Can you drink Christ’s cup?

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 20:17-28  

17 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, 18 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death, 19 and deliver him to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” 20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him, with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over  them. 26 It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; 28 even as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Old Testament Reading: Jeremiah 18:18-20

18 Then they said, “Come, let us make plots against Jeremiah, for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not heed any of his words.” 19 Give heed to me, O LORD, and hearken to my plea. 20 Is evil a recompense for good? Yet they have dug a pit for my life. Remember how I stood before you to speak good for them, to turn away your wrath from them.

Meditation: Who or what takes first place in your life? You and what you want to do with your life or God and what he desires for you? When personal goals and ambitions are at odds with God’s will, whose will prevails? The prophet Jeremiah spoke a word that was at odds with what the people wanted. The word which Jeremiah spoke was not his personal opinion but the divinely inspired word which God commanded him to speak. Jeremiah met stiff opposition and even threats to his life for speaking God’s word. Jeremiah pleaded with God when others plotted to not only silence him but to destroy him as well. Jesus also met stiff opposition from those who opposed his authority to speak and act in God’s name. Jesus prophesied that he would be rejected by the religious authorities in Jerusalem and be condemned to death by crucifixion – the most painful and humiliating death the Romans had devised for enemies who opposed their authority.

Jesus called himself the “Son of Man” (Matthew 20:17) – a prophetic title for the Messiah which came from the Book of Daniel. Daniel was given a prophetic vision of a “Son of Man” who is given great authority and power to rule over the earth on behalf of God. But if Jesus is the Messiah and “Son of Man” prophesied by Daniel, why must he be rejected and killed? Did not God promise that his Anointed One would deliver his people from their oppression and establish a kingdom of peace and justice? The prophet Isaiah had foretold that it was God’s will that the “Suffering Servant” who is “God’s Chosen One” (Isaiah 42:1) must first make atonement for sins through his suffering and death (Isaiah 53:5-12) and then be raised to establish justice on the earth (Isaiah 42:4). Jesus paid the price for our redemption with his own blood. Jesus’ life did not end with death on the cross – he triumphed over the grave when he rose victorious on the third day. If we want to share in the Lord’s victory over sin and death then we will need to follow his way of the cross by renouncing my will for his will, and my way for his way of self-sacrificing love and holiness.

Seeking privilege and power 
Right after Jesus had prophesied his impending death on the cross, the mother of James and John brought her sons before Jesus privately for a special request. She asked on their behalf for Jesus to grant them a special status among the disciples, namely to be placed in the highest position of privilege and power. Rulers placed their second-in-command at their right and left side. James and John were asking Jesus to place them above their fellow disciples.

Don’t we often do the same? We want to get ahead and get the best position where we can be served first. Jesus responds by telling James and John that they do not understand what they are really asking for. The only way one can advance in God’s kingdom is by submitting one’s whole life in faith and obedience to God. Jesus surrendered his will to the will of his Father – he willingly chose the Father’s path to glory – a path that would lead to suffering and death, redemption and new life.

When the other ten disciples heard what James and John had done, they were very resentful and angry. How unfair for James and John to seek first place for themselves. Jesus called the twelve together and showed them the true and rightful purpose for seeking power and position – to serve the good of others with love and righteousness. Authority without love, a love that is oriented towards the good of others, easily becomes self-serving and brutish.

Jesus does the unthinkable – he reverses the order and values of the world’s way of thinking. If you want to be great then become a servant for others. If you want to be first, then became a slave rather than a master. How shocking and contradictory these words must have rang in the disciples ears and in our own ears as well! Power and position are tools that can be used to serve and advance one’s own interests or to serve the interests of others. In the ancient world servants and slaves had no personal choice – they were compelled to serve the interests of their masters and do whatever they were commanded.

Freedom and servanthood 
The model of servanthood which Jesus presents to his disciples is based on personal choice and freedom – the decision to put others first in my care and concern and the freedom to serve them with love and compassion rather than with fear or desire for reward. That is why the Apostle Paul summed up Jesus’ teaching on freedom and love with the exhortation, “For freedom Christ has set us free… only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh [for indulging in sinful and selfish desires], but through love be servants of one another” (Galatians 5:1,13). Jesus, the Lord and Master, sets himself as the example. He told his disciples that he “came not to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20:28). True servanthood is neither demeaning nor oppressive because its motivating force is love rather than pride or fear.

The Lord Jesus summed up his mission by telling his disciples that he came “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). The shedding of his blood on the cross was the payment for our sins – a ransom that sets us free from slavery to wrong and hurtful desires and addictions. Jesus laid down his life for us. This death to self is the key that sets us free to offer our lives as a sacrifice of thanksgiving and love for the Lord and for the people he calls us to serve.

Can you drink my cup? 
The Lord Jesus asks each of us the same question he asked of James and John,  “Can you drink the cup that I am to drink”? The cup he had in mind was a cup of sacrificial service and death to self – even death on a cross. What kind of cup might the Lord Jesus have in mind for each one of us who are his followers? For some disciples such a cup will entail physical suffering and the painful struggle of martyrdom – the readiness to die for one’s faith in Christ. But for many followers of Jesus Christ, it entails the long routine of the Christian life, with all its daily sacrifices, disappointments, set-backs, struggles, and temptations. A disciple must be ready to lay down his or her life in martyrdom for Christ and be ready to lay it down each and every day in the little and big sacrifices required as well.

An early church father summed up Jesus’ teaching with the expression “to serve is to reign with Christ”. We share in God’s reign by laying down our lives in humble service of one another as Jesus did for our sake. Are you ready to lay down your life and to serve others as Jesus did?

“Lord Jesus, make me a servant of love for your kingdom, that I may seek to serve rather than be served. Inflame my heart with your love that I may give generously and serve others joyfully for your sake.”

Psalm 31:5-6, 14-16

5 Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God. 
6 You hate those who pay regard to vain idols; but I trust in the LORD. 
14 But I trust in you, O LORD, I say, ‘You are my God.’ 
15 My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors! 
16 Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love!

A Daily Quote for Lent: Do you wish to be great?, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.

“Do you wish to be great? Then begin from what is slightest. Do you plan to construct a high and mighty building? Then think first about the foundation of humility. When people plan to erect a lofty and large building, they make the foundations all the deeper. But those who lay the foundation are forced to descend into the depths.” (excerpt from Sermon 69, 2) 

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite:
copyright (c) 2016 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

 

Whoever humbles oneself will be exalted

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 23:1-12

1 Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; 3 so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. 4 They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, 6 and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, 7 and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. 11 He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; 12 whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 1:10,16-20

10 Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah! 16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings  from before my eyes;  cease to do evil, 17 learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression;  defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. 18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:  though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;  though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; 20 But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Meditation: Who doesn’t desire the praise and respect of others? We want others to see us at our best with all of our strengths and achievements – rather than at our worst with all of our faults and shortcomings. God sees us as we truly are – sinners and beggars always in need of his mercy, help, and guidance.

The prophet Isaiah warned both the rulers and the people of Sodom and Gomorrah to humbly listen and submit to God’s teaching so they could learn to do good and to cease from evil (Isaiah 110,17). Jesus warned the scribes and Pharisees, the teachers and rulers of Israel, to teach and serve their people with humility and sincerity rather than with pride and self-promotion. They went to great lengths to draw attention to their religious status and practices. In a way they wanted to be good models of observant Jews. “See how well we observe all the ritual rules and regulations of our religion!” In their misguided zeal for religion they sought recognition and honor for themselves rather than for God. They made the practice of their faith a burden rather than a joy for the people they were supposed to serve.

True respect for God inclines us to humble ourselves and to submit to his wisdom and guidance. We cannot be taught by God unless we first learn to listen to his word and then obey his instruction.

One Father and Teacher 
Was Jesus against calling anyone a rabbi, the Jewish title for a teacher of God’s word (Matthew 23:7-8), or a father? The law of Moses in Scripture specifically instructed all fathers to be teachers and instructors for their children to help them understand and obey God’s instructions (Deuteronomy 6:7)? Why did Jesus rebuke the scribes and Pharisees, the religious authorities of the Jewish people, in the presence of his disciples? Jesus wanted to warn both his own disciples and the religious leaders about the temptation to seek honors and titles that draw attention to ourselves in place of God and his word. Pride tempts us to put ourselves first above others.

The Scriptures give ample warning about the danger of self-seeking pride: Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; Proverbs 3:24).

Origen (185-254 AD), an early Christian teacher and bible scholar, reminds those who teach and lead to remember that they are first and foremost “disciples” and “servants” who sit at the feet of their Master and Teacher the Lord Jesus Christ:

“You have one teacher, and you are all brothers to each other…Whoever ministers with the divine word does not put himself forward to be called teacher, for he knows that when he performs well it is Christ who is within him. He should only call himself servant according to the command of Christ, saying, Whoever is greater among you, let him be the servant of all.”

True humility 
Respect for God and for his ways inclines us to humility and to simplicity of heart – the willing readiness to seek the one true good who is God himself. What is the nature of true humility and why should we embrace it as essential for our lives? We can easily mistake humility as something demeaning or harmful to our sense of well-being and feeling good about ourselves. True humility is not feeling bad about yourself, or having a low opinion of yourself, or thinking of yourself as inferior to all others. True humility frees us from preoccupation with ourselves, whereas a low self-opinion tends to focus our attention on ourselves. Humility is truth in self-understanding and truth in action. Viewing ourselves honestly, with sober judgment, means seeing ourselves the way God sees us (Psalm 139:1-4).

A humble person makes a realistic assessment of oneself without illusion or pretense to be something one is not. A truly humble person regards oneself neither smaller nor larger than one truly is. True humility frees us to be ourselves as God regards us and to avoid falling into despair and pride. A humble person does not want to wear a mask or put on a facade in order to look good to others. Such a person is not swayed by accidentals, such as fame, reputation, success, or failure. Do you know the joy of Christ-like humility and simplicity of heart?

Humility is the queen or foundation of all the other virtues because it enables us to see and judge correctly, the way God sees. Humility helps us to be teachable so we can acquire true knowledge, wisdom, and an honest view of reality. It directs our energy, zeal, and will to give ourselves to something greater than ourselves. Humility frees us to love and serve others willingly and selflessly, for their own sake, rather than for our own. Paul the Apostle gives us the greatest example and model of humility in the person of Jesus Christ, who emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and… who humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:7-8). Do you want to be a servant as Jesus loved and served others? The Lord Jesus gives us his heart – the heart of a servant who seeks the good of others and puts their interests first in his care and concern for them.

“Lord Jesus, you became a servant for my sake to set me free from the tyranny of selfish pride and self-concern. Teach me to be humble as you are humble and to love others generously with selfless service and kindness.”

Psalm 50:8-9,16-17,21,23

8 I do not reprove you for your sacrifices; your burnt offerings are continually before me. 
9 I will accept no bull from your house, nor he-goat from your folds. 
16 But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to recite my statutes, or take my covenant on your lips? 
17 For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you. 
21 These things you have done and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself.  But now I rebuke you, and lay the charge before you. 
23 He who brings thanksgiving as his sacrifice honors me; to him who orders his way aright  I will show the salvation of God!”

A Daily Quote for Lent: Who are the proud? by Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.

“Who are the proud? Those who do not perform penance and confess their sins in order to be healed through humility. Who are the proud? Those who attribute to themselves the few good qualities they seem to possess and endeavor to diminish the mercy of God. Who are the proud? Those who, while attributing to God the good they accomplish, insult others for not performing such works and raise themselves above them.”  (Commentary on Psalm 93, 15)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite:
copyright (c) 2016 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

Be merciful as your Father is merciful

Gospel Reading:  Luke 6:36-38  (alternate reading for the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter: Matthew 16:13-19)  

36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”

Old Testament Reading: Daniel 9:4-10

4 I prayed to the LORD my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and ordinances; 6 we have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. 7 To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us confusion of face, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those that are near and those that are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery which they have committed against you. 8 To us, O Lord, belongs confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. 9 To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness; because we have rebelled against him, 10 and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God by following his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.

Meditation: Do you know and experience the mercy God has for you through the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed for you and for your sins upon the cross? The Lord Jesus took our sins upon himself and nailed them to the cross so that we could receive pardon rather than condemnation, freedom rather than slavery to sin, and healing for the wounds caused by sin, injustice, and evil. 

God’s mercy knows no limits
God the Father never tires of showing his steadfast love and mercy to those who seek him. Scripture tells us that his mercies never cease. “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (The Lamentations of Jeremiah 3:22-23). What can hold us back from receiving God’s mercy and pardon? Anger, resentment, an unwillingness to forgive or to ask for pardon can hold us back from the healing power and merciful love that has power to wash away guilt and condemnation, fear and anger, pride and resentment. The Lord Jesus offers us freedom to walk in his way of love and forgiveness, mercy and goodness. 

Imitate God the Father’s mercy
We are called to be merciful towards one another just as our heavenly Father has been merciful towards each one of us. Do you quickly forgive those who wrong you or cause you grief or pain, or do you allow ill-will and resentment to grow in your heart? Do you pray for those who have lost sight of God’s mercy, pardon, truth, and justice? 

In the Old Testament we see the example of Daniel, a man of great faith in God’s mercy and just ways, who prayed daily, not only for himself, but for his own people, and for his persecutors as well.  Daniel was ‘shamefaced’ before God because he recognized that his own people who had been called and chosen by God as the people of Israel, were now suffering in exile due to their sins and unfaithfulness to the covenant God had made with them (see Daniel 9:4-10). Daniel did not sit in judgment over the failings and sins of his own people, instead he pleaded with God for compassion, pardon, and restoration. Our shame will turn to joy and hope if we confess our sins and ask for God’s healing love and mercy.. 

Do not judge 
Why does Jesus tell his followers to “not judge lest they be judged”? Jesus knew the human heart all too well. We judge too quickly or unfairly with mixed motives, impure hearts, and prejudiced minds. The heart must be cleansed first in order to discern right judgment with grace and mercy rather than with ill will and vengeance.

Ephrem the Syrian (306-373 AD), a wise early Christian teacher and writer, comments on Jesus’ exhortation to not condemn:

Do not judge, that is, unjustly, so that you may not be judged, with regard to injustice. With the judgment that you judge shall you be judged. This is like the phrase “Forgive, and it will be forgiven you.” For once someone has judged in accordance with justice, he should forgive in accordance with grace, so that when he himself is judged in accordance with justice, he may be worthy of forgiveness through grace. Alternatively, it was on account of the judges, those who seek vengeance for themselves, that he said, “Do not condemn.” That is, do not seek vengeance for yourselves. Or, do not judge from appearances and opinion and then condemn, but admonish and advise. (COMMENTARY ON TATIAN’S DIATESSARON 6.18B.)

Grace and mercy 
What makes true disciples of Jesus Christ different from those who do not know the Lord Jesus and what makes Christianity distinct from any other religion? It is grace – treating others not as they deserve, but as God wishes them to be treated – with forbearance, mercy, and loving-kindness. God shows his goodness to the unjust as well as to the just. His love embraces saint and sinner alike. God always seeks what is best for each one of us and he teaches us to seek the greatest good of others, even those who hate and abuse us. Our love for others, even those who are ungrateful and unkind towards us, must be marked by the same kindness and mercy which God has shown to us. It is easier to show kindness and mercy when we can expect to benefit from doing so. How much harder when we can expect nothing in return. Our prayer for those who do us ill both breaks the power of revenge and releases the power of love to do good in the face of evil.

Overcome evil with mercy and goodness
How can we possibly love those who cause us grief, harm, or ill-will? With God all things are possible. He gives power and grace to those who trust in his love and who seek his wisdom and help. The Lord is ready to work in and through us by his Holy Spirit, both to purify our minds and hearts and to help us do what is right, good, and loving in all circumstances. Paul the Apostle reminds us that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Romans 5:5) God’s love conquers all, even our hurts, injuries, fears, and prejudices. Only the cross of Jesus Christ and his victory over sin can free us from the tyranny of malice, hatred, revenge, and resentment, and give us the courage to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). Such love and grace has power to heal, restore, and transform us into the image of Christ. Do you know the power of Christ’s redeeming love and mercy?

“Lord Jesus, your love brings freedom, pardon, and joy. Transform my heart with your love that nothing may make me lose my temper, ruffle my peace, take away my joy, or make me bitter towards anyone.”

Psalm 79:8-11,13

8 Do not remember against us the iniquities of our forefathers; let your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low. 
9 Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name;  deliver us, and forgive our sins, for your name’s sake! 
10 Why should the nations say, “Where is their God?”  Let the avenging of the out-poured blood of your servants be known among the nations before our eyes! 
11 Let the groans of the prisoners come before you; according to your great power preserve those doomed to die! 
13 Then we your people, the flock of your pasture, will give thanks to you for ever;  from generation to generation we will recount your praise.

A Daily Quote for Lent: The Practice of Mercy, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.

“The practice of mercy is twofold: when vengeance is sacrificed and when compassion is shown. The Lord included both of these in his brief sentence: ‘Forgive, and you shall be forgiven; give, and it shall be given to you.’ This work has the effect of purifying the heart, so that, even under the limitations of this life, we are enabled with pure mind to see the immutable reality of God. There is something holding us back, which has to be loosed so that our sight may break through to the light. In connection with this the Lord said, ‘Give alms, and behold, all things are clean to you.’ Therefore the next and sixth step is that cleansing of the heart.” (excerpt from Letter 171A.2) 

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite:
copyright (c) 2016 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

 

And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah

Gospel Reading:   Luke 9:28-36

28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, and when they wakened they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one  for Moses and one for Elijah” — not knowing what he said. 34 As he said this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my beloved Son [my Chosen]; listen to him!” 36 And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silence and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.

Old Testament Reading:  Genesis 15:5-12,17-18

5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6 And he believed the LORD; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness. 7 And he said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.” 8 But he said, “O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” 9 He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a she-goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 And he brought him all these, cut them in two, and laid each half over against the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. 11 And when birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away. 12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram; and lo, a dread and great darkness fell upon him. 17 When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. 18 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates

Meditation: What can blind us or keep us from recognizing God’s glory in our lives? Sin and unbelief for sure! Faith enables us to see what is hidden or unseen to the naked eye. Through the eyes of faith Abraham recognized God and God’s call on his life. He saw from afar not only what God intended for him, but for his descendants as well – an everlasting covenant of friendship and peace with the living God (Genesis 15:18). Abraham is the father of faith because he put his hope in the promises of God. Faith makes us taste in advance the light of God’s glory when we shall see him face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2).

The Lord Jesus reveals his glory in fulfilling his Father’s will
Are you prepared to see God’s glory? God is eager to share his glory with us! We get a glimpse of this when the disciples see Jesus transfigured on the mountain. Jesus’ face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white (Mark 9:2,3)

When Moses met with God on Mount Sinai the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God (see Exodus 34:29). Paul says that the Israelites could not look at Moses’ face because of its brightness (2 Corinthians 3:7). In the Gospel account Jesus appeared in glory with Moses, the great lawgiver of Israel, and with Elijah, the greatest of the prophets, in the presence of three of his beloved apostles – Peter, James, and John. 

What is the significance of this mysterious appearance? Jesus went to the mountain knowing full well what awaited him in Jerusalem – his betrayal, rejection and crucifixion. Jesus very likely discussed this momentous decision to go to the cross with Moses and Elijah. God the Father also spoke with Jesus and gave his approval: This is my beloved Son; listen to him. The Father glorified his son because he obeyed. The cloud which overshadowed Jesus and his apostles fulfilled the dream of the Jews that when the Messiah came the cloud of God’s presence would fill the temple again (see Exodus 16:10, 19:9, 33:9; 1 Kings 8:10; 2 Maccabees 2:8)

The Lord wants to share his glory with each of us
The Lord Jesus not only wants us to see his glory – he wants to share this glory with us. And Jesus shows us the way to the Father’s glory: follow me – obey my words – take the path I have chosen for you and you will receive the blessings of my Father’s kingdom – your name will be written in heaven.

 Jesus succeeded in his mission because he went to Calvary so that Paradise would be restored to us once again. He embraced the cross to obtain the crown of glory that awaits each one of us, if we will follow in his footsteps.

Origen (185-254 AD), an early church bible scholar and writer, shows us how the transfiguration can change our lives: 

“When he is transfigured, his face also shines as the sun that he may be manifested to the children of light who have put off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, and are no longer the children of darkness or night but have become the sons of day, and walk honestly as in the day. Being manifest, he will shine unto them not simply as the sun, but as demonstrated to be the sun of righteousness.”

Stay awake spiritually – Don’t miss God’s glory and action 
Luke’s Gospel account tells us that while Jesus was transfigured, Peter, James, and John were asleep (Luke 9:32)! Upon awakening they discovered Jesus in glory along with Moses and Elijah. How much do we miss of God’s glory and action because we are asleep spiritually?  There are many things which can keep our minds asleep to the things of God: Mental lethargy and the “unexamined life” can keep us from thinking things through and facing our doubts and questions. The life of ease can also hinder us from considering the challenging or disturbing demands of Christ.  Prejudice can make us blind to something new the Lord may have for us. Even sorrow can be a block until we can see past it to the glory of God. 

Are you spiritually awake? Peter, James, and John were privileged witnesses of the glory of Christ. We, too, as disciples of Christ are called to be witnesses of his glory. We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18). The Lord wants to reveal his glory to us, his beloved disciples. Do you seek his presence with faith and reverence?

“Lord Jesus, keep me always alert to you, to your presence in my life, and to your life-giving word that nourishes me daily. Let me see your glory.”

Psalm 27:1, 7-9, 13-14

1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The LORD is the stronghold of my life;  of whom shall I be afraid? 
7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! 
8 You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, LORD, do I seek.” 
9 Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, you who have been my help.  Cast me not off, forsake me not, O God of my salvation! 
13 I believe that I shall see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage;  yes, wait for the LORD! 

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: The transfiguration of Jesus, by Jerome (347-420 AD) 

“Do you wish to see the transfiguration of Jesus? Behold with me the Jesus of the Gospels. Let him be simply apprehended. There he is beheld both ‘according to the flesh’ and at the same time in his true divinity. He is beheld in the form of God according to our capacity for knowledge. This is how he was beheld by those who went up upon the lofty mountain to be apart with him. Meanwhile those who do not go up the mountain can still behold his works and hear his words, which are uplifting. It is before those who go up that Jesus is transfigured, and not to those below. When he is transfigured, his face shines as the sun, that he may be manifested to the children of light, who have put off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light (Romans 13:12). They are no longer the children of darkness or night but have become the children of day. They walk honestly as in the day. Being manifested, he will shine to them not simply as the sun but as he is demonstrated to be, the sun of righteousness.” (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON MATTHEW 12.37.10)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite:
copyright (c) 2016 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

Love and pray for your enemies

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 5:43-48

43 “You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Old Testament Reading: Deuteronomy 26:16-19

16 “This day the LORD your God commands you to do these statutes and ordinances; you shall therefore be careful to do them with all your  heart and with all your soul. 17 You have declared this day concerning the LORD that he is your God, and that you will walk in his ways, and keep his statutes and his  commandments and his ordinances, and will obey his voice; 18 and the LORDhas declared this day concerning you that you are a people for his own possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to  keep all his commandments, 19 that he will set you high above all nations that he has made, in praise and in fame and in honor, and that you shall be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he has spoken.”

Meditation: Do you know the love that conquers every fear, sin, and selfish desire? God renews his love for us each and every day. His love has the power to free us from every form of evil – selfishness, greed, anger, hatred, jealously and envy. In Jesus’ teaching on the law he does something quite remarkable and unheard of. He transforms the old law of justice and mercy with grace (favor) and loving-kindness.

Grace and loving-kindness 
God is good to the unjust as well as the just. His love embraces saint and sinner alike. God seeks our highest good and teaches us to seek the greatest good of others, even those who hate or cause ill-will. Our love for others, including those who are ungrateful or selfish towards us, must be marked by the same kindness and mercy which God has shown to us. It is easier to show kindness and mercy when we can expect to benefit from doing so. How much harder when we can expect nothing in return. Our prayer for those who do us ill both breaks the power of revenge and releases the power of love to do good in the face of evil.

How can we possibly love as God loves and overcome evil with good? With God all things are possible. He gives power and grace to those who believe and accept the gift of the Holy Spirit. His love conquers all, even our hurts, fears, prejudices and griefs. Only the cross of Jesus Christ can free us from the tyranny of malice, hatred, revenge, and resentment and gives us the courage to return evil with good. Such love and grace has power to heal and to save from destruction. Do you know the power of Christ’s redeeming love and mercy?

Perfect – made whole 
Was Jesus exaggerating when he said we must be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48)? Jesus’ command seems to parallel two passages from the Old Testament Scriptures. The first is where God instructed Abraham to “be perfect” or “blameless” before God (Genesis 17:1). The original meaning of “perfect” in Hebrew and the Aramaic dialect is “completeness” or “wholeness” – “not lacking in what is essential.”

The second passage that seems to parallel Jesus’ expression, “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” is the command that God gave to Moses and the people of Israel to “be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44,45; 19:2). God made each of us in his image and likeness (Genesis 1:26,27). That is why he calls us to grow in maturity and wholeness so we can truly be like him – a people who love as he loves and who choose to do what is good and to reject what is evil and contrary to his will (Ephesians 4:13-16).

God knows our sinfulness and weaknesses better than we do – and he assures us of his love, mercy, and help. That is why he freely gives us his power, strength, and gifts so that we may not lack anything we need to do his will and to live as his sons and daughters (2 Peter 1:3). Do you want to grow in your love for God and for your neighbor? Ask the Holy Spirit to purify and transform you in the image of the Father that you may walk in the joy and freedom of the Gospel.

“Lord Jesus, your love brings freedom and pardon. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and set my heart ablaze with your love that nothing may make me lose my temper, ruffle my peace, take away my joy, nor make me bitter towards anyone.”

Psalm 119:1-8

1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD! 
2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, 
3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! 
4 You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. 
5 O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! 
6 Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. 
7 I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous ordinances. 
8 I will observe your statutes; O forsake me not utterly!

A Daily Quote for Lent: The gift to love all people – even enemies, by Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.

“Beg God for the gift to love one another. Love all people, even your enemies, not because they are your brothers and sisters but that they may become such. Love them in order that you may be at all times on fire with love, whether toward those who have become your brothers and sisters or toward your enemies, so that by being beloved they may become your brothers and sisters.” (excerpt from Sermon on 1 John 10,7) 

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite:
copyright (c) 2016 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

 

Do not be angry, be reconciled

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 5:20-26

20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 21 “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, `You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, `You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of  fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; 26 truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.

Old Testament Reading: Ezekiel 18:21-28

21 “But if a wicked man turns away from all his sins which he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness which he has done he shall live.23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? 24 But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity and does the same abominable things that the wicked man does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds which he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, he shall die. 25 “Yet you say, `The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? 26 When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall die for it; for the iniquity which he has committed he shall die. 27 Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is lawful and right, he shall save his life. 28 Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions which he had committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.

Meditation: Do you allow sin or anger to master your life? The first person to hate his brother was Cain. God warned Cain: ‘Why are you angry? ..Sin in couching at the door; it’s desire is for you, but you must master it (Genesis 4:6-7). Sin doesn’t just happen; it first grows as a seed in one’s heart. Unless it is mastered, by God’s grace, it grows like a weed and chokes the life out of us. Jesus addressed the issue of keeping the commandments with his disciples. The scribes and Pharisees equated righteousness with satisfying the demands of the law. Jesus showed them how short they had come. Jesus points to the heart as the seat of desire, choice, and intention. Unless forbidden and evil desires are uprooted and cut-out, the heart will be poisoned and the body become a slave to sin and passion. Jesus illustrates his point with the example of the commandment to not kill. Murder first starts in the heart as the seed of forbidden anger that grows within until it springs into words and actions against one’s brother or neighbor. This is a selfish anger that broods and is long-lived, that nurses a grudge and keeps wrath warm, and that refuses to die. Anger in the heart as well as anger in speech or action are equally forbidden. The Lord Jesus commands by grace – take away the anger in your heart and there will be no murder.

What is the antidote for overcoming anger and rage? Mercy, forbearance, and kindness spring from a heart full of love and forgiveness. God has forgiven us and he calls us to extend mercy and forgiveness towards those who cause us grief or harm. In the cross of Jesus we see the supreme example of love and the power for overcoming evil. Only God’s love and grace can set our hearts and minds free from the tyranny of wounded pride and spiteful revenge. Do you harbor any anger towards another person? And are you quick to be reconciled when a rupture has been caused in your relationships? Ask God to set you free and to fill your heart and mind with his love and truth.

Eusebius, a 3rd century church father, offered the following prayer as instruction for his fellow Christians:

“May I be no man’s enemy, and may I be the friend of that which is eternal and abides. May I never quarrel with those nearest me: and if I do, may I be reconciled quickly. May I love, seek, and attain only that which is good. May I wish for all men’s happiness and envy none. May I never rejoice in the ill-fortune of one who has wronged me. When I have done or said what is wrong, may I never wait for the rebuke of others, but always rebuke myself until I make amends. May I win no victory that harms either me or my opponent. May I reconcile friends who are angry with one another. May I never fail a friend who is in danger. When visiting those in grief may I be able by gentle and healing words to soften their pain. May I respect myself. May I always keep tame that which rages within me. May I accustom myself to be gentle, and never be angry with people because of circumstances. May I never discuss who is wicked and what wicked things he has done, but know good men and follow in their footsteps.”

Do you seek to live peaceably and charitably with all?

“Lord Jesus, my heart is cold. Make it warm, compassionate, and forgiving towards all, even those who do me harm. May I only think and say what is pleasing to you and be of kind service to all I meet.”

Psalm 130:1-8

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! 
2 Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications! 
3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? 
4 But there is forgiveness with you, that you may be feared. 
5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; 
6 my soul waits for the LORD more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. 
7 O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plenteous redemption. 
8 And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

A Daily Quote for Lent: Are you ashamed to ask pardon? by Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.

“How many there are who know that they have sinned against their brothers or sisters and yet are unwilling to say: ‘Forgive me.’ They were not ashamed to sin, but they are ashamed to ask pardon. They were not ashamed of their evil act, but they blush where humility is concerned.” (excerpt from Sermon 211,4)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite:
copyright (c) 2016 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

 

Ask and you will receive from your Father in heaven

Scripture:  Matthew 7:7-12

7 “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good  things to those who ask him! 12 So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.

Old Testament Reading: Esther 14:1-5,12-14 [C:12,14-16,23-25] (Deutero-canonical portion)

14: 1 And Esther the queen, seized with deadly anxiety, fled to the Lord. 3 And she prayed to the Lord God of Israel, and said: “O my Lord, you only are our King; help me, who am alone and have no helper but you, 4 for my danger is in my hand. 5 Ever since I was born I have heard in the tribe of my family that you, O Lord, took Israel out of all the nations, and our fathers from among all their ancestors, from an everlasting inheritance, and that you did for them all that you promised.” 12 “Remember, O Lord, and make yourself known  in this time of our affliction, and give me courage, O King of the gods and Master of all dominion! 13 Put eloquent speech into my mouth before the lion, and turn his heart to hate the man who is fighting against us, so that there may be an end of him and those who agree with him. 14 But save us from the hand of our enemies; turn our mourning into gladness and our affliction into well-being.”

Meditation: Do you expect God to hear your prayers? Esther’s prayer on behalf of her people is a model for us. She prayed for help according to God’s promise to be faithful to his people. God wants us to remember his promises and to count on his help when we pray.

Jesus wanted to raise the expectations of his disciples when he taught them how to pray. Jesus’ parable of the father feeding his son illustrates the unthinkable! How could a loving father refuse to give his son what is good; or worse, to give him what is harmful? In conclusion Jesus makes a startling claim: How much more will the heavenly Father give what is good to those who ask!

Our heavenly Father graciously gives beyond our expectations. Jesus taught his disciples to pray with confidence because the heavenly Father in his goodness always answers prayers. That is why we can boldly pray: Give us this day our daily bread.

Those who know God and trust in God’s love, pray with great boldness. Listen to what John Chrysostom (347-407 AD), a gifted preacher and bishop of Constantinople, had to say about the power of prayer:

“Prayer is an all-efficient panoply [i.e. ‘a full suit of armor’ or ‘splendid array’], a treasure undiminished, a mine never exhausted, a sky unobstructed by clouds, a haven unruffled by storm. It is the root, the fountain, and the mother of a thousand blessings. It exceeds a monarch’s power… I speak not of the prayer which is cold and feeble and devoid of zeal. I speak of that which proceeds from a mind outstretched, the child of a contrite spirit, the offspring of a soul converted – this is the prayer which mounts to heaven… The power of prayer has subdued the strength of fire, bridled the rage of lions, silenced anarchy, extinguished wars, appeased the elements, expelled demons, burst the chains of death, enlarged the gates of heaven, relieved diseases, averted frauds, rescued cities from destruction, stayed the sun in its course, and arrested the progress of the thunderbolt. In sum prayer has power to destroy whatever is at enmity with the good.”

Prayer flows from the love of God; and the personal love we show to our neighbor is fueled by the love that God has poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). Jesus concludes his discourse on prayer with the reminder that we must treat our neighbor in the same way we wish to be treated by God. We must not just avoid doing harm to our neighbor, we must actively seek his or her welfare. In doing so, we fulfill the scriptural teaching from the “law and the prophets,” namely what God requires of us – loving God with all that we have and are and loving our neighbor as ourselves. The Holy Spirit is ever ready to change our hearts and transform our lives in Jesus’ way of love and merciful kindness towards all. Do you thirst for holiness and for the fire of God’s purifying love?

“Let me love you, my Lord and my God, and see myself as I really am – a pilgrim in this world, a Christian called to respect and love all whose lives I touch, those in authority over me or those under my authority, my friends and my enemies. Help me to conquer anger with gentleness, greed by generosity, apathy by fervor. Help me to forget myself and reach out towards others.”  (Prayer attributed to Clement XI of Rome, 1721)

Psalm 138:1-3,7-8

1 I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the angels I sing your praise; 
2 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness;  for you have exalted above everything your name and your word. 
3 On the day I called, you answered me, my strength of soul you increased. 
7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life;  you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. 
8 The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures for ever.  Do not forsake the work of your hands.

A Daily Quote for Lent: The gift of being good, by Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.

“He who has given us the gift of being gives us also the gift of being good. He gives to those who have turned back to Him. He even sought them out before they were converted and when they were far from his ways!” (Commentary on Psalm 103, 2) 

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite:
copyright (c) 2016 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

 

The sign of Jonah for an evil generation

Gospel Reading:  Luke 11:29-32

29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign shall be given to it  except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the men of Nineveh, so will the Son of man be to this generation. 31 The queen of the South will arise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to  hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

Old Testament Reading: Jonah 3:1-10

1 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. 4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he cried, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.

6 Then tidings reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, and covered himself with sackcloth, and sat  in ashes. 7 And he made proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; let them not feed, or drink water, 8 but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the  violence which is in his hands. 9 Who knows, God may yet repent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we perish not?” 10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God repented of the evil which he had said he would do to them; and he did not do it.

Meditation: Do you pay careful attention to warning signs? Many fatalities could be avoided if people paid attention to such signs. When the religious leaders demanded a sign from Jesus, he gave them a serious warning to avert spiritual disaster. It was characteristic of the Jews that they demanded “signs” from God’s messengers to authenticate their claims.

When the religious leaders pressed Jesus to give proof for his claims he says in so many words that he is God’s sign and that they need no further evidence from heaven than his own person. The Ninevites recognized God’s warning when Jonah spoke to them, and they repented. And the Queen of Sheba recognized God’s wisdom in Solomon. Jonah was God’s sign and his message was the message of a merciful God for the people of Nineveh.

Unfortunately the religious leaders were not content to accept the signs right before their eyes. They had rejected the message of John the Baptist and now they reject Jesus as God’s Anointed One (Messiah) and they fail to heed his message. Simeon had prophesied at Jesus’ birth that he was destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that inner thoughts of many will be revealed (Luke 2:34-35). Jesus confirmed his message with many miracles in preparation for the greatest sign of all – his resurrection on the third day.

The Lord Jesus came to set us free from slavery to sin and hurtful desires. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit he pours his love into our hearts that we may understand his will for our lives and walk in his way of holiness. God searches our hearts, not to condemn us, but to show us where we need his saving grace and help. He calls us to seek him with true repentance, humility, and the honesty to see our sins for what they really are – a rejection of his love and will for our lives. God will transform us if we listen to his word and allow his Holy Spirit to work in our lives. Ask the Lord to renew your mind and to increase your thirst for his wisdom and truth.

James says that the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity (James 3:17). A double-minded person cannot receive this kind of wisdom. The single of mind desire one thing alone – God’s pleasure. God wants us to delight in him and to know the freedom of his truth and love. Do you thirst for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14)?

 “Lord Jesus, change my heart and fill me with your wisdom that I my love your ways. Give me strength and courage to resist temptation and stubborn wilfulness that I may truly desire to do what is pleasing to you.”

Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. 
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless in your judgment. 
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. 
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you. 
18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, 
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;  then bulls will be offered on your altar.

A Daily Quote for Lent: Don’t put off conversion – tomorrow may never come, by Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.

“God is not now so long-suffering in putting up with you that He will fail to be just in punishing. Do not say then: ‘Tomorrow I shall be converted, tomorrow I shall please God, and all that I shall have done today and yesterday will be forgiven me.’ What you say is true: God has promised forgiveness if you turn back to Him. But what He has not promised is that you will have tomorrow in which to achieve your conversion.” (excerpt from Commentary on Psalm 144,11) 

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite:
copyright (c) 2016 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

 

Your heavenly Father knows what you need

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 6:7-15

7 “And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread; 12 And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors; 13 And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. 14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; 15 but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Old Testament Reading: Isaiah 55:10-11

10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,11 so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

Meditation: Do you believe that God’s word has power to change and transform your life today? Isaiah says that God’s word is like the rain and melting snow which makes the barren ground spring to life and become abundantly fertile (Isaiah 55:10-11). God’s word has power to penetrate our dry barren hearts and make them springs of new life. If we let God’s word take root in our heart it will transform us into the likeness of God himself and empower us to walk in his way of love and holiness. God wants his word to guide and shape the way we think, act, and pray. Ambrose (339-397 AD), an early church father and bishop of Milan, wrote that the reason we should devote time for reading Scripture is to hear Christ speak to us. “Are you not occupied with Christ? Why do you not talk with him? By reading the Scriptures, we listen to Christ.”

We can approach God confidently because he is waiting with arms wide open to receive his prodigal sons and daughters. That is why Jesus gave his disciples the perfect prayer that dares to call God, Our Father. This prayer teaches us how to ask God for the things we really need, the things that matter not only for the present but for eternity as well. We can approach God our Father with confidence and boldness because the Lord Jesus has opened the way to heaven for us through his death and resurrection. When we ask God for help, he fortunately does not give us what we deserve. Instead, God responds with grace, mercy, and loving-kindness. He is good and forgiving towards us, and he expects us to treat our neighbor the same. God has poured his love into our hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:5). And that love is like a refining fire – it purifies and burns away all prejudice, hatred, resentment, vengeance, and bitterness until there is nothing left but goodness and forgiveness towards those who cause us grief or harm.

Consider what John Cassian (360-435 AD), an early church father who lived for several years with the monks in Bethlehem and Egypt before founding a monastery in southern Gaul, wrote about the Lord’s Prayer and the necessity of forgiving one another from the heart:

“The mercy of God is beyond description. While he is offering us a model prayer he is teaching us a way of life whereby we can be pleasing in his sight. But that is not all. In this same prayer he gives us an easy method for attracting an indulgent and merciful judgment on our lives. He gives us the possibility of ourselves mitigating the sentence hanging over us and of compelling him to pardon us. What else could he do in the face of our generosity when we ask him to forgive us as we have forgiven our neighbor? If we are faithful in this prayer, each of us will ask forgiveness for our own failings after we have forgiven the sins of those who have sinned against us, not only those who have sinned against our Master. There is, in fact, in some of us a very bad habit. We treat our sins against God, however appalling, with gentle indulgence – but when by contrast it is a matter of sins against us ourselves, albeit very tiny ones, we exact reparation with ruthless severity. Anyone who has not forgiven from the bottom of the heart the brother or sister who has done him wrong will only obtain from this prayer his own condemnation, rather than any mercy.”

Do you treat others as you think they deserve to be treated, or do you treat them as the Lord has treated you – with mercy, steadfast love, and kindness?

“Father in heaven, you have given me a mind to know you, a will to serve you, and a heart to love you. Give me today the grace and strength to embrace your holy will and fill my heart and mind with your truth and  love that all my intentions and actions may be pleasing to you. Help me to be kind and forgiving towards my neighbor as you have been towards me.”

Psalm 34:4-7, 16-19

4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. 
5 Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed. 
6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. 
7 The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. 
16 The face of the LORD is against evildoers, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. 
17 When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. 
18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. 
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the LORD delivers him out of them all.

A Daily Quote for Lent: Pardon your brother and sister, by Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.

“Pardon, that you may be pardoned. In doing this, nothing is required of the body. It is the will that acts. You will experience no physical pain – you will have nothing less in your home. Now in truth, my brothers and sisters, you see what an evil it is that those who have been commanded to love even their enemy do not pardon a penitent brother or sister.” (quote from Sermon 210,10)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use – please cite:
copyright (c) 2016 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager