One Little Word

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Category: Devotional Messages (page 1 of 42)

Weekly Devotional Message

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.

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

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