Daily Devotion for September 2, 2016
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.
We had Fernando Ortega’s lovely updated version of this hymn a few months ago; it is well that we listen to Bach’s version from the St. Matthew Passion. It's still gorgeous (and relevant) almost 500 years later.
defiled and put to scorn;
O kingly head surrounded
with mocking crown of thorn:
What sorrow mars thy grandeur?
Can death thy bloom deflower?
O countenance whose splendor
the hosts of heaven adore!
In thy most bitter passion
my heart to share doth cry,
with thee for my salvation
upon the cross to die.
Ah, keep my heart thus moved
to stand thy cross beneath,
to mourn thee, well-beloved,
yet thank thee for thy death.
My days are few, O fail not,
with thine immortal power,
to hold me that I quail not
in death's most fearful hour;
that I may fight befriended,
and see in my last strife
to me thine arms extended
upon the cross of life.
Tune by Hans Leo Hassler (1600)
Arr. Johann Sebastian Bach
Translation by Robert Bridges (1899)
For the Work of This Day and Week
O God, who orders all things in heaven and earth: Help me to go about the tasks and duties of this day and the week to come with the remembrance that I am your servant therein. Make me honest, painstaking, and cheerful, and grant that all I do and say may bring good to others and glory to your Holy Name; through Jesus Christ, our Lord,
Prayer to Give Witness When Called Upon
Oh my God, I wish I could convert as many sinners as there are grains of sand in the sea and on the earth, as many as there are leaves on the trees, plants in the fields, atoms in the air, stars in the sky, rays in the sun or the moon, creatures on the face of the earth. Loose my tongue Oh God that it may never be still in the face of embarrassment or hostility; put your words upon it, that I might serve you and know what to say, that I may never be at a loss of words when I am called upon to help those who seek you. And let me speak always in love and respect of others, this day and always,
[If I found a pearl of great value, would I sell all that I have to buy it?]
Lord, support me all the day long of this troublous life, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over and my work is done. Then of Thy mercy, grant me a safe lodging, and a holy rest and a peace at last through Jesus 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.
Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Matthew 13:44-46 (ESV)
Parable of the Hidden Treasure;
Parable of the Pearl of Great Value
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Notes on the Scripture
hese two short parables are joined by the word “again” because they speak the same lesson: total commitment to Christ. We don't really see many people who follow Christ's instructions to the rich man: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” (Matthew 19:21) He anticipates the same message in these two parables, for in both cases, the subject of the parable sells all that he has.
Most Christians read the word “perfect” with great relief; for like the rich man, they would be sorrowful if they had to choose between Christ and the comforts of their home. Christ reassures us that, although it is practically impossible for a rich person to enter heaven, all things are possible to God. (E.g. Matthew 19:25-26) Nevertheless: We do well to take heed of his admonition in Matthew 6:24: “You cannot serve both God and Mammon.”
To live in the kingdom of God is to learn and do God's will, to accept the will of God. The treasure indicates enormous value; the pearl indicates surpassing beauty. And what a good reminder, for these basic characteristics of God's kingdom can slip our minds so easily.
How can we lose sight of the value of God's love? It is a phenomenon economists call the “paradox of value”. We value diamonds more than water, because water is so readily available. But which is more valuable in the absolute sense? Ask a man alone in the desert. But as long as it keeps flowing from our faucets, we forget that water is infinitely precious to us.
God's love is yet more valuable than water. “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.” (John 4:13) The value paradox applies, however, because God's love (at least during the present age) is so plentiful that its unique value is forgotten even more readily than that of water. People sell it for a new car, a bigger house, a designer dress. But the day will come when the faucet of God's love is turned off, for those who have not accepted Christ. “Oh sinner man, where you gonna’ run to?” asks the old gospel song.
And like the pearl, God's kingdom is beautiful, lovely, beyond measure. The world is full of all kinds of lovely things; art, and music, and people, and food, and nature. The variety of beauty is marvelous. We should enjoy them fully, but always keeping in mind, they are dim reflections of the beauty of God. “For now we see through a glass, darkly,” as the KJV so eloquently puts it. (1 Cor. 13:12) If we ever allow our faith to become grim, all we need do is reflect on the perfect pearl we hold within our bosom and let its warm light shine throughout every fiber of our being.
Notice that the first man comes across his treasure by accident, suddenly and unexpectedly, in the course of hard manual labor, while the second spends his life searching for pearls. However people may find God, whether in a sudden brilliant flash of illumination, or by dint of a lifetime of searching, they must be willing to give up their past and follow him.