11:15 And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16 And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”
– Mark 11:15-17
As Jesus makes His way into the holy city, Jerusalem, things really begin to heat up for Him. The crowds have just praised Him as he rode into town on a colt. One moment they are singing “hosannas” and exalting Him as the Davidic Messiah and then next moment their response to his cursing of the fig tree — which represented the unfaithfulness of Israel — and his righteous anger in the temple, causes them to turn on Him.
How quickly we human beings turn from adulation of another to scorn. We are a fickle people! At any hint of judgment against us we straighten our spine, pull back our shoulders, put our hand out and cry, “Not today buddy! You don’t get to judge me!” The problem with that posture is that more often than not, we need to hear where we’ve fallen short of God’s Holy will for us. It cannot be ignored if we truly desire to follow Jesus as servants of the most high God. The first step to the restoration of our relationships with God and our neighbors is repentance. Then and only then will we receive the words of forgiveness granted to us by our loving and merciful Lord.
As Jesus entered the temple what He found was a cadre of merchants selling animals, presumably for the pilgrims coming to Jerusalem for the Passover feast and worship. These animals were purchased and given as offerings. It was rather handy, especially for those traveling long distances to get to the temple. The problem was that the merchants were taking advantage of the people. They set up shop in the holiest of places to exchange Roman money for temple money, a special currency created to be used to pay the temple tax and to buy animals for sacrifice. The courtyard had become a stockyard with sheep, cattle and doves for purchase. Can you imagine the chaos?
Jesus enters the place and topples over the tables and chastises the merchants saying, “You’ve made my Father’s house into a den of robbers!” The Greek word used here for robbers is lestes/λῃστής (sounds like lay-stays) and it can be translated as thief or criminal. He goes on to proclaim that His Father’s house is to be a house of prayer! The misuse of the temple is a grievous offense against God, and Jesus’ condemnation aggravated the chief priests and temple authorities. Just a few days later, as we all know, Jesus would find Himself nailed to a cross like a common criminal, positioned between two thieves to die.
This story reminds us of where our attention, adoration, and proper worship is to be directed — towards our Lord Jesus Christ. There are so many places we end up putting our efforts into, but none of them are life giving in the way that Christ gives life. Our buildings we worship in cannot save us. Our associations with clubs, committees, and even charities, as wonderful as they are, cannot grant us life eternal. When anything at all comes before God in our lives, there we find we’ve made an idol. There we are thieves and robbers, taking what properly belongs to God and giving it to someone or something else.
Friends, as we make the journey with Jesus this week to the cross, may our hearts, hands, minds, and wallets all be in submission to our Lord Jesus Christ who calls us to be His temple in the world — spiritual houses made of living stone by Him and for His purposes (1 Peter 2:5).
Prayer: Saving God, You have called each of us to a life of faithfulness. Grant that we would not be tempted to put attention elsewhere but would daily focus on Your love and Your Word of life, Jesus Christ. Bless our bishop and grant him all he needs to continue to lead Your Holy Church in discipleship, mission, and a deeper faith. We pray this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Devotion written by the Rev. Amy C. Little
Lamentations 1:1–2 (Listen)
How Lonely Sits the City
1:1 How lonely sits the city
that was full of people!
How like a widow has she become,
she who was great among the nations!
She who was a princess among the provinces
has become a slave.
2 She weeps bitterly in the night,
with tears on her cheeks;
among all her lovers
she has none to comfort her;
all her friends have dealt treacherously with her;
they have become her enemies.
Lamentations 1:6–12 (Listen)
6 From the daughter of Zion
all her majesty has departed.
Her princes have become like deer
that find no pasture;
they fled without strength
before the pursuer.
7 Jerusalem remembers
in the days of her affliction and wandering
all the precious things
that were hers from days of old.
When her people fell into the hand of the foe,
and there was none to help her,
her foes gloated over her;
they mocked at her downfall.
8 Jerusalem sinned grievously;
therefore she became filthy;
all who honored her despise her,
for they have seen her nakedness;
she herself groans
and turns her face away.
9 Her uncleanness was in her skirts;
she took no thought of her future;
therefore her fall is terrible;
she has no comforter.
“O LORD, behold my affliction,
for the enemy has triumphed!”
10 The enemy has stretched out his hands
over all her precious things;
for she has seen the nations
enter her sanctuary,
those whom you forbade
to enter your congregation.
11 All her people groan
as they search for bread;
they trade their treasures for food
to revive their strength.
“Look, O LORD, and see,
for I am despised.”
12 “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
Look and see
if there is any sorrow like my sorrow,
which was brought upon me,
which the LORD inflicted
on the day of his fierce anger.
2 Corinthians 1:1–7 (Listen)
1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia:
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
God of All Comfort
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
Mark 11:12–25 (Listen)
Jesus Curses the Fig Tree
12 On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
15 And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16 And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. 19 And when evening came they went out of the city.
The Lesson from the Withered Fig Tree
20 As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
Psalm 119:73–80 (Listen)
73 Your hands have made and fashioned me;
give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.
74 Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice,
because I have hoped in your word.
75 I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous,
and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
76 Let your steadfast love comfort me
according to your promise to your servant.
77 Let your mercy come to me, that I may live;
for your law is my delight.
78 Let the insolent be put to shame,
because they have wronged me with falsehood;
as for me, I will meditate on your precepts.
79 Let those who fear you turn to me,
that they may know your testimonies.
80 May my heart be blameless in your statutes,
that I may not be put to shame!
Psalm 145 (Listen)
Great Is the Lord
A Song of Praise. Of David.
145:1 I will extol you, my God and King,
and bless your name forever and ever.
2 Every day I will bless you
and praise your name forever and ever.
3 Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised,
and his greatness is unsearchable.
4 One generation shall commend your works to another,
and shall declare your mighty acts.
5 On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
6 They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
and I will declare your greatness.
7 They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
8 The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 The LORD is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.
10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD,
and all your saints shall bless you!
11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
and tell of your power,
12 to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.
[The LORD is faithful in all his words
and kind in all his works.]
14 The LORD upholds all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand;
you satisfy the desire of every living thing.
17 The LORD is righteous in all his ways
and kind in all his works.
18 The LORD is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
he also hears their cry and saves them.
20 The LORD preserves all who love him,
but all the wicked he will destroy.
21 My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD,
and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.
Psalm 121 (Listen)
My Help Comes from the Lord
A Song of Ascents.
121:1 I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8 The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
Psalm 6 (Listen)
O Lord, Deliver My Life
To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments; according to The Sheminith. A Psalm of David.
6:1 O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath.
2 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing;
heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled.
3 My soul also is greatly troubled.
But you, O LORD—how long?
4 Turn, O LORD, deliver my life;
save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
5 For in death there is no remembrance of you;
in Sheol who will give you praise?
6 I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
7 My eye wastes away because of grief;
it grows weak because of all my foes.
8 Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.
9 The LORD has heard my plea;
the LORD accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled;
they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.
This daily prayer and Bible reading guide, Devoted to Prayer (based on Acts 2:42), was conceived and prepared by the Rev. Andrew S. Ames Fuller, director of communications for the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). After a challenging year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been provided with a unique opportunity to revitalize the ancient practice of daily prayer and Scripture reading in our homes. While the Reading the Word of God three-year lectionary provided a much-needed and refreshing calendar for our congregations to engage in Scripture reading, this calendar includes a missing component of daily devotion: prayer. This guide is to provide the average layperson and pastor with the simple tools for sorting through the busyness of their lives and reclaiming an act of daily discipleship with their Lord. The daily readings follow the Lutheran Book of Worship two-year daily lectionary, which reflect the church calendar closely. The commemorations are adapted from Philip H. Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals and Commemorations, a proposed common calendar of the saints that builds from the Lutheran Book of Worship, but includes saints from many of those churches in ecumenical conversation with the NALC. The introductory portion is adapted from Christ Church (Plano)’s Pray Daily. Our hope is that this calendar and guide will provide new life for congregations learning and re-learning to pray in the midst of a difficult and changing world.