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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



September 18

I delight in the way of your decrees as much as in all riches. Psalm 119:14

Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasures things new and old. Matthew 13:52 NASB

Does anyone actually take delight in following all the rules? After all, we do hear that rules are made to be broken. I heard a caller on a radio show, which was discussing the Minneapolis proposal to lower speed limits, that “there are rules, and then there are rules.” Maybe ok to speed a little, but not to run a red light? Or ok to forget to use the turn signal but never be on a cell phone while driving?

The verse from Matthew is the eighth in a series of parables that Jesus told. Most are told as “the kingdom of heaven is like” then the seventh is followed by a question:  Do the disciples understand? Yes, they say, they do understand what Jesus has just taught them. Finally, in the eighth parable, we hear about a scribe and a head of household. The term “scribe” is also used here. A scribe in this context is a person well-versed in the scriptures, the Law of Moses. He read it to the people, and he explained it so all could understand. Jesus expects the disciples to do this. They need to know the Law of Moses and the new Good News of the Gospel. They are to use both old and new and teach all so that they can understand. After all, Jesus said that he didn’t come to do away with the Law, but to fulfill it. 

The head of a household would be expected to know all about what he has in a storehouse or pantry. There may be some old items, aged wine or maybe aged meat and sausage, that are good to bring out and serve to guests. Plus he would know what new items he has that they will enjoy eating. One commentary says that “the head of a household represents the work of the true minister and teacher who feeds the household of faith from a rich storehouse of essential spiritual treasures.” The apostles, and the church Jesus would build, would bring forth a treasure of knowledge and understanding, “things new and old.” (Forerunner commentary)

When we consider that God’s laws and rules are for our benefit, that the old is fulfilled through the new in Jesus Christ, we can rejoice with the Psalmist. We too can delight in God’s decrees as much as in riches.

Dear Lord, we delight in your word and in your promise of love, grace, and forgiveness. These are the treasures you have given us. Earthly treasures fade away, but your love never does. It endures forever. Help us to listen to your Word, that we may treasure your new way as fulfillment of your law.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Chris Gabel



September 17

I cry to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. Psalm 57:2

It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. I Corinthians 15:43

“A master can tell you what he expects of you. A teacher, though, awakens your own expectations.” Patricia Neal

I am going to guess that I am not the only one whose life didn’t turn out as expected. When I was 18 the whole world was in front of me. However, I never worked in my degree field, couldn’t have kids, got divorced, haven’t remarried and have all of a sudden gotten old!!! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not whining, it’s been a terrific ride! I’ve had fun, met great friends, worked at interesting places, and enjoyed almost every minute of it. Let’s just say that life can hand you all kinds of surprises, life can be unexpected and not always live up to our expectations.

It’s not hard to love and praise God when all is going well, but it’s harder when the bottom falls out. It’s not hard to sing songs of praise when all the bills are paid, but it’s a little harder to sing when we’re not sure where our next meal is coming from, or when our loved ones disappoint us, or when our bodies are racked with pain. Often, when life doesn’t meet our expectations, it disrupts our relationship with God and we find ourselves asking what good is all this faith? Why am I here? Is there a purpose to my life?

Maybe you shoveled snow for your elderly neighbor last winter and plan to do it again. Maybe you smiled and said “Hi”, to a lonely stranger yesterday, and he felt seen for the first time in weeks. Or you called a cousin, whom you hadn’t talked to for months, brightening her day. I think that it is the small things in life that give our lives purpose and make us feel like waking up every day, thanking Him for giving us another chance.

It’s hard sometimes to keep going when life continues to fall short of our expectations. But we are encouraged to stay anchored in God when disappointment comes our way, because He knows and He cares. When life fails to meet our expectations, when we are in trouble, regardless of where the trouble came from, He is there to ease our troubled minds, He is there to calm our fears and He is there to help us meet those expectations, every day.

Gracious Lord, I am grateful that you have a purpose for my life. Without that purpose, my life would be meaningless and I would remain weak. Remind me that you have raised me to a new life in Christ. Help me to serve you by doing those things you have equipped me to do. Amen. 

Peace,

Susan Hanson



September 13

“Moreover, it is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.”  Ecclesiastes 3:13

“Give us this day our daily bread.”  Matthew 6:11

Taking pleasure in toil might seem an oxymoron to some.  It depends on how you feel about what you do … enjoying your line of work, pride in a job well done, the rewards of labor – home, car, some left over for a bit of pleasure, certainly having enough to eat.  I grew up on a small dairy farm.  All were expected to do farm work, girls inside work as well, to manage a large family.  I suppose to many it would seem toil, but I look back fondly on our lifestyle.  Our farm and our work fed us well; home-grown, home-made for the next year.  I see the same love of labor in happy gardeners!

We open the refrigerator and ask, “What’s there to eat?”  We look at the leftovers and whine, “Not this again!”  Some do not have daily bread … not just far away refugee camps, under bridges, inner city, but in our own communities and neighborhood schools.  Some farmers hack away at dry brittle ground, seeing nothing grow, while others watch the water rise and spread.  “The eyes of all wait upon thee…” we say – feeding people is God’s work.  What would you do to have enough to eat, to feed your family?  How much do we need for ourselves before we can think about giving something to others?  The world has too many “Old Mother Hubbards”.  We recently celebrated God’s Work – Our Hands Sunday, accepting God’s work as our responsibility, our grateful response. 

“In the just reward of labour, God’s will is done.  In the help we give our neighbour, God’s will is done.

 In our world-wide task of caring, for the hungry and despairing, in the harvests we are sharing,

God’s will is done.”  Amen                                                                           (Prayer text:  Fred Pratt Green)

 

Verla Olson



September 11

You must not distort justice; you must not show partiality; and you must not accept bribes for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of those who are in the right. Deuteronomy 16:19

 

Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness. 2 Timothy 2:19

 

The words in Deuteronomy appear to be directed to those being appointed as judges. Judges were appointed in each of the towns that the people were given by God. Being fair would seem to be what the judges, all judges, should be doing. I recently heard a presentation by a dog trainer and judge at a dog show. In her presentation, she emphasized that there was no way to bribe her (or the other judges), or do anything else to influence her decision as she picked the best dog, or best junior handler. Likewise, we expect judges in our courts to be fair, to listen to both sides, consider the laws, and act accordingly. 

 

Note, also that the verse is actually directed at those who are picking the judges. This is as Moses is at the end of his time of doling out impartial justice. Now others must take this over. And, the duty of appointing judges and having fair judgment is placed on the people. They do the selecting, and they ensure that the judges are fair, and impartial. 

 

The verse from 2 Timothy is part of what is said to be an inscription on God’s solid foundation. This foundation stands firm on two points: first, God knows His people, and second, there is a human responsibility to turn from wickedness as part of His church. We are also to be fair, and not show partiality. Certainly we are not to treat one group of people differently than we treat another. After all, the one God made us all and called His creation good. As followers of Jesus we witness to our faith by our actions. Jesus taught: “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.” (John 14:23) His teaching was summarized in love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself.

 

O Lord, we are yours. Help us to remember this when we are tempted to take the easy, more comfortable road. You are just and your promises are true. You are all we need. Help us today to leave our wickedness behind us as we witness to the freedom and confidence we have in you.  Help us to live according to your teachings, and to be honest, loving, and just in dealing with others. Amen. 

 

Chris Gabel