Devotions for September 26 – October 2, 2016
Exodus 12:1-13; 13:1-8
Monday, September 26, 2016
“This month shall mark for you the beginning of months” (Exodus 12:2).
Akihito walked through the door of the Silicon Valley tech giant. One month ago he was walking down the aisle to receive his degree; now he was starting his new job. A new chapter in his life was beginning. Lamar looked at the calendar and realized that it was a year ago since he received a new heart. That transplant operation had given him new life and a new lifestyle.
The Lord instructed the Israelites to make the month of the Passover as the first month of their year. The Passover marked a new beginning. The Israelites were moving from slavery into freedom; nothing would be the same.
Newness is a theme for followers of Jesus. We may mark our baptism as the beginning of our new lives. Other followers may consider the day they chose to walk in the reality of God’s kingdom as their new beginning. Still others view each day as a new beginning. Whatever our starting point we rejoice that God has made all things new.
Holy Lord, through confession and repentance enable us to put the guilt and shame of the past behind us and live in your love and grace today. Amen.
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
“Your lamb shall be without blemish” (Exodus 12:5).
It was their third anniversary and James wanted to show his love to his wife, Jeanine. He decided to give her flowers. As a young married couple James and Jeanine didn’t have a lot of money and James was shocked at the price of a dozen roses. James decided to purchase a discounted bouquet. The blossoms were full and showed a little age. James reasoned, though, that it was the thought that counted. When James presented Jeanine with the flowers she was less than impressed with his expression of love.
Love inspires us to do crazy, extravagant things–something more than hand-me-downs, imitations and beyond-expiration-dates. We may present our love with fewer flowers, but at least they will be fresh. The loving relationship that we have with God inspires us to generosity. The Lord has loved us without limitations and invites us to respond in the same manner.
Generous God, thank you for your abundant gifts. You have held nothing back. May your love inspire us to hold nothing back as we share your love and grace. Amen.
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
“This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet” (Exodus 12:12).
The Israelites had been waiting for a long time. They had been in Egypt for over four hundred years. Most of that time was spent in slavery. When people wait for a long time they tend to lose hope. They stop being prepared for God to answer their prayers and they are not ready to receive God’s answer.
God was now moving to answer the Israelites’ prayers. Once the Egyptians discovered the death of their firstborns, the Israelites needed to be ready to move. The Israelites needed to celebrate the Passover with girded loins and sandals feet.
One of the last things Jesus said to his followers was that they needed to be watchful, or ready. As followers of Jesus, we need to be ready, too. We need to be ready to tell people our stories and why we are followers of Jesus. We need to be ready to share God’s love and grace whenever opportunities present themselves. We need to be ready to show mercy and to stand for justice. The Lord is moving and we need to be ready.
Almighty God, we see you moving in our lives and in our world. Enable us to be ready to be used by your Spirit and to be a part of your moving. Amen.
Thursday, September 29, 2016
“The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; when I see the blood I will pass over you.” (Exodus 12:13).
The Israelites understood what a sacrifice was. Sacrifice of animals was a part of the Egyptian religions that surrounded them. Sacrifice was probably part of their lives as descendants of Abraham. When they chose the lamb and prepared for the Passover, they understood that painting the lambs blood on their door frames and feasting on the lamb was not a sacrifice–at least not a sacrifice for their sins. The Israelites were identifying themselves as people of God and were acting in faithful obedience to the Lord.
On the cross, God was demonstrating the depths of God’s love for creation. Jesus was experiencing the totality of human existence: pain, suffering and the evil that is a part of us. At our baptisms, God was identifying us as God’s children, part of God’s family and as people who have been called to lives of love of service.
The Israelites looked back on the Passover and remembered what God had done, who they were, and that they continued to be a part of God’s story. As followers of Jesus, we look back on the cross and our baptism and remember what God has done, who we are, and that we are part of God’s continuing story.
Lord, you have gathered us into your family. Empower us with your Holy Spirit and use us. Amen.
Friday, September 30, 2016
“Remember this day on which you came out of Egypt” (Exodus 12:13a).
Occasionally when the Franklin family gathered for a reunion, they would talk about a cold November night years and years ago. Jack, a grade-schooler who always slept on his stomach with his head buried in his pillow woke up in the middle of the night dizzy and nauseous. Scared, he staggered to his parents bedroom and tried to wake them. They would mumble and move their heads, but they would not wake up. Jack called 911. When the firefighters arrived they found the Franklins near death from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a faulty furnace. In the years that followed, the Franklins told that story as a reminder of how fragile life is and how a gracious and loving God had moved in their lives.
Passover is a celebration remembered by Jews around the world. They gather together as families with roast lamb and other symbolic foods to remind themselves of what God has done in their history. They were slaves in Egypt. God heard their prayerful cries and through acts of wonder led them out of Egypt, through the wilderness and into the Promised Land. This event shaped their lives. They lived in the present remembering how God moved in their lives in the past.
We have stories and our families have stories of how God has moved in our lives. These stories remind us of God’s presence, love and grace and how our lives have been shaped by God’s movement. Our memories comfort us and inspire us to live lives shaped by our own stories.
Loving God, may our stories of your love and grace encourage us in our struggles and inspire us to live for more than the present moment. Amen.
Saturday, October 1, 2016
Because the Lord brought you out from there by the strength of his hand” (Genesis 13:3b).
An off hand comment saved Sarah’s life. While at the beach with friends one of them asked Sarah, “What’s that mark on the back of your leg?” Sarah didn’t know so she had it checked out. That mark turned out to be a melanoma. A friend’s question allowed a deadly cancer to be diagnosed in its early stages. Karen had been out of a job for several months and was getting desperate. She had brought a ream of resumes to the job fair with the dim hope that she would find a job. Karen didn’t find a job, but the next best thing–a childhood friend whose company was hiring. Their chance encounter enabled Karen to leave the job fair with a new position. Both Sarah and Karen looked back on these events and realized that their lives were not solely the product of their natural talents and hard work. God was moving.
The Israelites looked back on their time in Egypt and realized how enslaved they had been. They had been weak and demoralized. There was no way that they would have been able to free themselves from their servitude to the Egyptians. Their freedom was because God heard their prayers, broke their bonds and led them out of Egypt and slavery. God had acted in a mighty way.
We may be extremely gifted and hard workers, but life is more than that. Life is filled with coincidences, gut feelings, off hand comments and little miracles. Life is filled with God’s presence and power. For this we offer God our thanks and praise.
O Holy Spirit, we are in you and you are in us moving in ways we do not fully realize or comprehend. Thank you. Amen.
Sunday, October 2, 2016
“You shall tell your child on that day” (Exodus 13:8).
Life is filled with mysteries for children and children are filled with questions. “Why do we celebrate Christmas and Easter and go to church most Sundays?” “Why do we say a prayer before we eat?” “Why do mom and dad read their Bibles and pray?” “Why do we give money to the church when we could use it for ourselves?” “Why do we volunteer to work at the food pantry, or take care of an elderly neighbor’s yard?”
All those questions are opportunities for us, as adults, to tell God’s story and our stories. They are occasions when we can share what we believe and why we believe. Such conversations are ways that our children’s faith are informed and nourished. They are ways that the faith is passed down from person to person and generation to generation. If we do not tell the story and answer the questions, who will?
God of Wonder, thank you for questions and for the opportunity they give us to tell the story and share the faith. Enable us to take advantage of such occasions. Amen.