A Devotion for Wednesday, April 8, 2020
Isaiah 50:4-9a (NRSV)
4 The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens— wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. 5 The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward.
6 I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. 7 The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; 8 he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. 9 It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty?
Thoughts from “The Word in Season”
A Song for the People of God
“The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher,
that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word..”
These verses are from Isaiah’s “Third Servant Song.” Four times in chapters 42-43 there are brief “interludes” where a poem or song describes a servant whose special role is to bear powerful witness to God in the world.
Some Christians see the Servant Songs as a prediction of Jesus because the servant suffers in the world out of faithfulness to God. It makes sense that Christians find insight in these passages to understand Jesus, but most biblical scholars say Isaiah wrote the songs to describe Israel’s place among the nations in the ancient world. Thus, “the servant” is the whole people of God. But that doesn’t lessen their meaning for us – it deepens it.
Today, churches and Jewish synagogues play a special roll in bearing witness to God’s love and desire for justice in a world with other priorities. As we “sustain the weary” today, we’ll also risk enduring suffering. And we’re also encouraged to place our confidence in God.
Prayer: Holy Wisdom, let me faithfully tell others of your hope for love and justice in the world. Amen.
Romans 6:1-5 (NRSV)
1 What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Today, I am sharing with you a letter from our Bishop, Jeffrey Clements, which he sent out for us all,
sharing some thoughts about our times, and about Easter life.
April 7, 2020
Tuesday in Holy Week
Dear friends in Christ:
How life has changed for all of us in recent weeks. I had no idea that as we watched Jesus walk into the wilderness (First Sunday in Lent) that we would soon find ourselves in a wilderness of our own; a wilderness of unknown peril. Opportunities for Wednesday, Sunday, and Holy Week worship evaporated. I could not have imagined that all of our sanctuaries would be empty and that we would be staying at home for our celebration of the Resurrection. It is all so different.
Everything is different. I am working from home. I have more meetings than ever, all in front of a computer screen. I must work to keep track of what day it is. Our groceries are being delivered. My car sits idle in the garage. I am adding to my vocabulary every day with words and phrases such as COVID-19, social distancing, flattening the curve, contactless delivery, and N95 masks. The same is true for you.
In Illinois, we have not yet hit the apex of the curve. The coronavirus continues to work its way into and through our communities. In times of fear, we seek our solace and comfort in the midst of others. We naturally go to church to be fed with God’s Word and holy sacraments. Right now, we cannot do that. Lament seems appropriate for this Holy Week. For now, our pastoral leaders are coming to us by electronic means (for those who have internet service). It is all so different.
This coming Sunday is Easter. Let us celebrate the Resurrection of Our Lord! At my house,
the Easter lily will be replaced by daffodils from our yard. The ringing of church bells will be replaced by the sound of a tiny bell. Joyous shouts of “Alleluia!” will only be our two voices. There will be no family gathering. No Easter eggs. No Easter dinner. But, thanks be to God, there will be the message of resurrection and new life. The tomb will be empty. Jesus will most assuredly live, and victory over death will be ours.
We must face these days with courage. In the face of uncertainty, let us boldly proclaim with the psalmist: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!”
Allow me to remind you that I have called this synod to pray each day at noon until May 13.
I am asking you to pray for this synod, its congregations, and all who stand in need of any kind at this time. I make suggestions each day on the “Bishop Jeff Clements” Facebook page.
Also, and this is critically important, continue to financially support your congregation as we continue to gather remotely. Your congregation, this synod, and our ELCA are completely dependent upon your generosity. Your gifts make local, synodical, national, and international ministries possible. Your gifts support your congregation’s staff, the synod staff, and the Churchwide staff and the work that they all do.
Your gifts keep your congregation strong. This is a financially challenging time. There are many whose income has been drastically cut. I have long encouraged first-fruits proportional giving. First-fruits is giving off the top or giving to God first. Proportional giving can be a set percentage that fluctuates up and down with income. Give electronically if your congregation is set up for it or mail a check to your church office.
Walking together… loving Christ, loving all, for the sake of the world. That is who we are and what we do. I wish you a blessed Easter.
Walking with you, in resurrection love,
The Rev. Jeffrey Clements
Northern Illinois Synod, ELCA
Hymn for Reflection:
“I Know That My Redeemer Lives!” (WOV #619) Lyrics Below
“He who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also
through his Spirit that dwells in you.”
– Romans 8:11 (NRSV)
Blessings & Peace,
Want to do something positive in this uncertain, anxious time?
Write an encouraging card, note or letter for our elderly friends at Senior Star (there’s a bin in the breezeway where you can place them) – or for one of our shut-ins (Ken Bechtler, Myrtle Daneilson, Helen Randall and Barb Morphew) which can be brought to church for delivery.
Or, make some cheerful, simple artwork – for others and for yourself – that can be put in a window to cheer you up, and those who may see it in your neighborhood.
Sign up to ring the church bells to send the message to our community that God is with us in the midst of this time, and that we at Messiah are praying for those who are affected, and for an end to the pandemic.
For those affected in any way by the Covid-19 pandemic. For our congregation in this time of separation, that we would yet be held together.
Have another idea? Let me know, and I will share it here!
I know that my redeemer lives!
What comfort that sweet sentence gives!
He lives, he lives, who once was dead; he lives my ever living head!
He lives to give me rich supply; he lives to guide me with his eye;
He lives to comfort me when faint; he lives to hear my soul’s complaint.
He lives to silence all my fears; he lives to wipe away my tears;
He lives to calm my troubled heart; he lives all blessings to impart.
He lives and grants me daily breath; he lives, and I shall conquer death;
He lives my mansion to prepare; he lives to bring me safely there.
He lives, all glory to his name!
He lives, my Savior, still the same;
What joy this blest assurance gives; I know that my redeemer lives!