Home > Reading > Daily Reading – December 10, 2021

23:29 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!…O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate.”

– Matthew 23:29, 37-38

Last Friday we looked at the story of the wedding guest who was tossed out of the wedding party because he wasn’t wearing a wedding garment (Matthew 22:1-14). This is not about outward attire, but about inner transformation. Jesus brings this truth to a boil when He calls His opponents “hypocrites.”

In the ancient world a hypocrite (hypocrites) is a term used in the theater. It referred to an actor who wore a mask and played a role.  There is a stage personality and then there is the “real” person.  Jesus called the scribes and Pharisees “hypocrites.”  They were living before an “audience” of their peers. They masked their true selves.  Jesus says to them, “woe to you…” (Matthew 23:13, 16, 23, 25, 27, 29).

The woeful problem with hypocrisy is that we hide ourselves from the truth. We resist being unmasked, known for who we truly are because if you (or God) really knew me — would you still love me?

But, there is a good surprise. J.R.R. Tolkien called it a eucatastrophe — a good catastrophe. We let God see us and wonder of wonders, we discover that God loves, forgives and calls us to come to Him like a mother hen calls her wandering brood. Our unmasking is not our undoing. It is our salvation.

Yet, sadly it is possible that we live a masked life. We’ll go to our graves rather than be unmasked.  We’ll watch everything we love destroyed behind the supposed safety of our masks of righteousness, or self-importance, or superiority, or respectability, or prestige.  Jesus, with a breaking heart, cries out, “Woe to you … How often would I have gathered you together under my wings, but you were not willing!”

Prayer: Oh loving heavenly Father, You sent Your beloved Son to reconcile the world to Yourself. You see deeply into every part of my heart. You know my secret sins, and still You call me to take shelter under Your wing.  There I rest securely.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

Advent Action: Take some time to reflect. Are there things in your life that make you feel unlovable? What are you hiding?  Prayerfully consider going to a trusted pastor. Allow that pastor to hear your confession. Our unmasking is our salvation.

Devotion written by the Rev. Dr. Eric Riesen

Watch a video recording of the devotional daily: facebook.com/thenalc

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.

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