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October 16

Do not delay me, since the Lord has made my journey successful. Genesis 24:56 

Jesus . . . saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. Matthew 9:9

Matthew probably had no idea what was in store for him when he got up from his tax booth and followed Jesus. He left behind the things that he used in tax collecting, to follow this man that he had most likely heard quite a bit about. In the next verses we read that Jesus went to his home for dinner. Jesus was criticized for eating with one of the hated tax collectors and sinners, and responds that He came to those who are sick. Not to the righteous but to sinners. So, here he is following Jesus and being called a sinner.

Matthew is mentioned among the disciples at the Ascension of Jesus, but little else is actually about him. Tradition says that, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, his ministry was in Judea. He later was a missionary to the East including Ethiopia (not the country in Africa and Persia. There isn’t even any agreement as to whether he died a natural death or that of a martyr. In the Catholic tradition, since he was a tax collector, he is the patron saint of bankers.

So, what did Matthew get for following Jesus? Certainly not fame and fortune; no monuments, not even a known burial place. He even gets called a sinner, but one that Jesus comes to as part of the Good News being spoken to everyone. This is certainly a message for us. We all are sinners in the sight of God, but we too can be called by and follow Jesus. We don’t get the actual person of Jesus walking up to us and saying “Follow me,” but we do still get that call. Most of us hesitate, not wanting to get up and follow leaving things behind that seem so important. Yet God continues to forgive us and lead us so that we may follow where He leads. Just like Matthew, we don’t know where we might end up, but we can trust in the Lord who is gracious and faithful to us.

Gracious Lord, you call us to follow you. Guide us so to understand success – and what in life really matters – that we can truly, with joy and faithfulness, follow you.  Forgive our diversions, distractions, and detours. Help us to focus our eyes on you and direct us back onto your path.  Even when we are not sure exactly where that may take us, help us continue to listen for your guidance and lead others to you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Chris Gabel



October 15

Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant. Psalm 86:16

If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say this to a mountain, ‘Move from here to there, and it will move’; and nothing will be impossible for you. Matthew 17:20

What is faith, and how does it differ from belief? I think the simplest explanation is that faith is trust. We trust God to take care of us, to do good for us, to give us eternal life.

Trust means knowing that God exists, knowing that he is good, knowing that he has the power to do what he wants, and trusting that he will use it to do whatever is best for us. Trust means a willingness to put ourselves under him, to be willing to obey not out of fear but out of love. When we trust God, we love him.

Trust is shown by what we do. But the action is not the trust, and it does not create the trust—it is only the result of trust. True faith is, at its core, trust in Jesus Christ.

“Faith makes things possible, not easy.”  Author Unknown

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”  Martin Luther King Jr.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place. You show your steadfast love and kindness, making a way through our deserts and valleys. I am overcome by your greatness and my smallness. Magnify your work through me today to reach those who are lost and feel no possibility of change. You are the miracle worker I need and praise today. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



October 9

Jacob said, “Come, let us go up to Bethel, that I may make an altar there to the God who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone. “ Genesis 35:2,3 

Give thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:20

I was talking with a friend at the YMCA a couple weeks ago, asking her how she was doing. One thing she said stood out. She is slowly recovering from back surgery and is able to walk a little farther each day. She also mentioned her knee surgery, from 2 years ago, that has healed and therefore her knees are not bothering her much at all. She said, “You have to remember to be grateful that it is so much better than it was.”  She remembers how much worse it was when her knees were also a problem, and then remembers to be grateful for how much better they are. How often do we have something wrong, and then it is better, yet we immediately forget to be thankful for the healing or remedy that has benefitted us? Perhaps we prayed for help, and promised God we would do something in return, and then after we were better, we forgot all about our promise.

Jacob is somewhat in this situation. He has been helped by God, a lot. God answered his prayers when he was distressed and He has been with Jacob. While Jacob feared his reunion with Esau, God had already made it possible for them to now get along. The promise then was to make an altar to God at Bethel, but Jacob lingers along the way. He buys some land, pitches his tent and does erect an altar. But he did not return to Bethel and there was trouble. Chapter 34 relates the story of Dinah and the attack on her and her brothers’ revenge. Now Jacob is worried and feels a need to leave. So finally he starts out for Bethel – as directed by God in Genesis 35:1: “Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you, when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.”

God is also with us at all times, and has provided all that we need. After all, He created the world and everything in it, and called it good. As Paul writes in Ephesians, we should give God thanks at all times for everything that we have.

Lord we rejoice that you are with us wherever we go, right where we are planted in the challenges of Life. God of all places, make of us Bethels, houses of God, your sanctuaries, so that daily, even hourly, we may praise you and show that we are yours, wherever we are. Help us to offer your life, light, and love to the world.   Amen 

Chris Gabel



October 2

When Job’s three friends heard of all these troubles that had come upon him, they sat with him on the ground for seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that h is suffering was very great. Job 2:11, 13

Love bears all things. I Corinthians 13:7

What I remembered about reading in the book of Job were the really long discourses from each of Job’s friends. There were three of them, and between their speeches and Job’s the book of Job goes on for 40 chapters. Of course, there are a few sections where God also speaks. All this talking first from Job about all that is wrong, and his friends “helpfulness” are what we remember.

However, at the beginning of the book, right after all the calamities have befallen Job, the three friends gather with Job. They leave their homes and go to his, when they see him they are shocked. They wept, tore their clothes and sprinkled ash on their own heads as signs of their mourning over all that has happened. And, they don’t start out with those long speeches. For seven days they sit with Job in silence, they sat on the ground with him. Just their presence with him was probably of more comfort to Job than any of their words would have been. 

How often do we rush in to speak what we mean to be words of comfort without even listening or thinking about what will help the person in grief?  We too can comfort by just being with someone who is ill or grieving. Words alone are not always much comfort. Sometimes we even manage to say things that make things worse, make the grieving person feel worse. It can be very hard to find the right words; these friends of Job were smart enough to let their presence speak for them, without the need for any words. Thus they showed their love for their friend.

Paul tells us in I Corinthians that “love bears all things.” No matter what befalls someone that we love, our relatives and friends, love remains constant. This verse is often read at weddings, when troubles come along, loving people will bear with it until things get resolved for the better. How much more does God remain constant in His love for us? Just think of all He has to bear as we manage to break most of the commandments on a daily basis. God is there quietly being with us as we go through life, ready to comfort and forgive. 

Dear Heavenly Father, you bear all the sorrows of life that overwhelm us. When we feel as though we are sinking deeper and deeper, thank you for coming to sit beside us to be with us and to offer comfort.  We thank you for those who lift us up through their presence. Give to us your children, loving hearts and hands to bear the needs of our sisters and brothers. Amen.

Chris Gabel



October 1

He guarded his people as the apple of his eye. Deuteronomy 32:10

We have known and believe the love that God has for us. 1 John 4:16

God loves us to death.

That’s it. God loves us to death. And how can we know this to be true? Because Christ died for us.

This is not something we in any way deserve. The problem is that we can grasp this point with our minds yet miss it with our hearts. How, I wonder, can the truth of this good news penetrate to the core of our being?

The hospital corridor was dark and quiet. Mary was sitting just outside of her son’s room. Jimmy had been born with multiple physical and mental handicaps. His life of seven years had been marked with countless surgeries and therapies. Mary had spent much of her life in hospitals and long-term care facilities, comforting and encouraging Jimmy. He was seldom able to leave the care facilities he had lived in, so Jimmy had led a lonely life. Jimmy had just died and Mary went back into his room where Jimmy’s body lay. All the tubes and wires were still connected and he was tiny and much smaller than a normal seven-year-old boy. His little body was badly twisted and deformed. It was difficult even to look at him without wincing, but not Mary. She looked upon him with eyes of uncompromised love. She touched his face and spoke quietly to him, even though he couldn’t hear anymore. She tenderly kissed his cheek many times. Jimmy had meant a great deal to Mary, and she would miss him very much. 

She loved with the kind of love that was far, far beyond any ordinary love. It was the undeserved, unabashed, unquenchable love of a mother for her child. Whereas we would see Jimmy as someone marred in his appearance, almost beyond human semblance, Mary saw him as a beautiful, lovely human being. Jimmy had not earned her love with his handsomeness or his human achievements. Mary loved him simply, freely, graciously, all of Jimmy’s life. Had she been able to do so, Mary would have exchanged places with Jimmy that night, dying so that he might live. Mary loved her precious son with all she had. Truly, she loved him to death.

Mary’s love for Jimmy is a stirring picture of God’s love for us. God loves us, not because we’re beautiful, not because of what we’ve accomplished, not because of anything we’ve done, but because he is a God of love.

This means that no matter how ugly we might feel, no matter how unworthy, no matter how imperfect, God loves us. He sent his son to die for us. That’s the proof.

Father, how amazing to hear that you look on us with love and delight! Thank you that you guard us more diligently than an orchard keeper guards his crop. Forgive me for doubting your steadfast love and care. Help me hold fast to you with trust and hope. Let your life-giving love soak into me. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson

p.s. my apologies, this is a repeat. An oldie, but a goodie.



September 30

Put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your record? Psalm 56:8

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

God is there. He knows our every weakness, understands our every difficulty, and waits for us to turn our lives over to him. We often hear the phrase, “Let go and let God.” Of course, this is easier said than done.  Sometimes life is too difficult to imagine, and it seems like no one understands and God is far away.

People are overwhelmed by the sights they have seen, by what they have experienced, by what their illnesses or job losses have cost them, by enduring the loss of loved ones, etc. Perhaps you have known such a loss or losses. Comfort comes when we can see the glimmer of hope offered by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When we read the words in today’s verses we know that God knows our every care and loss. It is beyond our comprehension that God cares this much for each one of us, his children. Then we can remember that he cares even more, in that he gave his only begotten son in expiation for our sins. He does indeed, console each of us in all our affliction. 

Dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

Thank you for the consolation found in your love even when we have our most despairing and sorrowful moments. Help us to bring hope to others when we see sorrow, injustice, oppression, and even death itself. May we always seek to share the promises of eternal life as we comfort others. Amen.

Florence Smallfield  



September 27

“Woe to him who piles up stolen goods and makes himself wealthy by extortion!  How long must this go on?”  Habakkuk 2:6

“Take care!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”  Luke 12:15

I can’t see myself breaking into someone else’s garage, sneaking a bracelet or ring into my pocket at Macy’s, switching tags in a fitting room at Kohl’s.  I wouldn’t sneak money from “the till”, cheat at poker, or knowingly trick someone into overpaying for something of little value.  I am not a thief. 

More to the story … Dishonesty isn’t necessarily so blatant – inflating hours on a time card (does anyone still use those?), fudging charitable giving on taxes, not pointing out an incorrect sales slip … subtle untruths that withhold from my employer, my government, a salesperson, keeping more for myself what rightfully is theirs. 

More to the story … I am to guard against greed, one of the “seven deadly sins”.  I believe having enough is important – I even THANK God for it.  The problem is craving more than I need, when material “stuff” grips my focus; and not sharing, keeping things for myself I can’t use that someone else can use and needs.  

More to the story … My Missouri Synod “Luther’s Small (it’s not!) Catechism” includes in its explanation of the 7th commandment longing for anything that belongs to my neighbor.  And more … I am to help him/her improve and protect what is theirs.  I am to help him/her in every need.  I am to rejoice when he/she prospers.

Living the “rest of the story” is harder than simply not stealing.

Gracious God, I ask that your Holy Spirit fill me with contentment and gratitude for all I have been given – family and friends, enough of all I need and then some, and especially your grace.  Help me realize what is enough and to share of the abundance I have been given.  Amen

Verla Olson



September 25

Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live. Deuteronomy 16:20

Continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you hear, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. Colossians 1:23

Justice is very important as we read through the Bible. There are many verses in the Old and the New Testament that use the word, or refer to the concept. Looking at the dictionary definition we see that justice is defined as: “just behavior or treatment,” “the quality of being fair and reasonable,” or the administration of the law or authority in maintaining this.” Synonyms include such things as fair play, equity, and fairness. 

How might we interpret the statement by Moses in his speech to the judges and officials, those the people of Israel have appointed, who are to pursue justice and only justice? There is a reading from the Midrash, subtitled to say that justice is one of the eternal religious obligations of Judaism. Thus by extension all those who hear God’s word are to pursue justice. The author states that Moses and Jeremiah consider justice and compassion to be a requirement of any true religion. “One cannot claim to love God and not be passionate about justice.” Further comments explain that God loves justice even more than sacrifice. There needs to be a firm commitment to making the world a more just and righteous place. 

How we treat those in our society that are the weakest, the poorest, the “widow and the orphan” as the Bible often terms it, is part of our identity as Christians in Colossians we are told that we need to continue in our faith, securely established, secure in the hope that is promised in the Gospel. Who has heard this Gospel? Paul says that everyone has. Not even just the people who hear the words but it includes every creature under heaven.  All the creatures that God created are entitled to justice and fairness in our dealings. We pray that we can have justice throughout our world and we trust in God’s promise that this will happen.

Lord, you call us to pursue justice, help us on those days when this seems so futile. Forgive us for our despondency for doubting that with you, things can get better. We need faith Lord; help us to hold steadfast and sure to our faith and hope in your promises of salvation everyone. Proclaim again your truth to us and let your just words of hope and peace ring out all around our world. Amen. 

Chris Gabel

Note: the Midrash is an ancient commentary on parts of the Bible from the Jewish tradition.



September 24

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones. Isaiah 49:13

I am confident about all of you, that my joy would be the joy of all of you. 2 Corinthians 2:3

I have often asked my self whether it’s right to experience joy in a world so ravaged. If we, as flawed human beings in a flawed world, have a right to joy? Because the world is filled with horrible dangers, and if dreaded things happened to people we love, would they forever after be doomed? If “this” or “that” were to take place, would joy forever be beyond my reach and I would just never, ever be truly happy again.

It took years of living and learning, and the personal experience of some of those dreaded devastating events, to find out that joy was not something God distributed as a reward to those who managed to live their lives avoiding pain. Joy was, instead, an integral part of our human spirit. I did not need to seek it, I only needed to stop fearing, and seeking, long enough to let it be. I learned that in my own life, as well as in the lives of those around me, pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional, and moving beyond suffering and myself, by mindfully living fully in that moment………….. joy happens!

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

Your joy in me Lord, is joy to me. Thank you for your comfort and compassion, which let me rest in you. The gift of your Creation both cradles me to sleep and wakes me into the day. Let confidence in your love be my companion as I follow you, especially through the pain of life and death. Amen.

Peace,

Susan Hanson



September 20

The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord, and the neediest people shall exult in the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 29:19

The Pharisees…said to his disciples, “Why do you eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Matthew 9:11

The Lord tells us over and over how to treat the neediest people around us. We have the tools–the ability to love with compassion, the faith to value all God’s children, the ability to pray without ceasing, the eyes to see the needs surrounding us, and the strength to do all we can for others. Do we always do as God would have us to do? Of course not. We are humans who all fall short of the glory of God. 

Yet, we often show our best by caring for others in ways we can hardly imagine. There would be such a dearth of help in this world without people who care and then carry out deeds of goodness and mercy. I think of the man who donated millions to help to renovate the Washington Monument. I think of the thousands who appear to help in any way after a natural disaster. I think of the food shelves staffed mainly by volunteers. There are needs being filled, both large and small, far beyond anything I could write about here. Thank God for those who feel their abundance can be shared.

Christ the King serves Wednesday evening dinners to many church members and community neighbors every week. Sometimes my husband and I volunteer to serve. Recently, when we were about done serving and then sat down to eat ourselves, my husband and I joined two of the guests whom we had not met previously. One told us that she had to eat as much as she possibly could last night, because she didn’t think she would have an opportunity to eat today. The other told us of the challenges of living on her meager income. She feels that the challenges brought on contribute to her medical issues. Both told us repeatedly of how thankful they are that Christ the King serves Wednesday evening meals. Two people out of millions: does it matter? Of course, it does. Remember the parable of the lost sheep. Any time ones who need help are helped, God’s plan for us is being carried out.

Dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Thank you for the abundant life we have in you. Help us to always see the needs in others and to bring provisions, hope, and maybe even some joy into their lives. We live in your abiding light. Thanks be to you! Amen.

Florence Smallfield