Daily Devotionals after the 9th Week after Pentecost

The devotions for the next few weeks will be based on a work called For All the Saints which is a four volume book of readings and prayers. Each day will have a suggested Bible reading with a devotional quotation from a previous generation of believers. The books I am using are published by American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, Delhi, New York, in 1995. The daily prayers are from the same source and are also prayers from times past—some going back to the ancient church of the first centuries.

Don’t forget the video message each weekend at www.mlchapel.org. Saturday morning Zoom Bible study continues this week at 10 AM. Contact mlcemail2019@gmail.com for the link.
 
 

                                                Suggestions for Daily Prayers in the Home

Begin, “In the name of the Father and + of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you in this time of devotion. Then read the Scripture selection aloud slowly. Reflect on or discuss its meaning. Then close with the Lord’s Prayer and your own heartfelt prayers. As you pray, confess the sins you know, asking God’s blessing for all His people and for all the world. Remember especially those in great need. Then go about your day in peace and joy.
 
 
 

 

Monday, August 10, 2020                    Reading: Mark 6:14–29
 

The Death of John the Baptizer

           John—called the Baptizer—was a famous man in his day. He drew crowds to his preaching. Masses of people traveled, on foot, out into the wilderness to find him and listen to him. He lived like a vagabond, foraging from the land for nutrition. So odd, but also so committed. Unlike the famous preachers of today who amass great wealth, John had nothing but a message and took nothing for his labors. He preached powerfully of repentance and called people to be baptized. The waters of the Jordan River were his baptismal font.

          John was famous because of his preaching, but he was also infamous. He was despised by the most powerful man in the region, Herod, who had committed adultery with his own brother’s wife. John boldly condemned that sin, and paid with his head. Herod silenced John, but not his message. John had promised that Someone coming after him would surpass him in every way (John 1:15, 30). Jesus, John’s own relative, not only repeated John’s message of repentance, but fulfilled it by providing forgiveness. As Martin Luther explains:

St. John the Baptist could not have given them a better or more reliable testimony than this: “Look to Him who will succeed me soon, who will create a greater sensation in this world with His sermons and miracles than I did.” And Christ did appear shortly after. For Annas and Caiaphas did not preach soon after John the Baptist; Christ did, and He preached with power.

        John’s life is tragic in some ways, but only when we see it with short-sighted eyes. The real truth is that John’s life was part of the painful but victorious road to salvation, completed by Christ Jesus.

 

Prayer for the day: God our Father, you sent John to be the forerunner for your Son; give us repentant faith and then courage like John’s, to confess your truth; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
 

 

Tuesday, August 11, 2020                       Reading: Mark 6:30–46

Thousands Fed

         The feeding of the 5000 is a familiar miracle of Jesus. It is described in all four Gospels. In church a couple of weeks ago, we heard the story from Matthew. Here we have Mark’s. Even though Mark’s Gospel is the shortest of the four Gospels, his telling of the feeding of the 5000 is the longest. Only Mark tells about why Jesus and the disciples were in the wilderness. He was taking them there to rest and pray after earlier sending them out two-by-two to preach and heal (Mark 6:12–13). Mark tells us how word got out about this and instead of solitude, Jesus and the disciples found thousands waiting for them in the wilderness. Mark tells us that Jesus felt compassion, not annoyance, when he saw the waiting crowd.

         So he teaches and heals all that day. No resting. The disciples must have been disappointed. Their two-by-two mission efforts had been successful! But they didn’t get to rest (and perhaps relive the triumph of how well they had done!). Instead there was more work. No wonder they grumpily told Jesus to send the crowd home at the end of the day. But, of course, he would have none of that. He fed them.

         A great Christian of the past, Teresa of Avila (1515–1582) warned about us thinking, “I’ve done enough, now. Give me a break. I deserve it!”—especially when it comes to Christian life and duties:

I implore you never to . . . think you have done all you need and that your work is finished. . . . Always struggle within your own heart against these dangerous flatteries, then you will go forth with deeper humility.

         Here we see Jesus. No doubt as tired as the disciples, but always, ever, compassionately serving.

  

Prayer for the day: O God, we praise you for your never-failing mercy. Forgiveness our frustration with the duties you ask of us. Strengthen us to continue to serve you and our neighbor in the name of Christ. Amen.
 

 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020           Reading: Mark 6:47–56
 

Miracles Continue

         From Charles Wesley (1707–1788):

The waves of the sea Have lifted their voice,
Sore troubled that we In Jesus rejoice;
The floods they are roaring But Jesus is here;
While we are adoring He is always near.

         As Mark tells the story of Jesus walking on the water, you might wonder, especially if you participated in last weekend’s worship (on August 8 and 9) either online or in person. You heard there the familiar story from Matthew. In it, not only Jesus walks on water, but Peter does too, albeit briefly. There you also heard the disciples’ words: “Truly this is the Son of God.” So what do you make of Mark’s words today? Peter isn’t mentioned. He says Jesus might have walked by the boat. And then, he closes by saying the disciples were astounded and had hard hearts? What is going on with these two versions of the same story?

        Maybe it helps to remember that Mark is really writing on behalf of Peter and it makes some sense that Peter would not want either to brag about his walking on water, or emphasize his failure of faith. Second, throughout the Gospel of Mark, there is an emphasis on how the disciples struggled to believe, even as they saw Jesus’ miracles. That is emphasized here, too. What we see then in comparing the two tellings of this event, is the truth that faith is an ongoing process—that we believe and still struggle to believe. And that as Jesus disciples today, we too fight against hardened hearts.

 

Prayer for the day: Lord God, soften our hearts so that we firmly believe all that you have done and trust in you to lead and guide us throughout this life and to eternal life with Christ Jesus. Amen
 

 

Thursday, August 13, 2020                   Reading: Mark 7:1–23
 

It’s What Is Inside that Counts

          Today’s reading is full of conflict. We hear about the Pharisees, a popular religious group that was especially prominent in Jerusalem, the central city of Judea. The Pharisees were considered to be especially religious and were admired by many, but they became Jesus’ most significant opponents. They dislike both His teachings and His rising popularity. His miracles anger them, rather than giving them joy that people are healed and demons are cast out. The common people are still listening, however, and still seeking His help.

          Jesus is not impressed with the Pharisees. They are outwardly religious, indeed, but He sees deeper and says “their heart is far from me,” quoting Isaiah. They were all about keeping the traditions of cleansing things like pots and pans, clothes and hands. But they ignored the heart of God’s law—things like love for God and neighbor, honor for parents, thanksgiving and compassion. Where is your heart? He asks. That is where we see real sin: “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts. . . . All these evil things comes from within, and they defile a man.” This is why we rightly fear God and live in repentance. We have heart problems that only Christ can heal.

 

Prayer for the day: O God, who enlightens us and whose grace give abundant blessings, we ask you to cleanse us from selfishness and sin and grant us, by your love, to love one another; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, we pray. Amen.
 

 

Friday, August 14, 2020                        Reading: Mark 7:24–37
 

Just a Few Crumbs

         Today’s reading features a woman with humble faith, pleading with Jesus to heal her daughter. She’s a Gentile. Jesus seems rude. His ministry is focused on the people of Israel. They are His family—His first responsibility. He says bread is for the children, not for “the dogs.” Her reply: “the dogs eat the children’s crumbs.”

         William Barclay (1907–1978) offers helpful commentary on Jesus’ words and the woman’s reply. He notes that Jesus did not use the usual word for dogs, but a diminutive word, the word that was used at that time for pets. He is challenging the woman, but He is not rejecting her.

So the woman said, “I know the children are fed first, but can’t I even get the scraps the children throw away?” And Jesus loved her. Here was a sunny faith that would not take no for an answer, here was a woman with the tragedy of an ill daughter at home, and there was still light enough in her heart to answer with a smile. Her faith was tested and her faith was real and her prayer was answered.

         Moreover, by means of this interchange, it becomes clearer and clearer that while Jesus spent His ministry among the Jews, His saving love was for all the world. It is for all of us. We’re the “little pups” for whom even the crumbs God gives become a huge feast of love.

Prayer for the day: Father in heaven, you feed our bodies and, even more, you satisfy our very souls with your gifts of mercy, life, and salvation. Give us bold faith; in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
 

 

Saturday, August 15, 2020               Reading: Mark 8:1–10
 

Another Feast for Thousands

          Yesterday we saw how even God’s crumbs are a feast. Today reminds us that God gives far more than crumbs. We’ve already read about Jesus feeding a crowd of 5000. Today, 4000 are fed. It’s so much like the prior miracle that many skeptics think the Gospel writers just got mixed up—that there was one story with several versions and one version spoke of 5000 while another spoke of 4000.

         We can face such skepticism, because we know of God’s generosity. We know that these miracles, as amazing as they are, only reflect the daily miracle of God’s feeding billions. They are hints of His never-ending power that can, of course, do the miraculous, for He called all life into being. They are also hints of His never-ending love, for He sent His Son to do more than awe us with miracles. He came to suffer, to die, to rise from the dead—to save us from our sins. T. S. Eliot (1888–1964) wrote:

We praise Thee, O God, for Thy glory displayed in all the creatures of the earth, in the snow, in the rain, in the wind, in the storm; in all of Thy creatures, both the hunters and the hunted. For all things exist only as seen by Thee, only as known by Thee, all things exist only in Thy light, and Thy glory is declared even in that which denies Thee; the darkness declares the glory of light. Those who deny Thee could not deny, if Thou didst not exist; and their denial is never complete, for if it were so, they would not exist.

        Yes, even the skeptics are God’s creatures—given life by the very God they deny. So it is that our Lord Jesus fed the entire crowd, including those who were unconvinced of His saving love. He loves the world, for it is His world—all are His. And He loves us.

Prayer for the day: Lord God, in your mercy you provide for all. Give us grace always to trust in you through Christ our Lord. Amen.