Friday, April 19 – John 13:36-38
In reflecting on our Christian journey, is it possible to ask whether or not our zeal has created a falsehood that to the eyes of the uninformed and unsaved could easily be interpreted as hypocritical? Is it possible that the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts are out of sync and not in proper alignment? As with the Pharisees, whom Jesus chided with the words, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34 et al.), can it be that we suffer from a spiritual form of heart arrhythmia? The words of a famous hymn state, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.” With fervor and excitement we sing these words without knowing to what extent our faith will be tested.
In John 13:37, Peter unknowingly tells Jesus a modest falsehood, “a fib,” because his heart is suffering from a form of spiritual “AFib” (atrial fibrillation), which happens when the heart is in an unhealthy rhythm. A spiritually unhealthy rhythm of the heart can lead to spoken intentions that are shallow and short on follow-through. Peter was affected by this condition and Jesus diagnosed it. Peter’s heart was moving too quickly and was therefore out of step. While Peter, in his zeal and affection, wasn’t aware that his faith had not yet been tested and his heart was still unhealthy, Jesus knew what was coming. He warned Peter that his heart would undergo a shock when he’d soon deny the Lord three times.
So also we, in our haste to want to say and do the right things in the company of others, may find ourselves out of step because our fleshly desires put our hearts out of rhythm
Saturday, April 20 – Romans 8:1-11
Temptation easily lures us into setting our minds on “things of the flesh,” things that are worldly, the baser things in life that cause us to act according to our sinful nature. And creatures of a sinful nature, even living under the Law, cannot be reconciled to a right relationship with God.
But thanks be to God that, out of love, God made a way for reconciliation – a way to establish an intimate relationship between God and humanity through Jesus Christ, the divine and sinless Son of God, who defeated sin and death and who invites us to share in new life with him. Not through our works but through our faith in Christ Jesus and the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, whom we invite to live in our hearts, we become transformed through the grace – the ill-deserved favor – of God. And so we are placed on the road of living a resurrected life with Christ.
In Christ there is no condemnation because there God has restored us to the right relationship we cannot achieve on our own. There the demands of God’s holy nature are achieved on our behalf through the gracious gift God has already given us in Jesus Christ, our Savior. To God be all the glory!
Saturday, April 13 – Psalm 149
The poems in the Psalter reflect the gamut of human emotions in their expressions of crying out to God for forgiveness and mercy, lamenting pain and our own sinfulness, praising God’s majestic nature and all his creation, and much more. Psalm 149, the compendium’s penultimate song, invites us to praise the Lord in a “new song.” Verse 3 tells us to “praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre” – in other words, to praise God with our whole body. Thus Psalm 149 acknowledges our humanity.
For many of us, Lent is a time when we think of our bodies often – particularly if we are practicing daily fasting from food. At such times, we become more aware of our body’s limits and needs. Being human is part of how God created us. God made us in his image, yet human, and he declared us good. How often do we exist disconnected from and disappointed with our bodies? Someone once said, “We don’t just have bodies, we are bodies.” The body is the primary and only vessel in which to live one’s life. We are not “brains-on-a-stick.” Could acknowledging our finite and limited existence be the point at which we find true freedom to “sing a new song” – sing it in just the same way the psalmist charges us to praise and thus please the Lord?
Bonus: Sunday, April 14 – Psalm 42
As we walk through this season of Lent we are reminded of our need for God. In our penitence we are reminded not only of God’s faithfulness but also of our dependence on God. Yet sometimes we feel alone – sometimes as we face our struggles God seems absent. They ask, “Where is your God?” We cry out in despair from yearning to feel the presence of the Lord again, from knowing our need for our rock. We ask ourselves, “Where is my God?” In our longing, we know God is constant. In our anguish, we know the day will come when we will again rejoice in the Lord. “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.” Our souls are longing for healing, peace, and comfort from the Lord – our rock in our distress. Because we know, in truth, that a time is coming when we will again praise the Lord, we can have hope in God even in the midst of our despair.
Lord, you are our rock. You are our foundation in times of darkness, and we know we can trust in you. Yet sometimes we cannot feel your presence. Give us strength to praise you and hope in you when we do not have the strength on our own. Meet us in our despair, gracious God, and hear us when we cry out. You are the one our souls long for. We praise and pray to you now in your holy name. Amen.
Saturday, April 6 - Jeremiah 23:9-15
Lent is traditionally a time of fasting and prayer – a time when we turn our eyes inward to look honestly at our lives and our walks with the savior we call Lord. Interestingly, the Lenten journey, our faith journey, starts with the birth of Christ into this world and the birth of Christ within us – and the inalterable joy and excitement we feel when we first believe in a God who would join us in this place. Just as when we first accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, the celebration of Christmas is often a time of gaiety and celebration, a time when people are encouraged to give presents, write cards, and smile at strangers. For a brief period it appears to be a time of good will and peace among all human beings. Once a year, for a fleeting, shining moment, the world becomes a closer expression of the harmonic life God envisions for us all.
But soon – too soon – the loving inclusion fades. The unity between the diverse and varied expressions of humankind grows faint and all but disappears, like the fire and excitement a new believer feels tends to bank and dim with the passing of years. For often, before we realize it, we find ourselves in the January of our faith journey with our ego, pride, and selfishness back in place and firmly in control. God watches as many of us who call ourselves Christian, lose our sense of who and whose we are as we place politics over faith, group identity over oneness in the Body of Christ.
God’s word tells us that everyone who calls on the Holy Name of Jesus is a member of the priesthood of all believers. Jeremiah warns us to take care that our lives, our actions, our words, and our hearts should reflect our God and the way of love and light. For how we Christians live our lives when the newness of Christ’s birth within us fades will be seen and noted – not just by people we are called to serve and care for, but by our Holy Lord as well. And Jesus warns us that we will, indeed, reap what we sow.
Dear Lord, please forgive me when I forget that you are God and the owner of my heart, the caregiver of my life and the teacher of my soul. I confess that the world is convincing in its teaching that the acquisition of material things can bring happiness and that being right and being in power are more important than following you. Forgive me when I choose to judge others because of their politics, their education, the color of their skin, or the amount of money in their pockets. The love of power, fame, and material wealth can twist my Christian intentions from selflessness to selfishness, from welcoming to wall-building, and from caring to critical. I repent from my lack of faithfulness and ask that you light the way of love for me to follow, so that I might be guided by the truth and the life found within the way of Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray. Amen.
Saturday, March 16 – John 4:1-26
In the Coptic Orthodox tradition, St. Bishoy (320-417) had two encounters with the living Christ. Once, when on a pilgrimage, Bishoy discovered an old man lying on the side of the road. He picked up and carried the old man, but his load began to lighten. Eventually Bishoy realized that he was carrying the Lord. Jesus disappeared after promising to keep Bishoy’s body from decaying. (It is still entombed today.) Later, as Bishoy washed the feet of visitors, he was amazed when he realized he was washing the scarred feet of Jesus.
Copts today still recognize Bishoy as a pure and holy Saint. The desert that surrounds St. Bishoy’s monastery, in northern Egypt, is bone dry, but life still exists there. And now, as you read John 4, you can well imagine Jesus and Bishoy having some great conversations in the desert. Hospitality and love for neighbor extend fully when we find ourselves in inhospitable places.
To the woman at Samaria, Jesus gave a gift that goes beyond a simple drink of water in the desert. He gave her the assurance of life now and hereafter. As we venture through our own journeys in the often inhospitable world, let us exercise the ability and opportunities we are given to share with others this loving, living water of Jesus Christ.
Bonus – Psalm 42
Anyone who has spent time in the desert learns, very quickly, how precious water is to every living thing. Without water one’s mouth dries up, one’s skin withers, one’s internal organs begin to shut down. Without water one’s physical body fades away and dies. So it is with our spirit’s need for God. Without our Lord, our lives are naught but a restless yearning, a thirst that is never abated. But when we discover Jesus our souls drink deeply, and we are refreshed and renewed in the life-giving water offered to us by our loving Creator, the Source of All Being. The Psalmist understands this truth and begins his song by declaring his great need for the Holy Other. But just as our faith can wax and wane through the joys and tribulations of this life’s journey, so, too, is the Psalmist’s faith challenged. He feels anxiety and depression come upon him, and he wonders why. Why has he forgotten how much the Lord has done for him? Why do we?
By the end of the Psalm, the writer has remembered that only the Lord can keep us sane and safe in this world. Only God can quench every thirst and fulfill every need. By God’s grace we also will recall to our minds and our hearts this astounding truth as we experience the ups and downs of our own journeys. This day, thirstily partake of the peace, the joy, and the love given to you by our great God. Meditate on the unending blessings given to you by the Lover of your soul. Remember, drink deeply, and be renewed!
Friday, February 8 – Acts 3:17-26
Peter Speaks in Solomon’s Portico 
All of the four gospels recount miracles. In John, these are given a more focused significance; John calls seven of the miracles “signs.” That is, they are miracles performed specifically to demonstrate that Jesus spoke with the authority of God, by showing that he wielded the supernatural power of God. Miracles had special significance to the first group of converts, who were Jews in Jerusalem, and as Jews, were accustomed to prophets showing their divine credentials by working miracles. The prophecy of Moses which is referenced in today’s Scripture is the first prophecy of Christ’s coming and one of the most strongly worded. In Deuteronomy 18:15-22, appearing right in the middle of the mass of laws given by Moses, is a law concerning the Messiah. Moses states that this law has been given to him by God. Moses predicts the coming of a great prophet, who will be Jewish. God commands the Hebrews to follow the prophet, because he will speak the word of God. But if he does not speak the word of God, he shall die. But how, one might wonder, could a confused Jew tell whether the prophet is true – speaks the word of God – or is false and speaking the words of other gods, or his own words? The answer is that, when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken. The Messiah (as this great prophet comes to be called) will make accurate predictions. Thus, one significance of Jesus’ signs is that they relate back to Moses’ prophecy.
Jesus did not perform miracles simply to wow the crowds; he was not a magician putting on a show. Most of his miracles were performed before Jews, many or most of who would have known their Moses like a preacher knows his Bible. More so, in fact, because the words of Moses were the law by which they were expected to lead their daily lives. When Jesus spoke, he put his listeners in a bind. Much of what he said seemed different from the Jewish Bible, and much of it was directly contradictory to the teachings of the Jewish religious leaders. This confounded the listeners; if Jesus was speaking the word of God, they should listen and follow, but if not, they should ignore him and possibly put him to death. So Jesus’ miracles, especially those miracles called signs by John, had special significance. When Jesus said something, it came true. Even more remarkably, when Jesus said something physically impossible, it came true. Because of this, the Jews were able to believe and follow him, for even Moses, the giver of God’s law, had told them Christ would come and they must follow him.
Saturday, February 9 – Romans 12:15
Keeping Our Spirits Up
People who have their minds set on a great goal can undergo extraordinary hardships, for long periods, to reach it. A person who wants to become a surgeon, for example, might spend eight years of constant work, living on bare essentials, just to get through school; and then another six or eight years of training, living with minimum comforts and often heavily in debt, before becoming certified. In fact, this kind of life is the rule for great achievers in life; many of the world’s billionaires grew up in poverty. To live with God is the greatest achievement any of us can conceive. Who would not rather have eternal life than a medical degree or a billion dollars? And many have given everything to reach this, the greatest goal imaginable. Francis of Assisi and countless others gave away fortunes and lived lives of intentional deprivation, just because such things were so paltry compared to the victory they hoped to achieve. Innumerable others have suffered scorn, prison, beatings, or death.
Most of us are not called upon to sacrifice so much. Christ tells us that his burden is light. Really, life as a Christian is sometimes not a “burden” at all. The joy we feel, the friends we meet, and the good choices we make, often allow us a better life on earth; and the burdens of the wicked can be heavy indeed. Today, Paul gives us the formula to lighten our load. First, he tells us, remember to let the joy of the Holy Spirit out of your mental cage. Remind yourself of your goal, for it will sustain you. Second, let God ease the pains we all feel in life. Patience is the state of mind of a person who knows that something good is on the way. Great things can come to those who wait. Everyone suffers. The agony of losing beloved family members, the pain of illness (especially with age), the desperate anxiety of money problems: life is full of pain. The pain is real; but the better we remember the virtue of patience, and the greater our hope and joy, the easier it becomes to bear the painful times.
And, finally, pray. Our minds cannot hold but a few thoughts at a time. When we think about the tasks of this world, we cannot hold God fully in our minds. We cannot possibly remember the lessons we have learned, while we are watching television or thinking about our troubles. Prayer is the time when we can empty our minds of the world, and remember hope and patience. We can remember how great is our goal and this will give us comfort and joy.
Thursday, January 31 – Romans 12:3-8
Gifts of Grace
Paul gives us two messages today, one of humility and one of pride. Now that we have sacrificed our bodies to Christ, what are we to think of our lives in this world? We are members of something, a society, the body of Christian faithful; and we are all equal before the throne of God. If our earthly position is elevated, and the gifts we have been given to use on earth are many so that we are rich, or smart, or powerful, able to persuade others or in positions of leadership, we should not elevate ourselves above others in our minds. We might get used to feeling somewhat superior to employees, or those we give charity, or those we lead; it becomes a habit that spills over from our function as a boss, into our existence as a member of Christ. But as Paul taught us in the preceding verses, we should not be “conformed to this world,” but rather, we should be “transformed” in our minds, by the miracle of grace. To let our high position give us an attitude of superiority is a prime example of being conformed to the world. And if we are humble in our circumstances, we should feel no shame, no inferiority. Who was Jesus? A poor carpenter. Who was Mary? A homemaker, married to a carpenter. Who were Peter and Paul? Peter, a village fisherman, and Paul, a tentmaker who had become a henchman for the Pharisees. All of are members of Christ’s body and our gifts are those that God wants us to have. We must seek to use the gifts we have been given, no matter how great or small; because if a role in life was given to us by God, it is God-given. How can we question the merit of what we do, or the talents we have, if God gave it to us? If we use whatever talents we have, with cheerfulness and zeal, we may be satisfied with what we have done. God has told us we are completely adequate: Who are we, then, to be embarrassed or ashamed of our circumstances?
Friday, February 1 – Acts 2:40-47
The Enthusiasm of the Believers
Peter’s sermon has been a huge success. He has converted a large number of the Jews with his words and started the first church, the church of Jerusalem. The timeline and numbers are uncertain. The passage implies that 3,000 were converted on the day of his sermon and that more were converted every day, but it doesn’t otherwise record numbers of people or amounts of time. The first church is fervent and even fanatical. The members devote themselves to it, meeting every day to worship and forming a sort of commune, where property is shared freely. And every day their numbers swell. Not only do they meet to worship, but they take their meals together. Most remarkably, they meet in the temple courts, that is, the public areas in front of the temple. Remember, only a few days earlier the apostles and a few followers had hidden themselves away, out of fear of the Jewish authorities. They were, rightfully, afraid for their lives. Now, they are making a public spectacle of themselves. They are completely filled with the Holy Spirit, so much that they concern themselves with almost nothing other than worship of God through Christ, even in the face of very real danger.
Saturday, February 2 – Romans 12:9-16
Marks of the True Christian
In Romans 12:9, Paul gives us the Number One Rule for living our day-to-day lives. When we get confused or just too tired to think straight, we can help ourselves by returning to this basic principle: Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. In the following verses, Paul sets out a number of more specific examples, but we should not get lost in the long list of virtuous behavior he provides for us. When we have a decision to make, especially one that involves a moral question, we can get lost quite easily. So what confuses us? Well, the nature of life is what confuses us. The universe is chaos; God is the force that brought order to the chaos. Remember John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word.” The Word took a cloud of hot gas and created order; the Word made suns and planets and trees and people. Surely, the Word can help us when our minds are confused. And Paul’s words in Romans 12:9 are one way the Word has helped us. We know the difference between right and wrong. So when we have to make a decision, when we are struggling about whether to do or not to do something, we can always go to this rule: “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” Concentrating on those words may solve our dilemma. And if it does not, it is guaranteed to be the correct starting point to bring order to even the most confused thoughts.
Sunday worship at Capitol Drive Lutheran Church begins at 10:30 AM starting January 13, 2019. At the same time, we are blessed to welcome Rev. Bill Mains as our Bridge Pastor.
Everyone is welcome to join us for Scripture, song, and prayer every Sunday at 10:30 AM.
Christmas Eve, Monday, 12/24 at 6:00 PM
Christmas Day, Tuesday, 12/25 at 9:30 AM
O God: We pray that your loving presence may be felt in the California community that has experienced a tragedy that claimed so many lives. It is hard for us to imagine the magnitude of so many lives lost so suddenly and the grief and sorrow that it has brought. Yet you tell us in Isaiah 53:3 that Jesus Christ was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief and suffering.” We pray that all pain suffered there today and in the days to come may be joined with the suffering of Christ upon the cross to work your redemptive power in the world. May your love pour forth through the prayers, presence and service of your caring people from all nations to begin the healing process. Heal those who have suffered bodily and mental injury. Comfort those who are grieving the loss of dear ones. Bind together the community in grace and faith. Send your helping angels and your life giving Holy Spirit. In the name of Christ, your suffering servant we pray. Amen.
The People of God at Capitol Drive Lutheran Church stand with, support, and pray for our Jewish sisters and brothers during this time of tragedy and forever. El Maleh Rachamim is a Hebrew prayer for the rest of the departed: God, filled with mercy, dwelling in the heavens' heights, bring proper rest beneath the wings of your Shechinah, amid the ranks of the holy and the pure, illuminating like the brilliance of the skies the souls of our beloved and our blameless who went to their eternal place of rest. May You who are the source of mercy shelter them beneath Your wings eternally, and bind their souls among the living, that they may rest in peace. And let us say: Amen.