2:13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” 18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
– John 2:13-19
Most of us know the First Commandment, “I am the Lord your God … You shall have no other gods before me.” The commandment begins with an indicative and ends with an imperative. “I am the Lord your God,” is a statement of gracious fact. God doesn’t wait for us to be good enough before He is “our” God. Rather He comes to us in our sin with the promise that He is the Lord our God. Then He commands, “You shall have no other gods.”
Of course, that is exactly our greatest problem. We like to have other gods. This does not necessarily mean that we worship little statues set up in the family room, but it does mean that we have “things or people” that we idolize. Most especially, the three culprits we idolize are related to money, sex and power. The whole misbegotten history of man is the story of making an unholy trinity of these things.
When Jesus gets ticked off it’s important to pay attention. When He makes a whip and hits people with it and turns over tables and scatters money on the ground, He does so for a reason. The moneychangers and their religious cohorts were using the temple (using God!) as a means to an end — to make money. Money was idolized.
Let’s not be too hard on these religious entrepreneurs or seem overly shocked by such behavior. Money is a powerful force and few of us are ever free from its allure. Jesus called it “mammon” and some think that He is referencing a pagan god. A god who wants our devotion, our love, our obedience and our wallets. There’s only one way to make sure that we are free from the idol of mammon — give it away and be free.
Not all of us can or should give everything we own away so that we can live under a bridge in bliss. Having less money does not mean that we love money less. But all Christians are called to give sacrificially. This is the one way to say, “Money will not be my god!”
“You shall have no other gods.” Come to think of it, that’s not only a command, it’s also a promise. God will set us free from the gods who enslave us. Even His anger is good for us.
Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, free us from our insecurity and fear of poverty. Enable us to give freely so that we, with empty hands, may receive from You, the God of all true riches, that which will endure forever through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lenten Response: Lent is a time for almsgiving. Where might God be asking you to give sacrificially?
Devotion written by the Rev. Dr. Eric Riesen
Deuteronomy 9:1–21 (Listen)
Not Because of Righteousness
9:1 “Hear, O Israel: you are to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, cities great and fortified up to heaven, 2 a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’ 3 Know therefore today that he who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the LORD your God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you. So you shall drive them out and make them perish quickly, as the LORD has promised you.
4 “Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you. 5 Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.
6 “Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people. 7 Remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD. 8 Even at Horeb you provoked the LORD to wrath, and the LORD was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you. 9 When I went up the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant that the LORD made with you, I remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water. 10 And the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone written with the finger of God, and on them were all the words that the LORD had spoken with you on the mountain out of the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly. 11 And at the end of forty days and forty nights the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant. 12 Then the LORD said to me, ‘Arise, go down quickly from here, for your people whom you have brought from Egypt have acted corruptly. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them; they have made themselves a metal image.’
The Golden Calf
13 “Furthermore, the LORD said to me, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stubborn people. 14 Let me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make of you a nation mightier and greater than they.’ 15 So I turned and came down from the mountain, and the mountain was burning with fire. And the two tablets of the covenant were in my two hands. 16 And I looked, and behold, you had sinned against the LORD your God. You had made yourselves a golden calf. You had turned aside quickly from the way that the LORD had commanded you. 17 So I took hold of the two tablets and threw them out of my two hands and broke them before your eyes. 18 Then I lay prostrate before the LORD as before, forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all the sin that you had committed, in doing what was evil in the sight of the LORD to provoke him to anger. 19 For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure that the LORD bore against you, so that he was ready to destroy you. But the LORD listened to me that time also. 20 And the LORD was so angry with Aaron that he was ready to destroy him. And I prayed for Aaron also at the same time. 21 Then I took the sinful thing, the calf that you had made, and burned it with fire and crushed it, grinding it very small, until it was as fine as dust. And I threw the dust of it into the brook that ran down from the mountain.
Hebrews 3 (Listen)
Jesus Greater Than Moses
3:1 Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, 2 who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. 3 For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. 4 (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) 5 Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.
A Rest for the People of God
7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
on the day of testing in the wilderness,
9 where your fathers put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’
11 As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’”
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
John 2:13–3:15 (Listen)
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”
18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
Jesus Knows What Is in Man
23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.
You Must Be Born Again
3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
Psalm 34 (Listen)
Taste and See That the Lord Is Good
Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.
34:1 I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
3 Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
5 Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
9 Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
11 Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
12 What man is there who desires life
and loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
16 The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
21 Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The LORD redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
Psalm 146 (Listen)
Put Not Your Trust in Princes
146:1 Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD, O my soul!
2 I will praise the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
3 Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
4 When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.
5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
6 who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
7 who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free;
8 the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the righteous.
9 The LORD watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
10 The LORD will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the LORD!
Psalm 25 (Listen)
Teach Me Your Paths
25:1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, in you I trust;
let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies exult over me.
3 Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
4 Make me to know your ways, O LORD;
teach me your paths.
5 Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.
6 Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!
8 Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
11 For your name’s sake, O LORD,
pardon my guilt, for it is great.
12 Who is the man who fears the LORD?
Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.
13 His soul shall abide in well-being,
and his offspring shall inherit the land.
14 The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.
15 My eyes are ever toward the LORD,
for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
bring me out of my distresses.
18 Consider my affliction and my trouble,
and forgive all my sins.
19 Consider how many are my foes,
and with what violent hatred they hate me.
20 Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me!
Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness preserve me,
for I wait for you.
22 Redeem Israel, O God,
out of all his troubles.
Psalm 91 (Listen)
My Refuge and My Fortress
91:1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
5 You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place—
the Most High, who is my refuge—
10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
no plague come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
12 On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.
14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”
Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, Martyr, 156 (February 23)
About the Commemoration
Polycarp, a principal connecting link between the apostolic age of the church and Christian life of the second century, was born about the year 70. Irenaeus, who had known him in his youth, says that Polycarp was a disciple of St. John the Apostle and that “Apostle in Asia” appointed him bishop of Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey). He was a close friend of Ignatius of Antioch (see October 17), and it was probably at Polycarp’s request that Ignatius wrote his famous epistles to various churches in Asia Minor and to Polycarp himself.
Only one work by Polycarp has survived, his Epistle to the Philippians, which many believe is actually composed of two letters, one written ca. 115 enclosing Ignatius s epistles and the other written about 135 to warn the Philippian church against the spreading Marcionite heresy, a dualistic faith that rejected the Old Testament and distorted orthodox doctrines. Polycarp’s Epistle was still read in the churches in the time of St. Jerome, but it was not included in the canon of the New Testament.
During much of his life, Polycarp was in many ways the leading figure of Christianity in Asia Minor, and he was referred to with great respect and affection by Irenaeus and Ignatius. As a very old man Polycarp went to Rome to discuss the problem of the dating of Easter, a vexing problem for the early church. After his return to Smyrna, he died a martyr’s death in 155 or 156 at the age of eighty-six. The commemoration of his death is the first saint’s day whose observance is attested in the history of the church; a reliable account of his martyrdom is given in the eyewitness report, the Martyrdom of Polycarp. The report testifies to the assembly of the faithful at the old bishop’s grave “as occasion allows” to celebrate “the day of his martyrdom as a birthday.” As early as the mid-second century, commemorations of martyrs at their graves on the anniversary of their deaths was a Christian practice.
After some Christians had been thrown to the lions. Polycarp was called before the proconsul, and, when he refused to give divine honors to the emperor and confessed himself a Christian, he was condemned to death. Since the games were over he could not be thrown to the lions, as he fully expected, but was instead burned alive. The Martyrdom of Polycarp places his death on February 23, and the Eastern Churches have commemorated him on this date. From the eighth century the Western Church observed his day on January 26, but the present Roman calendar (1969) moved his commemoration to February 23, and the Episcopal Church and the Lutheran Church and the Methodist For All the Saints followed that precedent.
Excerpts from New Book of Festivals & Commemorations: A Proposed Common Calendar of Saints by Philip H. Pfatteicher, copyright, 2008 by Fortress Press, an imprint of Augsburg Fortress.
See also: Polycarp
From The Martyrdom of Polycarp
There was a great commotion when it was learned that Polycarp had been arrested. Therefore, when he was brought before him, the proconsul asked him if he were Polycarp. And when he confessed that he was, the proconsul tried to persuade him to deny the faith, saying, “Have respect to your age,” and such other things as, “Swear by the fortune of Caesar; change your mind; say ‘Away with the atheists!'”
Polycarp looked with earnest face at the whole lawless crowd in the arena, and gesturing to them with his hand, groaning, and looking up to heaven, he said, “Away with the atheists!”
The proconsul was insistent and said, “Take the oath, and I shall release you. Curse Christ.”
Polycarp said, “Eighty-six years I have served him, and he never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”
The proconsul persisted. “Swear by the fortune of Caesar.” Polycarp answered, “If you vainly suppose that I shall swear by the fortune of Caesar, as you say, and pretend that you do not know who I am, listen carefully: I am a Christian. If you desire to learn the teaching of Christianity, appoint a day and give me a hearing.”
The proconsul said, “Try to persuade the people.”
But Polycarp said, “You, I should deem worthy of an account; for we have been taught to render fitting honor to rulers and authorities appointed by God so long as it does us no harm; but as for these, I do not consider them worthy that I should make a defense to them.”
The proconsul said, “I have wild beasts. I shall throw you to them, if you do not change your mind.”
Polycarp said, “Call them. Repentance from the better to the worse is not permitted us; but it is noble to change from what is evil to what is righteous.” Again the proconsul said to him, “If you do not fear the wild beasts, I shall have you consumed with fire, unless you change your mind.”
Polycarp replied, “The fire you threaten bums but an hour and is quenched after a short time; but what you do not know’ is the fire of the coming judgment and everlasting punishment that is laid up for the impious. Why do you delay? Come, do what you will.”
When he had said these things and more, he was inspired with courage and joy, and his face was full of grace, so that it did not fall with dismay at the things said of him, but quite the opposite. The proconsul was astonished, and he sent his own herald into the midst of the arena to proclaim three times, “Polycarp has confessed himself to be a Christian.”
Quickly then they surrounded him with the material for the pyre. When they were about to nail him also, he said, “Leave me as I am. For the One who gives me strength to endure the fire will enable me also to remain steadfast on the pyre, without the nails.”
So they did not nail him, but only tied him to the pyre.
He looked up to heaven and prayed, “Lord, almighty God,…I bless you for judging me worthy of this day and this hour, that in the company of martyrs I may share the cup of Christ….Let me be received among the martyrs in your presence today as a rich and pleasing sacrifice.”
When he had said the Amen and finished his prayer, those attending to the fire lighted it. When the flame leapt up, we who were permitted to see it saw a wonderful thing, and we have been spared in order to tell others what happened. The fire made a shape like a ship’s sail filled by the wind, and made a wall around the body of the martyr. He was in the midst, not as burning flesh, but as bread baking or as gold and silver refined in a furnace. We smelled a sweet fragrance like the breath of incense or some other precious spice.
Finally, when the lawless officers saw that his body could not be consumed by the fire, they commanded an executioner to go to him and stab him with a dagger. When he did this, a great quantity of blood came forth, so that the fire was quenched and the whole crowd marveled that there should be such a difference between the unbelievers and the elect.
Later we took up his bones, more precious than costly jewels and more valuable than gold, and laid them away in a suitable place. There the Lord will permit us, so far as possible, to gather together in joy and gladness to celebrate the day of his martyrdom as a birthday, in memory of those athletes who have gone before us, and to train and make ready those who are to come hereafter.
The Martyrdom of Polycarp, chaps. 9.2-12.1; 13.3-14.2; 15.1-16.1; 18.2-3, trans. PHP.
O God, the maker of heaven and earth, you gave your venerable servant, the holy and gentle Polycarp, boldness to confess Jesus Christ as King and Savior, and steadfastness to die for his faith: Give us grace, following his example, to share the cup of Christ and rise to eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
1970 Roman Missal, trans. LFF
Readings: Psalm 116:10-17 (before Ash Wed.); Psalm 34:1-8 (after Ash Wed.); Revelation 2:8-11; Matthew 20:20-23
Hymn of the Day: “How firm a foundation, O saints of the Lord” (H82 636, 637; LBW 507; LSB 728; ELW 796)
Prayers: For a life of devotion; For boldness to witness to the faith; For courage to follow Christ, even to death; For faithfulness to the apostolic tradition.
Preface: A Saint (3) (BCP); All Saints (LBW); Saints (ELW)
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.