5/30 Saturday: Read Luke 17:1—8:56
· If time is short, focus on 7:36-50
· Today’s reading may leave you a bit breathless… what an awesome Savior!
· Note the kind of people His powerful Word helps… a converted soldier of the despised Roman army… a desolate widow… the greatest prophet (who perhaps himself was doubting his own word as he sat in chains)… a weeping sinful woman. Is there anyone Jesus’ heart does not reach out to?
· The power of Jesus’ Word stops a storm in its tracks, commands demons, heals disease that has the doctor’s puzzled and makes death a nap… And yet we have the power to ignore the seed, keep it from taking root and allowing this world’s cares and pleasures to crowd it out. Be careful how you listen! Pray for good soil!
5/31 Sunday: It is 50 days after the resurrection of our Lord, the day when with great power He kept His promise to send the Holy Spirit, the Counselor.
Prayer of the Day:
Holy Spirit, God and Lord, come to us this joyful day with Your sevenfold gift of grace. Rekindle in our hearts the holy fire of Your love that in a true and living faith we may tell abroad the glory of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Father, one God, now and forever.
Introduction to today’s lessons:
“Happy Birthday to you… Happy Birthday to you”… When you think about it, celebrating birthdays is a big part of our schedule (and budget!) every month, isn’t it? How many birthdays do you celebrate in your family each year? Did you include in your count the birthday of the New Testament Christian Church? That is the birthday we celebrate today. The festival of the Pentecost is often considered the birthday of the New Testament Church. Our lessons point us to what happened and its significance for each of us.
Devotion on the Epistle Lesson: Acts 2:1-21:
Pentecost, was also celebrated by God’s people before Jesus (only with a different significance). It was part of one of their harvest festivals called the Festival of Weeks. Pentecost, means “Fifty”. It was fifty days after the Passover (and consequently also fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus from the dead).
Our Pentecost celebration concludes the Easter season. The risen Savior fulfills His promise to send the Holy Spirit, that mysterious third person of the Trinity, the Comforter, the Counselor, the Breath of God. Pentecost is the third great festival of the Church (after Christmas and Easter) and has been commemorated since at least 217 A.D. On this day the Church dresses in red to remind us of the tongues of fire that illustrated the Spirit’s presence and the blood of the martyrs which has been often referred to as the seed of the Church. Read the account from Acts chapter 2:
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the rushing of a violent wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw divided tongues that were like fire resting on each one of them. 4They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, since the Spirit was giving them the ability to speak fluently. 5Now there were godly Jewish men from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. 6When this sound was heard, a crowd came together and was confused, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7They were completely baffled and said to each other, “Look, are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8Then how is it that each of us hears them speaking in his own native language? 9Parthians, Medes, and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, and of Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt, and the parts of Libya around Cyrene; visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes; 11Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring in our own languages the wonderful works of God.” 12They were all amazed and perplexed. They kept saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others mocked them and said, “They are full of new wine.” 14Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and spoke loudly and clearly to them: “Men of Judea, and all you residents of Jerusalem, understand this, and listen closely to my words. 15These men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day. 16On the contrary, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17This is what God says will happen in the last days: I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh. Your sons and your daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions. Your old men will dream dreams. 18Even on My servants, both men and women, I will pour out My Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. 19I will show wonders in the sky above, and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and a rising cloud of smoke. 20The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. 21And this will happen: Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Was the miracle of Pentecost that sound of a violent wind that didn’t even sway the curtains? No, that sound got everyone’s attention but it was not what this event was all about. Was the miracle of Pentecost the tongues of fire that separated and rested on each of the apostle’s heads? No, the fire was not the miracle, just a symbol of what was really happening. Was the miracle of Pentecost the amazing ability of those unlearned hicks from Galilee to speak in countless foreign languages? No! Again this gift is symbolic of the fact that the gift of Pentecost is for all people. The violent wind, the tongues of fire, the different languages all made it very clear that Jesus had kept His promise to baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
The real miracle of Pentecost is the transformative power of the Holy Spirit, taking timid followers of Jesus, who, left to themselves would have run and hid, and instead making them bold witnesses of the living Christ, carrying that Gospel into the whole world. The symbols of Pentecost were necessary to make it clear where the power of the Church comes from, for you see, normally the Spirit works in such a quiet and subtle way that it is hardly noticed.
The one great event we celebrate at Pentecost is repeated every time a hard human heart is convinced of the reality of our Creator and Redeemer God. It is repeated every time God opens your mouth to confess your faith. Only such things are not considered great miracles because they are not showy or splashy. Nevertheless this is the true miracle of Pentecost.
God revealed the same truth to His prophet Elijah in the wilderness. Remember... Elijah had entered a cave wanting to die, convinced that God’s power had left and that he was the only one left. Then God showed him a powerful wind that tore rocks from the mountain side, also an earthquake, and even a fire. (Remind you of Pentecost?) God was not in those powerful visible outward signs. Where was He? He was in the soft, whispering voice. God revels Himself and His power in the soft whispering voice that says to you: “I am here; I have forgiven you; you are Mine.”
Helen Keller describes one of the great events in her life with these words: “We (Annie and Helen) walked down the path to the well house, attracted by the fragrance of the honeysuckle with which it was covered. Someone was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled into the other the word WATER, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers. Suddenly, I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten — a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that W-A-T-E-R meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free!”
So also the living Word of the risen Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, awakens the souls of people giving them light, hope, joy, courage, and freedom! That is the real miracle of Pentecost!
Holy Spirit, Light divine, Shine upon this heart of mine;
Chase the gloom of night away; Turn the darkness into day.
Holy Spirit Pow’r divine, Dwell within this heart of mine;
Cast down ev’ry idol throne; Reign supreme and reign alone. (CW 183:1,4)
Devotion on the Old Testament Lesson: Joel 2:28,29:
We will now focus for a moment on that prophecy of the Old Testament prophet Joel which Peter said was being fulfilled. We are not sure of exactly when Joel wrote his message, but it was apparently inspired by a major tragedy such as we face these days, only then it was not a pandemic, but a grass-hopper plague, perhaps something like the Dakotas saw in the 1930’s. Joel is best known however for his prophesy of Pentecost which we just heard Peter quote:
28After this, I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh. Your sons and your daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams. Your young men will see visions. 29Even on the male servants and the female servants, I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
In the Old Testament God poured out His Spirit on the prophets and so revealed His will though visions and dreams. In Numbers 11, God anointed the 70 elders with His Spirit so that they prophesied. When Moses’ young aide loyally objected to some of the elders prophesying in the camp, Moses said, “I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put His Spirit on them!” The prophet Joel said that one day, Moses’ wish would be fulfilled. But when? “Afterward,” in the Messianic age, in the last age of the earth that began on the day God kept the promise of Joel and the wish of Moses and put His Spirit on all His people.
Moses wished it; Joel foretold it; the disciples lived it. The sin that had scattered mankind at Babel had been atoned. The last age of the earth (Acts 2:19-21) wouldn’t be marked by the dividing of the peoples, but by their uniting into the Church of Christ where there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.
We too continue to live this prophesy. The Spirit continues to make fearful common Peter’s into public preachers and teachers. Yes, He gives young men visions. He gives them the zeal and love to carry the news of forgiveness to every possible place. He has promised each of us that He will be with us and give us words and strength whenever and wherever we talk about the Savior. It doesn't matter how young you are. Children prophesy to us in song. And many a parent has been taught the true nature of faith by their Christian child’s simple trust in the Savior. It doesn’t matter how old you are either. Many a young person, (many a pastor) has received inspiration from the unwavering and uncomplaining trust of some elderly saint, even though he or she had nothing left in this world.
Many an uncultured “savage” has put highly educated Christians to shame by his zeal to spread the Gospel in the face of persecution and even death. Sweet dreams of the Savior’s presence, glorious visions of the Father’s home of many mansions, how often have these results of the Spirit’s presence made the weary hours on the sick bed pass more speedily, or revived the hopes of some child of God harassed by doubts, and anxieties, and fears.
We now implore God the Holy Ghost
For the true faith which we need the most,
That in our last moments He may befriend us
And, as homeward we journey, attend us.
Lord have mercy! (CW 190:1)
Devotion on the Gospel Lesson, John 16:5-11:
The words of Jesus for our final devotion were spoken in that upper room on the night of His betrayal shortly before He prayed His high priestly prayer. How heavy the disciples hearts… their beloved Master was going away! How could Jesus departure be good for those men? Only when Jesus had finished His work of salvation and returned to the Father would He send the Counselor. The final words of Jesus on the Mount of Ascension had been: “Look, I am sending you what My Father promised. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Lk.24:49) If Jesus remained physically with those disciples He could only be in one place at a time; but from His Father’s throne, through the indwelling of the powerful Spirit, Jesus could be with every one of us anyplace, anytime, anywhere; keeping His promise, “I am with you always until the end of the age.” (Mt.28:20b) Our Gospel lesson from John chapter 16:
5“But now I am going away to Him who sent Me, and not one of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6Yet because I have told you these things, sorrow has filled your heart. 7Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth: It is good for you that I go away. For if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you. 8When He comes, He will convict the world about sin, about righteousness, and about judgment: 9about sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see Me; 11about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.”
Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the “Counselor,” literally “One who comes along side” of us. That is the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit: through Word and Sacrament He brings the eternal God into our heart so that our life is now once again walking and talking with the Lord as Adam and Eve did in the Garden at the dawn of time.
As Jesus continues He describes that Counselor’s work as being that of “convicting”. We might call the Holy Spirit the Great Convincer. The world goes about its self-important business, thinking that it is doing the most important work that could possibly be done, when in reality it is nothing but “vapor” (Ecc. 1:2ff), a mist that disappears after a moment. And then the world is met by the Great Convincer, and the whole world takes on a different view; it all gets turned upside down; it is convicted that everything is not what it once thought.
Three things the Holy Spirit opens the eyes to see and convinces of. The first is SIN. Oh, the world would like to think that everything is just fine, when it obviously is not. And by “sin” the Holy Spirit not only convinces of the moral bankruptcy within and without, but THE sin, and that is to ignore the solution to sin that the Father and Son at such great cost has provided the world. The ultimate sin is to turn one’s back on Jesus!
The Holy Spirit also convicts the world of “righteousness.” Yes, the world would like to think that righteousness can be found in the human heart, which is completely lacking of righteousness. The Holy Spirit convinces us that the ONLY righteousness that can be found is that of Jesus, won by His perfect life and innocent suffering and death, God’s great gift to a fallen world.
And finally the Spirit of God convinces of “judgment”, not our judgment which would be well-deserved, but that of the one we thought our friend, whose deceitful ways we so willingly followed: Satan. Satan is (not will be, but IS) defeated. Whose side will we be on anyway?
Yes, there are only two choices in life, the Great Convincer makes clear: to be convinced of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and thus to repent and believe. OR, to turn a blind eye to the Light, put our hands over our ears, and join Satan in his fiery home. The preaching of the Gospel never leaves hearts the same: by either bringing the light of faith, or hardening in unbelief, the Spirt convicts mankind.
Come, Holy Light, Guide divine, And cause the Word of life to shine.
Teach us to know our God aright and call Him Father with delight.
From ev’ry error keep us free; Let none but Christ our Master be
That we in living faith abide, In Him, our Lord, with all our might confide.
Come Holy Fire, Comfort true; Grant us the will Your work to do
And in Your service to abide; Let trials turn us not aside.
Lord, by Your pow’r prepare each heart, And to our weakness strength impart
That bravely here we may contend,
Through life and death to You, our Lord ascend. Alleluia! Alleluia! (CW 176:2,3)
Reading Through The Bible — Week 80
6/1 Monday: Read Luke 9:1-62
· If time is short, focus on v.37-45
· As you read today, think of discipleship. How would your life be different if every thought in this chapter were true in your life?
· Disciples rely entirely on the Lord (v.3, 10ff)
· Disciples go on even when rejection comes (v.4)
· Disciples know AND confess Jesus (v.20,35,45)
· Disciples empty themselves of self-love and interest (v.25,57ff)
· Disciples know that greatness means service (v.21, 48, 52, 57ff)
· It is clear that following Jesus means more than a Sunday stroll! What will need to change today for you to be a committed follower of Jesus? (v.18, 28)
6/2 Tuesday: Read Luke10:1-42
· If time is short, focus on v.1-24
· Jesus had sent out the twelve on an evangelism tour and now He sends out 72 with the same instructions. Where is He sending you and me today?
· The disciples are ecstatic over their success! Jesus puts it in perspective. Better to have one’s name on the roll call of heaven than in spot lights on earth.
· Luke the physician, alone records the beloved parable of the Good Samaritan. It is entirely possible that the priest and Levite did not stop because in dealing with blood and death they would have become “unclean” and therefore unable to fulfill what they considered a higher priority. Do our “obligations” stand in the way of what Jesus says is a priority? … as a neighbor, as a parent, as a church member?
· And how does the account of Mary and Martha teach a similar lesson? Do you really believe what Jesus says is the essence of the Law (love) and what is the ONE thing we need?
6/3 Wednesday: Luke 11:1—12:59
· If time is short, focus on 11:1-13
· Jesus faces growing opposition by some. Note where that opposition comes from and why.
· At the same time ever larger crowds gather to hear Him teach.
· “Lord teach us how to pray.” Note the Lord’s Prayer is not in the same form as in Matt. 6. Does that indicate it was not intended to be a memorized prayer, but rather a guide, a lesson outline on How to pray?
· Jesus’ disciples will also face opposition because of their faith, sometimes from those who would kill the body, sometimes from one's own family, sometimes from THE temptations of the material world, or even one’s own doubts and fears. Where does Jesus direct you in each case?
· Ultimately what is the bottom line important? (11:10, 20, 26, 28, 32, 35; 12;5, 10, 20, 31, 32, 33, 37, 40)
6/4 Thursday: Read Luke 13:1-35
· If time is short, focus on v.22-30
· It is common thinking that every bad thing that happens is a judgment of God. That is not necessarily true. The world is a bit more complicated than that. However Jesus teaches us to use every bad thing that happens as a time of self-evaluation, a call to repentance.
· The point of comparison with the mustard seed and yeast is that something so small can do something so big. How true that is of the still small voice of the Gospel.
· That narrow door of repentance and faith in Jesus had been replaced by the Jewish religious leaders in their own elaborate system of good works. How it tears Jesus heart-strings to have to say, “I don’t know you.” How He longs to gather every soul as a hen clucks to her chicks.
· Is the heart of Jesus also your heart? Pray today for someone you know who is breaking Jesus’ heart.
6/5 Friday: Read Luke 14:1-35
· If time is short, focus on v.25-35
· Several subjects come up as Jesus sat at the table of a prominent Pharisee.
· 1. Perhaps the man-made rules about the Sabbath were well intended to keep and encourage people to keep that commandment, but they had become an end in themselves. Jesus always takes us to the heart of the law.
· 2. Humble selflessness is the next subject both for guests and hosts.
· 3. Discipleship is the final topic of discussion. Note carefully the cost!
· Does meditation on any of these three subjects prick your heart? Have traditions taken your focus off of the heart of your religion? Do you have a way of putting yourself forward? Are there excuses for a less than committed discipleship? Jesus offers to you forgiveness and power to change.
6/6 Saturday: Read Luke 15:1—16:31
· If time is short, focus on 15:11-32
· In reading Jesus’ parables it is always important to ask, “Why is Jesus telling it?”... for each parable has one central truth to teach. Note Jesus tells three parables in response to the accusation that Jesus was condoning sin by eating with sinners.
· And what do you learn from those three parables? Rejoice in God’s seeking heart! Pray that that heart may be implanted in you.
· And then come stories and teaching about wealth. The key word is “shrewdly.” The man is honored for making shrewd use of wealth, not for being dishonest (or even wasteful like the lost son.) How much of your wealth are you using to make eternal friends?
· “Moses and the prophets”… preaching of the Scriptures… that is the only way to be saved from the fate of the rich man. Invest in Gospel proclamation, not the latest luxury.
6/7 Sunday: Read the lessons for Holy Trinity (On our first month back at church our services will have a different focus, so you may want to read the lessons ahead)
The Gospel Lesson, Matthew 28:16-20:
On a mountain in Galilee they met a man who had died, but lived again. Some of His disciples doubted, but the ones that believed His word bent the knee and worshipped this man as God. If what this man said was true, then God had died for them; God had risen for them; and now, God Himself was calling them to a ministry for all nations. God reveals Himself as triune: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The God who made us is the God who saved us and is still the God who sets us apart. Many ancient heresies wanted to make Jesus less than a man. Most modern heresies don’t bother making Him anything more than a man. But the Church teaches all nations to obey everything Jesus commanded us.
The Old Testament Lesson, Genesis1:1—2:3:
Although the Bible ascribes certain works to each person (the Father as Creator, the Son as Redeemer, the Holy Spirit as Sanctifier). When we read the account of creation here, we see all three persons of the Godhead at work. We read verse 1 in the context of Psalm 104 and John 1. God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—created a home for the crown of His creation. The Trinity was speaking to itself and of itself in the amazing words that displayed God’s intent for humankind: Let us make man in our image. The Triune God planned for creation’s crown to conform to His image. When Adam fell, it was the Triune God who resolved to restore man to the perfection in which he had been created. This plan to restore holiness to the world would involve all three persons to choose us, to redeem us, to call us to Himself.
The Epistle Lesson, 2 Corinthians 13:22-14:
The grace, the love, the fellowship. That is the story of the Trinity in the lives of believers. Grace is that which we don’t deserve; God’s love is what drove it; our fellowship with God and with each other is its result. We trust in God the Father, who fills us with hope. We trust in the Lord Jesus Christ: Lord—the one who bought us; Jesus—the name He carried here on earth when He came to save us; Christ—the office He filled for our salvation. We trust in the Holy Spirit, who called us by His power and by that same power causes us to overflow with hope and love for our fellowman.