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Daily Devotion for March 15, 2014
This time photograph of the Milky Way is too profound to mar with a caption. (See Full-size!)
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Our Oldies tune for this Saturday is one of my personal favorites, Hush by the Golden Gate Quartet. It has one foot in the 1940s and one foot in the 1840s.
Prayer for the Morning
Heavenly Lord, you have brought me to the beginning of a new day. As the world is renewed fresh and clean, so I ask you to renew my heart with your strength and purpose. Forgive me the errors of yesterday and bless me to walk closer in your way today. This is the day I begin my life anew; shine through me so that every person I meet may feel your presence in my soul. Take my hand, precious Lord, for I cannot make it by myself. Through Christ I pray and live,
[“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”]
Prayer of Contrition, Remembering the Passion of Christ
O Jesus! You have proved that you have no greater desire than to be among men, even assuming human nature at the fullness of time for the love of men. I recall all the sufferings of your life especially your passion.
I remember, O Lord, that during the last supper with your disciples, having washed their feet, you gave them your most precious body and blood, and, while consoling them, you foretold your coming passion. I remember the sadness and bitterness which you experienced in your soul as you said, “my soul is sorrowful even unto death.”
I remember all the fear, anguish and pain that you did suffer in your delicate body before the torment of your crucifixion, when, after having prayed three times, bathed in a sweat of blood, you were betrayed by Judas, arrested by the people of a nation you had chosen and elevated, accused by false witnesses and unjustly judged by three judges.
I remember that you were despoiled of your garments and clothed in those of derision, that your face and eyes were covered, that you were beaten, crowned with thorns, a reed placed in your hands, that you were crushed with blows and overwhelmed with insults and outrages. In memory of all these pains and sufferings which you endured before your passion on the cross, grant me before my death a true contrition, a sincere and entire confession, worthy satisfaction and the remission of all my sins.
Most High, Glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my mind. Give me a right faith, a firm hope and a perfect charity, so that I may always and in all things act according to Your Holy Will.
Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.
Titus 3:9 (ESV)
But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.
Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV)
The Great Commandment
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Notes on the Scripture
Unlike the verses before where the powerful leadership of Judaism was trying to get Jesus to hang himself by his words, the question posed by this Pharisee sounds benign. He calls Jesus “Rabbi”. He sounds inquisitive, not openly hostile. Perhaps the Pharisees were somewhat placated that Christ had made fools of their enemies, the Sadducees. Or perhaps this was one of the silent believers:
In Mark's account of this incident, in fact, the questioner expresses admiration of Christ for his wisdom. (Mark 12:28-34) The point is, the narrative shifts from historical to didactic, which is a fancy way of saying that Jesus's answer is meant primarily for our ears, not the questioner's.
The Bible is a huge, complex, difficult, and often apparently self-contradictory book. Christ gives us these two simple commandments so that we might never get lost in a sea of ideas. Doctrine and theology are not the road to salvation. Love of God and love of one's neighbor are our two fixed points, our compass, our GPS. Complex doctrine and abstruse theology are the in-flight entertainment; or at best, perhaps, instructions on how to raise and lower one's tray table.
We have been studying some very particular information on the religion and politics of Israel at the time of Christ, and especially how they interacted with him and his message. It is good to know these things. It helps us feel more comfortable reading the Gospel. It gives us a richer and fuller understanding of what is written. Perhaps it makes it more likely that we will read the Bible and that it will make sense to us.
But it is more important that we remember where we are headed. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” When we feel troubled or confused, all we have to do is repeat that until our orientation is corrected.
Every Christian would do well to burn these two simple sentences so deeply into his or her heart that they become automatic. They are a test for our every action. They are the first standard for every thought we think and every belief we hold.
The second commandment does raise one question: Who is our neighbor? Unfortunately, Christ's direct answer is not recorded in Matthew, but only in Luke 10. But to say it simply: There is nobody God does not want us to love.