Today is Monday, the 16th of January, 2023, in the season of Epiphany.
May the peace of Christ dwell within you today!
I made it through the weekend! Saturday’s choir retreat was fun, and educational. Our trip to Mineral Wells was productive and fruitful. And yesterday was pretty amazing. The choir did well (at least I think we did . . . I haven’t listened to the recording, yet), the worship service was good, and I did fine at the orchestra rehearsal afterward. I was introduced as a new member in both morning services, and in the orchestra rehearsal. Then, last night, I went back for the small group that is discussing C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. What an invigorating discussion! It’s a great group of people.
Today should be a normal Monday. Grocery shopping, laundry, a little housecleaning. It is MLK Day, today, so a lot of businesses are closed, including banks and the Post Office. C had to go to work, though. Our library is also closed today, but I never work on Mondays, so it’s just another day for me.
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my misery. (Psalms 119:92 NRSV)
As I launch into morning prayers, my spirit is drawn to a line that we repeat in the Lutheran worship service: Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer. May I delight myself in His Word, this morning.
Dear Father in heaven, we come before you and thank you with all our hearts. You know all that we are thankful for. Continue to sustain us, we pray, and give us strength for the paths on which you lead us. Even when we must suffer and fight long, hard battles, we know that everything has its right purpose and will still lead us to your goal. For all this we praise and thank you. Protect us in mind, heart, and spirit. Keep us courageous, and lift us above all discouragement through your Spirit, who will renew our lives forevermore. Amen.
I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you, and praise your name forever and ever. (Psalms 145:1-2 NRSV)
Today I am grateful:
- that the Lord has caused me to delight in His Word
- for strength for the path on which God is leading me
- for the ability to sing to the Lord and bless His name
- for the hope of that day when all peoples will sing the praises and glory of God, together in one tongue
- for the act of worship, the response of the creature to the Creator
Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples. (Psalms 96:2-3 NRSV)
O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch. (Psalms 5:3 NRSV)
Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength!
We will sing and praise your power.
(Psalms 21:13 NRSV)
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy before the LORD; for he is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth. (Psalms 96:11-13 NRSV)
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. (Matthew 16:13-20 NRSV)
Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre. He covers the heavens with clouds, prepares rain for the earth, makes grass grow on the hills. He gives to the animals their food, and to the young ravens when they cry. His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner; but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. (Psalms 147:7-11 NRSV)
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)
Almighty Father, who inspired Simon Peter, first among the apostles to confess Jesus as Messiah and Son of the living God: Keep your Church steadfast upon the rock of this faith, so that in unity and peace we may proclaim the one truth and follow the one Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one god, now and for ever. Amen. (The Divine Hours - Concluding Prayers of the Church)
You shall make a rosette of pure gold, and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, “Holy to the LORD.” You shall fasten it on the turban with a blue cord; it shall be on the front of the turban. It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall take on himself any guilt incurred in the holy offering that the Israelites consecrate as their sacred donations; it shall always be on his forehead, in order that they may find favor before the LORD.
(Exodus 28:36-38 NRSV)
At that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call on the name of the LORD and serve him with one accord.
(Zephaniah 3:9 NRSV)
May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun. May all nations be blessed in him; may they pronounce him happy. (Psalms 72:17 NRSV)
For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.
(Ephesians 2:14-16 NRSV)
Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.
(Ephesians 4:31-32 NRSV)
The moment I called out, you stepped in; you made my life large with strength. (Psalms 138:3 MSG)
There is a passage (or two) in Revelation that always gives me chill bumps. It excites me, it creates in me a deep longing for Home, and for that day when the Kingdom of God becomes tangible Reality.
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
(Revelation 7:9-12 NRSV)
This “worship service,” which may last for ten thousand years, for all we know, is magnificent in its scope. When I read that verse from Zephaniah 3, this morning, it made me think of this passage in Revelation. In Zephaniah, the Lord promises to create a universal language, a “pure speech,” that all people may call on the Lord together. I believe that is what we are seeing in Revelation 7. The multitude from every nation, from every tribe and people and language, is standing before the throne, singing praise in one voice, in one language.
We have all been made one “people,” already, in Christ, but are still splintered into various groups. On that day, we will finally all be one, in true unity.
No doubt, we will all be surprised in heaven. Now, I’m speaking, here, in a kind of “fantasy,” because we truly don’t know what, exactly, this is going to look like or be like. We have hints, but there are details that we don’t know. So bear with me. I have to think that every person is going to be surprised to find someone in heaven that they didn’t expect to be there. I’m sure there will be some who are surprised to find me there.
And, God forbid, there will likely be someone there you didn’t want to see there. Tell the truth. Everyone has at least one person like that in their lives, right?
Right now, one of the things that excites me the most about that day when “we all get to heaven,” is that there will be no politics. There will no “conservatives” or “liberals,” just as there will be no male or female or Jew or Greek, as Paul tells us in one of his epistles. I know some people who believe that there will be no Democrats in heaven. Boy, are they going to be surprised.
But, in a sense (not the one they think), they are right. Because when we leave this earth, when our spirits are resurrected (if we are already dead) and united with a new body, all of those labels will be left behind. All of our countries will be left behind. All of our foolish, petty allegiances that we hold so dear on this earth, will be left behind. There will be no United States or Canada or Ukraine or Russia.
There will only be the most beautiful mosaic of saints, singing together in one voice, in one language, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” And “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
As I used to hear some folks say, if that don’t light your fire, your wood’s wet.
Father, I am so very grateful for this image of heavenly worship. I long to be there. I can’t wait to be there, to know this new language, this new tongue, and to sing this new song with all the saints and angels and elders, multitudes upon multitudes, singing the praises of Jesus Christ for ten thousand years. Or however long it takes. We will have all eternity. My soul magnifies the Lord! My spirit cries out for joy!
And this vision makes me cry out, all the more,
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!
But in the meantime, I pray that we would start practicing. Not just practicing the worship; many of us do this every Sunday morning. But practicing the unity, getting used to the idea of singing together with multitudes of people from every nation and tribe and tongue, so that it won’t be as big a shock when we land there. Teach us, Father! Teach us Your ways, that we may walk in Your truth; give us undivided hearts that we might revere Your holy name! Let us give thanks to You with our whole hearts, today and every day.
All glory and honor to You, through the Son, and by the Spirit!
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.
(Galatians 3:28-29 NRSV)
Grace and peace, friends!