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Category: Devotional Messages (page 1 of 41)

Weekly Devotional Message

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).

We notice this again in chapter 17, as God establishes a covenant with Abram and Sarai (soon to be Abraham and Sarah). God makes three promises to Abraham: he will be the ancestor of a multitude of nations; from his descendants nations and kings will come; and (in a verse excluded from this week’s lectionary reading) all the land of Canaan will be given to Abraham and his offspring as an inheritance.

As he and his wife were in their 90s and childless, both Abraham (17:17) and Sarah (18:12) laughed out loud when these promises first hit their ears. They seemed, at first, so far fetched; so ridiculous. And we, perhaps, might have laughed as well. It is hard to imagine a couple starting out a family when they were in their 50s or 60s — much less their 90s. Put yourself in Abraham’s shoes: at 99, would this be good news or bad news? Yet they came to treasure these promises, as did the people of Israel. Abraham became known as the father of the Hebrew faith, and for his willingness to stake his future on God’s promise he became a model of faith for Jews and Christians alike. (Romans 4:16-25)

In this weekend’s lesson, God declares that a covenant will be established with Abraham and Sarah. We know covenants, these days, as a set of rules and regulations that establish a certain character or quality in planned neighborhoods (Don’t paint your house purple, and I won’t park my wreck at the curb…). In the Hebrew Bible the word is used in the same way. it refers to a faithful and thoughtful relationship between God and a believer.

We too live with God, in relationships that are shaped by the “New Covenant.” Through the waters of our baptism, God has named us, claimed us, and promised us the gifts of forgiveness and new life. Through the resurrection of Christ, God has defeated the powers of death, and declared that we too will live.

As people of God, we give thanks for this promise, and pray for it to so take hold of our heats that we become transformed by the love of God that makes it possible. Our God is one who makes promises, and one who’s promises can be trusted because God is faithful. May we grow in the capacity to trust the promises that are ours, that we might live the life God wants us to know.

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What promises did God make to Abraham and Sarah?
  2. Why did these promises first seem laughable to Abraham and Sarah?
  3. How have these promises to Abraham become central to what our Jewish friends believe?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Who has helped me to understand the promise of my baptism?
  2. How does this promise allow me to live with hope and joy?
  3. How might I make witness to the promises that are mine, by the way I live my day-to-day life?

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.

The Transfiguration of Our Lord; Year B (2/15/2015)

Lessons:
2 Kings 2:1-12
Psalm 50:1-6
2nd Corinthians 4:3-6
St. Mark 9:2-9

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, the resplendent light of your truth shines from the mountaintop into our hearts. Transfigure us by your beloved Son, and illumine the world with your image, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

9.2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.5 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

St. Mark 9:2-9 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 Old and the New

I was born in 1957, and in some ways I am very nostalgic about the 1950s. I imagine it to have been a simpler time than today. Some things took more effort, of course: push mowers, coal furnaces and hand-washed dishes come to mind. But without the internet in your pocket, only three channels on television (a couple more if you were able to get VHF and UHF signals), and news broadcasts only twice a day, there was a lot more time left over to take a bike ride, explore the ravine down the street or play a round of golf.

August 25, 1957

I’d still love to own a ’57 Chevy some day (although my godfather’s ’56 Ford Galaxy was a pretty sweet ride…), but I’m also aware that the past can never be preserved, and the faithful person is the one who learns to live most fully in the present. Continue reading

The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany; Year B (2/8/2015)

Lessons:
Isaiah 40:21-31
Psalm 147:1-11, 20c
1st Corinthians 9:16-23
St. Mark 1:29-39

Prayer of the Day:
Everlasting God, you give strength to the weak and power to the faint. Make us agents of your healing and wholeness, that your good news may be made known to the ends of your creation, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

 1:29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them. 32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. 35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37 When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38 He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” 39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

St. Mark 1:29-39 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.

Raised up to Serve

Isn’t it odd that we know next to nothing about the families of those who became followers of Jesus? (Except, of course, for the fact that James and John had a father named Zebedee who was a fisherman, and an unnamed mother who petitioned Jesus to give them places of honor in his kingdom.) We don’t know if Bartholomew had a brother, if Matthew’s mother was still around, if James (the son of Alphaeus) was a Jr. or if Simon (the Cananaean) had a son.

We do know, however, that Peter has a mother-in-law and, presumably, a wife. Peter’s mother-in-law stands at the heart of this week’s text. Jesus has been teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum, and has healed many who are there. After a time, they leave the synagogue and make their way to Peter’s home. When they arrive, they discover that Peter’s mother-in-law is in bed with a very high fever (as if, the Greek word suggests, she is on fire). Jesus takes her by the hand, and lifts her up. As far as her family and friends can tell, she is completely healed. She immediately makes her way into the kitchen, and begins to serve all those who had gathered there with Jesus. Continue reading

The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany; Year B (2/1/2015)

Lessons:
Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Psalm 111
1st Corinthians 8:1-13
St. Mark 1:21-28

Prayer of the Day:
Compassionate God, you gather the whole universe into your radiant presence and continually reveal your Son as our Savior. Bring wholeness to all that is broken and speak truth to us in our confusion, that all creation will see you and know your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

1:21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. 23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, 24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. 27They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching-with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

St. Mark 1:21-28 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.

With Authority

In some respects, St. Mark is the most dramatic of the Gospels. There is an urgency in this book (by most accounts, written 10 to 20 years earlier than any of the others) that moves the story forward, paragraph by paragraph. That urgency is apparent in this week’s lesson.

Jesus enters the synagogue in Capernaum, and begins to teach. His words, St. Mark tells us, are spoken with authority, and his listeners are astounded. In the middle of his lesson, a challenge to his authority arises. A man with an unclean spirit approaches Jesus, demanding to know why Jesus is there, and what he intends to do. The people may be astounded, but the unclean spirits are threatened. With a word (with a word!), Jesus casts the spirit out. The man convulses, the spirit cries out, and he is free! Once again, the people are remarkably impressed with his authority: “even the unclean spirits… obey him.” Continue reading

The Third Sunday after Epiphany; Year B (1/25/2015)

Lessons:
Jonah 3:1-5, 10
Psalm 62:5-12
1st Corinthians 7:29-31
St. Mark 1:14-20

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, by grace alone you call us and accept us into your service. Strengthen us by your Spirit, and make us worthy of your call, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

1:14 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.”16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea-for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

St. Mark 1:14-20 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 New Kind of Fishing

Imagine what a day it is for them. It starts out as every other day started out. Early in the morning, long before sunrise, and long before many of their friends and neighbors wake, Peter, Andrew, James, John, Zebedee and the others crawl out of bed and make their way down to the boats. When they get there, they make the nets ready and push off from shore. It is a long, cold morning of throwing nets, hauling in fish, sorting good fish from everything else that was gathered in, and setting them aside to prepare them for market. After the fish are brought to shore, cleaned, and sold, then it is back to the boats for another run at it (if there is time) or preparing the equipment for the next day’s work. It is hard, demanding work: exciting the first few times, but hardly a novel or exciting experience for men who have been at it as long as these have.

On the day our Gospel lesson recalls, however, things happen a bit differently. Continue reading

The Second Sunday after Epiphany; Year B (1/18/2015)

Lessons:
1st Samuel 3:1-10 [11-20]
Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18
1st Corinthians 6:12-20
St. John 1:43-51

Prayer of the Day:
Thanks be to you Lord Jesus Christ, most merciful redeemer, for the countless blessings and benefits you give. May we know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day praising you, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

1.43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

St. John 1:43-51. 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.

Come and See

“Come and See,” says Philip to his good friend Nathanael. Philip has just told Nathanael about a man he met. The man’s name is Jesus, and this man asked Philip to follow him. Philip is sure he is the Messiah: the one the prophets and Moses predicted would come. Philip wants to follow him, but there is something he has to do first. He has to go and find his good friend Nathanael, and tell him about it. If he is right – if this traveling Rabbi from Nazareth actually is the Messiah – Philip wants to share that with Nathanael. Continue reading

The Baptism of Our Lord; Year B (1/11/2015)

Lessons:
Genesis 1:1-5
Psalm 29
Acts 19:1-7
St. Mark 1:4-11

Prayer of the Day:
Holy God, creator of light and giver of goodness, your voice moves over the waters. Immerse us in your grace, and transform us by your Spirit, that we may follow after your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

1.4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” 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.”

St. Mark 1:4-11 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.

Baptism: the Heart of our Faith

Baptism lies close to the heart of our faith.

I am aware that there are many “versions” of Christianity that have a presence in our day. Joel Osteen would have us believe that God wants every Christian to be prosperous. Mark Driscoll promotes the notion of “Muscular Christianity.” In his day, Robert Schuller was convinced that Christian faith led to the power of positive thinking. While these particular systems of belief seem compelling to many Americans as they seek to live out the American Dream, they have little to do with Biblical faith, and the crucified and resurrected Christ.

A friend of mine was fond of saying, “If it sounds like a deal, it isn’t the Gospel.” He was right: each of the above “versions” of Christianity sounds more like a deal than the free, undeserved gift of God. Gin yourself up to some level of faithfulness, and you will be rewarded (by God) with wealth, strength or success…

This is why the gift of Baptism is such an important one. It reminds us of who God is, and who we are. Continue reading

The Second Sunday of Christmas; Year B (1/4/2015)

Lessons:
Jeremiah 31:7-14
or Sirach 24:1-12
Psalm 147:12-20
or Wisdom of Solomon 10:15-21
Ephesians 1:3-14
St. John 1: [1-9] 10-18

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, you have filled all the earth with the light of your incarnate Word. By your grace empower us to reflect your light in all that we do, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

1.3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1:3-14 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.

 

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