Daily Devotion for February 4, 2018
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 “Virtual Sunday Church” this week takes us to St. John’s in Detroit.
comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood,
for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision,
offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever,
'twixt that darkness and that light.
By the light of burning martyrs,
Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track,
Toiling up new Calv'ries ever
with the cross that turns not back;
New occasions teach new duties,
time makes ancient good uncouth,
They must upward still and onward,
who would keep abreast of truth.
Prayer for Purity of Worship
Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires are known, and from whom no secrets are hidden: Cleanse the thoughts of my heart by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that I may perfectly love you and worthily praise your holy name. Through Christ I pray,
The Great Prayer for Sunday (by Archimandrite Sophronios)
O Lord Eternal and Creator of all things,Who of Thy inscrutable goodness called me to this life;
Who bestowed on me the grace of Baptism and the Seal of the Holy Spirit;
Who imbued me with the desire to seek Thee, the one true God: hear my prayer.
I have no life, no light, no joy or wisdom; no strength except in Thee, O God.
Because of my unrighteousness I dare not raise my eyes to Thee.
But Thou said to Thy disciples, 'Whatsoever you shall ask in prayer believing, you shall receive.'
and 'Whatsoever you shall ask in my name, that will I do.'
Wherefore I dare to invoke Thee.
Purify me from all taint of flesh and spirit.
Teach me to pray aright.
Bless this day which Thee give unto me, Thy unworthy servant.
By the power of Thy blessing enable me at all times to speak and act to Thy glory with a pure spirit, with humility, patience, love, gentleness, peace, courage and wisdom: aware always of Thy presence.
Of Thy immense goodness, O Lord God, show me the path of Thy will,
and grant me to walk in Thy sight without sin.
O Lord, unto Whom all hearts be open,
Thee know what things I have need of.
Thee are acquainted with my blindness and my ignorance,
Thee know my infirmity and my soul's corruption;
but neither are my pain and anguish hid from Thee.
Wherefore I beseech Thee, hear my prayer and by Thy Holy Spirit
teach me the way wherein I should walk;
and when my perverted will would lead me down other paths
spare me not O Lord, but force me back to Thee.
By the power of Thy love, grant me to hold fast to that which is good.
Preserve me from every word or deed that corrupts the soul;
from every impulse unpleasing in Thy sight and hurtful to my brother-man.
Teach me what I should say and how I should speak.
If it be Thy will that I make no answer,
inspire me to keep silent in a spirit of peace
that causes neither sorrow nor hurt to my fellow man.
Establish me in the path of Thy commandments
and to my last breath let me not stray from the light of Thy ordinances,
that Thy commandments may become the sole law
of my being on this earth and all eternity.
Yea, Lord, I pray to Thee, have pity on me.
Spare me in my affliction and my misery
and hide not the way of salvation from me.
In my foolishness, O God, I plead with Thee for many and great things.
Yet am I ever mindful of my wickedness, my baseness, my vileness.
Have mercy upon me.
Cast me not away from your presence because of my presumption.
Do Thee rather increase in me this presumption,
and grant unto me, the worst of men,
to love Thee as Thee have commanded, with all my heart, and with all my soul,
and with all my mind, and with all my strength:
with my whole being.
Yea, O Lord, by Thy Holy Spirit, teach me good judgment and knowledge.
Grant me to know Thy truth before I go down into the grave.
Maintain my life in this world until I may offer unto Thee worthy repentance.
Take me not away in the midst of my days, nor while my mind is still blind.
When Thee shall be pleased to bring my life to an end,
forewarn me that I may prepare my soul to come before Thee.
Be with me, O Lord, at that dread hour and grant me the joy of salvation.
Cleanse me from secret faults, from all iniquity that is hidden in me;
and give me a right answer before Thy judgment-seat.
Yea, Lord, of Thy great mercy and immeasurable love for mankind.
[Lightening the minds of those who have been warped by anger.]
Now all glory to God, who is able to keep me from falling away and will bring me with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time,
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.
Isaiah 52:7-10 (ESV)
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice;
together they sing for joy;
for eye to eye they see
the return of the Lord to Zion.
Break forth together into singing,
you waste places of Jerusalem,
for the Lord has comforted his people;
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.
Mark 16:14-20 (ESV)
Proclaiming the Good News
Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.
And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.
Notes on the Scripture
This reading from Mark presents one of the most difficult sentences in the Bible. It literally says that people who believe in Christ and have been baptized will be able to cast out demons, speak in new tongues, pick up snakes, and drink poison without ill effect.
doubt one in a million present-day Christians completely believes and acts upon the passage. Most controversial are the practices of handling venemous snakes and drinking poison, which is practiced in only about 50 very small rural churches, who often meet in homes or abandoned buildings due to state laws forbidding their actions. Those who do handle snakes are regularly bitten and sometimes die.
So what are we to think? Does this hurt or even shatter our faith in the Bible’s truth? Or is our unwillingness to drink poison and handle snakes a sign that our faith is deficient?
I cannot even pretend to answer questions like this with any authority at all. But this is how I deal with this issue in my own life:
In Luke 10:19-20, Christ said, “I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Eve and the Serpent.
I take two things from the Luke passage. First, “do not rejoice at this” means, to me, that I shouldn’t go around intentionally picking up snakes or drinking poison. This is purely personal; I don’t go around telling other people how they should worship. I do not doubt the passage, however; if it is God’s will and I step on a venemous animal and get bitten, it might well be that I would not be affected. I have certainly been stung by insects and it hurt like the devil (if you will excuse the pun).
Where I really take comfort, though, is in the meaning of whether such a sting would “hurt” me. Did it hurt Christ to be crucified? Well, yes and no. He was human and felt enormous physical pain from the crucifixion. But ultimately, it did not hurt him. Much to the contrary, it was part of His entire purpose. He defeated the ultimate pain of death.
This conflict or dichotomy between the pain our bodies inevitably suffer—including the human body of God Himself—and the perfect happiness we will achieve after our bodies die, runs throughout our experience as human beings who have received Christ’s grace. Ultimately, our suffering and death do not have an ill effect upon us; life is, in some respects, a burden we bear in order to reach God. (In other respects, it is a precious gift that we love and cling to.)
So in this respect, drinking poison or being bitten by a venemous animal can no longer hurt us. We cannot escape our human fear of pain and death, and in this sense, perhaps we suffer ill effects and hurt from the dangers of the world. But in the ultimate sense, no snake, no scorpion, nor anything else that harms our bodies can truly hurt us; the worst they can do is bring about our destiny of perfect joy.