One Little Word

Where God's Word Meets God's World

Category: Devotional Messages (page 1 of 41)

Weekly Devotional Message

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.”

St. Mark’s Gospel account was written during a difficult time in Israel’s history. Most scholars place it either just before or just after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Roman army in a.d. 70. In those days the Roman government was generally inclined to leave local populations alone if they weren’t causing trouble. The Pax Romana (“the peace of Rome”) was a hallmark of Roman culture. Local citizens in outlying countries were free to live as they wanted to live, and free to believe as they wanted to believe. But if conflict broke out, as it did between Christians and Jews in the months leading up to the Temple’s destruction, the Roman government was quick to dispatch troops and put down any signs of disorder.

This was a great offense both to Christians and to Jews, who up to that point continued to worship and study the scriptures together in the Temple. It led many of them to ask a very important question: “Who is in charge, in Jerusalem?” Is it the local political leaders? Is it the occupying Roman army? Is it the religious elite? Who has authority over civil, political and religious matters?

St. Mark’s answer is clear. In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus is pictured as one with great authority. They observe his authority in his teaching: he doesn’t quote other sources, as is the practice of so many rabbis in his day. He teaches out of his own authority, and it astounds them. They observe his authority in his healing touch: the unclean spirits seem afraid of him. They are cast out of this man with a word. If the unclean spirits are afraid, there is little need to be concerned about political or military leaders.

St. Mark portrays Jesus as one with great authority. And what’s more, those who accept that authority in their lives find that nothing else the world can throw at them can make them afraid.

There are many sources of authority in our lives as well. Governmental authorities. Economic authorities. Religious authorities. There are even sources of authority in our social and recreational lives. (Ever try to pick a fight with your child’s soccer coach?)

Among all these voices of authority, where does Jesus stand in our lives? What do we do when our Lord and our faith call us to stand in opposition to a soccer coach, or a social convention, or a religious tradition, or an economic reality, or a governmental edict? “They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Are we astounded at the words of our Lord today? Are we willing to grant him authority in our lives, even over the many other sources of authority that we recognize?

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why are Jesus’ listeners in Capernaum astounded?
  2. What is the source of Jesus’ authority?
  3. How does he exercise his authority, in this text and throughout the New Testament?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Am I generally inclined to question authority or obey authority?
  2. When has my faith, or my relationship with God, caused me to question a source of authority in my life?
  3. To whom might I turn for support and encouragement, when honoring the authority of Jesus above the authority of this world becomes frightening?

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.

 

The First Sunday of Christmas; Year B (12/28/2014)

Lessons:
Isaiah 61:10-62:3
Psalm 148
Galatians 4:4-7
St. Luke 2:22-40

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, you wonderfully created the dignity of human nature and yet more wonderfully restored it. In your mercy, let us share the divine life of the one who came to share our humanity, Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

2.22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”  25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word;  30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”  33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed-and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
36 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.  39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

St. Luke 2:22-40, 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.

Christmas Day (12/25/2014)

Texts:
Isaiah 52:7-10
Psalm 98
Hebrews 1:1-4 [5-12]
St. John 1:1-14

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, you gave us your only Son to take on our human nature and to illumine the world with your light. By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit, through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

1.1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

St. John 1:1-14, 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.

Christmas Eve (12/24/2014)

Texts:
Isaiah 9:2-7
Psalm 96
Titus 2:11-14
St. Luke 2:1-14 [15-20]

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, you made this holy night shine with the brightness of the true light. Grant that here on earth we may walk in the light of Jesus’ presence and in the last day wake to the brightness of his glory; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

2.1 In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
     14“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
[15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.]

St. Luke 2:1-14 [15-20], 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.

Advent 4B (12/21/2014)

Lessons:
2nd Samuel 7:1-11, 16
St. Luke 1:46b-55
or Psalm 89: 1-4, 19-26
Romans 16:25-27
St. Luke 1:26-38

Prayer of the Day:
Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. With your abundant grace and might, free us from the sin that would obstruct your mercy, that willingly we may bear your redeeming love to all the world, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

1.26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

St. Luke 1:26-38, 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.

 

Let It Be with Me According to Your Word

Picture Mary, Mother of our Lord, in your mind. What does she look like to you? Is she a frightened young girl, perplexed by the greeting of an angel, and struggling to understand what this strange message means? Is she a serene servant of God, undisturbed by the troubles that surround her in the world, and focused only on accomplishing God’s will as Mater Domini? Is she distant and aloof, beyond the comprehension of mere humans (a light blue colored sculpture, high up on a cathedral wall)? Is she loving and attentive, swaddling her newborn son, and pondering all that has taken place in his young life?

For all the attention paid to Mary, Mother of our Lord, we really don’t know much about her. Continue reading

Advent 3B (12/14/2014)

Lessons:
Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalm 126
or St. Luke 1:46b-55
1st Thessalonians 5:16-24
St. John 1:6-8, 19-28

Prayer of the Day:
Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God, and open our ears to the words of your prophets, that, anointed by your Spirit, we may testify to your light; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

1.6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” 22Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ ” as the prophet Isaiah said.

24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” 28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

St. John 1:6-8, 19-28, 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.

John: Not the Greatest…

Charles Kirkpatrick tells a story about a little boy who walked out into the backyard wearing his baseball cap and carrying a ball and bat. “I’m the greatest hitter in the world,” he said. Then he tossed the ball into the air, swung at it, and missed. “Strike One!” he yelled. He picked up the ball and said again, “I’m the greatest hitter in the world!” Again, he tossed the ball into the air, swung at it and missed. “Strike Two!” he cried. The boy looked at his bat and ball, straightened his cap and said again, “I’m the greatest hitter in the world!” A third time he tossed the ball up and swung at it. He missed again. “Strike Three!” The little boy picked up the ball, looked at it, and cried out in a loud voice, “I’m the greatest pitcher in the world!” Continue reading

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