Thursday Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Prayer: O God, give us guidance and wisdom through your Word, in Christ. Amen.

Resident aliens

you shall make this response before the Lord your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor…”

God commands us to give of our “First Fruits.”  Our devotion writer’s family came to US from Mexico to escape the Mexican revolution.  They were befriended and helped by a German Lutheran farmer’s family and introduced to the Lutheran faith.  They learned to share from their bounty. The faith stayed with his family.

When the Israelites settled in the Promised Land, it was similar.  God instructed them to give back from the first harvests and to remember the deliverance from slavery in Egypt.  As part of their tradition they were to share from their bounty even with the aliens who reside with them.

We have adopted similar observances with our own Thanksgiving, when we remember the bounty that God has provided and in turn share with others.  God’s command was for ten percent giving “off the top.”  To many that means before taxes, but others may not agree.  Many also proclaim that 10 percent is just the minimum and have increased their tithing well beyond the 10 percent.

We in this country have been truly blessed.  Most of us have more than we need from God’s blessings.  It doesn’t hurt once one gets in the habit of writing the first check to God every payday.

Our devotion writer explains; “Our tradition teaches that we are all resident aliens on a pilgrimage of faith. Our final home awaits us in eternity.”

Prayer: “Holy One, teach us to remember our past, so as to be faithful resident aliens. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

Deuteronomy 26:1-11

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

First Fruits and Tithes

26 When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, and you possess it, and settle in it, you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time, and say to him, “Today I declare to the Lord your God that I have come into the land that the Lord swore to our ancestors to give us.” When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the Lord your God, you shall make this response before the Lord your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. 10 So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.” You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God. 11 Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the Lord your God has given to you and to your house.

 

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Wednesday 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

Prayer: Give us big hearts, O God, through your Word and your Spirit. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Ash Wednesday

We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive. (vv. 8-9)

Today we begin observing Lent.  Today is a holy day and many will attend Ash Wednesday services and receive the mark of the cross in ashes on their forehead.  Our devotion writer writes; “It is a sign and a public witness of the awareness of our mortality.  It is a sign of faith and a mark that announces that ‘we are dust and to dust we shall return.’”

To those who are not believers it is a conundrum to say we are mortal and at the same time profess we are saved to live forever.  Our devotion writer calls is a transient nature of life.  We are here and yet we have a place to go after we are finished here on earth.

In today’s text, Paul encourages us to have hope when faced with life-and-death challenges.  I don’t think it is limited to life-and-death, because everything is in God’s hands. So hope is with us in all things especially death. Our devotion writer declares; “That is the paradox of faith and the promise of life with God.”

Prayer: “Eternal One, help us to trust that death does not end our life with you, through Christ. Amen.”

 

2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

6 As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says,

“At an acceptable time I have listened to you,     and on a day of salvation I have helped you.”

See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

 

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Tuesday Acts 10:23b-33

Prayer: O God, your Word gives us direction and your Spirit inspiration. Let us be inspired to share your love with others. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Sweet hour of prayer

31 He said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard…

Our devotion writer asks if we know the hymn “Sweet Hour of Prayer?” I don’t recall it by name, but he writers; “There is something very soothing about spending time in conversation with God.”  Whether we spend it in quiet thought and contemplation, or just listening to God in silence we experience communication with God in trust and friendship.

In today’s text we are shown that God sends messengers to Gentiles too.  Fortunately Peter had been prepared by a vision from God. Still I can’t help but think that Peter was really surprised as well as the other believers who came along. Our devotion writer calls it an “epiphany of the inclusive love of God.” In those days it must have been totally amazing.

Our devotion writer explains; “The Spirit may be leading us to open our church doors to others who may be friends of God.  The Spirit may be leading us to open our hearts and minds in prayer and to receive new knowledge and direction.  Like Peter, we are called to trust and obey, and we may be surprised at the outcome.”

So if today’s text is any inspiration, we should be prepared for a new direction or a fresh approach to the way we listen to God and perhaps a new direction, or a return to basics in our ministry.  What does God tell you during your “sweet hour of prayer?”

Prayer: “Loving Spirit, open my heart and mind, that I may hear you and obey, through Christ. Amen.”

 

Acts 10:23-33

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

23 So Peter invited them in and gave them lodging.

The next day he got up and went with them, and some of the believers from Joppa accompanied him. 24 The following day they came to Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 On Peter’s arrival Cornelius met him, and falling at his feet, worshiped him. 26 But Peter made him get up, saying, “Stand up; I am only a mortal.” 27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found that many had assembled; 28 and he said to them, “You yourselves know that it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or to visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without objection. Now may I ask why you sent for me?”

30 Cornelius replied, “Four days ago at this very hour, at three o’clock, I was praying in my house when suddenly a man in dazzling clothes stood before me. 31 He said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon, who is called Peter; he is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’ 33 Therefore I sent for you immediately, and you have been kind enough to come. So now all of us are here in the presence of God to listen to all that the Lord has commanded you to say.”

 

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Monday Acts 10:9-23a

Prayer: Lord Jesus, your Word is our guide; open our hearts and minds to share your love every day. Amen.

Heavenly food

10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance.

For centuries the Jews were taught that it was profane to eat certain animals and to associate with or visit the homes non-Jewish people.  They learned to keep separate and apart.  Now Jesus seemed to open the flood gates, but it took some heavy dreams and hard lessons to change hundreds of year of traditions.

Our devotion writer came from a culture where they ate young goat. He met friends later in life who were horrified by the tradition.  I am sure there are traditions and delicacies we all have that would seem strange to others. There are still many who will not eat sushi because of the raw fish.

Imagine Peter’s situation in today’s text. He did not understand the total meaning of the vision until after the messengers of Cornelius, a Roman centurion asked him to come to his home.  It even took an angel to convince Peter to go with them.

Our devotion writer explains; “God was doing something new.  Peter was about to learn that Gentiles could also receive the gospel. They were not unclean. The church was about to grow in a new way.”  Can we relate to this?  Are there changes in our churches?  Are there new directions? Or have we gone too far off the path?  How is God speaking to us today?

Our devotion writer writes; “We grow by obedience to the will of God.”

Prayer: “Spirit of grace, help us to obey you and reach out to new neighbors. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

 

Acts 10:9-23

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 Then he heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” 15 The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” 16 This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven.

17 Now while Peter was greatly puzzled about what to make of the vision that he had seen, suddenly the men sent by Cornelius appeared. They were asking for Simon’s house and were standing by the gate. 18 They called out to ask whether Simon, who was called Peter, was staying there. 19 While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Look, three men are searching for you. 20 Now get up, go down, and go with them without hesitation; for I have sent them.” 21 So Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for your coming?” 22 They answered, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” 23 So Peter invited them in and gave them lodging.

The next day he got up and went with them, and some of the believers from Joppa accompanied him.

 

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Sunday Luke 9:28-36 [37-43a]

Prayer: Let us worship and praise you, merciful God, for your glory and your Word. Amen.

The Transfiguration of Our Lord

35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”

Once again today we are likely to hear a sermon about today’s text and Jesus’ transfiguration.  The disciples became fixated on the glory of the vision that Luke describes.  It was heavenly and not like the reality of earth.  Our devotion writer tells us; “So grand was the moment that Peter offered to build a dwelling for each of the prophets.  He wanted to stay there and enjoy the visitation…”

…”He as yet did not grasp the full meaning of the moment.” Jesus once again had to tell them of His mission and His impending death. The glory of the mountaintop was not to be lasting.  The reality of their mission was to follow Jesus and learn how to serve others in the valley.  They were to follow Jesus’ example and become servants and heal the sick and provide for the poor and to cast out demons.  This is the mission and task of all disciples.

Are we not also disciples of Jesus?  What do we do after the glory and experience on the mountaintop of worship? Does it not sustain us and send us out into the valley like Jesus’ disciples? Sure we would like to stay in that that grand moment, but reality comes soon after, and we must remember the mission Jesus sent us on. So let us go on rejoicing!

Prayer: “Lord Jesus, teach us to follow where you lead and to listen with our hearts. Amen.”

 

Luke 9:28-43

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Transfiguration

28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” 36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

Jesus Heals a Boy with a Demon

37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38 Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39 Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” 41 Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 42 While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43 And all were astounded at the greatness of God.

Jesus Again Foretells His Death

While everyone was amazed at all that he was doing, he said to his disciples,

 

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Saturday 2 Corinthians 3:12- 4:2

Prayer: O God, open our hearts and minds to the truths in your Word. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Born to be free

17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Thursday we read about Moses and the veil that he kept over his face when he met with his people to hide the shine on his face that happened when he met with God.  Today Paul in his letter to the Corinthians explains that the veil still exists and covers the minds of those who do not turn to Jesus.  This veil keeps them under the Law and as a result slaves to sin.

Turning to Jesus brings the experience of “being born again.”  Paul understood this if you recall the story of Paul’s conversion. Jesus explained it to Nicodemus.  I believe that I have experience this “conversion” more than once in my lifetime.  Sometimes as I have headed down the wrong path, God has called me back after a time and made me “free” again.

Our devotion writer writes; “Paul taught the Corinthian church that freedom in Christ leads to transformation. We do not remain the same as we grow in faith.  Lutherans believe that we are born anew in our baptism.  In that holy sacrament, the Spirit comes to us through the water and the Word of Gad and we are never the same again. We grow spiritually as we meditate on the Scriptures. We learn to walk in freedom when we practice our faith with a clear conscience. We experience new life as we acquire the nature and character of discipleship. We are washed in the waters of freedom to serve God in the world.”

Ever wonder why it is said that we “practice our faith?”  Because “practice makes perfect,” (or more perfect.)

Prayer: “Holy Spirit, fall afresh on me this day, and set me free to serve others. Amen.”

 

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

12 Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness, 13 not like Moses, who put a veil over his face to keep the people of Israel from gazing at the end of the glory that was being set aside. 14 But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. 15 Indeed, to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; 16 but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

Treasure in Clay Jars

4 Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart. We have renounced the shameful things that one hides; we refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word; but by the open statement of the truth we commend ourselves to the conscience of everyone in the sight of God.

 

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Friday Psalm 99

Prayer: Merciful and Almighty God, thank you for the wisdom in your Word, in Christ. Amen.

God’s work, our hands

The Lord is great in Zion; he is exalted over all the peoples.

Our devotion writer is well traveled.  He has visited many countries and in each has worshiped at a church.  He notes that even though sometimes he did not understand the language, he felt God’s all powerful presence.  The worshippers “believe in the values of fairness and righteousness. They understand that God, who is all-powerful, not only gives us laws and decrees, but also is loving and forgiving.”

Many of the immigrants to our country come with church backgrounds.  Our devotion writer has had the opportunity to pray and worship with many of them and share the love Jesus with them. “They reminded us that God is good, just, and worthy of praise, even in the most difficult of circumstances.  They inspired us to do God’s work with our hands.”

We can learn much from others and other cultures.  One important lesson for us is to reach out to visitors to our church with love and acceptance.  Warm welcomes and friendliness in Christ’s love encourages fellowship.  Coldness and standoffishness, does not invite them back.  As a family of God we need many hands and many talents to do the missions that God has given us.

Prayer: “Dios de amour, give us the will to seek justice for your children, everywhere. Amen.”

 

Psalm 99

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Psalm 99

Praise to God for His Holiness

The Lord is king; let the peoples tremble!     He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake! The Lord is great in Zion;     he is exalted over all the peoples. Let them praise your great and awesome name.     Holy is he! Mighty King, lover of justice,     you have established equity; you have executed justice     and righteousness in Jacob. Extol the Lord our God;     worship at his footstool.     Holy is he!

Moses and Aaron were among his priests,     Samuel also was among those who called on his name.     They cried to the Lord, and he answered them. He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud;     they kept his decrees,     and the statutes that he gave them.

O Lord our God, you answered them;     you were a forgiving God to them,     but an avenger of their wrongdoings. Extol the Lord our God,     and worship at his holy mountain;     for the Lord our God is holy.

 

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