Hope is the theme of our readings this week. Ezekiel spends some time with dry bones as the people of Israel feel hopless after recieving punishment from God. Paul tells us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus and implores Christians to live in the Holy Spirit rather than in the flesh. Finally, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, giving us the hope that all who die in Christ will be raised on the last day.
Old Testament: Ezekiel 37:1--14
Epistle: Romans 8:1--11
Gospel: John 11:1--53
Water is a foundational element for life on Earth and it also happens to be the theme in our readings this week. The people of Israel complain about not having water in the desert so Moses strikes a rock and they have water to drink. God pours out his Spirit like water into our hearts so that we can rejoice in our sufferings and Jesus shares living water with the people in Samaria.
Old Testament: Exodus 17:1--7
Epistle: Romans 5:1--8
Gospel: John 4:5--26 (27--30, 39--42)
Faith is our focus this week as we see Abram stepping out in faith to follow God to a new land when he was already 75 years old. Paul tells us that it was God's gift of faith to Abraham that caused him to be saved, not his own works and Jesus clarifies things for Nicodemus so that he too may know how one enters the Kingdom of Heaven and what Jesus mission was on earth.
Old Testament: Genesis 12:1--9
Epistle: Romans 4:1--8, 13--17
Gospel: John 3:1--17
In the name of Jesus our Savior, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church welcomes you to ‘Dial-a-Devotion’, this is Vicar Tom Schlund. Our text for today is Romans 16:17-20 which reads:
“17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”
Can’t we all just get along? That seems to be a common desire for people today. It is more comfortable if we’re getting along. We can avoid conflict and lead peaceful lives. This sounds pretty good doesn’t it?
In our text for today we hear Paul saying something that sounds pretty similar to this idea of just getting along. In a way, that is what we have, but Paul adds a little twist. Paul warns that those who are reading his letter should avoid people who cause divisions in the Church. If you’ve spent any time in the church you know that there are times when people cause divisions and conflict. We can look at the number of denominations in the world as a visible sign of this division that has taken place.
It is sad that the church has become as divided as it is. When we look at these divisions it can be easy to ask the question, “Why can’t we just get along?” Isn’t it enough to simply say that we all are saved and been baptized? Some may say, “Let’s get rid of all this doctrine that divides us and focus more on the things that matter.”
But is that what Paul is saying? Does he think that we should just throw out all that divides us so that we can get along? No! If you notice, he continues by telling us that those who are causing the divisions do it by teaching contrary to what you have been taught and that it is driven by their own appetite and through smooth talk and flattery, they’re able to win other people over.
Paul says he wants his hearers to be wise to what is good and innocent to what is evil. Knowing the scripture and doctrine in its truth and purity helps us to know Jesus Christ and his work of salvation in the world through his perfect live, his death, and his resurrection. So we cling to this good news, we defend it, and we share it and we stay away from those to try to teach us something contrary so that we can live peaceful lives.
Let us pray:
Dear gracious heavenly Father, we give you thanks for your word and for the good news about Jesus our savior. Help us to live peaceful lives with everyone around us. Preserve your word and your teaching among us so that the good news about Jesus may be shared with all people. We ask all of this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
In the name of Jesus our Savior, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church welcomes you to ‘Dial-a-Devotion’, this is Vicar Tom Schlund. Our text for today is Romans 12:10-21 which reads:
10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
The life of a Christian is strange. There is no getting around it. Some people think that you can be a Christian and just live your life however you want to. Unfortunately, that is not true, there is a certain way that Christians live because of their salvation. Fortunately, Paul outlines the Christian life for us in the book of Romans.
You may know that Romans is the longest letter that Paul writes. He writes such a long letter because he hasn’t been to Rome yet and wants to make sure that he and the Christiians in Rome are on the same page about faith and life. In the first chapters he tells us how we are sinner, but how God connects us to Jesus’ death through our baptism.
In our text today we hear how we are to live now that we have been baptized. First Paul says that we should love each other with brotherly love, then we’re supposed to outdo each other in showing honor, we’re supposed to rejoice in the hope that we have while being patient during our troubles. Paul says we’re supposed to bless those who persecute us and we aren’t supposed to repay evil for evil. We are supposed to live peaceably with all people and to overcome evil with good.
Wow! That’s not how the world tells us that we are supposed to live. We’re continuously told that we’re supposed to look out for #1, ourselves. The most important thing in life is that we are happy. This means that we love, care about, and live peaceful lives with others only as long as it makes us happy.
But like I said at the beginning, the life of a Christian is strange. We live this way not because we’re trying to earn our salvation, or prove to God or those around us how good we are. No, we live this way in thanksgiving to God for what he has done for us. The forgiveness that he gives us through Jesus’ death on the cross frees us to love God and our neighbor. John tells us that "by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Let us pray:
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for showing your love to us through your Son. Help us to live peaceable lives with others , showing your love to our friends and enemies alike. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen
In the name of Jesus our Savior, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church welcomes you to ‘Dial-a-Devotion’, this is Vicar Tom Schlund. Our text for today is from Romans 6:1-5 which reads:
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
Water is such a powerful substance. We need water to live. Without water we can become dehydrated, get sick and eventually die. People, plants, and animals all need water to survive. However, water isn’t simply a life giving substance, but it is also a life destroying substance. We simply need to recall Hurricane Katrina or Superstorm Sandy and the subsequent flooding that took place after these storms that killed so many people. Drowning can happen in as little water as fills a bathtub in your home or as much as is in the ocean.
It shouldn’t come as much surprise then when God choses such a powerful substance with connections to both life and death as what he uses for our spiritual life and death. God takes water and combines it with his word and gives us the wonderful gift of Baptism.
Paul writes about this great gift in our reading for today. Romans 6 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. It is my favorite because it so clearly explains the life of a Christian and what happens in Baptism. Paul tells us that when we are baptized that we are connected to Christ Jesus’ death on the cross. God uses the water of baptism to kill us. He has to kill us because death is the punishment for sin and we are all sinners. But just like water can both kill and provide life, God uses the water of baptism to raise us from the dead to newness of life.
This newness of life doesn’t mean that you can just do whatever you want and commit whatever sins you want because you know that you’ll be forgiven. Rather, since we have been killed and raised from the dead we live our lives loving God and loving our neighbors. Now, whether you were baptized 70 minutes ago or 70 years ago, this baptismal identity is as fresh and wet on you as the moment it happened. You are a baptized child of God! You are forgiven! Go and love God and serve your neighbor!
Let us pray:
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for using water and your word to kill us and bring us to life. Help us to daily live in our baptismal identity as your sons and daughters and to joyfully respond in our faith toward you and our love toward one another. We ask all of this in Jesus’ name, Amen
In the name of Jesus our Savior, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church welcomes you to ‘Dial-a-Devotion’, this is Vicar Tom Schlund. Our text for today is from Romans 3:23-25 which reads:
“For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”
Are you a Mizzou fan or a KU fan? A Royals fan or a Cardinals fan? A new resident of Concordia or part of a multi-generation family? Are you a democratic or a republican? We like to make distinctions in our lives based on numerous things. We make distinctions based on our culture; we make distinctions based on our economic status, on our sports allegiances. You name it; we probably will make a distinction based on it.
Why do we do this? Often times it is because we like to feel good about ourselves and at least equal to, if not superior than those around us. We put ourselves in groups and aspire to be in these groups and then feel good about ourselves because we’re not a part of all of those other groups that we consider to be inferior. Maybe you have heard a conversation like this: “Who do you cheer for?” “I’m a Mizzou fan” “Oh, good, at least you’re not a KU fan.” I’ve heard this one on numerous occasions. Fill in any of the categories you can think of and you’ll probably find someone having the same conversation.
Paul dealt with distinctions in his time too and we hear about them in our reading for today. He was writing to the church in Rome that was made up of both Jews and Roman citizens. The Jews believed that since they had the law and the heritage through Abraham that they had superior status in the churches. But Paul has something else to say about them and about all people. After building his case for three chapters he finally delivers a knockout punch to the idea that there are superior and inferior people before God. Our text today says “for there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” No distinction. How about that? We are all on the same playing field. Whether you are a Mizzou fan or a KU fan, rich or poor, Republican or Democrat, life time resident or brand new to the community, it doesn’t matter we are all sinners and have all fallen short of God’s law and of his glory.
Fortunately for us the story doesn’t stop there. Otherwise it would be pretty depressing. Paul goes on to say that we are justified by God’s grace as a gift through the redemption won by Christ Jesus on the cross. This is great news! No matter what groups you identify with, God sent his son to die on the cross for you. Jesus rose from the dead for you to win your salvation. Through baptism, God adopts us as his children and makes us heirs of eternal life. Heir of eternal life through Christ Jesus, now there’s a distinction worth having!
Let us pray:
Dear Father in Heaven, thank you for sending your son Jesus into the world. Help us to stop making distinctions in our lives in order to feel superior than others. Help us to show love to others as you have shown to us so that they may come to know the forgiveness and life that is found only through your free gift of grace. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen
My name is Tom. I'm fascinated by the ways that people, ideas, current events and theology interact with each other.