A Devotion for Wednesday, May 6, 2020
Jeremiah 23:1-8 (NRSV)
Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. 2 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord. 3 Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4 I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.
5 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.” 7 Therefore, the days are surely coming, says the Lord, when it shall no longer be said, “As the Lord lives who brought the people of Israel up out of the land of Egypt,” 8 but “As the Lord lives who brought out and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the land of the north and out of all the lands where he had driven them.” Then they shall live in their own land.
Thoughts from “The Word in Season”
A True Shepherd
“The days are surely coming, says the Lord,
when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch.”
Though I don’t recall how old I was when I first learned the word façade, I remember the explanation involved what looked like brick on the front of a building. The person explained that what we were looking at appeared real, but it actually wasn’t.
Something similar was happening in the days of Jeremiah. Though the rulers and kind of Judah called themselves shepherds, they were not protecting and tending to the needs of the people in their flock.
In contrast, God promised that the one coming in the name of the Lord would be different. The king would be the true shepherd, “deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land” (v. 5).
Through the work of the shepherd, even when we fall short, God keeps God’s promises. We don’t need to worry about being good enough to earn God’s favor. Instead, we are set free to served our neighbors, to live in and out of the love that we’ve received from God.
Prayer: Nurturing God, continue to lead and guide me in your paths of righteousness. Amen.
Prayer Concern: Trash Collectors
Scripture Reading for Personal Reflection:
Matthew 20:17-28 (NRSV)
17 While Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, 18 “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death; 19 then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised.”
20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”
24 When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 26 It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
On some level, we all want to feel important – of value, like we matter and that others appreciate us. Sometimes that desire leads people to pursue success in the world, even become obsessed with it. When that happens, we can lose sight of other people and our connection with them as ones who are also created and cared for by God.
The mother of the sons of Zebedee – James and John – wants success for her sons, wants them to have special recognition. So she approaches Jesus asking that they have prominent positions of power next to him. What she doesn’t understand is that the kingdom she’s thinking of – Israel –isn’t the one Jesus has come to lead to rule over. He has come to drink a cup – a cup of suffering and death. And when James and John say they can drink the cup he offers, they don’t understand what they are agreeing to.
Jesus gives some idea of what that cup means as the other disciples voice their anger toward James and John. He counters the idea of conniving for positions of prominence by revealing his own nature and purpose. “Whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” He sets a new standard for what’s important in life – a standard we continue to struggle with today. The world would tell us that such a standard is sub-standard, not important or powerful. But for Jesus, and in his kingdom, servanthood – in love and compassion for others – is the highest office one can attain. It’s an ongoing reminder to us to think about the priorities in our lives as those who follow Jesus and “drink the cup” that He offers to us.
Hymn for Reflection:
“The Spirit Sends Us Forth to Serve” (ELW #551)
The Spirit sends us forth to serve; we go in Jesus’ name
To bring glad tidings to the poor, God’s favor to proclaim
We go to comfort those who mourn and set the burdened free;
Where hope is dim, to share a dream and help the blind to see.
We go to be the hands of Christ, to scatter joy like seed
And, all our days, to cherish life, to do the loving deed.
Then let us go to serve in peace, the Gospel to proclaim.
The Spirit has empowered us; we go in Jesus’ name.
If you would like to borrow an ELW or a WOV hymnal (or both) during this time of sheltering in place, you may pick one up in the narthex on the table to the right as you come in. They have been sanitized for you protection.
Please put your name on the check-out list so we can remind you to bring it/them back when we are able to resume worship in the sanctuary. Also, please sanitize them before you bring them back.
“Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.”
– John 12:26b (NRSV)
Blessings & Peace,
Want to do something positive in this uncertain, anxious time?
Write an encouraging card, note or letter
for one of our shut-ins (Ken Bechtler, Myrtle Danielson, Helen Randall and Barb Morphew) which can be brought to church for delivery (place in the basket in the breezeway).
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.
Do you Quilt?
How about making Masks out of quilting fabric? It’s supposed to be one of the best fabrics to use, and there are patterns online to make them.
Write a Devotion
to post here and share with others, something encouraging or inspirational.
Perhaps it could be a remembrance or experience of God’s faithfulness or love at work in your life.
For those affected in any way by the Covid-19 pandemic, especially Felicity Luthanen who has tested positive.
For our congregation in this time of separation, that we would yet be held together.
What about a Sign Campaign?
Would we want to make simple roadside signs – from the people of Messiah – indicating prayers and support for medical, food, pharmacy, and other essential service workers (especially “on the front lines”)? What do you think? Could be a visible way of “sharing the love of Christ” in this time.
Have another idea? Let me know, and I will share it here!