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Our Lord is so good, He grants us many blessings. We can see Him in the daily course of events, in our homes, our jobs, our lives. I pray that these words help you to grow in your faith and recognize His hand in even the most mundane circumstances.

The picture to the right is of a Celtic Chapel located in Cornwall England. This building is approximately 1700 years old, and contains a holy well known for its healing powers.

(Click for enlarged)

A WORD FOR TODAY, September 28, 2022

Lectionary Scriptures for October 2, 2022, Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost: Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4; Psalm 62; 2 Timothy 1:1-14; Luke 17:1-10

“Even so you also, when you have done all the things that are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants. We have done our duty.’” Luke 17:10, WEB

The book of Habakkuk is a conversation between God and the prophet which serves as an oracle for the people of Israel. This oracle is a burden for the prophet. As we read the text, Habakkuk appears to be a whiner, crying out to God about His slow response to the injustice in Israel. “How long?” he asks. Habakkuk is speaking for all the righteous in Israel who have waited so long to hear God’s answer to the wickedness in His people. Habakkuk simply could not understand why God was allowing evil to rule in the world. He did not understand why God was not disciplining His people so that they would turn back to Him.

Sound familiar? How many of us have cried out with the same sense of wonder at the delay of God’s justice? We are frustrated by the suffering we see in the world, uncertain how God could seemingly have no concern for His people. Habakkuk knew that the people had sinned against God, but he also knew that God could make them turn back. He asked, “How long?” He wanted to know how long it would be until God brought His people to repentance. Habakkuk had good reason to go to God in desperation over the people of Judah. They were truly unfaithful, declining in morals and spirituality rapidly. They were violent and disobedient. They needed God’s help to be the nation God called them to be.

Habakkuk was probably a contemporary of Josiah the child king who saw the same degradation of God’s people. Josiah’s story is found in 2 Kings 22. “He [Josiah] did that which was right in Yahweh’s eyes, and walked in all the way of David his father, and didn’t turn away to the right hand or to the left.” Josiah rebuilt the Temple and restored the right worship of God. During the restoration, the High Priest Hilkiah found the Book of the Law and they realized as they read it just how far God’s people had fallen. Josiah tore his clothes and sent men to inquire of God. He knew that the wickedness of Judah would bring God’s wrath. For his faithfulness, Josiah died before Judah fell so that he would not suffer the consequences of their sin.

Habakkuk is not mentioned in that story, but he may have been praying at that time. Habakkuk lamented over the wickedness of God’s people. “Why don’t you do something?” God answered, “I’m already working on this problem.” The solution, however, was not a very pleasant one; as a matter of fact, it was shocking. God was preparing the Babylonians to discipline the people of Israel. Habakkuk was upset because he could not understand how God could use such an ungodly nation to do such an important work.

Habakkuk suffered a great burden: he saw the future of His people, a future that would include pain, exile, and more injustice. This is not pleasant for anyone to hear, but prophets are often burdened with visions of things they would rather not see. God’s answer was not what Habakkuk wanted to hear. It was shocking and disturbing that God would use wickedness against His own people, but God assured him that this is just the beginning of the story. God’s warnings of wrath are always accompanied by promises of mercy. Sometimes we miss that part; we don’t hear the whole story because we don’t take the time to hear the voice of our King.

Chicken Little was walking in the woods one day when an acorn fell on her head. She thought the sky was falling and hurried toward the palace to tell the king. Along the way, Chicken Little met her friend Henny Penny. “Oh don’t go there,” she said. “The sky is falling. Come with me to tell the king.” Chicken Little and Henny Penny told Cocky Locky, Goosey Loosey and Turkey Lurkey not to go into the woods because the sky is falling. They all headed toward the palace together to tell the king.

We know that the sky was not really falling on Chicken Little and her friends, but she was so certain she was right that she convinced her friends to believe her story. Unfortunately, along the way to the palace, Chicken Little and her friends ran into Foxy Loxy who knew that the sky was not falling. He convinced them that he knew a shortcut to the king’s palace, but he led them to his den. He was planning to gobble them all up. Fortunately, the king appeared with a hunting party tracking Foxy Loxy. He saved the group of friends, listened to Chicken Little’s story, and showed her how the acorns fall from the tree in the woods. Then he gave her an umbrella which she carries everywhere with her. Now when the acorns fall, they don’t bother her at all. When we listen to God and trust His voice, we know there is more to the story.

The second letter of Paul to his friend Timothy was written during a time when there was great persecution in the Church, most likely under the emperor Nero. Paul had been arrested again, but this time was not like it was early in his ministry. Instead of living in a borrowed place under house arrest, Paul was kept in a damp, dark dungeon. He was near the end of his life, and he knew it. He was concerned for his friend Timothy and for the Church. Heresy grows more quickly under persecution as people find justification and excuse for new ideas to spare believers of risk. Heresy often tries to meld together ideas from other religions to make the Christian religion more acceptable to non-believers.

In the letter, Paul talks about how Timothy learned about faith from his mother and grandmother. They brought him up in a Christian home, but we all know that we go through periods of struggle in our youth and early adulthood when it is hard to hold to the ideas of our elders. This is especially true in times of persecution. The life of faith can dwindle under a burden of fear and upheaval. We fall for heresies that sound good to our ears but that do not stand up to God’s word when we are vulnerable. This is why Paul encouraged Timothy and reminded him of the faith which he was given, a faith built on Christ.

Following other teachings might sound good; they might be less risky and seem better than what we learned from our forefathers. Those teachings might sound more up to date and relevant to our time. Foxy Loxy’s shortcut was not the right way to go, it was the road to destruction. So, too, heresy leads us away from God’s grace, away from the treasure which we have been given. There is no need to fear the persecution that might come because God’s grace promises that despite our troubles, He is with us and will be true to His Word.

Henry Melchior Muhlenberg was born in Germany in 1711. He was a Lutheran pastor by the time he reached thirty years old. It was then that he was called to become the pastor of three struggling German Lutheran congregations in the New World. German immigrants were arriving in America, and they sought the inspiration and consolation of ministry in their own church heritage. Unfortunately, there were no ordained ministers to preach the word and administer the sacraments. The Lutherans tried to establish congregations around the colonies, but they had difficulty competing against the other congregations that had solid leadership. Without trained ministers, the people were following strange ideologies and even heresies.

Henry arrived in America in 1742 to lead his three congregations and immediately set to work. The work was difficult because he found the congregations were unorganized and confused. The same was true of other German Lutheran congregations in the colonies. Henry worked with his congregations, established a solid constitutional model, and reached out to other Lutherans. His impact reached as far south as Georgia and as far north as the Hudson. He asked for more pastors to be sent and he organized the first Lutheran Synod in America. He reached beyond his own churches, communicating with other Lutherans and even with other religious bodies. He spoke several languages, so was often invited to preach and speak to fellow Christians.

He impacted the world in which he lived and the church he loved but his legacy went beyond his own lifetime. Most of his eleven children made names for themselves in the Church, politics, the military, and education. He died on October 7, 1787, a date set aside for the remembrance of his life and ministry. It was not an easy life or ministry. He traveled extensively to preach and to assist his colleagues with disputes. He fought heresy and stubbornness, ignorance and persecution. He stayed neutral during the American Revolution, which did not sit well with either side of the battle.

Henry Melchior Muhlenberg is known as the father of American Lutheranism because he established the organization that brought together the German Lutherans who were struggling to survive in the New World. Henry was a missionary and church planter. By the time he died he had helped establish dozens of congregations and helped bring many trained pastors to the New World to lead them. He also helped train colonists to be strong and informed leaders in their congregations and communities. Henry never lost touch with his home and the people who had trained him in Germany. They supported his career and helped him with funds and with people. He fought the good fight and God made great things happen through him in the New World.

Nearly a hundred and seventy years later, on October 4, 1957, the Russians shot a reconfigured missile into space to put into orbit the first human produced “moon” around the earth. Sputnik set off a race for space dominance that brought about some amazing technology. Most of our favorite modern conveniences are in some way credited to the space program. Scientists developed the technology necessary for space travel that was eventually adapted for common use: the computer, the cell phone, and the microwave are just a few examples. However, it is not just electronics that have benefited. Fabric, food, and even leisure products like toys and sports equipment have seen amazing development because of the gadgets that came out of the race for space.

There was a story a few years ago in which the scientist in charge of the program revealed that the satellite that we thought was way beyond our work was little more than a toy. Sputnik had only few bells and whistles. They didn’t send it to establish a working satellite in orbit, but to be the first to make it happen. Sputnik was developed in less than three months and was sent into space two days early to ensure that the Russians won the space race.

Sputnik may not have been a highly technical satellite, but it spurred scientific discovery and development that has led to the creation of the International Space Station, the Space Shuttle, and rockets that are accomplishing amazing things sixty-five years later. Out of that development came so many wonderful things that many of us can’t imagine living without. It all came out of a 184-pound ball of metal that was shot into space in a refurbished missile. It is shocking to realize how little value it really had, but that humble satellite helped bring about incredible change.

In today’s Gospel story, the disciples asked for greater faith. They were shocked and disheartened by Jesus’ comments that precede the request. He told them that they should forgive seventy times seven times. Forgiveness requires trust: we think we must trust that the person repenting will not harm us again. It is hard enough to forgive someone once or twice, but Jesus expected His disciples to keep on forgiving, not just a few times but as many as it takes. How can we do that if we do not trust them?

The disciples responded with the only words that they could speak: they asked Jesus to increase their faith. They wanted Jesus to increase the faith they had in people, but Jesus reminds us that people will never be trustworthy. All it really takes to move mountains, or forgive sin, is to have a little bit of faith in the only one who is always trustworthy: God.

Jesus reminded the disciples of the relationship between God and His people. We are no better than slaves; we have done only as much as is expected of us. We aren’t of more value because we do good things. We aren’t better because we can forgive someone four hundred and ninety times. We aren’t more righteous. We aren’t better Christians. We are only doing that which is expected of us, that which Jesus set as an example. God established in Jesus the forgiveness we are expected to give.

Jesus gave the Kingdom to the disciples who gave the kingdom to the early Christians who gave the kingdom to the subsequent generations. He is the source of all forgiveness. He is the foundation of all forgiveness. Everything we give comes from Him and He lived like a slave, doing that which He was sent to do, and we are called to do the same.

We can only follow the Master. Sharing the Kingdom and the forgiveness that comes from it does not make us more valuable. Like Sputnik, we are little more than that ball of metal. However, the forgiveness we share, like the forgiveness that has been shared with us, will bring great things to future generations, all thanks to the humble servanthood of Jesus Christ, who came first to bring God’s grace to the world.

In a sermon on today’s Gospel lesson, St. Augustine said, “We must believe, then, in order to pray; and we must ask God that the faith enabling us to pray may not fail. Faith gives rise to prayer, and this prayer obtains an increase of faith. Faith, I say, gives rise to prayer, and is in turn strengthened by prayer... Mark the apostles: they would never have left everything they possessed and spurned worldly ambition to follow the Lord unless their faith had been great; and yet that faith of theirs could not have been perfect, otherwise they would not have asked the Lord to increase it.”

Jesus said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you would tell this sycamore tree, ‘Be uprooted, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” What is the object of faith in this verse? Is it the sycamore tree? Is it the person having faith? No, the object of our faith is God. If we have faith in God the size of a mustard seed, we will see amazing things happen. With faith in God, we will trust that He knows the whole story, and then we can continue to forgive. Faith means giving God control. It means even giving God control over those things that have harmed us.

Talk about moving mountains! The point of this passage is not that you only need a little faith to do the miraculous. All too many are quick to assume that if we can’t make a mulberry tree leap into the ocean that we do not have enough faith. However, faith is not something that can be measured. Nothing we do is enough. We, like the disciples, can only say, “We are unworthy servants. We have done our duty.”

We may face persecution, heresy, and other problems that will take perseverance and trust. Our strength is not in our ability to make anything happen, but in God’s grace. As we take on the world in which we live, sharing God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness with all we won’t necessarily know where it is leading. However, God is faithful, and He knows the purpose for which we have been sent. It is to continue doing the work of Christ in this world, bringing restoration and peace with the Gospel, sharing faith and planting God’s love.

The psalm begins with a confession of faith: “My soul rests in God alone. My salvation is from him.” It may seem as if God is not answering our prayers, and we lament in what we see around us. “How long, O Lord?” we ask. Yet faith means trusting that God is already at work, answering our prayers even before we cry out to Him.

The Psalm ends, “Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.” This sounds like great news until we begin to think about what we have done. Have we earned our place at the Master’s table? Have we done more than the work He has called us to do? Have we shared His Gospel message of forgiveness with the world? If we are honest with ourselves, the answer is “No.” We don’t deserve that place at the table. The Good News is this: we don’t have to earn it, Jesus has. He has not only made us a guest in His house, but He has made us brothers and sisters. We are no longer strangers or foreigners, but children of God.

Our passages this week have faithful men crying out to God, “How long, O Lord?” and “Increase our faith!” I wonder how many times Henry Melchior Muhlenberg doubted his ability to accomplish the work God had sent him to the New World to accomplish. We are reminded in this week’s lessons that we do not know the whole story. We cannot see what God has in store for us or for the world. We can only go forth in trust and hope knowing that God is faithful. When we cry out “How long?” or “Increase our faith” we do so from the humble position of being a slave to Christ.

God works in His own time. We look around us and see a world that is full of injustice and suffering and we wonder when God will bring change. God answers our cry with a promise, “Though it takes time, wait for it; because it will surely come.” Babylon would bring Israel to her knees, but God had not forgotten His people. Babylon would also see God’s justice and Israel would be restored. God knows what He is doing, and He knows the time. We only see a small part of God’s plan and we are called to trust that God does know what He is doing. We do not want to wait, but that is why we live by faith. Our faithful and faith filled response to God’s grace is trusting that He will do what is right when it is right.

The psalm begins with a confession of faith: “My soul rests in God alone. My salvation is from him.” It may seem as if God is not answering our prayers, and we lament in what we see around us. “How long, O Lord?” we ask. Yet faith means trusting that God is already at work, answering our prayers even before we cry out to Him.

The Psalm ends, “For you reward every man according to his work.” This sounds like great news until we begin to think about what we have done. Have we earned our place at the Master’s table? Have we done more than the work He has called us to do? Have we shared His Gospel message of forgiveness with the world? If we are honest with ourselves, the answer is “No.” We don’t deserve that place at the table. The Good News is this: we don’t have to earn it, Jesus has. He has not only made us a guest in His house, but He has made us brothers and sisters. We are no longer strangers or foreigners, but children of God.

Habakkuk needed encouragement. It didn’t come as he expected or hoped, but by the end of the conversation with God, he knew that God was at work among his people. In the end everything would be made right. The psalmist sought encouragement for God’s people suffering under the hands of their oppressors. Paul wrote Timothy to remind him to stay on course and do what he’d been taught to do. The disciples needed Jesus to increase their faith. God provides us all we need, if only we are willing to listen to what He has to say.

We may face persecution, heresy, and other problems that will take perseverance and trust. We may have to forgive over and over and over again. Our strength is in God’s grace, not in our abilities. We are little more than a worthless ball of metal like Sputnik, sent out to do not as we think, but to be a catalyst for something greater. As we take on the work of Jesus, sharing God’s love and mercy with all, we won’t always understand what God is doing. But He is faithful, and He knows the purpose for which we have been sent.

We are called to holy service, sharing the love and forgiveness of Christ with the world. The news we have may be rejected, but it is Good News. Most people don’t want to hear that they should forgive others. We would rather know that our enemies will suffer for their sin. We forget that we are sinners, too, in need of the love and mercy of God. But we are given God’s grace through Jesus Christ so that we will experience His forgiveness and boldly proclaim that God will make everything right, even when it seems impossible.

If you would like to contact me, please use the following address, replacing the bracketed words with the symbol. Thank you for your continued interest, prayers and messages of encouragement.

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A WORD FOR TODAY, September 27, 2022

“He said, ‘Certainly I will be with you. This will be the token to you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.’” Exodus 3:12, WEB

We recently rented a house at the shore for a mini vacation with our kids. There are many different options, and we spent a couple days searching the listings for just the right house. The one we chose was a little more expensive than we had planned, but it was in a good location and seemed to meet all our needs. I clicked the button to reserve the house and the invoice was significantly higher than I expected. It turned out that the per night cost did not include the taxes or an extra cleaning fee. It was still affordable and the best option, so we agreed. My credit card was billed, and we were ready to go.

Then I got another message that I had to pay a deposit. The extra fee would be returned to us after the house was inspected; it was meant to cover any damage that might occur while we were in residence. We left the house in better condition than we received it, so the deposit was quickly refunded. It was a token to guarantee that we would be careful in our host’s home. Most renters pay a similar deposit, a token of our promise to live by the contract we sign between the landlord and tenant. That token is paid before hand and then returned if all is well in the end.

I was reading the story of the Exodus last night, and today’s verse stood out to me. Moses was called to go back to Egypt, to demand that Pharaoh let the Israelites go to worship the Lord. Moses was curious about the burning bush and listened to God, but he was not willing to be any sort of deliverer. He had all sorts of excuses. “I can’t talk.” “Pharaoh won’t listen to me.” Moses argued so much that God got exasperated with him, finally conceding that Moses’ brother Aaron would be the mouthpiece, but Moses had to be the front man. In the verse just before God’s words to Moses, Moses asked, “Who am I to do this thing?”

God answered with a promise that He would be with Moses. Then He offered a token to satisfy Moses’ concerns. That token, however, was nothing like the deposits we pay to dwell in someone’s home either temporarily or longer. Moses would not see the fulfillment of the token until after it all came to fruition. Moses had to trust that God would be faithful, that He would walk alongside Moses and the Israelites through the Exodus.

It wasn’t an easy journey. Pharaoh listened to Moses but did not believe. His heart was hardened, and Moses’ words made things worse for God’s people. It was all part of God’s plan, but it is hard to see the promises being fulfilled when you must make bricks without straw. It is hard to believe that God is at work when the army of Pharaoh is rushing at a million people on foot with speedy chariots and weapons of steal. Despite the impossible nature of God’s expectations of Moses and Moses’ denial that he could accomplish any of it, Moses went to Egypt and faced Pharaoh. In the end, God’s people arrived at the foot of Mount Sinai to begin the life that had been promised to their fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

We can look to Moses as an example. We do not always know where God is taking us, and we do not always understand the path on which He leads, but we can trust that God will certainly be with us. The token given to us is that Jesus Christ has set a place in eternity for all who believe and obey. We have nothing to hold, there is no guarantee that we can grasp if we do not see the fulfillment of the contract. Yet, we are called to believe and go forth in faith to do whatever impossible task God has asked of us. We probably have a million excuses like Moses, but when we believe and do we will be blessed with seeing God’s glory in the end.

The following links provide some specially chosen scripture that tell the stories of the Birth and Passion of our Lord as Saviour Jesus Christ, as well as a fictional perspective of the Crucifixion. Spend time in God's Word, read about His life and learn of the wonderful gifts He has for you. Know Jesus Christ and honour Him today. Thanks be to God.

The Birth of our Saviour

The Story of our Saviour's Passion

The Crucifixion, a fictional perspective

When researching, I use several versions of the bible, including the New International Version and English Standard Version. Due to copyright restrictions, I have not included quotes for the scriptures on some of the archives, but highly encourage you to open your own bibles to read the scripture passages for yourselves. Where scripture is quoted, it is usually the American Standard Version or World English Bible which belong to the public domain. Any other versions used in quotes are identified.

The devotion posted on Wednesday is based on the Lectionary texts used by millions of Christians each Sunday. The Lectionary consists of four texts: an Old Testament passage, a Psalm, a passage from one of the Epistles and a Gospel text and follows the church calendar. Archives for these writings are found at Midweek Oasis.

You are welcome to use these words to share the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. Please remember to give credit to the Author who has given you these gifts, and keep in remembrance the vessel which He used to bring them to you. We pray that this site may be a blessing to you and anyone with whom you've shared it. Peggy Hoppes