Monday, April 12, 2021

Note: This will be the last of our three-times-a-week reflections on the Daily Texts. We began these as a way to help us stay connected while stay-at-home orders were in effect. Now, as the vaccination effort advances and we’re able to see the light of increased in-person connection at the end of this long tunnel—thanks be to God!—we’ll be ending these reflections. We, of course, encourage you to continue to make time for reflection on Scripture every day!

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” —Luke 2:29-32

There was a man living in Jerusalem named Simeon, a devoted follower of God. He was led by the Holy Spirit to the temple courts, where he saw Mary and Joseph and the child Jesus. God had revealed to Simeon that he would live to see the promised Messiah, and, when he saw Jesus, he knew this had indeed happened. That’s the context for his words in today’s verses.

What’s amazing about this reaction is that Simeon hadn’t seen Jesus do anything at all. Jesus was just a little baby. But the presence of Jesus was enough for Simeon to rejoice at the good work of God.

Simeon’s words were, of course, correct. In faith, Simeon could see who Jesus was and what Jesus would be for the world. Jesus was salvation from God, revelation to the Gentiles, and the light of glory for God’s beloved people Israel. The fact that Simeon was already proclaiming these truths is a reminder to us that the kingdom of God is not abstract or impersonal. The kingdom of God is just that: God’s kingdom, centered on the person of the Messiah, the King, Jesus of Nazareth.

May we always remember to look with joy and wonder at Jesus, and may we always see in him the salvation of God for this beloved world.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Today’s reflection is written by Deacon Karen Katamay.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” —Isaiah 43:1

Last Sunday we celebrated Easter, the holiest day for Christianity. If Jesus had not died and risen again, defeating death and redeeming us from our sin, we would not be Christians today. But thank God the story did not end with his death on the cross! Thank God that he is most gracious and merciful and that he loves us enough “so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16b).

We do not need to be afraid when we believe in Christ, because God is always with us, no matter what we are facing in our lives. We only have to remember the Easter message and be reassured in God’s love and sacrifice for us. God loves each and every one of us and he calls us by name and we are his—forevermore! May the joy of Easter stay in your heart all year through! Amen.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. Luke 6:28

Today’s verse is located in Luke’s account of the sermon on the mount. In it, Jesus calls his followers to forgive their enemies. Even though Jesus’ command makes total sense to me, I still find myself tempted to withhold forgiveness for certain people who have hurt me. I find myself wanting to read Jesus’ words as a suggestion that is to be implemented on a case by case basis. The problem is, we just celebrated Easter and to celebrate Easter we must remember that only three days earlier Jesus actually lived this command out when he forgave those who put him on the cross and into the grave.

Jesus went to the cross for you and me. Jesus went to the cross knowing how difficult it is to break out of the the cycles of sin that we find ourselves trapped in (not to mention the sins that we willingly walk toward committing). Jesus extended forgiveness all while knowing that we would live in a way that curses at the idea that God wants good things for us and that we abuse the gift of grace that has been extended because of Christ’s sacrifice.

Jesus modeled for us that it is possible to live this out this principle of forgiveness. Let’s work to embody this command today.

Monday, April 5, 2021

“Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” —Luke 24:26

Whenever I catch myself starting a sentence with “God must,” I pause and think about how to adjust or rephrase what I’m intending to say. Because God is perfectly free. There’s nothing at all that God, strictly speaking must do. Starting a sentence with “God must” is a good indication that I’m not talking about the God revealed in Jesus Christ, but instead I have in mind some kind of false god that is bound by something beyond itself.

And yet these words in Luke 24, from Jesus’ own mouth, refer to his own death as “necessary” (a good translation from the Greek account of Jesus’ presumably Aramaic words).

This doesn’t mean that there were some cosmic rules greater than God that God had to follow, and thus Jesus had to suffer the things he suffered. Rather, Jesus went on to explain to the men he was talking with that throughout the history of Israel, God had been working out this particular plan. God, in absolute freedom, chose to work out his rescue plan for creation in this way. Jesus’ suffering was necessary based on the plan that God had put into action; this was the Father’s will, carried out by his beloved Son.

Jesus did not go grudgingly to the cross. This was how he demonstrated his love for us, by suffering and dying and rising in victory over sin and death. Alleluia!

Friday, April 2, 2021

Today’s reflection is written by Deacon Karen Katamay.

“Christ is our peace.” —Ephesians 2:14

“Christ is our peace.” This short passage is a wonderful encapsulation of what Jesus gifted to us through his life, death, and resurrection. I invite you to also read the rest of the second chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, because the whole chapter summarizes the message of how God unites us and reconciles all of us through the cross. And the cross is the theme for this Good Friday—the cross where Jesus hung, condemned for the sins of the world, and died, so that we might live, before rising again, defeating death itself. How can we ever fully appreciate his sacrifice for us? How can we ever fully understand his willingness to suffer and die for us? He, who was without sin, dying for us sinners?

I would also like to share with you verses 4-7 of the second chapter of Ephesians: “But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” 

It may be hard today to associate the violent suffering and death of Jesus with a message of peace, but it is precisely because of what Jesus did for us that we can have peace, knowing our sin does not condemn us and that God forgives us and loves us.  Our Redeemer lives, and what comfort and peace that sweet message is! Amen.