Monthly Archives: October 2016

24th Sunday After Pentecost, October 30, 2016

Twenty-fourth Sunday After Pentecost (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Isaiah 1:10-18, Psalm 32:1-8, 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12, Luke 19:1-10

 

Isaiah 1:10-18

Dramatically, Isaiah compares Israel’s leadership to that of Sodom and Gomorrah (vs. 10). Though Jerusalem survived and Sodom did not, the similarities of the rulers of both nations is made clear. Both were guilty of oppressing the weak and embracing unacceptable worship.

True worship of the Living God is more than ceremonial performance. The implications of a changed life are witnessed in behavior that administers mercy to the vulnerable.

2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12

Paul and his colleagues habitually prayed for the Thessalonians. Their spiritual welfare was always on the apostles’ hearts, and they were sincerely thankful for their faithfulness to the gospel message, even though they suffered for their stance. Paul appeals to them to lead lives in keeping with their destiny. Christians do not live worthily in order to obtain salvation but because they have been granted salvation.

The apostle prays that God will bring to full expression every good purpose of theirs to glorify God, and that every act motivated by their faith will be in God. Both motives and actions have their source in God (Phil. 2:13); thus they are accomplished by His power.

Luke 19:1-10rf

Jesus’ words, “Today salvation has come to this house,” did not imply that the act of giving to the poor had saved Zacchaeus, but that his change in lifestyle was a result of his right relationship with God.

Zacchaeus, a son of Abraham by birth, had a right to enter the kingdom because of his connection with Jesus. That was Jesus’ mission—to seek and to save those who are lost (cf. Lk.15:5, 9, 24).

Do You Hear What I’m Living?

Actions speak louder than words. Today’s readings demonstrate this age-old wisdom. Isaiah’s rebuke shows that ceremony does not replace a life of worship. Paul’s words to the Thessalonians highlight their growing faith as evidenced by their increasing love for others. And Jesus’ words to Zacchaeus point out his changed heart as demonstrated through his newfound generosity.

When we live lives of faith and worship, the Gospel is proclaimed – without us ever saying a word. In today’s discouraged and disillusioned world, think about the power of a living Gospel. Imagine how a life lived in joyful service brings Light to a dark and hopeless world.

Living the Gospel speaks louder than any words we can say. Observed in us, the Gospel proclaims Christ better than any bumper sticker we can place on our car. When we live out our faith, Christ is seen… felt… heard… known.

Prayer for Twenty-third Sunday After Pentecost – Merciful God, give grace that enables me to walk humbly before You, serving in love and obtaining Your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

 

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

23rd Sunday After Pentecost, October 23, 2016

Twenty-third Sunday After Pentecost (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22, Psalm 84:1-6, 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18, Luke 18:9-14

Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22

Jeremiah makes a threefold appeal to God for mercy. First, for the sake of God’s name, that is, his nature, that He would not “despise” Zion (cf. Numbers 14:13-19). Second, Jeremiah appeals to God that He would not dishonor his glorious throne. Jerusalem was generally understood to be the throne of God (Jer. 3:17, Ezek. 43:7). Finally, Jeremiah appeals to God to keep His covenant promise, even though the people of Judah had failed to keep their promise.

When we fail to keep our promise to God, we can appeal to His merciful nature, His authority (He is King), and rely upon His faithfulness… He always keeps His promise, whether we do, or not.

2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

Paul is facing his last moments on earth. His mandate to proclaim the gospel had not been without challenge. What was it that enabled him to fight a good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith? His anticipation of the appearing of Christ far outweighed the problems and challenges of this life. Consistently, Paul had witnessed the faithfulness of God, and he is confident that God will remain faithful (vv. 17-18)

Luke 18:9-14phariseetaxcollector515

The purposes of the Parable of the Prayers of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector were to show that one cannot trust in ones self for righteousness and should not view others with contempt (v. 9). The Pharisee sought to use others as a standard for his own measurement of righteous standing before God. The tax collector rightfully sees God as the standard for measurement, and sees the impossible task of being able to measure up. He appeals to the mercy of God.

Those who humble themselves before God receive forgiveness. Those who remain prideful are brought low.

What’s In Your Wallet?

A well-known television commercial promoting a credit card asks the question, “What’s in your wallet?” The credit card company’s intended message is clear: holding their credit card implies a guarantee of security. Today’s readings might well ask a similar question: “What’s in your heart?”

For Jeremiah, it was his conviction of God’s love and mercy that prompted him to plead the case of wayward Israel. For Paul, it was his hope of seeing Christ fully revealed that enabled him to face his impending death.

But it is Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and tax collector that speaks to the power of the heart. Both men prayed, yet only one was reconciled with God. The Pharisee’s pride kept him from God; the tax collector’s humility brought him into God’s presence.

When our hearts are convinced of God’s merciful love, when we have the hope of seeing Him revealed, we can’t help but be humbled in His presence – secure in this life and the life to come.

Prayer for Twenty-third Sunday After Pentecost – Almighty God, open my eyes to see Your mercy and increase Your gifts of love and faith in me; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

22nd Sunday After Pentecost, October 16, 2016

Twenty-second Sunday After Pentecost (Year C)

 

Scripture Readings*: Jeremiah 31:27-34, Psalm 119:97-104, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5, Luke 18:1-8

Jeremiah 31:27-34

After Babylon’s conquest, Judah lay in ruins. War, disease, and famine had decimated the population. Jeremiah sees that the uprooting, tearing down, overthrowing and destruction of Judah were according to God’s purpose. However, Jeremiah makes clear that the LORD will also rebuild and replant.

Adversity and hardship are often seen as the punishment of God. However, rather than a harsh God who measures out retribution because of anger, God mercifully seeks those who have turned away in order to restore with blessing and promise.

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5book-1209805_1920

The “godly” life Paul encourages is one of active commitment to what is right. This means it’s impossible to remain silent about evils and injustice in our society. Paul says every Scripture is the product of the Spirit’s work. As a result, it is adequate to protect us from false teaching and to strengthen us for persecution. Paul reminds us not to be surprised when people aren’t interested in truth. People want to hear what they want to hear. Regardless we are to remain faithful in proclaiming Scripture.

Luke 18:1-8

This story teaches that while human beings may have utter indifference to others’ suffering, God is not uncaring. God cares for His “chosen ones.” We can keep on praying with confidence during the waiting period, confident that God will measure out justice… quickly.

Day In, Day Out

We teach children to brush their teeth at an early age. If we love them, we turn a deaf ear to their arguments about their teeth looking fine and not needing to be brushed before bed. As adults, we know the daily habit of brushing will instill a lifelong pattern that will keep them healthy.

Today’s readings are about developing habits that keep us spiritually sound. We pray continually, knowing our just Father is listening to our cries. We study God’s law, trusting His commands will keep our feet “from every evil way” as the Psalmist wrote. And we remain “persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable” as Paul counseled Timothy.

In times of trouble and adversity, these habits keep us close to God. When life turns into a cacophony of catastrophe, these rhythms maintain the heartbeat of life and faith. When we cannot see God’s purpose or plan, His words – written in our heart – remind us that we are His people and He is eager to bring about His perfect will and justice in our lives.

Prayer for Twenty-second Sunday After Pentecost – Holy God, preserve Your works of mercy in my life, helping me remain steadfast in serving You; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

21st Sunday After Pentecost, October 9, 2016

Twenty-first Sunday After Pentecost (Year C)

Scripture Readings*: Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7, Psalm 66:1-12, 2 Timothy 2:8-15, Luke 17:11-19

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7

The exiles had lost everything but their lives and a few possessions that they were able to carry with them to Babylon. Living in a foreign culture and separated from their temple and its services, Jeremiah admonishes them to accept their situation as though it were from the hand of God. He encourages them to be productive: build houses, plant gardens, take wives and have children and grand children. In astonishing fashion, Jeremiah encourages the exiles to seek the welfare of the city where God has sent them!

2 Timothy 2:8-15

The word “study” (2 Tim. 2:15) has nothing to do with books and teachers. It means: “to be diligent, be zealous. The emphasis is that the workman needs to be diligent in his labors so that he will not be ashamed when his work is inspected.

Luke 17:11-19

You would have expected all ten men to run to Jesus and thank Him for a new start in life, but only one did so—and he was not even a Jew. How grateful the men should have been for the providence of God that brought Jesus into their area, for the love that caused Him to pay attention to them and their need, and for the grace and power of God that brought about their healing. They should have formed an impromptu men’s chorus, and sung Psalm 103 together!

Grow Where You’re Plantedmai-growth

Notice the contrast in today’s readings. Jeremiah is speaking to people who have lost everything – their homes, their culture, their temple, and their land. Jesus is addressing men who have gained everything – reintroduction into society, restoration with their loved ones, and the ability to begin life anew. And yet the admonition to both groups is the same: Go… establish yourself… be productive members of society.

Regardless of our circumstances, God calls us to do the same. We are to grow where we are planted, establishing a root system of faith that produces fruit. We can learn from Paul’s advice to Timothy in being diligent in producing lives that are worthy of examination. Investing ourselves into our families and communities brings the Kingdom of God nearer to earth.

Prayer for Twenty-first Sunday After Pentecost – Loving God, in my present circumstances, let your grace go before and behind me, strengthening me to good works in Your name; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C

20th Sunday After Pentecost, October 2, 2016

Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost (Year C)

 

Scripture Readings*: Lamentations 1:1-6, Lamentations 3:19-26, 2 Timothy 1:1-14, Luke 17:5-10

Lamentations 1:1-6

A funeral poem served a purpose in the literature of most ancient Middle Eastern cultures. Jeremiah’s lament begins with a somber and dark mourning of the fall of Jerusalem. These poems acknowledge the fact that the Exile is God’s doing, a judgment brought about by Judah’s “many sins” (Deut. 28:36, 44, 63-68).

2 Timothy 1:1-14

Paul used military language to help Timothy and his people see the seriousness of the problem (1 Tim. 1:3). Charge means “to give strict orders from a superior officer.” Paul used this word (sometimes translated “commandment” and “command” in kjv) eight times in his two letters to Timothy (1 Tim. 1:3, 5, 18; 4:11; 5:7; 6:13, 17; 2 Tim. 4:1). He was conveying this idea: “Timothy, you are not only a pastor of the church in a difficult city. You are also a Christian soldier under orders from the King. Now pass these orders along to the soldiers in your church!”

Luke 17:5-10mustard-seed

Our Lord’s image of the mustard seed conveys the idea of life and growth. The mustard seed is very small, but it has life in it and, therefore, it can grow and produce fruit (Mark 4:30–32). If our faith is a living faith (James 2:14–26), it will grow and enable us to obey God’s commands. “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass” (Ps. 37:5). Forgiveness is a test of both our faith and our love.

The Hands and Feet of Jesus

Today’s readings are full of suffering. Jerusalem is fallen and in ruins. Paul points to his imprisonment and invites Timothy to join him in suffering. Jesus speaks to his disciples of hard labor without any recognition or respite.

As followers of Christ, we often speak of being the hands and feet of Jesus. But think about those hands and feet. They are marked with suffering. Those feet walked the path toward a cross. Those hands and feet were nailed to that cross. Becoming the hands and feet of Jesus means we share in His suffering.

As believers, suffering is not our goal. But in our pursuit of Christ, we should not be surprised when we find ourselves in seasons of difficulty or affliction. Jesus fully entered into the pain of our humanity in order to redeem it – and us. To share His gift with others, we do the same, revealing our Wounded Healer to a hurting world.

Prayer for Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost – Almighty God, pour out in and through me the abundance of your mercy, forgiving and restoring me to wholeness; through Jesus Christ, Amen.

*Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year C

Free download:  get pdf versions of these devotionals for every season in Year C