Psalm 51, Day 5

Devotional for Friday, May 22

Psalm 51:13-15
Then I will teach your ways to rebels,
    and they will return to you.
Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;
    then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness.
Unseal my lips, O Lord,
    that my mouth may praise you.

With restoration comes responsibility. We speak to the “rebels” knowing we are people who have been part of the rebellion. This is not an arrogant “I will teach.” This is a humble desire to show others the way home.

We also are reminded this is King David’s psalm of repentance, and that the king knew his sins went beyond lust and adultery. Through abuse of power, he had shed the blood of Uriah, and perhaps he also felt the weight of having killed with his own hand.

Even with dark pasts, forgiveness is possible, as is life beyond our sins. Drunks and addicts become counselors, once God has worked on them. Thieves become respected advocates for the downtrodden, if they let God in. Killers may face a lifetime of worldly punishment, but with an understanding of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, they also can become remarkable conduits of grace in very frightening places.

Teach! Sing! Praise! It is your right—not a right you have earned, but one earned for you by Jesus Christ on the cross.

Lord, give us visions of new paths and our lives restored for the benefit of others. Amen.

Oh, the Humanity!

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Devotional for Saturday, April 4

Matthew 17:2
And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.

If you were in the Luminary sanctuary Feb. 23, you heard the story of Jesus’ divinity being revealed to Peter, James and John in the Transfiguration. I described this as God’s revelation of a deeper, unseen reality, evidence that there is more going on than what we usually experience with our senses.

In the week to come, we will see Jesus’ humanity fully revealed. Blood will flow across his face, and his stained clothes will be stripped off him. At one point, the Son of God will be so cut off from the Father that he will quote Psalm 22, crying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Try not to look away. You will witness God taking our side, broken for us so that we may be lifted up to eternal life despite our sin. It is a remarkable thing: The Creator utters the same lament we all have felt at one time or another.

This is mysterious, but it also is the most comforting kind of mystery. Sinful humans don’t deserve this kind of attention. God is holy, and rightly demands to be surrounded only by what is holy, but God has another powerful motivation. God is love. He has taken on flesh so we can be made holy through sheer belief.

Prepare yourselves. The Son of Man is about to perform the greatest work of love ever done.

Lord, may the story we hear this coming week change us for the better, drawing us closer to you. Amen.

Things Plainly Said

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Devotional for Friday, April 3

Matthew 20:17-19
As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside privately and told them what was going to happen to him. “Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die. Then they will hand him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified. But on the third day he will be raised from the dead.”

Despite being so stuck in place, we need to ready ourselves for a journey. Starting Sunday, we are going to walk with Jesus into Jerusalem, following him through the week toward the cross. And once we’re through the horror of it all, we will experience something astonishingly beautiful.

We will spend today and tomorrow remembering some of what we heard while we were gathered in our sanctuary earlier this year. Jesus did not sugarcoat what was going to happen to him. In fact, as demonstrated in the verses above, he was quite plain about being arrested, beaten and killed on a cross, and then raised from the dead.

Clearly, what Jesus was saying went over the disciples’ heads, despite his bluntness. After hearing Jesus say he would be crucified, James and John, aided by their mother, began jockeying for positions alongside Jesus in his kingdom, one at his right hand, one at his left.

“You don’t know what you are asking!” Jesus replied.

It is obvious none of the disciples understood God’s plan to redeem the world through Jesus Christ until after the resurrection had occurred. Hindsight is much clearer. If I had lived among them, raised in their context amidst the confusion roiling their world, I’m sure Jesus’ plain teachings would have eluded me, too.

Recognizing their confusion will help us better understand some of their behaviors in the stories we will see during Holy Week, as we move toward Easter on April 12.

The disciples’ confusion also reminds us that we need to stick to the plain teachings God gave to post-resurrection people. We can forget some important principles in the midst of our modern-day troubles.

Yes, the world remains a broken place. Jesus said suffering and sadness would abound.

Yes, Christ will return, setting all things right, undoing in a most final way the power of sin and death! Jesus made us a promise.

And yes, in the meantime, we are to be busy declaring who Jesus Christ is, sensing the Holy Spirit’s leading. God still empowers us, comforts us, and works through us for the betterment of the world.

Lord, may we be plain examples of your kingdom for all the world to see. Amen.