One Little Word

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Category: Devotional Messages (page 1 of 50)

Weekly Devotional Message

The Third Sunday of Advent; Year A (12/11/2016)

 Texts:
Isaiah 35:1-10
Psalm 146:5-10 (8) or Luke 1:46b-55 (47)
James 5:7-10
St. Matthew 11:2-11

Prayer of the Day:
Stir up the wills of all who look to you, Lord God, and strengthen our faith in your coming, that, transformed by grace, we may walk in your way; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

11.2 When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written,

‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.’

11 “Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

St. Matthew 11:2-11. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

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

The Second Sunday of Advent; Year A (12/4/2016)

Texts:
Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 (7)
Romans 15:4-13
St. Matthew 3:1-12

Prayer of the Day:
Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son. By his coming nurture our growth as people of repentance and peace; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

3.1 In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’”
Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance.Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

St. Matthew 3:1-12. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.

This weekend we take our annual two-week journey through the life of John the Baptizer. Featured in each of the four Gospel accounts (actually, the account of John baptizing in the Judean wilderness is the first story covered by all four of the Evangelists: Matthew, Mark Luke and John), John the Baptizer is a pivotal figure at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

He is described as a prophet, with camel’s hair clothing, a leather belt, and eating what he can harvest from the land. This is how prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah are depicted — the first century observer would notice this immediately. Perhaps this is why “the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him.”

But what strikes our ear is not the appearance of John. It is, instead, his message. Repent. The Kingdom has come near. Prepare the way. Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Whatever doesn’t bear good fruit is destroyed. One more powerful than me is coning. He will gather his wheat, but the chaff he will burn.

It is the message of a prophet.

John’s message has much in common with the messages carried to God’s people by so many other prophets. His role isn’t to predict the future (this would be a prognosticator). Rather, as a prophet, John’s role is to point out that there are two distinct paths through life. One path leads to blessing and the other path leads to destruction. This message has heightened importance for John’s listeners, due to the presence of Jesus. These paths also diverge related to him. One path leads to knowing Jesus, and experiencing the presence and power of God. The other path misses this entirely.

So what does the path to blessing — the path to Jesus — look like? For John the Baptizer, it looks like repentance.

Repentance is a crucial theme in John’s ministry. Those of us who live in the 21st Century may not immediately understand how central this is. These days, repentance has become linked to confession, which usually leads to absolution. In some people’s minds, this is the “get out of jail free” card that comes with Christian faith. If we own up to God about what we’ve done wrong (confession), God will forgive us and let us start over again (absolution). What John has in mind is far more profound than this.

In the Greek New Testament, the word for repentance is μετανοία (metanoia). Literally translated, it refers to a transformation (metamorphosis) of the mind (noetics: the science of the intellect or of pure thought; reasoning). What John calls for is not a ritual listing of past sins, and the hope to have the charges dismissed. John calls for the transformation of how a believer thinks. About sin. About new life. About faithfulness. About God. A transformation that comes when the believer’s heart and mind are captured by Jesus, the Christ.

John came to prepare the people of his day. He comes to prepare us as well. For Christ.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why do people flock to John, where he is baptizing and preaching in the wilderness?
  2. What is his primary message to those who listen to him?
  3. How does this prepare people to experience Jesus as the Messiah?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How has my faith transformed my thinking about God, about myself and about faith?
  2. If my mind could be completely transformed by faith, how would this change my living?
  3. What will I do to open myself up to the transformation God wants for me?

The First Sunday in Advent; Year A (11/27/2016)

Texts:
Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalm 122 (1)
Romans 13:11-14
St. Matthew 24:36-44

Prayer of the Day:
Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. By your merciful protection save us from the threatening dangers of our sins, and enlighten our walk in the way of your salvation, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

24.36 [Jesus said,] “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39 and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42 Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

St. Matthew 24:36-44. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Be, Be, Be Prepared

“Be, be, be prepared; the model of the Boy Scouts. Be, be, be prepared; the model of the Scouts.” I don’t know how many of you are old enough to remember this little jingle, but it certainly was part of my childhood. I was a Scout, like my father before me. I still remember the Boy Scout Oath (“On my honor, I will do my best, to do my duty, to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law. To help other people at all times. To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”) and the Scout Law (“A Scout is is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.”) Scouting was a way that my community helped boys to prepare themselves for a life of honor and service in the world. I’m grateful for that training, and to the extent that I have been apply to apply some of these values to my life, I have benefitted from it.

The bottom line is: we don’t know where life’s journey will take us. We don’t know if we’ll have more than our share of trouble or ease; failure or success; bad health or good, grief or joy… If we hope to thrive, no matter what situation we find ourselves in, we’ll need to prepare ourselves, hold to our principles, and take comfort from being (or becoming) the people we are called to be.

The early church thought in these terms. They believed that Jesus, who had ascended to be with God, would return to be with them then. I’m sure some of them must have wanted to know when and how this would happen. It seems that even those listening to Jesus in Matthew 24 want to know. The disciples come to Jesus privately and ask him, “Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the signs of your coming and of the end of the age.” [Mtt 24:3]

What is his answer? He teaches them that there will be no lack of turmoil during the final years, but there is no way to know when it will arrive. Jesus himself doesn’t even know. It will be like the days before the flood, when people’s minds were focused on eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. They had no idea what was coming.

What is the best a believer can do? Be, be, be prepared. We draw near to God in worship and devotion. We work to see that our witness is as true and faithful as it can be. We care deeply for others in this world. We treat those around us with honor and dignity. How does Jesus put it? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind… [and] you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [Mtt 22:37-38]

This, of course, is a message which lies at the heart of the Advent season. During these days of preparation we seek to be, be, be prepared for the coming of Christ into our hearts and homes. We’ll worship, study, pray, reflect and serve, seeking to carve out at the center of our lives a place for the Newborn King to be born anew.

Join us in the journey, will you? Whether at Saint Peter, or in your own congregation, let us make these days of preparation a time of waiting and watching and preparing for the arrival of the Christ. Be, be, be prepared. Christ is coming, indeed.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What are the disciples asking of Jesus in St. Matthew 24:3?
  2. Why did the early church find it important to prepare for the return of Christ?
  3. How did they prepare themselves?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What questions do I have about the Bible’s teaching regarding the end of all time?
  2. How might I prepare myself, in case my life should end?
  3. What could I do during Advent, to enhance my preparations?

The Last Sunday after Pentecost; Christ the King Sunday, Year C (11/20/16)

 Lessons:
Jeremiah 23:1-6
Psalm 46 (10)
Colossians 1:11-20
St. Luke 23:33-43
Semicontinuous Series:
Jeremiah 23:1-6
St. Luke 1:68-79 (69)

Prayer of the Day: O God, our true life, to serve you is freedom, and to know you is unending joy.  We worship you, we glorify you, we give thanks to you for your great glory.  Abide with us, reign in us, and make this world into a fit habitation for your divine majesty, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

23:33 When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [ 34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. 35 And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” 36 The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, 37 and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

39 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

St. Luke 23:33-43. 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 Kind of King?

Christ the King

Christ the King

In the Lutheran church we recognize the fifth Sunday before Christmas as the last Sunday in the liturgical church year. (The new year begins with four Sundays of Advent, as we prepare for the celebration of the Christmas season.) This Sunday is actually a festival. It is called Christ the King Sunday, or in some traditions, Reign of Christ Sunday. It is a relatively young festival, instituted by the Roman Catholic Pope, Pius XI, in 1925.

1925 was the year when Benito Mussolini dissolved the Italian Parliament and became dictator of Italy. It was a time of great uncertainty. Mussolini took advantage of the division and dissension the country was experiencing, amassed power around his Fascist party, and soon began to invade neighboring countries. By the late 1930s he would become one of Adolph Hitler’s strongest and most important allies.

Much of Europe was still reeling from World War I, and many people worried about the impact someone like Mussolini could have on the world. Pope Pius XI was worried too, and in a papal encyclical he warned believers about the increasing secular nature of Europe, and the danger of following the whims of dictators.

In response, the church established a feast which honored the kingship of Christ. Pius XI understood that when nations are spinning out of control, it is even more important for Christians to remember that there is a King above all other kings, who calls us to lives of faith and hope and peace and righteousness.

And so this day comes around each year, providing believers with a different image of what it means to have a king. Christ is pictured not on a heavenly throne, surrounded by the trappings of a powerful kingdom. Christ is pictured on a cross, suffering and dying — loving and forgiving — as an embodiment of God’s profound and sacrificial love for humankind. There is a power in this image of Christ as King, but it is a subversive power. It subverts the rule of violence in the world, and asserts that love will have the final say. Not the sort of love which blithely claims that everything is fine, but the sort of love which empowers people to risk their very lives in service of what is good and right and just.

Christ the King Sunday is a perfect time for us to consider what it means to be welcomed into God’s love just as we are, and then sent into the world as a reflection of Christ. As you and I are sent, how will our lives reflect his passionate commitment to forgiveness (even forgiving those who were crucifying him) and to new life (even welcoming a convicted criminal to Paradise)? We are all subjects of this King, and he may well lead us in other directions than worldly leaders might lead us. The question is: will we have the faith and courage to follow?

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What kind of kings ruled in first century Palestine? In first century Rome?
  2. How do God’s intentions for believers become revealed in Jesus, crucified on the cross?
  3. In what ways did the early church choose to follow Christ instead of the Emperor?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What does it mean to be subjects of a crucified king?
  2. How does both Jesus’ living and his dying instruct us about our own lives?
  3. What “powers that be” are trying to seduce me away from honoring Christ as my king?

Continue reading

The 26th Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 28C (11/13/16)

Lessons:
Malachi 4:1-2a
Psalm 98 (9)
2nd Thessalonians 3:6-13
St. Luke 21:5-19

Semicontinuous Series:
Isaiah 65:17-25
Isaiah 12:2-6 (6)

Prayer of the Day:
O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without you nothing is strong, nothing is holy. Embrace us with your mercy, that with you as our ruler and guide, we may live through what is temporary without losing what is eternal, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

21.5 When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them.

“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” 10 Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11 there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.

12 “But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13 This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14 So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15 for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17 You will be hated by all because of my name. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 By your endurance you will gain your souls.”

St. Luke 21:5-19. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

That Which Is Eternal

Today is election day in the United States. Unless you’ve been hibernating for 18 months, this certainly doesn’t come as news to you. But it is a powerful reality which shapes the way we read this week’s lesson from the 21st chapter of St. Luke.

We have been focused for many months on who will hold office in the coming years, and how their service will shape the future of our country. The claim has been made that if one party or the other gains too much power, it will lead (depending on your personal political preferences) to disaster or renewal for our nation. The truth is: this 240-year-old country is far more powerful than that. No one politician, or one group of politicians, will single-handedly lead to the destruction or the survival of the United States. This grand experiment, including its commitment to a peaceful transfer of power, is designed to survive the best and worst of those elected to lead it. No matter how capable or incapable the present elected leadership corps, the next election cycle brings with it the possibility of new direction and new life. The United States of America will survive, whatever happens today. Continue reading

All Saints Day; Year C (Nov. 6, 2016)

Lessons:
Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18
Psalm 149 (1)
Ephesians 1:11-23
St. Luke 6:20-31

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.

6.20 Then [Jesus] looked up at his disciples and said:

“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.

21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.

“Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.

22 “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

24 “But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.

25 “Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.

“Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.

26 “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

27 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

St. Luke 6:20-31. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Saints Among Us

November 1st is All Saints Day in the church, and has been since the eighth century; perhaps as early as the seventh century. When November 1st doesn’t fall on a Sunday, we honor the first Sunday in November as All Saints Sunday. So this weekend we will be remembering and honoring the saints during our worship. Continue reading

Reformation Sunday (10/30/2016)

Lessons:
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.

Lutherans, at 500 Years 

It was 499 years ago, as the story goes, that a young, German monk made his way to the large wooden doors on the Castle Church in Wittenberg, and posted 95 complaints he had about the way the church was misunderstanding and misapplying the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The monk was Martin Luther. The church was the bigger-than-life Roman Catholic Church. And this simple act set off what would eventually become known as the “Protestant Reformation” — a movement that would divide the western church, but one that reinvigorated believers who began to study God’s word in earnest, and whose lives and witness were shaped by the good news of the Gospel. Continue reading

The 23rd Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 25C (10/23/2016)

Lessons:
Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22 or Sirach 35:12-17
Psalm 84:1-7 (5)
2nd Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18
St. Luke 18:9-14

Semicontinuous Series:
Joel 2:23-32
Psalm 65 (11)

Prayer of the Day:
Holy God, our righteous judge, daily your mercy surprises us with everlasting forgiveness.  Strengthen our hope in you, and grant that all the peoples of the earth may find their glory in you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

18:9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

St. Luke 18:9-14. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Faith

At the heart of living as a follower of Jesus is to have faith. Most Christians would probably agree with this statement, but here is where we often disagree: what, exactly, is faith?

When I went away to school, my parents gave me a copy of “The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language; New College Edition” (© 1975). It lists, as the first definition of faith: “A confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.” There are actually six definitions listed, most of which have to do with ideas, doctrines, loyalties and principles. In fact, our culture has often thought of faith as getting it right. Believing the right doctrines. Embracing the right principles. Holding to the right commitments. There was a time when faith had to do with abstaining from drinking, gambling and dancing. These days it often seems to have to do with what we’ve decided about sexuality, abortion or politics. If faith has, primarily, to do with ideas, doctrines, loyalties and principles, then at its core it is about getting things right.

But consider this: Jesus never says, “Faith is believing correctly.” In fact, he seems to have a different understanding about what faith is, and this becomes apparent in this weekend’s Gospel lesson. Continue reading

The 22nd Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 24C (10/16/16)

Lessons:
Genesis 32:22-31
Psalm 121 (2)
2nd Timothy 3:14–4:5
St. Luke 18:1-8

Semicontinuous Series:
Jeremiah 31:27-34
Psalm 119:97-104 (103)

Prayer of the Day:
O Lord God, tireless guardian of your people, you are always ready to hear our cries. Teach us to rely day and night on your care. Inspire us to seek your enduring justice for all this suffering world, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

18.1 Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.’ “ And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

St. Luke 18:1-8. 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 Not Lose Heart

It is a well-known-fact that whenever angels speak in the Bible, they almost always begin with the same words: “Do not be afraid.” They begin this way, of course, because most Biblical characters are absolutely terrified as soon as they see an angel. Most of us, never having had such an experience, can only imagine the majesty and mystery and awe-filled glory that accompany these appearances. There must have been able reason for fear, or these words of assurance wouldn’t be so necessary.

Well, here St. Luke introduces a parable of Jesus with a similar charge: “Pray always, and do not lose heart.” Why does St. Luke find it important to begin in this way? Could it also be that these are necessary words? That the followers of Jesus were liable to fall into despair when it seemed their prayers were not being answered? Continue reading

The 21st Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 23C (10/9/2016)

Lessons:
2nd Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c
Psalm 111 (1)
2nd Timothy 2:8-15
St. Luke 17:11-19

Semicontinuous Series:
Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7
Psalm 66:1-12 (9)

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty and most merciful God, your bountiful goodness fills all creation. Keep us safe from all that may hurt us, that, whole and well in body and spirit, we may with grateful hearts accomplish all that you would have us do, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

17.11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance,13 they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”14 When he saw them, he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, “Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”

St. Luke 17:11-19. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Saved

We know almost nothing about these ten lepers, yet there are some things we can surmise. They are identified as lepers by the community. They may have had different reputations before this illness struck them. They may have been productive, generous, wealthy, famous, friendly, kind, influential… who knows? But these terms are no longer applied to them. They are now lepers. Simply lepers. As such, they are banned from all community events, and forced to live beyond the boundaries of the town with only other lepers for company. They are obedient to these restrictions, understanding that their presence in town could be quite dangerous. When Jesus arrives they are “keeping their distance.” Yet they cry out to Jesus: “Have mercy on us!” Continue reading

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