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Daily Devotion for July 19, 2013

<i>John the Baptist Baptizes the People</i>, Nicholas Poussin ca. 1635.
John the Baptist Baptizes the People (detail), Nicholas Poussin ca. 1635.



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lessons and scripture

Lord's Prayer

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.


An outstanding performance of the “Benedictus” from Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis (Solemn Mass), by Leonard Bernstein and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in 1978, as part of the Amnesty International Concert.

Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian (350 A.D.)

O  Lord and Master of my life, this day, give me not the spirit of laziness, despair, lust of power, and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of sobriety, humility, patience and love to Thy servant.

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou unto ages of ages.


Prayer of Thanks

For the gladness here where the sun is shining at evening on the weeds at the river,
Our prayer of thanks.
For the laughter of children who tumble barefooted and bareheaded in the summer grass,
Our prayer of thanks.
For the sunset and the stars, the women and the white arms that hold us,
Our prayer of thanks.

God, the game is all your way, the secrets and the signals and the system; and so for the break of the game and the first play and the last.
Our prayer of thanks.


from Our Prayer of Thanks by Carl Sandburg

Dedication (from St. Teresa of Avila)

May it please you, my good Lord, that there may come a day when I can repay a little of my great debt to you. O Jesus, strengthen my soul, you who are good above all good; and since you have inclined my soul in this way, show me how I may act for you, whatever it may cost, O Lord. Here is my life, my honor and my will; I have given them all to you and they are yours: use me to do whatever you want.


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.

<i>Christ Blessing the Children</i> by Lucas Cranach the Elder, ca. 1545.
Christ Blessing the Children by Lucas Cranach the Elder, ca. 1545.

We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face...we must do that which we think we cannot.

~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Blue Latin Cross

Matthew 3:1-6 (ESV)

John the Baptist Appears

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,

The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
 make his paths straight.’

Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

Notes on the Scripture

Matthew's themes of Christ the King and Christ as the fulfillment of the prophets are combined in John the Baptist's proclamation, that Christ is the fulfillment of the prophecy of a coming king. John preaches that Kingdom of Heaven is about to arrive; but what does this mean, exactly?

The concept of “Christ the King” can sound a little artificial, until we fully appreciate that it is (at least in part) a metaphor or analogy. Christ would not become a king in the general sense of the word: to call him “king” redefines the word. He did not sit as the supreme political ruler over a temporal land and its inhabitants. He did not make laws to be enforced by policemen or soldiers, collect taxes, wear a crown of gold and jewels, or equip an army with swords to compel obedience by threat of physical violence or death.

Instead, he transcended the kings of earth and turned the notion of royalty upside-down. Instead of ruling by killing, he ruled by dying; he transcended death, the ultimate foundation of political power. His crown was thorns and his throne, a cross. He and his “court” were at the bottom of the earthly hierarchy: poor, humble, and victimized.

Today, we would call this a “paradigm shift”. Instead of playing the game, he changed it.

And so his herald, John the Baptist, did not come with trumpets and men in fine regalia; he came in utter poverty, living in an uninhabited scrubland, wearing the cheapest, coarsest clothes, eating like a survivalist.

The sentence demanding that paths be made straight is a perfect illustration of this. When a great Eastern ruler made a journey, he would send hundreds or thousands of slaves ahead of him, smoothing and straightening the road. Obviously, people were not pulling up rocks and smoothing pavements for a carpenter from Nazareth. Jesus would walk on primitive paths filled with rocks and brambles, like the humblest commoner. Preparing a road for a monarch is an analogy for penitence; the rocks in the road to salvation are sinful acts, and the crooks and bends in the road, attitudes that veer away from love of God.

John did not want his listeners to make a pretty road for Jesus. He wanted them to clear their hearts and souls and straighten out their lives, that they might be prepared for the gospel.

Christ the so-called “king” will rule the realm of spirit, the souls of every human being on earth. What was considered important — the wealth and great struggles for power in the world of kings — he will trivialize into nothingness, and prove to be mere vanity.

endless knot

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Today in Daily Prayer

Memory Verse

Matthew 5:1-10 (“The Beatitudes”) (NKJV):

    And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

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“The mind of God is greater than all the minds of men, so let all men leave the gospel just as God has delivered it unto us.” ~ Charles Haddon Spurgeon


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