Daily Devotion for September 24, 2013
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.
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Prayer of the Ancient Christians
I give you thanks Holy Father, for your holy name which you have caused to dwell in my heart, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality which you have made known to me through Jesus your servant; to you be the glory forever.
You, almighty Master, created all things for your name's sake, and gave food and drink to men to enjoy, that they might give you thanks; but to me you have graciously given spiritual food and drink, and eternal life through your servant Jesus. Above all I give thanks because you are mighty; to you be the glory forever.
Remember your church, Lord, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in your love; and gather it, the one that has been sanctified, from the four winds into your kingdom, which you have prepared for it; for yours is the glory forever.
May grace come, and may this world pass away. Hosanna to the God of David. If anyone is holy, let him come; if anyone is not, let him repent. Come, oh Lord!
Thanks for the Gifts of This Life
for eyes to see the sky
for ears to hear the birds
for feet to walk amidst the trees
for hands to pick the flowers from the earth
for a sense of smell to breathe in the sweet
perfumes of nature
for a mind to think about and appreciate
the magic of everyday miracles
for a spirit to swell in joy at Your mighty presence
Now unto him that is able to keep me from falling, and to present me faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever.
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 Other Guy
Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.
Matthew 8:5-13 (ESV)
Jesus Heals the Centurion’s Servant
When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”
Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”
The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.
Notes on the Scripture
The centurion was a Roman soldier. He was an officer in a foreign army of occupation, by birth a Latin or European. So, our centurion is very much not a Jew. We said, at the very beginning of our study of Matthew, that one of its primary purposes was as a gospel to the Jews. Yet here we have, in the very beginning the fourth section, a Gentile believer and a miracle performed for him. What gives?
Matthew is not trying to help Gentiles feel included, so much as to instruct the Jewish reader in the magnitude of change wrought by the new covenant.
Judaism had come to believe that, ultimately, the Gentiles of the earth would pass away with the coming of the Messiah. The ascendancy of the Messiah was to be marked by a great banquet, at which all righteous Jews would sit at a great table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The Jewish covenant with God, however, has been superseded by the coming of Christ. God expects them to follow their Messiah and modify their attitude towards the law of Moses, taking it more into their hearts and lives, and less in the practice of ritual and literal observance of outward acts.
Under the old covenant, Jews were forbidden to enter Gentile dwellings. The centurion's house was unclean to the Jews. And Christ actually does not enter the house; the centurion does not ask Him to do so, perhaps knowing the prohibition and wanting to spare Him the embarrassment.
We might consider how unsettling Matthew's gospel would have been to a Jewish reader. Christ does not have to shock His followers by going into a Gentile's house; the inclusion of Gentiles in the new covenant is being presented to them in stages. (Of course, Christ has already proven that His love will overcome Jewish laws of purity, by touching a leper, in the verses directly preceding.)
So, the miracle of healing the centurion's servant is included at this precise point for the Jews. We must understand what a difficult concept it was for them, that Gentiles could now be eligible for inclusion in God's kingdom, and some Jews would be excluded. Their separatism under the laws of Moses was thousands of years old and ingrained into every facet of their lives. Paul will still be fighting it, decades after Jesus' ascension, when churches will balk at inviting Gentile members.
Another subtle announcement is made. The Jewish expectation of a Messiah was a new Judas Maccabeus or David, a great general who would raise Hebrew armies and cast out the conquering Romans from Judea. Yet, Christ accepts the very man that he had been expected to despise. So here, the Jews get the first taste that the Messiah is not what they accepted: he is indeed a Messiah to save the Gentiles as well as the Jews.