All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; all the families of the nations shall worship before him. Psalm 22:27
As I have done in past years, I read over the entire chapter a few times before praying on and then reflecting about my assignment. Psalm 22 is another one of the psalms of David. In its 31 verses, many issues are addressed – patience, questioning, unrest, past trust, fear, bullying, commitment, strength, affliction, and pleas for God to be close even when “my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws…” Is it a coincidence that we here and now experience the same issues in our daily lives that people in Biblical times did? I think not. God puts up obstacles in our path to try us, to make us stronger, hoping that we will rely on him for our solutions and stay the course with him. And he will continue to show us the way, and keep us on target if we will only turn to him and trust him completely and believe and try not to falter in our daily living. Nothing is ours – everything belongs to the Lord so we should give freely, never expecting a gift in return. It is our responsibility to worship and to serve “with a glad heart” and complete even the smallest of tasks, and to spread the word joyfully so that posterity can know God’s great love and can continue to serve him until he comes again. We as disciples of St. John’s are truly blessed that we are called to the task; we must take care not to lose faith – not on a bad hair day, not when your cell phone breaks, not when you do not get a raise, not when your best friend moves away, and not when your computer just crashed. There is much to be done in God’s house. It can be unified with a single purpose. So rejoice and keep passing the peace, for God loves you very much. And that is why “God matters. Relationships matter. And you matter.” Now I ask you if God matters in your life? And if he does, then are you going to “remember and turn to the Lord?”
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, please open up our hearts and our minds to receive your grace and your direction and your purpose for our lives. Come along with us and help us in our life’s journey so that we may be better and truer servants of your Word. Let us give thanks daily for all you have done for us and help us to remember you always and worship in your name. Amen.
Lois Weil Kaufman
In those days, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. A voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1: 9-11
Baptism. What a wonderful celebration in life. We go out of our way to make baptism a special day. Arrangements are made: church or chapel, flowers or banners, marble font or silver bowl. Pastor wears his priestly robes. We dress in our finest. We invite family and friends to this special occasion. Then, we feast as part of the celebration. There is nothing but our finest on this special day.
How different it is for Jesus’ baptism. There is no ornate church or chapel, no banners, marble fonts or silver bowls…no frills whatsoever. John the Baptist wears no ornate garb. Jesus comes to be with the people on the edge of society. Jesus comes to the river Jordan; a river where man and animal come to bathe, a muddy, dirty body of water. There is no feast that follows. Instead, the Spirit immediately casts Jesus into the wilderness, a deserted place on the fringe where he is tempted by the devil.
Jesus comes to us where we are. He comes to us in the mud and muck of our river. He comes to us in the temptations of our wilderness. No frills, no finery, on the fringe. Jesus comes to us just as we are; dirty, broken, and lost. Jesus washes us, the Holy Spirit enters us, and we are made new in God’s reign.
Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, for being with me, even in the muddy waters of my life. Thank you for washing me and walking with me through my wilderness. Help me, Lord, to step out of the dirt and temptations of daily life to follow you wherever you may lead. Amen.
Debbie Jo Kline
Baptism…now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 3:21
In the few verses before this one, St Peter compared the experience of Noah and his family during the flood with baptism. At first it seems to be opposite; the water would have drowned Noah if he had not built the Ark according to God’s instructions. Reconsidering, though, the water saved Noah and his family from the evil world that God was destroying. With this idea it compares to baptism.
Noah’s ordeal can be compared to Jesus’ death and resurrection. It was a symbolic burial when Noah and his family entered the ark; their exit was a figurative resurrection. Baptism is a symbolic drowning, death with Jesus, and then resurrection with Jesus with the removal of the water. If we are bound to Jesus in his death, we are bound to him in his resurrection.
Conscience is defined as ideas and feelings within a person that warn him or her of what is wrong. Then, a good conscience must tell a person those things that are right and good. As “an appeal to God for a good conscience” in Holy Baptism we or our parents renounce all evil and the devil and confess our faith in the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. We ask for growth in grace, faith, love, and obedience to God’s will. Hopefully, this will build a good conscience in us.
In baptism God frees us from sin and death by binding us to Jesus’ death and resurrection. We are born into a sinful humanity, but in baptism we are reborn into God’s family. As children of God we receive the gift of eternal life that he keeps for his children.
Prayer: Dear Lord, in baptism you made us your children. Give us a good conscience telling us that which is right and good as we asked in baptism. Amen.
“We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake, he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5: 20b-21
Jamie and I took this verse and offer a Lenten devotional in two parts. We enjoyed reading it separately and discussing how it “talked” to us differently.
Part 1: Have a family reunion with your Creator! (Jamie Cannon)
One definition of “reconcile” means to “reunite.” When I read this verse using “reunite” I have images of a warm coming-together. I think of family. When I think that God created me, knit me together in my mother’s womb and to him I will return to live my life everlasting, I realize God is my first and last family.
Reflecting on this verse each day, I soon realized that God rejoices when I come together with him every day; not only when I first declared him my Savior, but every day since when I reach out and say, “Dear Jesus, can we spend the day together?
Prayer: Dear Jesus: Thank you for the joy of being reconciled to you. Help me each day to invite you to spend the day leading me, guiding me, walking beside me so that I can allow your light and love to flow through me to others. Thank you that you are my family, and thank you for blessing me with the love of my earthly family. In your precious name I pray, Amen.
Part 2: Jim Cannon
I was captured by: “for our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin…”
Prayer: Lord let me live each day with hope and live in the fullness and mystery of your amazing grace! Amen
It is hard to grasp that God, seeing us to be lost to sin, took our sin and laid it upon his Son so that we could be forgiven. When I consider that Jesus was spotless, innocent and pure, yet he willingly took my sin and the world’s sin on himself, I can feel nothing but awe and thankfulness!
“….you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God,
you will not despise.” – Psalm 51:16-17
Traditionally, this Psalm leads us into our Lenten season and discipline. As I reflect it takes me back to pre-college days growing up. I was very active in and around church and many suggested to me to pursue becoming a pastor. At that time in my life, I wanted nothing much to do with the “institutional” church. It seemed too predictable in a way I didn’t like or prefer.
Then I went to college and found myself confronted with not the institution but with God. How was I to have a relationship with this living Word, this living God who was calling?
God you see wants us in relationship far beyond the forms and shapes of religious practice and empty ritual. This Psalmist, often believed to be King David, knew that he had fallen far short of expectable religious practice, expectable moral behavior and that only a new and/or renewed relationship could make a difference. We know that we have all fallen short of the glory of God and that no institution can come upon us and make it all better. It is only in an honest conversation and relationship that forgiveness and grace can be found – “a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Luther, too, looked for grace far beyond the broken institution of his day and turned to confession and God’s mercy that he saw in Jesus.
Let us enter into this season to bring our honesty, our confession and our need for a renewed relationship with God.
Prayer: Almighty & merciful Father, you freely forgive those who, as David of all, acknowledge & confess their sins. Create in us pure hearts, & wash away all our sins in the blood of your dear Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Pastor Ed Heim