2:23 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. 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.”
– John 2:23-3:3
When Moses came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the Law he was shocked, disappointed, and angered by what he saw. It had not occurred to him that his people who had just been freed from bondage would so quickly turn back to idolatry. The infamous story of the “golden calf” reveals not only what was in those former slaves escaped from Egypt – it reveals what is in all of us. This is why Jesus did not entrust Himself to His admirers. He knew what was deep within them — within all of us. The Lenten hymn, “Ah Holy Jesus” gets right to the human heart of the matter: Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee? Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee. “Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee; I crucified thee.”
It’s not only a long time ago on a hill far away that we crucified Him, but in every thought, word and deed today that crucifies the life of God in the world. What is truly within us is revealed by the myriads of the unborn who will never know love, the abuse of the weak, lust for power and pleasure, the callous words that pierce, cold-hearted apathy and indifference, and every other dark thing of which we are capable.
Martin Luther famously said that a human being is, “curved in on himself” (incurvatus in se). We want a god who will do our bidding so that “our will be done on earth as in heaven.” This is what is within us until we are born from above. Until the gentle Spirit moves like a wind and turns us “inside out and around” so that we can begin to see God — and our neighbor. This is why Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again. All of us must be born again.
Baptism is the sacrament of this new birth. The danger is that we let our Baptism lie abandoned like a discarded shoe — a worthless piece of old leather. But Baptism is the most precious gift we possess. Within our Baptism lies the promise and power of new birth, cleansing of sin, raising to a new life, and the light to see the kingdom of God (John 3:3).
Prayer: In the Name of the Father, and of the Son+ and of the Holy Spirit. This day I remember and renew the covenant of my Baptism. Cleanse me, O God, from my sin, wash me from my iniquity, create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. Open the eyes of my heart that I may see You and my neighbor. Never let me crucify Your life in the world. In the name, and for the sake of, Jesus my Lord. Amen.
Lenten Response: For the rest of Lent, each morning when you get up, make the sign of the cross in remembrance of your Baptism. Remember who, and Whose, you are.
Devotion written by the Rev. Dr. Eric Riesen
Acts 1:15–26 (Listen)
15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers (the company of persons was in all about 120) and said, 16 “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus. 17 For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” 18 (Now this man acquired a field with the reward of his wickedness, and falling headlong he burst open in the middle and all his bowels gushed out. 19 And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) 20 “For it is written in the Book of Psalms,
“‘May his camp become desolate,
and let there be no one to dwell in it’;
“‘Let another take his office.’
21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
Philippians 3:13–21 (Listen)
13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
John 15:1 (Listen)
I Am the True Vine
15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.
John 15:6–16 (Listen)
6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
Psalm 15 (Listen)
Who Shall Dwell on Your Holy Hill?
A Psalm of David.
15:1 O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
2 He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart;
3 who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
4 in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
but who honors those who fear the LORD;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
5 who does not put out his money at interest
and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.
Psalm 147:1–12 (Listen)
He Heals the Brokenhearted
147:1 Praise the LORD!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.
2 The LORD builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
4 He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.
6 The LORD lifts up the humble;
he casts the wicked to the ground.
7 Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on the lyre!
8 He covers the heavens with clouds;
he prepares rain for the earth;
he makes grass grow on the hills.
9 He gives to the beasts their food,
and to the young ravens that cry.
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,
11 but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.
12 Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem!
Praise your God, O Zion!
Psalm 27 (Listen)
The Lord Is My Light and My Salvation
27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.
3 Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
yet I will be confident.
4 One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple.
5 For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.
6 And now my head shall be lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the LORD.
7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
8 You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, LORD, do I seek.”
9 Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
O God of my salvation!
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
but the LORD will take me in.
11 Teach me your way, O LORD,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.
13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!
Psalm 51 (Listen)
Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
51:1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19 then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
St. Matthias, Apostle (February 24)
About the Commemoration
Matthias was a late addition to the apostolic company to replace Judas and to restore the apostolic college to its full complement of twelve, representing the twelve tribes of Israel and the fullness of God’s praise. The feast day itself was a late addition to the calendar.
Nothing is known for certain of the life of Matthias except for the account of his selection to replace Judas Iscariot, as recorded in the second reading, Acts 1:25-26. After Jesus’ ascension, when about 120 of the followers of Jesus met in the upper room, Peter asked the group to choose a replacement for Judas, the betrayer of the Lord. Two witnesses of the resurrection were suggested, a certain Joseph Barsabbas, also known as Justus, and Matthias. The report of the choice of Matthias includes a condemnation of Judas, demonstrating the twofold authority of the church: speaking confidently the word of commendation as also with equal confidence the word of judgment.
Tradition has included both Joseph-Justus and Matthias among the seventy disciples sent out by Jesus, but neither is mentioned elsewhere than in Acts 1. After a prayer, the choice was left to the casting of lots, and Matthias became the twelfth apostle. St. Paul (1 Cor. 15:5-6) refers to a resurrection appearance of Jesus to “the Twelve”; Origen thought that this number included Matthias.
There has been some confusion in the apocryphal literature between Matthias and Matthew. Clement quotes a second-century Gospel of Matthias, now lost A sixth-century “Acts of Andrew and Matthias (Matthew)” relates that the land of the cannibals fell to Matthias as the sphere of his missionary activity; an Old English poem, Andreas, tells the tale. There are stories of Matthias preaching in Judea and in Ethiopia, and one tradition asserts that he met his death in Colchis, near modem Georgia in the Caucasus. All the traditions at least agree that he was a martyr for the faith. His symbol, reflecting one of the traditions, sometimes appears as a double-headed axe resting on a Bible. His feast day was one of the last of the apostles’ days to be added to the calendar, not dating back before the eleventh century. One reason for the late establishment of his feast day is that St. Paul was long thought to have been the one chosen to replace Judas and to restore the complement of twelve.
The reason for the traditional date of February 24 is not known. In the present Roman calendar, St. Matthias’s day is moved to May 14 to avoid conflict with Lent and to place the commemoration in the Easter season, emphasizing Matthias’s role as a witness to the resurrection; Evangelical Lutheran Worship has done the same. Other Lutheran churches and Anglicans retain the traditional Western date. In the Eastern Churches St. Matthias’s Day is celebrated on August 9.
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: Saint Matthias
From Luther’s Lectures on Galatians (1519)
…Christ wanted no one to be made an apostle by men or the will of men but as the result to a call from Him alone. For this reason the apostles did not dare elect Matthias; they gained his appointment from heaven in answer to their prayer. And it was from heaven that God called Paul himself and made him an apostle, in particular through the voice of the Holy Spirit. “Set apart for Me,” He says, “Paul and Barnabas for the work to which I have called them.” Thus Paul boasts in Rom. 1: If. that he was set apart for the Gospel of God, inasmuch as he himself, together with Barnabas, was set apart for the uncircumcised and the Gentiles, while the rest of the apostles were sent to those who were circumcised.
Note also that Paul makes the name “apostle” so emphatically expressive of an office and of dignity that he uses it as a participle and says “an apostle, not from men,” which means “sent, not from men”…. All these facts aim to make you see with what care Christ has established and fortified His church, lest anyone rashly presume to teach without being sent by Him or by those whom He has sent. For just as the Word of God is the church’s first and greatest benefit, so, on the other hand, there is no greater harm by which the church is destroyed than the word of man and the traditions of this world. God alone is true, and every man a liar. Finally, just as David once left behind all the means by which Solomon was to build the temple, so Christ has left behind the Gospel and other writings, in order that the church might be built by means of them, not by human decrees.
“Lectures on Galatians,” in Luther’s Works Vol. 27 © 1964, 1992 Concordia Publishing House. Used with permission.
Almighty God, who in the place of Judas chose your faithful servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve: Grant that your Church, being delivered from false apostles, may always be guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
BCP (1549); alt. in LBW, ELW
Readings: Acts 1:15-26; Psalm 15; Philippians 3:13-21; John 15:1, 6-16
Hymn of the Day: “O Zion, haste, your mission high fulfilling” (H82 539, LBW 397, ELW 668)
Prayers: For those who give testimony to the resurrection; For a renewed life; For faithfulness to Christ; For those who are passed over in selection processes.
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.