Saturday Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32

Prayer: Let your Word speak to our hearts, O God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

No strings attached

29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Our devotion writer writes; “Grace is really difficult.”  I can identify with that. It is, on the surface, an easy concept, but it is very hard to accept, not to mention understand. Our devotion writer again; “Grace means that God gives us forgiveness of sins and life itself as a free gift, no strings attached. There are no requirements on our behalf. Worship or not; pray or not; give thanks or not; love our neighbors as ourselves or not—we still receive God’s gift and God’s calling. ‘The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.’”

Don’t we have to believe and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior?

Do we think of God as a sort of almighty Santa Claus? One who keeps lists of who is “naughty or nice?”  Well that is not God.  He doesn’t bless us based upon what we do. Our devotion writer again; “God gives because God chooses to give…We are programmed to believe that we have to earn things, and that we get what we deserve.”  No free lunches for us.

Our devotion writer proclaims; “Yes, there is a ‘free lunch’ in Jesus Christ. And a free breakfast and dinner, too. Enjoy!”

Prayer: “Generous God, thank you for the gifts you give each day, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.”

Romans 11:1-32

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Israel’s Rejection Is Not Final

11 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! 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.

……………………………………………….

 

29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 30 Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. 32 For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.

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Wednesday Isaiah 45:20-25

Prayer: Lord God, let your Word rule our lives, in Christ. Amen.

One and only

22 Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.

Our devotion writer begins; “The basis of our faith is that there is only one God. There is only one God whom we worship and serve. There is only one God who can save us. There is only one God to whom we should turn in times of trouble, but the reality is that there are many other gods to which we turn.”

What are these other gods? Maybe our intelligence, bank accounts, or persona charisma? What keeps us up at night? What helps us sleep when things are going well? In what do we trust for our security? There are many things besides the one True God that we put our trust in. Unless, of course, we are faced with trauma or troubles beyond the scope of our own faculties.

If our relationship with God is right, then we will have Him to turn to in all times.  These are God’s gifts to us when we put our trust and faith in Him and He alone. We are in the right relationship with the One and only.

Prayer: “God of blessing, thank you for all the blessings you provide in our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

Isaiah 45:20-25

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Idols Cannot Save Babylon

20 Assemble yourselves and come together,     draw near, you survivors of the nations! They have no knowledge—     those who carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god     that cannot save. 21 Declare and present your case;     let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago?     Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the Lord?     There is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior;     there is no one besides me.

22 Turn to me and be saved,     all the ends of the earth!     For I am God, and there is no other. 23 By myself I have sworn,     from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness     a word that shall not return: “To me every knee shall bow,     every tongue shall swear.”

24 Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me,     are righteousness and strength; all who were incensed against him     shall come to him and be ashamed. 25 In the Lord all the offspring of Israel     shall triumph and glory.

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Thursday Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

Prayer: Almighty God, let your Word teach me to live as you will, in Christ. Amen.

Making room

Thus says the Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered.

It may not seem like it when we count up church attendance, but God has promised that He will gather others to add to our numbers. Our devotion writer says we have been gathered into God’s family and the promise of eternal life with Him. This has been sealed by the sign of the Cross at our Baptism. “We have been gathered into God’s family, and we will be gathered into God’s heavenly kingdom for eternal life. That is the promise, and it will not be broken.”

What’s more, membership has not been closed.  More will be added. God want everyone to come to Him and would like everyone to be gathered into the kingdom of heaven. That all people will worship God together. People of all races and nationalities from all over the world will lift their voices in praise. God’s kingdom is huge. But even though we don’t see it God continues to call more people to Him and His kingdom. “That is the promise, and it will not be brokern.”

Prayer: “Alpha and Omega, gather us all together in your name, through Christ Jesus. Amen.”

 

Isaiah 56:1-8

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Covenant Extended to All Who Obey

56 Thus says the Lord:     Maintain justice, and do what is right, for soon my salvation will come,     and my deliverance be revealed.

Happy is the mortal who does this,     the one who holds it fast, who keeps the sabbath, not profaning it,     and refrains from doing any evil.

Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say,     “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and do not let the eunuch say,     “I am just a dry tree.” For thus says the Lord: To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,     who choose the things that please me     and hold fast my covenant, I will give, in my house and within my walls,     a monument and a name     better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name     that shall not be cut off.

And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,     to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,     and to be his servants, all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it,     and hold fast my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain,     and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices     will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer     for all peoples. Thus says the Lord God,     who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them     besides those already gathered.

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Tuesday Luke 1:46-55

Prayer: Merciful God, let your Word shine through us, your servants. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mary, Mother of Our Lord

49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.

Depending upon one’s point of view, Mary’s pregnancy could have been thought of as a terrible mistake.  We often think of it as a huge blessing, but there are those who don’t know the truth whose judgments would have been different.  Our devotion writer points out that Mary’s Song of Praise comes after her visit to her cousin Elizabeth where she receives comfort and reassurance.

Our devotion writer explains; “Sometimes, what God is calling us to do or to be can seem like a really big mistake. Jesus inverts traditional categories and re-orders society in such fundamental ways that our discipleship may look like lunacy to others. Mary’s song prefigures Jesus’ message: the lowly are uplifted and the hungry are filled, while the powerful lose their thrones and the rich are sent ‘away empty’ (v. 53).

We also can see how important fellowship and community play in sharing God’s message and discerning God’s direction. Mary needed to hear what Elizabeth had to say and to get her blessing. We need our Christian brothers and sisters to reinforce our ministries and to help us rejoice in our unique and special gifts from God.

Prayer: “Abiding Trinity, your essence is relationship. Help us support and uplift each other. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

Luke 1:46-55

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Mary’s Song of Praise

46 And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord, 47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.     Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,     and holy is his name. 50 His mercy is for those who fear him     from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm;     he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,     and lifted up the lowly; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things,     and sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped his servant Israel,     in remembrance of his mercy, 55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,     to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”

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Monday Revelation 15:1-4

Prayer: O God, teach us the meaning in your Word, in Christ. Amen.

Closing the distance

And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mixed with fire,

I was near the Newberry National Volcanic Monument just last month and I had no idea it was there, or what it was. Today our devotion writer tells about the mile-long black volcanic glass flow. I would have liked to have seen it. Is this the kind of sea of glass the author of Revelation saw? Our devotion writer tells of the signs warning people that the glass edges in the obsidian flow are sharp and that it is dangerous to walk in sandals, or for dogs’ feet.

Our devotion writer explains; “This sea of glass, though, symbolizes the distance between God and creation, even in heaven.” On the other hand, Halley’s Bible Handbook says; “The “sea of glass” is perhaps symbolic for the calm and peaceful rest of God’s people in heaven.”  After crossing the Red Sea God’s people sang the Song of Moses and the Lamb because they were now finally safe from the wrath of Pharaoh. It was a song of triumph.

Maximilian Kolbe and Kaj Munk were two men martyred by the Nazi’s. Our devotion writer suggests that they must have felt far away from God’s triumph, but their actions sang of a coming victory. Our separation from God is not forever, but in the right time we will sit at the foot of God’s throne after the beast of this world is destroyed. “God’s plan turns that sea of glass into the new Jerusalem.”

Prayer: “Flowing God, overcome the sharp edges of our lives with your soothing grace, through Christ Jesus. Amen.”

 

Revelation 15:1-4

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Angels with the Seven Last Plagues

15 Then I saw another portent in heaven, great and amazing: seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is ended.

And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb:

“Great and amazing are your deeds,     Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways,     King of the nations! Lord, who will not fear     and glorify your name? For you alone are holy.     All nations will come     and worship before you, for your judgments have been revealed.”

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Sunday Matthew 14:22-33

Prayer: Gracious God, may the gift of your Word and Spirit keep us on the path that you direct. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Clara Maass, our devotion writer tells us, is memorialized today on the church calendar. Clara was a seventeen-year-old who volunteered to follow Jesus by being a healer.  She was twenty-three when she worked to help the soldiers during the Spanish-American War.  She had only two hours’ notice to board a ship heading for Manila.  She answered the call. Two years later, she answered the call again to be a test subject for yellow fever research and it cost her life. Her sacrifice helped determine the cause of this terrible infection.

Clara did not spend a lot of time preparing and praying about her volunteering. In today’s text Jesus did not spend a lot of time preparing to respond to the needs of His Disciples. He immediately sent them off to rest, and immediately reassured them when the storm scared them.  He immediately reached out and saved Peter.  Jesus didn’t wait around when His help was needed. It was similar for Carla Maass.

Our devotion writer prays; “May God empower us to respond immediately when we are needed.”

Prayer: “Jesus, thank you for always being present for us—immediately. Amen.”

 

Matthew 14:22-33

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Jesus Walks on the Water

22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

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Saturday Romans 10:5-15

Prayer: Gracious God, your Word teaches us about you and your Will, teach us today, in Christ. Amen.

The sharing business

14 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed?

And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? Our devotion writer notes that like children, we sometimes worry too much about our neighbor’s conduct and forget to follow the rules ourselves. We tend to quote the Law and forget the gospel. Or to demand compliance and lose the grace.

Paul says in today’s text that we may like to direct salvation, but we are supposed to be sharing. We are not the ones who brought Jesus down from Heaven, or raised Him up from Hell. It is Jesus who saves.  The good news is that all who believe in Jesus will be saved. We also know that we are called to share this good news and Paul asks how others are to be saved if they have not believed, and how are they to believe if they have not heard?

Our devotion writer then says; “How will they share the good news with others if they aren’t taught and sent? Here is where we come in.  ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news’ (v. 15), and these beautiful feet belong to us!”

Prayer: “Lord Jesus, grant us feet made beautiful by eager steps to bring your good news to others. Amen.”

 

Romans 10:5-15

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Salvation Is for All

Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that comes from 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,     on your lips and in your heart”

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

14 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 15 And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

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