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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Jeremiah 32:36-41

36 Now therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning this city of which you say, ‘It is being given into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence’: 37See, I am going to gather them from all the lands to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation; I will bring them back to this place, and I will settle them in safety. 38They shall be my people, and I will be their God. 39I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me for all time, for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40I will make an everlasting covenant with them, never to draw back from doing good to them; and I will put the fear of me in their hearts, so that they may not turn from me. 41I will rejoice in doing good to them, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul.

At this time the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the palace of King Zedekiah of Judah.  The Babylonian army was besieging Jerusalem.  We know the outcome – the Babylonians will win and many of the people of Israel will be driven into exile in Babylon.  The king is furious with Jeremiah for prophesying the Babylonian victory.  Especially because Jeremiah told him that the king would not escape, he would be taken to Babylon where he would remain until the Lord “attended to him.”  Kings generally do not like to hear bad news, and sometimes retaliate against the messenger.  But Jeremiah also prophesies the good news – that God will gather the people together again and they will return in safety to Jerusalem.  He reminds them of the eternal covenant God made with the people. 

We are in the midst of an attack, but it is not from human enemies, it is from a new virus that we don’t know how to stop or cure.  The good news is that God is with us.  Our scientists and medical professionals are working diligently and some of the preventative measures, although they seem harsh, are working.  We long to be together again, but in this case “love thy neighbor as thyself” means to diligently maintain distance.  We can be confident that in the future there will be a vaccine developed to prevent, or at least lessen the effects, of this terrible virus.  And it will not take years, as it did for the people of Israel during their exile.  We can thank God for giving us the intelligence to understand and develop medical intervention as well as the support that will be needed by those on the front lines and loved ones in mourning.  We give thanks for continuing to be together “with one heart” and look forward to the day we can gather again in our beloved sanctuary. 

Loving God, we bring our anxieties before you, knowing that you accompany us through even the darkest valleys.  We trust in your promises and know we will come through this time even stronger than before.  We pray for strength and courage for health care professionals, emergency responders, essential workers, all those on the front lines.  We give thanks for their dedication.  We pray for healing for all who are ill or suffering, those who are in isolation, those who mourn.  We trust in your promises and we look to our celebration of your resurrection with a sure and certain hope.  Amen

Monday, March 30, 2020  Acts 20: 7-12

7On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul was holding a discussion with them; since he intended to leave the next day, he continued speaking until midnight. 8There were many lamps in the room upstairs where we were meeting. 9A young man named Eutychus, who was sitting in the window, began to sink off into a deep sleep while Paul talked still longer. Overcome by sleep, he fell to the ground three floors below and was picked up dead. 10But Paul went down, and bending over him took him in his arms, and said, "Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him." 11Then Paul went upstairs, and after he had broken bread and eaten, he continued to converse with them until dawn; then he left. 12Meanwhile they had taken the boy away alive and were not a little comforted.

 We picture in the above lesson one of the early Church Christian Services. I assume it was on a Sunday (the Lord’s Day) after the Sabbath. The building was three stories high. Its was probable made of rock, sand and mud or some type of cement. The believers who had come to hear Paul had to work during the day, that is why they had an evening meeting. Everyone who believes loves to hear the stories about Jesus and I am sure they had many questions that continued into the night. The light from the torches gave off smoke and heat. Eutychus who wanted fresh air and cooler temperatures sat by the window. Sleep overcame him and he fell from the window and died. Paul then did a miracle to bring the boy back to life. Paul goes back to his believers as if nothing happened. He breaks bread with them and Preaches into the morning.  The miracle here suggests that the believers were comforted to see Eutychus alive and they could continue on with the eating of the bread of life. What could have been a sad eventing turned out to be joyous one.

Jesus we are  unable to hear your words but your stories have been told and written down for centuries. They have shown us the way through time. We are facing new problems each day. Guide us to find solutions that help us to improve your gift of life and enable us to be with you in spirit in our troubled times. Amen.

Friday, March 27, 2020 

Ezekiel  33:10-16

 

The Lord spoke to me. "Mortal man" he said, "repeat to the Israelites what they are saying:  We are burdened with our sins and the wrongs we have done.  We are wasting away.  How can we live?

 

Tell them that as surely as I, the Sovereign Lord, the living God, I do not enjoy seeing a sinner die.  I would rather see him stop sinning and live.  Israel, stop the evil you are doing.  Why do you want to die?

 

Now, mortal man, tell the Israelites that when a good man sins, the good he has done will not save him. If an evil man stops doing evil he won't be punished, and if a good man starts sinning, his life will not be spared. 

 

I may promise life to a good man, but if he starts thinking that his past goodness is enough and begins to sin, I will not remember any of the good he did.  He will die because of his sins. 

 

I may warn an evil man that he is going to die, but if he stops sinning and does what is right and good--for example, if he returns the security he took for a loan or gives back what he stole--if he stops sinning and follows the laws that give life, he will not die but live.  I will forgive  the sins he has committed, and he will live because he has done what is right and good.

 

During this difficult time, God has given us a real opportunity to LIVE our faith.  As Lutherans, we believe that we are saved by grace, through faith, not by works.  However, now, our faith in Jesus Christ

compels us to double down on our efforts to help others manage through this health crisis.  God wants all of us to turn to Him so that we can become the best, most loving, most giving and kindest people that we can be.  Trust that God does not want us to suffer and with faith in his love for us we will  come through this crisis with a new understanding and appreciation for all He has given us.

 

Dear Lord,

 

We pray that you strengthen our faith during this time of need.  We  implore you to keep healthy all who work for our safety.  And we give you thanks for all who have recovered.

 

Help us be a blessing to those in need. 

In Jesus name,

Amen

Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Isaiah 60:17-22
17 Instead of bronze I will bring gold, instead of iron I will bring silver; instead of wood, bronze, instead of stones, iron. I will appoint Peace as your overseer and Righteousness as your taskmaster. 18 Violence shall no more be heard in your land, devastation or destruction within your borders; you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise.
19 The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you by night; but the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. 20 Your sun shall no more go down, or your moon withdraw itself; for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended. 21 Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land for ever. They are the shoot that I planted, the work of my hands, so that I might be glorified. 22 The least of them shall become a clan, and the smallest one a mighty nation; I am the LORD; in its time I will accomplish it quickly.
The prophet promises the people of Israel that even though Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians and many of them were forced into exile, the time is coming when they will return, and the city will be rebuilt. Light will break through the darkness they are experiencing. Right now, life as we know it has been completely upended by this pandemic. In a sense we are in exile, many in self isolation, some in quarantine, uprooted from all our social activities. But the light of God breaks through the darkness. God is with us; God loves us, and the world God created. Just as the people of Israel did, we will emerge from this stronger than before. Our faith will be our strength and our hope. We are church together!
Eternal God, you are our light and our salvation. May your love and compassion help all of us during this time of darkness. Bring your healing power to those who are ill, those in isolation or quarantine, and their loved ones. Bring peace to those in mourning. Give strength and courage to our health care providers and first responders, and all those on the front lines of this pandemic. May your light shine throughout the world, bringing hope for a brighter future. Amen.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Acts 9:1-20 New International Version (NIV)

 

1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

 

5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

 

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

 

7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

 

10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

 

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

 

11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

 

13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

 

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

 

17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength  Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.

 

Thoughts: When I read this story of Saul, my thoughts focused on him being a cruel human who, as the verse states, “saw the light” of Jesus, and converted to Christianity.  The phrase, “seeing the light” is common to all of us, but in reality, its very basic origin dates back to biblical times as in the story of Saul.

 

I am fairly confident the members of Calvary have “seen the light” through attending services and the generosity

we share with each other and our community.  It is this generosity that makes Calvary such a wonderful congregation that I am so proud to be a part of.  

  

With all that is happening today with COVID-19, I am hoping everyone will see the light of God and Jesus, and open themselves to help others in need.  Just imagine, if by “seeing the light” of our Maker and Savior, our world and the people in it could change for the better, for today, tomorrow and future generations. 

 

Prayer: Dear God and Jesus, we pray that you allow us, and others, to see your light shining brightly in our hearts.  Guide us through these difficult times so that we can let that light show us the way to helping others, and be thankful for your guidance.

 

This also reminds me of one of my favorite hymns:

 

 “Christ, Be Our Light”

 

Longing for light, we wait in darkness

Longing for truth, we turn to You.

Make us Your own, Your holy people

Light for the world to see.

 

Christ, be our light!

Shine in our hearts.

Shine through the darkness.

Christ, be our light!

Shine in Your church gathered today.

 

Longing for peace, our world is troubled

Longing for hope, many despair.

Your word alone has pow'r to save us.

Make us your living voice.

 

Christ, be our light!

Shine in our hearts.

Shine through the darkness.

Christ, be our light!

Shine in Your church gathered today.

 

Longing for food, many are hungry

Longing for water, many still thirst.

Make us Your bread, broken for others

Shared until all are fed.

 

Christ, be our light!

Shine in our hearts.

Shine through the darkness.

Christ, be our light!

Shine in Your church gathered today.

 

Longing for shelter, many are homeless

Longing for warmth, many are cold.

Make us Your building, sheltering others

Walls made of living stone.

Christ, be our light!

Shine in our hearts.

Shine through the darkness.

Christ, be our light!

Shine in Your church gathered today.

 

Many the gifts, many the people

Many the hearts that yearn to belong.

Let us be servants to one another

Signs of Your kingdom come.

 

Christ, be our light!

Shine in our hearts.

Shine through the darkness.

Christ, be our light!

Shine in Your church gathered today.

Friday, March 20, 2020 based on Ephesians 5: 1-9

“Do as God does. After all, you are his dear children.  Let love be your guide. Christ loved us and offered his life for us as a sacrifice that pleases God.  You are God’s people, so don’t let it be said that any of you are immoral or indecent or greedy.  Don’t use dirty or foolish or filthy words. Instead, say how thankful you are.  Being greedy, indecent, or immoral is just another way of worshiping idols. You can be sure that people who behave in this way will never be part of the kingdom that belongs to Christ and to God.  Don’t let anyone trick you with foolish talk. God punishes everyone who disobeys him and says foolish things.  So don’t have anything to do with anyone like that.  You used to be like people living in the dark, but now you are people of the light because you belong to the Lord. So act like people of the light and make your light shine. Be good and honest and truthful.”

Ephesians 5:1-9 Contemporary English Version (CEV)

 

During these difficult times we must remember to “do as God does” and to let the love for each other be our guide.  Give thought to your neighbor’s needs and not just the needs of yourself.  Remember, letting our light shine and being honest and good toward one another is the way God wants us to act always, not just in times of crisis.  To be part of the kingdom of heaven we must obey the word of God, who teaches us to be kind and giving.  It is time to let our light shine as we grow together in strength during these challenging days ahead with God’s grace and love leading us all.  Trust in the Lord for this will eliminate our fears and when we trust in him, the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard over our hearts and minds.

 

Gracious and loving God, during these difficult times help us to understand that with your grace there is no darkness.  Even though today we see pain, sickness and disease in our world please help us to bring your light to others during these dark times.  Bring hope to hearts that feel defeated and bring your compassion and love to us all.  Help us dear Lord to slow down, breathe deeply and release our burdens to your strong hand.  Keep us all safe dear Lord, especially the elderly, those with other health conditions and people with compromised immune systems.  We also pray for our healthcare workers, our emergency response teams and all of the men and woman who are putting their life on the line to keep us safe.

In Jesus name, Amen

 

Devotional for Wednesday, March 18, 2020

John 7: 14-18, 37-38

About the middle of the festival Jesus went up into the temple and began to teach.  The Jews were astonished at it saying, “How does this man have such learning, when he has never been taught?”  Then Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine but his who sent me.  Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own.  Those who speak on their own seek their own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and there is nothing false in him.

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink.  As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.”

          As Martin Luther taught us, as people of faith we can feel confident about reading, understanding and even interpreting the word of God.  When it seems like a daunting task, we help one another. These devotionals that we are sharing three times a week are meant to connect us all as the people of God.  Even though we are prevented (for now) from gathering physically, we can be together in the Spirit.  We can share in God’s word and spend a few moments pondering its meaning, knowing that we not doing this in isolation but as a congregation. 

          Today we are reminded that the words Jesus speaks to us are authentic, they are directly from God.   As people who are familiar with scripture, we can tell when people speak for their own glory or when they are sharing the true words of God.  As Jesus reminds us, the grace of God has been poured into our hearts, the living water that sustains us and which we then share with others.  In these uncertain times may we share the living water with gestures of kindness towards others. 

Let us pray.  Gracious and loving God, we give you thanks for the gift of grace you have freely bestowed upon us.  May it help us to better understand your message of love and compassion and sustain us through our anxiety and uncertainty.  We ask this in the name of your son, Jesus, and your Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

 

Monday 3/16 devotion by a Calvary member based on 2 John 1-7

"But now, dear lady, I ask you, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning, let us love one another.  And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment just as you have heard it from the beginning - you must walk in it." 2 John 5-6 NRSV

 

The world doesn't make it easy to love one another on the calmest of days.  In times of distress it seems this commandment becomes even more difficult.  But this is also when we often see God's grace and mercy in action. We see it in the kindness shown to strangers, in communities finding ways to come together (while keeping distance), and in the hope we have for the future. It is our choice to walk in God's love each and every day. 

 

O God, in you we live and move and have our being. Guide and govern us in this day by your Holy Spirit, that in all the cares and occupations of our life we may not forget you, but remember that always we are walking in your sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (ELW pg. 330)

Devotions