Daily Devotion for May 21, 2013
Three scenes in story of the temple tax (from Matthew) occur. In the center, Pharisees challenge Christ about paying the temple tax to Rome. On the left, Peter finds a gold coin in the mouth of a fish, and on the right, he pays it to a tax collector. (See full-size..)
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.
A beautiful modern song, Miserere sung by Andrea Bocelli and John Miles.
Miserere is the traditional Latin hymn in which a sinner asks God for mercy. The meaning of the lyrics of this modern adaptation defy accurate translation into English, but we can get the gist of it. The singer compares himself to Judas but asks God, in His mercy, to give him the joy to live a life on earth.
Miserere, miserere, miserere, misero me,
Ma che mistero, e la mia vita,
Io sono il santo che ti ha tradito
Se c'e una notte buia abbastanza
Music and lyrics by Zucchero Fornaciari
Prayer for the Morning
I bless you for the day you have made, Mighty Lord God, and pray that I may spend this day rejoicing in your creation. I pray for your Holy Spirit to fill me with the joy of my salvation, so that your light may shine through me into the world, that your honor and glory may be known to all people.
Remind me of your blessings, I pray, with every tribulation I may face, so that I may act with energy, forgiveness and love, ever mindful of the grace You have shown to me. Through Christ I pray,
Prayer for Protections (from Psalm 3)
O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God. But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cry aloud to you, and you answer me from your holy hill. I lie down and sleep, and I wake again, for you have sustained me. I will not fear the men of this world, even if thousands set themselves against me.
Arise, O Lord! Save me, O my God! For salvation belongs to you alone. May your blessing be ever on your people.
God of love, Father of all, the darkness that covered the earth has given way to the bright dawn of your Word made flesh. Make me and all who confess your holy name people of this light. Make me faithful to your Word that I may bring your life to the waiting world. Grant this through 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.
The Invisible God
Instead of complaining that God had hidden himself, you will give Him thanks for having revealed so much of Himself.
~ Blaise Pascal
Exodus 22:22-27 (ESV)
Not Taking Advantage of Others
“Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.
If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it by sunset, because that cloak is the only covering your neighbor has. What else can they sleep in? When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.”
Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people.
Notes on the Scripture
Don't take advantage of the helpless. This is not a controversial set of laws and for the most part, it is broken only by criminals.
The one place in the United States where one might find it legally broken is in institutions that engage in “subprime” lending, such as pawnshops and predatory mortgage lenders. But we have not seen very much of the latter since the financial fiasco of 2008-09. In fact, some people believe that the meltdown was God's way of punishing us for violating these laws; for the disaster was, in fact, largely the result of lending money, at high interest, to desperate, vulnerable, and foolish people.
The last sentence is going to cause some sighs, for reviling George Bush and Barack Obama seems to be a creative art form. But there is a theme that runs throughout the Bible, and it is something that many Christians simply ignore: The constant entreaty to steer clear of politics. Politics is mammon. Engaging in political action is, at its core, an attempt to gain power, the power to coerce other people to do what we think they should do.
For example, it is almost irresistible to say to ourselves, after reading today's Lesson: “God commands mankind not to abuse the widow and orphan. We should pass a law to protect them. It is the Christian thing to do.”
But — that is not what the Bible says. The New Testament emphasizes the point repeatedly. Obey the civil authorities. Give unto Caesar that which is Caesar's. The duties of treating others well — in fact, all of the duties put upon us — apply to us. They do not authorize us to compel others.
Our duty is to learn, follow, and obey. We can choose to serve Christ, or we can serve the Tea Party or the Democratic Party or some other earthly cause. “Your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:5)
Few Christians, except the most devoted, have fully realized the implications of Christ crucified. The Jews expected a Messiah who would be a sort of super-David; instead, they got Jesus Christ, whose attitude towards political affairs was utter disdain. His trust was not simply in God; His trust was absolutely and totally in God, to the point that He did not even attempt to resist arrest and execution.
The co-opting of Christianity by politicians is an abuse of the Bible that has occurred without ceasing throughout history. “Gott mit uns”, reads the belt buckle of a German soldier — God with us. But it is hard to picture Christ encouraging anyone to pick up a rifle, in order kill other men.
Almost all of us have patriotic sentiment, opinions about politics, faithfulness to causes or organizations of all sorts. It is human. But this is a good subject for reflection, meditation, and prayer: Christ demands that we love God “with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind.” For, without fail, dedication to any cause other than Jesus Christ will, inevitably, drive others away from Him, and make His place in our own hearts that much smaller.