Daily Devotion for November 5, 2009
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.
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.
Prayer for Grace and Strength
Lord God, I pray that you will fill my heart with the blessing of your Holy Spirit. Grant me this day the strength to be temperate in all things, diligent in my duties, and patient under my afflictions. Direct me in all my ways. Give me grace to be just and upright in all my dealings; quiet and peaceable; full of compassion; and ready to do good to all people, according to my abilities and opportunities. For the sake of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
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.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
Gospel of Matthew, 17:14-21
Faith Can Move a Mountain
When Jesus and his disciples arrived at the multitude, a man came and knelt to him, saying, "Lord, have mercy on my son. He is epileptic and suffers terribly. He has fallen into the fire many times, and many times into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they couldn't cure him."
Jesus answered, "Faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I put up with you? Bring him here, to me."
Jesus rebuked him, and the demon left him. And the boy was cured from that hour.
The disciples took Jesus aside and asked, "Why couldn't we cast it out?"
He replied, "Because your faith is not sufficient. If you gain faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Leave this place and go over yonder,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. But this kind can be cast out only with prayer and fasting."
Comment on the Scripture
Anyone who has studied a foreign language knows that verb tenses are used differently, and often fit together very differently, in different languages. For example, in English we might start a sentence, "if I am here tomorrow". To mean the same thing in French or German, people say "If I will be here tomorrow" (or sometimes even "if I be here tomorrow").
These kinds of differences make it difficult to translate the Bible. The oldest Gospels we have are written in ancient Greek, and accurately translating ancient Greek verb tenses to modern English can be difficult. And even the ancient Greek may be a translation from another language. Christ certainly didn't address Judean crowds in Greek; he spoke to them in Aramaic.
There is a reason for bringing all this up: we can't be 100% certain about the precise meaning of the analogy of faith and the mustard seed. Subtleties of verb tense defeat us. Specifically, we can't tell whether Christ implied that it is possible for a human being to have enough faith to literally move a mountain. Is his statement metaphorical — that a tiny bit of faith can work great results — or does he mean that it is possible for us to literally make large objects move?
Many people are misled by these problems. They find the Bible confusing or even self-contradictory. But they are missing the big picture. They "can't see the forest for the trees". The Bible tells us what we need to know. The important points are always clear, if we read them with an open mind and a willingness to learn and change. The important thing to bring away from today's passage is not some theological or linguistic nit-picking. Christ clearly tells us that if we have faith, our faith will make a great difference not only to our eternal souls, but also to the world we live in. That much is clear, and it is what we need to know.