God, I think of this verse.  We are called to meet and show that kind of fellowship and to share in meals together and to share THE MEAL AT CHRIST’S TABLE!!!  I will be so happy when we can do that again!!!

Acts 2 38

prayer hands to mark prayerPrayer for the Week: In the joy of resurrection, let’s kneel together and pray our Prayer for the Week—united by the Holy Spirit as the body of Christ in this world.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 2:14a, 36-41, Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19, 1 Peter 1:17-23, Luke 24:13-35

Food for Thought:

Road to Emmaus

Acts Passage: This passage in Acts for our service tomorrow is the conclusion of Peter’s sermon that he preached following the giving of the Holy Spirit to the apostles on the day of Pentecost.  The center of his preaching is the bold declaration that God has made the crucified Jesus both Lord and Christ.

The Psalm:  The antiphon for our Psalm tomorrow morning is “I will call on the name of the Lord” (Ps. 116:13).

The 1 Peter Passage: The imagery of exile is used to help us understand that we are strangers in a strange land.  We, as Christians, no longer belong to this age.  Through the death of Christ, we belong to God.  This means that our focus in life, our faith and our hope lie solely in God and are no longer on the things of this worldly-world—like riches, possessions, silver or gold!

The Gospel Passage in Luke: This is the colorful story of Jesus’ appearance to two disciples on the road to Emmaus.  This story answers the question of how Jesus is to be recognized among us.  Here, he is revealed through the Scriptures and in the breaking of bread.

There is so much beautiful art that contemplates the Road to Emmaus.  A picture IS worth 1,000 words.  Here are five of those beautiful images:

Road to Emmaus Image A

Road to Emmaus Image B

Road to Emmaus Image C

Road to Emmaus Image D

Road to Emmaus Image E

prayer hands to mark prayer Prayer for the Week: In the joy of resurrection, let’s kneel together and pray our Prayer for the Week—united by the Holy Spirit as the body of Christ in this world.

SEE YOU TOMORROW IN OUR VIRTUAL CHURCH SERVICE!!!!   Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Christ is risen.  Christ is risen indeed!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

WEEK OF APRIL 13, 2020–FIRST WEEK OF EASTER

IntroductionPlease read this short introduction before you read Monday’s devotion.

Happy Easter!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  Christ is risen indeed!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  We celebrated the glorious resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in our Easter Sunday Virtual Service yesterday morning.  Yes, we were bound in the four walls of our homes….. BUT, we were bound together by our Triune God—Father—Risen Son—and Ever-moving Holy Spirit.  The resurrection of our Lord Jesus cannot be bound by any walls or building or anything else.  That is Good News for us.  Resurrection of Christ and resurrection IN CHRIST (for us) are the Good News of the gospel.  I thought it would be beautiful for this week’s devotions if we explore RESURRECTION as presented in the Scriptures.

We hear the words of Jesus as seen in this beautiful image:

John 11 Sun

Let’s start with the dictionary definition of resurrection.  Here is what Merriam-Webster says:

Resurrection [ rez-uh-rek-shuhn]

noun

  • the act of rising from the dead.
  • (initial capital letter) the rising of Christ after His death and burial.
  • (initial capital letter) the rising of the dead on Judgment Day.
  • the state of those risen from the dead.
  • a rising again, as from decay, disuse, etc.; revival.

Jesus talked about resurrection before his death AND resurrection.  In fact, it was his proclamation to die and then rise again that was the only evidence in his trial that proved to carry any weight with the rulers and judges.  Recall our Palm Sunday (main) Gospel reading of the Passion of Jesus Christ (Click here to hear that Gospel reading and to see it presented in images and art.).  In the Gospel of the Passion in Matthew, the only witnesses against Jesus who were deemed credible and who presented any kind of evidence that was considered incriminating, were the two witnesses who claimed that Jesus said he could destroy the Temple and build it back in three days.  Caiaphas, the High Priest, ruled that Jesus had committed blasphemy against God by making this claim.  That was damning evidence in this sham trial against Jesus…. BUT…. little did they understand that Jesus was actually talking about himself [Immanuel—God with us], who would die and then on the third day overcome death in a glorious RESURRECTION!!!  Alleluia!

Jesus by Tomb

Monday, April 13, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: 1 Thessalonians 4:9-18

Food for Thought: Here, Paul was concerned because some of the Thessalonians were grieving over the death of some of their fellow Christians, perhaps resulting from mistreatment on the part of non-Christians.  For believers who were expecting an imminent return of the Lord Jesus, this was difficult to accept.  To alleviate their grief, Paul cites a Christian creed: Jesus died and ROSE AGAIN.  He then affirms that what God has done for Jesus, God will also do for those who die in Christ.  They will live in Jesus.  This is the same promise that we live in today!  Alleluia!  We are resurrected with Christ!

Because He Lives

Little ButterflyPrayer for the Week: God of Resurrection—God of Life, You are Lord of our lives and we kneel to pray and offer you our praise and thanksgiving for all the blessings that you continue to give us.  In our broken lives, you give us life and resurrection with all the physical things that we need to sustain ourselves as fragile beings.  In our broken faith, you restore us and give us resurrection of hope and promise through the death and resurrection of your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.  In our broken spirits, you bind us with your Holy Spirit so that we can live in the warmth and beauty of your promise that you will be with us through all things we face in this life and that you will take us to be with you when we breathe our last in this world.  We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Butterfly Resurrection

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 2:14-33

Food for Thought: Peter’s speech here in Acts includes some Old Testament quotations.  These verses refer to Joel 2:28-32.  Peter uses them to tell how the outpouring of the Spirit is a sign of God’s reign among them (among us!)  Acts 2:25-31 uses Psalm 16:8-11 to emphasize how God worked through Jesus.  Peter’s audience was very familiar with the Jewish Scriptures, so this was all in perspective for them.  Pay particular attention to verse 24, “But God raised him up, having freed him from death [THAT IS THE RESURRECTION THAT WE ARE CELEBRATING AND LIVING “IN” TODAY], because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.”  This is our GOOD NEWS.  We died with Christ as he died for our sin—AND WE ARE RESURRECTED WITH CHRIST IN HIS VICTORY OVER SIN AND DEATH—OUR VICTORY OVER SIN AND DEATH!!!  Alleluia!  [Please note: Some of these verses are included in our Lectionary for this coming Sunday—see you at our Virtual Service!]  HIS VICTORY = OUR VICTORY!!!  Alleluia!

Broken Chains

Little ButterflyPrayer for the Week: Joined together as the body of Christ in the world and bound by the Holy Spirit, let’s get on our knees and lift our prayer of the week together.  We are one in the Spirit—we are one in the Lord!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: 1 Peter 1:3-12

Praise God New Birth

Food for Thought: Pay close attention to the following verses as you read this passage:

Verse 3: The gift of new life, made possible through Christ (his death and RESURRECTION), has changed the identity of this community of believers.  We now live in the age where the truth of resurrection gives us the opportunity to live in hope—to live in the promise of our own RESURRECTION!

Verse 4: For us to come into an inheritance (through Christ Jesus) that is imperishable, undefiled, unfading, kept in heaven for us, and that is protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed to us at the end of our earthly lives, is the strongest promise that could be given to us.  This truly and unequivocally the promise from God that allows us—soothes us—encourages us—to live not in fear, but in lives of hope and assurance that ETERNAL life and LIGHT are just beyond this worldly-world.

Verse 6: Adopting a new identity means enduring the misunderstanding and even animosity of people who consider such a change to be contrary to God’s will.

Verses 8-9: The new birth and new identity are evident in the way the community lives.

Living Hope

Little ButterflyPrayer for the Week: Joined together as the body of Christ in the world and bound by the Holy Spirit, let’s get on our knees and lift our prayer of the week together.  We are one in the Spirit—we are one in the Lord!

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: 1 Corinthians 15:1-23

Power of Resurrection

Food for Thought: This passage presents a debate with the people that ‘pokes at’ their possible UN-belief and contemplate the emptiness of life in UN-belief.  Life and attempt at faith would be useless in a life of UN-belief.  But Paul ‘brings it home’ in the declaration in Verses 20 through 23: “But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead.”  He puts in terms of a factual occurrence.  There were witnesses to the risen Lord after his death.  Paul’s writings are based on primary accounts of what happened.  His words, “IN FACT” carry a weight of authority that supports our life in faith.  We were not witnesses to Christ’s resurrection, nor were we tied to people who could give us eye-witness, primary accounts of Christ’s resurrection.  For us today, the Good News comes right here in the LIVING WORD OF GOD.  We have the only ‘proof’ that we need to LIVE IN FAITH, HOPE, AND PROMISE OF RESURRECTION—CHRIST’S AND OURS!

According to the Scriptures

Little ButterflyPrayer for the Week: Joined together as the body of Christ in the world and bound by the Holy Spirit, let’s get on our knees and lift our prayer of the week together.  We are one in the Spirit—we are one in the Lord!

Friday, April 17, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Romans 6:1-23

United in death like his and in resurrection

Food for Thought: First, let’s consider the importance of baptism in this passage and IN OUR LIVES TODAY!  Let’s ask the question, “How does baptism affect daily life?”  While baptism itself is a one-time action, the struggle with sin is so great that we need to return to the waters of baptism every day as we remember that God has made us God’s own.  Baptism “signifies that the old person in us with all sins and evil desires is to be drowned and die through daily sorrow for sin and through repentance.  On the other hand, every day a new person comes forth and rises up to live before God in righteousness and purity forever”.  We can find these words in our ELW, page 1165.  In his Large Catechism, Martin Luther writes, “Thus a Christian life is nothing else than a daily baptism, begun one [day] and continuing every [day] after.”  Pay close to attention to verses 4-6 in these regards.

Verses 15-23 speak about ‘slaves of sin’ and ‘slaves of righteousness’.  To contrast sin’s power and God’s gift of grace, Paul uses the image of slavery.  Paul believes all people are slaves of some kind.  The only question is who or what we will serve as slaves.  The Good News for us is that God’s grace “is sufficient” for us sinners.

Freed from sin

Little ButterflyPrayer for the Week: Joined together as the body of Christ in the world and bound by the Holy Spirit, let’s get on our knees and lift our prayer of the week together.  We are one in the Spirit—we are one in the Lord!

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 2:14a, 22-32, Psalm 16, 1 Peter 1:3-9, John 20:19-31

Food for Thought: Here we are again, at the end of another week.  Let’s get ready for our Virtual Service in the morning as we contemplate our readings for tomorrow.  We take another detour from our Year A journey in Matthew as we are in the Gospel of John again this week.  One of the key things to consider in this Scripture is the fact that the disciples were still living in fear after the death of Jesus.  They were hiding from the world as their fear was paralyzing them in many ways.  However, Jesus had prepared them for mission in the world after is Ascension back to the Father, so their time of ‘hiding’, when Jesus appeared to them, was about to come to an end.  It would take the PRESENCE OF JESUS in the midst to start to move them from fearful ‘hiding’ to step out in their faith and proclaim the Good News of Christ that his death and resurrection mean!  [By his presence, Jesus shed LIGHT on this situation!]  We encounter the doubt of Thomas in this passage.  It is only after Thomas sees the physical proof that this is really Christ, that he proclaims, “My Lord and my God”.  How many times do we become Thomas when we ‘require’ more of the Lord than we think we are getting?  Does that make us bad?  Does that make us troubled doubters?  We are human and doubt can be healthy WHEN it leads to understanding and a deeper, more-evolved faith.  You heard me talk a little bit about this in our Palm Sunday Sermon/Homily.  (Click here to hear that Sermon.)  Doubt can texture faith when we keep the doubt in check and don’t let it consume our beings.  There is some “Thomas” in all of us!  Jesus met Thomas where he was in his doubt and Jesus does the same for us today!  Alleluia.

Doubting Thomas:

Doubting Thomas

Little Butterfly Prayer for the Week: Joined together as the body of Christ in the world and bound by the Holy Spirit, let’s get on our knees and lift our prayer of the week together.  We are one in the Spirit—we are one in the Lord!

Doubting Thomas Proclaims:

Thomas Believes

WEEK OF APRIL 6, 2020

HolyWeek Heading

Introduction:  Please read these introductory thoughts before you read Monday’s devotion.

It is unbelievable, but here we are at Holy Week.  Time surely flies.  But moreover, with fleeting time, we never know what a day—a week—a month—may bring.  We have all seen the unpredictable and fragile nature of the world we live in.  This year, our Holy Week connections must be through prayer, electronic devices, social media, our website, and yes—Virtual Church for Easter Sunday morning.  None of us—in our entire lifetimes—have ever faced a time when a global pandemic caused us to find creative ways to meet as a church instead of coming into our beautiful Sanctuary and praising God together—especially on Easter—The Resurrection of our Lord!  I missed the community waving palms together in person yesterday as we cheered Jesus entry into Jerusalem.  Our palms were a different kind yesterday, but we had them, and we celebrated that Triumphant Entry for Jesus into Jerusalem with our virtual palms!

How quickly the majesty and laud for Jesus by the crowds would change to shouts of, “Crucify him!  Crucify him!”  “We have no king but Caesar!”  “Release Barabbas and crucify Jesus!”

I love the New Revised Common Lectionary because, for the most part, our Scriptures lead us in a walk with Jesus from Advent through Ascension.  In Holy Week, we walk step-by-step with Jesus to the cross.  It is so personal and profound to make that journey every year.  Spring is popping out.  The forsythia bush in the backyard of the parsonage is blooming.  Resurrection—even in this time of quarantine—is all around us.  Jesus Christ transcends all earthly challenges and obstacles—all doom and gloom.  Jesus Christ is RESURRECTION!  Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.  Let’s continue our walk with Jesus through this Holy Week as we lead up to THE DAY OF RESURRECTION next Sunday morning!

Forsythia

One of my colleagues is a Lutheran pastor in Minnesota.  His name is Steve Thomason.  His church is Easter Lutheran Church.  He is a pastor, a theologian with a Ph.D. in Missional Leadership from Luther Seminary, and he is an artist.  He tells the gospel story through cartoon-like drawings.  These are not for humor, although sometimes, there is humor in the art.  These are serious renditions that purely tell the gospel story through a form of exaggerated caricature art.  I am going to share some of his Holy Week images throughout our devotions this week.

Holy Monday, April 6, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Mark 14: 1-9 and John 12:1-11

Images paralleling the Mark Version of the anointing of Jesus:

Annointing 1

Annointing 2

Food for Thought: In Mark, we hear about a woman anointing Jesus’ head with this very expensive oil—pure nard.  In John’s version, this woman is Mary (sister of Lazarus and Martha).  In both accounts, we hear about the anointing of Jesus with pure nard.  This was a very expensive ointment/oil that was often made as a counterfeit version because of the cost of pure nard.  Both accounts make sure to tell us that this nard was the real deal.  The point is not so much the woman’s name, although in Mark, Jesus does say that what she is doing will define her and the anointing will be what she is remembered for.

More than the differences in the two accounts, let’s focus on the similarities.  There were questions about why this expensive oil was used on Jesus when it could have been used for the poor.  In Mark, the people who were there questioned this, and in John, Judas questions this.  Let’s look at the gospel ‘connections’ in the version in John:

  • The anointing is a connective foreshadowing of the soon-to-come anointing of Jesus’ dead body as a preparation for burial. (By the way, this is also seen in the Mark version AND in the Matthew version).
  • Mary acts out of discipleship, while Judas objects to what he calls wasteful. This contrast goes far beyond Judas’ selfishness in this incident and absence of disciple-like behavior, but moreover points to Judas’ betrayal that is about to happen.
  • Judas is called a thief in the John account. The use of this language recalls a thief trying to infiltrate a herd of sheep by some devious ‘other way’.  Judas, as a thief also foreshadows his coming appearance outside the Garden of Gethsemane, when Judas makes the final act of betrayal, but Jesus is ‘ready’ to confront the thief.
  • In the John account, the Jewish leaders ‘plan’ to put Lazarus to death because of the attention Jesus has gotten by raising Lazarus from the dead. The plot to kill Lazarus is linked to the overall plot to put Jesus to death because he is gaining too much influence and power and is proving to be a real threat to Jewish leaders (and somewhat to the Roman rulers).

Prayer for the Week: Almighty God of all time and space, we humbly kneel before you to lift our prayers—our unending praise—and our thanksgiving for all the blessings of life.  Walk with us—not only in our Lenten and Holy Week journeys, but in every aspect of our lives—every day.  God, we are living in disruptive and uncertain times these days.  This can be terrifying and unsettling to us all.  Give us your peace as we live in the assurance that you are with us always—even to the ends of the earth.  Comfort and heal all those directly infected with this coronavirus.  Strengthen and protect our health care workers and government leaders at all levels.  Keep the rest of us protected as we navigate a new normal.  God, we call on your mighty name to restore order to this world as we look to you and you alone for wholeness.  Keep us connected as the body of Christ as we come together virtually for our Holy Week journey and to praise you together, while apart.  We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Holy Tuesday, April 7, 2020

30 pieces of silver

Scripture for Dwelling: Matthew 26:14-16, Mark 14:10-11, 12-21, Luke 22:3-6.  Then, also please read John 13:21-30

Mark 14:12-21:

Table 1

Food for Thought: As we have often discussed, the Synoptic Gospels are Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  They run (significantly) in parallel in their accounts of the life of Jesus and the Good News of Jesus.  Let’s explore these three short passages today as we read three accounts of Judas Iscariot agreeing to betray Jesus.   All three Synoptic Gospels include the account of Judas deciding to betray Jesus.  All three agree that Judas made his decision and then looked for an opportune time for the actual betrayal.  It is the Luke account that we hear, “Satan entered Judas” and then “he went and conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police as to how he might betray Jesus.”  Luke links this scene with the testing of Jesus in the wilderness in Luke 4:1-13, when Satan left “until an opportune time” had come to tempt Jesus.  The Greek spelling of the Hebrew name ‘Judah’ is Judas, which could mean that this disciple was from Judea.  The name “Iscariot” could be translated “a man who was a betrayer” or “a man who was a liar”.  It was an evil and calculated and conscious betrayal of Jesus by Judas.  This act of evil was a major catalyst in the action of Jesus to be arrested and convicted and crucified.  As cruel as all this seems, this catalyst led to the Passion of Christ that ultimately fulfilled God’s plan for redemption of humankind.

How many times do we either consciously or even unconsciously betray Jesus by things that we think, do, or say, or things that we neglect to do that we should have done?  How many times do we profess, Lord, not I?

Judas bad Judas

Table 2

Prayer for the Week: Connected by the Holy Spirit, please join together in praying our Prayer of the Week during this Holy Week.

Holy Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: John 13:1-17

Foot washing

Food for Thought: Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday.  There are two major things that we commemorate on Maundy Thursday: Jesus washing his disciples’ feet and the Institution of the Lord’s Supper.  Today, let’s contemplate Jesus washing the disciples’ feet and tomorrow, we will look at the Institution of the Lord’s Supper.

Jesus knew that his hour had come.  In this 13th Chapter of John, we see a significant shift in the Gospel story.  In Chapter 12, Jesus is active in his public ministry.  Now, with his public ministry over and the hour of his death fast approaching, Jesus gathers privately with his disciples for what will be their final meal together.

In John 13:1-11, “Jesus began to wash the disciples’ feet”.  Foot washing was a gesture of hospitality that hosts provided to their guests when they entered their homes after traveling the dusty road to get there.  Usually, however, household servants, not homeowners, performed the task.  In John’s Gospel, Jesus washes his disciples’ feet before they eat together.  It is this loving act, rather than the meal, that becomes the central event of Jesus’ farewell supper with his disciples.  This is part of what we call the Farewell Discourse in the Gospel of John.  In this Farewell Discourse, acts of love are pointed to as the mark of discipleship and as signs of the disciples’ relationship with Jesus.  The farewell meal ends with Jesus’ prayer that God’s love will remain present in the world and that the community’s life will be shaped by that love.  This is our call today!

Foot washing 2

Prayer for the Week: Connected by the Holy Spirit, please join together in praying our Prayer of the Week during this Holy Week.

Maundy Thursday, April 9, 2020

Eat this bread

Scripture for Dwelling: Matthew 26:20-25, Mark 14:17-21, Luke 22:14, 21-23

Food for Thought: Today is Maundy Thursday.  We contemplated foot washing yesterday, which was a significant part of Jesus’ last meal with his disciples.  Today, let’s talk about the Institution of the Lord’s Supper.

These three Synoptic Gospel passages give us an account of the original Lord’s Supper.  This is one of our two Sacraments as Lutherans.  As a sacrament, it uses earthly elements of bread and wine with God’s Word, at Christ’s command.  Although the Lord’s Supper began with Jesus and the twelve disciples, it is more than a remembrance of that event.  When we celebrate the sacrament, we are in the presence of Christ.  Martin Luther writes, “It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ himself for us Christians to eat and to drink”.

Colorful Lord's Supper

Prayer for the Week: Connected by the Holy Spirit, please join together in praying our Prayer of the Week during this Holy Week.

Good Friday, April 10, 2020

Jesus is arrested:

Soldiers come to arrest

Jesus is unfairly convicted and sentenced to death by crucifixion:

Crucify HimThe King who was glorified and honored just a few days ago as he triumphantly entered Jerusalem is now mocked as the King of the Jews:

Jesus in the purple

Jesus is crucified on a cross beside two criminals:

Wounded for our transgressions

He was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities; with his stripes WE ARE HEALED:

On cross

Scripture for Dwelling: Mark 15:16-47

Food for Thought: We ask the question in the song, “we’re you there when they crucified my Lord?”  We respond with the words, “Oh, oh, oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble” because we know that we were there when Christ was crucified.  Christ took the weight of the sin of the world to that cross and died for us.  Christ died so that we would not have to.  We live in faith in Jesus Christ and our salvation is justified by the grace of Almighty God to God’s glory.  This is a solemn and sobering day.  I hope you will join me for our Virtual Service of Tenebrae tonight at www.splspokane.org.

Prayer for the Week: Connected by the Holy Spirit, please join together in praying our Prayer of the Week during this Holy Week.

Holy Saturday, April 11, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 10:34-43, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24, Colossians 3:1-4, John 20:1-18

Food for Thought: We have anticipated this glorious Day of Resurrection for weeks and months.  Tomorrow we will celebrate in our Virtual Church that Christ the Lord is risen from the dead!  We will resurrect the Alleluias in our Service.  Yes, we died with Christ and our sins were buried in that tomb.  But the Good News is that we are resurrected to life eternal through Jesus Christ.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

arisen Lord In John, we hear Mary proclaim, “I have seen the Lord”.  Mary and the others were not sure what was happening, but indeed Christ was risen from the dead!  Alleluia!

Prayer for the Week: Connected by the Holy Spirit, please join together in praying our Prayer of the Week during this Holy Week.

WEEK OF MARCH 30, 2020

Introduction:  Please read these introductory thoughts before you read Monday’s devotion.

Sisters and brothers in Christ, I hope this new week finds you doing well and staying healthy!  As we are separated physically with this order to stay at home, we are forever joined as the body of Christ in the world.  No pandemic or anything else can separate us from each other or from the Light of Christ.  Let us live in the Light!  (Recall our discussions about the Gospel of John and how the writer of the Fourth Gospel uses light to signify the presence of God.)  Let us live in the Light and constantly celebrate the presence of God—even in a world turned upside down!

Light

It is so easy to get caught up in the constant news cycle that almost seems to attack us from all angles.  There is Good News in this world, and it is the Light!  The Light gives us hope and promise for a better life and world to come.  The Light gives us hope and promise for Salvation from the darkness of the worldly-world for eternal life in the Light!  Salvation STARTS RIGHT NOW!

Please reflect on the following words of a favorite hymn How Can I Keep from Singing?  Even in the challenges and disruptions that we are currently facing, with God at the helm of the ship of life, how can we keep from singing God’s praises and giving all glory to God.

My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth’s lamentation,
I hear the sweet, though far-off hymn–
That hails a new creation.

No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that refuge clinging
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?

 Through all the tumult and the strife,
I hear that music ringing
It finds an echo in my soul
How can I keep from singing?

What though my joys and comforts die?
I know my Savior liveth.
What though the darkness gather round?
Songs in the night he giveth.

No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that refuge clinging
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?

I lift my eyes, the cloud grows thin
I see the blue above it.
And day by day this pathway smooths,
Since first I learned to love it.

The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart
A fountain ever springing–
For all things are mine since I am his
How can I keep from singing?

No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that refuge clinging
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

Singing

Nothing can shake us—when we look to the Light of the World as our source of life—our being—our all-in-all!

Monday, March 30, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Jeremiah 29:1-14

Plans

Food for Thought: The powerful message beginning in Verse 11 is the promise from the Light of the World that we should never lose sight of.  Our lives are in the hands of God—the ever-reliable hands of God—the all-powerful (Omnipotent) hands of God.  Verse 11 says, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm to give you a future with hope.  Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you.  When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.”

Some people try to “force-fit” Scriptures to accommodate their personal messages.  This is not what we are doing here!!!  This is the Living Word of God that speaks to us TODAY, just as it did in Biblical times.  That is what the Living Word of God is—timeless—relevant—a guiding light for us—even today—ESPECIALLY TODAY—in a world cast with much darkness!  COME, O COME, LIGHT OF THE WORLD AND LIGHT OUR PATHS AS WE PUT OUR FAITH IN YOU—AND YOU ALONE!   

           Pray                               Prayer for the Week: Great and mighty God, all glory and praise be to you.  We thank you for life and breath and all the blessings that you forever give us.  God, there are many things happening around us that have brought our lives to a stand-still—a screeching halt.  God, give us peace and joy—patience and understanding—in these challenging times we face.  God, empower the world leaders, national leaders, State and local leaders—to lead us in truth and in mercy and in respect for all human life.  Give them your wisdom and guide their decisions in ways that follow only your paths for humanity.  Empower and protect the scientists and healthcare workers, doctors, nurses, and all who are helping to take care of sick people and to advance the science to better take care of people infected with this coronavirus.  God, surround your children all over the earth with your mercy and saving grace.  Hold us all tightly in your arms as we look to you as the Light of the world—especially considering all the current darkness and challenges we face in the world.  We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Psalm 42

THE QUESTION:

Why

Food for Thought: Psalm 42 is known as a Psalm that cries out to God and shows longing for God in times of distress.  We, my friends, are facing those times of distress right now….. BUT…… We have the Good News of God outlined in this Psalm.  Many people whose lives are (tentatively) built on the worldly-world, question those of us who put our trust and faith in God, ‘how could any kind of loving God let something like this coronavirus kill this many people, make this many people sick, and disrupt life on the entire planet?  No loving God could do that.’  They question IF “a” God even exists when things like this pandemic spread (literally) across the entire world.  God is alive and well and with us all the way.  Verse 11 asks the question and then gives the definitive answer, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?  Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.”

THE QUESTION IS ANSWERED:

Answer

Prayer for the Week: Together, we kneel to pray our Prayer for the Week.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Isaiah 40:1-17, 25-31

Prepare

Food for Thought: It has not been too many weeks since we read this Scripture in one of our Advent services.  This passage in Isaiah is a very well-known prophetic proclamation of the coming of the Messiah.  The prophecy tells us to “prepare the way of the Lord” and with the coming of Messiah, “the glory of God will be revealed”.  As we were talking on Monday, the Word of God is not simply a record of historical account(s) or even a historical record of prophecies that have clearly already come to pass.  THIS IS THE LIVING WORD OF GOD THAT WE ARE READING!  We prepare our hearts every day for the coming of the Lord.  God comes to us every day—day after day—week after week—year after year.  God meets us where we are—regardless of our circumstances—individually or as a people.  God shows God’s glory to us—even in times of challenge when we do not understand everything that appears to be happening.  Verse 8 is one of my favorite verses, “the grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God will stand forever!”  We live in that eternal promise of our salvific (saving) God—even when times are tough!

Verse 31 has to be one of the most powerful promises in the Bible, “…but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not be faint.”  Holy God, strengthen us in these difficult times in our lives!  Amen!

Eagles

Prayer for the Week: Together, we kneel to pray our Prayer for the Week.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Psalm 121

I lift up mine eyews

Food for Thought: Psalm 121 is a Psalm proclaiming the assurance of God’s protection.  We often hear this passage at funerals and memorials, but this is a promise—not only at times of death—but all the time during times of LIVING!  As we face inevitable uncertainties during this global crisis, let us put our trust and faith in God and God alone!  As Verse 8 promises, “the Lord will watch over our going out and our coming in—NOW [no matter what we face] and FOREVERMORE!

coming out and going in

Prayer for the Week: Together, we kneel to pray our Prayer for the Week.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Romans 15:1-13

hope

Food for Thought: Verse 13 of Romans 15 sums ‘it’ up quite nicely.  When we ‘let’ the trouble of the world create a wedge between us and God, we begin to doubt God.  [Remember the Gospel of John’s ‘light’ and ‘darkness’ analogies, as we, God’s children strive to live in the Light—in the presence of God.]  When we live in faith and hope (even when the hope seems hopeless), there is no wedge and we live in the completeness and peace of God.  Otherwise, the troubles of the world will eat us up!  Good News—God promises not to let that happen as we live with ‘no wedges’ between us and almighty God!

Prayer for the Week: Together, we kneel to pray our Prayer for the Week.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Matthew 21:1-11 (Triumphant Entry), Matthew 27:11-54 (The Passion of Christ)

palms

Food for Thought: Let’s get ready for tomorrow and Palm Sunday (Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem) and Sunday of the Passion (We Remember Christ’s Death on the Cross).  In the beginning of our service tomorrow, we will celebrate the procession—the parade—that marked Jesus’ entry into the City of Jerusalem when the people embraced Jesus and waved palm leaves as he passed by.  They paved the way of his path with those palm leaves as they threw them into the streets.  They were paving the way for Jesus’ walk into arrest, crucifixion, death, and burial.  This was all the further unfolding of God’s plan for redemption of humankind that Jesus’ so freely and lovingly embraced, “Father, not my will, but they will be done.”  We will contemplate the Passion of Jesus Christ in the second part of our service tomorrow.  See you tomorrow in Virtual Church!

crucifixion

Prayer for the Week: Together, we kneel to pray our Prayer for the Week.

WEEK OF MARCH 23, 2020

General Intro–Please Read this section before Monday’s Devotion.

Greetings sisters and brothers in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  These are unsettling days for many, if not most, of us.  Every day, we continue to see and face realities that we have never even imagined.  It is so easy to get caught up in the worldly-world threats and dark clouds that seem to be engulfing us.  LET’S NOT DO THAT!  We have the Good News of Jesus Christ in our hearts.  We are wrapped in the blanket of God’s SAVING GRACE!  We are God’s children and throughout whatever storms we face; God is our strength—our protector—our shield and armor—our SALVATION.  We have ‘all that’ simply for living in faith and believing that God sent his son to the WORLD (all of it!) to live and die so that we could have life—eternal life—everlasting life—everlasting LIGHT!!!

John 3 16

Jesus and Word

No clouds of this worldly-world can overshadow that kind of promise—that kind of commitment that we have from God!

Let’s focus our devotions for this week on faith and God’s assurance that GOD IS LOOKING OUT FOR US—REGARDLESS OF THE STORMS WE FACE!!!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: 1Peter 1:3-10

Living Hope

Food for Thought: Wow!  It seems that this was written today for us in our current world crisis.  Verse 6 puts it all in perspective, “…. Even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”  Yes, as the passage reminds us, we have not seen Jesus, BUT we believe firmly in Jesus Christ.  Even though we have not seen Jesus, we love him with all our hearts and souls.  We believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior—not for the rewards, comforts, treasures, or anything of this worldly-world.  We believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior for an outcome that is priceless and eternal—”salvation of our souls” as the passage says.  Our earthly journeys, with their ups and downs, challenges and good times, times of health and times of sickness, times of economic flourish and economic challenges, are in the hands of our Triune God.  The weight of the worldly-world versus the weight of eternity does NOT EVEN REGISTER ON ANY METER!!!  The worldly-world is like a pin head on the vastness of God’s ever-expanding universe.  Our earthly journeys are simply for God’s purpose.  Beyond this world, we are promised to live in the GLORY OF GOD for eternity!  Let us say to the worldly-world, “Bring it on, worldly-world.  You are no match for our God.  You are temporary and fleeting.  OUR GOD STANDS FOREVER AND WE LIVE IN THE PROMISE TO STAND FOREVER WITH OUR GOD!!!”

pray together                                

Prayer for the Week: God of Creation and God of Nurture, we bow low to lift you high in all our worship, praise, and thanksgiving.  You are our ALL and ALL.  You made us and you keep us—regardless of the trials and challenges we face in this world.  God, when our faith falls into the shadows of doubt by the madness of this worldly-world, show us the Light of the World and remind us that you are our armor and our shield.  God, when we face challenges with rapid and unsettling changes in our day-to-day lives, remind us that you are the only CONSTANT we can count on.  God, when our hearts are sick with pain, grief, suffering of any kind, fear, or confusion, wrap us in your saving grace and remind us that you are God and you hold us in your loving hands.  God, for all our sisters and brothers who are less fortunate than we are—those who are sick, homeless, hungry, or suffering in any way, we lift them into your care and love.  We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: 1 John 5:1-21

victorious life

Food for Thought: Yes, the worldly-world can be very persistent in its assault on humankind.  But, in this passage, we (again!) hear the Good News.  We are assured that “the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” is the one “who conquers the [worldly] world”.  The world stands NO CHANCE when we push back against it with OUR FAITH!  It is “faith in action” in my book.  (That does NOT mean action/works for salvation).  It means that we are LIVING IN FAITH.  LIVING FAITH defines us and grounds us in this life and whatever we face in this life.  Let us celebrate Verse 4, “for whatever is born of God conquers the world”.  Praise God for this promise!!!

Prayer for the Week: In unity, joined together as the body of Christ, let us kneel and pray our Prayer for the Week.

Wednesday, April 25, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: John 6: 22-40

bread

Food for Thought: Chapter 6 in the Gospel of John gives us more promise as we live in faith in Christ Jesus.  In Verse 35, Jesus promises us that he IS the bread of life and that whoever comes to him will never go hungry and whoever believes in him will never be thirsty.  Now, Jesus was talking about the spiritual bread of life and that spiritually we will never go hungry or thirsty when we put our trust—our FAITH—in him and him alone.  However, as we face some empty shelves in the grocery stores and at Costco, etc. etc. etc., we may have some concerns about having enough food and water for the future.  Let us stop right there!  The God who ensures that we are fed with the spiritual bread of life is the same unchanging God that will take care of our physical needs.  We saw God take care of God’s people in the wilderness with holy manna as they wandered in the wilderness.  I am going to “slip” one more Scripture passage in for today.  Please read Matthew 10:29-31.  The God that (by Scripture) knows the number of hairs on our heads (Ouch! I am in the zero percentile!  Not sure is that is good or bad!!??), is the God that has his eyes on us.  As the hymn says, “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.  I sing because I’m happy.  I sing because I’m free.  His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.”

sparrow

Prayer for the Week: In unity, joined together as the body of Christ, let us kneel and pray our Prayer for the Week.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Psalm 119: 25-40

teach us o lord

Food for Thought: We are at a crossroads in our lives—given the current world challenges that we face.  We can either cling to God or be swallowed up by the worldly-world.  Let us go the way that is decreed in Verse 30a, “I have chosen the way of faithfulness”!  When we make the commitment that we hear in Verse 33, “Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes, and I will observe it to the end,” we are committing to cling to the assurance of God over clinging to the frailty of the worldly-world.  Let us cling to our God and live in God’s promises of salvation that is the cry in Verse 38, “Confirm to your servant your promise.”  Our God is ever-reliable!  We can count on God through the challenges of life as we put our trust in God alone!

Prayer for the Week: In unity, joined together as the body of Christ, let us kneel and pray our Prayer for the Week.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Ephesians 3:14-21

pauls prayer

Food for Thought: Paul prays a beautiful and powerful prayer in these verses.  Paul prays that we may be strengthened in our inner being with power through the Holy Spirit.  Let us rise up in these challenging times and seize the opportunity for exercising ‘walking in faith’ and ‘not in fear’.  Paul makes a reference to the infinite love of Jesus Christ in Verses 18 and 19.  The infinite love of Jesus Christ surpasses all understanding, but as we open our hearts in faith, we are filled with the infinite fullness of our God—regardless of what is going on around us!  Peace.

how wide

Prayer for the Week: In unity, let us kneel and pray our Prayer for the Week.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Scriptures for Dwelling: Ezekiel 37:1-14, Psalm 130, Romans 8:6-11, John 11:1-45

Food for Thought: Let’s get ready for tomorrow morning.  Resurrection will be a key theme in our readings tomorrow.  We will get a beloved account in the Old Testament as we visit the Valley of Dry Bones.  The bones are lifeless until the breath of God resurrects the bones to life.

arise

The Gospel passage is one of my favorites.  Jesus comes to the tomb of Lazarus and Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.  Resurrection to life from death only comes by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone!

lazarus

I am the way

Prayer for the Week: In unity, let us kneel and pray our Prayer for the Week.

WEEK OF MARCH 16, 2020

In our Thursday evening service last week, we talked about FAITH ALONE.  The week before that, we discussed GRACE ALONE as our means for salvation.  It is by GRACE ALONE that we are saved through FAITH ALONE.  I thought it would be good to look at profound examples of FAITH in the Bible in our devotions for this week.  As we continue our Lenten journey of REFLECTION AND RENEWAL, let’s explore how renewal of our FAITH helps us live into our desired ‘air-tight’ relationship with almighty God.

ONE HAND REPRESENT US……………………THE OTHER HAND REPRESENTS GOD

Hands

THE CLINCHED HANDS REPRESENT OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD–

                                                         AIR-TIGHT–NO WEDGES

folded hands

 

 

Monday, March 16, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Genesis 18:1-15 (The faith of Abraham and Sarah)

Faith

Food for Thought: Never say never!  It is safe to say that God had chosen Abraham as his agent and leader of God’s people.  God entered into Covenant with Abraham promising him that he would be blessed and would bear children, who would bear children, etc. etc.  God promised that Abraham’s descendants would outnumber the stars in the skies.  God promised to bless those who blessed Abraham and to curse those who cursed Abraham.  There was one small problem with the bearing of children……. Abraham and Sarah were over ninety years old—well-passed what would be considered their child-bearing years.  Sarah even smirked when the angel of the Lord announced that she would have a child.  However, God’s promise came to being.  Their faith became their ‘sight’ in this situation.

Prayer for the Week: Almighty and ever-living God, we praise you.  We honor you.  We worship you.  We lift up our thanksgiving to you.  God, when we feel like the world is crushing us with all the pressures of living and the challenges of navigating this world of mazes, help us be still and know that you are God and that you are our strength and our redeemer.  When we feel like walls are crashing in on us and that nothing we do seems to make a positive difference in our lives, help us be still and know that you are God and that you are our strength and our redeemer.  When we struggle with disappointments and losses—even failures, help us be still and know that you are God and that you are our strength and our redeemer.  God, strengthen our faith as you hold us close in your arms and as you guide us through life and choices.  Strengthen our faith as we cling to you in airtight relationships where neither the world, nor the devil, can pull us away from you—our strength and our redeemer.  We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Exodus 14:10-31 (The Crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites)

Food for Thought: Can you imagine, being faced with a daunting body of water in front of you and an Egyptian army chasing you from behind?  Wow!  When the people of God were faced with two seemingly bad (and even life-ending) choices, God intervened.  Through God’s vessel and agent, Moses, God parted the Red Sea for God’s people to safely pass.  God shielded God’s people from the Egyptians by separating them with a pillar of fire.  Can you imagine taking your first few steps into the bed of the sea with bound waters being held back from swallowing you up on your right and on your left?  This had to have been a scary encounter.  Even so, the people began to walk in FAITH through the dry sea bottom step by step by step until they reached the other side in safety.  This account is an encounter with God’s faithfulness and the people’s faith as they plunged into the unknown as their faith took hold and guided their feet to safety and celebration on the other side of the Sea.

Prayer for the Week: Together, in unity and singleness of mind, let us pray our Prayer for the Week.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Genesis 22:1-19 (The binding of Isaac)

Food for Thought: Abraham had wanted a son of his own so much.  There was a very complicated route for that to actually happen.  However, it did.  Isaac was born to Sarah and Abraham, who were over ninety years old when Isaac was born.  Abraham was bound in Covenant with God and was fully faithful to God.  It was shocking to Abraham when God led him up the mountain to the place of sacrifice and instructed Abraham to bind his young son Isaac—to be sacrificed.  Abraham remained faithful and followed God’s instructions.  It was his only son, but his faith and allegiance to God was stronger than his own feelings toward his young son.  Just when Abraham was about to kill Isaac, as instructed, the angel of the Lord appeared to him and told him not to go through with it.  This was a testing for Abraham.  Abraham lived long in his faith and indeed Isaac was sparked and went on to be a leader of the people also.

Prayer for the Week: Together, in unity and singleness of mind, let us pray our Prayer for the Week.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Psalm 73:23-26, 28

Food for Thought: When people look only to the New Testament for the good news of salvation, they are limiting themselves and their perspectives and their outlook.  This passage today gives us the solid promise that we are never alone and that God is always with us.  God is not simply our companion and guide.  God is our salvation.  I love this passage!

Prayer for the Week: Together, in unity and singleness of mind, let us pray our Prayer for the Week.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Joshua 1:1-9

Be Not Afraid

 

Food for Thought: Walk in faith and not in fear.  As Moses had passed away, God ordained Joshua to pick up where Moses left off.  Joshua was commissioned to lead the people of God into the land that had been promised.  In this passage, God gave Joshua the promise then, and GIVES US THE PROMSIE NOW—that God will never leave us wherever we go.

Prayer for the Week: Together, in unity and singleness of mind, let us pray our Prayer for the Week.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: 1 Samuel 16:1-13, Psalm 23, Ephesians 5:8-14, John 9:1-41

Food for Thought: OK,,,here we are again—let’s get ready for tomorrow.  Baptism is sometimes called enlightenment. The gospel for this Sunday is the story of the man born blind healed by Christ. “I was blind, now I see,” declares the man. In baptism God opens our eyes to see the truth of who we are: God’s beloved children. As David was anointed king of Israel, in baptism God anoints our head with oil, and calls us to bear witness to the light of Christ in our daily lives.  Here are a few nuggets on each Scriptures for tomorrow morning:

  • First Reading: 1 Samuel 16:1-13

Samuel anointed David even though he was the eighth-oldest son of Jesse and did not match his brothers in height or other physical characteristics. With the anointing came endowment with the Spirit of the Lord, designating David as the Lord’s chosen successor to Saul.

  • Psalm: Psalm 23

You anoint my head with oil. (Ps. 23:5)

  • Second Reading: Ephesians 5:8-14

Because we now live in the divine light which is Jesus Christ, we conduct our lives in ways that reflect the light of Christ, so that our activity is truly pleasing to God.

  • Gospel: John 9:1-41

Jesus heals a man born blind, provoking a hostile reaction that he regards as spiritual blindness to the things of God.

I was blind by not I see

Jesus heals blind man

Prayer for the Week: Together, in unity and singleness of mind, let us pray our Prayer for the Week.

WEEK OF MARCH 9, 2020

As we journey together through this Lenten period of reflection and renewal, let’s look in the mirror and take a look at where we are in our faith formation and in our personal “living faith”.  We Lutherans are very clear in our beliefs about salvation.  Martin Luther himself often wrestled with his own salvation and what salvation means.  After years of study and searching and prayerful discernment, Luther understood that salvation can never be earned by works.  We are justified—saved—by the good and merciful GRACE of God.  It is GRACE ALONE that saves us by FAITH ALONE.  We will not ‘get to heaven’ by our actions and deeds and good works.  He understood that the gifts to even be able to do good works come from God to begin with and God alone.  Luther also understood and helps us understand today that there is not a report card for sin by which you achieve the grade of “SAVED” or “NOT SAVED”.  We, as humans, are sinners.  We were.  We are.  We will be.  We cannot help our sinful nature and we will forever fall short of the glory of God.  The restitution for all sin—the redemption of the world full of sinners—past—present—future was paid for by the Cross of Jesus Christ—through his death and glorious resurrection.  As justified (saved) children of God, we are called to “live into” our baptismal covenant and to “live into” our faith in action.  AGAIN—this is not works for salvation.  This is simply not being able to contain ourselves so the works and actions in the Name of God pour out of us as we live to help others and to honor God with all our being.   This week, let’s look at some of the ways can put our faith in action.  Be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Luke 6:27-42

Food for Thought: One of the greatest struggles that we face in our Christian journey is facing the fact that we are sinners and that we make mistakes.  The other half of that is our quickness to judge others.  It seems to be human nature to find it much easier to see the faults in others than it is to see the faults in our own selves.  We often act like we are immune from sin and flaws as we believe that those are something that only others struggle with.  WE ALL STRUGGLE.  While we are sinners, we are SAVED SINNERS and God calls us to live as “changed” beings in our faith and salvation.  We are called not to live by the ways of the world, but by the ways of God.  We are called to reach out to others and to lovingly journey with them—regardless of who they are.  We are NOT called to judge others.  That is God’s job.  These are good words to live by: Judge not, and you shall not be judged.  Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned.  Forgive, and you shall be forgiven.

not perfect

Prayer for the Week: God of love and God of light, All praise—all honor—all glory—all thanksgiving—be to your holy name.  You are our Shepherd and we are the sheep of your pasture.  Holy God, plant the seeds of action in our hearts and in our hands as you lead us to engage in your mission here in the world where we live.  Give us clarity of mind, body, and spirit as we step out into the world as your agents of Good News and loving kindness.  Help us to see others through the lens of faith, love, justice, and compassion.  When we are quick to judge other people, help us see our own shortcomings and our own faith struggles instead of attempting to judge others.  Let us live by the words, “let the one who is without sin cast the first stone”.  God, help us live in humility and discernment of our lives in you.  Help us live in hope and joy and in all the positive, uplifting ways that we can find.  Guide our steps through our Holy Lenten journey and help us to grow and evolve in our faith in you.  Let this be a blessed time of reflection and renewal as we live in the promise of resurrection to come.  We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Luke 10:30-37

reach

Food for Thought: The Samaritan was “different”—an outsider.   The Samaritan was different in how he responded to the beaten and half-dead man on the side of the road also.  In this case, the ‘outsider’ was the one who showed compassion and reached out to take care of his wounded brother.  As we will contemplate on this coming Sunday in another Scripture, who are our Samaritans in the world today?  Who are those that may be “outsiders” and they may be different from us, yet they are among “the good ones” that are willing to reach out and help others in need.  There are so many divisions in our communities—our country—and the world.  The “divides” are deep.  Some of these divisions come from judging the other—the different other.  Some come from bias and prejudice and judgement based on differences (even misunderstood differences) and not on the similarities that we humans have to build on as we seek harmony and unity in life.  Take a look at your own thoughts and possible biases as you contemplate these questions, “Who are the Samaritans in my life?”  “How am I going to reach out to the Samaritans in my life and understand that we are far more alike than different?”

Prayer for the Week: Let us kneel together to pray our Prayer for the Week.  As we join together, God will join us and unify us as the body of Christ in this church and in this community and in this world, where we are called to serve.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

love

Scripture for Dwelling: John 15:9-13

Food for Thought: The opposite of judgment and bias is love and compassion.  In this passage today, we are called to contemplate the depths of love that Christ showed to us.  Then, in our Lenten time of reflection and renewal, we can also look at ourselves and contemplate the depth of our love for others, how we are called to live out our love for others, and how we are GOING TO live out that love for others.  God loved us so much that God gave his only Son to die for us (you and me and all people) so that we may have everlasting life.  We just read John 3:16 last Sunday morning in our service.  That is the ultimate show of love.  But we must still ask ourselves, how are we going to live out our love for others in this world?

Prayer for the Week: Let us kneel together to pray our Prayer for the Week.  As we join together, God will join us and unify us as the body of Christ in this church and in this community and in this world, where we are called to serve.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Luke 5:33-39

Food for Thought: Jesus came to be with us on this earth and he brought a new kind of message.  The gospel—the Good News—that Jesus brought and lived out was different from what the people had experienced and understood in the past.  The new garment and the new wine skins represent this new Good News that Jesus proclaims.  He comes to love others and teach them how to love others, while still preserving the earlier traditional teaching to love God above all.  Jesus’ love manifests in his teaching, preaching, driving out demons, healing, resurrecting the dead, and even dying on a cross to be raised to NEW LIFE AGAIN.

Prayer for the Week: Let us kneel together to pray our Prayer for the Week.  As we join together, God will join us and unify us as the body of Christ in this church and in this community and in this world, where we are called to serve.

Friday, March , 13, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Mark 5:20-25

Food for Thought: There are two big lessons here: 1-Faith matters, and 2: When we pray, we need to pray with clean hands and clean hearts.  Let’s chat for a moment about prayers.  Jesus makes it clear that our conflicts, tension, and struggles with others matters when we come to pray.  We are counselled by Jesus to ensure that we have sought forgiveness and resolved differences with others before coming to God in prayer.

Prayer for the Week: Let us kneel together to pray our Prayer for the Week.  As we join together, God will join us and unify us as the body of Christ in this church and in this community and in this world, where we are called to serve.

clean hands and heart

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Exodus 17:1-7, Psalm 95, Romans 5:1-11, John 4:5-42

Food for Thought: Let’s get ready for tomorrow.  The woman at the well is a familiar text for many people. This image of Jesus standing at a well talking with a Samaritan woman is emblazoned in our visual and theological imaginations, but as with all Bible stories that we think we know, we might do well to take another look! Perhaps relegating this text to the simple moralism “be nice to people who are different” causes us to miss how deeply radical and difficult the message really is. We may assume this gospel simply urges us to stand with the marginalized, especially women. Yet while standing with marginalized women is a commendable action it can lead us, after doing so, to congratulate ourselves for being just like Jesus. A more critical and searching look at this text calls us to the reality that Jesus doesn’t just stand with the other, Jesus stands with your other; your church’s other. Your church’s “Samaritans” may be homosexuals, evangelicals, urban people, rural people, conservatives, liberals, the poor, the rich, the dying, or single parents. Your church’s Samaritans could very well be the key to this text. Because, like it or not, when we draw lines between ourselves and other people, Jesus is always on the other side of that line. So communities and individuals who thirst for the living water would do well to look to who our own Samaritans might be. And when we find them we should perhaps not be surprised to also find Jesus; a Jesus we thought was all our own but who, in reality, is the living water who comes to us in the strange and the stranger.

Water from the rock in the wilderness

Let us shout for joy to the rock of our salvation. (Ps. 95:1)

Reconciled to God by Christ’s death

Baptismal image: the woman at the well

Prayer for the Week: Let us kneel together to pray our Prayer for the Week.  As we join together, God will join us and unify us as the body of Christ in this church and in this community and in this world, where we are called to serve.

WEEK OF MARCH 2, 2020

Welcome to Lent!  This is a beautiful and powerful time of reflection and renewal.  Lent is the forty days before Easter that we begin on Ash Wednesday.  Sundays are not “technically” counted in the those forty days.  We have five Sundays in Lent and then we celebrate Palm Sunday.  Then…… one week after Palm Sunday, we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord on Easter Sunday!  During the sermon on Sunday (the First Sunday in Lent), we contemplated the testing or temptation of Jesus Christ in the wilderness.  I thought it would be a good idea to dig a little deeper into thoughts about that testing/temptation to start off our devotions for this week.  There are MANY echoes of the Old Testament in our Gospel Passage from yesterday.  I have included that passage here for your easy reference.  As you read these devotions and see how these Old Testament readings are reflecting in this Gospel reading, how do you see these OT passages speaking to Jesus during this period of testing and how are they speaking to us today?

Matthew 4:1-11 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) The Temptation of Jesus

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone,  but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”  Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” 11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Genesis 22:1-19

Food for Thought: Some biblical interpreters see a likely OT echo in Genesis 22 (See 22:2) between Abraham being led “up” the mountain with his only son Isaac, just as Jesus, God’s only Son, was led “up” the mountain by the Spirit to be tested/tempted in the wilderness.  Abraham’s journey on the top of the mountain leads to the binding of Isaac and the “near” obedient sacrifice of the boy by his faithful father Abraham.  Jesus, God’s only Son, was led up the mountain to endure these temptations/testings, which are part of a definitive path that leads to Jesus’ ultimate death AND RESURRECTION.  God intervened before Isaac was sacrificed.  God built a nation on Abraham, Isaac, and their descendants.  Jesus ultimately WAS sacrificed, BUT the RESURRECTING POWER of ALMIGHTY GOD again intervened as Christ broke the bonds of death in resurrection.  Yes, we die with Christ, and YES, we are resurrected with Christ.

Prayer for the Week: Mighty God, Father and Creator, our words are not enough to show you the praise and thanksgiving that we owe you for life and all the blessings that you give us.  We praise you and thank you for the gift of salvation that you have freely given us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord.  God, this world is tough.  There are always challenges and potholes in life that stretch our human understanding and abilities.  Lord, give us patience and understanding—courage and resilience— to walk through those challenging times that affect our fragile lives.  There are always worldly “things”, people, and attractions that pull us away from our devotion to you and our engagement in your mission here on the earth.  Lord, forgive us when we fall into the trappings of the world and neglect the things that you would have us focus on and the things that you would have us do.  We do understand that our work and the work of the church is your mission and we are simply your hands to carry it out your mission.  Lord, bless us and keep us and make you face to shine upon grace and give us your peace.  We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Deuteronomy 8:1-10

Food for Thought: Obedience to God is the theme at the beginning of this passage.  God led God’s people forty YEARS in the wilderness as a way to “test” them and to humble them—testing to see what was in their hearts, as the Scripture reads.  Then the Scripture talks about feeding the people with manna, which was an unfamiliar source of nourishment to them—to show them, again, as the Scripture says, that one does not live by bread alone.  These are shadows of this passage in the temptation of Jesus passage as Jesus is led up for forty DAYS into the wilderness.  When Jesus was confronted by the devil to turn the stones into bread to satisfy his hungry stomach, Jesus replied, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”.  These are amazing connections and parallels between the Old Testament events and what is happening in the life of Jesus in the New Testament.

Prayer for the Week: Together—let us pray our Prayer for the week.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Deuteronomy 7:1-26

Food for Thought: This is the full Chapter 7.  I know it is a little long, but please try to read the whole chapter.  In this chapter, we see how Jesus responded to his second encounter with the devil.  He tells the devil that it is never ‘right’ to test God.

Prayer for the Week: Together—let us pray our Prayer for the week.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Deuteronomy 8: 11-20

Food for Thought: This is the scriptural basis for Jesus’ response to the devil in his third encounter.  Verse 11 clearly tells us to ensure that we do not pull away from God.  We are told to keep his commandments.  We are commanded not to “put” any other gods above our one true God.  We are commanded to serve only the one true God.  We are also counselled in this passage to clearly understand that the blessings and “wealth” that we have is NOT a result of our own efforts and our own merit.  These gifts come only from God.

Prayer for the Week: Together—let us pray our Prayer for the week.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: 1 Chronicles 21:1, Job Chapters 1-2, Zechariah 3:1-2

Food for Thought: Jesus was tempted by the devil in this passage on the temptation/testing.  How do you envision what the devil is?  Do you envision a cloud of evil or is the devil embodied in a form that resembles a human?  People often ask, “Is the devil real?”  “Does the devil actually exist?”  A lot of people have a hard time getting their heads around the fact that evil is embodied in a being that could be called Satan.  I would have to say that we have evidence in the Bible that the devil is real and indeed exists.  In our gospel passage, we meet the same character under three different names.  In verse 1, we see a reference to “the devil”.  In verse 3, we see a reference to “the tempter”.  And, finally, in Verse 10, Jesus tells “Satan” to get out of the way.  We also have scriptural references that called the devil “Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons”, “the evil one, the Hebrew term “opponent”, and the Greek term “accuser”.  It can be confusing when we contemplate the embodiment of evil as Satan, but I personally believe that this is the case.  Yes, in my book, Satan is real and “loosed”.  I see Satan as having total hostility to God and to God’s people.  However, I see Satan to be subordinate to the ultimate sovereignty of God.  Matthew reflects that tension in this gospel passage on the temptation/testing of Jesus.  Matthew shows us the devil’s intention to “tempt” Jesus to do wrong, but under the umbrella of God’s good purpose to “test” his Son.

Prayer for the Week: Together—let us pray our Prayer for the week.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Genesis 12:1-4, Psalm 121, Romans 4:1-5, 13-17, John 3:1-17

Food for Thought: LET’S GET READY FOR OUR SERVICE TOMORROW MORNING AND THE SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT.  Here are some thoughts on each of reading for tomorrow morning:

Genesis: God’s call of Abram and Sarai has a clear purpose—that through them all the families of the earth would gain a blessing.  As they set out on their journey, they are accompanied by promises of land, nation, and a great reputation.

The Psalm: I lift up my eyes to the hills; my help comes from the Lord.

Romans: In the person and example of Abraham, we discover that a right relationship with God does not involve earning a reward from God but entails trusting God’s promises.  Abraham is the forebear and model for both Jews and Gentiles, because we, too, trust that our is a God who gives life to the dead.

John: A curious Pharisee visits Jesus by night to learn from the teacher his friends reject.  Jesus speaks to him about life in the Spirit and the kingdom of God.

Prayer for the Week: Together—let us pray our Prayer for the week.

WEEK OF FEBRUARY 24, 2020

So often, I find people who say that the Holy Spirit is the most mysterious member of the Triune God in their eyes.  There has been increased interest and awareness of the Holy Spirit in our Lutheran Churches over the past decade.  This has created a kind of enthusiasm in worship and study that (honestly) can only come from the Holy Spirit.  Renewed interest in the Holy Spirit is visible in at least three contexts:

  1. Individual Christians who hunger for a deeper connection with God that is inclusive of all of life as well as the needs of the world.
  2. The church that seeks to renew itself through life-giving disciplines and a return to sources.
  3. The formal inquiry of academic philosophy and theology.

In effect, one can hear the petition, “Come Creator Spirit” on many lips these days.

Picture1

The Holy Spirit is not out there just for the sake of an academic study—as important as that may be.  Today, many Christians desire to encounter the Holy Spirit who brings new life to their spirits in the concrete circumstances of their lives and who renews the face of the earth as we make our way through this third millennium.  The Holy Spirit is God, God’s divine energy that permeates all life and everything in the cosmos.  The Holy Spirit is also the most intimate “contact point” between the triune God and human beings.  There is also a deep experience of the Holy Spirit—at times mystical and at times charismatic.  The Holy Spirit manifests (sometimes) as the mighty rushing wind and at (other) times in the most subtle breeze.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Genesis 1:1-2, John 3:1-10

Food for Thought: In Genesis 1, pay close attention to verse 2.  Verse 2 makes a clear reference to the Holy Spirit.  In some translations, you read “the Spirit of God” and in our NRSV version you read “a wind from God”.  The basic biblical terms ruach (Hebrew), in the Old Testament, and pneuma (Greek), in the New Testament also mean: “breath”, “air”, and “wind”.  Other metaphors used for the Spirit are fire, dove, and Paraclete.  When going pneumatology, or the doctrine of the Spirit, one should proceed cautiously and “softly” in order not to oversystemize or imprison the Spirit that “blows where it chooses” as we read in our John verse.

Picture2

Prayer for the Week: Holy God—Creator and Keeper of Life, we kneel before you this day to lift our praise—lift our thanksgiving—lift our prayers to you.  Holy God, when we are paralyzed by the rigidness of this world, send your Holy Spirit to disrupt that paralysis and move us in the direction you would have us go.  When we are bogged down in fear and worry of worldly things and the burdens of this life, send your Holy Spirit to come over us like a blanket and give us peace that we can only know through you.  When we are locked in our four walls as a church and have trouble reaching out to our community with the gospel message of Jesus Christ, send your Holy Spirit to free us of the internal chains that can easily bind us and give us wings to literally fly into our community proclaiming your Good News.  When we feel guilt and shame and hopelessness because of sin in our lives, send your Holy Spirit to comfort us and lift us up to know that we are saved by your Grace through our faith and not by the works of this world.  When we feel like we are at the end of our rope and cannot face another day, send your Holy Spirit to stir our lives into hope, optimism, purpose, and service for you.  We are your hands in this world.  We are your vessels to carry out your mission in this world.  Your Holy Spirit is our fire and energy to do just that.  Come, Holy Spirit, come to us.  We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Genesis 1:1-2, Isaiah 11:2, and Genesis 2:7, Psalm 104:30, Psalm 104:29

Food for Thought: The Old Testament contains about one hundred references to the Spirit of God (Genesis 1:2: “a wind from God”; Isaiah 11:2: “the spirit of the Lord . . . wisdom . . . counsel . . .  knowledge”).  From the beginning of the biblical narrative, the Spirit’s role in creation as the principle of life comes to the surface.  The same Spirit of God that participated in creation over the chaotic primal waters (Genesis 1:2) is the principle of human life as well (Genesis 2:7).  This very same divine energy also sustains all life in the cosmos.

When you [Yahweh] send forth your Spirit (ruach), they are created; and you renew the face of the ground (Psalm 104:20).  Similarly, when [Yahweh] takes away their breath (ruach) they die and return to dust (Psalm 104:29).

The charismatic, empowering function of the divine ruach over the leaders of the people of Israel is narrated historically in the Old Testament.  Part of the empowerment of the Spirit is bringing about specific capacities, such as those of the craftsman’s skill (Exodus 31:3), the prophet’s vision (Ezekiel 3:12; 8:3; 11:1), or extraordinary wisdom (Daniel 6:3).

Prayer for the Week: Let’s join together in this prayer.  We are one in the Spirit—we are one in the Lord.  God hears us when we pray.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Jesus’ birth: Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:35; baptism Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22; John 1:33), testing in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1; Mark 1:12, Luke 4:1), and ministry with healings, exorcisms, and other miracles (Matthew 12:28; Luke 4:18; 11:20

Food for Thought: The Synoptic Gospels of the New Testament offer an authentic, thick Spirit-Christology at Jesus’ birth and baptism, at his temptation in the wilderness, and into his ministry here on earth.  Read these verses (they are quick to find since they are all in the Gospels and quick to read).  Take note of how the Holy Spirit is moving and working in each account.

Prayer for the Week: Let’s join together in this prayer.  We are one in the Spirit—we are one in the Lord.  God hears us when we pray.

Picture3

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 2:1-3, Joel 2:28-29, Acts 2:28-29, Acts 4:31; 8:15-19; 10:44-47; 19:1-7, 1 Corinthians 12:1-3

Food for Thought: The transforming power of the Spirit is evident in the life of the early church.  On the day of Pentecost, a powerful outpouring of the Spirit signaled the birth of the church in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy.  The communities of the book of Acts received the Spirit with visible signs.  Those signs were taken as the evidence of the work of God.  Often at pivotal moments in the life of an individual or the church, the Holy Spirit was looked on as the source of EXTRAORDINARY POWER.  The Spirit empowered and directed the early church in her mission, often with the help of a special authority given to the leadership of the community.

Prayer for the Week: Let’s join together in this prayer.  We are one in the Spirit—we are one in the Lord.  God hears us when we pray.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Romans 1:4, Romans 8:9, Galatians 4:6, Philemon 1:19, Romans 8:15

Food for Thought: Similarly to the Gospels, Paul has a robust Spirit-Christology.  Jesus was raised to new life by the Spirit as we read in Romans.  The Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, as we read in Romans, Galatians, and in Philemon.  Therefore, it is only through the Spirit that the believer is able to confess that “Jesus is Lord” as we read in 1 Corinthians.  Similarly, the Abba prayer of the children of God is work of the Spirit as we read in Romans.  To be “in Christ” and “in the Spirit” are virtually synonymous.  So, the Spirit cannot be experienced apart from Christ (See 1 Corinthians 12:3).  At times the integral connection between the Spirit and Christ is so close that Paul speaks of Christ as “a life-giving Spirit” (see 1 Corinthians 15:45).

Prayer for the Week: Let’s join together in this prayer.  We are one in the Spirit—we are one in the Lord.  God hears us when we pray.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7, Psalm 32, Romans 5:12-19,              Matthew 4:1-11

Picture4

Food for Thought: Tomorrow is the First Sunday in Lent.  Let’s get ready for our service tomorrow.  Here are some thoughts about each of our Scripture passages for tomorrow morning:

  • Genesis: Human beings were formed with great care, to be in relationship with the creator, creation, and one another. The serpent’s promise to the first couple that their eyes would be opened led, ironically, to the discovery only that they were naked.
  • The Psalm: The Theme is “Mercy embraces those who trust in the Lord”. (Ps. 32:10)
  • Romans: Through Adam’s disobedience, humanity came under bondage to sin and death, from which we cannot free ourselves. In Christ’s obedient death, God graciously showers on us the free gift of liberation and life.
  • Matthew: Jesus experiences anew the temptations that Israel faced in the wilderness. As the Son of God, he endures the testing of the evil one.

Prayer for the Week: Let’s join together in this prayer.  We are one in the Spirit—we are one in the Lord.  God hears us when we pray.

WEEK OF FEBRUARY 17, 2020

As I have said many times in these months we have experienced together, the writings and teachings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer really resonate with me.  In my book, he is likely the most profound theologian that truly speaks to me as a Lutheran.  Now—yes, indeed, Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran.  However, his teachings and writings transcend denominational confinements.  He speaks to the Christian heart and what authentic (yes—THE REAL DEAL) faith, discipleship, love forgiveness, service and obedience are.  I thought we could spend this week reflecting on some more of the thoughts of Bonhoeffer in our devotions.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Ephesians 5:1-20

Food for Thought: As we hear in verse 14, “Sleeper, awake!  Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you!”  Every day is an opportunity to strengthen our relationship with God and to make a stronger effort to bring Christ, the Light of the World, to this world ‘in’ darkness.  For Christians, the beginning of the day should not be burdened with and haunted by the various kinds of concerns that we face during the working day.  The Lord stands above the new day because God has made the new day.  All the darkness and confusion of the night gives way to the clear light of Jesus Christ—the Light of the World.  All restlessness, all impurity, all worry and anxiety FLEE BEFORE GOD.  This is the day that God has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Prayer for the Week: Almighty and merciful Father, we raise our prayers to you in praise and thanksgiving.  God, give us clarity in our lives to see you—to experience you—to know you—truly know you as the Lord and Savior that you are for us.  God, help us be honest and realistic in our lives and actions as we follow Jesus’ commands to love you with our whole heart and to serve others over our own selfish desires.  God, set our hearts and spirits on fire for you as we live the good news of your gospel in this world.  God, give us the courage, desire, commitment, and understanding to go into the world as your witnesses to others.  Help us carry your good news into the world in ways that will help bring others into the body of Christ in this community and the world.  When we are tired or discouraged, give us new life and new energy.  When we are disappointed and feel like giving up, give us a rededication to your mission in this world.  We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Galatians 6:1-10

Food for Thought: It is true that only the sufferings of Christ are a means of atonement for sin.  But, since Christ suffered and bore THE SIN OF THE WHOLE WORLD, and because Christ shares with his followers the fruits of his passion, it is inescapable that we, Christians, must face temptations in our everyday lives.  This means that we, too, must bear the sins of others.  We could not bear this kind of burden without the support of Christ, the one who bore the sins for all.  The passion of Christ strengthens us to overcome the sins of others by FORGIVING them.  He becomes the bearer of our burdens and the burdens of others and calls us to do the same.  “Bear one another’s burdens, and fulfill the law of Christ”—as we read in verse 2 of our passage.  The call to follow Christ always means a call to share the work of forgiving others their sins.  Forgiveness is the Christlike suffering which it is the Christian’s duty to bear.

forgive

Prayer for the Week: TOGETHER WE PRAY—In unity, let us kneel and pray our Prayer for the Week.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: John 13:31-34

Food for Thought: What does it mean to be a Christian congregation in addition to regularly coming together for worship, prayer, and fellowship?  The one thing that is above all for a congregation is what Jesus is telling us in this passage: “Love one another”.  Not just as a body that gathers together, but as the BODY OF CHRIST IN THIS WORLD, we are transformed by the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit moves in us and through us and compels to love one another and to freely forgive.  If we cannot or will not do that, then we are shutting off the Holy Spirit, which is not a good thing to do.

love one another

Prayer for the Week: TOGETHER WE PRAY—In unity, let us kneel and pray our Prayer for the Week.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: 1Corinthians 1:1-13

Food for Thought: Today, we pick up where we left off yesterday—with the wonderings about what love means and how we are called, as Christians, to unconditionally love ‘the other’.  In this beloved and very familiar passage, we get the bottom-line summation for life.  If we do not have LOVE, we have nothing.  But…consider this:  Love without faith is like a river without a source.  That would mean we could have love without Christ.  Faith alone justifies us before God.  Hope directs our attention to that end…. And LOVE perfects.

without love

Prayer for the Week: TOGETHER WE PRAY—In unity, let us kneel and pray our Prayer for the Week.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Matthew 24:13, Luke 8:15, James 1:3, and Revelation 1:9, Hebrews 12:2

Food for Thought: The significance of patience in the New Testament is quite striking.  Only the patient person received the promise (Matthew 24:13), only the patient person brings forth good fruit (Luke 8:15).  A faith which does not become patience is inauthentic, unusable.  Faith must be proved.  It can only be proved in suffering.  Only suffering and endurance will produce the “perfect work” (James 1:3).  If we remember that the word faith already contains the elements of faithfulness, we will not be surprised at the close connection between faith and patience.  There is patience only “in Jesus” (Revelation 1:9) for Jesus was patient as he bore the cross.  Hebrews 12:2 describes Jesus’ way of the cross as a way of endurance and patience.  For us, endurance means to stand in the fellowship of Christ’s suffering and thereby to gain assurance.  If we share in the patience of Jesus, we ourselves become [more] patient and we [finally] have a share of his Kingdom.

patience

Prayer for the Week: TOGETHER WE PRAY—In unity, let us kneel and pray our Prayer for the Week.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Exodus 24:12-18, Psalm 2, 2 Peter 1:16-21, Matthew 17:1-9

Food for Thought: Let’s prepare for tomorrow morning’s service.  Tomorrow is the Transfiguration of Our Lord.  This is the Last Sunday after Epiphany and we enter the season of Lent on Wednesday with our Imposition of Ashes and Holy Communion Service.  Here are few comments for each of the Scriptures for tomorrow…

Exodus 24:12-18

At Mount Sinai, Moses experienced the presence of God for forty days and forty nights. The “glory of the Lord” settled on the mountain, and on the seventh day God called out to Moses. On the mountain God gave Moses the stone tablets inscribed with the ten commandments.

Psalm 2:

Theme: You are my son; this day have I begotten you. (Ps. 2:7)

2 Peter 1:16-21

At the transfiguration, God’s voice was heard, declaring Jesus to be the beloved Son. By the activity of the Holy Spirit, God’s voice continues to be heard through the word of scripture.

Matthew 17:1-9

Shortly before he enters Jerusalem, where he will be crucified, Jesus is revealed to Peter, James, and John in a mountaintop experience of divine glory called the transfiguration.

Prayer for the Week: TOGETHER WE PRAY—In unity, let us kneel and pray our Prayer for the Week.

THE TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR LORD

Trans

 

WEEK OF FEBRUARY 10, 2020

Last week, our devotions were centered around how God rescues us from worry if we put all our trust in God and refuse to let the worry ‘of the world’ take over our lives.  Last week we highlighted four ways to put our worries to work for us, including:

  1. Letting worry turn our attention to God and away from the world.
  2. Letting worry turn us to the words of Jesus Christ.
  3. Turning worry into prayer.
  4. Turning worry into practical choices.

We read scriptures and contemplated thoughts about the first two of these—letting worry turn our attention to God and away from the world AND letting worry turn us to the words of Jesus Christ.

This week let’s begin the weekly devotions by focusing on number 3 and number 4 of this list—turning worry into the prayer and turning worry into practical choices.  Then later in the week, we will turn our focus to the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Philippians 4:4-9—Pay special attention to Verse 6!

Food for Thought: Few of us have endured the kind of problems encountered by the Apostle Paul.  Yet in spite of all the threats on his life, the beatings, and the imprisonments, he wrote to the Philippians, “Be anxious for nothing!”  There are three words used by Paul in Philippians 4:6 that describe what we are to do instead of worrying.  These include:

  • Prayer—when we pray, we consciously express our awareness of God’s greatness, goodness, and presence. Recognizing God as our sovereign Lord, we bring our anxious concerns and worries to Him.
  • Supplication—Next, Paul uses the word supplication, or request. These are our earnest desires, our desperate cries for help—cries for ourselves and for others.  When we worry, we need to take that worry to God and ask for God’s help and guidance.
  • Thanksgiving—Sometimes we become so concerned with our problems that we forget the gracious ways God has worked in the past in our lives. We fail to see that God has dealt with us according to God’s grace and mercy and has met so many of our needs.  It helps to calm us when we remember how Go has cared for us in the past.  When we trust in God with our cares, we can thank God for being the kind of God who loves us, understands our problems, and has the power to answer our prayer.

Prayer for the Week: God of grace and God of glory, we lift up your Holy Name as we kneel to pray.  All praise and honor be to you.  We offer our thanksgiving for all the blessings of life that you so freely shower on us—day after day.  Give us discipline and commitment to focus on you and your purpose for our lives as we cast the worry of this world aside and make you our priority.  We ask for your wisdom and guidance as we often struggle to know the direction that you would have us move in this world—as individuals and as your church.  Send your Holy Spirit to stir our lives and move us in the paths that you choose.  Give us hearts for others and show us the ways to reach out to the others in need.  Hold us close as we pray for ways that we can connect with others in our community as we bring your Light to them.  Give us strength and courage to serve you and beam brightly with the Good News of your Gospel in the world.  We pray these things in the Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God—now and forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: 1 Peter 5:1-14 (we read 6-11 last week, but we will read these again since these are critical to our focus points!)  Focus especially on Verse 6-7.

Food for Thought: Peter wrote to people undergoing intense persecution and offered an alternative to worry, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you”.  There are two steps involved in this process:

  1. We must accept what we cannot change. Instead of emotionally unraveling, or avoiding reality by denying our worry, we can humbly accept that these circumstances are a part of life.  We need to have an appropriate sense of who we are, and then be willing to accept as much or as little as God gives us at any given time.  This makes me think of AA Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept THE THINGS I CANNOT CHANGE, the courage to change THE THINGS I CAN, and the wisdom TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE.
  2. We should “give to God” what we cannot change. Peter’s words also encourage us to put our helpless feeling of worry into those same all-powerful hands.  He urges us to cast our cares on God, entrusting ourselves to the One who cared for us to send His only Son to die for us SO THAT WE MIGHT LIVE FOREVER!

Prayer for the Week: Let’s kneel together and pray our Prayer for the week.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: John 3:1-16

Food for Thought: Verse 6 of this passage tells us, “What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.”  We were all born as human beings in this world—dust we are to dust we shall return.  But…as Christians, at our baptism, we were also born of the Spirit.  Just as the “alighting” of Christ’s spirit occurred at his baptism—and the Spirit remained upon him, we too experience this “alighting” at our own baptism and the Holy Spirit remaining with us.  The Holy Spirit, moves and guides and inspires us in our lives.  When we are absorbed in the “worldly world” (as we talked last Sunday), we can shut the Holy Spirit out.  This is a serious form of blasphemy.  We are called to be open to the power and movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  We are called to follow the path(s) where the Holy Spirit leads.  This all begins with surrender of our own will to the peace and power of the Holy Spirit and seriously engaging in a healthy prayer life.

Prayer for the Week: Let’s kneel together and pray our Prayer for the week.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Romans 8:1-8

Food for Thought: Two of our slogans for the ELCA are WE ARE CHURCH, and WE ARE LUTHERAN!  Pay particular attention to Verse 3 and 4 of our passage today.  These are very important verses that are two of the foundational verses for our Lutheran theology.  We, as Lutherans, believe that we cannot “work” our way into heaven (or achieve Salvation by works).  We believe that we are justified (have Salvation) by Grace Alone through Faith Alone in Jesus Christ Alone as built on the Word of God Alone to the Glory of God Alone!  We believe that the WORK for Salvation was already done on the Cross by Jesus and that our “works” on this earth do not “earn” Salvation for us in any way.  However, with the Holy Spirit stirring in us and through us, we also believe that the “works” will pour out of us like flowing water because we are bound and sealed as justified believers and consequently will not be able to contain that flow of  “works”.  Praise God!

Prayer for the Week: Let’s kneel together and pray our Prayer for the week.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Isaiah 44:1-8

Food for Thought: We clearly see the Holy Spirit present and moving in the Old Testament.  Pay special attention to verses 3 and 4 in today’s passage.  This is God’s promise to bless God’s people by pouring out His Holy Spirit on the descendants of the Godly people.  With this pouring out of the Spirit, there will be blessings that spring up like majestic trees that are planted in fertile ground by nurturing streams of water.

Prayer for the Week: Let’s kneel together and pray our Prayer for the week.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Isaiah 58:1-9a [9b-12], Psalm 112:1-9 [10], 1 Corinthians 2:1-12 [13-16], Matthew 5:13-20

Food for Thought: Let’s get ready for tomorrow morning.  These are our readings for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany.  Here are a few thoughts for each of these Scriptures:

  • Isaiah: Shortly after the return of Israel from exile in Babylon, the people were troubled by the ineffectiveness of their fasts. God reminds them that outward observance is no substitute for genuine fasting that results in acts of justice, such as feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, and clothing the naked.
  • The Psalm: Light shines in the darkness for the upright (Psalm 112:4).
  • The Epistle: Though people such as the Corinthians are enamored with human philosophy and wisdom, Paul continuously presents God’s hidden wisdom which is Jesus Christ crucified. True spiritual maturity involves judging ourselves and understanding others in light of God’s revelation in the cross.
  • The Gospel Reading: In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus encourages his followers to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, doing good works and keeping God’s commandments.

Prayer for the Week: Let’s kneel together and pray our Prayer for the week.

WEEK OF FEBRUARY 3, 2020

In this fast-paced world of competing priorities and pressure that bombard us in every direction, it is not uncommon to struggle with and even suffer from stress and anxiety—WORRY!  Our lives are filled with anxiety that we can often smooth over and hide from the rest of the world.  However, there are those times when we can no longer hide the effects of stress and worry.  At these times, we often hit ROCK BOTTOM.  At these times, we often have nothing left in the tank to be able to deal with the stress and worry on our own.  Our personal resources may be depleted.  This can affect us physically and emotionally and yes, even spiritually.  We should never forget that God is with us all the way.  God’s Word is with us all the way….. AND…God often works through OTHERS to help us at these very vulnerable times.  We may never completely eliminate stress and worry from our lives, but we want to overcome stress and worry that is debilitating in our lives.  We want to overcome worry as much as possible and turn our fears into faith.  WALK IN FAITH AND NOT IN FEAR!!!

Monday, February 3, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Matthew 6:25-34

Food for Thought: This is not to say that ALL worry causes undue stress.  There is the negative, debilitating kind of worry that paralyzes us and on the other hand, there is healthy concern about people and situations.  Negative worry is an anxiety that focuses our thoughts either on concerns that we can do nothing about or on matters that distract us from resting in God’s ability to meet our needs.  Jesus mentions that negative kind of worry six times in the Sermon on the Mount.  He taught his followers to turn to their Father in heaven, who wants us to trust him one day at a time—even for the most common cares in life.  I know it is easier said than done—but that is what faith requires—to put God first and seek first the Kingdom of God in all we do.  When we build our relationship with God.  Remember the image we used in church last Sunday to represent our relationship with God with NO SPACE BETWEEN—the interlocked hands:

Prayer for the Week: Kind and most gracious heavenly Father, we bow down to you in praise and worship as we lift our thanksgiving to you for hearing our prayers.  Lord, in all we pray, thy will be done.  This is a challenging and often cruel world that we live in.  Give us peace and understanding to not let the worries of the world consume us or derail us from the path that you have for us.  God, worry can easily paralyze us in our faith, our church, our homes, our work, and in every aspect of our lives.  Help us melt the chains of worry and live boldly in our faith and in the call to mission and ministry that you plant in every single one of us.  When the pressures of the world—social, political, financial, relationships, priorities, and in every other way—cause us to buckle, Lord, give us the strength and resilience to look to you as our armor and our shield.  We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God—now and forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling:  2 Corinthians 11:16-33, Philippians 4:4-7, 1 Peter 5:6-11

Food for Thought: In our passage in 2 Corinthians, we can easily see that Paul (himself) was faced with anxiety.  In Verse 28, Paul speaks about “deep concern for all the churches”.  The word CONCERN is the same Greek word that Paul and other New Testament writers used when urging against self-consuming anxiety.  However, Paul leads us through the Epistles to know that he ultimately puts his trust in God.  In the passage in 1 Peter, we are told to cast our anxiety on God and that God will bear that burden for us because God cares for us.

Prayer for the Week: As we join together in prayer and dwelling in the Word, let us kneel to pray for the church, the world, and all God’s children who are in need.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Philippians 2:19-30

Food for Thought: Paul also told the believers in Philippi of his desire to send Timothy to them because he was concerned (same word that we talked about yesterday) about their welfare.  So, how do we put our worries to work for us?  The following are ways to consider:

  • By letting worry turn our attention to God. (Relationship with God with NO SPACE BETWEEN!!!)
  • By letting worry turn us to the words of Jesus Christ.
  • By turning WORRY into PRAYER!
  • By turning WORRY into more practical choices.

Prayer for the Week: As we join together in prayer and dwelling in the Word, let us kneel to pray for the church, the world, and all God’s children who are in need.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Several scattered verses, but they tell the story beautifully: Jeremiah 23:23-24, Job 7:20, Psalm 33:13-14, Genesis 17:1, Matthew 19:26

Food for Thought: Let’s take each one of those four ways to consider putting worry to work for us separately.  We will get to two in this week’s devotions and then we will finish next week with the other two.

When we worry, we focus (even waste time and energy) on possibilities that have not yet happened or are beyond our control.  What we need to see is that this is OUR MOMENT OF OPPORTUNITY.  In the WEAKNESS of our fears, we have reason to look for the assurance of God’s presence.

God is Omnipresent—that is, God is EVERYWHERE—ALL PRESENT.  There is no place, no matter how alone we may feel, that God cannot be.  He truly is EVERYWHERE!

God is Omniscient—this is, God is ALL KNOWING.  God knows how afraid we are at times, how bad we may feel at times, and what truly scares us.  We don’t know the future, BUT GOD DOES!  God knows our every need.

God is Omnipotent, that is, God is ALL POWERFUL.  Worriers feel that no one has the power to stop bad things from happening—not even God.  But God has limitless power and God has God’s own wise reasons for what God permits to happen or conversely, what God does NOT permit to happen.  The cares of life that weigh on us so heavily need to be placed on the shoulders of the Lord.  God is even more concerned that we are about our health, our work, our friends, our family, our finances, and our nation—our world.

 

Prayer for the Week: As we join together in prayer and dwelling in the Word, let us kneel to pray for the church, the world, and all God’s children who are in need.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Matthew 6:25-34

Food for Thought: Today we will focus on Number 2 of 4 on our list of how we put worry to work for us.  We will focus on “turning our attention to the words of Jesus”.  In our passage today, Jesus challenges his followers to see that the opportunities of heaven are more important than the potential losses of life.  He urges the people to believe that if God takes care of the birds of the air and the flowers of the fields, that God will definitely take care of God’s children.

The underlying cause of worry is identified in Jesus’ statement, “O you of little faith” (in Verse 30).  With those few words, Jesus reminds us that being burdened down with care and worry and anxiety actually can reflect lack of trust in him.  Too often we don’t really act like we believe that Jesus is really present and knows what we need and truly desires to shoulder the burdens of our life.

Prayer for the Week: As we join together in prayer and dwelling in the Word, let us kneel to pray for the church, the world, and all God’s children who are in need.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Scripture for Dwelling: Micah 6:1-8, Psalm 15, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, Matthew 5:1-12

Food for Thought: Let’s get ready for tomorrow morning.  Who are the blessed ones of God?  For Micah, they are those who do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.  For Paul, they are the ones who find wisdom in the weakness of the cross.  For Jesus, they are the poor, the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers those who mourn, and those who hunger for righteousness.  In baptism we find our blessed identity and calling in the countercultural way of living and serving.

Prayer for the Week: As we join together in prayer and dwelling in the Word, let us kneel to pray for the church, the world, and all God’s children who are in need.

WEEK OF DECEMBER 16, 2019

Monday, December 16, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Isaiah 26 (Try to read it all—these are beautiful words like poetry!)

Food for Thought: At this time of year, we sing of “Peace on Earth—goodwill to all people” and “Sleep in Heavenly Peace” and “Let there be peace on earth.”  When I think of peace, I think of this chapter in Isaiah.  No matter which translation you study, verses 3 and 4 resonate with the peace that we can know only our Lord and our God.  In the New Revised Standard Version, we hear, “Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace—in peace because they trust in you.  Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord God you have an everlasting rock.”  I love the King James Version of these verse also, as we hear “Thou wilt keep them in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because they trust in thee.  Trust ye in the Lord forever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.  Verse 12 also resonates with me: “O Lord, you will ordain peace for us, for indeed, all that we have done, you have done for us.”  In the “NOISE” of this season—the “NOISE” of the world, it is sometimes difficult to find peace.  One thing we can count is the peace we know through our Lord.  Alleluia!

A Prayer for the Week

Prayer for the Week: God of Power—God of Peace, as the chaos of this Advent and Christmas season in the rest of the world rises to a fever pitch, bring your peace and calm to our hearts.  Help us search our own hearts and souls, as we prepare ourselves for the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas.  Help us set aside quality time to meditate on your word and to prayerfully discern how you would have us live into that word in the here and now—in our City of Spokane.  God, give us humble spirits and hearts that are willing to make adjustments in our lives—as we strive to put you first in all that we say, think, or do.  God, many people are suffering, hungry, lonely, and confused during this holiday season.  Give us clear eyes to be vigilant to others in our world and give us conviction of heart to reach out and help others in need.  We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Numbers 6:24-26

Food for Thought: In this passage Numbers, we find one of my commonly used benedictions or blessings at the end of a worship service.  These are words of blessing and peace that God bestowed on God’s own people.

the bless and keep you

Prayer for the Week: In unity, let us kneel and pray our Prayer for the Week.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Philippians 4:4-9

Food for Thought: God is God.  God is Omnipotent—All-Powerful, Omnipresent—All-Present, Omniscient—All knowing, and Omni Benevolent—All-Loving.  God is All-Encompassing and we are small.  We desire peace in our lives.  God is the source of peace in our lives.  In our human limitations, we cannot pretend to understand either the power of peace of our God.  This scripture reminds us of that fact, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding”.  In this earthly life, we will never be able to get our heads around the source or magnitude of this kind of peace.  ENTER GOD!  God is the source, inspiration, and unending well of this kind of peace.  Even though we cannot grasp the source and magnitude of this kind of peace, we can celebrate the promise that we can still know this kind of peace in our lives by the promise of God….. AND—that kind of peace, from our Almighty God, will “guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus!”  Praised God for the assurance we have in life for this kind of immeasurable, unfathomable peace….. BUT, peace we are invited into!

the peace of God

Prayer for the Week: In unity, let us kneel and pray our Prayer for the Week.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Isaiah 52

Food for Thought: For two weeks, in our New Revised Common Lectionary, we focused (or will focus) on John the Baptist, the Messenger from the wilderness who announced the coming of Jesus Christ.  “Behold the voice crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord!”   In the prophecy of the Book of Isaiah, we find a reference to the messenger here is Verse 7, as we hear, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announced PEACE, who brings good new, who announced salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”  COME EMMANUEL—GOD WITH US.  COME INTO OUR HEARTS, LORD JESUS, THERE IS ROOM IN OUR HEART FOR YOU!

how beautiful the feet.jpg

Prayer for the Week: In unity, let us kneel and pray our Prayer for the Week.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Luke 1:67-80

Food for Thought: We mentioned this briefly on Sunday morning—when John the Baptist was born, his father, Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and he began to prophesy.  In his prophecy, he foretold, what the Angel Gabriel proclaimed at the annunciation of John’s birth—that he would be great in the eyes of God.  He went on to foretell that John would clear the path and know the coming of the great one—sent by God—as the Light of the World and one who would guide in the people in the WAYS OF PEACE.

Prayer for the Week: In unity, let us kneel and pray our Prayer for the Week.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Isaiah 7:10-16, Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19, Romans 1:1-7, Matthew 1:18-25

emmanuel god with us

Food for Thought: Let’s get ready for tomorrow and the Third Sunday of Advent.  In our gospel in the morning, Matthew’s story of Jesus’ birth focuses on the role of Joseph, who adopts the divinely begotten child into the family of David and obediently gives him the name Jesus, which means “God saves.”  According to Matthew, especially the men in the Jewish tradition are called into God’s plan for salvation, but in this Sunday’s gospel, God’s promises are present through a woman.  The child is named “Emmanuel”: God is with us, in word and sacrament, today and always.

Prayer for the Week: In unity, let us kneel and pray our Prayer for the Week.

 

WEEK OF DECEMBER 9, 2019

Monday, December 9, 2019

Scriptures for Dwelling: Matthew 8:1-17

Food for Thought: Many people today have hardened hearts about Christ, the Church, Christians, and the possibilities of modern-day miracles.  God gave us Christ, his only Son, at Christmas, to live and die so that we all may live in eternity with God.  This was truly the original Christmas miracle.  God sent Jesus to the earth to live among us and dwell among us and be one of us—while he remained God Incarnate.  The life of Jesus was a life of teaching and leading and yes, a life of healing.  Our passage today outlines so many miraculous healings of Jesus.  When we contemplate the miracle of Christmas and the miracle of Jesus’ life of healing, let us never forget that the healing grace of our God is just as alive and well and working in our world today as it was in Jesus’ day.  Alleluia!

A Prayer for the Week

Prayer of the Week:  Creator God, Redeemer God, How marvelous is your name in all the earth.  We praise you and we thank you.  You bless us daily with life and breath and the fullness of your grace and salvation.  Lord, at this time of year, the hustle and bustle of the world is fast and loud.  Help us, your children, take time every day to pause and spend time with you—in prayer, in studying your Word, and in listening for your holy will.  Help us be still and know that you are God.  Help us think more of following the paths that please you, than to follow the paths of the world that pull us away from you.  Lord, prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child—the Light of the World—God with us.  Lead us to make room in our hearts for you—God with us—as we navigate the trappings and illusions of this fragile world.  Help us put our hope and trust in you and you alone as you are the foundation of the kingdom—now and forevermore.  We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Scriptures for Dwelling: Matthew 10:15-31

Food for Thought:  In the first part of this passage, Jesus reminds us that what comes out of our mouths and out of hearts is what defines us.  As we spend time in our Advent meditations, let’s open our hearts and open ourselves to God so to soften our hearts and give us hearts of forgiveness.  The Christ Child is the Light of the world.  Jesus brings life and light to the world.  We are called by God and sanctioned by Christ’s Commission to reach out into our world and let others see the light of Christ through our actions and WORDS.  We have often heard it said, “You are what you eat!”  A better way of thinking about, according to this very scripture, is “You are what you say—what you think—and what you do!”  God, guide our steps to follow your example and commands on forgiveness and love for others.  Amen.

Prayer of the Week:  Please join us all as we kneel and pray this prayer each day in the unity of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  Alleluia!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Scriptures for Dwelling: Luke 14:1-24

Food for Thought:  This passage was a gospel passage in the last quarter of our last liturgical year, but I thought it would be a good reminder at this time of year to re-read this scripture about coming to the table of the Lord and the grace of God at that unending table.  I thought of this scripture when I thought about all the holiday meals and gatherings that will surely happen in our community over the next few weeks.  Jesus told the people not to worry about their seat position and not be so full-of-themselves to seat themselves in positions of honor where they may be asked to move to lesser positions so that preferred guests could take their seats.  “All that exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  At this festive time of the year when we scramble around in the hustle and bustle of this busy season to prepare meals and celebrations, let us not forget the hungry and homeless in our community that need our prayers and help.  We have two food banks coming up that could use your help.  We have one in two days and then we have in two week and two days.  Jesus reminds us in this scripture to invite others to our fine dinners who cannot repay us.  He tells us not to invite our brothers and sisters and friends who can pay us back with a reciprocal invitation, but to invite the poor and needy who can never pay us back.  What does that thought look like in our homes, at our tables, in our community-in the here & now?

table CROPPED

Prayer of the Week:  Please join us all as we kneel and pray this prayer each day in the unity of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  Alleluia!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Scriptures for Dwelling:  Matthew 7:7-28

Food for Thought: This is a power-packed passage of the Word.  In this passage, we are reminded to live by the Golden Rule.  At this time of year, when there is a high-level of stress in our lives and in our work and yes, even in our church activities.  Let us stop and think before we snap at others or speak unkindly to others.  We are God’s children and are prepared and taught by Jesus to put others interests and feelings above any selfish interests that we have ourselves.  We are also reminded in this passage that this world is full of false hope and false prophets and false promises that will fall apart every time.  We have but one hope and promise and that is through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Then, we are also promised to “ask and it shall be given”, followed by “seek and y shall find.”  In this promise, Jesus is telling us that HE IS THE WAY–THE TRUTH–AND THE LIFE–and that whatever we seek in His Name and by His Will that we can count on it.  The bottom line is that we live by God’s clock so the fulfillment of our hope and wished and desires lie solely in Jesus Chirst!  Alleluia!

worthy

Friday, December 13, 2019

Scriptures for Dwelling:  Matthew 4:1-25

Food for Thought: This passage starts off with the temptation of Jesus as he fasted in the wilderness for 40 days.   This was a time of preparation for Jesus to launch his ministry and teaching in earnest. We typically do not fast during Advent, and Advent does not last 40 days (like Lent), but this beautiful time of year is still a time that we can use in preparation for the Coming of the Christ Child on the evening of December 24, 2019.  When the sun goes down, and for us on December 24th, that will be at 4:02 PM, it will be CHRISTMAS!  By the Jewish Calendar, sunset brings the coming of the NEW DAY.  So, when the sun goes down on the 24th, it is considered the new day—bringing the night of NATIVITY OF OUR LORD.  Let’s strive to prepare our hearts for the unending “coming” of Jesus Christ into our hearts—every day of the year—not just on Christmas night.  Lord, help us live into the fullness of this season of preparation for your coming!  Alleluia and Amen!

Friday, December 13, 2019

Scriptures for Dwelling:  Matthew 4:1-25

Food for Thought: This passage starts off with the temptation of Jesus as he fasted in the wilderness for 40 days.   This was a time of preparation for Jesus to launch his ministry and teaching in earnest. We typically do not fast during Advent, and Advent does not last 40 days (like Lent), but this beautiful time of year is still a time that we can use in preparation for the Coming of the Christ Child on the evening of December 24, 2019.  When the sun goes down, and for us on December 24th, that will be at 4:02 PM, it will be CHRISTMAS!  By the Jewish Calendar, sunset brings the coming of the NEW DAY.  So, when the sun goes down on the 24th, it is considered the new day—bringing the night of NATIVITY OF OUR LORD.  Let’s strive to prepare our hearts for the unending “coming” of Jesus Christ into our hearts—every day of the year—not just on Christmas night.  Lord, help us live into the fullness of this season of preparation for your coming!  Alleluia and Amen!

Temptation

Prayer of the Week:  Please join us all as we kneel and pray this prayer each day in the unity of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  Alleluia!

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Scriptures for Dwelling: Isaiah 35:1-10, Psalm 146:5-10, James 5:7-10, Matthew 11:2-11

Food for Thought:  Let’s get ready for tomorrow and the Third Sunday of Advent.  John the Baptist expects the Messiah to bring God’s judgment upon the earth.  From a prison cell, he wonders where Jesus is the one who will do this.  Jesus’ response indicates that God’s reign is indeed being fulfilled already through healing and restoration.

john the baptist

Prayer of the Week:  Please join us all as we kneel and pray this prayer each day in the unity of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  Alleluia!

WEEK OF DECEMBER 2, 2019

Savior of the Nations Come

Time is surely flying.  It is hard to believe that Advent is here.  This is one of the most beautiful times of the year as we prepare our hearts and spirits for the Coming of the Christ Child.  One of my favorite Advent Hymns is Savior the Nations, Come.  Here are the words.  These words were transcribed by our very own Martin Luther in 1524.

Savior of the nations, come, Virgin’s Son, make here Thy home!
Marvel now, O heaven and earth, That the Lord chose such a birth.

Not by human flesh and blood, By the Spirit of our God,
Was the Word of God made flesh–Woman’s Offspring, pure and fresh.

Wondrous birth! O wondrous Child—Of the Virgin undefiled!
Though by all the world disowned, Still to be in heaven enthroned.

From the Father forth He came—And returned to the same,
Captive leading death and hell—High the song of triumph swell!

Thou, the Father’s only Son, Hast o’er sin the victory won.
Boundless shall Thy kingdom be; When shall we its glories see?

Brightly doth Thy manger shine, Glorious is its light divine.
Let not sin eclipse this light; Ever be our faith thus bright.

Praise to God the Father sing, Praise to God the Son, our King,
Praise to God the Spirit be—ever and eternally.

 

Monday, December 2, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Luke 1:5-13 and Luke 1:14-17

Food for Thought: This is an amazing story.  First, an angel appeared to Zechariah.  It is not every day that an angel appears to you.  Of course, Zechariah was afraid, but the angel, as angels often do, said, “Do not be afraid”.  Zechariah and Elizabeth “were getting on in age”.  This is another example where God works through older people to do powerful things.  The angel announced that Zechariah and Elizabeth were going to have a son and that his name was to be John.  This is none other than the John that we fondly call John the Baptizer or John the Baptist.  John was a forerunner for the coming of Jesus Christ.  Elizabeth was a cousin to Mary.  I love how God is so intentional in the announcement and reality of the coming of John, as the forerunner to our Lord and Savior.

In our second reading today, we hear that John will be great in the sight of the Lord and by his proclamations, he will steer many people in the direction of God.  John will be a man of purity and wholeness and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit—even before his birth!  If this is not a man that is ordained by God for his divine purpose, I don’t know who is!

Prayer for the Week: God of the manger—God of the Cross, we bow before you to lift our praise and thanksgiving for all the blessings of life.  Holy God prepare our hearts and our spirits to receive the Christ Child.  Soften our hearts to the hardness of this world and help us live with compassionate and giving hearts.  At this season of preparation and during every season of the year, help us live in the command of Jesus to love our neighbors and to help the others who are needy and struggling.  Engage our hearts in your mission.  Give us the courage, strength, commitment, and understanding of how we can reach into our community and connect with the people in ways to share the Good News of Jesus Christ and to advance your Holy Mission.  Bless our hearts to love you with all our being.  You are our Creator and you give us strength in our lives.  We praise you.  We bless you.  We lift our prayers to you.  In all that we pray, your will be done!  We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling:  Luke 1:18-25 and Luke 1:39-45

Food for Thought: Ouch!  In this first Scripture, Zechariah had just been told by Gabriel, the Angel of the Lord, that he and Elizabeth were going to bear a son in their old age.  Of course, to be visited by Gabriel would be shocking enough, as we said yesterday, much less to hear that you are going to have a child—well past the child-bearing years for him and his wife.  I think that it was a harsh reaction by Gabriel to call Zechariah out and to render him mute until John was born.  Zechariah really  did not question God’s power to make this miracle occur, he simply asked how he would now that these things were actually happening.  I think he was seeking clarification more than challenging Gabriel or God.  Later in Luke, Mary (herself) also questioned the announcement of her pregnancy with Jesus and how it could even happen since she was not married and in relations with a man.  However, Mary was not punished for her ‘questioning’.  The inequity between Zechariah and Mary always makes me wonder—why?

In our second reading, Elizabeth proclaims that Mary is blessed among women and that the fruit of her womb is blessed!  John, in the womb of Elizabeth, being full of the Holy Spirit, leaped in her womb when Mary greeted Elizabeth upon her arrival.  These are powerful examples of God at work through the Holy Spirit.

Prayer for the Week: Joined together as the people of Saint Peter Lutheran Church and as the body of Christ in the world, we kneel together in unity to pray our prayer for this first week of Advent.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Luke 1:46-80

Food for Thought: In verses 46-55, we find the beloved words of Mary that are known as the Magnificat.  When we use the Holden Evening Prayer, one of the Canticles that we use in that service is the Magnificat.

Magnificat.jpg

Mary was chosen by God—ordained by God—for the purpose of carrying and giving birth to the Son of God.  In the Magnificat, Mary proclaims the greatness of God.  While she certainly does not understand all the details of what is happening in her life and how God’s will is causing this to happen, she understands fully that this is the greatness of God at work.  She understands that this is the fulfillment of God’s Covenant with God’s people—a Covenant enacted with Abraham.  She understands that the child to come will do great things for all people in the name of God.

Prayer for the Week: Joined together as the people of Saint Peter Lutheran Church and as the body of Christ in the world, we kneel together in unity to pray our prayer for this first week of Advent.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: John 1:1-18

Food for Thought: This is one of the most powerful passages in the gospels.  This is also one of my favorite passages in the Bible.  We will hear this Scripture during our Christmas Eve Service!  In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  Later, the Word, God Incarnate through Jesus Christ, became flesh and came to earth to dwell among us.  Wow!  The Word of God is Jesus Christ.  Jesus was WITH GOD in the Beginning—yet, Jesus WAS GOD from the beginning.  I can never read John 1 without thinking of Genesis 1.  In John 1, we have a declaration that God and Jesus, the Son, were “there” from the Beginning.  In Genesis 1:2—YES—in the second verse of the Bible, we have the declaration that the Spirit of God, ruach in Hebrew, hovered over the face of the waters.  This puts Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all together ‘in the beginning’ of Creation.  The Holy Trinity is Three-In-One and One-In-Three—all “there” before Creation—all “there” “from the Beginning”.  There is a Greek word—PERICHORESIS—that interprets the swirling movement—the dance—of the Holy Trinity as three equal parts moving/swirling/dancing in synchronicity, yet one whole—ONE GOD.

Perichoresis 1

Perichoresis 2

The beautiful thing about PERICHORESIS is that WE are all invited into that “dance” and movement with the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.  John 1 + Genesis 1 is clear proclamation of the Holy Trinity and what a gift it is that we are invited and welcomed into this relationship through all members of the Trinity—as One God.  This is mind-blowing stuff!  Good stuff!!!

Prayer for the Week: Joined together as the people of Saint Peter Lutheran Church and as the body of Christ in the world, we kneel together in unity to pray our prayer for this first week of Advent.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Mark 1:1-8

Food for Thought: John tells the people that he is NOT the Messiah.  He says that the one to come, the true Messiah, is far greater than he.  John proclaims to the people that he baptizes them with water, but the one to come—the Messiah, Jesus Christ—will baptize them with the Holy Spirit.

Let’s talk about Baptism.  Many American Protestant Christians have views of Baptism different from Lutherans. Some see Baptism as little more than a dedication ceremony where the parents are promising to raise their child as a Christian. They don’t think Baptism has the power to do anything. Others think infants should not be baptized. Still others believe that Baptism is something believers do to show their commitment to God. They turn Baptism from gospel into law.

That is not how true Lutherans view Baptism because that’s not what the Bible teaches. In his Small Catechism, Martin Luther wrote that “baptism works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this.” He could say this because the Bible says that in Baptism God forgives our sins (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16) and saves us (1 Peter 3:20,21; Mark 16:16). Luther wrote that Baptism is “a gracious water of life and a washing of rebirth by the Holy Spirit.” He could say that because the Bible says that the Holy Spirit is given in Baptism (Acts 2:38) and that through Baptism the Spirit works rebirth and renewal (Titus 3:5).

Baptism seems so simple—a splash of water and a few words. Those who deny the power of Baptism often point to the fact that it is just an outward ceremony. In the Small Catechism, Luther rightly points out that “it is certainly not the water that does such things, but God’s Word which is in and with the water and faith which trust this Word used with the water.” God’s Word is powerful. It was powerful enough to call the universe into existence. It is powerful enough to give the spiritual and eternal blessings God promises through Baptism (Ephesians 5:25-27).

Following Luther’s example, true Lutherans find great comfort in Baptism because Baptism is God’s work for us. Paul wrote that we are clothed with Christ through Baptism and made children of our heavenly Father (Galatians 3:26,27). We are connected to Christ’s death and resurrection (Romans 6:3,4). Everything Christ accomplished through his death and resurrection is given to all of us—personally, individually—through our baptisms.

Prayer for the Week: Joined together as the people of Saint Peter Lutheran Church and as the body of Christ in the world, we kneel together in unity to pray our prayer for this first week of Advent.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Isaiah 11:1-10, Psalm 72:1-7,18-19, Romans 15:4-13, Matthew 3:1-12

Food for Thought: At the heart of our Advent preparation stands John the Baptist, who calls us to repent and make a new beginning.  As the darkness increases, we turn toward the approaching light of Christ.  For Christians, he is the root of Jesse, the righteous judge who welcomes all, especially the poor and meek of the earth.  We wait with hope for that day when the wolf will dwell with the lamb, and there will be no more hurt or destruction.  From the Lord’s table, we are sent in the spirit of John the Baptist to proclaim that in Christ the kingdom of God has come near.

In the Gospel Reading in Matthew, just before Jesus begins his public ministry, John the Baptist appears, calling people to mend their ways and speaking of a powerful ONE WHO IS TO COME!  See you in the morning, as we begin our Advent journey to the manger.

Prayer for the Week: Joined together as the people of Saint Peter Lutheran Church and as the body of Christ in the world, we kneel together in unity to pray our prayer for this first week of Advent.

WEEK OF  NOVEMBER 25, 2019

Advent 1.png

What a joyous time we experienced yesterday in our Festival Celebration of Christ the King!  Yes, Christ the King marks the end of the liturgical church year, but it is also the pivot point—the transition to Advent—the season of longing for the coming of Christ—the season for preparing for the coming of Christ—and the season for opening our hearts for the coming of Christ.

Let’s celebrate Scriptures in our devotions for this week about Christ, as King.  There is a popular contemporary Christian song that I will share here.  It is called King of Heaven and you heard a little bit of that song as the Choral Introit on Sunday.  Here are the lyrics:

 

Jesus, let Your kingdom come here.  Let Your will be done here in us.
Jesus, there is no one greater; You alone are Savior, show the world Your love.

King of Heaven come down, King of Heaven come now.
Let Your glory reign shining like the day—King of Heaven come.
King of Heaven rise up—Who can stand against us?
You are strong to save—in Your mighty name, King of Heaven come.

We are children of Your mercy, Rescued for Your glory—
We cry, Jesus set our hearts towards You, Every eye would see You lifted high.

King of Heaven come down, King of Heaven come now.
Let Your glory reign shining like the day—King of Heaven come.
King of Heaven rise up—Who can stand against us?
You are strong to save—in Your mighty name, King of Heaven come.

King of Heaven, come!  King of Heaven, come!  King of Heaven, come!  King of Heaven, come!

King of Heaven come down, King of Heaven come now.
Let Your glory reign shining like the day—King of Heaven come.
King of Heaven rise up—Who can stand against us?
You are strong to save—in Your mighty name, King of Heaven come.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Isaiah 9:1-7, Isaiah 11:1-9

Food for Thought: The book of Isaiah is rich in historical narrative, but it is also a powerful book of prophesy.  In these two Scriptures today, there is prophesy of the coming of Jesus Christ—to come to earth as King of the Ages.  In the first Scripture, we hear how “the people have walked in darkness” and will continue to walk in darkness until the King arrives—Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.  This Scripture affirms that King Jesus will make a difference in the world that he is coming to save.  We learn that his authority will continue to grow and grow.  We also hear that the coming King will bear many titles for his crown including Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.  We also learn that he will rule with truth, justice, and righteousness.

Advent 2

In the second passage in Isaiah, we learn that the coming King will be born of the family line or lineage of Jesse.  I’m sure that we all recall that Jesse is David’s father.  This passage confirms that the coming King will rule with righteousness and faithfulness and this King will have a heart for the poor.  As the following image shows, in this coming Peaceable Kingdom, there will be ultimate peace—even the peace where the lion and lamb shall exist together in harmony—where the calf and the lion will eat together in harmony….and the King of this Kingdom, will start with a child—as foretold in our other Scripture in Isaiah in today’s devotions.

Advent 3

Prayer for the Week: Blessed God, architect of all creation, redeemer of all people, we come to praise you and lift our thanksgiving.  We come to the end of a church year and begin a new one.  Send your Spirit to guide our steps as we enter this new period of mission and ministry.  God, help us listen for your call in the ways and actions that you would have us make in this world—as your work—our hands.  How sweet the Name of Jesus—your only Son—that you gave to die, so that we may live.  At this time of anticipating and preparing for Christ’s coming, we open our hearts and say, “Come into our hearts, Lord Jesus, there is room in our hearts for you.”  As you meet us where we are every day, Christ, may the seeds of your love and compassion—hope and promise—truth and justice—grow in us—live in us—thrive in us.  We are your children and open our hearts to depend wholly on you.  You are our king—ruler of our lives and ruler of the paths that you seek for us in our lives.  King of heaven, come now and be with us.  King of heaven, come down and live in us.  We pray these things in the name of Jesus, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: John 20: 12-19

Food for Thought: In our journey through Luke, we have said time and again that Jesus has been on this journey to Jerusalem.  When Jesus arrived at Jerusalem, the people took palm branches and waved them in his honor and threw them down to cushion his path.  The palms could not cushion the journey that Jesus was about to make to Calvary—to suffer and die so that we might live.   The triumphant entry into Jerusalem show distinct parallels with Jesus’ birth and his coming into the world—God Incarnate.  “Hosanna!  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the KING of Israel!’  Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written: “Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.  Look your KING is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”  As Joseph and Mary made their way took Bethlehem, the same anthem echoes, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—the KING of Israel!”  Although we do not have a Scripture that confirms it directly,  but Mary also likely made the journey to Bethlehem on a donkey.  The journey for Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem was nearly 90 miles, so it is highly unlikely that a pregnant woman could walk that distance without the assistance of the beast of burden.  We are coming to the most beautiful time of the year—the ADVENT—the COMING of our KING!  Hosanna in the highest!

Advent 4

Prayer for the Week: King Jesus, rule our lives in all we do.  Amen.  Please pray our Prayer for the Week as we all, the people of St. Peter Lutheran Church, kneel in unity to lift this prayer together.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Jeremiah 23:1-17

Food for Thought: The first part of the passage addresses restoration of God’s people after exile and isolation.  In the Old Testament, there are multiple events when God’s people were either held in captivity, held in slavery, exiled from their homeland, and dispersed across areas and lands where they were foreigners.  But, our faithful God has always held to God’s Covenant to protect and advance God’s children.  Our great God is a God of Redemption.   In verse 8, we hear the foretelling of the coming of the chosen one who will come out of the lineage of David.  The coming of this Son of David, this Righteous Branch of God, is the foretelling of the coming of the Messiah.  The Messiah was being sent to redeem God’s people once and for all.  This is the coming of the Savior to the world.  In this passage, we are also warned to beware of false prophets.  We heard this same warning in our Gospel last Sunday in Luke 23.  There is only ONE LORD JESUS CHRIST and ONE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST.  All others are imposters and we are warned not to be persuaded or tempted to follow an imposter to our Lord or a false message that has no foundation in the TRUE GOSPEL!!!

Prayer for the Week: King Jesus, rule our lives in all we do.  Amen.  Please pray our Prayer for the Week as we all, the people of St. Peter Lutheran Church, kneel in unity to lift this prayer together.

 

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Zechariah 9:9-17

Food for Thought: The prophet breaks forth into a joyful representation of the coming of the Messiah, of whom the ancient Jews explained this prophecy. He took the character of their King, when he entered Jerusalem amidst the hosannas of the multitude. But his kingdom is a spiritual kingdom. It shall not be advanced by outward force or carnal weapons. His gospel shall be preached to the world; and be received among the heathen. A sinful state is a state of bondage—chains of the world.  Through the precious blood of Christ, many prisoners of sin have been set free.  The promises of God are seen in the spiritual blessings of the gospel which we enjoy by Jesus Christ. As the deliverance of the Jews was typical of redemption by Christ, so this invitation speaks to all the language of the gospel call.  Whatever gifts God bestows on us, we are called to serve him cheerfully with those gifts; and, when showered with blessings, we must say, how great is his goodness!  Thanks be to God!

Prayer for the Week: King Jesus, rule our lives in all we do.  Amen.  Please pray our Prayer for the Week as we all, the people of St. Peter Lutheran Church, kneel in unity to lift this prayer together.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Luke 1:26-48, Daniel 7:9-14

Food for Thought: Jesus Christ is King Jesus and God has given King Jesus dominion over the world.  No matter how tough and challenging our lives seem in this world, it is clear from the Word of God that God’s Kingdom WILL HAVE NO END!  We are justified in our salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and King, and with a clear foundation in the Word of God.  Advent is such an exciting and warm time of year.  It is also a powerful time of prophesy being fulfilled and the promises for God’s unending kingdom and eternal life in God’s unending kingdom.  Let’s celebrate this beautiful time of year with worship, fellowship, and rededication of our lives in Christ as we strive to use the gifts God has given us to advance God’s kingdom in this world.  KING OF HEAVEN—COME DOWN!  KING OF HEAVEN—COME NOW!  ALLELUIA!!!  ALLELUIA!!!

Prayer for the Week: King Jesus, rule our lives in all we do.  Amen.  Please pray our Prayer for the Week as we all, the people of St. Peter Lutheran Church, kneel in unity to lift this prayer together.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Isaiah2:1-5, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24: 36-44

Food for Thought: The new church year begins with a wake-up call: Christ is coming soon!  In today’s readings, both Paul and Jesus challenge us to wake from sleep, for we know neither know the day nor the hour of the Lord’s coming.  Isaiah proclaims the day when God will gather all people on the holy mountain and there will be no more war or suffering.  Though we vigilantly watch for the promised day of salvation, we wait for what we already have: Christ comes among us this day as the word and meal that strengthens our faith in the promises of God.

Prayer for the Week: King Jesus, rule our lives in all we do.  Amen.  Please pray our Prayer for the Week as we all, the people of St. Peter Lutheran Church, kneel in unity to lift this prayer together.

Advent 5 Flourish

 

ADVENT EVENING SERVICES:  THREE THURSDAYS: DECEMBER 5TH, 12TH, AND 19TH:

MEAL AT 5:30 PM AND SERVICE AT 6:30 PM

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 18, 2019

We are God’s children.  We are the sheep of his pasture.  We live a world that can be mean, angry, and cruel.  God never promised us that there would not be struggles in our lives.  God never promised that there would not be times of sorrow, pain, and confusion.  BUT—God did promise us faithfulness in the end—no matter what the ups and downs in the paths that our lives take us in this world, in the end, in God’s kingdom—all the bruises and hurt—sorrows and pain—disease and decay—even agony and death—will pass away.  There is no place for sorrow and darkness or pain or injustice, etc. etc. in the bosom of God.

People ask all the time if God is really a healing God.  They question if God “still” performs miracles like the miraculous acts of God that we saw in the Old Testament and the miracles that Jesus Christ performed when he lived on the earth.  There is only one answer and that is, “YES!”—Emphatically, “YES!”  Do we often get so wrapped up in the challenges and disappointments of this world that we are blinded to the miracle that occur in our lives and in this world every day?  For the devotions for each day of this week, I am going to highlight one of the miracles of God that I have personally seen in recent times.

First, I want to share the words of a great old hymn: Great is Thy Faithfulness.  Yes, indeed, God’s faithfulness is great in our lives and in the world.  Here are the words of that great hymn:

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
there is no shadow of turning with thee;
thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
as thou hast been thou forever wilt be.
Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
all I have needed thy hand hath provided–
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.                                                                                          Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
all I have needed thy hand hath provided–
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!                                                                                    Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
all I have needed thy hand hath provided–
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Monday, November 18, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Psalm 103:2-4, Psalm 34:17-22, Psalm 30:2

Food for Thought: I have a very good friend who was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and liver cancer over a year ago.  Her name is Dee Dee.  Dee Dee was told that she would not live long and that the kind of cancer and the stage of cancer that she had was the kind of cancer where there is virtual no survival rate.  The doctors told her to go home and get her affairs in order because she did not have long.  Dee Dee told them that her faith was strong and that she was going to fight the cancer.  The doctors gave her zero hope that her faith mattered or that she stood any chance to fight the cancer.  She began to pray.  She networked with many (MANY) prayer partners.  Every day prayers were lifted on her behalf.  She followed the instructions from the doctors and insisted on a regiment of treatment, which they reluctantly agreed to.  Dee Dee is still living a normal life.  She and her husband have even travelled some during this time of uncertainty.  She is strong and continues to worship God and do many other things that are important to her and her family.  THIS IS A MIRACLE!!!  The point of this story is not that Dee Dee is cured 100%–now and forever.  The point of this story is God has miraculously maintained Dee Dee for now.  Every day is a miracle in her life and in her family’s life and in the lives of those of us who love her.  This life is short—temporary in this world… BUT, life in God and resurrection in God is ETERNAL!  Alleluia!

A Prayer for the Week  Prayer for the Week: Heavenly Father—God of creation—God of nurture—God of healing—God salvation, we come to you in prayer to praise you wholly and to offer our thanksgiving for the miracle of life and the miracles that you show us day after day in our lives.  God, give us clear eyes—to see the unending miracles of life.  Help us know that you are God and that we are your children, when we see the miracles of your creation in the majestic colors of the sunrise.  Help us know that you are God and that we are your children, when we hear the miracles of your creation in the songs and words of our children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren.  Help us celebrate the miracles of your healing when we see one of your children live longer than their doctors predicted they would.  Holy God, we know that you are God and that doctors are the vessels that you so freely work in and through.  God, we thank you for the most miraculous act of the ages—when you sent your only Son to the earth—to live with us and teach us—to die for us so that we may live.  You are a God of miraculous proportions.  Hold us close to you as we do our best to walk in faith and not in fear.  We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Genesis 1:1-2:2

Food for Thought: How can anyone stand by any of our beautiful lakes here in Washington and not see the miracle of God’s creation?  How can anyone see the majesty of Mount Rainier and not see the miracle of God’s creation?  How can anyone look at the stars and the moon on a crisp, clear winter night and not see the miracle of God’s creation?  Creation is a miracle…. And God continues to create.  Every morning, there is a unique and beautiful sunrise—ANOTHER MIRACLE!  Every evening there is a unique and beautiful sunset—ANOTHER MIRACLE!  I rest my case!  Alleluia!

Tranquil dawn

Prayer for the Week: Let’s join together in praying our Prayer for the Week every day of this week.  Unity in prayer is a powerful bond and gets God’s attention.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Matthew 14:13-21, Luke 9:13-17

Food for Thought: In Genesis, it is clear, that God created the earth in a space where nothing had existed before.  The area was without form and void before God’s Creation.  That is who our God is—making something out of nothing.  Jesus Christ did the same kinds of things in the New Testament when he lived and walked among us.  Jesus took five small fishes and two small loaves and five thousand people.  This is, again, a miracle of creating something from nothing.  All praise to our Creator—God!

Prayer for the Week: Let’s join together in praying our Prayer for the Week every day of this week.  Unity in prayer is a powerful bond and gets God’s attention.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Matthew 19:25-26, Acts 4:23-31

Food for Thought: In this passage in Matthew, we hear that “nothing is impossible for God”—even thought it may be quite impossible for humans.  God can create something from nothing.  God can heal the sick.  God can restore that which looked irreparable.  God can give life and raise this dead.  However, I truly love this passage in Acts, because the new Christians prayed for boldness in their witness.  Guess what, “they were filled with Holy spirt and spoke the word of God with BOLDNESS!”

Prayer for the Week: Let’s join together in praying our Prayer for the Week every day of this week.  Unity in prayer is a powerful bond and gets God’s attention.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: John 2:1-11

Food for Thought: In this passage in John, Jesus creates his first miracle.  This is Jesus’ first “display” of the power of creation.  Jesus was fully human on the earth.  However, Jesus was also fully divine also.  Fully man—yet fully God.  Jesus Mother Mary nudged Jesus to perform this miracle.  Jesus was reluctant to show “this sign” of his Divinity.  He said that his time “had not yet come”.  He performed the miracle and “his glory was revealed, and his Disciples believe in him”.  The Disciples could see this miracle with their own eyes.  They were there.  We live in faith today.  We were not there.  We can read these accounts in God’s Word and have to exercise faith to believe in these miraculous events.  However, we can be assured that the Word of our God is true and reliable.  The grass withers and the flowers fades, but the Word of our God WILL LAST FOREVER!

Prayer for the Week: Let’s join together in praying our Prayer for the Week every day of this week.  Unity in prayer is a powerful bond and gets God’s attention.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Scriptures for Dwelling: Jeremiah 23:1-6, Psalm 46, Colossians 1:11-20, Luke 23:33-43

Food for Thought: Let’s get ready for tomorrow, which is a Festival Day for worship.  Tomorrow is Christ the King.  It is the last Sunday after Pentecost and the last Sunday of the Liturgical Church Year.  The Sunday following Christ the King is the First Sunday in Advent.  Please read all the reading for tomorrow morning.  Together they tell a powerful story.  Jeremiah’s promise of the execution of “justice and righteousness in the land” finds ironic fulfillment in the execution of Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.  It appears so utterly contradictory that the king should be crucified with the criminal.  This victor appears for all the world as a very large defeat.  Yet through the gate of death, our Lord opens the door to paradise.  In the Gospel reading for tomorrow, we end our year-long journey through Luke.  Amid scoffing and slander from those who sarcastically call him Messiah and king, Jesus reveals that to be Messiah and king is to give one’s life for others.  Here he uses his power to welcome the despised sinner to paradise yet puts his own death into God’s hands.

Prayer for the Week: Let’s join together in praying our Prayer for the Week every day of this week.  Unity in prayer is a powerful bond and gets God’s attention.

See you tomorrow morning at 10:00 AM for our Christ the King Festival Service of Holy Communion.

Christ the King

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 11, 2019

Monday, November 11, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Isaiah 65:17-25

Food for thought: We had a beautiful tribute presentation last Sunday as we celebrated All Saints Sunday.  We heard the musical meditation “I Can Only Imagine” during our tribute presentation.  A few years ago, after listening to “I Can Only Imagine”, I meditated and prayed about the promise of heaven and what that means.  In my prayerful meditations, I contemplated what heaven may look like.  I know that God has angels in heaven and on earth.  The following words came to me for a song in my thoughts of what heaven may look like.  I called the song, “I Will Dance with the Angels”:

…and I will dance with the angels in the shadow of your throne—wrapped in your light—there’s no more night—forever in heaven’s home.

…and I will dance with the angels in the shadow of your throne—surrounded by your glory bright—forever in heaven’s home.

All faith fulfilled in this heaven above—in your light—your glory—your endless love.  No more tears—no crying—no sorrow—no pain; freedom from all earthly pain—freedom from all earthly pain.

…and I will dance with the angels in the shadow of your throne—wrapped in your light—there’s no more night—forever in heaven’s home.

…and I will dance with the angels in the shadow of your throne—surrounded by your glory bright—forever in heaven’s home.

In the awesome warmth of your presence, Lord—all the mysteries of death—NOW KNOWN!  The unending circle of heaven above—forever in your perfect love—forever in your perfect love.

…and I will dance with the angels in the shadow of your throne—wrapped in your light—there’s no more night—forever in heaven’s home.

…and I will dance with the angels in the shadow of your throne—surrounded by your glory bright—forever in heaven’s home.

My eyes can see—I understand.  My eyes can see I understand.  Let me soar with the angels.  Let me soar with the angels.  Let me soar with the angels.  Let me soar with angels.  LET ME SOAR!

…and I will dance with the angels in the shadow of your throne—wrapped in your light—there’s no more night—forever in heaven’s home.

…and I will dance with the angels in the shadow of your throne—surrounded by your glory bright—forever in heaven’s home.

A Prayer for the Week Prayer of the Week.  Please pray this prayer each day of the week:

God of Light—God of Life, all praise—all glory—all honor—be to your Holy Name.  We lift our thanksgiving to you for all the blessings of life that you so freely give.  We are your children.  You made us—you give us life.  You sustain us.  You protect from harms as we navigate this world.  You heal us when we are sick.  You make us whole in mind, body, and spirit when we are struggling or broken.  You sent your Son into the world to be one of us—to teach us—to show us your love and the of love that it took for Him to die on that cruel cross—so we may live.  Hold us close in this world—as distractions and evil try to pull us away from you.  Hold us in grace as we live in the promise of salvation through faith.  Help us live in the hope of heaven—and the promise of eternal life that we cannot fathom in our humanity.  Give us peace in our lives—here in this world and the in the world to come.  We pray these things in the Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit—one God—now and forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Scripture for dwelling: Isaiah 25: 8-12

Food for thought: It is difficult for us to imagine the power of God—period.  In our humanity, we cannot understand what living in the presence of God can actually look like—feel like—or be in any sense of reality.  We can—only imagine.  This Scripture is in the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament.  This is a book of prophesy—full of the promises of God for the future of God’s people.  Creator God loved humans so much that Creator God came to earth in the human form of Jesus Christ—to live among us—to be one of us—to teach us in the ways of God.  However, the ultimate purpose of God coming to earth in Jesus Christ was to show God’s ultimate love and to give his only Son in death so that WE MAY LIVE!  This is the GOOD NEWS OF JESUS CHRIST!  We have the promise that, as the Prophet Isaiah says in this Scripture, God has SWALLOWED UP DEATH FOREVER!!!  In the presence of God, there is no more earthly crying.  There will be no need for tears.

Please pray our Prayer for the Week.  When people join together in a common prayer, God hears the prayer and recognizes the unity of the people joined in that prayer.  Alleluia!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Colossians 3:1-7

Food for thought: In reading this Scripture, we are encouraged to release the things of this world that holds us—literally the chains of an earthly life.  Certainly, there is goodness and joy and peace in our lives when we put God first and love our neighbors as ourselves.  However, we are encouraged here to live in the promise of heaven and the life in Christ to come—not in the challenges and sorrows of this world.  We are assured here—that we have been resurrected with Christ and should fully set our sights—that means our minds, bodies, and spirits—on that promise of eternal life in God.  Through our salvation, we are transformed—changed from our old selves and sealed in the salvation through Jesus Christ.  This Scripture reminds me of the metamorphosis of a butterfly.  We are transformed from the cocoon of sin to the beautiful life of the majestic butterfly.  HE LIVES—SO WE LIVE!!!

Please pray our Prayer for the Week.  When people join together in a common prayer, God hears the prayer and recognizes the unity of the people joined in that prayer.  Alleluia!

butterfly

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Scripture for dwelling: John 11:1-44

Food for thought: This is one of my favorite accounts in the New Testament.  Jesus loved Mary and Martha—and their brother Lazarus.  The power of God is unfathomable.  God is OMNIPOTENT—all powerful.  Jesus Christ was fully human in his earthly life… AND… Jesus Christ was fully DIVINE while he was on earth.  The power of resurrection is so clearly seen in this account of raising Lazarus from the dead.  Lazarus was dead!  Lazarus’ body had begun to decay.  Jesus was touched by the grief of Lazarus’ sisters and for the actual death of his friend.  We are resurrected with Christ as he triumphantly broke the chains of death on the third day.  We are also resurrected with Lazarus in the promise and power that we CAN SEE in the raising of Lazarus from the dead!  Alleluia!  We are God’s children and are invited to live in this kind of hope and promise for resurrection.  Jesus promises that he is the resurrection—the truth—and the life—and that is the only promise that we need now and forever!

Please pray our Prayer for the Week.  When people join together in a common prayer, God hears the prayer and recognizes the unity of the people joined in that prayer.  Alleluia!

I am the resurrections....png

Friday, November 15, 2019

Scriptures for dwelling: Revelation 7:13-17, Revelation 21:4-8, Revelation 22:3-7

Food for thought: Many people are mystified and even apprehensive about the Book of Revelation.  The writer of the Gospel of John also wrote Revelation.  There is much promise of the heaven to come in the Gospel of John and in the Book of Revelation.  The images are of Revelation of vivid.  A beautiful picture of “no more tears and no more sorrow” is painted in this book.  Included here are several images to meditate over and contemplate as we dwell in the Scripture of Promise in the Book of Revelation.

Friday 1

Friday 2

Friday 3

Friday 4

Please pray our Prayer for the Week.  When people join together in a common prayer, God hears the prayer and recognizes the unity of the people joined in that prayer.  Alleluia!

WEEK OF NOVEMBER 4, 2019

Monday, November 4, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 4:1-22, Deuteronomy 4:32-39

Food for Thought: All our biblical theology is, or at least it should be, MISSIONAL.  Biblical theology, by definition, is “the theology of life”.  To know God and to engage in God’s mission in the world is to be challenged to make God known.  It is to be entrusted with knowledge that God wants to be shared.  That is what makes it MISSIONAL.  Behind all our mission stands the unshakable determination—the RESOLVE—of our all-powerful God.  Our God desires to be known throughout the whole creation as the living God.  God’s will to be known is what makes our mission not only a responsive action to God but clearly a calling by God.  It is also an action that is ONLY POSSIBLE through God.  God is OUT FRONT—always ‘there’ and moving out before we can even contemplate where or how to move on our own!

A Prayer for the Week  Prayer for the Week: All-powerful and ever-present God, we come to you as one, the people of St. Peter Lutheran Church, to give you praise and thanksgiving.  You are our loving and caring God.  We are nothing without you.  We are everything good with your love and compassion—with your grace and nurture.  Help each of us understand the role and calling that you have for us—in your mission in the world.  We thank you for the gifts that you have given each of us.  We know those gifts are diverse and varied.  Help us see the ways that you would have us use our gifts to share the Good News of Jesus Christ and to share the love and grace and peace that comes only through you.  We know the world is challenging, resistant, and often dark.  Give us the courage and paths to step into the world in ways to honor you and to carry your mission forward to people who are crying out for peace but simply do not understand that what they are crying out for can come only through you.  We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Romans 1:1-17

Food for Thought: God, what does your mission look like on this earth—today—in Spokane?  This list is a good list, but there may be more things that you would like to add to the list.  Here goes:

  • We are on this earth, as human beings, as stewards to take care of God’s creation.
  • We were chosen in Abraham to be God’s people through whom God’s blessings reach to all nations.
  • We are called to walk in the ways of God, in justice and righteousness, in a world that is often a world that lacks justice and equity, and a world that is often evil in many ways.
  • We are called to live out our own redemption in reaching out to the other—the lowly—the weak—the least of God’s children—in compassionate treatment and extending a helpful hand.
  • We are the conduit between God and the world. We are called to take God to the world and to draw the world back to God.  We truly are God’s hands in this world AND it truly is God’s work that employs our hands.
  • We are called to demonstrate the character and ways of God to the world. In doing this, our calling means that we are called to “attract” others to come into the faith and enjoy the peace and power and living in faith.
  • We are called to know the living God and be uncompromisingly loyal to the Lord Jesus Christ in our WORSHIP and our WITNESS.

Prayer for the Week: Please join your sisters and brothers of St. Peter Lutheran Church as we pray this prayer together.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Ephesians 4:1-16, 1 Corinthians 12:29-30

Food for Thought: We read in this passage that we are not all called to be evangelists (or pastors, etc.), but we are all called to be witnesses.  Even those of us who are not called to be evangelists are all called to be faithful witnesses to the Lord Jesus Christ and must be willing to speak up for Christ when opportunities arise.  We have said it before, we must be BOLD and UNASHAMED in our witness of Christ.

Prayer for the Week: Please join your sisters and brothers of St. Peter Lutheran Church as we pray this prayer together.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Isaiah 43:8-13, Isaiah 42:18-25

Food for Thought: Let’s take another flashback to the Old Testament and celebrate the GOOD NEWS that Isaiah proclaimed.  In this passage, the Lord declares that “YOU ARE MY WITNESSES THAT I AM GOD!”  This is a key Scripture that proclaims the redemption of our good God and our calling to proclaim that redemption and goodness to the world.  In 43:10, Isaiah deliberately echoes what God has said about Israel.  This passage reaffirms that Israel is God’s chosen people—God’s servants—chosen through the line of Abraham, sealed with the Covenant of God.  In this, God’s original commission remains—God’s people are called as WITNESSESS of God’s truth, justice, compassion, love, and grace.  We are God’s servants, doing God’s work—God’s work—our hands to be God’s hands in this world.

Prayer for the Week: Please join your sisters and brothers of St. Peter Lutheran Church as we pray this prayer together.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Mark 13:9-11, Matthew 10:17-20, Luke 21:12-15

Food for Thought: Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the Synoptic Gospels.  They run (much) in parallel and there are accounts in each that corroborate what the other two say.  There are many reference books that outline all the ‘parallels’ in the Synoptic Gospel.  Today’s Scripture for dwelling draws from such a parallel.  In these passages, we understand that the job of witness is sometimes challenging and even dangerous.  There WILL be pushback.  Persecution may even occur.  Jesus warns the disciples that they will face this kind of persecution and even arrest/imprisonment.  That kind of commitment, to bear witness—even when the stakes are persecution or worse is difficult.  In our world today, how deep is our commitment to be God’s witnesses in the world?  How much “persecution” are we willing to withstand?  These are purely rhetorical questions for personal contemplation.  Peace.

Prayer for the Week: Please join your sisters and brothers of St. Peter Lutheran Church as we pray this prayer together.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Job 19:23-27, Psalm 17:1-9, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17, Luke 20:27-38

Food for Thought: We worship on the first day of the week because our Savior was raised on that day.  Every Sunday is a “little” Easter.  This Sunday feels more like Easter than many since it is the appointed Sunday with appropriate Scriptures to celebrate the reality of the resurrection.  Live it up this Lord’s day.  Our God is the God of the living.  In our Gospel passage today, the Sadduccees, who do not believe in the resurrection of the dead, try to trap Jesus.  They formulate the convoluted case of a serial widow who marries a succession of seven brothers.  Jesus responds by teaching about God, to whom all are alive and in whom all relationships are fulfilled.

Prayer for the Week: Please join your sisters and brothers of St. Peter Lutheran Church as we pray this prayer together.

WEEK OF OCTOBER 28, 2019

We are continuing this journey about what is means to be missional in life and missional in the life of our church.

Before we dive into more contemplations about being a missional church, I want to respond to a question that someone asked after the sermon last Sunday.  As you remember, our gospel was in Luke and it was centered on the parable of the ‘unjust, angry judge and the persistent widow’.  It was a study on faith and prayer and connecting living faith and living prayer and using that armor to power through the injustices of life that we see happen to others—as well as the injustices that we often see in our own lives.  The person asking the question said, “I get the part about faith and living in faith and not looking back, but…… I don’t know how to do that.  I don’t know how to make that kind of faith happen in my own life.”  I am going to paraphrase the part of last Sunday’s sermon that I believe gives us the kind of guidance that this person is asking about:

  • Live into faith in an INTENTIONAL WAY.
  • This kind of faith requires constant awareness—a way of life.
  • Building this kind of faith means building a life on the Two Great Commandments of Jesus Christ.
  • This kind of faith is not a response to or reaction to situations in life (for ourselves or what we may see happening to others). This kind of faith is a way of life—part of the fiber of our being—WHO WE ARE!
  • Engaging constantly in living, breathing prayer—as a way of life!
  • This kind of faith is built on an ever-evolving RELATIONSHIP with God—not occasional, but daily.
  • This kind of faith actively stands up for the other—the lowly—the weak—the marginalized.
  • This kind of faith pushes through pain and injustice and the things that we cannot understand or control. This kind of faith walks in faith and NOT IN FEAR or INTIMIDATION.
  • This kind of faith ACTS OUT! It is bold and is driven to share faith with others so they may have a taste of what LIVING FAITH looks like and feels like.
  • This kind of faith craves worship and praise to God and intentionally seeks ways to join with others in worship and praise—regularly!
  • This kind of faith relies on God and knows that God is ever-present and all-knowing—even when it seems that God is silent or absent. GOD IS ALWAYS OUT FRONT—LEADING!

I hope these suggestions and guides help to answer that question.  Peace, Tim…. Now—on to our devotions for the week!

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Monday, October 28, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Acts 17:1-34

Food for Thought: In this Scripture, Paul, disturbed by the idols that he witnessed all around the City, made his case for the gospel to a skeptical community.  In this setting, Paul is a bit like a salmon—swimming up-stream.  However, he does experience an openness from some to contemplate the gospel and reflect on their perceptions of the usefulness of the gospel in their lives.  The point of this, in the context of our discussion on mission is this:  Paul is bold in this mission work in Athens.  He is unashamed.  He is not simply living in the faith; he is actively and passionately proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ and resurrection in this mission work—knowing that some of his audience are going to reject the message.  You know what is coming next….. in addition to our living in Christ—justified by our faith—how can we boldly and unashamedly proclaim this VERY SAME GOSPEL that Paul is proclaiming?  Where will we go from here in proclaiming this VERY SAME GOSPEL….. The gospel is unchanged; however, the world continues to change.  “Connecting those dots” is the key: how do we connect this unchanged gospel to a constantly shifting world—in a constantly changing world—where many, if not most, people are perfectly fine without God or faith or church or the good news of Jesus Christ in their lives?  The answer is key if we are going to be a missional church in the world today.  Please share your answers with the rest of us!!!

A Prayer for the Week  Prayer for the Week: God of grace and God of glory, on us—your people—pour your mighty power!  We kneel before you to pray and lift our thanksgiving to you for all the blessings of life and the goodness you give us through the gospel.  Precious Lord ignite passion and energy in us to boldly share your good news to a world that is hurting, that is struggling with everything from faith to addiction—struggling with meaning of life to hope for a brighter day.  Precious Lord help us see the connections that you already see—that will actively bring your good news to our community—outside the walls of our church.  Precious Lord, you continue to bless us with resources and volunteers to feed many hungry souls in our community.  Now, help us stretch beyond feeding people in physical ways—to boldly offering them Spiritual food in the good news of Jesus Christ.  We are weak and you are strong.  We are blind and you see everything.  We are deaf and you hear the cries of creation for life and for hope that can only come through you.  Empower us!  Embolden us!  Strengthen us!  We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Exodus 13:3-10, Exodus 14:21-31

Food for Thought: What ARE people searching for?  Whatever it is—God is the key to the answer.  God’s love and redemption ARE the answer.  The good news of Jesus Christ certainly paves the way.  In Exodus, as we celebrate in our Scriptures today, God delivers God’s people from slavery in Egypt and heads them in the direction of THE PROMISED LAND.  This is a powerful account of DELIVERANCE.  That same STORY OF REDEMPTION—POWER OF REDEMPTION—is alive and well today as we face DELIVERANCE FROM WHATEVER ENSLAVES US.  So, to contemplate an answer to the question: What ARE people searching for?  I believe the answer is FREEDOM and DELIVERANCE.  That looks different for many ‘different’ people.  Here is a ‘small list’ of things to contemplate that people are searching for FREEDOM and DELIVERANCE from:

  • Addictions
  • Oppression
  • Hunger
  • Paralyzing sin
  • Physical conditions
  • A life that seems to have little meaning
  • Mental conditions
  • Slavery of their very spirits
  • Many, Many more…

How will we respond to ‘DELIVER’ the GOOD NEWS OF FREEDOM AND DELIVERANCE to a world of people who are searching, struggling—sinking in the sea of despair?  HOW WILL WE RESPOND?

Prayer for the Week: Please pray this Prayer for the Week, as we, the faithful of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Spokane, join together to raise this prayer to God in unity of our faith and trust!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Matthew 2:13-15, Mark 1:1-13, Isaiah 40:1-8

Food for Thought: In keeping with yesterday’s theme of EXODUS as freedom and deliverance, let’s look at these other examples of exodus and redemption in the Scriptures.  The Matthew passage shows how God re-routed Joseph and his family to bring them out of Egypt into safety while Herod was on the baby-killing rampage, which risked Baby Jesus’ life.  The Mark passage uses a “new” exodus imagery that is related to the Isaiah 40 passage in his understanding of the coming ministry of Jesus Christ and the liberation—freedom—salvation—that Jesus’ life will provide.  John the Baptizer proclaims this message.  These examples are armor in our suit of mission!

Prayer for the Week: Please pray this Prayer for the Week, as we, the faithful of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Spokane, join together to raise this prayer to God in unity of our faith and trust!

Thursday, October 31, 2019—We have Trunk-or-Treat this afternoon!!!

Scripture for Dwelling: Exodus 15:1-21

Food for Thought: Rejoice!  And again, I say, REJOICE!  When we contemplate being a missional church and what we share with the world, let’s never neglect to share joy.  For the past couple of days, we have been talking about exodus and freedom.  I love the fact that when God’s people made it to the other side of the Red Sea, the first thing they did—AND IT WAS INSTINCTIVE—was to praised God in song and praise!  This kind of celebration can be contagious.  We need more of this kind of celebration in worship today!

Prayer for the Week: Please pray this Prayer for the Week, as we, the faithful of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Spokane, join together to raise this prayer to God in unity of our faith and trust!

Friday, November 1, 2019—Today is the official All Saints Day, which we will celebrate in a few days when we gather on All Saints Sunday!

Scripture for Dwelling: Roman 6:1-23

Food for Thought: How do we relate our biblical theology of redemption, with its exodus roots and its fulfillment AT THE CROSS, to life in mission for the people of God in the world TODAY?  One powerful answer is: we must keep the cross as the center of our message in our engagement of God’s mission in the world.  This means that we must keep the cross as the center to every dimension of mission that we engage in.  Let’s always remember:

  • Only in the cross is there forgiveness, justification, and cleansing for guilty sinners.
  • Only in the cross stands the defeat of evil powers.
  • Only in the cross is there release from the fear of death and its ultimate destruction altogether.
  • Only in the cross are even the most difficult to control of enemies/evils reconciled.
  • Only in the cross will we finally witness the HEALING OF ALL CREATION.

This is a powerful message that we called to share in mission with the world.

Prayer for the Week: Please pray this Prayer for the Week, as we, the faithful of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Spokane, join together to raise this prayer to God in unity of our faith and trust!

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Scripture for Dwelling: Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18, Psalm 149, Ephesians 1:11-23, Luke 6:20-31

Food for Thought: Let’s get ready for tomorrow morning.  In holy baptism, God makes saints out of sinners.  In holy communion, God forgives the sins of all the saints.  In the assembly on All Saints Sunday, we give thanks for all the saints “who from their labors rest,” who have fought the good fight, and who have gained the crown.  In the same breath, we petition our God for the strength to hear and to heed admonitions of the Lord Jesus in the gospel reading in Luke.  Recalling that we have been sealed by the Spirit and sustained by the Savior’s body and blood, we keep on keeping on as God gives breath, to the praise of God’s glory.  In our gospel reading today, Luke 6:20-31, in echoes of the prophet Isaiah and Mary’s song of praise, Jesus reveals surprising things about who enjoys blessing and who endures woe.  He invites his disciples to shower radical love, blessing, forgiveness, generosity, and trust, even to enemies and outsiders.

Prayer for the Week: Please pray this Prayer for the Week, as we, the faithful of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Spokane, join together to raise this prayer to God in unity of our faith and trust!

As you finish today’s devotion, I hope you are planning to be with us tomorrow morning for our All Saints Sunday Festival Celebration.  We will celebrate at 10:00 AM.  During the service, we will commemorate loved ones and friends that have gone before us.  Alleluia!

 

ALL SAINTS FESTIVAL SERVICE OF HOLY COMMUNION

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 2019

10:00 AM

EEEK OF OCTIBER 28, 2019

 

WEEK OF OCTOBER 21, 2019

Last week, we prayed together each day of the week and asked God to show us new ways that we may enter into connections and evangelism with our community—with our sisters and brothers and their children in our Hillyard Neighborhood and in our City of Spokane.  This cannot be a one-week commitment.  We have to make this kind of prayer a part of our daily prayers into the future—unending.  We have to make this kind of prayer part of our identity as a church—as a church that is committed to pray together to discern God’s will in the church, with our members, and in the community where we serve.  In our gospel passage for this coming Sunday, there is a resounding theme.  That theme is “pray without end and do not be discouraged”.  I have to say that again, “PRAY WITHOUT END AND DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED.”

In our contemplations about engaging in evangelism as part of our identity, we should consider what it means to be a MISSIONAL CHURCH.  In many places, the word “MISSIONAL” has become a ‘buzz-word’ for churches that worship in diverse and charismatic ways.  It has also sometimes been a label for churches that “plant” new churches in new communities across their areas.  But, what does it really mean to be “MISSIONAL”—sent by God—engaged in God’s mission?  It has never been our mission and it never will be!  We are privileged and called to engage in advancing God’s Mission in the world.  In our Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, we have a slogan or tag line that proclaims:  GOD’S WORK:  Our hands.  It indeed is God’s work and we are only the vessels to carry out God’s Mission.  We are the conduit for the Spirit to flow through to reach the world of people in need.  Our Scriptures and thoughts this week will take us on that journey.  The idea of “MISSIONAL CHURCH” is so large, that it seems we should spend several weeks in these contemplations.  Peace to you all!  Please continue to give me feedback about these devotionals!

Monday, October 21, 2019

Scriptures for Dwelling: John 3:11-21, John 14:1-31 (Yes!  The whole beautiful, powerful chapter!), John 17:1-26 (Again, the whole beautiful, powerful chapter!), Acts 13:1-12

Food for Thought: Here we consider that God the Father sent the Son into the world.  And God the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit into the world.  And Father, Son, and Holy Spirit send the church into the world.  There is a term that has been used since the middle of the twentieth century and it names this multi-layered sending as a description for the church.  This term uses two Latin words: missio Dei.  The translation is “mission of God” or “sending of God”.  Linking the mission of God to all the members of the Holy Trinity and then linking the sending to us—the church—is a powerful thought.  The “MOVEMENT” that is described in “SENDING” is action oriented.  In God’s Mission, to me, this implies that we can never be complacent in engaging in and advancing God’s Mission in the world.   Regardless of our ages, our resources, our current work in God’s Mission—we must be disciplined and committed to listen to God for new (and maybe even challenging) new avenues for God’s Mission in the world.  We can be sure that the Holy Spirit is moving constantly— churning and swirling in our world.  God is ALWAYS out in front of us.  God is always many steps ahead of us.  How do we respond?  Are we praying and LISTENING to God for new directions and new guidance in how to move with the Holy Spirit in missio Dei?

Please pray our Prayer for the Week, as we, the flock of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Spokane, join together as one voice before God—our God who HEARS all our prayers.

A Prayer for the Week Prayer for the Week: Holy God—Great God—God of the Universe—we bow down to you and lift our praise to you.  We offer our thanksgiving to you for all the blessings that you so freely give to us. You bless us in the joyous times in our lives—and in the times of sorrow, loss, disappointment, or failure.  God, make us a beacon of Christ’s light in this dark world.  Speak to us that we make speak to others.  Guide us—lead us—route us—in the ways that you would have us carry out your mission in our community—our City—and in this world.  God help us make the connections in our community to sustain and grow our congregation so we can continue to raise up pastors, feed hungry people, and do the other things that you lead us to do.  God, take our mustard seed faith and grow it, bless it, advance it to GIANT MUSTARD TREE FAITH.  We claim victory in your Holy Name.  We know, that through faith, that you are our Advocate—our fuel—and our foundation.  We are here.  Work through us!  We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Scriptures for Dwelling: Genesis 9:8-17, Exodus 3:7-12, Genesis 15:1-6, Jeremiah 1:7

Food for Thought: In his book, The Mission of God’s People, author Christopher Wright, poses the question: If we, the church are being sent…. what are we being sent to do?  “Sending” of people to do God’s work is not exclusive to the New Testament and the sending of the church.  God “sends” plenty of people in the Old Testament.  Let’s look at examples of God’s sending of people in the Old Testament in today’s readings.  God sends Noah to gather creatures, his extended family, and build an ark, so that they may float on a journey of salvation from a world that was too wicked for God to tolerate.  God sends Moses to deliver God’s people from captivity and slavery in Egypt.  Abram, later Abraham, was sent, at a very old age, to build a legacy of descendants with more descendants than there are stars in the skies; and to live in Covenant with God as God’s people.  Jeremiah was sent to proclaim God’s Word.

Please pray our Prayer for the Week as we, the flock of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Spokane, join together as one voice before God—who HEARS all our prayers.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Scriptures for Dwelling: Acts 20:25-27, Ephesians 1:3-14

Food for Thought: Chris Wright also points out that “It is not so much the case that God has a mission for his church in the world, as that God has a church for God’s mission in the world.  Mission was not made for the church; the church was made—and SENT—for mission—God’s mission in the world.  You have heard me say it before, it is NOT our mission, it is God’s mission.  God is “out front” of any plans or paths that we could ever consider taking in mission.

Please pray our Prayer for the Week as we, the flock of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Spokane, join together as one voice before God—who HEARS all our prayers:

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Scriptures for Dwelling: Luke 24:46-48, 1 Peter 2:1-10

Food for Thought: Where are we to engage in God’s Mission?  Many churches, over the past five or six (give or take) decades have become very INWARDLY FOCUSED.  In the past decade (or so), many churches have literally tried to survive to “keep the lights on”.  These kinds of churches are focused inside their four walls.  They have little consideration for God’s mission in the world.  Don’t get me wrong, we are expected to come together as a church, and worship God.  We are called to engage in Word and Sacrament.  Coming together regularly, in God’s name, keeps us in Christian bond and common goals.  There is little in the world that I look forward to more than coming together in our Sanctuary to worship God together, singing together, praying together, and celebrating our Sacraments of Holy Communion and Baptism.  However—if all we were to do is to come together to worship, then we would only be focused within our four walls.  The mission of God is OUT IN THE WORLD AROUND US.  We live in a City where there is rampant homelessness.  There are dozens of people each day that wander through our property and even pitch their tents and sleep on our property for the night.  There are literally hundreds of people that find their way into our food banks and in our free community breakfasts.  These are DEFINITELY examples of OUTREACH.  These are definitely examples of engaging in God’s mission in the world to take care of those who need our help.  The questions I continue to ask: “Is God calling us in any new directions in our outreach and mission?”  “Where may God be calling us next—beyond our current outreach?”  What does the next chapter of God’s Mission through St. Peter Lutheran Church look like?

Please pray our Prayer for the Week as we, the flock of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Spokane, join together as one voice before God—who HEARS all our prayers.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Scriptures for Dwelling: Galatians 4:4-7

Food for Thought: This passage is about FREEDOM.  We are freed by the death and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We are freed by the peace and power of the Holy Spirit.  We are empowered by our resurrection with Christ.  We are empowered by the energy and movement of the Holy Spirit.  This kind of empowerment and energy gives us the fuel to engage in God’s Mission in the world—outside our four walls of worship.  This is our foundation and fuel to move in directions where God is calling.  Where is God calling us over the next 2 years?  The next 3 years?  The next 4 years?  The next 5 years?

Please pray our Prayer for the Week as we, the flock of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Spokane, join together as one voice before God—who HEARS all our prayers.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Scriptures for Dwelling: Jeremiah 31:31-34, Psalm 46, Romans 3:19-28, and John 8:31-36

Food for Thought: Tomorrow, on Reformation Sunday, we will celebrate the heart of our faith: the gospel of Christ—the good news—that makes us free!  We pray that the Holy Spirit would continue to unite the church today in its proclamation and witness to the world.  In the waters of baptism, we are made one body; we pray for the day that all Christians will also be on at the Lord’s table.  In our passage for tomorrow:

Jeremiah—The renewed covenant will not be breakable, but like the old covenant, it will expect the people to live upright lives.  To know the Lord means that one will defend the cause of the poor and the needy (Jeremiah 22:16).  The renewed covenant is possible only because the Lord will forgive iniquity and not remember sin.  Our hope lies in a God who forgets our transgressions once we have asked for forgiveness.

The Psalm—The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold (Verse 7).

Romans—Paul’s words stand at the heart of the preaching of Martin Luther and the other Protestant Reformation leaders.  No human beings make themselves right with God through works of the law.  We are brought into a right relationship with God through the divine activity centered in Christ’s death.  This act is a gift of GRACE that liberates us from sin and empowers our faith in Jesus Christ.

In our Gospel Reading in John—Jesus speaks of truth and freedom as spiritual realities known through his word.  He reveals the truth that sets people free from sin.

Please pray our Prayer for the Week as we, the flock of St. Peter Lutheran Church in Spokane, join together as one voice before God—who HEARS all our prayers.

Reformation 1      Öèôðîâàÿ ðåïðîäóêöèÿ íàõîäèòñÿ â èíòåðíåò-ìóçåå gallerix.ru

TOMORROW IS REFORMATION SUNDAY.  WE WILL CELEBRATE THIS DAY WITH

A FESTIVAL SERVICE OF HOLY COMMUNION AT 10:00 AM.  ALL ARE WELCOME!

WEEK OF OCTOBER 14, 2019

Last Sunday, we had a call for prayer to God to help us bring the children and youth back into our congregation.  This brings us again to the conversation we were having a few weeks ago about EVANGELISM!

We can be assured that God is out front of all of this!  We can be assured that God has a plan!  We can be assured that God is moving in this community—even when we do not see where God is moving.  But, how do we respond to God’s call?  What do we do to engage in GOD’S WORK—OUR HANDS in this community in response to our call to evangelism?  How do we connect with the families—the parents—and the children—to build a healthy group of children in our Sunday School, our Worship Services, and in every part of St. Peter Lutheran Church experience?  This is not about building numbers in our church; it is about connecting God’s children together and worshipping and serving and celebrating the Good News for ALL ages!  Prayer is a good starting point.  Prayer is a good way to get the dialogue going with God.  We need to pray individually.  We need to pray together.  Prayer is the starting point, but must be continued daily forever!  Prayer has to be a way of life.  We need better awareness about what we are facing and how we can engage in our evangelistic plans.  We need to talk about evangelism.  We need to make this part of our routine conversations when we come together to worship, to meet, or for whatever reasons we are gathering.  Then we need an action plan—a realistic action plan—one that starts with appropriate goals and then builds on itself as goals are accomplished and we progress.  It is pretty safe that the “build it and they will come” kind of strategy just does not work any longer in church evangelism.  We already have a beautiful church and we are already here and have been here for a long time! Let’s pray our Prayer for the Week together each day as we focus again on Evangelism and Outreach.  Let’s look at the following five things in this week’s devotions:  1-what does God say about children? 2-what does God’s word say about faith and prayer and God’s promise? 3-how do we listen/hear God’s call to us? 4-how do we take “dialogue” or “talk” into action? 5-Reaching outside into the community we live in to engage in “God’s work [with] our hands”!  Then, the next week, we will have daily devotions around the discussion of “what does it mean to be a missional church?”

Monday, October 14, 2019

              Let the children come to me (2)      Let the children come to me 3 (2)

Scriptures for dwelling: Mark 10:13-16, Matthew 19:13-15, Deuteronomy 6:6-7, 2 Timothy 3:14-15

Food for Thought: Jesus puts a very high priority on the value of children in the Kingdom of God.  Jesus wants to hear from the children.  In Jesus’ eyes, children are not supposed to just be seen, but also heard!  In the passages in Deuteronomy and 2 Timothy, we see the importance that God places on teaching children in the ways of God and God’s word.  We know this is our responsibility and calling.  Now… our prayer is for God to lead us in ways to see how we can connect with the parents of our local children.  It takes a strong connection with and commitment from the  FAMILY—the PARENTS—with the Church Leaders—to create a magnet of Word and Sacrament and JOY that DRAWS young families and children into the church.  We have talked much, through these parables in Luke, about the MANY lures and distractions of the world that pull people away from God…. And then there are those parents who now have children, who, themselves, were not raised in church families and church homes.  They have no center of God in their lives and that makes it even more difficult to connect.  Difficult and challenging—yes!  Impossible—NO!  I hope you still have your MUSTARD SEED from last Sunday!  Let’s pray together…

A Prayer for the Week

Prayer for the Week:  All-knowing God—Creator and sustainer of the universe, we lift our praises to you.  We lift our thanksgiving to you for all you do in our lives and in our world.  God, you know our challenges here at St. Peter Lutheran in connecting with young families to bring children back into our flock—children to build a future for your church and your work here in this community of Hillyard—in Spokane.  God soften our hearts, open our eyes, heighten our ears, and stir our hearts—to listen to your call—to HEAR your call in this community and in this world.  God, where are you leading us?  How are you leading us in mission and outreach in our community with children and young families?  God, speak to us so that we may speak in your holy name in this community.  Continue to bless our strong food ministries and show us, lead us, guide us— in the paths that you would have us go to bring your children—parents and their little ones—back into your flock here.  Holy God, help us build a future for this congregation through the connections you lead us to make in this community today.  We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God—now and forever!  Amen.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Scriptures for dwelling: Romans 4:13-25

Food for Thought: We have to have faith.  We talked about mustard seed faith growing into the mighty mustard seed tree!  And—our prayers need to be earnest and ask God for guidance in ‘bringing them in’ or ‘bringing them back’.  And then, we must HOPE AGAINST HOPE—BELIEVE AGAINST RESISTANCE—CLAIM VICTORY IN THE NAME OF GOD!  Abraham was a VERY old man and God promised him that he would have more descendants than there are stars in the skies.  Abraham, in his NINETIES, was not convinced and his wife, Sarah, laughed at God.  God has a plan and we need to prayerfully discern that plan—BELIEVING AND HOPING AND KNOWING that great things happen when we engage in GOD’S WORK with our hands!

Please pray our Prayer for the Week as we join as one—the body of Christ—praying together.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Scriptures for dwelling: James 1:19-25

Food for Thought: I love this passage!  In our Lutheran reservations about anything that borders on works-righteousness, this Scripture gives us our marching orders—as God’s people—as Lutherans!  We know that we do not earn our salvation by good works.  However, when we are living and mustard TREE faith, the works are bound to pour out of us like the waters of Niagara Falls!  We cannot be just hearers of the Word about evangelism and reaching out to children and their families.  We must have BOOTS ON THE GROUND!  How do we do that?  It takes dialogue—discussion—consensus—action plan—COMMITMENT—and then GO!  GO!!!  ACTION!  Are we ready to move?

Please pray our Prayer for the Week as we join as one—the body of Christ—praying together.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Scriptures for dwelling: Hebrews 13:1-25

Food for Thought: How DO WE take our dialogue—our discussions—our plans and goals—into ACTION?  This is not easy.  We have to discern the direction God is leading us.  We need to agree on this, as a Church.  Then, it takes the FIRST STEP into action.  The NEXT STEP will be easier than the first.  This Scripture reminds us to ACT in God’s name and to ACT IN FAITH.  We are wrapped in the blanket of God’s grace.  We are definitely called into God’s mission as church.  The ACTING part is often where we fall short.  If we want to connect with these young families and children in Hillyard, we already know that they are NOT coming to us automatically.  So,,,, we must GO TO THEM!  Are we ready?

Please pray our Prayer for the Week as we join as one—the body of Christ—praying together.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Scriptures for dwelling: Acts 1:8, Acts 13:47, Mark 16:15, Romans 10:13-14, 1 Chronicles 16:23

Food for Thought: Evangelism is not a passive activity.  It is not something that we simply discuss.  It is not something that we “hope for” and then sit back and wait.  It is not something that is going to happen without serious prayerful guidance and “boots on the ground”.  It takes hard work on the ground.  God’s call is clear, which see from our Scriptures today, WE ARE CALLED TO GO OUT AND “BRING THEM IN”.  Yes!  We are the EVANGELICAL Lutheran Church in America!

Please pray our Prayer for the Week as we join as one—the body of Christ—praying together.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Scriptures for dwelling: Luke 18:1-8

Food for Thought: Let’s get ready for tomorrow!  In the Gospel passage for tomorrow morning, Jesus tells a parable of a hateful judge who is worn down by a widow’s pleas.  Jesus is calling God’s people to cry out for justice and deliverance.  For if an unethical judge will ultimately grant the plea of a persistent widow, how much more will God respond to those who call?  Where is God calling us in this community to cry out for justice and deliverance for God’s children?  There are so many homeless people in our City and our neighborhood.  St. Peter Lutheran Church Food Ministries are reaching out to literally hundreds of people each month.  Are there other ways that the voice of God’s people can cry out on behalf of “the least of God’s children” who suffer constantly in mind, body, spirit, resources, and opportunities in life? This is a “tough” one, but God expects us to face up to the “tough” challenges that constantly face God’s children—God’s people!

Please pray our Prayer for the Week as we join as one—the body of Christ—praying together.

WEEK OF OCTOBER 7, 2019

I was asked by some to share the words of the song that I used last Sunday in the sermon.  The song was written by a Christian recording musician named Phil Wickham.  The song is called Living Hope and here are the words.

Living Hope

How great the chasm that lay between us—
How high the mountain I could not climb.
In desperation, I turned to heaven,
And spoke Your name into the night.
Then through the darkness,

Your loving-kindness
Tore through the shadows of my soul.
                                        The work is finished, the end is written—                                                 
Jesus Christ, my living hope.

Who could imagine so great a mercy?
What heart could fathom such boundless grace?
The God of ages stepped down from glory
To wear my sin and bear my shame.
The cross has spoken, I am forgiven.
The King of kings calls me His own.
Beautiful Savior, I’m Yours forever—
Jesus Christ, my living hope.

Hallelujah!  Praise the One who set me free!
Hallelujah!  Death has lost its grip on me!
You have broken every chain—
There’s salvation in Your name.
Jesus Christ, my living hope.

As we celebrate Jesus Christ, our living hope, let’s also pause to celebrate the living hope that the peace and power of the Holy Spirit brings to life, and the hope that Creator God, God the Father brings to life.  Our hope is embedded in the love and power of our Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

Often, we look to the New Testament to see God’s movement in grace and redemption.  The Old Testament is also full of God’s grace and redemption!  I love the Old Testament!  In this week’s Daily Devotions, we will focus on the REDEEMING LOVE AND REDEEMING GRACE that we find in the Old Testament in God’s unending support of God’s people.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Scriptures for dwelling:  Genesis 6:1-7:1

Food for thought:  God was so disappointed that he had created humankind, because of the rampant wickedness of humans, that God decided to destroy all life on the earth with a flood.  All life—with the exception of Noah and his family and the creatures that God commanded Noah to bring with them on the ark.  God’s love for humankind is clearly seen in the grace and protection—salvation—that God gave to Noah, his family, and the creatures gathered in the ark.  Noah was a good man, but Noah was not a perfect man, yet God chose to save Noah and his family from destruction.  That is God’s grace in action!

Prayer of the Week:

A Prayer for the Week

Redeeming God—God of Wholeness, as we kneel to pray together, we lift our praise and thanksgiving to you.  You are so good to us!  God, when we are blinded by the glare of this world, give us eyes to see and minds to know that you are with us in every good and bad situation in our lives.  You are forever present!    When we are broken in mind, body, or spirit—when we hit rock bottom—when we have lost our way, Lord pick us up and dust us off, and show us healing and wholeness that can come only from you.  Hold us close and mold our fragile lives to live and walk in faith and not in fear.  Lord, when our time comes to join you, open your arms and bring us home as the faith we walk in now becomes the sight of our own eyes for eternal life.  We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Scriptures for dwelling: Genesis 12:1-9, Genesis 15:1-6, Genesis 17:1-8, Genesis 18:10-15, Genesis 21:1-7 (I know!  I know!  There are a number of verses today, BUT these verses are necessary to tell the story!  If you can, read Genesis Chapters 12-18 to get the full picture!)

Food for thought:  Abram (pre-Abraham) was a rich herdsman and landowner.  God called Abram to be a leader of his people.  God chose Abram and made God’s Covenant with him.  God promised to give Abram, later Abraham, more descendants that there are stars in the sky.  Abram and his wife, Sarai, were around 90 years old and believed that they were past their child-bearing days.  God still promised Abraham and Sarah that they would indeed bear a child of their own flesh and blood.  Against all the obstacles, God’s grace prevailed.  Isaac was born in Chapter 21!  God’s Covenant with Abraham was a firm commitment that God’s grace ‘made good on’!

Prayer of the Week:  Please join your fellow sisters and brothers and pray this prayer.  God hears our prayers.  God knows when we are praying together in thoughts of unity.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Scriptures for dwelling: Exodus 4:1-17

Food for thought:  Moses doubted God at every turn in his call to leadership.  But, God, in God’s graciousness, guided Moses.  Moses appeared to be as flawed as they come.  He was arrogant at times.  He was very stubborn, and he was very doubtful of God’s abilities to groom him into an influential, charismatic leader.  NOW—here comes the GRACE….God faithfully walked with Moses.  As time went on, Moses learned how to faithfully obey God.  God used this blemished shepherd to lead his wayward sheep out of captivity by the Egyptians.  God chose to listen to and to walk closely with Moses, who was a known murderer in his youth.  He killed another man with his bare hands.  That kind of love and acceptance from God truly is:  GOD’S GRACE!

Prayer of the Week: Please join your fellow sisters and brothers and pray this prayer.  God hears our prayers.  God knows when we are praying together in thoughts of unity.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Scriptures for dwelling:  Judges 10:6-16

Food for thought:  It is hard to keep track of the number of times that the Israelites rebelled against and grumbled against God, yet God rescued them.  Throughout the early Old Testament, the Israelites broke God’s commandments, worshipped false gods, and often doubted.  Time and again, they turned away from God, did whatever they wanted, lost God’s protection, suffered great consequences, returned to God, and begged God to rescue them—over and over and over!  Our faithful God showed them grace and redemption—over and over and over!

Prayer of the Week: Please join your fellow sisters and brothers and pray this prayer.  God hears our prayers.  God knows when we are praying together in thoughts of unity.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Scriptures for dwelling:  Psalm 51

Food for thought:  It is generally accepted that Psalm 51 was written by David, as repentance after he committed adultery with Bathsheba.  David was quite a character.  He lusted, stole, fornicated, lied, and even killed.  Yet God saw David’s heart and loved David unconditionally.  David is the ultimate example of God’s unmerited favor—grace.  It is very evident in the Book of Psalms that David loved God—deeply loved God.  It is hard to believe that David ever truly strayed away from his deep love for God.  However, David made some terrible decisions and did some despicable things, just as we all do.  The key for David is that he always turned from his sin and repented.  God always forgave him.  That is a bountiful example of GOD’S GRACE!

Prayer of the Week: Please join your fellow sisters and brothers and pray this prayer.  God hears our prayers.  God knows when we are praying together in thoughts of unity.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Scriptures for dwelling:  Luke 17:5-10

Food for thought:  Let’s get ready for our worship service tomorrow.  On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus instructs his followers about the power of faith and the duties of discipleship.  He calls his disciples to adopt the attitude of servants whose actions are responses to their identity rather than works seeking reward.  We, as Lutherans, as very cautious about any kind of action(s) that even remotely resemble “works righteousness”.  This Gospel lesson gives us perspective directly from Jesus.  It shows us that works are still important in our lives of true discipleship.  HOWEVER, we know that those works will NOT earn our Salvation in any way.  Salvation comes freely by God’s grace as we walk put our faith in GOD ALONE!

Prayer of the Week: Please join your fellow sisters and brothers and pray this prayer.  God hears our prayers.  God knows when we are praying together in thoughts of unity.

WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 30, 2019

Jesus Christ My Living Hope

What shall we say?  What words or explanation will we use?  How do we, the body of Christ in the world, respond when we are asked tough questions about God?  How do we show that the faith we proclaim in our words is truly the faith that we live in our lives—completely?  When a family is struggling with the loss of a young child and we are asked, “Where is God in the tragic death of this child?  Why?  Why?”  Or, when a natural storm destroys the homes and businesses of thousands of people and they struggle with the basic provisions of food and water and we are asked, “Where is God in this tragic destruction of lives and property and the environment?  Why?  Why?”  When we see people who are homeless, suffering with addictions, hungry, suffering from emotional and mental troubles, and barely hanging on to life, and we are asked, “Where God is all these struggles? Why?  Why?”  When we see a friend, neighbor, loved one, or family member suffering from the physical destruction of cancer or some other debilitating disease, and we are asked, “Where is God in the suffering?  Where is God in the pain?  Why?  Why?”  What shall we say?

First, God is Omnipresent.  That means that God is always present—in every fiber of the universe—at all times.  God is in the pain and suffering.  God is present when the doctor or nurse gently comfort their patients.  God is present when you hold the hand of a parent who has lost a child and you simply cry together—no words are necessary.  God is there.  God is present in the rebuilding efforts after a natural disaster.  God is present in the workers, the builders, and the planners to restore life to normal.  God is a restoring God.  It is all about HOPE; but it is HOPE that we can count on—it is really all about PROMISE!!!

Now, let’s celebrate our gift of LIVING HOPE through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in our lives and in our daily devotions for this week…

Monday, September 30, 2019

Scriptures to READ and DWELL IN:  1 Peter 1:3-9

Food for thought:  This is a VERY EXCITING Scripture when we contemplate those questions about “Where is God?” or “How could God let that happen to us or to others?”  This gives us the NEW HOPE—LIVING HOPE—through the death and RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ.  This is the promise of God!  There are no maybe’s in this promise.  It is the real deal through the grace of God and through the death and RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ.  With Christ, we are RESURRECTED!!!  God is “there”—God is “present” in the good and in the bad and God promise that our TRUE and LIVING FAITH WILL get us through those trials of life.  It is in this promise that we can share the Good News—the PROMISE of GOD to others who are struggling with “Where are you God?”  Believe me—believe the promise—GOD IS THERE—ALWAYS IN EVERY WAY!!!  Alleluia!

A Prayer for the WeekGod of Hope and God of Promise—all praise and honor and glory be to your Holy Name.  We lift our praise and thanksgiving to you for all the blessings of life.  God, when our humanity causes us to question where you are in the trials of life and in things that we do not understand, help us to live in your promise that you are always with us to the ends of the ages.  When we suffer pain and trials or when we see others suffer pain and trials, help us to live in faith and confidence that your healing hands and redemptive nature will make all things whole in the end.  Give us hearts to love you above all and to spread your Good News to others and those in need, as we show them in our lives and actions that we love them as our ourselves.  We pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God—now and forever.  Amen.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Scriptures to READ and DWELL IN:  Romans 5:1-11

Food for thought:  This part of the Word of God gives us the promise that all brokenness is made whole through God—in the end.  This gives us the PROMISE that all the brokenness of this life—not just our sinful nature—but all the trials and pain of this life—WILL BE made whole in God in the end.  When people who do not live in faith and have no relationship with our Triune God go through pain, suffering, loss, challenges, and tribulations in this life, I always wonder where they turn.  Most of us would say that our faith sustains us and brings us through the trials of life.  Where do they turn?  What is their foundation?  How do they find HOPE in their troubles and loss?  I am afraid that too often, they do not find that HOPE in their troubles and loss.  They are consumed by the fires of the trials and have no place to turn—except their own frail selves.  To me, this is a clear call for us, the BELIEVERS—the FAITHFUL—to share the Good News of God through Jesus Christ to the world.  Christ is the Light and for unbelievers, who live in darkness, this could help them live into a life of HOPE and LIGHT and out of the darkness!

Prayer for the Week: Please pray our Prayer for the Week as we are all doing.  Praying this Prayer together unifies us as the body of Christ in the world!!!

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Scriptures to READ and DWELL IN: Romans 12:9-12

Food for thought:  Our New Revised Standard Version translation of this Scripture puts Verses 9-12 under the heading: Marks of the True Christian.  When we live-into our faith in God and we love God with our whole heart and our neighbors as ourselves, God gives us that promise of HOPE.  Verse 12 tells us to REJOICE IN HOPE, BE PATIENT IN SUFFERING (Yes!  God is always there in every way and there will be wholeness in the end.) Then we are encouraged to PERSEVERE IN PRAYER.  To strengthen our communion with God, our relationship with God, and our very faith formation, PRAYER IS ESSENTIAL.  Daily—lingering prayer—the kind of prayer that listens in the quietness of that time just as much as it talks to God.  We often think of prayer as the time we “talk to God”.  Prayer is a two-way communication and there must be equal opportunity for LISTENING TO GOD too!

Prayer for the Week: Please pray our Prayer for the Week as we are all doing.  Praying this Prayer together unifies us as the body of Christ in the world!!!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Scriptures to READ and DWELL IN: Romans 15:7-13

Food for thought:  This passage reminds us of the inclusion of God.  God’s love and grace and redemption is for all peoples—Jews and Gentiles alike.  In Verse 12, we are reminded that promise that the Prophet Isaiah gave in that the “Root of Jesse shall come”.   This is the promise of the coming of the Messiah—Jesus Christ.  The coming of the Messiah brings HOPE.  The life of the Messiah brings HOPE.  The death and the RESURRECTION of the Messiah ENSURES HOPE!  This passage ends with a REJOICING: “May the God of HOPE fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Prayer for the Week: Please pray our Prayer for the Week as we are all doing.  Praying this Prayer together unifies us as the body of Christ in the world!!!

Friday, October 4, 2019

Scriptures to READ and DWELL IN: 1 Corinthians 2:6-13

Food for thought:  God is God.  We are NOT God!  We are human creatures—created by God.  In our faith, we live in the promise and hope of being with God for eternity in a world beyond this life.  We CANNOT imagine who God is and what God’s power is really like.  We are human and limited.  We CANNOT imagine this place we call heaven “that God has prepared for us”.  We understand that no eye has seen the glory of the Lord.  No ear has heard the glory of the Lord.  No human heart has conceived the power and glory and majesty of the Lord.  But we are invited into a relationship with our Triune God so that we can taste the glory, and wisdom, power, and might of our God through our relationship with our Risen Savior Jesus Christ and the PEACE and POWER of the Holy Spirit.  Alleluia!

Prayer for the Week:  Please pray our Prayer for the Week as we are all doing.  Praying this Prayer together unifies us as the body of Christ in the world!!!

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Scriptures to READ and DWELL IN:  Let’s get ready for tomorrow morning.  Our Gospel reading for tomorrow is Luke 17:5-10.  On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus instructs his followers about the power of faith and the duties of discipleship.  He calls his disciples to adopt the attitude of servants whose actions are responses to their identity rather than works seeking reward.  Another reading for tomorrow morning, which is in keeping with the theme of our weekly devotions, is 2 Timothy 1:1-14.  This message written from Paul to Timothy is a personal message of encouragement.  In the face of hardship and persecution, Timothy is reminded that this faith is a gift of God.  He is encouraged to exercise that faith with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Food for thought:  We, as Lutherans, are generally very sensitive to anything that borders on “works righteousness”—earning our Salvation through good works.  That was one of the major issues that Martin Luther had with the Church, resulting in the Protestant Reformation of the Church.  As Lutherans, we understand that the price for our Salvation was paid by Jesus Christ on the Cross and that we Justified in our Salvation—saved— through GRACE ALONE—by FAITH ALONE—in JESUS CHRIST ALONE—as promised in GOD’S WORD ALONE!!!  We are not saved by our own efforts or works, as we see in Ephesians 2:8-9.  Grace means that God loved, forgives, and saves us not because of who we are or what we do, but because of the work of Jesus Christ.  HOWEVER, and YES—EVEN FOR GOOD LUTHERANS—this Gospel reading for tomorrow reminds us that the works/actions/deeds will pour out of us as a result of WHO WE ARE—as CHRISTIANS!!!

Prayer for the Week:  Please pray our Prayer for the Week as we are all doing.  Praying this Prayer together unifies us as the body of Christ in the world!!!

WEEK OF SEPTEMBER 9, 2019

What is God calling us to doAs I shared in the sermon last week, I strongly feel that God is calling us, St. Peter Lutheran Church, to reach deeper into our community to feed people in the Spiritual food of the Good News of Jesus Christ.  We are part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  We are “evangelical” in the sense that we are called—we are commissioned—directly by Jesus Christ, to “GO” to the ends of the earth to spread the Good News and to baptize in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Recall Matthew 28:16-20—The Great Commission).  To the “ends of the earth” starts right here!  It starts here in our Hillyard community—in Spokane—in Washington.  Our food ministries are feeding the hungry in a very powerful way for their physical needs.  NOW!  Let’s re-energize ourselves in feeding people with Spiritual Food!!!  Let’s pray individually and pray together that God will reveal where God desires us to “GO” in living into God’s mission in our community.  WHAT IS GOD CALLING US TO DO?  WHAT IS GOD CALLING YOU TO DO?  Let’s spend time every day on our knees in prayer strengthening our relationship with our Triune God and seeking clarity on WHAT GOD IS CALLING US TO DO?

Here is our daily prayer for this week, as we contemplate “what is evangelism” and “how is God calling us into a movement of evangelism so that we walk-in and live-in God’s mission in the world”?  Please add this prayer to your other “prayers” each day of this coming week!  As we pray together, God will listen!

A Prayer for the WeekHoly and Mighty God, we bow before you to praise your Almighty Name!  We come with thanksgiving for all the blessings that you give us in our lives—as your children and as your church.  God, empty our hearts and minds of any distractions of the world we live in.  Open our hearts and minds to better understand what you are calling us to do—both individually and as St. Peter Lutheran Church in Hillyard-Spokane, WA.  Give us vision, ideas, and creativity as we listen to your call.  God, give us courage and strength to break out of our routine patterns and comfort zones as we contemplate walking in faith in our community to tell your stories and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Give us eyes to see the path where you are leading.  Give us ears to hear the message you would have us share.  Give us hearts of love for you—above all—and our neighbors as ourselves.  We pray these things in the Name of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God—Now and Forever!  Amen.

Monday: September 9th—Scriptures: Psalm 135:1-3, Philippians 4:4-9—Evangelism is a complex journey with many facets.  One important part of Evangelism is spreading the goodness of the Lord.  In these Scriptures today, we lift up thanks and praise to our faithful God, who is with us always—in the good and in the bad!  Evangelism is living a life example and sharing with others the kind of peace that can come only from our Triune God!  Please pray our Daily Prayer for this week!

Tuesday: September 10th—Scriptures: Isaiah 6:8, Romans 11:29, 2 Timothy 1:9—Evangelism is also about our willingness to listen to God’s call—to HEAR God’s call—and to respond.  It is about our willingness to “GO”!  This is tough one for us here at St. Peter.  I know that most people are wearing MANY hats in our mission and ministry.  How do we even think about wearing another hat of evangelism?  When we get on our knees and pray and strengthen our relationship with God and to God’s call, God will SHOW THE WAY!  Regardless of age or health or any restrictions of this life, God will equip us to fully engage in God’s mission when we are OPEN AND WILLING!  We have to “step into” that direction where God is calling!  Please pray our Daily Prayer for this week!

Wednesday, September 11th—Scriptures: Isaiah 45:2, John 3:16, Romans 10:5-15—Our reading in Romans today really sums it up.  When we are in union with God—TRULY IN UNION WITH GOD—God will provide the resources and the path for evangelism.  The pay-off, if we need one, is the peace that we can only find through God—NOT the world!  How beautiful are the feet of those who are in true union with God and who LIVE GOD’S MISSION and bring the Good News to the people!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Please pray our Daily Prayer for this week!

Thursday, September 12th—Scriptures: Matthew 9:37-38, Psalm 25—PRAYER IS THE FUEL OF EVANGELISM.  You cannot drive a vehicle without gas.  You cannot engage in God’s mission for evangelism without prayer.  Prayer is our time for developing powerful and everlasting bonds with our Triune God.  Please join me on your knees as we pray our Daily Prayer for this week!

Friday, September 13th—Scriptures: Acts 13:47—Evangelism is about the Good News of Jesus Christ and how Jesus, directly and through the church, are the light of the world.  Let’s pray together and listen and see where God is leading us in our community to be the Light of the World in the world that is pretty dark these days!  Please pray our Daily Prayer for this week!

Saturday, September 14th—Let’s get ready for tomorrow!!!  Our Gospel Reading for tomorrow is Luke 15:1-10—Jesus tells two stories that suggest a curious connection between the lost being found and sinners repenting.  God takes the initiative to find sinners, each of whom is so precious to God that his or her recovery brings joy in heaven.

I can see how this Scripture directly relates to our contemplations about “What is evangelism” and “What is calling us to do in ministry and mission at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Hillyard-Spokane, WA”?  How do you see this passage relating to our current conversations on evangelism and God’s mission in our community and world?  Please pray our Daily Prayer for this week.

WEEK OF AUGUST 26, 2019

Sunday, August 25th: We’ve had a wonderful day of worship.  We are freed through the love and salvation of Jesus Christ.  I love the fact that our Gospel passage today ends with the people rejoicing for the goodness of the Lord.  I can visualize them singing and dancing and praising God for the good things that God has done.  We live in the hope and promise that Jesus heals every “bent” condition of life that we face.

Bent Woman Healing

Let us leave this holy Sanctuary today rejoicing and praising God for the great things that God has done and continues to do and will do forever!  Our chains are gone!  Our chains are broken!  We have been set free!

Broken Chains

As we leave here today, EMPOWERED BY THE FREEDOM, LOVE, FORGIVENESS, AND SALVATION OF GOD, let’s read the Word of God together and pray together for the next seven days.  Here are some suggested Scriptures (just a few verses for each day) to read and ‘pray over’ as we contemplate the following questions:

Monday, August 26th: How are we, as a church, living in Jesus’ commandment to love others as ourselves?  Can we do more?

Scriptures:  Matthew 22:34-40; Ephesians 4:2; 1 Peter 4:8; John 15:12

Prayer:  Precious Lord, open my heart—open my very being to love you with my whole heart and to love others as you taught.  Open my eyes to see the paths that you have for me so I may live into the kind of love that your example clearly gives.  I pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, that lived each day of his earthly life to teach us all how to love.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 27th: How are we, St. Peter Lutheran Church, living into the Great Commission, to make the most significant impact in our community, our world, and our church?

Scriptures:  Matthew 28:16-20 (The Great Commission), Acts 1:8: Acts 13:47, Mark 16:15

Prayer:  Lord of creation—Lord of Light, give us the eyes to see and the ears to hear the message of your mission here on earth—that you would have us proclaim in your name.  Give us courage and strength—patience and understanding—words and messages—for your people as we live into your Great Commission.  We pray these things in your holy name.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 28th:  We are God’s church—existing in the world around us!  Our food ministry feeds many people in Hillyard—PRAISE GOD!!!  Are there other needs in Hillyard, in OUR community—in Spokane—in our City—that we may be a part of addressing?

Scriptures:  Romans 15:1-7; Luke 6:31

Prayer:  Precious Lord, take my hand and lead me.  Sometimes I live in selfishness.  Sometimes I ignore others as I am absorbed in my own interests.  Lord, free me from the chains of selfishness and help me understand how my gifts and abilities may be used in your mission of love and redemption.  I pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.  Amen.

Thursday, August 29th:  What does it mean to be “God’s work—our hands”?

Scriptures: Psalm 90:17; Colossians 3:23-24; Colossians 3:17

Prayer: Kind heavenly father, thank you for the gifts and blessings of life.  Help me use my light as a beacon of your love—your grace—your forgiveness—as I do my part in advancing your mission in this world where we live.  I pray these things in the name of Jesus, Redeemer of the world.  Amen.

Friday, August 30th: “This little light of mine—I’m gonna let it shine—let is shine—let it shine—let it shine!”  Is MY light as bright as it could be in this world OR could I possible upgrade my light to a higher watt bulb?

Scriptures: Matthew 5:14-16; John 8:12; 2 Corinthians 4:6

Prayer: God of strength and understanding, groom me in ways that my light shines brighter than the distractions and evils of the world.  The world is full of darkness, and with your help, I, we, the church, can shine brighter than the evil of this world as we engage in your mission in this world in your holy name.  Amen.

Saturday, August 31st:  Let’s get ready for tomorrow… Our Gospel reading tomorrow is Luke 14:1, 7-14.  In this passage, Jesus observes guests jockeying for position at the table.  He uses the opportunity to teach his hearers to choose humility rather than self-exaltation.  Jesus also makes an appeal for hosts to mimic God’s gracious hospitality to the poor and the broken.  How does this passage to apply to us in Hillyard today?

Scripture: Luke 14:1, 7-14

Prayer:  Holy God, as we dwell in your Word, help us hear the message that you would have for us to hear.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who lives with you the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.