Today is Sunday, the 15th of January, 2023, in the season of Epiphany. It is the second Sunday after Epiphany.
May the peace of the Lord be with you always.
I’m up early, again, this morning, as I need to be at church by 8:15 to sing with the choir in the 8:45 service. Then I have orchestra practice after the 11:00 service, this week and next week. I actually woke up thirty minutes earlier than I had planned. Still, I had best not linger over unimportant things, so let’s get moving.
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast. By your appointment they stand today, for all things are your servants. (Psalms 119:90-91 NRSV)
Lord God, send your Spirit, we pray, over us and over the whole world. Let your light dawn on earth among humankind. Reveal your power and let your reign begin. May your will be done, O Lord. We kneel before your throne and plead to you. We are weak. Lord, help us. Bless us. Establish your kingdom in the hearts of those who are willing to follow you, who are willing to accept your grace in Jesus Christ. Help us through your strength. Reign over us. Be with us with your Holy Spirit, O Lord God, our Father. Amen.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.
(Romans 8:26 NRSV)
Today I am grateful:
- for the Spirit’s intercession when I do not know how to pray
- the God is constantly creating in me a clean heart, and renewing my spirit daily (Psalm 51:10)
- that the kingdom of God has drawn near, that we may enter in and walk in it
- that death has no sting for us who believe in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:55)
- for agape love, shown by God to His people, demonstrated by Christ in His life; may we, His people, be diligent to learn it and demonstrate it to all
O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory. (Psalms 98:1 NRSV)
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. (Psalms 51:10 NRSV)
I am small and despised, yet I do not forget your precepts.
(Psalms 119:141 NRSV)
My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all day long.
(Psalms 71:8 NRSV)
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
(Mark 1:14-15 NRSV)
May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works— who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke. I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD. Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD! (Psalms 104:31-35 NRSV)
O Lord, hear my prayer and let my cray come unto you. Thanks be to God.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Your Name. May Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for Yours are the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (The Divine Hours - The Prayer Appointed for the Week)
You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with the wicked to act as a malicious witness. You shall not follow a majority in wrongdoing; when you bear witness in a lawsuit, you shall not side with the majority so as to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to the poor in a lawsuit. When you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey going astray, you shall bring it back. When you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden and you would hold back from setting it free, you must help to set it free. You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in their lawsuits. Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and those in the right, for I will not acquit the guilty. You shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the officials, and subverts the cause of those who are in the right. You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.
(Exodus 23:1-9 NRSV)
I am going to send an angel in front of you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Be attentive to him and listen to his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; for my name is in him. But if you listen attentively to his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and a foe to your foes.
(Exodus 23:20-22 NRSV)
Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. Under his feet there was something like a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. God did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; also they beheld God, and they ate and drank.
(Exodus 24:9-11 NRSV)
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
(1 Corinthians 15:55 NRSV)
Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life.
(John 5:24 NRSV)
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
(2 Timothy 4:7 NRSV)
Love means following his commandments, and his unifying commandment is that you conduct your lives in love. This is the first thing you heard, and nothing has changed.
(2 John 1:6 MSG)
“Agape love is not first of all a feeling, or an experience, or a need, but a decision. It wills the fulfillment of the other. It is the love that is demonstrated by God for His people. It is a love that neither exploits needs nor demands gifts. It seeks to enjoy what is there in the other person and to share what one has. It is the love that Jesus exhibited in every word and act.
“His love freed others to be themselves in a way they could never have been without Him and allowed them to respond with a love for God that no sense of dependence or realization of duty could have created.”
(Eugene H. Peterson, Like Dew Your Youth, quoted in God’s Message for Today)
So it has come back around to love, today. It’s a word that gets thrown around and abused too much in today’s society. How many times, in the past week, have I said “I love that movie,” or, “I love that book,” or “I love that kind of food?”
Dallas Willard defined love as willing the good of others. That lines up with what Peterson said, above, that, when we love, we will “the fulfillment of the other.” Bearing that in mind, it is, then, incorrect to say “I love chocolate cake.”
The verse from 2 John is almost circuitous. To love is to walk in His commandments. His commandments begin with love.
This world needs a Love Revolution. I have been somewhat quietly championing this thought for a couple years, now. And I confess that it is difficult for me to will the fulfillment of some folks. I struggle with this daily. But, once again, I come back to something Amy Grant said in an interview with John Joseph Thompson in the True Tunes Podcast. Whenever Amy was asked about her opinion on controversial matters, her response was that we have two jobs: love God and love people. Our opinions on such matters do not figure into the job descriptions for those two jobs.
So, in order for me to practice true love, I must set my opinions aside, and I must set your opinions aside.
We must note, however, that to will someone’s fulfillment does not mean that we desire for them to get what they want. It means we want the best for them. It means we want God’s fulfillment for them.
Father, help me to love. Help me to love with real, agape love. I have said, in times past, that only You are capable of this kind of love. But You reside within me, in the Person of the Holy Spirit. So, by the power of the Holy Trinity, I can love. I cannot love on my own, not really. I can like strongly, but I am also capable of hate, which needs to be stifled. So help me to set aside my opinions and the opinions of others, that I might truly pray for them in love, and also do whatever deeds might be called for, in order for them to be fulfilled in You.
All things are possible in You. So strengthen me, going forward, to love, first You, then my fellow human beings. And may my love for Your Church be even stronger.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.
(Philippians 2:3 NRSV)
Grace and peace, friends.
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