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Daily Devotion for April 25, 2011
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.
"Grosser Gott wir loben dich" (Great God, we praise you) by Max Reger
Prayer for the Morning
Oh Lord, most heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought me to the beginning of this day; I give you thanks for my creation, preservation, and all the blessings of my life. Grant that this day I fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all my doings, being governed by your will, may be righteous in your sight. Through Christ our Lord, I pray.
A Prayer of Repentance
O Lord our God, good and merciful, I acknowledge all my sins which I have committed every day of my life, in thought, word and deed; in body and soul alike. I am heartily sorry that I have ever offended you, and I sincerely repent; with tears I humbly pray you, O Lord: of your mercy forgive me for all my past transgressions and absolve me from them. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your Grace, to amend my way of life and to sin no more; that I may walk in the way of the righteous and offer praise and glory to the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Community of Prayer
Heavenly Lord, I know I am not alone saying these prayers or reading your Word this morning, but many people unknown to me, from all stations of life, have joined together in this brief moment of devotion. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be among the community of all who pray in the name of Christ this morning, and remain among us always.
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.
First page of the Gospel of John, from the Book of Kells
All the words of my mouth are with righteousness; Nothing crooked or perverse is in them.
They are all plain to him who understands, And right to those who find knowledge.
John 20:19-23 (NKJV)
The Apostles Commissioned
Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Notes on the Scripture
The apostles have "gone to the mattresses"; they are hiding out. Jesus has been killed, and they reasonably fear for their lives. He appears to them and breathes on them; by this gesture, they receive the Holy Spirit, as Christ had promised they would after his death.
Then he says something that men have used, ever since, to fight and divide themselves over, something that probably has caused innumerable death and suffering, and has bitterly divided Christians for centuries. "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven . . ."
The more hierarchical and liturgical communions, especially the Catholic and Orthodox churches, claim this saying as proof that only a priest, who has been ordained by a bishop in an unbroken line back to St. Peter, can grant forgiveness of sins. In Matthew 16:19, Jesus says this to Peter specifically and includes the famous phrase, "the keys to the kingdom of God". The lineage back to St. Peter (or one of the other apostles in some churches) is called apostolic succession.
Other churches, while not denying that the apostles were given such power, believe that the power was not exclusive to them. They point out that Jesus did not say "only" if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven, etc. There are other contrary arguments, as well.
I am not equipped to say what exactly Christ meant. What I am sure of, however, is that Christ would not want his believers to fight and kill each other over an arguable interpretation of his words. He certainly, and without any room for interpretive differences, commanded his followers to love one another. He did not pronounce many of his teachings as commandments (either one or two), but he clearly said that "love thy neighbor as thyself" was a commandment.
Nor can one say that someone else is not his neighbor because he interprets a somewhat ambiguous phrase in the Bible differently. The very important parable of the Good Samaritan was precisely intended to show that every person is your neighbor, whether or not he shares your religious beliefs.
We each have been given free will by God himself, and each of us should worship Christ as our minds, hearts and souls tell us. If we believe that our worship is the only correct one, so be it. But, hopefully, the day when those who profess Christ kill each other, to force others to worship as we see fit, has ended forever.