Devotions for November 14-20, 2016
Jeremiah 36:1-8, 21-23, 27-28; 31:31-34
Monday, November 14, 2016
“Take a scroll and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and Judah and all the nations” (Jeremiah 36:2).
Cal Evers listened as Sunday’s gospel lesson was read. The text included Matthew 5:23, “So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister,” Cal looked across the aisle and saw Brooks Cedric. He hadn’t spoken to Brooks for over six months—ever since their little spat at a church pot-luck meal. Suddenly Cal knew that he had to mend his relationship with Brooks. Carlota saw Juanita hit the back of her ten year-old son’s head with her hand. Juanita had a habit of doing that and it bothered Carlota. She didn’t believe it was a good way to parent and was a poor witness. Later that day Carlota called Juanita and set up a coffee time with her when Carlota could share her concern.
The nation of Judah had wandered away from the Lord. They did many things that displeased God. God didn’t wait for Judah to turn back. God sent Jeremiah to tell the people the error of their ways and to invite them to return.
God seeks us out just as God sought Judah out. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, proclaims our forgiveness and invites us to live in a new relationship.
Open our ears so that we can hear your voice, and open our hearts so that we can respond. Draw us closer to you, Oh Lord. Amen.
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
“It may be … all of them may turn from their evil ways so that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin” (Jeremiah 36:3).
Fifteen year-old Cassie started experimenting with drugs in order to be cool. It didn’t take long before she was addicted. Cassie’s family and “clean” friends tried everything they could think of to intervene and get Cassie the help that she desperately needed. She rejected all of their help and entered a downward spiral of increased addiction along with physical and mental suffering. Cassie’s family and friends surrounded her with love and prayers and waited for her to ask for help. It took several years, but Cassie eventually chose to turn her life around and to seek treatment. Her family and friends embraced her and supported her through her treatment and recovery.
Sometimes all people can do is to wait and pray. We can’t force others to change or convince them to seek help. It is something they must choose for themselves. In just the same way, the Lord waits for us to admit our brokenness and to seek to be healed. It is at that time that God can give us health, wholeness and new lives.
Reconciling God, give us the ability to choose life rather than walk along the path of suffering and death. Amen.
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
“As Jehudi read three or four columns, the king would cut them off with a penknife and throw them into the fire” (Jeremiah 26:23).
Binh was teaching his son, Nathan to ride a bicycle without training wheels. It wasn’t going well. Binh would instruct Nathan to look forward, sit on the bike’s seat and pedal. Nathan wanted to look cool like the other kids he saw riding bikes. They often stood and pedaled. Nathan would start to ride, pedal a few feet and then attempt to stand up. He would promptly crash. After several tries with the same results, Binh gave up and decided to try again another day.
Sometimes we simply don’t want to listen. We don’t want to be told that we were wrong. We don’t want to be given advice. We certainly don’t want to hear, “I told you so!” All we want is to be left alone and do it our own way. This was surely the king’s attitude.
Another king once reflected on his sin. Stubbornness and insistence on our own ways is not helpful in our walk with the Lord. Rather he writes, “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17). May these elements be an intricate part of our faith journeys.
Precious Lord, forgive our stubbornness, and enable us to submit to your will gratefully and with thanksgiving for your presence in our lives. Amen.
Thursday, November 17, 2016
“Take another scroll and write on it all the former words” (Jeremiah 36:28).
In the first Harry Potter film, “The Sorcerer’s Stone,” Hogwarts sends a letter to Harry informing him that he has been accepted to Hogwarts. Harry’s uncle doesn’t want Harry to receive the invitation, so he destroys it. Another invitation is sent, which Harry’s uncle again destroys. It is followed by scores and then hundreds more acceptance letters. Harry’s uncle can’t keep Harry from receiving the message that a new chapter in his life is soon to begin.
The Lord continues to send messages to the king of Judah that list the consequences of his errant behavior. The king’s hard heart rejects the messages, but the Lord keeps sending them. In the same manner, the Holy Spirit never stops moving in our lives; molding and shaping us until we take on the likeness of God. Hard hearts eventually yield to the Spirit’s divine touch.
Patient Lord, thank you for not giving up on us. Amen.
Friday, November 18, 2016
“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:33a).
Mateo received a message on his computer screen that he had updates that needed to be installed. Though Mateo spent hours on his computer everyday he was uncomfortable with computers and really didn’t understand their workings. Dutifully Mateo followed the update instructions. He clicked on “Finish” and waited for the updates to be installed. A few seconds later an error message appeared. Mateo tried again, and again, and again. Each time with the same results. Mateo gave up and called his fried Diego. Diego lived computers; they were a part of him. Diego came over to Mateo’s home and sat down at the computer. He didn’t look at the installation instructions. He simply started typing. When he encountered an obstacle he went around it. Within fifteen minutes the updates were installed, and Diego had cleaned up Mateo’s computer so that it would run faster.
Sometimes following directions doesn’t produce the desired results. Keeping the letter of the law often fails to achieve its intended goal. Knowing this, the Lord decided to write a new covenant on our hearts. It simply states, “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34-35). Instead of coloring in the lines with the law, we can allow love to guide us to draw outside the lines and create great works of love and grace through our words and actions.
Creator God, Faithfully obeying you and drawing outside the lines, may our lives become beautiful pieces of love and grace. Amen.
Saturday, November 19, 2016
“I will be their God and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33b).
Julius Caesar and his army crossed the Rubicon River in 49 BCE. It was considered an act of insurrection and treason. The decision was made, however, and there was no turning back.
In February, 1519 Hernan Cortes landed on the shores of Mexico and began the conquest of the Aztec people. It is said that Cortes had all of his ships burned so that every soldier knew that they were committed to establishing Spanish control of the region. The decision had been made and there was no going back. After signing scores of papers, Jill and Steve Huseman purchased a house. It was theirs. The decision had been made and there was no turning back.
God made a decision that the people of Israel and Judah would be God’s people and that the Lord would be their God. The decision had been made and there was no turning back. Hundreds of years later the author of the gospel of John wrote that, “God so loved the world ….” (John 3:16). Jesus lived, died and rose again so that everyone in the world might live in a relationship with God. The decision had been made and there was no turning back. God has called us by our baptism to be God’s people. God adopts us into God’s family. God promises that God will never leave us or forsake us. The decision has been made and there is no turning back. We can only go forward boldly with that knowledge in our hearts.
Faithful God, You have made us yours. Empower us so that we are able to live for you. Amen.
Sunday, November 20, 2016
“For they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest” (Jeremiah 31:34).
Kristen danced around her younger brother chanting, “I know something you don’t know. I know something you don’t know.” Kristen enjoyed the little jolt of power that such knowledge gave her. “Okay, so tell me what you know that I don’t know,” her brother pleaded. “I can’t,” Kristen giggled. She didn’t want to give away her power. “It’s a secret.”
Knowledge is power. Before the Bible was translated into common languages, the clergy used their knowledge of Latin to exercise power over the laity. Keeping slaves illiterate was one way white slave owners controlled their slaves. Knowledge has been used to separate the rulers from those they rule, the rich from the poor, and the “in” group from the “out” group. Even in open, democratic societies knowledge is still used in this manner.
In God’s kingdom knowledge is shared with everyone. There are no secrets and no power can be exerted. In God’s kingdom everyone knows that God is a God of steadfast love, overwhelming grace and unconditional forgiveness. Everyone knows that God will never leave them nor forsake them. With this knowledge we powerfully and boldly share the good news of God’s love and grace with our words and actions—and we won’t stop until everyone knows.
Generous God, knowledge of your love frees us. Prevent us from keeping it to ourselves. With your Spirit enable us to share this knowledge with those around us. Amen.