These devotional thoughts are based on the Narrative Lectionary Reading for Sunday, October 26, 2014
1 Kings 3:4-9 (10-15) 16-28
Monday, October 20, 2014
“The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there” (1 Kings 3:4).
Sacrifices come in all shapes and sizes. Sue sacrificed her time (and a good night’s sleep) chaperoning a lock-in for her congregation’s high school youth. Randy and Ken set their financial giving goal significantly higher in order to help fund a new mission, in which their congregation was involved. Raul spent a day helping his co-worker move. Clara knitted caps for infants in the neonatal care unit of the local hospital, and Solomon offered several head of livestock on the altar of the Lord.
Sacrifice is woven into the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ. The purpose of such sacrifices is not to gain the favor of the Lord—that is already a reality. Sacrifice is a response to God’s gracious movement in our lives; it is a way to say, “Thank You,” and share our blessings with others. Increasing generosity—sacrifice—is a common characteristic of those who are growing in their lives of faith and walk with the Lord.
O God who gives and who holds nothing back except his wrath, help us to follow your example of generosity so that others might be blessed and our lives may be full. Amen.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
“Ask what I should give you” (1 Kings 3:5).
We can’t read this passage without pausing to wonder how we would have responded to God’s invitation. Some people say they’d ask to win a lottery, while others mention improved health or a better job. What would you ask for?
Most of the time we need to confess that our requests would be self-centered. We’re concerned about our wealth, health, comfort and security. Though we might give a significant portion of our lottery winnings away, most of the money would be used for our benefit. The amazing thing about Solomon’s answer to the Lord’s invitation is that it is so selfless and other orientated.
The argument could be made that Solomon already had significant wealth, comfort and security. The argument misses the point. The historian who wrote this story doesn’t mention that as one of Solomon’s considerations. Solomon, at this point in his life, was focused on being a good king and on ruling his people justly. Solomon’s response uncovers an area where many of us need to grow in our lives—to think of others before we think of ourselves.
Loving God, move within us that we may be more concerned for the welfare of others than we are for ourselves—knowing that you will care for us. Amen.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
“You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant, my father, David” (1Kings 3:6).
While he is contemplating his response to God’s invitation, Solomon reflects on God’s graciousness. He recalls what God had done in and through David. God had shown David great and steadfast love.
It is good, at times in our lives, to ponder God’s gracious activity in our lives. Luther writes, in his explanation to the first article of the Apostles’ Creed, “God has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still preserves them: also clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and home, wife and children, fields, cattle, and all my goods; that he richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life” (Luther’ Small Catechism, Concordia Publishing, St. Louis, 1943, p.91). Who we are and everything that we have is a demonstration of God’s overwhelming grace and steadfast love.
When confronted with all that God has done in our lives, it is difficult to ask for more. It is easy, though, to break out in thanksgiving and praise. Like David, God has done great things in and through us.
Gracious God, Thank you, thank you, thank you! May our words and actions reflect our thankfulness for all that you have done in our lives. Amen.
Thursday, October 23, 2014
“Give your servant an understanding mind … able to discern between good and evil:” (1 Kings 3:9).
There is a saying from the American Indians that states, “Don’t criticize another person until you have walked a mile in his (her) shoes.” This is good advice. It is so easy for us to judge without understanding: The teenager with sagging jeans, T-shirt and hoody doesn’t have a purpose or a future. The mother who loudly reprimands her per-schooler in Target is a poor mother. The person who pays for groceries with food stamps is lazy and probably a drug user. The Latino waiting for work is most likely undocumented. Our lack of understand prevents us from being empathetic and impedes our ability to love.
Solomon made a wise choice in requesting an understanding mind. His office as king and his wealth would separate him from the people he governed. An understanding mind would allow him to stay connected and make decisions that would be for the good of his people.
In this complex world, we too need an understanding mind. Such a mind is necessary for our words and actions to reflect God’s love and grace, and for us to effectively minister to the needs of the people.
O God of wisdom, grant us an understanding mind, as you did Solomon, that we may understand, love and minister to the people around us. Amen.
Friday, October 24, 2014
“Then Solomon awoke; it had been a dream” (1Kings 3:15).
While attending a woman’s weekend retreat, Jill sensed that the Holy Spirit was speaking to her—inviting her to become more involved in her congregation’s ministry to the homeless. Brad was thinking about entering into a new business venture. He talked with some friends in his congregation and sought their opinion. In the middle of the night, Kara woke with a feeling that she needed to call a friend with whom she had not talked for several months. Obeying her feeling she called her friend. Her friend had just learned of her father’s death and needed to hear Kara’s words of comfort and assurance.
The Holy Spirit speaks to us and guides us in many ways. Solomon had a conversation with the Lord, and then he woke from his dream. The amazing truth is not that God has the ability to communicate with us, but rather that God wants to be intimately involved in our lives. God wants to guide us and have us follow. God seeks to use our gifts and talents in specific ways so that more people experience God’s kingdom.
Gracious Lord, open our ears that we may hear your voice, and then send us because we are ready to go. Amen.
Saturday, October 25, 2014
“Please, my Lord, give her the living boy; certainly do not kill him” (1 Kings 3:26)!
In order to save his life, the mother, in this story, was willing to give up her son. Her love was so great that she wanted him to live and enjoy life even if it wasn’t under her care and protection. Because of her love, the mother was willing to release her son. Love is a powerful motivator—especially when it is in response to God’s overwhelming, steadfast love.
We witness the power of love in our everyday lives. Parents give up time, sleep, money and much more for their children. Love empowers volunteers to leave their comfort zones and serve in food banks, soup kitchen, and rescue shelters. Love enables faith communities to serve, support and hold each other accountable. Because of love, we “give up” so that we can reach out and touch another’s life.
Love may not make the world go around—the laws of nature do that. Love, however, is the only force that is capable of counteracting and overcoming the selfishness and self-centeredness, which was displayed by the other women in the story—a sinfulness that would allow the death of an innocent out of spite.
Almighty God, the forces of sin, selfishness and self-centeredness are powerful in this world. Fill us full of your love that we may overflow and love so much that the power of sin and selfishness are conquered. Amen.
Sunday, October 26, 2014
“They perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to execute justice” (1Kings 3:28).
Humankind seeks justice. We want to be treated fairly and equally. A world where the good are blessed and those who are evil get their comeuppance is something that we dream about. Our longing causes us to rejoice when our leaders act justly, and when they pass just legislation. It is also why we become upset and agitated when we witness blatant abuses and displays of injustice. Our longing for justice inspires a hope within us that Jesus will come again and establish a just, loving kingdom on earth.
Until Jesus’ return, we are the one’s called and empowered to act justly, advocate for justice, and stand on the side of those who are oppressed and who experience injustice. We are tempted to not become involved and to let injustice prevail. Our dreams will never become a reality nor will God’s call upon our lives be realized, if we do nothing. We are a vital part of bringing in God’s kingdom of justice.
O God of justice, forgive us when we stand quietly by and allow injustices to take place. Give us the courage, boldness and commitment to seek justice for all your children. Amen.