Today is Sunday, the 22nd of January, 2023, the third Sunday after Epiphany.
May the peace of the Lord be with you always!
I had a good Saturday at the library, yesterday and am close to feeling normal again. I’ll be heading up to church in a little while, and will attempt to sing with the choir, this morning in the 11:00 service. I have another orchestra rehearsal after that service, and will be going back up there at 6:30 tonight for our Mere Christianity group discussion.
Today’s header photo was taken by Romanian photographer extraordinaire, Paul Militaru. Please visit his website at the link provided to see his magnificent photos.
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is always with me. (Psalms 119:98 NRSV)
Dear Father in heaven, grant us the inner quiet we need so that we may come into your presence and hear you speak, forgetting all the things that try to force themselves upon us. May we experience your true and living support. Keep our hearts glad and thankful for everything, even in grief, anxiety, and suffering. In this thankfulness we can remain with you, and Jesus Christ can help us, Jesus, whom you have given as our support and helper in all that most deeply concerns us. We entrust ourselves to you. Keep us in your Spirit. Amen.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
(Matthew 11:28 NRSV)
Today I am grateful:
- for the inner quiet in my spirit, that God grants, so that I might dwell in His presence and hear Him speak to me; may I be able to shove aside all distractions and listen
- for the “easy yoke” of Jesus (Matthew 11:28ff)
- for the prayer that begins this day, and the hope of a prayer that will end it
- for the opportunity to worship with the saints and sing praises to God
- for the gift of God’s Word, His “book on living” (Psalm 119:111, MSG)
Let the sun rise today And the sun set this day With its blessing of light In between Let a prayer start this day And a prayer, close this day With an indwelling prayer In between Let love spark this day And in love rest this day With a sharing of love In between With thanks start this day And in thanks end this day Everything is a gift In between
Please visit Daryl’s site at the link above, to see more of his inspirational poetry.
When he has finished atoning for the holy place and the tent of meeting and the altar, he shall present the live goat. Then Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and sending it away into the wilderness by means of someone designated for the task. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to a barren region; and the goat shall be set free in the wilderness.
(Leviticus 16:20-22 NRSV)
This shall be a statute to you forever: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall deny yourselves, and shall do no work, neither the citizen nor the alien who resides among you. For on this day atonement shall be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins you shall be clean before the LORD. It is a sabbath of complete rest to you, and you shall deny yourselves; it is a statute forever. The priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement, wearing the linen vestments, the holy vestments. He shall make atonement for the sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for the people of Israel once in the year for all their sins. And Moses did as the LORD had commanded him.
(Leviticus 16:29-34 NRSV)
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.
(Leviticus 19:1-2 NRSV)
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
(Leviticus 19:18 NRSV)
Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
(2 Corinthians 9:7 NRSV)
Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.
(Malachi 3:10 NRSV)
I inherited your book on living; it's mine forever— what a gift! And how happy it makes me! (Psalms 119:111 MSG)
I like that phrase that Peterson uses in The Message, “your book on living.” The NRSV words it differently, but I can certainly appreciate its translation, as well.
Your decrees are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. (Psalms 119:111 NRSV)
I’ve talked about Psalm 119 before, in this forum. It uses many different words to represent God’s Word, the thing we call the Bible. In this particular verse, it is “decrees.” In others, it might be “law,” or “precepts,” or “ordinances.” Sometimes it is just “word.” But Peterson’s wording, “your book on living” is wonderful, I think.
I love the Bible. I always have, as long as I can remember. I have read it through at least 17 times in my life. That has not always been cover-to-cover (which is how I’m reading the NRSV, this year). For example, last year’s reading plan had me bouncing around like a ping pong ball. But I still read the whole thing.
I’m not boasting about this. Not at all. I’m not bragging about how many times I’ve read it. I won’t brag about how much I have memorized. Probably not all that much, compared to others. I will boast, though, about the author of the book.
Yes, I know that men wrote the text, quite a few of them. But I believe and proclaim that God, via the Holy Spirit is the ultimate Author of the Bible. And I will boast about Him. I love His Word. As the psalmist says in that verse above, it is the joy of my heart. I find myself in Psalms, probably more than any other book, and I’m working my way through chapter 119, a verse at a time, right now.
The Bible truly is a “book on living.” Not that we should get all caught up in trying to live out the details in Leviticus (I talked about that, yesterday). I don’t even think we should work that hard to see that we are keeping the Ten Commandments (that is also addressed yesterday). Don’t get me wrong . . . we shouldn’t be striving to break those Ten Commandments, either. But we have further teachings from the Son of God in the New Testament.
The Old Testament Law is there to show us how we have failed, and how we are going to fail. I believe Paul gives us a pretty good illustration of that in his epistles.
And everything is summed up by (there he goes again) Jesus’s two main commands. Love God; love people. Love your neighbor as yourself. But guess what! As we see all the way back in Leviticus, that wasn’t a new “law,” was it? God gave that word to Moses in Leviticus 19! The “golden rule” was not new with Jesus. He just reminded us, strongly, that it is the way to live.
There are many in the world today who seem to have forgotten this “golden rule,” and need to be reminded. The way to live is to treat one another the way we desire to be treated. To my shame, I have not succeeded in always doing this. I have been quite mean and rude to people in my life. I’ve gotten better, especially since I have been striving to live by Jesus’s two commands in recent years.
But I still struggle with my reaction when Applebee’s gets my order wrong . . . AGAIN! But here’s the thing. When Sonic messes up my drink order, when Walmart delivers milk that is past its expiration date, when Albertson’s makes a weird substitution for something I ordered . . . all of these are what I call “footstool” problems. What that means is that they aren’t really problems at all.
May God have mercy on us when we overreact to such situations. May He teach us how to react better, more calmly, more . . . well, “holy.”
Note: As seems to be the case a lot, lately, I had no idea where this was going to wind up when I started typing. Glory to God!
Father, I am so glad that Your Word tells us that You remember that we are dust. This means that nothing we do surprises you. We might disappoint You, most certainly, but I’m not even sure how that works for You, seeing as how You know everything I am going to do before I do it. Sometimes, I wonder why You didn’t stop me if You knew I was going to do that stupid thing, or that rude thing, or that mean thing.
I love Your Word, Father, and I love You. I will always boast of You and Your great and marvelous works. I would be, and am nothing, without You. All that I have in my possession was given to me by You. Every relationship that I have in this world was given to me by You. I pray that I use the things wisely and resourcefully, being of a generous heart with all things, and I pray that I would approach all the relationships with the love of Jesus as my driving force.
Help me to love You with my whole heart, and my whole being, and help me to love others as myself. I also pray that You help me to love the saints as Christ loves the Church. Help me to be “holy” as You are Holy.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. O, Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant us Your peace. (Agnus Dei)
Grace and peace, friends.