A Devotion for Friday, May 8, 2020
Exodus 3:1-12 (NRSV)
1 Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. 3 Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” 4 When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
7 Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 10 So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”
Thoughts from “The Word in Season”
“Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
Many of us have a place that is sacred to us, a place where our hearts reside. Israel is this kind o place for people of the Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths – a place where faith, emotions and passions intersect.
God calls us to remove our sandals and tread lightly on holy ground. God told Moses to do this as he approached the burning bush. Because God was there, the ground was holy. By his actions Moses showed respect and awe at being in God’s presence.
We may take our cue from Moses by not only respecting and worshiping God, but also by respecting the holy ground of others – places where they experience God’s presence most vividly. This means inviting our friends, neighbors, and community members to tell us what is holy to them. It might also mean attending community days or classes to learn more about our neighbors of different faiths, for we all stand on holy ground.
Prayer: Ever-present God, teach me to respect the holy ground of my neighbors. Amen.
Prayer Concern: People from Israel and Palestine
Scripture Reading for Personal Reflection:
Acts 7:1-16 (NRSV)
1 Then the high priest asked him, “Are these things so?” 2 And Stephen replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me. The God of glory appeared to our ancestor Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Leave your country and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you.’
4 Then he left the country of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After his father died, God had him move from there to this country in which you are now living. 5 He did not give him any of it as a heritage, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as his possession and to his descendants after him, even though he had no child. 6 And God spoke in these terms, that his descendants would be resident aliens in a country belonging to others, who would enslave them and mistreat them during four hundred years. 7 ‘But I will judge the nation that they serve,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.’
8 Then he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs. 9 “The patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him, 10 and rescued him from all his afflictions, and enabled him to win favor and to show wisdom when he stood before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who appointed him ruler over Egypt and over all his household.
11 Now there came a famine throughout Egypt and Canaan, and great suffering, and our ancestors could find no food. 12 But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our ancestors there on their first visit. 13 On the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh. 14 Then Joseph sent and invited his father Jacob and all his relatives to come to him, seventy-five in all; 15 so Jacob went down to Egypt. He himself died there as well as our ancestors, 16 and their bodies were brought back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.
Stephen is one of those kind of middling apostles in terms of name recognition. You might have heard of him, and you might not. He wasn’t one of the “twelve” but he was a devoted follower of Jesus. And when caring for the feeding of the widows in the Christian community became a need that the twelve could not manage along with their devotion to the word and preaching, he was the one chosen to head up that ministry, one who was “a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit”, along with six others – who are even more anonymous than Stephen.
Stephen gets recognition because his faith leads him to not only tend to the needs of the widows, but to speak out before the leaders of the Jewish temple about Jesus and about his faith. He speaks boldly and passionately – a portion of which is in the verses above which center on his recalling of God’s working through Abraham and the house of Jacob. You might think that he would get kudos from the temple leaders for his knowledge and appreciation of these notable people and events in the Jewish faith, and he might have, except that he goes on in the verses beyond this text to then witness to Jesus, and that doesn’t sit so well – in fact they stone him to death for it. So Stephen becomes known because of his faith, and because he was the first Christian martyr (person to die for his faith) in the Christian community.
Stephen gives us an example of a committed and outward faith. And his words remind us of God’s faithfulness through His actions through Abraham, Jacob and Joseph – Abraham for following where God led him; Jacob in his role as father of the twelve tribes (twelve sons) of Israel – which name he receives from God; and Joseph as the vessel through which God works to save Jacob and his family from famine. Their experience, and Stephen’s experience, of God’s presence and faithfulness are a reminder to us that God is faithful to be with us today as well, present to guide, strengthen and comfort us as we strive to live out our faith, and as we face the struggles of life.
Hymn for Reflection:
“Lord of All Hopefulness” (ELW #765)
Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,
Whose trust, ever childlike, no cares could destroy:
Be there at our waking, and give us, we pray,
Your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.
Lord of all eagerness, Lord of all faith,
Whose strong hands were skilled at the plane and the lathe:
Be there at our labors, and give us, we pray,
Your strength in our hearts, Lord, at the noon of the day.
Lord of all kindliness, Lord of all grace,
Whose hands swift to welcome, your arms to embrace:
Be there at our homing, and give us, we pray,
Your love in our hearts, Lord, at the eve of the day.
Lord of all gentleness, Lord of all calm,
Whose voice is contentment, whose presence is balm:
Be there at our sleeping, and give us, we pray,
Your peace in our hearts, Lord, at the end of the day.
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.
“The Lord is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds.”
– Psalm 145:13b (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!