Saturday Luke 1:57-67 (68-80)

Prayer: Gracious God, let your Word speak to us with answers to our prayers. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

John the Baptist

As they admired at painting of John the Baptist and Jesus.  John is pointing at Jesus.  Our devotion writer’s young son said it was not polite to point.

John the Baptist was a prophet whose life was dedicated to pointing out the coming of the Messiah.  Like our devotion writer points out, all of John’s ministry was to bring attention to Jesus.  He was not called for his own glory. Nothing he did was about himself. It was all about Jesus.

Our devotion writer tells us that sometimes is it easy to take the credit when doing volunteer work. Doesn’t it make you look good? But there is danger in taking credit for thinking of yourself and not making certain that you are pointing at Jesus and His love working through you. So, don’t forget to point to Jesus!

Prayer: “When I am serving others, O God, help me always to point to Jesus. In his name. Amen.”

 

Luke 1:57-80

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Birth of John the Baptist

57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.

59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. 60 But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” 61 They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” 62 Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. 63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea. 66 All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.

Zechariah’s Prophecy

67 Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:

68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a mighty savior for us
in the house of his servant David,
70 as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71     that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
72 Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
73 the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us
74 that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
78 By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

80 The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.

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Friday Romans 6:1b-11

Prayer: Let your light, O God, shine through us as we follow your Word. In Christ. Amen.

We live!

11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

By our baptism we are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection. We have overcome sin, death and the power of the evil one. We are therefore alive and free from sin.

No longer can sin weigh us down.  Jesus lifted the heavy burden of sin from us so we are free to live unburdened by the threat of death. God loves us unconditionally and forever.  So what are we free to do?  Free to serve! Free to share the good news! Free to help a stranger! Or visit those in jail or prison. Free to work for justice in this world! Free to work for peace!

We are free as God leads us. Do not be afraid, listen for God’s call and for God’s answers. Take a step in a new direction.  God will tell you if it is right or wrong.  If you are now alive in Jesus Christ reconsider how you will live!

Prayer: “O God, through Jesus we are freed from sin and alive in you. Help us to live as free people, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

Romans 6:1-11

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Dying and Rising with Christ

6 What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

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Thursday Psalm 69:7-10, (11-15), 16-18

Prayer: Praise to you O God, for the truths in your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The conversation of prayer

16 Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.

Today’s text relates a conversation with God which acknowledges wrongs done and fears for the psalmist’s life. It offers repentance and cries out for help and for God to answer. “Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good.”

How are your prayers constructed? Our devotion writer often prays as a narrative; everything that has been done and all that is going wrong in his life.  Often, he forgets to stop, like the psalmist did and acknowledge God’s steadfast love and for God to answer him plainly. He talks without stopping to listen. He declares; “Prayer isn’t just about talking to God; it is also about time for silence so that we are open to hearing God’s response to us.”

Prayer: “Your love is good, O Lord. Thank you for hearing our prayers. In Christ’s name. Amen.”

 

Psalm 69:7-18

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

It is for your sake that I have borne reproach,     that shame has covered my face. I have become a stranger to my kindred,     an alien to my mother’s children.

It is zeal for your house that has consumed me;     the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me. 10 When I humbled my soul with fasting,     they insulted me for doing so. 11 When I made sackcloth my clothing,     I became a byword to them. 12 I am the subject of gossip for those who sit in the gate,     and the drunkards make songs about me.

13 But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.     At an acceptable time, O God,     in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me. With your faithful help 14 rescue me     from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies     and from the deep waters. 15 Do not let the flood sweep over me,     or the deep swallow me up,     or the Pit close its mouth over me.

16 Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good;     according to your abundant mercy, turn to me. 17 Do not hide your face from your servant,     for I am in distress—make haste to answer me. 18 Draw near to me, redeem me,     set me free because of my enemies.

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Wednesday Jeremiah 20:7-13

Prayer: O God, let us profit from the wisdom in your Word, in Christ. Amen.

When you can’t keep it in

If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones;

It was in the movie “Working Girl” where I remember the expression; “you have a real fire in your belly.”  It is about a person being very passionate about what they believe.  It drives all of their plans and actions.  In today’s text, Jeremiah simply cannot stifle the prophecies that God has put in him, no matter how hard he tries to keep them to himself. “Something like a burning fire shut up in my bones.”  So God’s words he cannot stop repeating even when he knows people plan to kill him.

Our devotion writer declares; “It burned within him and needed to be spoken. At our baptisms, we heard these or similar words: “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).”  So, what burns in your belly? What light shines? What fire burns within you? In what ways does God’s love drive your passions?  What is your level of commitment? How do you shine your light to let people see God’s glory?

Prayer: “Gracious God, the light of your love burns within me. Help me share it with others, through Christ. Amen.”

 

Jeremiah 20:7-13

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Jeremiah Denounces His Persecutors

O Lord, you have enticed me,     and I was enticed; you have overpowered me,     and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long;     everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak, I must cry out,     I must shout, “Violence and destruction!” For the word of the Lord has become for me     a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, “I will not mention him,     or speak any more in his name,” then within me there is something like a burning fire     shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in,     and I cannot. 10 For I hear many whispering:     “Terror is all around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!”     All my close friends     are watching for me to stumble. “Perhaps he can be enticed,     and we can prevail against him,     and take our revenge on him.” 11 But the Lord is with me like a dread warrior;     therefore my persecutors will stumble,     and they will not prevail. They will be greatly shamed,     for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor     will never be forgotten. 12 O Lord of hosts, you test the righteous,     you see the heart and the mind; let me see your retribution upon them,     for to you I have committed my cause.

13 Sing to the Lord;     praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy     from the hands of evildoers.

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Tuesday Jeremiah 18:18-23

Prayer: O God, let your Word guide us and keep us focused on your leadership. In Christ. Amen.

Left out here alone!

19 Give heed to me, O Lord, and listen to what my adversaries say!

When people don’t like what you say, they feel threatened.  In Jeremiah’s case they were so angry and afraid they plotted to kill Jeremiah.  Jeremiah therefore felt persecuted and alone and turned to God for help.  After all the words and prophecies the people didn’t like came from God.

Our devotion writer explains; “There are times when conveying a difficult message or speaking the truth to those who would rather not hear it is lonely work. It can feel like everyone is out to get us. At times like these, where do we find the strength and determination to continue?”

If we read on in Chapter 19, we will see that God is there, and had been beside Jeremiah all along.  God hears Jeremiah and provides further instructions. God never leaves us alone not matter what we might feel, when we are set about doing God’s work. God is with us every step of the way.

Prayer: “Loving God, thank you for your presence, especially when I feel persecuted and alone. In Christ’s name. Amen.”

 

Jeremiah 18:18-23

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

A Plot against Jeremiah

18 Then they said, “Come, let us make plots against Jeremiah—for instruction shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, let us bring charges against him, and let us not heed any of his words.”

19 Give heed to me, O Lord,     and listen to what my adversaries say! 20 Is evil a recompense for good?     Yet they have dug a pit for my life. Remember how I stood before you     to speak good for them,     to turn away your wrath from them. 21 Therefore give their children over to famine;     hurl them out to the power of the sword, let their wives become childless and widowed.     May their men meet death by pestilence,     their youths be slain by the sword in battle. 22 May a cry be heard from their houses,     when you bring the marauder suddenly upon them! For they have dug a pit to catch me,     and laid snares for my feet. 23 Yet you, O Lord, know     all their plotting to kill me. Do not forgive their iniquity,     do not blot out their sin from your sight. Let them be tripped up before you;     deal with them while you are angry.

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Monday Jeremiah 18:12-17

Prayer: Lead us, Great and Wonderful God, through the wisdom in your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Who is your leader?

12 But they say, “It is no use! We will follow our own plans.

God called Jeremiah to tell God’s people to repent and turn from their evil ways. Familiar story, isn’t it? God’s people ignore God’s words and choose to follow their own wisdoms and desires. Idols permit one to use their own justifications and rationalizations. Jeremiah was frustrated and mournful.

Our devotion writer relates that he had times in his life where he decided to follow his own life and make his own decisions.  He knew better what actions to take.  God’s decisions weren’t coming fast enough so he stopped listening for God’s voice.  If this sounds familiar, you are not alone. Often, we have come to believe that our way is the best way and we don’t have time to wait for God’s directions.

But our devotion writer reminds us that in taking our own path we may not find peace or joy. He writes; “I needed to be reminded once again that the Lord is with me constantly and willing to guide when I am willing to listen. God is ready to lead when I am ready to follow. Now I strive daily to recommit to following the true leader of my life.”

Prayer: “Merciful God, today I commit to following you. Lead me in your ways. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

Jeremiah 18:12-17

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Israel’s Stubborn Idolatry

12 But they say, “It is no use! We will follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of our evil will.”

13 Therefore thus says the Lord: Ask among the nations:     Who has heard the like of this? The virgin Israel has done     a most horrible thing. 14 Does the snow of Lebanon leave     the crags of Sirion? Do the mountain waters run dry,     the cold flowing streams? 15 But my people have forgotten me,     they burn offerings to a delusion; they have stumbled in their ways,     in the ancient roads, and have gone into bypaths,     not the highway, 16 making their land a horror,     a thing to be hissed at forever. All who pass by it are horrified     and shake their heads. 17 Like the wind from the east,     I will scatter them before the enemy. I will show them my back, not my face,     in the day of their calamity.

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Sunday Matthew 9:35—10:8 (9-21)

Prayer: Great and wonderful God, let your Word teach me to walk in your ways. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Second Sunday after Pentecost

37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;

Jesus knew that He could not see all the people, heal all the sick, and minister to the poor by Himself.  He needed others to help. (Of course we know that God could do anything, but what then would we be doing?)

Jesus called the original twelve and in turn they taught others, and so on. Now we are at today and we still know that there is a lot to be done and it seems few volunteers to serve.  We know many in our communities that could use our help; lonely, hurting, sick, afraid, and needing reassurance that they are important.

We are called by the Spirit to share the story of God’s love.  All of us who are baptized are called and charged with this. So there are many available, but only a few to step up.  Our devotion writer reminds us; “We don’t need eloquent words or lofty deeds; we can offer our true selves, as ones who know Christ’s love and want to share it with other.”

Prayer; “Lord of harvest, use me to share the gospel in word and deed. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

Matthew 9:35-10:21

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Harvest Is Great, the Laborers Few

35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

The Twelve Apostles

10 Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

The Mission of the Twelve

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

Coming Persecutions

16 “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death;

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