Gathered at the table

Matthew 26_26

Matthew 26:17-30

Gathered around the Passover table, Jesus reclined with his disciples for one final meal, one last teaching moment, one last time to show them the depths to which God was willing to go in order to save his people. There is no way the twelve could know the events that lay ahead. Jesus did.

Jesus knew exactly what the coming hours would bring; pain, agony, death. Jesus also knew the fear and anxiety his disciples would feel. They would feel intense sorrow at the loss of their master. Fear would grasp each one and grief would pierce their hearts. And so, as he did so many times before, Jesus gave of himself once more, this time in the breaking of the bread and pouring of the cup.

Burdened by the weight of our sin, we, like the twelve, also take our place at the table. We stretch out our empty sinful hands filled only with the shortcomings of human life. In his compassion and mercy, God lifts the burden of sin from our hands, replacing it with life, love and grace. Eating this bread, which is the body of Christ and drinking this wine, which is the new covenant in his blood, we receive the tender mercies of our Lord.

Jesus continues to offer his body and blood because he knows we need it. He feeds us the bread of life because without him we have no life in us. This is the power of God’s love made manifest through Christ Jesus, that he would send his only begotten Son to die for the sake of his people.

Prayer: Most holy God, we give you thanks, for you continue to feed and nourish your people with the true body and blood of Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Turning the tables

Mark 11:12-25

If Jesus were to enter your church today, what would he find? Would he find a pastor who is diligently leading worship? Would Jesus find pews filled with faithful children of God? If Jesus were to attend the church council meeting would he read reports and approve of the way everything God provides is managed?

When Jesus entered the temple in Jerusalem, he found it to be anything but the house of prayer it was intended to be. Jesus turned over tables and drove out those who had turned God’s house of prayer into a den of robbers. So, what is it that needs to be driven out of our churches; what sorts of abuses need cleansing?

Just as there was no place for the abuses of the temple, there is no place for such behavior within the church. Jesus calls God’s people to faithfulness; he calls us to follow his example and become imitators of his ways. Jesus teaches us that our worship is to be true, our love for God and neighbor genuine. When we fall short, we must remember the one who cleansed the temple is also the one who offered his life for the sake of God’s people.

Prayer: Gracious Lord, rid us of attitudes that turn us away from you, that we may keep your house a place for worship and prayer. Amen.

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Matthew 21:1-17

Not long after Jesus entered Jerusalem he entered the temple. Out in the streets of the city he was showered with shouts of “Hosanna!” as people celebrated his coming. Inside the temple much the same took place that is until Jesus drove out the merchants and money changers who took unfair advantage of the people. Jesus drove them out, turned over their tables and rebuked them for turning God’s house of prayer into a den of robbers.

This brings up an interesting question. What is it in your life that needs cleansing? What are the tables that need to be turned over? We all have them. Surely, anyone with such a burden would want it removed, lifted and taken away. Well, that is just what Jesus did by the week’s end.

Through his innocent suffering and death, Jesus rescued God’s people from the consequences of sin. The tables have been turned on the powers that defy God. Sin, death and the power of the devil no longer have power. Through Christ, the church is cleansed and God’s people restored to a right relationship with the Father.

Prayer: With shouts of Hosanna, O Lord, we thank you and praise you for your saving grace. Amen.

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Save us

Matthew 21:1-11

As Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem, crowds of people greeted him as they would greet their king. They waved palm branches in the air, threw down their cloaks to cover his path, all the while shouting “Hosanna” (which means “save us”). On that day, no one could possibly know what the next few days would hold.

The crowds that acclaimed him king would soon turn against him. His own disciple would betray him. He would be arrested and the rest of his followers would abandon him. Betrayed by a friend’s kiss, Jesus would be arrested, mocked and beaten, and finally crucified. Yet, here is the victory. Jesus came to save the world from sin. Through the offering of his own innocent body and blood that is exactly what he did.

Today, even in the midst of the COVID-19 turmoil, the victory Jesus won for the sake of God’s people still stands. As we face life in a fallen and broken world, we have the assurance that Jesus did indeed save us. There are no powers that can snatch us from God’s hands. So today, on this Palm Sunday, shout “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” For Christ has won the victory for all time. He is worthy of our praise. Hosanna!

Prayer: Blessed are you, O Lord our God, for you have saved your people from sin. Amen.

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Life assurance

John 6:35-51, Hebrews 11:1-12, Genesis 12:1-7

Certainly, a large percentage of people reading this devotion have life insurance. The same goes for those who own houses or automobiles. Insurance provides an element of hope in times of adversity. We pay the premium and trust the insurance company to stand behind their promise. Still, loopholes and clauses work in the insurance company’s favor in order to limit the payout of benefits.

As some pin their hopes on worldly powers, Christians have hope in Christ for all eternity. The Holy Spirit’s gift of faith provides assurance beyond doubt. Through faith, God assures us of his grace. We have assurance that we are forgiven and made inheritors of God’s kingdom. Such assurance stirs God’s people to put faith into action.

Faith enabled Abraham to follow God’s call to a new land. The disciples followed Jesus in his earthly ministry then built his church. Through faith, Martin Luther led the Reformation of the Church. Today, Christians share their faith with others so they too will have the assurance of God’s grace. For it is through faith that we meet the risen Christ, and through him only is the way to everlasting life.

Prayer: Keep us in faith, O God, through which we have the assurance of your grace. Amen.

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Walk by faith

Exodus 13:17-14:4, 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10, Mark 12:18-27

From a human standpoint, trusting the promises of God is difficult; people live in the present moment surrounded by fear, doubt and worry. It is difficult to trust things we cannot see, especially since the things we can see impact our lives so strongly. Broken relationships, loss of employment and medical conditions are but a few issues that challenge our ability to walk by faith. We need certainty; we need tangible evidence that everything will be alright. We need to understand God will come to help his people.

Walking by faith means following the unseen Lord into an unknown reality. But faith sees God’s presence. With a strong hand God delivered Israel from bondage; his presence made visible in a pillar of cloud and fire. With a compassionate touch, Jesus healed the sick; God’s presence is seen in restoration of health. When fear, doubt and worry touch our lives, God’s presence is seen through the eyes of faith.

Prayer: Almighty God, through faith, make your presence known, that we may always feel the power of your love. Amen.

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2 Corinthians 4:1-18

Normal. Now there is a word we all have used plenty of times recently. We all want things to get back to normal. Schools are closed. Restaurants are take out only. Grocery stores are sold out of household cleaning supplies. And try to purchase a bottle of hand sanitizer. Wouldn’t it be great if things could get back to normal? Then we wouldn’t have such a heavy burden of anxiety and doubt.

In a timeless writing, the apostle Paul reminds the church at Corinth, and us as well, that even as the burdens of earthly life seem too much to bear, Christ is with us. Through faith in Christ Jesus, we know that earthly powers truly have no hold upon God’s people. As Paul says, we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed, driven to despair, not forsaken; nor destroyed.

I for one, pray that things do not return to what we know as normal. I pray that following the coronavirus outbreak, God would heal the rest of our wounds that cause so much division in our world. Even as we wrestle with everyday troubles, we have the assurance that God is near. He hears our prayers and answers them according to his lovingkindness. During this momentary affliction, this is the message we are to share with others. Christ is with us.

Prayer: O Lord, Give us strength to meet the challenges of this life. Amen.

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