One Little Word

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Category: Devotional Messages (page 1 of 42)

Weekly Devotional Message

The Fifth Sunday of Easter; Year B (5/3/2015)

Lessons:
Acts 8:26-40
Psalm 22:25-31
1 John 4:7-21
St. John 15:1-8

Prayer of the Day:
O God, you give us your Son as the vine apart from whom we cannot live. Nourish our life in his resurrection, that we may bear the fruit of love and know the fullness of your joy, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. 

- – - – -

St. John 15:1-8 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

A devotional message based on this text will be posted by Tuesday evening.

The Fourth Sunday of Easter; Year B (4/26/2015)

Lessons:
Acts  4:5-12
Psalm 23
1st John 3:16-24
St. John 10:11-18

Prayer of the Day:
O Lord Christ, good shepherd of the sheep, you seek the lost and guide us into your fold. Feed us, and we shall be satisfied; heal us, and we shall be whole. Make us one with you, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

10:11 [Jesus said:] “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away – and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”


St. John 10:11-18, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

A devotional message based on these texts will be posted by Tuesday evening.

The Resurrection of Our Lord; Easter Sunday (4/5/2015)

Lessons:
Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 25:6-9
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:1-11 or Acts 10:34-43
St. Mark 16:1-8 or St. John 20:1-18

Prayer of the Day:
God of mercy, we no longer look for Jesus among the dead, for he is alive and has become the Lord of life. Increase in our minds and hearts the risen life we share with Christ, and help us to grow as your people toward the fullness of eternal life with you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

16:1 When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.


St. Mark 16:1-8 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Terror and Amazement

τρόμος and ἔκστασις — “tromos” and “extasis.” The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (my personal favorite translation) translates these two Greek words as terror and amazement, but I like the transliteration better: trauma and ecstasy.

According to St. Mark, three women (Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome) make their way to the tomb on that first Easter morning. They have spices with them, and are prepared to pay their final respects to Jesus. Their most pressing concern is the stone that has been rolled against the door of the tomb. Joseph of Arimathea, one of the few religious leaders in Jerusalem who seemed to have a positive interest in Jesus, had taken the body down from the cross, wrapped it in a burial linen, and laid it in a tomb. When he had finished, he rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.

Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome had been looking on from a distance when Jesus died. Afterwards, Mary and Mary followed Joseph, and saw where the body was laid. So as they make their way to the tomb, just after sunrise, they are wondering how they will get inside to complete the final preparations for his burial.

When they arrive, they are surprised to discover that the stone has already been rolled away. And not only that, a young man with a white robe is sitting on the right side of the tomb. (Can you say “angel from God?”) His message is consistent with just about every angelic message in the Scriptures: “Do not be alarmed.”

To come face-to-face with an angel is an alarming experience. But in this instance, it is even more alarming: the large stone is rolled back, the tomb is open, they are in the presence of an angel, and Jesus is gone! All of this is quite unsettling, compared with what they had expected as they walked towards the tomb. But none of this compares with what the women are about to hear: Jesus has been raised. He is not here.

Tromos and extasis, St. Mark writes. Trauma and ecstasy. In retrospect, these women will describe Holy Week as a traumatic experience. Witnessing the suffering and death (and confusing disappearance) of their Lord and teacher is a deeply disturbing experience for them; one that leaves them shaken and unsettled. Yet the announcement that death cannot hold him — that he is alive — is one of the most ecstatic moments they will ever experience.

They are paralyzed with fear. So much so, that they can’t even begin to imagine themselves responding faithfully to the angel’s command: “Go, tell the others that he is going ahead of them.” Instead, they flee the tomb, and they refuse to say anything to anyone. Tromos and extasis. Trauma and ecstasy. To be face-to-face with the reality of resurrection is a life-changing and inspiring thing. A breathtaking experience.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why is this so troubling for the three women on that first Easter morning?
  2. What might they have thought the angel’s words meant?
  3. Why do the oldest versions of St. Mark’s Gospel that we know about end with this verse?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How will we respond, when we find ourselves face-to-face with the reality of resurrection this coming Sunday?
  2. Will our worship be traumatic? Will the announcement of resurrection feel ecstatic?
  3. Will we leave worship in fear, and say nothing to anyone? Or will we obey the angelic command, and share it with the world?

Continue reading

Passion / Palm Sunday; Year B (3/29/2015)

Lessons:
Isaiah 50:4-9a
Psalm 31:9-16
Philippians 2:5-11
St. Mark 14:1-15:47 (or St. Mark 15:1-39 [40-47])
Processional Gospel
St. Mark 11:1-11 (or St. John 12:12-16)

Prayer of the Day:
Sovereign God, you have established your rule in the human heart through the servanthood of Jesus Christ. By your Spirit, keep us in the joyful procession of those who with their tongues confess Jesus as Lord and with their lives praise him as Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

15:1 As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.

Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection.

So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. 12 Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 They shouted back, “Crucify him!” 14 Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

16 Then the soldiers led him into the courtyard of the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters); and they called together the whole cohort. 17 And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. 18 And they began saluting him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. 20 After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

21 They compelled a passer-by, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross; it was Simon of Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus. 22 Then they brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means the place of a skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh; but he did not take

it. 24 And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them, casting lots to decide what each should take.

25 It was nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two bandits, one on his right and one on his left. 29 Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come down from the cross!” 31 In the same way the chief priests, along with the scribes, were also mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32 Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also taunted him.

33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” 36 And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 Now when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

St. Mark 15:1-39 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

The Holiest of Weeks

This coming Sunday holds two distinct celebrations for us. First: it is Palm Sunday — the day we remember Jesus’ last triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The crowds may turn against him come Friday, but on this day they welcome him on a highway carpeted with palm branches and coats, and with shouts of, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosannah in the highest!” Second: it is Passion Sunday — a day to remember not just his triumphal entry, but his entire experience during Holy Week. We’ll make our way from the Palm Sunday parade through the events of the week, as they lead up to his suffering, death and resurrection.

This week stands at the very heart of our liturgical calendar, just as Jesus’ selfless love and God’s limitless power stand at the very heart of our faith. Our task on Sunday is not to understand our Lord’s passion, or somehow to transform its mystery into doctrines and beliefs. Our task is to walk with Jesus. To stand beside him on Sunday as the crowds call out his name, and welcome him with enthusiasm into the Holy City. To sit with him on Thursday, as he gathers for one last meal with his followers. To follow him up the long Via Dolorosa (Latin for way of grief) as he makes his way to the cross. To honor him with our presence as he dies on the cross, and is placed in a tomb. To weep for him through the long hours of Holy Saturday.

Eventually we will celebrate as the angels announce, on Easter morning, “He has been raised. He is not here.” But this week is a time to focus on his suffering, his love, and his willingness to love us by giving the ultimate gift. Jesus, the Christ, the Suffering Servant of God; may his love for us transform our living, now and always. Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What might the suffering and death of Jesus have meant to his followers?
  2. What was it like for them to be close to him throughout Holy Week?
  3. How must they have been feeling on Saturday, having witnessed his death?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What role do the suffering and death of Jesus play in my own faith?
  2. How do I understand the connection between his death and my forgiveness?
  3. How will I honor him in this coming week, as I prepare for the arrival of Easter?

The Fifth Sunday in Lent; Year B (3/22/2015)

Lessons:
Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 51:1-12 or Psalm 119:9-16
Hebrews 5:5-10
St. John 12:20-33

Prayer of the Day:
O God, with steadfast love you draw us to yourself, and in mercy you receive our prayers. Strengthen us to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, that through life and death we may live in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

31:31-34 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt-a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Jeremiah 31:31-34 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Purpose

Jeremiah, as depicted by Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel ceiling

Jeremiah, as depicted by Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel ceiling

The Prophet Jeremiah is widely known as “The Weeping Prophet.” Serving God from approximately 626 to 586 b.c., his words for the people of Judah were often words of judgment and doom. During his lifetime great nations like Egypt, Assyria and Babylonia were vying for control of the region. Babylonia eventually gained the upper hand, and Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem on two separate occasions, eventually carrying off its leading citizens. Jeremiah himself fled the Babylonian armies (at the age of 70) and ended up dying in exile in Egypt.

Jeremiah may primarily have been a prophet of doom, but most Biblical scholars consider chapters 30-33 of the book named after him as a distinct section, and it has been referred to as “The Book of Consolation.” The future restoration of Israel is the primary theme of this section. Jeremiah interprets their destruction at the hand of the Babylonians as a sign of God’s judgment, but promises the people that God has restoration in store for them and their nation. Continue reading

The Fourth Sunday in Lent; Year B (3/15/2015)

Lessons:
Numbers 21:4-9
Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
Ephesians 2:1-10
St. John 3:14-21

Prayer of the Day:
Holy God, rich in mercy, by the humiliation of your Son you lifted up this fallen world and rescued us from the hopelessness of death. Lead us into your light, that all our deeds may reflect your love, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

3:14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”

St. John 3:14-21New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

For God so Loved the World

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” This is, arguably, one of the most ubiquitous texts in the New Testament. Google “John 3:16” and you get 73,900,000 results in 0.18 seconds (including dozens of images of former Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow). Turn on ESPN and you are bound to see it behind the catcher, or just off the putting green, or (in some instances; see image to the right) even on the field of play. Luther refers to it dozens of times in his writings and his teachings. He encouraged people to think of it as “The Gospel in Miniature.” Continue reading

The Third Sunday in Lent; Year B (3/8/2015)

Lessons:
Exodus 20:1-17
Psalm 19
1st Corinthians 1:18-25
St. John 2:13-22

Prayer of the Day:
Holy God, through your Son you have called us to live faithfully and act courageously. Keep us steadfast in your covenant of grace, and teach us the wisdom that comes only through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

11:18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, 23 but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

1st Corinthians 1:18-25New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Power

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…
For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom,
and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

1st Corinthians 1:18, 25

These words, the first and last verses from this weekend’s second lesson, are nothing less than breathtaking.

The foolishness of the cross, and the weakness of God: on these two ideals we stake the very future of our lives. Or at least we are invited to do so, because this is both the most inspiring aspect of Christian faith, and one of the most difficult beliefs to embrace. Continue reading

The Second Sunday in Lent; Year B (3/1/2015)

Lessons:
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16
Psalm 22:23-31
Romans 4:13-25
St. Mark 8:31-38

Prayer of the Day:
O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death to be for us the means of life. Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ that we may gladly suffer shame and loss for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

17:1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.” Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you…

15 God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Promise

Our God is one who makes promises. Our faith is built on the premise that “God who promises is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23) This is evident from the very beginning of the story, when God establishes a covenant with Noah, promising to accompany him through the waters of the flood and into a new life (Genesis 6:18), and later promising never again to destroy the earth with a flood (Genesis 9:11). Continue reading

The First Sunday in Lent; Year B (2/22/15)

Lessons:
Genesis 9:8-17
Psalm 25:1-10
1st Peter 3:18-22
St. Mark 1:9-15

Prayer of the Day:
Holy God, heavenly Father, in the waters of the flood you saved the chosen, and in the wilderness of temptation you protected your Son from sin. Renew us in the gift of baptism. May your holy angels be with us, that the wicked foe may have no power over us, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 1.9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” 12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

St. Mark 1:9-15 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Ash Wednesday; Year B (2/18/2015)

Lessons:
Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
or
Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 51:1-17
2nd Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
St. Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty and ever-living God, you hate nothing you have made, and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create in us new and honest hearts, so that, truly repenting of our sins, we may receive from you, the God of all mercy, full pardon and forgiveness through your Son Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

[Jesus said,] 6.1 “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 5 And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

16 “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

St. Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

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