Devotional Reading

Reading Luke 6:27-36 (NRSV)

“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

This is, for some, the most challenging passage in scripture. How do we love our enemy? Obviously, we need to be very clear about what is meant by love in this case. Perhaps the clearest way to define it is as respect and acknowledgement of the other’s value as a fellow creation of God. To love one’s enemy does not mean one does not defend oneself from harm or that one has to agree with the views of the other. But it does mean that one recognizes their right to be heard and that one should do one’s best to create bridges. Our culture loves to classify us: we are in a red or blue state, we are liberal or conservative, we are evangelical christian or not a Christian at all. But when we allow ourselves to be classified that way, and to use such labels, we ignore the value and humanity of each creation of God and belittle them and ourselves. So we need not agree with our enemy, but we must, for God’s sake, treat them as one of God’s works.

Reading Luke 6.20-26

20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 ”Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
“Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22 ”Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
24 ”But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
25 ”Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
“Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26 ”Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

This wonderful reading is so powerful because it challenges us with truths over and against the assumptions most people live by. Blessed are you who are poor? But when we consider how wealth can make us feel a false security, or when the accumulation of wealth can distract us from other aspects of life that provide much more meaning and value, we can begin to understand what Jesus is saying. Take a moment to read each verse carefully and consider how these  teachings, which at first may seem absurd, carry great truth, as well as providing guidance for a life well lived.

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Christian faith is not just about learning a list of commandments and acting politely. Through our faith, we are transformed spiritually. This simple passage reminds us that our faith is a source of power, through Christ and the Holy Spirit, which can bring us comfort, healing, and strength to do God’s work in the world.

Luke 6:17-19
17 He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.

A reading for September 24, 2015

In a world that almost worships technology, it can be challenging to explore passages that talk about Jesus’ healings. But it is important to consider such passages. To believe that God can bring healing does not mean that if someone prays but is not healed, that they were not faithful. Scripture is clear that illness is not a punishment. There are simply times that healing is not part of God’s intent. Also, we need to consider all kinds of healing. There can be healing of the body, but also the spirit and the mind. Some may still suffer from a physical disease but experience healing of a broken heart or bruised spirit. The gifts of forgiveness, hope, and mercy can bring us healing of mind and spirit. And many talk of their confidence that God intervened and helped them in their physical healing as well. As you read about Jesus’ healings here, consider where you most need to be healed and ask God for help and understanding.

Luke 6.17-19

17 He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. 18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them

A reading for August 13, 2015

Sometimes we can get confused about the call for Christians to do good works by helping their neighbor. The Christians life is not all about service, or at least not just service to neighbor. The Great Commandment says we are to love God and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. That means that it is okay to take some time in quiet, in prayer to God and to restore ourselves.

Luke 6. 12-16

12 Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: 14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, 15 and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, 16 and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

A reading for August 10, 2015

Clearly these religious leaders were not really concerned about whether Jesus was following the law of the Sabbath. They were jealous of hi popularity and power. It is ironic of course that Jesus did not care about either, but these leaders cared. Have you ever encountered people who claimed that they were taking a righteous stand on some issue but in truth, were more concerned about themselves and their own advantage. Have you ever taken a stand only to realize you were not entirely disinterested in the outcome and perhaps need to rethink your attitude?

6 On another sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. 7 The scribes and the Pharisees watched him to see whether he would cure on the sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against him. 8 Even though he knew what they were thinking, he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” He got up and stood there. 9 Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?” 10 After looking around at all of them, he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was restored. 11 But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.
Luke 6:6-11 (NRSV)

A reading for August 6, 2015

This passage may not seem to carry much meaning for anyone who is not a 1st century Pharisee. Pharisees were known for following the letter of the law as it was found in the Torah, the first 5 books of the Hebrew Bible (what Christians call the Old Testament). So to them the commandment to honor the Sabbath meant that you do not do any work of any kind, even removing the heads of grain in order to eat them. Jesus was simply saying that the law was for the purpose of honoring God, but was not to be a barrier to God. These faithful people were in need of food, including Jesus himself, and so they did what they had to do to eat. Starving would not help them in their faithful service to God. Today, most people are not too caught up in legalism and following rigid rules. But as a person of faith we do need to be examining our lives. While we should never let ourselves pay more attention to empty rules than to following God, on the other hand, there are certain things which are important in a faith life. For example, following the Sabbath is intended to help each of us to rest, restore ourselves, and focus ourselves in a special way on God. If that is missing from our lives, we are failing not just ourselves, but also God. Some suggest that the Sabbath was also required so that servants and workers, who were not protected by labor laws in those days, would get a break, so following the Sabbath was also an act of social justice. When we don’t slow down, others can be affected by it. For example some suggest that people should boycott shopping on Thanksgiving so that stores would allow workers to celebrate with their families. We need to stop and rest for ourselves, for our neighbors and for God.

Luke chapter 6.1-5
1 One sabbath while Jesus was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. 2 But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” 3 Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and gave some to his companions?” 5 Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.”

A reading for August 3, 2015

The church has not always been very good about accepting new wine. It is as if we believe that the new wine of Jesus’ teaching was enough and we don’t need anything else. But Though the essence of Jesus’ teaching does not change, how we understand it can. Just when the church thinks it understands the fullness of the message of Christ, we should immediately start looking around because some new understanding will be coming. How we use the bible, the nature of the church community, the call to serve social justice – there have been changes in all these areas over the centuries, while the basic message of love and forgiveness has remained the same. The same can be said of most of us. We are on a journey of faith, we haven’t arrived. We need to be in constant dialogue with God so that we can truly be renewed everyday. As you read this passage consider how God may be calling you to be the recipient of new wine and new life.

Luke chapter 5.33-39

33 Then they said to him, “John’s disciples, like the disciples of the Pharisees, frequently fast and pray, but your disciples eat and drink.” 34 Jesus said to them, “You cannot make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? 35 The days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” 36 He also told them a parable: “No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine desires new wine, but says, ‘The old is good.’”

A reading for July 23, 2015

The religious leaders here clearly feel that if Jesus is who people claim he is, he should be spending time with them, because they believe that they follow the laws of the Torah. Jesus is pointing out that if anyone is truly obeying God in all things (and he never says this about the Pharisees and scribes) they do not need Jesus. These people are already right with God. So Jesus is not on earth to congratulate those that get it. Jesus is on earth to help those who have turned from God. So the “sinners” get Jesus’ attention out of God’s love for those who have turned away. Clearly the Pharisees are not righteous because otherwise they would know this and be doing everything they could to help the tax collectors and others return to a relationship with God.

Luke 5:29-32
29 Then Levi gave a great banquet for him in his house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them. 30 The Pharisees and their scribes were complaining to his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 Jesus answered, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; 32 I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

A reading for July 22, 2015

In this brief reading, Jesus encounters the tax collector Levi and invites him to be a disciple. The passage may be brief but is no less important for it. In fact the brevity adds to its power. Tax collectors were hated in society. they were considered sell-outs to the Roman invaders who held their country captive. They were often known to be cheaters taking advantage of the people from whom they collected. So the very opening of the passage is shocking – Jesus even speaking to a tax collector was amazing. To invite him to be a follower was more so. Then the surprises continue – the tax collector says yes. For poor fishermen to follow was surprising but for a wealthy tax collector to follow was even more so. And he doesn’t stop to consider or count his money. He leaves everything and simply gets up and follows. If Jesus were to ask you to follow, could you drop everything?

Luke 5.27-28
27 After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” 28 And he got up, left everything, and followed him.

A reading for July 20, 2015

In the last verse of this passage, the witnesses say that they have seen strange things. So what was so strange in this story? The fact that the paralyzed man’s friends cared enough to not only bring him for healing but to go to the effort of lowering him from the roof? That Jesus healed the man because of the faith of the friends? That the scribes and Pharisees could not just accept a miracle but had to create problems? That a man who had been paralyzed could now walk? There is so much to amaze and give thanks for here. Ultimately what this story is about is the transforming power of love. The friends gave their all to get help for the paralyzed man and through their gift of love, the man is healed. He has done nothing yet Jesus heals him because of their witness. They sacrificed so another could be blessed. This gift of love on their part is highlighted by the resistance of the Pharisees and scribes to see the power of this love, they can think only about the law. So Jesus chooses to make it clear that love alone is the law of the day and the man walks away. It is a powerful challenge to all of us to consider how we might witness this kind of transforming love for others in our own lives.

Luke 5.17-26

17 One day, while he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting near by (they had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem); and the power of the Lord was with him to heal. 18 Just then some men came, carrying a paralyzed man on a bed. They were trying to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; 19 but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the middle of the crowd in front of Jesus. 20 When he saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” 21 Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, “Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22 When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? 23 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? 24 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–he said to the one who was paralyzed–”I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home.” 25 Immediately he stood up before them, took what he had been lying on, and went to his home, glorifying God. 26 Amazement seized all of them, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen strange things today.”

A reading for July 16, 2015

Luke 5.12-16

There is much here to consider. First, it reminds us to stay focused on the fact that God chooses to bless us. What we receive is out of God’s goodness and to live each moment in thankfulness is the least we can do. Also, it reminds us of the needs of others. As we picture the crowds who approached Jesus, we can think about all those in need around us with physical, emotional and spiritual needs. What are we doing to help? Finally, it reminds us of the need to rest and care for ourselves as well as out neighbor.

12 Once, when he was in one of the cities, there was a man covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” 13 Then Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do choose. Be made clean.” Immediately the leprosy left him. 14 And he ordered him to tell no one. “Go,” he said, “and show yourself to the priest, and, as Moses commanded, make an offering for your cleansing, for a testimony to them.” 15 But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. 16 But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray.

A reading for July 14, 2015

When has God surprised you with an unexpected blessing? And when has God challenged you to look beyond your immediate needs and interests to look at a goal or purpose that extends way beyond your own immediate need? Do you believe that God could intend for you to change the lives of other people? That is what loving neighbor is all about, after all. How is God calling you today to show that love?

1 Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2 he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” 11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

A reading for July 13, 2015
Luke 4.42-44

This brief passage is an important reminder that even for Jesus there was a need to take time apart for prayer and rest. He carried the burden of proclaiming the Good News to all of Judea but knew he must take time apart. We know that he used this time in prayer, and we presume in contemplation. Consider whether you also need to find a better balance in your life.

42 At daybreak he departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving them. 43 But he said to them, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.” 44 So he continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea.

A reading for July 8, 2015

Luke 4: 40-41

It may seem confusing that Jesus does not want the “demons” to identify him as the Son of God. Wouldn’t that help him get his message across? Unfortunately, it might get the wrong message across. The people of that day believed that when a messiah was sent from God, it would be someone who would become an earthly leader, a king, to lead them into a period of power and might as a nation. They were hoping for a leader who would overthrow the Romans who controlled their country and forced them to pay heavy taxes. People were not yet ready to understand that Jesus was offering a different kind of kingdom. Not one of earthly power and prestige, but one of spiritual power based on lives of humility and sacrifice. Perhaps we can’t blame the people for not being ready to accept that kind of kingdom over an earthly kingdom. Do you think you would have been ready for Jesus’ message?

40 As the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various kinds of diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on each of them and cured them. 41 Demons also came out of many, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Messiah.
Luke 4:40-41 (NRSV)

A reading for April 22
Luke 4:38-39

When we receive physical or spiritual healing, how often do we think of giving thanks by going out and serving others in God’s name?

38 After leaving the synagogue he entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked him about her. 39 Then he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. Immediately she got up and began to serve them.

A reading for April 15
Luke chapter 4 verses 31-37

People at this time believed that they were helpless before demonic activity and lived in dread of demons. Whatever may be our understanding of such things today, we can certainly relate to the feeling that we are not in control, that events around us are not in our control and can overwhelm us. This passage is most likely meant as a powerful reminder to the listener/reader of the depth of God’s power. We may live in dread and fear of the unknown but here we are reminded that God is at work, perhaps when we least expect it, and does have power to bring us good in the midst of difficulties.

31 He went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and was teaching them on the sabbath. 32 They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority. 33 In the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Let us alone! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” When the demon had thrown him down before them, he came out of him without having done him any harm. 36 They were all amazed and kept saying to one another, “What kind of utterance is this? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and out they come!” 37 And a report about him began to reach every place in the region.
Luke 4:31-37 (NRSV)

A reading for April 14
Luke chapter 4:20-30

This reading can be rather confusing since it refers to Jesus doing ministry in Capernaum that we have heard nothing about. Also, Jesus’ words seem a little harsh considering what we have heard the people in the synagogue say. Yet the reaction of the people to Jesus’ words seems rather dramatic as well. So what is going on here. It appears that Jesus is trying to challenge these people to understand that it is not always about them. They apparently have heard that Jesus has done some wonderful things in Capernaum, and yet he has not helped his home town at all. Then when Jesus points out that God does not limit God’s care for just a chosen few, they feel angry and threatened. It is so easy for us to feel that because we are of a particular race, or economic class, or work hard, or are very intelligent, or gifted in some way or ‘know the right people’, we deserve special treatment. Jesus is saying that before God, there are no favorites. God will care for whomever God believes needs the care the most. There is no ‘chosen people’ who deserve help before anyone else, not in American or the Middle East or anywhere. The sooner we understand the universal nature of God’s love for all people, the sooner we will understand the depth and breadth of God’s love and what service in God’s name is all about.

20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 He said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you will say, ‘Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.’” 24 And he said, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown. 25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.
Luke 4:20-30 (NRSV)

A reading for April 2, 2015
Luke 4.14-19

If you were asked what Jesus preached about would you know to say that the first public words he preached, according to Luke, were: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor… Our society focuses so much on our individual faith journeys and spiritual lives that we forget that Jesus came to teach us not just to love God, but also to love our neighbor.

14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

A reading for March 30, 2015
Luke 4.9-12
This reading can be misleading. The scripture is filled with people who have doubts about God and need reassurance. The psalms include pleas for help from people who seem to doubt that God is present with them. So why shouldn’t we test God to feel reassured? But the kind of test here is based on the idea of making a bargain. If you do this, I will do that. It isn’t that one doubts God, but rather that one wants to make a deal. If one believes that God exists and therefore that God is the creator of the universe, is the source of all love and has sent the Son to die for us, then how could one want to bargain with God? When God has given us so much, how can we ask for more before we are willing to give back to God? When we ask God for something out of our fear and doubts that is understood by God and God will always respond. When we make demands – it is a defiant and ungrateful act. And it is wrong.

9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you,
to protect you,’
11 and
‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”
12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.