One Little Word

Where God's Word Meets God's World

Category: Devotional Messages (page 1 of 44)

Weekly Devotional Message

The Last Sunday after Pentecost; Christ the King Sunday, Year B (11/22/2015)

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
Psalm 93 (2)
Revelation 1:4b-8
John 18:33-37
Semicontinuous Series:
2nd Samuel 23:1-7
Psalm 132:1-12 [13-18] (9)

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty and ever-living God, you anointed your beloved Son to be priest and sovereign forever. Grant that all the people of the earth, now divided by the power of sin, may be united by the glorious and gentle rule of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

18:33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” 35 Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” 37 Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

St. John 18:33-37 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.

Thy Kingdom Come

In May of 1529, after a discouraging program of visiting with Christian families in and around Wittenberg, Germany, Martin Luther published a short pamphlet entitled “Der Kleine Katechismus” (or “The Small Catechism”) — a teaching tool for parents to use in sharing their faith with their children. In this catechism, Luther provided help in understanding the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and other basics of the Christian faith.

This week, I am thinking about his explanation of the Lord’s Prayer, and particularly the petition, “Thy kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.” Luther writes:

Q:  What does this mean?

A:  Truly God’s Kingdom comes by itself, without our prayer. But we pray in this request that it come to us as well.

Q:  How does this happen?

A:  When the Heavenly Father gives us the Holy Spirit, so that we believe the holy Word by grace and live godly lives here in this age and there in eternal life.

I love Luther’s image of God’s kingdom: living godly lives now and into eternity, led by the Holy Spirit, empowered by grace, and grounded in the holy Word. Maybe that is what Jesus’ means when he declares, “My kingdom is not from this world.”

This week’s Gospel lesson is a portion of St. John’s dramatic Good Friday narrative. After sharing a final meal with his followers, Jesus makes his way out to a garden where they often meet. But as they gather there, they are confronted by nothing less than a lynch mob. As St. John puts it, “Judas brought a detachment of soldiers together with police from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they came there with lanterns and torches and weapons.” [St. John 18:3] Jesus is arrested, bound, beaten, and tried by religious and political leaders.

One of those leaders is Pontius Pilate, the Prefect of Judaea, who serves at the pleasure of the Emperor. It is Pilate who interrogates Jesus, demanding to know whether or not Jesus thinks of himself as a king. Pilate is well schooled in the bloodthirsty tactics of the Roman Empire, which is why he is at a complete loss about what to think of Jesus. (Even his wife was troubled; see St. Matthew 27:19-23.) Kings of this world meet other kings with force, but Jesus seems to willingly accept his fate. He embraces his suffering and death, making it clear, at least to us, that his reign will have nothing to do with violence and terror.

His kingdom is one of grace and love; one of forgiveness and new beginnings; one of purpose and eternity. It is a kingdom which breaks into this world through the events that surround the life of Jesus. It is a kingdom which breaks into the world even today. It is a kingdom which has come, and which is coming. Of this we are certain.

We pray, with Luther, that it might also come to us. So capture our hearts, King Jesus. Rule our lives. Empower our faithfulness. Help us to love and cherish the citizenship we have in your kingdom. Come to us, and be our king. Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How does Pilate (and the rest of the authorities) deal with Jesus?
  2. Why does Pilate have such a difficult time understanding Jesus?
  3. How is the kingdom in which Jesus rules different from the Roman Empire?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What does it mean for me to submit to the rule of King Jesus?
  2. How might I characterize the means by which Jesus comes to rule the world?
  3. In what specific ways does the rule of this Crucified King influence my living?

The 25th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 28B (Nov. 15, 2015)

Daniel 12:1-3
Psalm 16 (9)
Hebrews 10:11-14 [15-18] 19-25
St. Mark 13:1-8
Semicontinuous Series:
1st Samuel 1:4-20
1st Samuel 2:1-10 (1)

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty and ever-living God, you anointed your beloved Son to be priest and sovereign forever. Grant that all the people of the earth, now divided by the power of sin, may be united by the glorious and gentle rule of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

13:1 As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.” When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?” Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birth pangs.

St. Mark 13:1-8 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.

That Which Endures 

Trinity StillwaterTrinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater, Minnesota, the church where my family has been involved since the late nineteenth century (and still is), turned 100 years old when I was in the seventh grade. It was quite a celebration: worship services, visits from former pastors and pastoral interns, celebration banquets, a remodeled “Centennial Room” in the basement, a series of pictures of the pastors who had served at Trinity over the years (lots of strange facial hair and serious expressions in those pictures…). For an 11-year-old boy, it seemed like an ancient and storied congregation — one that God perhaps created on the Eighth Day. Back then, walking into the darkened sanctuary on my own was a stirring experience. The long center aisle, dark wood pews, raised chancel and carved wooden reredos were awe inspiring to a young person. It gave the impression of strength, stability and permanence.

My experience was, of course, little more than a shadow of what it must have been like to experience the first century Temple in Jerusalem — an impressive structure, magnificently restored by King Herod in about  20 b.c.e. The people of that time were in awe of its great stones and expensive ornamentation. Although the Temple had been destroyed at least once already, it was hard for them to imagine Jerusalem without this signature landmark.

Yet in this week’s Gospel, Jesus prophesies that this great temple will soon lie in ruins. (He was right: Roman armies destroyed it in a.d. 70.) He makes this claim, it seems, not so much to disparage the temple, but to teach his listeners that there is a significant difference between that which is temporal and that which is eternal. Temples will come and go (as will Lutheran church buildings — Trinity Stillwater’s building was so significantly remodeled in the 1980s that it takes a clever eye to imagine where the original structure stood). But in their destruction are the birth pangs of something new.

The writer of Hebrews took Jesus’ words to heart, which is evident in this week’s New Testament lesson: “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.” [Hebrews 10:23] Even the most massive of buildings are vulnerable to destruction and decay. But there is one reality that has power to last; one reality that is eternal: the faithfulness of the One who has promised us new life.

This One lived and died in the person of Jesus, defeated the power of sin, death and the devil on Easter Sunday, and continues to live among us today. This One, our God, has claimed us in baptism, and graced us with promises that last longer than life itself. Here is something that won’t suffer destruction or decay. Here is something that is eternal. Let us hold fast to our hope without wavering, because it is grounded in God’s trustworthy promise!


David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why were people in the first century so impressed with the Temple?
  2. Why does Jesus predict that it will be destroyed again?
  3. What new faithfulness will Jesus give to his followers, that replaces the Temple culture?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What, in my life, am I tempted to trust for my future?
  2. If I am honest, in what was are those realities bound to disappoint me?
  3. How will life become different for me, as I trust more and more in God’s promise to me?

Continue reading

The 24th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 27B (Nov. 8, 2015)

1 Kings 17:8-16
Psalm 146 (8)
Hebrews 9:24-28
St. Mark 12:38-44
Semicontinuous Series:
Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17
Psalm 127 (3)

Prayer of the Day:
O God, you show forth your almighty power chiefly by reaching out to us in mercy. Grant us the fullness of your grace, strengthen our trust in your promises, and bring all the world to share in the treasures that come through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

12.38 As [Jesus] taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40 They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

St. Mark 12:38-44 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.

All In

There was a day when this passage from St. Mark seemed relatively simple. It is a contrast between two groups of people in the first century. On the one hand you have the religious professionals. Jesus has already experienced some conflict with them, and in the opening verse of this text he warns his followers about them. “Beware,” he says. They may walk around in fancy garments, be greeted warmly by those they meet, and always sit in the best seats whenever God’s people get together. But look: they devour widows houses, and show off with their lengthy prayers. This kind of behavior will lead to their condemnation.

Then he points out the second group: the very widows whose homes are being devoured by these same religious professionals. One of them — a poor widow (and, honestly, most of them were in the first century) — drops two small copper coins into the treasury. Others put in far more that day, but Jesus notices this woman, and remarks that her gift is notable because she gave everything she had.

It used to be that we preachers would read this text and then announce God’s desire that we all put a lot of money in the treasury. After all, Jesus seems dismissive about the prosperous worshippers who put in what look like large sums, but which are actually fairly modest gifts when compared with how much wealth the contributors have. And even if he doesn’t actually commend the poor widow, at least he notices her and comments on her generosity. That has to stand for something, right? So we took it as an encouragement to give in relationship to how much we have, and fill up the treasury. [And, not coincidentally, we silently gave thanks that this story usually came around just about when we were asking our members to make a commitment to supporting the church’s ministry in the coming year… something we’ll do at Saint Peter this very Sunday.]

But maybe there is more going on here than meets they eye. David Lose suggests: “All of this leads me to conclude that Jesus isn’t actually lifting her up as an example but rather decrying the circumstances that demand her to make such an offering, a sacrifice that will likely lead to destitution if not death.”  Karoline Lewis writes, “God knows nothing else than to give God’s whole life… And here, now, in this unnamed widow, God is doing it again. God calls us to whole life living. That’s what discipleship is all about.”

It is, indeed, a complex story. It is about generosity. It is about the contrast between cautious and extravagant giving. It is about about institutional integrity. It is about God’s sacrificial love. It speaks to us on a variety of levels, and can come to us as a word of grace or a word of condemnation.

We’ll have other opportunities to address the poor leadership of these religious professionals, but this week we take time to admire this generous woman. What inspired her gift? Was Jesus admiring her generosity or lamenting her situation? This story clearly has struck people in a variety of ways. How does it speak to us today?

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What tone of voice do I imagine Jesus having as he speaks of this widow?
  2. How might the disciples have interpreted what he had to say about her?
  3. Which of the disciples eventually gave “all they had” for the cause of the Gospel?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What does the contrast between the scribes and the widow say to us today?
  2. Who have I known that I would describe as “all in?”
  3. What would it look like for me to be “all in?”

Continue reading

All Saints Day; Year B (Nov. 1, 2015)

Isaiah 25:6-9
or Wisdom 3:1-9
Psalm 24 (5)
Revelation 21:1-6a
St. John 11:32-44

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, you have knit your people together in one communion in the mystical body of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Grant us grace to follow your blessed saints in lives of faith and commitment, and to know the inexpressible joys you have prepared for those who love you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

11:32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” 38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”



St. John 11:32-44. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

What Is a Saint?

francisFrancis was a Saint. We’ve been more aware of this these past thirty-two months than we have been for some time, because the current Pope of the Catholic Church took the name Francis.

Born in 1181, Francis grew up living the good life. He was happy, charming and a born leader. He dreamed of being a noble; a knight. Francis believed that battle was the best place to win glory and prestige, but after a failed attempt to achieve glory in battle he returned home, and earnestly prayed to God for a purpose in life.

While he was praying at the church in San Damaina, he heard Christ on the crucifix speak to him, “Francis, repair my church.” He first thought he was to address this ancient church building, which was suffering from disrepair. But in time, Francis understood that God wanted him to lead the church back to faithfulness and he began to preach about returning to God and obedience to the Church. Continue reading

Reformation Sunday (Oct. 25, 2015)

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 46 (7)
Romans 3:19-28
John 8:31-36

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, gracious Lord, we thank you that your Holy Spirit renews the church in every age. Pour out your Holy Spirit on your faithful people. Keep them steadfast in your word, protect and comfort them in times of trial, defend them against all enemies of the gospel, and bestow on the church your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

8:31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”  34 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

St. John 8:31-36 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.


This weekend our church celebrates “Reformation Sunday.” We do it every year on the last Sunday in October. It is an opportunity for us to acknowledge the heritage that Martin Luther and his colleagues left us: the heritage of a Christ-centered and a faith-centered life, and a church that is dedicated to stay focused on the good news of what our Lord has done. Continue reading

The 21st Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 24B (Oct. 18, 2015)

Isaiah 53:4-12
Psalm 91:9-16
Hebrews 5:1-10
St. Mark 10:35-45
Semicontinuous Series
Job 38:1-7 [34-41]
Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35b (24)

Prayer of the Day
Sovereign God, you turn your greatness into goodness for all the peoples on earth. Shape us into willing servants of your kingdom, and make us desire always and only your will, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

10:35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39 They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

St. Mark 10:35-45 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.

You’re Gonna Have to Serve Somebody

In 1979, Bob Dylan launched these words into the public square, and it seemed as though we heard them a few times every day for months on end:

You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

It was, as Dylan’s lyrics often are, a challenge to the status quo of our time. We imagine, at least those of us with some degree of power and influence, that we are free, autonomous people, not beholden to anyone or anything. But nothing could be further from the truth. Dylan rightly observes that ambassadors, gamblers, athletes, socialites, rock stars, business executives, doctors and chiefs all serve somebody. It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody. Continue reading

The 20th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 23B (Oct. 11, 2015)

Amos 5:6-7, 10-15
Psalm 90:12-17
Hebrews 4:12-16
St. Mark 10:17-31
Semicontinuous Series
Job 23:1-9, 16-17
Psalm 22:1-15 (1)

Prayer of the Day
Almighty and ever-living God, increase in us your gift of faith, that, forsaking what lies behind and reaching out to what lies ahead, we may follow the way of your commandments and receive the crown of everlasting joy, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

10:17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’ ” 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

28 Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age-houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions – and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

St. Mark 10:17-31 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.

Through the Eye of a Needle

It is a compelling image: the camel going through the eye of a needle. Some interpreters have suggested that Jesus is referring to a physical landmark; for instance: a gate in Jerusalem where a camel could only pass through if it was on its knees, or a mountain pass so narrow that riders had to dismount their camels before passing through. (In other words, “difficult but not impossible.”) I’m not persuaded. I never am drawn to explanations that strive to get Jesus off the hook. I believe his hard sayings are meant to be hard. Besides, even if you contend that Jesus doesn’t mean what he says in verse 25, you still have to deal with what he says in verse 27.

I’m more inclined to agree with C. S. Lewis, who argued that Jesus means what he says. Lewis included these words in his remarks: “You can get a camel through a needle, but it is going to be very hard on the camel.” Christian discipleship is not for the weak-hearted. Continue reading

The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 22B (Oct. 4, 2015)

Genesis 2:18-24
Psalm 8 (5)
Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
St. Mark 10:2-16
Semicontinuous Series:
Job 1:1; 2:1-10
Psalm 26 (3)

Prayer of the Day:
Sovereign God, you have created us to live in loving community with one another. Form us for life that is faithful and steadfast, and teach us to trust like little children, that we may reflect the image of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

10:2 Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” 5 But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.
9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”  10 Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”  13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

St. Mark 10:2-16 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.

Marriage, Divorce and Family Matters

It isn’t easy, these days, to speak publicly about marriage, divorce and family matters. Oh, it’s not that the church (and its leaders) has nothing to say. And it’s not that we are afraid of the response we’ll get when we say it. It is, instead, that we are called to both a pastoral and a prophetic ministry. In other words, when people are hurting and broken we are called to offer a pastoral presence — a comforting and encouraging presence that allows them to gain their footing and begin moving forward again. And when people are sinning, and have lost sight of God’s call to them, we are called to offer a prophet presence — a challenging presence that names their sin, invites them to repentance and forgiveness, and calls them to new life.

The problem is, when it comes to marriage, divorce and family matters, both a pastoral and a prophetic message are necessary. When we are gathered for worship, when we are tending to Bible study, even when we are visiting with friends for coffee, it is inevitable. There will be some among us whose hearts are broken because of family difficulties that have spun out of their control. They long for a word of grace in the midst of their brokenness. And there will be some among us whose behaviors are having a negative impact on the families they have pledged to nurture and respect. They need a word of challenge to help them return to what God requires of them. Continue reading

The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 21B (Sept. 27, 2015)

Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29
Psalm 19:7-14 (8)
James 5:13-20
St. Mark 9:38-50
Semicontinuous Series:
Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22
Psalm 124 (7)

Prayer of the Day:
Generous God, your Son gave his life that we might come to peace with you. Give us a share of your Spirit, and in all we do empower us to bear the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

9:38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 Whoever is not against us is for us. 41 For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward. 42 “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. 43If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. 47And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, 48 where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched. 49 “For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

St. Mark 9:38-50 New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Do No Harm

Hippocrates (460 b.c. – 370 b.c.) was an ancient Greek physician, regarded by many as the father of western Medicine, largely due to his work as the founder of the Hippocratic School of Medicine. The Hippocratic Oath, a mission statement of sorts for practicing physicians, continues still to inspire medical professionals today, and includes the phrase, “to abstain from doing harm” (ἐπὶ δηλήσει δὲ καὶ ἀδικίῃ εἴρξειν). When providing medical care to patients, physicians, at the very least, are to do nothing that harms them in any way.

In this week’s Gospel lesson, it appears that Jesus is commending a similar oath to us. Continue reading

The 17th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 20B (Sept. 20, 2015)

Jeremiah 11:18-20 or Wisdom 1:16 – 2:1, 12-22
Psalm 54 (4)
James 3:13 – 4:3, 7-8a
St. Mark 9:30-37
Semicontinuous Series
Proverbs 31:10-31
Psalm 1 (3)

Prayer of the Day:
O God, our teacher and guide, you draw us to yourself and welcome us as beloved children. Help us to lay aside all envy and selfish ambition, that we may walk in your ways of wisdom and understanding as servants of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

9:30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” 32 But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.  33 Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

St. Mark 9:30-37 New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Last of All and Servant of All

“He was teaching his disciples, but they did not understand.” In this way, St. Mark characterizes the ministry of Jesus. We may be tempted to think poorly of these men, who live in the presence of the Savior yet never seem to figure out what he is all about. But if we are honest about it, there are no shortage of ways that people misunderstand him still today. The Prosperity Gospel argues that God wants all believers to be financially successful. Focusing on the family shifts the believer’s attention from the world to his or her own home. Over-emphasis on liturgy suggests that faith is all about ritual behavior. Making rules and regulations central to life suggests that faith is all about moral or ethical commitments. Muscular Christianity promotes manly behavior and rewards those with physical prowess. The list seems to go on and on. Continue reading

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