IN THE DARK
Date: 2/22/2015 08:28 - Subscribe


"A Visit in the Dark"
By Rev. Wayne Palmer


Read John 3:1-8. TEXT: "Nicodemus said to Him,
'How can these things be?'" (John 3:9).

Lenten Devotion- Jesus made powerful enemies when He
cleansed the temple. But He also impressed some leaders
with His boldness and His miracles. In chapter three a
prominent leader comes to the Light, but fear of his
colleagues leads him to come to Jesus under the cover of
darkness.

Being a Pharisee, Nicodemus thinks his good life will win
him heaven. Jesus immediately challenges this false hope.
"Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot
see the Kingdom of God." Answering Nicodemus' confused
reply Jesus explains He is talking about baptism. But
Nicodemus still finds it difficult to accept these words.

You and I might find it difficult also. Like Nicodemus we have
so many good qualities going for us, especially when
compared to others we can point out. We work hard to provide
for our families. We try to be good citizens. We try to treat our
neighbors well.

But Jesus is clear and unbending, "That which is born of the
flesh is flesh." It can never be anything but flesh. You and I
can try as hard as we want, but we are and always will be
sinners. And saying, "I'm only human" is no excuse either.
Jesus was truly human, yet He was without sin.

That is why our Lord commanded His Church to baptize sinners.
Through the power of God's Word in that water Jesus takes our
sins and guilt upon Himself and suffers and dies in our place. He
fills us with His Holy Spirit and makes us children of God. Just
as Jesus rose again on the third day, He will raise us to live with
Him in paradise forever.

THE PRAYER:

Jesus, bring me out of the darkness of my self-righteousness to
the light of Your forgiveness and peace. Amen.

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THE LIGHT BLAZES
Date: 2/21/2015 07:31 - Subscribe


"The Light Blazes in Fury"
By Rev. Wayne Palmer

Read John 2:13-22. TEXT: "Making a whip of cords, He drove them
all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen ..." (John 2:15a).

Lenten Devotion- you picture Jesus as a meek, gentle man you
might be surprised at what He does here in the temple. But you
shouldn't be -- the thicker the darkness, the brighter the Light
must shine. Our Savior knows animals must be sold for sacrifice,
and foreign currency needs to be exchanged for temple currency.
But His problem is where this is all taking place.

This trading is being done in the Court of the Gentiles, i.e. in the
back of the church. The Jewish worshipers aren't bothered, they
can move up front closer to the temple. But what infuriates Jesus
is the way the Gentile believers are being forced to worship and
pray in all this noise and commotion.

When Jesus shouts "Take these things away; do not make My
Father's house a house of trade," the Jewish authorities are filled
with a dark rage of their own. The darkness tries to overcome the
Light as they demand Jesus perform a miracle proving His
authority to cleanse the temple.

Jesus will provide that sign in His coming death and resurrection.
On the cross His enemies will destroy His body -- the true temple
and dwelling place of God. But on the third day Jesus will raise it
to life again.

Today the darkness still challenges Jesus. When we gather at the
Lord's house to worship, pray and receive Christ's gifts in Word and
Sacrament, the darkness fills our minds with all sorts of trade and
business concerns, as well as other worries, fears and distractions.
But the light shines in the darkness and draws our thoughts back
to our Savior.

THE PRAYER:

Lord, cleanse my heart and mind that I may hear Your words of
grace and forgiveness. Amen.

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RASH JUDGEMENT
Date: 2/20/2015 07:51 - Subscribe


"The Darkness of Rash Judgment"
By Rev. Wayne Palmer

Read John 1:43-51. TEXT: "Can anything good come out
of Nazareth? ..." (John 1:46a).

Lenten Devotion- As we near the end of John's first chapter,
Jesus is gathering His twelve disciples. Even here we see
the battle rage between light and darkness -- in this case
it's the darkness of a preconceived notion. Before he ever
met Jesus, Nathanael arrogantly asks, "Can anything good
come out of Nazareth?"

That's what the darkness in us does. We sit as judge of
everyone and everything around us, jumping to conclusions
about people without knowing their whole story. And it's just
too bad for the person who doesn't fit into our nice neat
categories -- whether it's that nerdy kid at school who
doesn't dress like we do or that estranged family member,
quirky neighbor or congregation full of hypocrites. We even
do the same with God. We judge His holiness and
faithfulness by the circumstances of our lives. We don't
give God the right to be God.

Philip is wise. He doesn't try to argue away Nathanael's
prejudice. He gives his friend a simple invitation: "Come and
see." He is confident Jesus will shatter Nathanael's false
judgment, and Jesus doesn't disappoint him.

Lent is the time to humble ourselves and to come to Jesus
and admit our rash judgments. Jesus does something we
would never expect: He shines His grace, power and love as
He suffers from the darkness of human rejection, flogging
and a cross. Yet in that brutality, suffering and death Jesus
won our salvation. He gathers us together in congregations
around His Word and Sacraments to shatter our
preconceived notions and empower us to accept one
another and work together to show His love to all those
around us.

THE PRAYER:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for judging by appearances. Open my
heart to see You as You are and to share Your Name
everywhere I go. Amen.

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HE TAKES AWAY
Date: 2/19/2015 06:56 - Subscribe


"He Takes Away the Sin of the World"
By Rev. Wayne Palmer
February 19, 2015


Read John 1:19-34. TEXT: "The next day John saw Jesus coming
toward him and said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away
the sin of the world!'" (John 1:29).

Lenten Devotion- The teacher walks into the classroom and finds
a broken vase. She's not sure who broke it, but she has a pretty
good idea. She singles out the one child who always gets into
trouble -- the scapegoat -- and though it's completely unfair, off he
goes to face the principal in place of the child who is truly guilty.

The word "scapegoat" comes to us from the Old Testament Day
of Atonement, the day God forgave the nation's sins. God
commanded His people to bring a goat to His altar. The priest laid
his hand on its head confessing the sins of the people of Israel.
The scapegoat took the punishment for their sins as it was led out
into the wilderness.

Here in the middle of John's first chapter, John the Baptist points
at Jesus and calls out, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away
the sin of the world!" John looks past Jesus' Baptism to Good
Friday when He will suffer the full wrath and punishment for our
sins. When we receive the assurance of God's forgiveness in
Jesus' body and blood in Holy Communion, we repeat John's words,
"Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world; have mercy on
us; grant us peace."

As we follow Jesus through this season of Lent, we will see how
brightly God's Light shines in our dark world.

THE PRAYER:

Lord God, turn my eyes to my Savior this Lenten season that I may
say with John the Baptist, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes
away the sins of the world" -- and my sins. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

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ENTERING LENT
Date: 2/18/2015 04:00 - Subscribe


Scripture:

Giving to the Needy
6 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (NIV)
Prayer
5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (NIV)

Reflection:

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. This season of the church is meant to mirror Christ's forty days in the desert prior to the start of his public ministry, and traditionally it is a time of abstention when we ponder what it means to "die to self." How fitting that our reading strikes at the heart of one of the most ubiquitous forms of self preservation: praise seeking.
The problem with seeking praise is that it keeps alive the lie that lasting validation and worth can be found in the good graces of other people. In truth, real worth and genuine validation can only be found in the grace of God. When we give to others and when we pray to God, we embody the reality that our God gave to us and that we need God to live. It is not about a curtain call we can take for ourselves, but instead about how we can point to God, giving glory to the One who gives grace to us.

Prayer:

Jesus, walk with me into this Lenten season, carrying me from a death to self into a life for you. Amen

(The Covenant Home Alter, Josh Danielson author)
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