Devotions – October 9 – 15, 2011
By, Jeannette Kuziej
Pioneer Lake, Conover WI
Sunday, October 9
Matthew 22:2-5: "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited ... but they would not come. Again, he sent other slaves, saying, 'Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves ... everything is ready ... but they made light of it and went away..."
It's a family wedding reception and everyone is waiting a few moments outside the entrance to the banquet hall as last touches were finished. A member of the wedding party or the family then tells the guests that all is ready. What if, instead of entering the hall for the banquet, everyone decided to leave? Suddenly, there is no one there to fete the newly wedded couple. How terrible and disturbing, and yet here is possibly an unusual opportunity. Why not include everyone and anyone who is available for the celebration?
There are many ways to interpret these beginning verses of Matthew 22. For me something different crossed my mind.
Jesus has given us a new and radical path to follow for peace and caring for all. A banquet of ideas and examples of actions that are radically different. It's such a different idea that his own town and the majority of the secular and religious leaders of his time scoff at him. For them, it is unbelievable that this poor person, with no visible signs of wealth and scholarship, would chastise them for their behavior and challenge them for something better. Treat people with dignity, with honesty, with support. The poor were not to be fodder for anyone. And instead of sending out his slaves to bring these ideas to all, he went out himself, with his disciples to bring anyone and everyone to hear his words, a banquet of thought and changes that has rocked the world for over 2000 years and counting.
Prayer for the day: Dearest God, help me to continue to learn, understand and practice your word. Let me be a humbled guest at the banquet, clothed in the actions and deeds of your teachings. Amen.
Pray for our pastors on Clergy Appreciation Day. We thank God for their presence among us – preaching the Word and celebrating the Sacraments – for being there to nurture and care for us, to guide and teach, to listen, to challenge us and take us in new directions, and to be examples of God’s love. Pray also for those attending the Delta Conference Fall meeting in Escanaba and the Headwaters Conference Fall meeting in Sayner.
Monday, October 10
Jude:17-21: "But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, 'In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.' These are the men who divide you, who follow the mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life."
Jude is reminding the early Christians to be wary of false teachers. While Jude was writing with the belief that Christ's return was imminent, his words are just as true. After all, God's measurement of time is not ours. Let's try to look at Jude's admonitions from an eternal yet human aspect.
God would simply like to share in our lives and for us to share in God's life. There are teachers and lessons that show us that God would like us to study and take time to concentrate on hearing the lessons that have been sent to us for centuries. God takes time, patience and love to provide us with directives that open us to the God that is in us, surrounds us, and cherishes us. False teachers are those who give us "short-cuts" to God. The clearest example I can give of false teachers are those preachers who currently speak and teach that God wants us all to be rich in worldly wealth. The wealth and riches that God wants us to have is that of a depth and breadth of soul that can hear, and feel, and see God in everyone and everything on earth. Worldly wealth and the pursuit of it can easily blind us or skew our perspective, thereby shunting us from the spiritual wealth offered.
Prayer for the day: God, help to keep my perspective on your teachings and open my soul to understanding
Pray for Pastor Bonny Kinnunen (First, Iron River) as she celebrates her 18th anniversary of ordination. Pray also for those attending the Menominee Conference Fall meeting in Marinette.
Tuesday, October 11
Philippians 3:12 -15: "Not that I have already obtained all this (perfection as a follower of Jesus), or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. ... I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind ... I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that God too will make clear to you."
Paul is emphasizing that he has not reached his goal, even if he is not sure of the precise finish line, as a follower of Christ, AND he is determined to keep on going until this goal is reached. As a Jew, he had basked in self-pride as he had "religiously" followed Jewish laws. As a follower of Christ, he is learning to live as Christ Jesus did, and to do that, one must go beyond following the written words and learn what the meaning of living Christ's words is. It doesn't happen with ease but with hard work that continues throughout one's life.
Christ has called us to live life in his footsteps. We can stand in the first step Christ has given us, baptism, and stop there. We can study further, walk a few more steps, affirm our faith, and stop there. We can keep on reading, thinking, praying, quieting our mind to hear God; we can pause on the way but pick up the pace to get closer to get the goal. Being a follower of Christ, a Christian, means following in his footsteps. It means living a life based on the things he did. Christ gave up his life for us so that we could grow closer to God and to total fulfillment that can be.
Prayer for the day: Dearest Jesus, we ask that you help us to hear the full message of your life. Help us to learn the full message of your death. Help us to follow your footsteps of love, mercy, kindness, caring. We ask for the strength of mind to go forward for all our life. Amen
Pray for Bishop Skrenes and those attending the Stewardship Workshop in Eagle River this day.
Wednesday, October 12
Song of Solomon: 7:10-8:4: "I am my beloved's, and his desire is for me. Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the fields, and lodge in the villages; let us go out early to the vineyards ... There I will give you my love ... If only you were to me like a brother who was nursed at my mother's breast! Then, if I found you outside, I would kiss you and no one would despise me. I would lead you and bring you into my mother's house ... Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires."
To me, the Song of Solomon is literally one of the most beautiful of all of the books in the Bible. It is also one of the most complicated. A quick reading of the lines above might seem to be about incest, but that's not taking the words in the context of the historical times they were written in. In the above, the time was thousands of years ago and we have a matriarchal line that insists that the marriage of a daughter of the house must marry her mother's brother's son or, if many women shared the raising of their combined children, a husband could be chosen from one of these. It would be offensive and shameful if the woman and man defied their familial and societal tradition. The emotional and physical cost of this love might be very high and the author of this particular song wants the listener/reader to remember this.
In today's world, there are even more societal and familial traditions and expectations for two people who wish to spend their lives together. Many of these traditions and expectations are supported by governmental laws also. The warning above reminds us that there will be a price to be paid if two lovers wish to defy the societal norm. This is true in any country on this planet as it is a truth about humanity as a whole. There are thousands of stories, songs and poems about human love that wants to defy the rest of the world. These defiant lovers must choose whether or not to rock the boat and the ensuing consequences. Not all consequences may be bad but one doesn't know that when love takes hold so the author reminds one not to arouse it unknowingly and unwittingly.
When two lovers pledge themselves to each other, it is an avowal of more than just sexual attraction. It is a promise to care for each other, to consider each other as an extension of the other but also an independent person. There are two souls striving to share and learn, each about the other and to create a unity that is stronger combined than separated. Lovers that rock the societal norm can be good or bad for society, but they always change the norm.
God has reached out to us and, by the example of the life of Jesus, has asked us to rock the norm. By walking in the path of Jesus and learning to hear God with our whole body and soul, we can rock the norm, the world, and lead others to walk this path with us. The closer the whole world is to God, the closer we can become to God and, with God's grace, reach God's home.
Prayer for the day: Dearest heavenly parent, Help us to rock the world so we are one more step to being one with you. Give us the courage and perseverance to continue on the path of Jesus. Amen
Pray for the Worship Committee as they meet this day.
Thursday, October 13
3 John:9-10: "I write to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church."
The epistles of John were written by an unknown author who is usually referred to as "the elder." The elder is perturbed by the attitude and behavior of Diotrephes, the leader of a church under the elder's authority. He is probably writing to another leader at a third church about the situation, keeping the third leader informed of a problem known to both of them.
The era of this epistle was the first century of the Christian church. The church is still small and certain behaviors are expected between fellow Christians. Courtesies and fellowship are expected from one to the other. The leader’s actions are an example to all members. Diotrephes is, for some reason, gossiping about the other two leaders and possibly their churches. Also, any visitors from the other two churches are not allowed inside Diotrephes’ church. Those members of Diotrephes’ church are forbidden to act as Christians; those who wish to are dismissed from the membership. Basically, Diotrephes likes to be in charge and no one is above him in authority. Whatever the reason for the behavior of Diotrephes, the elder wants to visit him and talk to him. Diotrephes is not acting in a manner expected of a Christian and this is not acceptable.
In the beginning, all the Christians in a specific town or village probably knew each other or at least were able to identify themselves easily. The hospitality of the time was as if a family member arrived and was welcomed home. If you arrived as a visitor, you didn't have to wait until a specific day to be welcomed. A place would be found for you. After all, you were a member of the family.
When we talk of the Christian family now, it is hard to imagine all the brothers and sisters in Christ that we are "related" to in this century. How well do we welcome a family member when they come calling at our church home? Do we welcome them with joy? Perhaps visitor and host/hostess alike are shy? How then do we greet each other? What if we don't understand the language? We can probably think of even more questions to wonder about.
Do we act as Diotrephes, as if we are the top Christian, deciding who should or shouldn't be a member without any regard to the teachings of Jesus? Do we remember that Jesus turned no one out that was from the Father? Just how do we walk with one another as Christians?
Prayer for the day: Dear Jesus, you have set an unbelievable, unimaginable path for us. To accept each other as they are, not as we wish they were. Keep our minds and souls open to this path and show us all the adventures on it. Help us to enjoy all the Christians we meet and help us to not be like Diotrephes. Guide us to recognize others who are on the path with us and deny those who would impede us. Amen.
Pray for the spouses of deceased pastors – Betty Framstad and Lavina Goodrich.
Friday, October 14
1 Peter 5:1-5: "To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed. Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers - not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve, not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock... 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.'
Substitute the word "leader" for "elder." A leader can be any age but is someone who has knowledge and a willingness to share that knowledge. There is a desire to help others understand the radical message Jesus presented to us. The primary reason to do this is not money but a desire to be an example, a visible guide who wants to be presence for God. There is nothing wrong with being paid a decent living wage but it is not the guiding force for those who hear and answer God's call to be a leader, and not all leaders are the pastor.
There is another radical message here. Jesus has taught us that all of us are ministers of the word, of the Christian lifestyle. Each of is a leader in some way. We are to be humble in the presence of God. This is not a humility of denying that we are capable, but rather, an acknowledgement that the reason we are capable is the we have been all given unique gifts. When we use these gifts in ministry to others, we do it as servants of God. In the presence of God we acknowledge the gifts we have been given, that we honed and used, and that we used them in God's service, not for our own glory and honor but for God's. To be proud of our accomplishments is part of our humanity. God did not arrange for us to be able to do and think without making us also able to enjoy that sense of accomplishment. However, that does not mean we greet God with "Hi! Look at how good I am!"
Prayer for today: Dearest Lord, assist me to understand the humility that you ask of me as you also assist me to hone and use the gifts you have given me so that I may use them in your service. Amen.
Pray for the members of Grace & Mt Zion, Keymar MD (Rev Rick Rutkauskas), Lord of Life, Edgewood MD (Rev Paige Evers), and Reformation, Milford DE (Rev John Ranney).
Saturday, October 15
Matthew 14:3-5: "For Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because John had been telling him, 'It is not lawful for you to have her.' Though Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded him as a prophet."
According to the Torah (the Jewish book of law), the marriage of Herod and Herodias (the divorced wife of Herod's brother) was a violation of the purity code. Close relatives were not supposed to wed. Remember, this is 2000 years ago. The idea of close relatives was not necessarily the same as now. Also, Herod had divorced the daughter of a neighboring king in order to marry his sister-in-law, a really bad move politically (it was one factor in a future war). Herod's desires were more important than what was good for the people, another bad move on his part. Herod would like to silence John but was afraid of public reaction. John was a respected, beloved prophet. His death had to be handled in a way that protected Herod. Herod falls prey to the lure of the easy way out. In other words, Herod had chosen a life opposite of the teachings of John and Jesus. These two prophets wanted to follow the law of God. They were dedicated to serving God as God wanted, not man, and were busy rocking their world.
Herod and Herodias took the easy, evil way out because they didn't like what John, the prophet, was saying about them. They didn't want to be reminded that they were violating the very laws their God had laid down for them. They did not accept Herod's responsibilities to the people he served. This was about their very personal wants, not needs. Because John believed that upholding God's law was very important, he lost his life.
So what might this mean for us 2000 years later? Let's think a little radically. Remember the 60's? Not the easy lifestyle but the idea of standing up in front of the whole world for what was right. Marching for the idea of justice, of peace, of equal rights. Think of Willie Nelson and farm aid, supporting farmers who, for more than one reason, were being squeezed out of there farms. Think of global warming and how we can halt it. Think of wasting the planet's resources and leaving nothing for the future. Think of the jobless, the hungry, the homeless in this country and abroad. Where is the justice today?
Prayer for today: Dearest Jesus, please nudge me daily to remind me of what your path is, to be thankful for what you gifted me, and for what I can do for others. Thank you, Jesus, for understanding my weaknesses and my strengths. Amen.
Pray for Pastor Doug Johnson (Bethlehem, Florence) as he celebrates his 23rd anniversary of ordination. Pray also for Pastor Amanda Kossow and the members of Messiah, Marquette as they begin ministry together this day.