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The Nature of Grace

“Elisha Refusing the Gifts of Naaman” by Ferdinand Bol

2 Kings 5:19-27

19 He said to him, “Go in peace.”

But when Naaman had gone from him a short distance, 20 Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, thought, “My master has let that Aramean Naaman off too lightly by not accepting from him what he offered. As the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something out of him.” 21 So Gehazi went after Naaman. When Naaman saw someone running after him, he jumped down from the chariot to meet him and said, “Is everything all right?” 22 He replied, “Yes, but my master has sent me to say, ‘Two members of a company of prophets have just come to me from the hill country of Ephraim; please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothing.’” 23 Naaman said, “Please accept two talents.” He urged him and tied up two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of clothing, and gave them to two of his servants, who carried them in front of Gehazi. 24 When he came to the citadel, he took the bags from them, and stored them inside; he dismissed the men, and they left.

25 He went in and stood before his master; and Elisha said to him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” He answered, “Your servant has not gone anywhere at all.” 26 But he said to him, “Did I not go with you in spirit when someone left his chariot to meet you? Is this a time to accept money and to accept clothing, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, and male and female slaves? 27 Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you, and to your descendants forever.” So he left his presence leprous, as white as snow.

It is no secret that I find great inspiration and wisdom from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. His life and witness is a powerful example of following Jesus no matter the cost. In his well-known book Discipleship, Bonhoeffer begins by identifying cheap grace as the “mortal enemy of the church” and that the struggle in the church is for costly grace. For Bonhoeffer, cheap grace is the result of ignoring or abusing gift of God in Christ Jesus on the cross for the forgiveness of sins. It denies God’s living word and the incarnation. It is selfish and impersonal at the same time. It requires nothing except a weak wink and nod at its general truth and is not a lived faith. Cheap grace is only sought for the benefit of appearance and/or personal gain.

Costly grace, on the other hand, is grace that cannot ignore Jesus. It is grace that requires us to hear his command and obey. It is the grace that encourages us to count the cost and follow Him. It is the grace that makes no sense to an upside-down world of gratuitous living and indulgence. Costly grace reminds the Christian that the freedom we live in was not achieved by some throw-away event; it was achieved by the horrific death of the Eternal Son of God. Costly grace is the grace that unites the Savior with the sinner so that the sinner may live because the Savior dies. It cannot ever forget nor take for granted the cost of such an amazing grace.

For Bonhoeffer, it was cheap grace vs. costly grace. For Luther, it was a theology of glory vs. theology of the cross. In 2 Kings, it’s Elisha vs. Gehazi. Elisha has gone to great lengths to make clear that the one who heals is the Living God, not Elisha. He is not the authority or the power. He is only a messenger and vessel. His refusal to greet the great Naaman with an elaborate welcoming ceremony leading to a powerful service of healing testifies to his humility and submission to the LORD. Instead, Elisha speaks the words that God gave him and Elisha steps aside and God does the healing. This humility and submission is further witnessed when we see Elisha refuse the gifts from an appreciative Naaman. Why would Elisha accept gifts for something he didn’t have the power to do? Any response of Naaman should be directed in the form of worship of the Living God, not Elisha. We see this witness impact Naaman when he requests two mounds of dirt so he can worship the God who healed him. 

Gehazi is not like Elisha. While Elisha points attention away from himself, Gehazi sees an opportunity for personal enrichment and perhaps even a bit of disdain with Naaman seeing that he is a Gentile. Gehazi stops at nothing to find a way to benefit from this miracle of God. He follows Naaman out of the city and tells Naaman a lie—that Elisha has requested some money and clothing for two prophets who have returned from Ephraim. This lie is especially sinister because Gehazi is not only attempting to benefit himself, he is manipulating Naaman, who no doubt is excited to return home healed from leprosy. In the goodness of Naaman’s heart, he is genuinely concerned with pleasing not only Elisha, caring for two returning prophets, but the LORD who had healed him. Naaman approves the request of Gehazi and gives him what he requests. Phase 1 of “Operation Get Rich Quick” has been completed.

Now for phase 2—to hide these new possessions without Elisha finding out. He brings them back to his house, stealthily hides them, and then returns to the service of Elisha. However, we know that Elisha is not easily deceived. It is hard to believe that Gehazi, who had seen first-hand how God works through Elisha in mighty ways healing uncurable disease, would think he could pull a fast one on God and Elisha. Elisha knows the answer to his question before he asks it of Gehazi. In many ways, this echoes the question God asked Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, “Where are you?” God knew the answer. He knew they had fallen into sin. The question was asked to see how they would respond—with repentance or pride. As Adam and Eve chose pride, so does Gehazi. Elisha’s question to Gehazi, “Where have you been?” is an opportunity for confession and repentance for Gehazi, but he chose to protect his deceitful selfishness and lies to Elisha. He thinks his lie, “I went nowhere.” was sufficient. But because God knew different, so did Elisha. The falling of Gehazi is made complete in the lie and then the punishment for sin was delivered—Gehazi is now a leper along with his descendants. 

Cheap grace consumes us because it does not require us to confess or repent. It doesn’t take seriously the offenses of sins. Cheap grace is a perversion of grace, plain and simple. As we think about our lives and our faith, do we ever act like Gehazi? I would say we do when we try to reap all the good things of God with the sole purpose of becoming rich or comfortable. Cheap grace doesn’t consider God’s grace as sufficient. It becomes a “plus-and” situation where we can find ourselves not trusting God as we pray. Cheap grace treats prayer as a habit we must do, but then after we pray, we think, “Now what are we REALLY going to do?”

May we never forget the riches of God’s grace and promise. He has promised to provide for his children because he is a good Father. May we not fall into the trap of Gehazi and allow selfish ambition and hopes to supplant the promise of God. Trust God. Obey God. Know he is for you and he provides your every need. Amen.

Two Mule-Loads of Earth

Elisha Refusing the Gifts of Naaman by Ferdinand Bol

2 Kings 5:15-19

15 Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company; he came and stood before him and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel; please accept a present from your servant.” 16 But he said, “As the Lord lives, whom I serve, I will accept nothing!” He urged him to accept, but he refused. 17 Then Naaman said, “If not, please let two mule-loads of earth be given to your servant; for your servant will no longer offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god except the Lord. 18 But may the Lord pardon your servant on one count: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow down in the house of Rimmon, when I do bow down in the house of Rimmon, may the Lord pardon your servant on this one count.” 19 He said to him, “Go in peace.”

Naaman’s life has changed. His experience with the Living God and his messengers in the world has shown him the power and reality of truth. He desires to respond with gratitude and to give Elisha gifts, but Elisha has no interest in what Naaman has to offer. If anything, Elisha wants Naaman and us to understand one key truth about this event: Elisha has no power to do anything miraculous on his own. He is a prophet only at the behest and calling of God. God has provided for him in all he does so he doesn’t need to peddle miracles for personal gain. The LORD is sufficient and only the LORD is due glory, praise, credit, and honor. More importantly, Naaman’s gratitude should be solely focused upon the God who healed him.

Naaman understands this and asks for something else instead. He desires to take two mule-loads of earth from Israel back to Syria. Though the request sounds bizarre, we are more familiar with it than we realize. Naaman desires to take dirt from the land where he was healed so that he may make a space where he can worship the Living God. He has had a change of heart from earlier when he was offended by Elisha telling him to dip himself in the Jordan seven times to be healed. Before his healing, the water of the Jordan was not valuable to Naaman, but after, the very dirt evoked new respect and worship in Naaman’s heart. 

It is important for us that see the fine line between worship of the Living God and empty sentimentalism which could evolve into idolatry, but nevertheless, Naaman’s impulse to take holy ground back home to worship the Living God is something that strikes a cord with me. We live as strangers in a foreign land surrounded by the idols and desires of sinful flesh. Reminders of how God has saved us can be helpful for us as we tell our stories of salvation to others. But what is certain, nothing can bear witness of the power of God quite like our changed lives empowered by Jesus Christ.

May we understand and know that we are living testimonies of the One true God who has saved us in Jesus Christ. May the two mule-loads of dirt that is our lives be reminders to all who see and know us that God is great and worthy of all praise.

Prayer: Merciful God, you alone are great and worthy to be praised. Strengthen us and guide us as we serve you in this world. May our words and deeds declare your majesty and splendor so that all nations and all peoples would know Jesus Christ and his salvation. Amen.

Why All the Rage?

Moriah’s Hope Reflected by Iris Carignan (http://www.iriscarignan.com)

2 Kings 5:1-14 (NRSV)

1 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy. 2 Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4 So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said. 5 And the king of Aram said, “Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel.”

He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments. 6 He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7 When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.”

8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, “I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy! 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them, and be clean?” He turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants approached and said to him, “Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it? How much more, when all he said to you was, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

Why is everyone so angry in this passage? Things start out well enough. We are introduced to Naaman, a mighty warrior who is greatly favored yet suffers from leprosy. He is a Gentile seeking a cure. Where does he go? God’s sovereignty in this passage has delivered the messenger of the gospel in the person of a little girl from Israel who was carried off by the Syrians and now works in the service of Naaman’s wife. The situation appears to be one of great frustration and loss to this young Israelite girl, but she is undeterred. She is faithful and true. Her message to Naaman that there is hope in the presence of God changes everything for both the Gentile and the Israelite. However, everyone seems to be angry in this passage. The King of Israel seems to be put out by Naaman’s request and when Naaman arrives at Elisha’s home and is prescribed a healing dip into the Jordan, he appears to be offended by the cure. Yet, he goes forward in a reluctant faith to be washed. The result—he is cleansed. He is made good as new. 

Ironically, the one person in this story who has the greatest occasion to be angry is the one who continued in faith and lived boldly. The little unnamed Israelite girl who was taken from her home and family and put to work in a house away from her family did not allow resentment, anger, or sorrow to obstruct her purpose in life.

We often find ourselves in situations that are difficult and unfathomable. We may be tempted to lose our hope and vision, but our faith points us to the greater reality in life. Our God is sovereign. He knows the paths we will travel upon. He goes on before us and prepares the way. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2 that all the good works we do are prepared for us in advance by Christ who leads us to walk in those works. Today, as you see your life, be hopeful. Know that you are living in service to Christ who has prepared you and placed you to be a witness for the glory of God. 

Prayer: Merciful God, grant us the strength to live our lives trusting you. May we understand that we are to speak your Gospel to others, see people as you see them, and serve others in your name. May we do these things with the humble mind that we were lost and far from you, but you brought us into your family though your most precious blood. In Jesus name, Amen.

Christ Living in Us

Elisha Raises the Son of the Woman of Shunam by Benjamin West, 1765

2 Kings 4:32-37 (NRSV)

32 When Elisha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed. 33 So he went in and closed the door on the two of them and prayed to the Lord. 34 Then he got up on the bed and lay upon the child, putting his mouth upon his mouth, his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands; and while he lay bent over him, the flesh of the child became warm. 35 He got down, walked once to and fro in the room, then got up again and bent over him; the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. 36 Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite woman.” So, he called her. When she came to him, he said, “Take your son.” 37 She came and fell at his feet, bowing to the ground; then she took her son and left.

This is a bizarre moment in the story of Elisha. However, that is a loaded statement for a prophet. Bizarre moments are more rule than exception for the life for the prophets of God. Elisha’s actions here in 2 Kings are very similar to his predecessor Elijah in 1 Kings 17:17-24. Both prophets are presented with grieving mothers who have suffered the death of their beloved sons; both prophets lay upon the deceased sons; both prophets respond to their deaths by physically giving life to the lifeless bodies. These intimate actions of Elijah and Elisha cause us some discomfort because of how intentional they are—putting mouth to mouth, eye to eye, hand to hand. It is the reality that the purpose of the prophets is to certainly speak for God, but that is not the end of their purpose. They are an embodiment of the promise of God. God speaks through them and God acts through them. The things they do are the power of God to bring life to those who suffer and freedom to those who are captive. 

In other words, the prophets are the power of God sent to declare the majesty and victory of God over the powers of evil, sin, and death. 

The prophetic CPR touches every aspect of the life of the son in 2 Kings. Not only does this child have new life, he has new reason to live. His words will be different. He will see things differently. He will encounter the everyday things with new energy and purpose. 

Perhaps the most bizarre inclusion in this passage is the seven sneezes. We may be tempted to skip over this detail, but we would be foolish if we did. Fun fact: Charles Spurgeon preached an entire sermon on this part of the story. Seriously. (Read it here.) Why does the author include this detail of seven sneezes? Spurgeon reminds us that sneezing is an involuntary reaction. We cannot sneeze because we want to sneeze. They happen whenever and wherever they happen. Sometimes we can fight a sneeze. Sometimes we can feel like we will sneeze, but we cannot force ourselves to do it and we lose it. So, it is with life in the Holy Spirit. We live it. Its an involuntary reaction to what God has done for us. Life is a crazy thing. None of us decided to be born. We are dragged dirty, kicking, and screaming into this world and we must settle into this little thing called life. It’s a bizarre thing indeed.

So, it is with the life of Christ. We were all the deceased child in our sins. Jesus gave his life for ours. Just as the prophets, Jesus intimately gives us his life. It is the life of Christ that becomes ours. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20) Praise be to God for this life that we have in Him. May we know and understand that Christ has raised us from the dead and given us his words, eyes, and hands to live and serve him. Amen.

Prayer: Merciful God, grant us the strength to live our lives trusting you. May we understand that we are to speak your Gospel to others, see people as you see them, and serve others in your name. May we do these things with the humble mind that we were lost and far from you, but you brought us into your family though your most precious blood. In Jesus name, Amen.

As the LORD Lives

Elisha Raises the Son of the Woman of Shunem by Benjamin West, 1765

2 Kings 4:18-31 (NRSV)

 18 When the child was older, he went out one day to his father among the reapers. 19 He complained to his father, “Oh, my head, my head!” The father said to his servant, “Carry him to his mother.” 20 He carried him and brought him to his mother; the child sat on her lap until noon, and he died. 21 She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, closed the door on him, and left. 22 Then she called to her husband, and said, “Send me one of the servants and one of the donkeys, so that I may quickly go to the man of God and come back again.” 23 He said, “Why go to him today? It is neither new moon nor sabbath.” She said, “It will be all right.” 24 Then she saddled the donkey and said to her servant, “Urge the animal on; do not hold back for me unless I tell you.” 25 So she set out, and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel.

When the man of God saw her coming, he said to Gehazi his servant, “Look, there is the Shunammite woman; 26 run at once to meet her, and say to her, Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is the child all right?” She answered, “It is all right.” 27 When she came to the man of God at the mountain, she caught hold of his feet. Gehazi approached to push her away. But the man of God said, “Let her alone, for she is in bitter distress; the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me.” 28 Then she said, “Did I ask my lord for a son? Did I not say, Do not mislead me?” 29 He said to Gehazi, “Gird up your loins, and take my staff in your hand, and go. If you meet anyone, give no greeting, and if anyone greets you, do not answer; and lay my staff on the face of the child.” 30 Then the mother of the child said, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave without you.” So he rose up and followed her. 31 Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the face of the child, but there was no sound or sign of life. He came back to meet him and told him, “The child has not awakened.”

“As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” 

This phrase echoes across the first few chapters of 2 Kings. In chapter 2, Elisha is told three times by Elijah to stay behind as Elijah journeys toward his chariot ride to heaven and three times, Elisha responds with those words. Between the taking up of Elijah into heaven (2:1-14) and this moment with the Shunammite woman and her child, quite a bit happens. 

Elisha is commissioned to follow Elijah (2:15-25); Israel defeats the rebellious Moab (3:1-27); the LORD provides oil for a widow through Elisha (4:1-7); and a childless Shunammite woman graciously provides for Elisha and then the LORD gives her a precious son in response to her prayer (4:8-17). 

“As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.”

Elisha’s life has certainly provided moments of triumph and fullness as well as rebellion and loss. During these extremes, Elisha is the embodiment of the presence of the LORD. When the Shunammite woman has her prayer answered for a child, the child becomes to her a great blessing. When that blessing is threatened by illness, her world falls apart. Amid her trial, when her son has seemingly died, she responds, “All is well.” However, the story doesn’t seem to be well. With her son amidst illness and death, she travels to Elisha because he represents the very presence and blessing she has received from the LORD. Though her circumstances weren’t well, her reality was well—not because of she felt well—but because of the presence of the LORD.

“As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” 

These are the words of faith. The words that we have as our confession. These are not empty words of weak soothing. These are the realities we have in Christ. Just as Elisha and this Shunammite woman have uttered these words, Christ has guaranteed them in his word: “I will not leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

May you be filled this day with this faith as you serve Jesus. May you be filled with the reality that regardless of your circumstances, all is well—because Christ is alive and present in your life.

Prayer: Father God, thank you for this day. Give me strength and vision to see your presence in my life as I live to serve you. Help me to see that though things around me appear to be falling apart, that all is well. Thank you for your word and never forsaking me. In Jesus name, Amen.

DAILY DEVOTIONAL, 4/13/19

Saturday, 5th Week in Lent

Opening Prayer

Behold, now is the acceptable time;
now is the day of salvation.
Turn us again, O God of our salvation,
that the light of your face may shine on us.
May your justice shine like the sun;
and may the poor be lifted up. (2 Cor. 6:2; Ps. 85:4; 80:3)

(from The Book of Common Worship)
Almighty God,
your Son came into the world
to free us all from sin and death.
Breathe upon us with the power of your Spirit,
that we may be raised to new life in Christ,
and serve you in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
Amen.

Morning Psalm, Psalm 43

Send Out Your Light and Your Truth

43:1 Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
    against an ungodly people,
from the deceitful and unjust man
    deliver me!
For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
    why have you rejected me?
Why do I go about mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?

Send out your light and your truth;
    let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
    and to your dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God,
    to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
    O God, my God.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

Prayer:
(from The Book of Common Worship)
Eternal God, source of everlasting light,
send forth your truth into our hearts,
and bring us into your presence with joy and gladness
in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord.
Amen.

Laudate Psalm, Psalm 149

Sing to the Lord a New Song

149:1 Praise the Lord!
Sing to the Lord a new song,
    his praise in the assembly of the godly!
Let Israel be glad in his Maker;
    let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!
Let them praise his name with dancing,
    making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!
For the Lord takes pleasure in his people;
    he adorns the humble with salvation.
Let the godly exult in glory;
    let them sing for joy on their beds.
Let the high praises of God be in their throats
    and two-edged swords in their hands,
to execute vengeance on the nations
    and punishments on the peoples,
to bind their kings with chains
    and their nobles with fetters of iron,
to execute on them the judgment written!
    This is honor for all his godly ones.
Praise the Lord!

Prayer:
(from The Book of Common Worship)
God our Maker,
you crown the humble with honor
and exalt the faithful who gather in your name.
Because you have favored us with life,
we dance before you in our joy
and praise you with unending song
for Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Old Testament Reading, Jeremiah 31:27-34

31:27 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and the seed of beast. 28 And it shall come to pass that as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring harm, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, declares the Lord. 29 In those days they shall no longer say:

“‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes,
    and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’

30 But everyone shall die for his own iniquity. Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.

The New Covenant

31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares 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 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Epistle Reading, Romans 11:25-36

The Mystery of Israel’s Salvation

11:25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
    he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
27 “and this will be my covenant with them
    when I take away their sins.”

28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. 32 For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
    or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
    that he might be repaid?”

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Gospel Reading, John 11:28-44

Jesus Weeps

11:28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 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 also have kept this man from dying?”

Jesus Raises Lazarus

38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for 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 lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Reflection for the Day

“We Are Soon Going to Share in the Passover”
from a homily by
Gregory of Nazianzus (4th Century)
as reprinted in The Liturgy of the Hours

We are soon going to share in the Passover, and although we still do so only in a symbolic way, the symbolism already has more clarity than it possessed in former times because, under the law, the Passover was, if I may dare to say so, only a symbol of a symbol.  Before long, however, when the Word drinks the new wine with us in the kingdom of his Father, we shall be keeping the Passover in a yet more perfect way, and with deeper understanding.  He will then reveal to us and make clear what he has so far only partially disclosed.  For this wine, so familiar to us now, is eternally new.

It is for us to learn what this drinking is, and for him to teach us.  He has to communicate this knowledge to his disciples, because teaching is food, even for the teacher.

So let us take our part in the Passover prescribed by the law, not in a literal way, but according to the teaching of the Gospel; not in an imperfect way, but perfectly; not only for a time, but eternally.  Let us regard as our home the heavenly Jerusalem, not the earthly one; the city glorified by angels, not the one laid waste by armies.  We are not required to sacrifice young bulls or rams, beasts with horns and hoofs that are more dead than alive and devoid of feeling; but instead, let us join the choirs of angels in offering God upon his heavenly altar a sacrifice of praise.  We must now pass through the first veil and approach the second, turning our eyes toward the Holy of Holies.  I will say more: we must sacrifice ourselves to God, each day and in everything we do, accepting all that happens to us for the sake of the Word, imitating his passion by our sufferings, and honoring his blood by shedding our own.  We must be ready to be crucified.

If you are a Simon of Cyrene; take up your cross and follow Christ.  If you are crucified beside him like one of the thieves, now, like the good thief, acknowledge your God.  For your sake, and because of your sin, Christ himself was regarded as a sinner; for his sake, therefore, you must cease to sin.  Worship him who was hung on the cross because of you, even if you are hanging there yourself.  Derive some benefit from the very shame; purchase salvation with your death.  Enter paradise with Jesus, and discover how far you have fallen.  Contemplate the glories there, and leave the other scoffing thief to die outside in his blasphemy.

If you are a Joseph of Arimathea, go to the one who ordered his crucifixion, and ask for Christ’s body.  Make your own the expiation for the sins of the whole world.  If you are a Nicodemus, like the man who worshiped God by night, bring spices and prepare Christ’s body for burial.  If you are one of the Marys, or Salome, or Joanna, weep in the early morning.  Be the first to see the stone rolled back, and even the angels perhaps, and Jesus himself. 

Prayer for the Day

Take time to reflect and pray. Pray for those listed on our prayer list from worship. If you’d like to use it, here is a prayer to guide you:

(from The Book of Common Worship)
Great and wonderful God, we praise and thank you for the gift of renewal in Jesus Christ. Especially we thank you for

opportunities for rest and recreation . . .
the regenerating gifts of the Holy Spirit . . .
activities shared by young and old . . .
fun and laughter . . .
every service that proclaims your love. . . .

You make all things new, O God, and we offer our prayers for the renewal of the world and the healing of its wounds. Especially we pray for

those who have no leisure . . .
people enslaved by addictions . . .
those who entertain and enlighten . . .
those confronted with temptation . . .
the church in North America. . . .

Lord Jesus Christ, who stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your name.

Amen.

Closing Prayer

(from The Liturgy of the Hours)
O God, who have made all those reborn in Christ
a chosen race and a royal priesthood,
grant us, we pray, the grace to will and to do what you command,
that the people called to eternal life
may be one in the faith of their hearts
and the homage of their deeds.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.   

Let us praise the Lord.
– And give him thanks. 
Amen.

DAILY DEVOTIONAL, 4/12/19

Friday, 5TH Week in Lent

Opening Prayer

Behold, now is the acceptable time;
now is the day of salvation.
Turn us again, O God of our salvation,
that the light of your face may shine on us.
May your justice shine like the sun;
and may the poor be lifted up. (2 Cor. 6:2; Ps. 85:4; 80:3)

(from The Book of Common Worship)
Almighty God,
Redeemer of all who trust you,
heed the cry of your people;
deliver us from the bondage of sin,
that we may serve you in perfect freedom
and rejoice in your unfailing love;
through Jesus Christ our Savior,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
Amen.

Morning Psalm, Psalm 22

Why Have You Forsaken Me?
To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David.

22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
    they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
    let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
    you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10 On you was I cast from my birth,
    and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Be not far from me,
    for trouble is near,
    and there is none to help.

12 Many bulls encompass me;
    strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
    like a ravening and roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
    it is melted within my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs encompass me;
    a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
17 I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
    O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dog!
21     Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

22 I will tell of your name to my brothers;
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
    and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or abhorred
    the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
    but has heard, when he cried to him.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
    May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before you.
28 For kingship belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.

29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30 Posterity shall serve him;
    it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
    that he has done it.

Prayer:
(from The Book of Common Worship)
Eternal God,
your tortured Son felt abandoned,
and cried out in anguish from the cross,
yet you delivered him.
He overcame the bonds of death
and rose in triumph from the grave.
Do not hide your face from those who cry out to you.
Feed the hungry, strengthen the weak,
and break the chains of the oppressed,
that your people may rejoice in your saving deeds.
This we ask in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior.
Amen.

Laudate Psalm, Psalm 148

Praise the Name of the Lord

148:1 Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
    praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
    praise him, all his hosts!

Praise him, sun and moon,
    praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
    and you waters above the heavens!

Let them praise the name of the Lord!
    For he commanded and they were created.
And he established them forever and ever;
    he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.

Praise the Lord from the earth,
    you great sea creatures and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and mist,
    stormy wind fulfilling his word!

Mountains and all hills,
    fruit trees and all cedars!
10 Beasts and all livestock,
    creeping things and flying birds!

11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,
    princes and all rulers of the earth!
12 Young men and maidens together,
    old men and children!

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for his name alone is exalted;
    his majesty is above earth and heaven.
14 He has raised up a horn for his people,
    praise for all his saints,
    for the people of Israel who are near to him.
Praise the Lord!

Prayer:
(from The Book of Common Worship)
God Most High,
by your Word you created a wondrous universe,
and through your Spirit
you breathed into it the breath of life.
Accept creation’s hymn of praise from our lips,
and let the praise that is sung in heaven
resound in the heart of every creature on earth,
to the glory of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
now and forever.
Amen.

Old Testament Reading, Jeremiah 29:1-14

Jeremiah’s Letter to the Exiles

29:1 These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. This was after King Jeconiah and the queen mother, the eunuchs, the officials of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the metal workers had departed from Jerusalem. The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. It said: “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord.

10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

Epistle Reading, Romans 11:13-24

11:13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order somehow to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?16 If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.

17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.

Gospel Reading, John 11:1-27

The Death of Lazarus

11:1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died,15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

I Am the Resurrection and the Life


17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother.20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Reflection for the Day

Christ Offered Himself for Us
from an a treatise on faith by
Fulgentius of Ruspe (5th – 6th Centuries)
as reprinted in The Liturgy of the Hours

The sacrifices of animal victims which our forefathers were commanded to offer to God by the holy Trinity itself, the one God of the old and the new testaments, foreshadowed the most acceptable gift of all. This was the offering which in his compassion the only Son of God would make of himself in his human nature for our sake.

The Apostle teaches that Christ offered himself for us to God as a fragrant offering and sacrifice. He is the true God and the true high priest who for our sake entered once for all into the holy of holies, taking with him not the blood of bulls and goats but his own blood. This was foreshadowed by the high priest of old when each year he took blood and entered the holy of holies.

Christ is therefore the one who in himself alone embodied all that he knew to be necessary to achieve our redemption. He is at once priest and sacrifice, God and temple. He is the priest through whom we have been reconciled, the sacrifice by which we have been reconciled, the temple in which we have been reconciled, the God with whom we have been reconciled. He alone is priest, sacrifice and temple because he is all these things as God in the form of a servant; but he is not alone as God, for he is this with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the form of God.

Hold fast to this and never doubt it: the only-begotten Son, God the Word, becoming man offered himself for us to God as a fragrant offering and sacrifice. In the time of the old testament, patriarchs, prophets and priests sacrificed animals in his honor, and in honor of the Father and the Holy Spirit as well.

Now in the time of the new testament the holy catholic Church throughout the world never ceases to offer the sacrifice of bread and wine, in faith and love, to him and to the Father and the Holy Spirit, with whom he shares one godhead.

Those animal sacrifices foreshadowed the flesh of Christ which he would offer for our sins, though himself without sin, and the blood which he would pour out for the forgiveness of our sins. In this sacrifice there is thanksgiving for, and commemoration of, the flesh of Christ that he offered for us, and the blood that the same God poured out for us. On this Saint Paul says in the Acts of the Apostles: Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock, in which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as bishops to rule the Church of God, which he won for himself by his blood.

Those sacrifices of old pointed in sign to what was to be given to us. In this sacrifice we see plainly what has already been given to us. Those sacrifices foretold the death of the Son of God for sinners. In this sacrifice he is proclaimed as already slain for sinners, as the Apostle testifies: Christ died for the wicked at a time when we were still powerless, and when we were enemies we were reconciled with God through the death of his Son. 

Prayer for the Day

Take time to reflect and pray. Pray for those listed on our prayer list from worship. If you’d like to use it, here is a prayer to guide you:

(from The Book of Common Worship)
Eternal God, we praise you for your mighty love given in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and the new life we have received by his resurrection. Especially we thank you for

the presence of Christ in our weakness and suffering . . .
the ministry of Word and Sacrament . . .
all who work to help and heal . . .
sacrifices made for our benefit . . .
opportunities for our generous giving. . . .

God of grace, let our concern for others reflect Christ’s self giving love, not only in our prayers, but also in our practice. Especially we pray for

those subjected to tyranny and oppression . . .
wounded and injured people . . .
those who face death . . .
those who may be our enemies . . .
the church in Latin America. . . .

Eternal God, source and goal of all life, lead us to life eternal by the mighty love of Jesus Christ, who suffered on the cross, was raised from the dead, and lifted into glory where with outstretched arms he welcomes the world in his strong and loving embrace. In his holy name we pray, now and forever.

Amen.

Closing Prayer

(from The Liturgy of the Hours)

(from The Liturgy of the Hours)
O God, who in this season
give your Church the grace
to imitate devoutly the Blessed Virgin Mary
in contemplating the Passion of Christ,
grant, we pray, through her intercession,
that we may cling more firmly each day
to your Only Begotten Son
and come at last to the fullness of his grace.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Let us praise the Lord.
– And give him thanks. 
Amen.

DAILY DEVOTIONAL, 4/11/19

Thursday, 5TH Week in Lent

Opening Prayer

Behold, now is the acceptable time;
now is the day of salvation.
Turn us again, O God of our salvation,
that the light of your face may shine on us.
May your justice shine like the sun;
and may the poor be lifted up. (2 Cor. 6:2; Ps. 85:4; 80:3)

(from The Book of Common Worship)
Almighty God, our Redeemer,
in our weakness we have failed
to be your messengers of forgiveness and hope.
Renew us by your Holy Spirit,
that we may follow your commands
and proclaim your reign of love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.
Amen.

Morning Psalm, Psalm 27

The Lord Is My Light and My Salvation
Of David.

27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
    of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me
    to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
    it is they who stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,
    my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
    yet I will be confident.

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
    that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
    and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter
    in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
    he will lift me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up
    above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
    sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
    be gracious to me and answer me!
You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
    “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
    Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
    O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
    O God of my salvation!
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
    but the Lord will take me in.

11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    and lead me on a level path
    because of my enemies.
12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
    for false witnesses have risen against me,
    and they breathe out violence.

13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    wait for the Lord!

Prayer:
(from The Book of Common Worship)
O God, guardian and guide of all your people,
protect and lead us through times of trouble,
establishing our faith on the rock of Jesus Christ,
who is the way, the truth, and the life.
Amen.

Laudate Psalm, Psalm 147:12-20

He Heals the Brokenhearted

147:12 Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem!
    Praise your God, O Zion!
13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates;
    he blesses your children within you.
14 He makes peace in your borders;
    he fills you with the finest of the wheat.
15 He sends out his command to the earth;
    his word runs swiftly.
16 He gives snow like wool;
    he scatters frost like ashes.
17 He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs;
    who can stand before his cold?
18 He sends out his word, and melts them;
    he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.
19 He declares his word to Jacob,
    his statutes and rules to Israel.
20 He has not dealt thus with any other nation;
    they do not know his rules.
Praise the Lord!

Prayer:
(from The Book of Common Worship)
O Lord,
marvelous is your might
by which you cast down the proud
and lift up the humble.
Restore and rebuild your church.
Gather your scattered sheep
and nourish us by your holy Word,
that we may follow your will
and come at last to the heritage
prepared for us in Christ Jesus.
Amen.

Old Testament Reading, Jeremiah 26:1-24

Jeremiah Threatened with Death

26:1 In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came from the Lord: “Thus says the Lord: Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the Lord all the words that I command you to speak to them; do not hold back a word. It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent of the disaster that I intend to do to them because of their evil deeds.You shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord: If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, and to listen to the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently, though you have not listened, then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.’”

The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the Lord. And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! Why have you prophesied in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.

10 When the officials of Judah heard these things, they came up from the king’s house to the house of the Lord and took their seat in the entry of the New Gate of the house of the Lord. 11 Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and to all the people, “This man deserves the sentence of death, because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.”

12 Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, “The Lordsent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard.13 Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lordyour God, and the Lord will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you. 14 But as for me, behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. 15 Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.”

Jeremiah Spared from Death

16 Then the officials and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, “This man does not deserve the sentence of death, for he has spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God.” 17 And certain of the elders of the land arose and spoke to all the assembled people, saying, 18 “Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and said to all the people of Judah: ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts,

“‘Zion shall be plowed as a field;
    Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,
    and the mountain of the house a wooded height.’

19 Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him to death? Did he not fear the Lord and entreat the favor of the Lord, and did not the Lord relent of the disaster that he had pronounced against them? But we are about to bring great disaster upon ourselves.”

20 There was another man who prophesied in the name of the Lord, Uriah the son of Shemaiah from Kiriath-jearim. He prophesied against this city and against this land in words like those of Jeremiah. 21 And when King Jehoiakim, with all his warriors and all the officials, heard his words, the king sought to put him to death. But when Uriah heard of it, he was afraid and fled and escaped to Egypt. 22 Then King Jehoiakim sent to Egypt certain men, Elnathan the son of Achbor and others with him, 23 and they took Uriah from Egypt and brought him to King Jehoiakim, who struck him down with the sword and dumped his dead body into the burial place of the common people.
24 But the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah so that he was not given over to the people to be put to death.

Epistle Reading, Romans 11:1-12

The Remnant of Israel

11:1 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written,

“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
    eyes that would not see
    and ears that would not hear,
down to this very day.”

And David says,

“Let their table become a snare and a trap,
    a stumbling block and a retribution for them;
10 let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
    and bend their backs forever.”

Gentiles Grafted In

11 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!

Gospel Reading, John 10:19-42

10:19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

I and the Father Are One

22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter,23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 39 Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.

40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. 41 And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there.

Reflection for the Day

God Creates the Church for Mission
from the Confession of Faith
for the Cumberland Presbyterian Church
and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America
(2015 printing)

There is one, holy, universal, apostolic church. She is the body of Christ, who is her Head and Lord. (Mt. 16:18; Jn. 10:16, 17:20-23; Ro. 12:4-5; 1 Co. 10:17, 12:12-27; Eph. 1:22-23, 2:14-22, 3:4-6)

The church is one because her Head and Lord is one, Jesus Christ. Her oneness under her Lord is manifested in the one ministry of word and sacrament, not in any uniformity of covenantal expression, organization, or system of doctrine. (Mt. 28:18-20; 1 Co. 3:11; Eph. 4:15-16, 5:23; Col. 1:18-20)

The church is holy because she is founded on the finished and continuing work of Christ in setting her apart for God’s glory and witness in the world. Her holiness thus rests on God’s sanctifying her for her redemptive mission, not upon any personal holiness of her members. (Jn. 17:17-23)

The church is universal because God’s act of salvation in Jesus Christ is universal and cannot be limited to any place or time. Her universal nature rests upon the universal activity of God’s Holy Spirit to make Christ’s atonement effective for all peoples. It is expressed in the church’s commission to make disciples of all nations. (Gn. 12:1-3; Mt. 8:11, 28:18-20; Jn. 3:16; Gal. 3:28; He. 2:9; Rev. 7:9-10)

The church is apostolic because God calls her into being through the proclamation of the gospel first entrusted to the apostles. The church thus is built on the apostolic message which is faithfully proclaimed by messengers who follow in the footsteps of the apostles. (Mt. 28:18-20; Jn. 20:21-23; Ac. 10:42-43; Ro. 10:14-18; 1 Co. 1:21-25, 15:1-11; 2 Co. 5:18-21; 1 P. 1:10-12)

The church, as the covenant community of believers who are redeemed, includes all people in all ages, past, present, and future, who respond in faith to God’s covenant of grace, and all who are unable to respond, for reasons known to God, but who are saved by his grace. (Gn. 12:1-3, 17:1-7; Mt. 8:11; Gal. 3:26-29; He. 12:18-24; Rev. 7:9-10)

The church in the world consists of all who respond in faith to God’s saving grace and who enter into formal covenant with God and each other. The children of believers are included in this covenant community and are under the special care and instruction of the church and their parents or guardians. (Gn. 17:7; Dt. 6:4-9; Is. 40:11; Mt. 19:13-15; Ac. 2:39; 1 Co. 7:13-14; Eph. 6:1-4)

Because the church in the world consists of persons who are imperfect in knowledge and in the power to do God’s will, she waits with eager longing for the full redemption of the family of God. Until that time God wills that all believers worship and witness through the church in the world and promises to guide her life and growth through the Holy Spirit. (Mt. 5:14-16, 13:24-30, 47-50, 28:18-20; Ac. 1:6-8; 1 Co. 12:4-11)

The church in the world never exists for herself alone, but to glorify God and work for reconciliation through Christ. Christ claims the church and gives her the word and sacraments in order to bring God’s grace and judgment to persons. (Is. 49:6; Mt. 5:14-16, 28:19-20; Jn. 15:1-11; 2 Co. 5:14-21)

Prayer for the Day

Take time to reflect and pray. Pray for those listed on our prayer list from worship. If you’d like to use it, here is a prayer to guide you:

(from The Book of Common Worship)
Loving God, as the rising sun chases away the night, so you have scattered the power of death in the rising of Jesus Christ, and you bring us all blessings in him. Especially we thank you for

the community of faith in our church . . .
those with whom we work or share common concerns . . .
the diversity of your children . . .
indications of your love at work in the world . . .
those who work for reconciliation. . . .

Mighty God, with the dawn of your love you reveal your victory over all that would destroy or harm, and you brighten the lives of all who need you. Especially we pray for

families suffering separation . . .
people different from ourselves . . .
those isolated by sickness or sorrow . . .
the victims of violence or warfare . . .
the church in the Pacific region. . . .

Eternal God, as we are baptized into the death of Jesus Christ, so give us the grace of repentance that we may pass through the grave with him and be born again to eternal life, for he is the One who was crucified, dead, and buried, and rose again for us, Jesus our Savior.

Amen.

Closing Prayer

(from The Liturgy of the Hours)
Grant us, we pray, O Lord,
perseverance in obeying your will,
that in our days the people dedicated to your service
may grow in both merit and number.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Let us praise the Lord.
– And give him thanks. 
Amen.

DAILY DEVOTIONAL, 4/10/19

Wednesday, 5TH Week in Lent

Opening Prayer

Behold, now is the acceptable time;
now is the day of salvation.
Turn us again, O God of our salvation,
that the light of your face may shine on us.
May your justice shine like the sun;
and may the poor be lifted up. (2 Cor. 6:2; Ps. 85:4; 80:3)

(from The Book of Common Worship)
Almighty God,
your Son came into the world
to free us all from sin and death.
Breathe upon us with the power of your Spirit,
that we may be raised to new life in Christ,
and serve you in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
Amen.

Morning Psalm, Psalm 5

Lead Me in Your Righteousness
To the choirmaster: for the flutes. A Psalm of David.

5:1 Give ear to my words, O Lord;
    consider my groaning.
Give attention to the sound of my cry,
    my King and my God,
    for to you do I pray.
O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
    in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.

For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
    evil may not dwell with you.
The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
    you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies;
    the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
    will enter your house.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
    in the fear of you.
Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness
    because of my enemies;
    make your way straight before me.

For there is no truth in their mouth;
    their inmost self is destruction;
their throat is an open grave;
    they flatter with their tongue.
10 Make them bear their guilt, O God;
    let them fall by their own counsels;
because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out,
    for they have rebelled against you.

11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
    let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
    that those who love your name may exult in you.
12 For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
    you cover him with favor as with a shield.

Prayer:
(from The Book of Common Worship)
You alone, O God, are holy and righteous,
and we praise you for protecting us in times of trial.
Keep us safe from all evil
and lead us in paths of justice
that we may know the joy of trusting Jesus Christ
our shield and defender.
Amen.

Laudate Psalm, Psalm 147:1-11

He Heals the Brokenhearted

147:1 Praise the Lord!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
    for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
    he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
    and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars;
    he gives to all of them their names.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
    his understanding is beyond measure.
The Lord lifts up the humble;
he casts the wicked to the ground.

Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
    make melody to our God on the lyre!
He covers the heavens with clouds;
    he prepares rain for the earth;
    he makes grass grow on the hills.
He gives to the beasts their food,
    and to the young ravens that cry.
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
    nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
    in those who hope in his steadfast love.

Prayer:
(from The Book of Common Worship)
Loving God,
great builder of the heavenly Jerusalem,
you know the number of the stars
and call them by name.
Heal hearts that are broken,
gather those who have been scattered,
and enrich us all from the fullness of your eternal wisdom,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Old Testament Reading, Jeremiah 25:30-38

25:30 “You, therefore, shall prophesy against them all these words, and say to them:

“‘The Lord will roar from on high,
    and from his holy habitation utter his voice;
he will roar mightily against his fold,
    and shout, like those who tread grapes,
    against all the inhabitants of the earth.
31 The clamor will resound to the ends of the earth,
    for the Lord has an indictment against the nations;
he is entering into judgment with all flesh,
    and the wicked he will put to the sword,
declares the Lord.’

32 “Thus says the Lord of hosts:
Behold, disaster is going forth
    from nation to nation,
and a great tempest is stirring
    from the farthest parts of the earth!

33 “And those pierced by the Lord on that day shall extend from one end of the earth to the other. They shall not be lamented, or gathered, or buried; they shall be dung on the surface of the ground.

34 “Wail, you shepherds, and cry out,
    and roll in ashes, you lords of the flock,
for the days of your slaughter and dispersion have come,
    and you shall fall like a choice vessel.
35 No refuge will remain for the shepherds,
    nor escape for the lords of the flock.
36 A voice—the cry of the shepherds,
    and the wail of the lords of the flock!
For the Lord is laying waste their pasture,
37     and the peaceful folds are devastated
    because of the fierce anger of the Lord.
38 Like a lion he has left his lair,
    for their land has become a waste
because of the sword of the oppressor,
    and because of his fierce anger.”

Epistle Reading, Romans 10:14-21

10:14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?[a] And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for

“Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
    and their words to the ends of the world.”

19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,

“I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
    with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”

20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,

“I have been found by those who did not seek me;
    I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”

21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”

Gospel Reading, John 10:1-18

I Am the Good Shepherd

10:1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

Reflection for the Day

Jesus Prays for Us and in Us and is the Object of Our Prayers
from Commentary on the Psalms by
Augustine of Hippo (4th – 5th Centuries)
as reprinted in The Liturgy of the Hours

God could give no greater gift to men than to make his Word, through whom he created all things, their head and to join them to him as his members, so that the Word might be both Son of God and son of man, one God with the Father, and one man with all men. The result is that when we speak with God in prayer we do not separate the Son from him, and when the body of the Son prays it does not separate its head from itself: it is the one Saviour of his body, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who prays for us and in us and is himself the object of our prayers.

He prays for us as our priest, he prays in us as our head, he is the object of our prayers as our God.

Let us then recognise both our voice in his, and his voice in ours. When something is said, especially in prophecy, about the Lord Jesus Christ that seems to belong to a condition of lowliness unworthy of God, we must not hesitate to ascribe this condition to one who did not hesitate to unite himself with us. Every creature is his servant, for it was through him that every creature came to be.

We contemplate his glory and divinity when we listen to these words: 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 were made through him, and without him nothing was made. Here we gaze on the divinity of the Son of God, something supremely great and surpassing all the greatness of his creatures. Yet in other parts of Scripture we hear him as one sighing, praying, giving praise and thanks.

We hesitate to attribute these words to him because our minds are slow to come down to his humble level when we have just been contemplating him in his divinity. It is as though we were doing him an injustice in acknowledging in a man the words of one with whom we spoke when we spoke when we prayed to God; we are usually at a loss and try to change the meaning. Yet our minds find nothing in Scripture that does not go back to him, nothing that will allow us to stray from him.

Our thoughts must then be awakened to keep their vigil of faith. We must realise that the one whom we were contemplating a short time before in his nature as God took to himself the nature of a servant; he was made in the likeness of men and found to be a man like others; he humbled himself by being obedient even to accepting death; as he hung on the cross he made the psalmist’s words his own: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

We pray to him as God, he prays for us as a servant. In the first case he is the Creator, in the second a creature. Himself unchanged, he took to himself our created nature in order to change it, and made us one man with himself, head and body. We pray then to him, through him, in him, and we speak along with him and he along with us. 

Prayer for the Day

Take time to reflect and pray. Pray for those listed on our prayer list from worship. If you’d like to use it, here is a prayer to guide you:

(from The Book of Common Worship)
God of all mercies, we praise you that you have brought us to this new day, brightening our lives with the dawn of promise and hope in Jesus Christ. Especially we thank you for

the warmth of sunlight, the wetness of rain and snow, and all that nourishes the earth . . .
the presence and power of your Spirit . . .
the support and encouragement we receive from others . . .
those who provide for public safety and well-being . . .
the mission of the church around the world. . . .

Merciful God, strengthen us in prayer that we may lift up the brokenness of this world for your healing, and share in the saving love of Jesus Christ. Especially we pray for

those in positions of authority over others . . .
the lonely and forgotten . . .
children without families or homes . . .
agents of caring and relief . . .
the church in Asia and the Middle East. . . .

Take all our doubts and uncertainties, O God, and fill us with such faith that we may be confident of your love and loyal in the service of him who died and yet lives for us, Jesus Christ the Lord.

Amen.

Closing Prayer

(from The Liturgy of the Hours)
Grant us, we pray, O Lord,
perseverance in obeying your will,
that in our days the people dedicated to your service
may grow in both merit and number.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. 

Let us praise the Lord.
– And give him thanks.   
Amen.

DAILY DEVOTIONAL, 4/9/19

Tuesday, 5TH Week in Lent

Opening Prayer

Behold, now is the acceptable time;
now is the day of salvation.
Turn us again, O God of our salvation,
that the light of your face may shine on us.
May your justice shine like the sun;
and may the poor be lifted up. (2 Cor. 6:2; Ps. 85:4; 80:3)

(from The Book of Common Worship)
Almighty God,
Redeemer of all who trust you,
heed the cry of your people;
deliver us from the bondage of sin,
that we may serve you in perfect freedom
and rejoice in your unfailing love;
through Jesus Christ our Savior,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
Amen.

Morning Psalm, Psalm 34

Taste and See That the Lord Is Good
Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.

34:1 I will bless the Lord at all times;
    his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
    let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
    and let us exalt his name together!

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
    and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
    and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps
    around those who fear him, and delivers them.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
    Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
    for those who fear him have no lack!
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger;
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

11 Come, O children, listen to me;
    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 What man is there who desires life
    and loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil
    and your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Turn away from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
    and his ears toward their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
    to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
    and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit.

19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
    but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones;
    not one of them is broken.
21 Affliction will slay the wicked,
    and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
    none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

Prayer:
(from The Book of Common Worship)
Graciously hear us, Lord, for you alone we seek.
Quiet us with the peace which passes understanding,
and make us radiant with the knowledge of your goodness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Laudate Psalm, Psalm 146

Put Not Your Trust in Princes

146:1 Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
2 I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

3 Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
4 When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.

5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
6 who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
7 who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;

8 the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
9 The Lord watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

10 The Lord will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord!

Prayer:
(from The Book of Common Worship)
Blessed are those who put their trust in you, O God,
our sure rock and refuge.
Guard us from giving to any other
the allegiance which belongs only to you.
Shine upon us with the brightness of your light,
that we may love you with a pure heart
and praise you forever;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Old Testament Reading, Jeremiah 25:8-17

25:8 “Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: Because you have not obeyed my words,behold, I will send for all the tribes of the north, declares the Lord, and for Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these surrounding nations. I will devote them to destruction, and make them a horror, a hissing, and an everlasting desolation. 10 Moreover, I will banish from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the grinding of the millstones and the light of the lamp. 11 This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste. 13 I will bring upon that land all the words that I have uttered against it, everything written in this book, which Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations. 14 For many nations and great kings shall make slaves even of them, and I will recompense them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.”

The Cup of the Lord’s Wrath

15 Thus the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. 16 They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them.”

17 So I took the cup from the Lord’s hand, and made all the nations to whom the Lord sent me drink it.

Epistle Reading, Romans 10:1-13

10:1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

The Message of Salvation to All

For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Gospel Reading, John 9:18-41

9:18 The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight 19 and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” 20 His parents answered, “We know that this is our son and that he was born blind. 21 But how he now sees we do not know, nor do we know who opened his eyes. Ask him; he is of age. He will speak for himself.” 22 (His parents said these things because they feared the Jews, for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone should confess Jesus to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue.) 23 Therefore his parents said, “He is of age; ask him.”

24 So for the second time they called the man who had been blind and said to him, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” 25 He answered, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 They said to him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”27 He answered them, “I have told you already, and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become his disciples?” 28 And they reviled him, saying, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from.” 30 The man answered, “Why, this is an amazing thing! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. 32 Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” 38 He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

Reflection for the Day

“The Cross of Christ is the Source of All Blessings,
the Cause of All Graces” 

from a sermon by
Leo the Great (or Leo I; 5th Century)
as reprinted in The Liturgy of the Hours

Our understanding, which is enlightened by the Spirit of truth, should receive with purity and freedom of heart the glory of the cross as it shines in heaven and on earth. It should see with inner vision the meaning of the Lord’s words when he spoke of the imminence of his passion: The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Afterward he said: Now my soul is troubled, and what am I to say? Father, save me from this hour. But it was for this that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your Son. When the voice of the Father came from heaven, saying, I have glorified him, and will glorify him again, Jesus said in reply to those around him: It was not for me that this voice spoke, but for you. Now is the judgment of the world, now will the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all things to myself.

How marvellous the power of the cross; how great beyond all telling the glory of the passion: here is the judgement-seat of the Lord, the condemnation of the world, the supremacy of Christ crucified.

Lord, you drew all things to yourself so that the devotion of all peoples everywhere might celebrate, in a sacrament made perfect and visible, what was carried out in the one temple of Judea under obscure foreshadowings.

Now there is a more distinguished order of Levites, a greater dignity for the rank of elders, a more sacred anointing for the priesthood, because your cross is the source of all blessings, the cause of all graces. Through the cross the faithful receive strength from weakness, glory from dishonor, life from death.

The different sacrifices of animals are no more: the one offering of your body and blood is the fulfilment of all the different sacrificial offerings, for you are the true Lamb of God: you take away the sins of the world. In yourself you bring to perfection all mysteries, so that, as there is one sacrifice in place of all other sacrificial offerings, there is also one kingdom gathered from all peoples.

Dearly beloved, let us then acknowledge what Saint Paul, the teacher of the nations, acknowledged so exultantly: This is a saying worthy of trust, worthy of complete acceptance: Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners.

God’s compassion for us is all the more wonderful because Christ died, not for the righteous or the holy but for the wicked and the sinful, and, though the divine nature could not be touched by the sting of death, he took to himself, through his birth as one of us, something he could offer on our behalf.

The power of his death once confronted our death. In the words of Hosea the prophet: Death, I shall be your death; grave, I shall swallow you up. By dying he submitted to the laws of the underworld; by rising again he destroyed them. He did away with the everlasting character of death so as to make death a thing of time, not of eternity. As all die in Adam, so all will be brought to life in Christ. 

Prayer for the Day

Take time to reflect and pray. Pray for those listed on our prayer list from worship. If you’d like to use it, here is a prayer to guide you:

(from The Book of Common Worship)
Eternal God, we rejoice this morning in the gift of life, which we have received by your grace, and the new life you give in Jesus Christ. Especially we thank you for

the love of our families . . .
the affection of our friends . . .
strength and abilities to serve your purpose today . . .
this community in which we live . . .
opportunities to give as we have received. . . .

God of grace, we offer our prayers for the needs of others and commit ourselves to serve them even as we have been served in Jesus Christ. Especially we pray for

those closest to us, families, friends, neighbors . . .
refugees and homeless men, women and children . . .
the outcast and persecuted . . .
those from whom we are estranged . . .
the church in Africa. . . .

God of love, as you have given your life to us, so may we live according to your holy will revealed in Jesus Christ. Make us bold to share your life, and show your love, in the power of your Holy Spirit. Grant this through Jesus Christ our Redeemer and Lord.

Amen.

Closing Prayer

(from The Liturgy of the Hours)
Grant us, we pray, O Lord,
perseverance in obeying your will,
that in our days the people dedicated to your service
may grow in both merit and number.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. 

Let us praise the Lord.
– And give him thanks. 
Amen.