Daily Devotion for December 5, 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.
When I saw this on a loud and often vulgar television show, my jaw dropped to the floor.
Prayer for the Morning
Holy Father, who watches over your children by night and by day; blessed Jesus, my food and my strength; sweet Holy Spirit, the light and guide of my soul; I thank you for this new day and pray that you will watch over me. May my thoughts, my words and actions reflect the Spirit that dwells within me. And may every minute of my life celebrate the gift of grace, earned by the blood of Christ, in whose name I pray.
Prayer for Peace
I thank you, Master and Lover of mankind, King of the ages and giver of all good things, for destroying the dividing wall of enmity and granting peace to those who seek your mercy. I appeal to you to awaken the longing for a peaceful life in all those who are filled with hatred for their neighbors, thinking especially of those at war or preparing for war.
Grant peace to your servants. Implant in them the fear of you and confirm in them love one for another. Extinguish every dispute and banish all temptations to disagreement. For you are our peace and to you we ascribe glory: to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever and unto ages of ages.
I pray, Lord our God, for all those who suffer from acts of war. I pray for your peace and your mercy in the midst of the great suffering that people are now inflicting on each other. Accept the prayers of your Church, so that by your goodness peace may return to all peoples. Hear us and have mercy on us.
Lord my God, remember and have mercy on my brothers and sisters who are involved in every civil conflict. Remove from their midst all hostility, confusion and hatred. Lead everyone along the path of reconciliation and peace, I pray You, hear us and have mercy on us.
Let all believers turn aside from violence and do what makes for peace. By the strength of your mighty arm save your people and your Holy Church from all evil oppression; hear the supplications of all who call to you in sorrow and affliction, day and night. Merciful God, let their lives not be lost, I pray you, hear us and have mercy.
Now, oh Lord, I pray that you may lift up the light of your countenance upon me, and give me peace; in my going out and in my coming in; in my sitting down and my rising up; in my work and in my play; in my joy and in my sorrow, in my laughter and in my tears; until that day comes which is without dawn and without dark.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
Differences in Observance
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.
Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.
For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
Notes on the Scripture
The beginning of Romans 14 addresses Christians who continue to follow Jewish legal practices, particularly the laws pertaining to diet and observance of the Sabbath. Paul characterizes them as "weak in faith", because absolute faith in Christ would render obedience to the letter of the law irrelevant; we are saved by faith alone. And yet, Paul does not criticize this weakness; in fact, he defends it, saying "the one who abstains" — that is, a Christian who refuses to eat non-kosher meat or who observes the Sabbath — does so in honor of the Lord.
Instead, Paul shows the error made by those who criticize; the people who need to change are the ones who are quarreling with their brethren who keep kosher, or who keep the Sabbath. Paul says, basically, "this quibbling over details of worship must stop", for it is of no consequence whatsoever. The only important thing is that all seek to worship Christ.
There is an old story, often told, about two small churches in an American town, located right down the street from each other. Both were struggling somewhat, and so they decided to merge into a single, stronger church. But they were unable to do so. Why? One church used the words "forgive us our trespasses" in the Lord's Prayer, while the other used the words "forgive us our debts." Neither side would change — and intransigence over this utterly insignificant word prevented two groups of professed Christians from coming together.
Anyone who has been involved in church governance will recognize that such destructive intransigence over trivial matters is the rule, not the exception. Paul would have been heartsick if he had known how far it would go, to the point of Christians hating and killing each other by the thousands over myriad insignificant issues.
There is certainly nothing wrong with preferring a particular form of worship, or music, or liking a pastor or priest; part of today's message is that people have a lot of leeway in how they "honor the Lord". But it is very important not to be estranged from other Christians over such matters. The New Testament repeats, again and again, our primary obligation of love towards one another, as we just read in Romans 13:8-10.