Advent Daily Devotional


Lenten Devotional 3-23-23

Sermon on the Mount

March 23, 2023

Matthew 6: 19-21

19 ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

In 2011 and 2012, I lost both of my parents. One of the unenviable, but common, tasks that my brother and I faced was cleaning out the house where they had lived for ten years. We went through closets, drawers, the garage, and finally the attic. It was a nostalgic trip through my parents’ lives. But it was also a perfect example of today’s text. One of the things we found were photo albums from years past, covered with dust and deteriorated. We looked through them and discovered that many people in the pictures we did not know. We decided that if we did not know who was in the picture, we threw it away. We also opened several garbage bags that contained clothing. The bags also contained mothballs. A quick look at these items and off to the dumpster. Then there were garbage cans that contained old sweaters my mother knitted decades ago. More mothballs. Unwearable. This went on for months as we examined these treasures of our parents. The last thing we pulled out was a very old box, again covered with dust. Inside, we found my mother’s wedding dress. Sigh … She wore it once and then put it away. All these were treasures on earth that gave way to moth and rust. Please do not take this as criticism. I have a full attic, full drawers, full closets, a full garage, too. We all do, don’t we. These are the things we acquire in our lives that gave us joy. But, unlike Marie Kondo and the joy she gets when “tidying up”, we are unwilling to “thank” our earthly treasures and send them off. We want to keep them forever. 

Jesus points out that forever does not happen on earth. Things rust. Moths eat, Thieves steal. If we focus on those things, we lose sight of what is truly important. The only things that are eternal are the things we store in heaven. Love of God. Love of neighbor. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Give water to the thirsty, Welcome the stranger. Visit the oppressed. That is the theme Jesus returns to over and over. Care for and about each other. That is treasure in heaven.

Lenten Devotional 3-22-23

Sermon on the Mount

March 22, 2023

Matthew 6: 16-18

16 ‘And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

So, does this passage tell us that we expected to fast? Actually, no, which is good because we really don’t. The Lenten tradition of “giving something up” in commemoration of Jesus’ 40 days without food in the wilderness is not a “fast”. 

What is interesting tis that this lesson from Jesus talks about fasting as it would be understood by a Jew in the first century. To a Jew, a voluntary fast would be undertaken to mark a disruption in the life of the one fasting or in the community of the one fasting. The most common disruption would be the death of a loved one or some communal tragedy. One would mourn by not eating. And fasts were limited. They were to be from sunup until the first stars of the evening are seen. (I suspect there was dispensation for overcast evenings.) The fasting also signified hope. Hope that God would fulfil God’s promise that God was still God, had something to do with what happened, and would ultimately intervene to save the people of Israel. Fasting was thus an act of humility and faith.

So, if you were going to fast, Jesus tells you how you do it. In secret. Those who make a show of it are hypocrites. They are making themselves the center of the fast, not God. It is not really a show of humility, but a showing off one’s purported “piety”. So, if you are fasting, keep it to yourself.

Lenten Devotional 3-21-23

Sermon on the Mount

March 21, 2023

Matthew 6: 14-15

14For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; 15but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

First you need to know that these words are not part of the prayer the Lord taught according to Mathew. They are an explanation of what Jesus means when Jesus says:

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.

What that means is that If you are an injured party who is asked for forgiveness  … well … if you want to be forgiven by God for all your offences, you have to be willing to forgive all the offences others have committed against you. How do we do that? It is certainly not our nature. Forgiving is hard. But not forgiving can be harmful.

Adam Hamilton wrote a book called Forgiveness. In it, Hamilton uses stones and a backpack to illustrate the way we deal with people who hurt us. Small stones are small slights. Medium stones are more hurtful. Large stones cause serious pain. We collect such stones every day. And we have to decide what we are going to do with them. We can put them in our backpacks and carry them around with us until we are so weighed down by our resentment and grudges that carrying the backpack hurts us. Or we can forgive and throw the stones away. Each sized stone requires a different amount of forgiveness. Small stones should be just ignored. Say to yourself, “Have I ever done that and just sort of walked away without asking for pardon?” If you have, you have no right to begrudge the person who has just done something you have done.

Let it go.

Medium and large stones require more work. Forgiveness starts by giving up the right to retribution. An eye for an eye simply does not work. It only escalates into a death match. But giving grace does not mean we condone what happened. The consequences of the act remain. A liar is not trusted. A criminal stays in jail. That kid was still grounded. We are called to forgive, but not to forget.

But you can lay that stone aside as well. 

Now there are those who do not want forgiveness, do not ask for forgiveness and do not believe they need forgiveness. What do we do with them? We forgive them, too. 

Why do we forgive. Well, to be forgiven by God. But also because it delivers us from the power exercised over us by the memory of the offence. Forgiving is not mainly for them, it is mainly good for us