Verse of the Week

Verse of the Week:
"God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins." (Acts 5:31 ESV)

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

September 19, 2017 - Matthew 20:1-16

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Welcome to Devotions for Worship where we meditate on the appointed Scripture readings for the upcoming Sunday. I am Pastor Eric Tritten from Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Hudson, OH. Thank you for being with me today.

This coming Sunday is the 16th Sunday after Pentecost. Because the Gospel lesson drives the theme for the week, I have begun using the Gospel reading for our first devotional time of the week. This week’s reading is the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, and Jesus will be teaching us something important about how God’s people relate to one another and their status in the kingdom of heaven.  

The Reading: Matthew 20:1-16 – I will be reading from the English Standard Version translation.
"For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and to them he said, 'You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.' 5 So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, 'Why do you stand here idle all day?' 7 They said to him, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them, 'You go into the vineyard too.' 8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.' 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, 'These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.' 13 But he replied to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. 15 Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?' 16 So the last will be first, and the first last."  (Matt. 20:1-16 ESV)

Comments
We love to make comparisons don’t we? Maybe you’ve noticed that recently there has been a whole lot of movies from the 1980’s that have been remade. Inevitably, those who have seen both begin to compare and to voice their preferences between the movie made thirty to forty years ago and the modern version. When I was a boy I remember the Cola Wars – a comparison between Coca-cola and Pepsi, done by blind taste test.

Such comparisons are generally harmless and really only speak to personal preference. But there are times that comparison can be damaging; it can lead to jealousy and envy. That is the case in the kingdom of heaven when disciples – those who believe in Jesus and follow him – compare themselves to their fellow disciples.
That is what is at the heart of Jesus’ parable about laborers in the vineyard. Jesus said that when the master went out in the morning he hired his workers promising them a denarius – a standard pay for one day’s work. But then, when evening came, the master ordered that the last one’s hired – those who only worked for an hour – be paid first, and he paid them a denarius as well – the same wage as the people who had worked all day and “born the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” Some worked all day, some work three-quarters, some half, some a quarter, and some only an hour, but they all received the same pay.

All the workers in the vineyard are there because the master called them, just as each of us in in the kingdom of heaven because the Holy Spirit has called us to faith. All the workers in the vineyard are about the master’s work, just as every disciple follows Jesus in the harvest that brings people into the kingdom of heaven. All the workers in the vineyard receive the master’s reward – a denarius – and each of us in the kingdom of heaven rejoice to receive forgiveness, salvation, everlasting life, and resurrection.

Dr. Jeffery Gibbs writes in his commentary on Matthew, “There is no room for self-promotion, no occasion for competition, no basis on which one disciple can say to another, ‘I have no need of you’ or ‘I am more important than you are.’”[1] Each of us is brought into the kingdom of heaven by God’s grace. Each of us receives God’s generous gifts and blessings. Each of us is called to serve the kingdom in our various ways – and it is the kingdom and our Lord Jesus that matter, not our sense of greatness or lowness.

When we make comparisons, too often we can come to feel that we are better than others in the kingdom of heaven – we give more, volunteer more, witness more, attend more, etc. When we make comparisons we can come to think that we’ve been shorted, that God hasn’t treated us according to all that we have done for him. But in the kingdom of heaven the rule is not quid pro quo – that we get what we deserve. In the kingdom of heaven we receive God’s mercy and grace, and when we look at our good works more closely we can see that they flow from the mercy and grace we have received, and that leaves us free to receive God’s blessings with thankful hearts, and it liberates us to rejoice when we see God’s grace and mercy in the lives of others.

Prayers
Lord Jesus, thank you for making us part of the kingdom of heaven, and that you for sending us into your vineyard to serve you. Lord, you have blessed us in so many ways! Forgive us for the times that we have envied others for their blessings, and forgive us for the times that we have looked down on others finding them to be deficient in our eyes whom you have made your own by your suffering death and resurrection. Help us to know the work that you would put us to and help us to serve you faithfully and thankfully, rejoicing that you are a master who is not merely fair, but is very generous with us. Amen.

Thank you so much for using Devotions for Worship, I pray that our time together has blessed you and given you something to meditate on – some reminder of God’s grace to rattle around in your brain – for the rest of the day.

One of the things we can do to help us meditate on God’s word is to memorize it. This week’s verse comes from our Old Testament lesson this week.

Memory Verse: Isaiah 55:6-7 -  "Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isa. 55:6-7 ESV)

Would you do me a favor? If you got something out of this devotional time, would you like and/or share it on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever you do social media? That would help me get the word out, and hopefully help these devotions be a blessing to others.

God bless you!



[1] Gibbs, Jeffery, Matthew 11:2-20:34, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, 2010, p. 991

Sunday, September 17, 2017

September 17, 2017 - A Forgiving Legacy

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How much do those words mean to you? “I forgive you.”

We started the service out with this. We confessed our sins. I forgave you … in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. How did that make you feel?

I remember hearing these words week after week when I was a child. We confessed our sins. The pastor spoke those words. We moved on in the service. I knew I was forgiven.

It was a very different experience when I was in college and my friend and mentor probed my sin, dug into my attitudes, and slowly, methodically, hemmed me in and nailed me to the wall showing that I was no better than the Pharisees at Jesus – breaking the commandments, justifying myself, and freely condemning others of the very sins I had committed. He shattered me with God’s Law and then he did something that was at the same time the worst thing I had ever experienced and the best I could have ever hoped for. He looked me square in the eye and said, “I forgive you.” In Jesus’ name he forgave me. It killed me, and I walked away more alive in faith than I had ever been before.

It was a different experience yet again when I got really mad at one of my children and I was a jerk, I was thoroughly unjust in how I treated her. Can you relate? Have you ever done that? And later I went and apologized and she said, “I forgive you, Daddy.” It killed me. Do you know what I mean? But I walked away filled with love and joy because of what Jesus was doing in my daughter’s life … and in mine.

It’s an altogether different experience to sit next to the hospital bed and to talk to an elderly man who had lived with guilt his whole adult life. He did some things when he was young that he wasn’t proud of – things that you or I might say, “You did what you had to do to survive.” He’d always say, “God’s been better to me, than I ever was to him.” He knew that he had broken God’s perfect law, and despite the fact that he had lived a faithful, wonderful, life after that, the guilt haunted him and with the guilt was fear … can God forgive me. And I spoke gently to him, reminding him that Jesus died to pay for his sins, and I spoke those words, “In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus … I forgive you.” He was so relieved and thanked me repeatedly. I was half way home when I got the phone call that he died shortly after I left.
I forgive you.

Friends, where do we hear this message? Where do our neighbors hear this message? Who stands up and says, on God’s behalf and with his authority, I forgive you?

Most of the world is fixated on justice – by which we almost mean vengeance. We want to see comeuppance. We want quid pro quo. We sometimes speak of karma – even though that’s not Biblical – and it’s almost always in the sense that those who do bad things will have bad things happen to them.

Who speaks, “I forgive you,” into that world that wants to balance the scales? Who reminds the world that we can balance the scaled by heaping more on them, or by wiping the debt off of them?

When we speak of a legacy, we speak of both that which we have received from another and that which we pass on. This is our legacy – it is Jesus crucified to atone for our sins. It is him interceding for those who crucified him, “Father, forgive them.” It is that word that he spoke from the cross – tetelesthai – It is finish, the debt is paid … I forgive you.

Who else is poised to speak that message into our community, into our workplaces, our schools, and in our homes?

We are stewards of God’s forgiveness through Jesus’ death and resurrection. And how would God have us steward this message of, “I forgive you”? Would he have us put it in our liturgies and keep it here in the sanctuary? Would he limit it to use in our homes with our children, or just here among our friends? No, this is a message God wants rolling off of our lips into the ears of the world so that every sinner might know the power of the cross and hear those fearful beautiful words … I forgive you.

What do you think, does everyone want to hear those words from God, “I forgive you”? No, no they don’t. If they did, they would be beating down the doors of every church in town. But this message can be uncomfortable. It has implications for how I live my life. It mean that I am accountable.

But does everyone need to hear those words from God, “I forgive you”? Yes, yet they do.
How will we do that? How to we place ourselves in situations where we have opportunity to forgive people? Sometimes it happens very naturally like in our families. “I’m sorry. I forgive you.” Other times it takes relationships, conversations, time, dialogue, sorrow, pain, and a lot of prayer before a person is ready to hear those words. Sometimes people hear them by coming here to worship. Some people are not going to come to worship, but might come to a special event like The Trial of Job. We need to look for opportunities to welcome people here. Sometimes people hear as we engage the community.

But if we don’t tell the world, “I forgive you.” Who will? If God’s people – all of us – don’t carry this message in our hearts and lips, how will they know our gracious loving savior?

You know, last week I talked about the shepherd’s legacy – that he leaves the 99 to find the one. I talked about how this is Jesus’ mission, but he includes us in his mission. Well, this is Jesus’ message, “I forgive you. I died and rose to forgive you and set you free from sin. ” It’s a powerful message that changes people’s lives. It gives hope to the hopeless. It gives love to the unloved. It gives reconciliation to those in conflict. It gives life to the dead. It’s Jesus’ message, but he places is on our lips. No my lips alone, but on our lips, to speak into this world.

Together as a congregation, we come together to proclaim that message … and to make sure that message is spoken into our lives and in our community. Our time, our talents, and our treasures are poured into getting this message to those who carry sin’s load to help them to know that Jesus has borne their load of sin to the cross, and his message to you, to me, to the world is, “I forgive you.”


Friday, September 15, 2017

September 15, 2017 - A Simple Way to Pray 3

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Welcome to Devotions for Worship where we meditate on the appointed Scripture readings for the upcoming Sunday. Thank you for being with me today.

I am Pastor Eric Tritten from Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Hudson, OH.

On Fridays we explore some devotional thoughts, habits, and practices, by looking at what others have written on devotion. We’ve kicked off this series by looking at a great document written by Martin Luther called A Simple Way to Pray.

So far we’ve talked about how devotional habits can become cool and joyless, and we need God’s Word to warm and enliven us for this task of reading the Word and prayer. The Word is not only the focus of our devotion, the Holy Spirit also uses it to empower our devotional habits. We’ve also talked about the dangers of putting our times of Scripture reading and prayer off, although there are times where that might be necessary and even more important than our normal devotional habits.

Today we will hear how Luther began his times of prayer. Please notice that he speaks of bodily postures – I’ll comment more on that after we read this section of A Simple Way to Pray – and also see that Luther’s prayer flows from his interaction with God’s Word. 

So let’s read the next section of this letter that Luther wrote to his friend to learn how Luther taught him to pray. I’m going to be reading from the American Edition of Luther’s Works, vol. 43. This version of A Simple Way to Pray was translated by Carl Schindler, and the copyright belongs to Fortress Press. I am grateful that they have given me permission to share this with you.

A Simple Way to Pray – paragraphs 7-8 – I did not ask for permission to print A Simple Way to Pray, but there are many versions available on line. Here is a link to one of them. A Simple Way to Pray.

Luther began with God’s Word – and it seems that this was mostly done from memory. He recited the Commandments or the words of Christ – to become intent on the matter at hand. We remember that the Holy Spirt works through God’s Word to strengthen and enliven our faith, and it is faith that receives God’s promises and acts upon them.

He then speaks of kneeling or standing with hands folded and eyes toward heaven. Today we tend to teach people to fold their hands and bow their heads. In Haiti they teach the little boys to pray with their hands covering their faces. The point here isn’t really to take a particular posture, but to choose how you will settle yourself to prayer and not get distracted. Our posture should help us to be alert and to keep our mind on our task. This isn’t a matter of God’s law, but of pragmatism. From my own experience, if I pray while I’m laying in bed I will likely fall asleep while I pray. If I kneel at the kneeler in my office, I will be more alert and think of more things to pray about. Find what works best for you. For many of us, we learned to kneel beside our beds to pray. That can be a good and useful habit. For others sitting in a chair or standing is better. Again, find a posture that helps you engage in prayer, and use it over and over again to use your posture to let your mind and heart know what you are focusing on.

Luther comes a prayer from a place of humility – recognizing that his sin keeps him from God’s presence. However, he also holds strongly to God’s command and promise. This idea of command and promise mirrors two ways that God deals with us – through his Law and Gospel. We should know that God commands us to pray. He says we are to call upon him and not to other gods. If we, in our sins, are disincline to approach God we have this goad to push us in the right direction. At the same time, God issues us a loving invitation to pray. He urges us to come to him as our loving father. This is such a glorious invitation that we rejoice that we are able to come to him.

So which is it that moves us to pray – command or promise? It is both. Sometimes we need the command. Sometimes we rejoice to approach through the promise that God hears our prayers for Jesus’ sake. In both cases the command and the promise flow from God’s love and guide us to come to him so that, as we say in the Small Catechism, we “call upon him in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks.”

Prayers –
O God, we thank you for your Word and for the gift of prayer. We pray that you would help us grow in our devotion to meditating on your Word and responding to you in prayer, and we ask that our devotion would be rooted in your love for us and our love for you. We put ourselves, our friends, our loved ones, and our enemies into your hands. Help us to walk with you all our days. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Memory Verse: Matthew 18:21-22 - Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" 22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.  (Matt. 18:21-22 ESV)

Hey, remember that if you want to help those who have been hurt by Hurricane Harvey a great place to do so is LCMS World Relief and Human Care. If you go to www.lcms.org/disaster you can donate.


Thank you so much for using Devotions for Worship, I pray that our time together has blessed you and given you something to meditate on – some reminder of God’s grace to rattle around in your brain – for the rest of the day. 

September 14, 2017 - Romans 14:1-12

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Welcome to Devotions for Worship where we meditate on the appointed Scripture readings for the upcoming Sunday. Thank you for being with me today.

I am Pastor Eric Tritten from Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Hudson, OH.

This coming Sunday is the 15th Sunday after Pentecost. This will be our last reading from Romans this year. We’ve been reading Romans, a little at a time, since June 18 covering the major themes of the book. Now, Romans is 16 chapters long, are we just going to end with chapter 14? Isn’t there anything important in chapters 15 & 16? Of course there is! This is one of the reasons we should read our Bibles apart from worship and the appointed Sunday readings. Chapter 16 concludes the book, and it is mostly personal greetings from Paul to people in Rome. Chapters 14 & 15, however, have the same theme: Living in a loving manner with those who are weak in faith. So although the rest of Chapter 14 and all of 15 have important things to say, we at least get a sense of what the rest of the book is about in these twelve verses we will read today.

The Reading: Romans 14:1-12 – I will be reading from the English Standard Version translation.

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
            5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
            10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God." 12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. (Rom. 14:1-12 ESV)

Comments
            Individual Christians are not the same. We do not look the same. We do not always have the same views on various issues. We have different preferences in food, clothes, cars, and places to live. We also are all tempted differently. Different sins plague us. Where one person stumbles, another isn’t tempted in the least. And in this section Paul speaks of Christians who are weak in faith and how, in Christian love, their fellow Christians should respond to them.
            Luther says in a preface to Romans which was published the same year that he died that, “consciences weak in faith are to be led gently, spared, so that we do not use our Christian freedom for doing harm, but for the assistance of the weak.”[1] This is countercultural. As Westerners, particularly as citizens of the United States, we tend to value individualism and think of freedom in terms of the rights of the individual – my rights, my freedom. We tend to see the highest good as the fulfillment of our desires and the expression of our selves. In our culture we tend to feel that our individual rights – rights to speak, to choose, to enjoy, to live how we like – are more important than another person’s need to be protected from temptation, or the possibility that our freedom might lead others into sin. In God’s love, however, we become willing to – free to – set aside our rights for the benefit of others.
            One of the keys to understanding the freedom of giving ourselves up for the sake of another is found in verses 7 & 8 which say, “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” That is we belong to the Lord. In the freedom of Christ, our priorities, rights, and self-focused desires take a back seat to our Lord Jesus’ priorities to love Him above all, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
            Our sinful nature and our free will chafe at hindering ourselves. Denying ourselves is painful and deadly to that part of our nature. What is more natural than feeding our desires? Satisfying our wants? But our natural self has died in Christ – it was drowned in baptism and we are a new creation in him. As new creatures we are free to live for more than our wants and desires – we are free to live for Christ and for our neighbor.
            So we do not pass judgement on our neighbor, but seek to show God’s love and mercy – the same love and mercy we have received – so that he or she might also be freed from sin and its selfish desires. We know the true judge, and we know that one day he will judge the living and the dead. There is no room and not time to despise our neighbor for his or her weakness. There is only time to call ourselves and those around us to confess our sins and to receive Jesus’ salvation.

Prayers
O God, you are the judge of the living and the dead. Your righteous judgement condemns every sinner. Nevertheless, you gave your only begotten Son, Jesus, to the be the Christ, the Messiah, the savior of sinner. He has rescued us from sin and death through his own death, and you have raised him in glory. Help us who believe in Jesus, the one who sacrificed himself even to the point of death, to freely give ourselves, our priorities, our desires up for you and for our neighbor who may need us to be strong when he or she is weak. Grant us your forgiveness and change our hearts to love you more than our rights, and to love our neighbors more than our wants. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thank you so much for using Devotions for Worship, I pray that our time together has blessed you and given you something to meditate on – some reminder of God’s grace to rattle around in your brain – for the rest of the day.

Memory Verse: Matthew 18:21-22 - Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" 22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.  (Matt. 18:21-22 ESV)

Before you go, I have two things:

Remember that one of the other practices of devotion is the giving of alms – donations given to help those in need. If you feel led to give toward helping our neighbors in Texas, Florida, or in the Caribbean, a great organization to give to which will get all of those funds to those who need them is LCMS World Relief and Human Care. You can learn more about them at www.lcms.org/disaster.

Would you do me a favor? If you got something out of this devotional time, would you like and/or share it on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever you do social media? That would help me get the word out, and hopefully help these devotions be a blessing to others.

God bless you!



[1] Luther’s Works, American Edition, vol. 35, p. 379

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

September 13, 2017 - Psalm 103:1-12

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Welcome to Devotions for Worship where we meditate on the appointed Scripture readings for the upcoming Sunday. Thank you for being with me today.

I am Pastor Eric Tritten from Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Hudson, OH.

This coming Sunday is the 15 Sunday after Pentecost. So far this week we’ve heard Jesus urging us to forgive, not just seven times but seventy-seven time, when someone sins against us. We’ve also heard about how Joseph forgave his brothers even after all the terrible things they did to him. Today we will read the first twelve verses of Psalm 103. Notice how it, too, speaks of God’s forgiveness and provides us with an opportunity to meditate on God’s goodness, mercy, and forgiveness.

The Reading: Psalm 103:1-12– I will be reading from the English Standard Version translation.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
 2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
 3 who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
 4 who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
 5 who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
 6 The LORD works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.
 7 He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.
 8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
 9 He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.
 10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
 11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Ps. 103:1-12 ESV)

Read again, slowly

Comments
Do you see how this psalm leads us into meditation? It repeatedly goes over things that we love about God and speaks gratefully of his mercy and actions on his people’s behalves. It also speaks in a way that moves us to join with the psalmist … his words become our words … his meditation guides us to consider, to ponder, to have these wonderful thoughts rattle around in our brains.

This is such a beautiful expression of our thankful awe and sense of loving wonder at how God has treated us. What a merciful blessing it is that God does not deal with us according to our sins, but removes our sins from us as far as the east is from the west.
All of this is now ours through faith in Jesus. He was the one that God promised would accomplish these things. The Psalmist looked ahead in faith trusting that God would fulfill his promise. We look back and see it fulfilled at the cross and empty tomb. The kingdom of God has come and we bless our Lord for all he does for us.

Prayers
O Lord, you are indeed blessed. O that we could speak of your grace, your mercy, your kindness and goodness, and even your very name with such eloquence! You show your grace most clearly in the forgiveness and salvation you won for us through Jesus’ death and resurrection. He takes our sins from us and buries them in his tomb – they truly are so far from us that they are as far as the east is from the west. You have redeemed our lives and crowned us with love and mercy. You have satisfied us with good. Help us to live as your people showing all who are around us what kind of God we have and displaying the glorious salvation you have given us so that they may hear your name and they too may know your grace and come to worship you. Amen.

Thank you so much for using Devotions for Worship, I pray that our time together has blessed you and given you something to meditate on – some reminder of God’s grace to rattle around in your brain – for the rest of the day.

One of the things we can do to help us meditate on God’s word is to memorize it. Psalm 119:11.

Memory Verse: Matthew 18:21-22 - Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" 22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.  (Matt. 18:21-22 ESV)

Would you do me a favor? If you got something out of this devotional time, would you like and/or share it on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever you do social media? That would help me get the word out, and hopefully help these devotions be a blessing to others.


God bless you!

September 12, 2017 - Genesis 50:15-21

Listen here.

Welcome to Devotions for Worship where we meditate on the appointed Scripture readings for the upcoming Sunday. Thank you for being with me today.

I am Pastor Eric Tritten from Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Hudson, OH.

This coming Sunday is the 14 Sunday after Pentecost. Yesterday we read about Peter asking Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother when he sins against him. Today’s Old Testament lesson comes from one of the most incredible stories of forgiveness in the whole Bible. It is Joseph’s statement of forgiveness for his brothers. Let me read you the account, and then give you the backstory.

The Reading: Genesis 50:15-21 – I will be reading from the English Standard Version translation.

15 When Joseph's brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, "It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him." 16 So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, "Your father gave this command before he died: 17 'Say to Joseph, "Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you."' And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father." Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, "Behold, we are your servants." 19 But Joseph said to them, "Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 21 So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones." Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Gen. 50:15-21 ESV)

Comments
            You might remember that Jacob had two wives, sisters, and their servants were also (in essence) his wives also. He was a man who played favorites. Despite the fact that the other three wives has each had more children than Rachel, Rachel was the wife he loved, and when she finally had a child, a son named Joseph, that son quickly became his favorite. You can imagine the jealousy of the ten older brothers, and the other women.
            Jacob loved Joseph more than his brothers. He gave him gifts – particularly a very nice multicolored coat. Jacob also had prophetic dreams that one day he would rise above all his brothers and rule them – dreams that he told to his older brothers. And Jacob also used Joseph to check on his brothers and make sure they were taking care of the flocks. All of this made for a toxic relationship of bitterness, jealousy, and hatred.
            Once when Jacob went out to check on his brothers they decided to take action. They grabbed him, threw him into a pit, and decided to kill him. They did not become fratricides however because they saw the opportunity for profit and sold their brother into slavery in Egypt. Can you imagine the fear this young man must have gone through?
            While Joseph was in Egypt he worked hard and successfully as a slave until he was falsely accused of sexual assault, thrown into prison, and forgotten there for years. Can you imagine his frustration? But he had shown that he could interpret dreams, and Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, had had a dream that none could interpret. It was remembered that he could interpret dreams and was called from prison. He interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, and Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of the nation, second only to Pharaoh himself.
            The opportunity came for Joseph to execute vengeance on his brothers when, in the midst of a great famine, they came to buy grain in Egypt. There they were bowed down before Joseph, just as his dreams had predicted. But Joseph, tested his brothers, provided for them, and eventually revealed himself to them. Genesis 45:3 says that the brothers were dismayed when they learned that this powerful man they bowed before was their brother whom they had sold into slavery.
            Now listen to what Joseph said to them at that time. “Do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. … God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant … it was not you who sent me here, but God.” Can you think of a much more gracious response to these rascals who had abused him, sold him, and cheated him out of a lifetime with the people he loved?
            Our reading today takes place years later, after Jacob died. The brothers were still afraid that Joseph would take his vengeance out on them. They did not think it possible that he had truly forgiven them. So they made up a story, put words in their father’s mouth, saying that he wanted Joseph to forgive his brothers. Joseph’s response is so beautiful, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good….” He comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
            Do you see why I say this is one of the most incredible stories of forgiveness in the Bible? How hard would it be to forgive those older brothers? They had done truly evil things to Joseph. And yet Joseph asks, “Am I in the place of God?” And in many ways the answer is actually, “Yes!” He was in the place of God as far as Egypt was concerned, and he had the authority to do whatever he wanted to those men. But he knew God’s love and God’s plan was at the heart of what happened, and for God’s sake … for God’s sake … forgave them.
            Who are you withholding forgiveness from? Where are you harboring a grudge? Have you been slow to forgive? Remember Joseph. Remember God’s amazing mercy through Joseph to his brothers. Remember how much you have been forgiven in Christ. How does that impact how you feel about forgiving freely and generously?

Prayers
O God, Joseph’s story is full of fear and sorrow, betrayal and hurt, and yet you poured forgiveness, reconciliation, mercy, generosity and kindness into his life and the life of his brothers through him. We are in awe of how you used Joseph’s pain and suffering to do good, to save lives, and to bring about reconciliation. For that matter we are in awe of how you used Jesus’ pain and suffering to do good for us, to save us, and to reconcile us to yourself! Forgive us, Lord, for being slow to forgive, for harboring grudges, and cherishing the hurts others have done to us. Help us to see them as places where you bring forgiveness, peace, and love, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

I also want encourage you to continue to pray for those who are rebuilding from Hurricane Harvey, and to add those who are now rebuilding after Hurricane Irma. LCMS World Relief and Human Care is currently accepting donations to help victims of both of those hurricanes. You can learn more about what they are doing and find ways you can help, including how to donate at lcms.org/disaster.

Thank you so much for using Devotions for Worship, I pray that our time together has blessed you and given you something to meditate on – some reminder of God’s grace to rattle around in your brain – for the rest of the day. I hope you’ll come back tomorrow when we take time to meditate on Psalm 32:1-7.

One of the things we can do to help us meditate on God’s word is to memorize it. Psalm 119:11.

Memory Verse: Matthew 18:21-22 - Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" 22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.  (Matt. 18:21-22 ESV)

Would you do me a favor? If you got something out of this devotional time, would you like and/or share it on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever you do social media? That would help me get the word out, and hopefully help these devotions be a blessing to others.


God bless you!

September 11, 2017 - Matthew 18:21-35

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Welcome to Devotions for Worship where we meditate on the appointed Scripture readings for the upcoming Sunday. I am Pastor Eric Tritten from Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Hudson, OH. Thank you for being with me today.

This coming Sunday is the 15 Sunday after Pentecost. I would remind you that on all the Sundays of the Church year, the Gospel lesson drives the agenda. We gather to proclaim Christ, and in this season, the Time of the Church, we listen closely to his teaching. The lesson today is an important one for us as Jesus teaches about forgiving those who sin against us.

The Reading: Matthew 18:21-35 – I will be reading from the English Standard Version translation.

21 Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" 22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
            23 "Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, 'Pay what you owe.' 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?' 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart." (Matt. 18:21-35 ESV)

Comments

“How often should I forgive someone?” What a powerful question this is! When we ask this question we reveal a couple things that are in our hearts. For one thing, it shows that we feel we are in the position to forgive, and not to ask for forgiveness. We so easily overlook our own sin and the ways we hurt others. Another thing that this question reveals is our sense of personal righteousness. In my experience most of us who are Christians very freely admit that we are sinners – that is, we confess in a general sense that we disobey God and need his forgiveness. Sometimes, however, we see our sin as less serious than other people’s sins. It is as if we are sinners who don’t really do anything that we would call bad, and when we do we often feel that our action was justified whereas other peoples sins are not justified and they deserve much more attention than our own.

This is where Jesus’ parable comes in and helps us understand our own status before God. By describing two men who owe debts, Jesus describes how we stand before God and how we stand in relation to our neighbor who sins against us. Our debt to God is huge, unimaginable, and crushing. Jesus describes it as ten thousand talents. Well, a talent is years’ worth of wages. Nevertheless, in his mercy he forgives our entire debts – all of our sins for Jesus’ sake. Our neighbor’s sin against us hardly compares to our sin against God. At this point Jesus measures the debt in terms of denarii, and a denarius was one day’s wages. It’s not even pennies-on-the-dollar by comparison.

We experience sins against us as though every one of them were malicious attacks. In truth, even the malicious attacks flow from our brokenness and sin. That person that sins against you stands before God as well. He or she bears a huge, unimaginable, and crushing debt to him – the same as you. And as God has forgiven you, he calls you to forgive those who sin against you.

Maybe another way to look at this might be to ask, “How often should God forgive us?” Or to cite the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In the heat of the moment though, we often simply respond to the pain, and in the process we ourselves sin against our neighbor. (Sigh)

Here is an example of how badly we need God and his Holy Spirit to work in us to shape us to be like Jesus who prayed for those who crucified him, “Father forgive them.” We must call out for forgiveness and pray the God would help us to be more forgiving.  

Prayers
Lord Jesus, you forgive us freely and generously. What a gift that you have given to us to cancel the whole load of our debt of sin! Yet we, all too often, are stingy in giving forgiveness to others. Impress us again with how great and vast your forgiveness is. Help us to be ready for freely forgive those who sin against us knowing the great forgiveness you have given to us. Amen.

Thank you so much for using Devotions for Worship, I pray that our time together has blessed you and given you something to meditate on – some reminder of God’s grace to rattle around in your brain – for the rest of the day.

One of the things we can do to help us meditate on God’s word is to memorize it. Psalm 119:11.

Memory Verse: Matthew 18:21-22 - Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" 22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.  (Matt. 18:21-22 ESV)

I also want encourage you to continue to pray for those who are rebuilding from Hurricane Harvey, and to add those who are now rebuilding after Hurricane Irma. LCMS World Relief and Human Care is currently accepting donations to help victims of both of those hurricanes. You can learn more about what they are doing and find ways you can help, including how to donate at lcms.org/disaster.

Would you do me a favor? If you got something out of this devotional time, would you like and/or share it on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever you do social media? That would help me get the word out, and hopefully help these devotions be a blessing to others.


God bless you!

Friday, September 08, 2017

September 8, 2017 - A Simple Way to Pray 2

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Welcome to Devotions for Worship where we meditate on the appointed Scripture readings for the upcoming Sunday. Thank you for being with me today.

I am Pastor Eric Tritten from Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Hudson, OH.

On Fridays we explore some devotional thoughts, habits, and practices, by looking at what others have written on devotion. We’ve kicked off this series by looking at a great document written by Martin Luther called A Simple Way to Pray.

Before I get to that, though, I want to remind you of what I mean when I say the word. Devotion is the deep reverence a person has for a particular teaching of the Christian faith and it can be expressed in a variety of ways – some contemplative and individual, others active and communal – all of which show that the Holy Spirit is at work in that time and place.[1] The particular form of devotion we are engaged in on this podcast is devotion to God’s Word and prayer, and that is what we exploring in Luther’s letter. We will explore some other forms in the future.

This document, A Simple Way to Pray, is a letter that Luther wrote to his friend and barber, a man named Peter Beskendorf. It might seem strange to have such a conversation between a pastor and a barber … in fact that sound like the beginning of joke, “A pastor and a barber were talking ….” But in the 1500’s barbers didn’t just cut hair, they also provided medical care for their clients and those relationships could be very close.

Let’s dive into this letter to learn how Luther taught his friend to pray. I’m going to be reading from the American Edition of Luther’s Works, vol. 43. This version of A Simple Way to Pray was translated by Carl Schindler, and the copyright belongs to Fortress Press. I am grateful that they have given me permission to share this with you.

A Simple Way to Pray – paragraphs 3-6 – I did not ask for permission to print A Simple Way to Pray, but there are many versions available on line. Here is a link to one of them. A Simple Way to Pray.


Prayers –
O God, we thank you for your Word and for the gift of prayer. We pray that you would help us grow in our devotion to meditating on your Word and responding to you in prayer, and we ask that our devotion would be rooted in your love for us and our love for you. We put ourselves, our friends, our loved ones, and our enemies into your hands. Help us to walk with you all our days. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Memory Verse: Matthew 18:12 - What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? (Matt. 18:12 ESV)

Hey, remember that if you want to help those who have been hurt by Hurricane Harvey a great place to do so is LCMS World Relief and Human Care. If you go to www.lcms.org/harvey you can learn more and donate to help.

Thank you so much for using Devotions for Worship, I pray that our time together has blessed you and given you something to meditate on – some reminder of God’s grace to rattle around in your brain – for the rest of the day.

Would you do me a favor? If you got something out of this devotional time, would you like and/or share it on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever you do social media? That would help me get the word out, and hopefully help these devotions be a blessing to others.

God bless you!



[1] I am heavily indebted to Dr. David Schmitt of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis for this understanding, in fact what I just said is basically a paraphrase of his definition of devotion in his essay in Inviting Community, Devotion and Community: Thresholds of Faith. He helped me to broaden my understanding of devotional practices and habits.

September 7, 2017 - Romans 13:1-10

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Welcome to Devotions for Worship where we meditate on the appointed Scripture readings for the upcoming Sunday. Thank you for being with me today.

I am Pastor Eric Tritten from Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Hudson, OH.

This coming Sunday is the 14 Sunday after Pentecost.

When I was younger, I really enjoyed political debates. These days I don’t so much. On the one hand, I feel that sharing Jesus is much more important than politics and the kingdom of heaven transcends political ideologies. On the other hand, it almost feels like politics and government have become a form of idolatry these days, and political dogma has slipped into the church and seems to be held in as much reverence as Holy Scripture.

I say this because our Epistle lesson this week deals with government and what we might call the political realm of life. Some of what it has to say might challenge our political views. Some of it might have implications for how we view our nations, their founding, or their structure which might make us uncomfortable. I think that it is okay to be uncomfortable. Often when we who are sinners wrestle with the things of God His Word leads us to thoughts and feelings we wouldn’t experience on our own. Our goal, then, as forgiven children of God is to place ourselves beneath God’s Word, and, “hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it,” as we say in the Catechism regarding the Third Commandment.

The Reading: Romans 13:1-10 – I will be reading from the English Standard Version translation.

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Rom. 13:1-10 ESV)

Comments
Here in the United States our view of government these days is pretty low. Congress’s approval ratings are in the single digits. We have people who hate our president and actively seek to disrupt him with their protests. And in many ways it seems that our political officials are more defined by their political parties than they are defined by their identity as citizens of our land. More than once I have talked to people who just shake they heads and complain that our government is a mess.

Paul’s words about being subject to the governing authorities which hold government and its leaders in high regard as God’s servants to do good might be challenging for us to hear. We might be tempted to think that Paul would have spoken differently on the matter if he had been in our time. We should remember, however, that the Emperor at the time that Paul wrote this letter to the Romans was Nero who famously persecuted Jews and Christians and who lined the avenues with crosses holding crucified Christians and ordered that they be lit as torches. This is the authority he was dealing with when he said that one must be in subjection to the governing authorities.

The general disrespect for our governmental leaders – notice that I say disrespect, not disapproval, one can disagree with the government and still treat our leaders with respect – is unhealthy for our nation, and it is not good for us as Christians to engage in. And let’s be clear, this isn’t limited to this president or to a particular party. The level of disrespect for those we are told here are God’s servants (whether they acknowledge that or not) is not becoming of God’s people.

Ideally, if we live according to the law of love, which is described in the Ten Commandments as they describe how we should live in relationship with our neighbor, if we live according to the law of love our conduct will be such that we will not run afoul the government, or our neighbors for that matter. Love seeks the good of others. Or as our text says, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”

But what if the government, its agents, or even our neighbor doesn’t deserve love? If or when that might be the case we do well to consider a statement from earlier in Romans, from 5:8, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” There is a principle here and a piece of good news. We should ask, “Do we deserve God’s love?” And the answer is a resounding, “No.” But he loved us anyways. Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. That kind of radical love flows to us through the cross, and it flows through us to our neighbors and even our enemies.

Prayers
Father in Heaven, we thank you that you loved us while we were still sinners and gave Jesus to die for us. Because we have experienced your love we ask that you would help us to love our neighbors and hold our government officials in proper respect. Lead us to pray for our leaders and for our neighbors and we pray that you would help us to display your love to them in ways that cause them to honor you. Forgive us for not loving as we ought. Confront us with the cross, overwhelm us with your love, and fill us to overflowing with your love so that we become conduits of your love to others.

Speaking of loving our neighbors, Lord, we pray for our neighbors in the Caribbean and in Florida some of whom have been devastated by Hurricane Irma and others of whom await the storm’s landfall. We pray for protection of life and property for those who await the storm and for relief and comfort for those who have lost so much to the storm. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Amen.

Thank you so much for using Devotions for Worship, I pray that our time together has blessed you and given you something to meditate on – some reminder of God’s grace to rattle around in your brain – for the rest of the day.

Memory Verse: Matthew 18:12 - What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? (Matt. 18:12 ESV)

One of the other practices of devotion is the giving of alms – donations given to help those in need. If you feel led to give toward helping our neighbors in Houston, Florida, or in the Caribbean, a great organization to give to which will get all of those funds to those who need them is LCMS World Relief and Human Care. You can learn more about them at www.lcms.org/harvey. At this moment they are set up to receive funds for Hurricane Harvey victims, but I am certain that soon there will be information about how to help those hurt by Hurricane Irma.

Would you do me a favor? If you got something out of this devotional time, would you like and/or share it on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever you do social media? That would help me get the word out, and hopefully help these devotions be a blessing to others.


God bless you!

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

September 6, 2017

Listen here.

Welcome to Devotions for Worship where we meditate on the appointed Scripture readings for the upcoming Sunday. Thank you for being with me today.

I am Pastor Eric Tritten from Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Hudson, OH.

This coming Sunday is the 14 Sunday after Pentecost, and the appointed Psalm this week is Psalm 32:1-7. We should notice right away when I read it that the Psalm goes along with the Gospel lesson and speaks of God’s forgiveness. It begins with the idea that we are blessed or happy when we know that our sins are forgiven, and then reminds us that when we try to hide our sins that this is harmful to us, so we are encouraged to confess our sins to the one who forgives us, and rest in his protection.

I should also mention that there is a strange word in this psalm that appears in many of the psalms. The word is selah. We don’t really know what selah means, but one of the theories is that it is a musical term to cause us to pause and ponder or meditate on what had just been spoken. With that in mind, I will pause for a couple seconds each time I read the word selah.

The Reading: Psalm 32:1-7 – I will be reading from the English Standard Version translation.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
 2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
 3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
 5 I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD," and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
 6 Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him.
 7 You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah
 (Ps. 32:1-7 ESV)

Comments
What a blessing it is to know that God gave Jesus to die for our sins, and that we are indeed forgiven and our transgressions covered with Jesus blood. One of the great blessings in receiving Jesus’ forgiveness is the way that it sets us free from sin. One of the way sin enslaves us and keeps us in its thrall is that it makes us ashamed and causes us to hide our sinful action from one another. It separates us from God and from one another so that we waste away and become an easier target. When we confess our sins we are seen and we take hold of Jesus’ forgiveness – restoring our relationship with God and one another and drawing us back into the community of believers where we are protected.

These are good things for us to let rattle around in our minds. We are forgiven, what a blessing! We can confess our sins knowing that we are forgiven and set free. Our relationship with God is restored and the cross of Christ has become our deliverance and defense.

Prayers
O God, we are so blessed to be forgiven! Jesus has taken away the sin that separates us from you and brought us back to you to live in your protection. Lord, help us to be certain of your forgiveness so that we will be bold to confess our sins and, being forgiven, be set free from sin to follow you. Be our hiding place and protection from temptation, sin, and the evils of this world, preserve us from all danger and false beliefs – especially those false beliefs that lay our guild on us instead of on Jesus – and let your cross be the sign of victory for us so that we join in the shouts of joy with all believers hailing you as our God and Savior. Amen.

Thank you so much for using Devotions for Worship, I pray that our time together has blessed you and given you something to meditate on – some reminder of God’s grace to rattle around in your brain – for the rest of the day.

One of the things we can do to help us meditate on God’s word is to memorize it. Psalm 119:11.

Memory Verse: Matthew 18:12 - What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? (Matt. 18:12 ESV)

Would you do me a favor? If you got something out of this devotional time, would you like and/or share it on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever you do social media? That would help me get the word out, and hopefully help these devotions be a blessing to others.


God bless you!

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

September 5, 2017 - Ezekiel 33:7-9

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Welcome to Devotions for Worship where we meditate on the appointed Scripture readings for the upcoming Sunday. Thank you for being with me today.

I am Pastor Eric Tritten from Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Hudson, OH.

This coming Sunday is the 14 Sunday after Pentecost. During this part of the church year the Old Testament Lesson falls in line with the Gospel reading. Perhaps you will notice how Matthew 18 encouraged us to go to those who had sinned against us in order to call them to repentance and this week’s O.T. reading finds God calling Ezekiel to warn his people to turn away from their sin.

The Reading: Ezekiel 33:7-9 – I will be reading from the English Standard Version translation.

7 "So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 8 If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. 9 But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. (Ezek. 33:7-9 ESV)

Comments
When we think of Old Testament prophets and their ministries we probably think of Israel or Jerusalem as the location of their work. Ezekiel, however, was one of the Jewish people who were taken into captivity to Babylon, and his ministry was in Babylon to his fellow Jews. Early on in his ministry God told Ezekiel that he would make him a watchman for the house of Israel. In fact, God spoke the exact same words to Ezekiel in Ezekiel 3:17-19 as he did in our reading in Ezekiel 33:7-9. So why would God commission twice like this? The first time Ezekiel was commissioned to proclaim that Jerusalem would fall and the people should settle in Babylon as part of God’s judgement against them because of their idolatry. The second time Ezekiel was commissioned was when Jerusalem fell and he was to proclaim the comforting message of the Gospel to Israel.

All of us bear, to some degree, the prophetic task. As we learned in our Gospel lesson yesterday, “If your brother sins against you go and tell him his fault.” And for what purpose are we to confront our brothers? To bring them to repentance and forgiveness. Ezekiel was called to do that – not only for his brother, but for all of Israel. He was to warn Israel – at the peril of his own soul of their wicked ways. And it is clear, a little after our reading, that God’s desire is that the wicked turn from his way and live. The text almost begs, “Turn back! Turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?”

Pastor’s bear this prophetic tasks for their congregations, too. This is one of the hardest parts of pastoral ministry: Confronting the sins of people in the congregation, especially if that pastor knows his own sin, too. It can be uncomfortable. People become angry. Pastors sometimes feel hypocritical as they wrestle with their own sin. So pray for your pastor so he can do his job faithfully as God has called him to.

I feel it is important to say again why God commissioned Ezekiel as a prophet. He was to warn the people to turn away from their wicked ways. We call that repentance when a person turns from his or her sin. God desired his people to turn away from their sin and to turn back to him as their God, savior, provider, protector, and Lord. His desire on that front has not changed. 1 Timothy 2:4 reminds us that he desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. That truth is that we are sinners, that God loves us, that Jesus suffered, died, and rose to atone for our sins, and that God wants us to turn from our sins to live in Jesus’ salvation.

Prayers
In our prayer today I’d like to take some of our time to pray for the folks in Houston who have been affected by Hurricane Harvey, the folks in the Caribbean and Florida who are in the path of Hurricane Irma, and the folks in the South Asia who have experience heavy flooding from monsoons and many have died there.

Lord God, we thank you for the ministry of your servant Ezekiel. He had a hard task, calling people to repentance, warning them about their sin, and calling them back to you. Sometimes we find ourselves in similar situations and so do our pastors. Forgive us for the times that fear, intimidation, discomfort, apathy, or any other motive kept us from speaking your words of warning and mercy with love. Help us all to faithfully hold forth the truth of your Word to draw people back to you and away from their sins. We also pray for people who have been impacted by disastrous storms. Lord, please protect and spare lives where they are in danger, and assist relief efforts where those are taking place. Be in the midst of people’s suffering to comfort them, help them, and provide for them. And we pray that your people would be active in the midst of those difficult times giving witness to the hope they have in you. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Thank you so much for using Devotions for Worship, I pray that our time together has blessed you and given you something to meditate on – some reminder of God’s grace to rattle around in your brain – for the rest of the day. I hope you’ll come back tomorrow when we take time to meditate on Psalm 32:1-7.

One of the things we can do to help us meditate on God’s word is to memorize it. Psalm 119:11.

Memory Verse: Matthew 18:12 - What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? (Matt. 18:12 ESV)

Would you do me a favor? If you got something out of this devotional time, would you like and/or share it on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever you do social media? That would help me get the word out, and hopefully help these devotions be a blessing to others.


God bless you!

Monday, September 04, 2017

September 4, 2017 - Matthew 18:1-20

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Welcome to Devotions for Worship where we meditate on the appointed Scripture readings for the upcoming Sunday. I am Pastor Eric Tritten from Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Hudson, OH. I hope you are having a restful Labor Day. Thank you for being with me today.

This coming Sunday is the 14 Sunday after Pentecost. I would remind you that the Gospel lesson each week sets the theme and tone for the whole worship service. Our goal is to testify about Jesus our Lord and Savior. We’re making a bit of a jump this week in the Gospel of Matthew. We’ve been reading it pretty much picking up where we left off the week before. Well, we just finished chapter 16 and this week we are reading from Matthew 18. What’s going on?

We have to remember that the Sunday readings do not cover everything in the Bible. They are meant to testify about Jesus as our Savior, not to teach us everything in the Scriptures. That being said, we are not just skipping Matthew 17. Matthew 17 begins with the Transfiguration account, which we read at the end of the Epiphany season. After that Jesus found his disciples trying unsuccessfully to cast out a demon from a little boy, we will read Mark’s account of those events next summer in Mark 9. Finally, Matthew, who, if you recall was a tax collector, recounts an event when Jesus was tested about paying taxes and he miraculously provided for himself and Peter’s payment through catching a fish that had a shekel coin in its mouth.

As we continue to learn Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom of heaven, we turn to some lessons about greatness, temptation, lost sheep, and reconciliation.

The Reading: Matthew 18:1-20 – I will be reading from the English Standard Version translation.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

 5 "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

 7 "Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! 8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

 10 "See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

 15 "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them." (Matt. 18:1-20 ESV)

Comments
There is a lot going on in those twenty verses! Let’s focus in on two themes – repentance and forgiveness.

First, repentance. To repent means to turn away from our sin. It is often accompanied by feelings of guilt, sorrow, or regret. Jesus tells us that we will face temptation to sin – and he takes such temptation very seriously! He speaks of drowning and cutting off those things that tempt us to sin.

The drowning has a beautiful parallel in baptism in which the old sinful nature within us, which tempts us as God’s children and leads us into sin, is drowned and dies. Luther writes about it this way in the Small Catechism, “[Baptism in water] indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man [a new person created in the image of Christ] should daily arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” The picture of baptism is a constant cycle of drowning the old sinful nature and living in the forgiveness and newness that Jesus’ salvation gives us.

As for cutting off, Jesus shows us how seriously we ought to take sin. However, does our hand or foot or eye cause us to sin? No! Sin is in our heart, the heart which is deceitful above all things. However, if we were to cut out our heart what would happen? We would die. So we join King David in Psalm 51 in praying to God, “Create in me a clean heart of God.” He takes our hearts of stone, hardened by sin, and replaces them with a heart of flesh as he says in Ezekiel 36:26.

In repentance we seek to die to sin and live in Christ.

This is only possible because of Jesus’ forgiveness. And forgiveness is tantamount through this whole reading. Jesus came to seek out and save lost sheep. Those who wander into sin are restored through forgiveness. So when Jesus speaks of a brother sinning against you, his goal in the confrontations that take place is forgiveness. He wants us to come to a point where we can declare his forgiveness to one another.

To be sure, this reading should give us pause to consider how we handle the offenses others commit against us. While confrontation is rarely fun, when our goal is to speak forgiveness to someone – not to punish them, not to vent our own spleens, but to live in Jesus’ forgiveness together – we will be more comfortable because we can be led by a sense of love.

We all know how it is to fall into temptation. And, thanks be to God, we know how it is to be forgiven for our sins. Forgiveness will lead us to repentance, and repentance leads us back to forgiveness. This is true in our relationship with God, and it is true in our relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, too.

Prayers
Lord Jesus, your took temptation very seriously knowing that it leads us into sin and away from you. You also seek us out in our sin and have won forgiveness for us sinners. Thank you for your forgiveness and for giving us repentance. Help us to resist temptation, to not stumble into disobedience, and lead us to live in forgiveness with you and with one another. Help us to constantly point one another and the world to you and to your salvation. Amen.

Thank you so much for using Devotions for Worship, I pray that our time together has blessed you and given you something to meditate on – some reminder of God’s grace to rattle around in your brain – for the rest of the day.

One of the things we can do to help us meditate on God’s word is to memorize it. Psalm 119:11.

Memory Verse: Matthew 18:12 - What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? (Matt. 18:12 ESV)

Would you do me a favor? If you got something out of this devotional time, would you like and/or share it on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever you do social media? That would help me get the word out, and hopefully help these devotions be a blessing to others.


God bless you!