Daily Devotion for January 29, 2016
Three scenes in story of the temple tax (from Matthew) occur. In the center, Pharisees challenge Christ about paying the temple tax to Rome. On the left, Peter finds a gold coin in the mouth of a fish, and on the right, he pays it to a tax collector. (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.
The quiet, ethereal and utterly beautiful “Benedictus,” from Beethoven’s Mass in C Major.
From the traditional (Catholic) Latin Mass.
To Wield the Sword of Faith
Flood me with your Spirit, O God. Drown Satan in a deluge of your mighty power! Shake the foundations of hell. Let the beauty and love of Christ pour through me like a cataract. Let me wield the Sword of Faith. Renew me, empower me, purify me this day to your Great Commission.
For Those Who Have Died, and Those Who Mourn
Almighty God, Father of all mercies and giver of all comfort: Deal graciously, I pray you, with those who mourn, that casting every care upon you, they may know the consolation of your love and the safety of those who have departed this life in the faith and fear of Christ.
And look after all such souls, I pray, (and especially _______________), that they may reunited with their loved ones when Christ gathers the faithful to him. In the hope and faith of the resurrection, I give all of my confidence to you and you only, oh mighty God, that you will bring all of your saints to rest, where there is neither sickness, nor sorrow, nor sighing, but life and joy everlasting.
Prayer to Look Beyond Appearances
Heavenly Father, I confess that in my life, I have been more attentive to someone who was beautiful and ignored another who was not. I have judged people by the way they look, by how old they are, by how they are dressed; and yet I know, in my heart, that all souls are beautiful to you and that you have commanded us to love one another, not through the sinful eye of our body and our emotions, but through the perfect eye of your Spirit.
Help me, I pray, to see other people as you see them, as my fellow souls struggling to find you. Let me not be deceived by appearance; let me not be misled by my prejudice. Let me not compare the outside of other people to the inside of myself, nor believe that the circumstances of my birth define a standard that others are supposed to meet. Let me see my own imperfection and not that of my fellow man. This I pray,
[Never be bullied into silence.]
Lord, pour your love into my heart, that I may love you above all things, and my neighbors as myself. Through Christ our Lord.
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.
The Invisible God
Instead of complaining that God had hidden himself, you will give Him thanks for having revealed so much of Himself.
~ Blaise Pascal
Exodus 22:22-27 (ESV)
Not Taking Advantage of Others
“Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.
If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it by sunset, because that cloak is the only covering your neighbor has. What else can they sleep in? When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.”
Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people.
Notes on the Scripture
Don't take advantage of the helpless. This is not a controversial set of laws and for the most part, it is broken only by criminals.
The one place in the United States where one might find it legally broken is in institutions that engage in “subprime” lending, such as pawnshops and predatory mortgage lenders. But we have not seen very much of the latter since the financial fiasco of 2008-09. In fact, some people believe that the meltdown was God's way of punishing us for violating these laws; for the disaster was, in fact, largely the result of lending money, at high interest, to desperate, vulnerable, and foolish people.
The last sentence is going to cause some sighs, for reviling George Bush and Barack Obama seems to be a creative art form. But there is a theme that runs throughout the Bible, and it is something that many Christians simply ignore: The constant entreaty to steer clear of politics. Politics is mammon. Engaging in political action is, at its core, an attempt to gain power, the power to coerce other people to do what we think they should do.
For example, it is almost irresistible to say to ourselves, after reading today's Lesson: “God commands mankind not to abuse the widow and orphan. We should pass a law to protect them. It is the Christian thing to do.”
But — that is not what the Bible says. The New Testament emphasizes the point repeatedly. Obey the civil authorities. Give unto Caesar that which is Caesar's. The duties of treating others well — in fact, all of the duties put upon us — apply to us. They do not authorize us to compel others.
Our duty is to learn, follow, and obey. We can choose to serve Christ, or we can serve the Tea Party or the Democratic Party or some other earthly cause. “Your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:5)
ew Christians, except the most devoted, have fully realized the implications of Christ crucified. The Jews expected a Messiah who would be a sort of super-David; instead, they got Jesus Christ, whose attitude towards political affairs was utter disdain. His trust was not simply in God; His trust was absolutely and totally in God, to the point that He did not even attempt to resist arrest and execution.
The co-opting of Christianity by politicians is an abuse of the Bible that has occurred without ceasing throughout history. “Gott mit uns”, reads the belt buckle of a German soldier — God with us. But it is hard to picture Christ encouraging anyone to pick up a rifle, in order kill other men.
Almost all of us have patriotic sentiment, opinions about politics, faithfulness to causes or organizations of all sorts. It is human. But this is a good subject for reflection, meditation, and prayer: Christ demands that we love God “with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind.” For, without fail, dedication to any cause other than Jesus Christ will, inevitably, drive others away from Him, and make His place in our own hearts that much smaller.