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Daily Devotion for September 28, 2010

Detail of <i>The Entombment</i>, by Matthias Grunewald, ca. 1515.
Detail of The Entombment, by Matthias Grunewald, ca. 1515. (From the Isenheim Altarpiece.)

During a recent vacation, I was privileged to visit the little museum in Colmar, France, where the Isenheim Altarpiece is on display. It dwells remarkably on the pathos and ugliness of the crucifixion. Notice the myriad sores and bruises on the body of Christ, and the unabashed weeping of Mary, from this panel.



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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.


This catchy calypso song, based on Psalm 137 (see today’s Scripture) was a popular hit around 1980.

What a Great Morning

Holy God, thank you for giving me another morning! I am lucky to be alive on your beautiful planet, so full of marvelous things and the beautiful plants and animals and all the people you have created in your image. Fill me with your Holy Spirit, now and all day long, until I go to sleep, because I want to live with you every minute of this day. The time and opportunities I have right now will never return, so help me make the best of it, Lord.

And let me remember this one thing: You know what you are doing, whether I can see it or not; so I will try to remember today that you are in charge, that you put me here for a reason and that, by your grace, things will turn out with your triumph and the Kingdom of Heaven, for all those who live by your grace. All praise to you forever,


For a Positive Attitude Today

Lord, as I offer you all that is ordinary and everyday in my life, I ask you to give me the power of your Spirit that I may transform each day by living with a positive attitude, looking for the best in people and situations. Inspire me to live in your presence every day so that I may have a full share of the hope only your Spirit can bring; lead me to do the ordinary things of life in an extraordinary way, to your glory.



[Do I turn a blind eye to terrible sins, if they have a beneficial effect on my earthly life?]


I  dedicate this day to you, mighty God. I pray that your Spirit will lift me up this day, and that your face may shine upon me all the day long, that I might do your will and lead a new life in Christ, reborn in the Spirit.


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.

Jesus crucifixion street art
Crucifixion, by an anonymous street artist.

Psalm 137:1-6 (ESV)

By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.

On the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How shall we sing the Lord's song
in a foreign land?

If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget its skill!
Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy!

Blue Latin Cross

John 19:16-22 (ESV)

Jesus is Crucified

o they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.

Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek.

So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

Notes on the Scripture

Having read through John from the first verse, it is a shock (to me at least) to see Jesus actually crucified. Despite knowing that this is his destiny, and the preparation he gave to his followers; despite knowing that this is what is necessary to save the world, that this is the very reason he was sent to earth in the first place, and that he will be resurrected in three days, it is shocking.

This gentle simple man. He may have seemed a bit proud or sharp-tongued at times, to those who didn’t believe his message, but still. Imagine grabbing one of your neighbors and hanging him up on a cross, to die of torture, because you don’t like him inferring that he is the Son of God. Or because he heals people on Sunday. And especially, a man with such a beautiful message of peace and hope. It was a terrible thing.

Crucifixion, Velazquez

It was so terrible for a reason, though. It reminds us of the sins of the entire world. In this one action lies a symbol of all the evil man is capable of doing. Every lynched “Negro,” every gassed Jew, every peasant tortured and starved to death by Mao Tse Tung or Josef Stalin.

Every Huguenot hung on a cross by the side of a French road, every Roman Catholic burned by Oliver Cromwell, every early Christian thrown onto the sand-covered floor of an arena with a pack of hungry lions, while the onlooking crowd cheered in amusement. Every witch burned by Puritans and every Puritan burned in England, with the added blasphemy of murder in the name of Christ. Every Vietnamese peasant burned alive by Democratic napalm, every Afghan child blown to bits by Republican drone bombs. Those who espouse Christ with their words are often those who kill Him by their actions. Satan cunningly uses race, and politics, and even religious affiliation in pursuit of his evil ends.

Reading today’s Scripture is the time to remember the terror of sin. Sins we have committed in our lives. Sins others have committed, especially atrocities of hatred — many of which were, and still are, committed by persons who claim to be acting in the name of Christ.

Who killed Christ? We did. Let us pray for forgiveness, for God, “being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.” (Ephesians 2:4.)

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Matthew 5:39, 44: I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. . . . [L]ove your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

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