4:11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
– Hebrews 4:11-12
Yesterday we thought about the gift of Sabbath rest. The writer of the Book of Hebrews continues with this theme and says something curious: “Strive to enter that rest.” This seems a bit paradoxical. Striving seems to be the opposite of resting. How do we strive to rest? The writer continues by adding that we are to strive so that, “no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Note the stark contrast between the exhortation for us to rest and the robust activity of God’s Word. God’s Word is “active” (in Greek energes). We get the English word “energy” and “energetic” from the Greek. So, if we think of disobedience as an unrestful, fast-paced life in which we’re too busy to listen to God, then we begin to understand what this verse is saying. We enter the rest for which we strive by listening to God’s Word and letting God’s Word energize our lives.
Every day we are bombarded with words and messages. These words come at us externally from the news and our neighbors, but also internally from the thoughts of our hearts. It is of upmost importance that we separate the words that are from God and the words that are not. The writer of the Book of Hebrews tells us to strive to listen to God and to rest in what He says.
John the Baptist bore witness, pointed to Jesus, and said. “He whom God has sent utters the words of God” (John 3:34). I think that it is incredibly instructive to note that God the Father only directly speaks twice in the New Testament. The Father speaks at Jesus’ Baptism and at the Transfiguration. Basically, the Father says the same thing, “This is my Son, listen to Him!” By the way, this is not a nice suggestion. It is a commandment.
We’re all restless and anxious about so many things. These words often rob us of rest. There is a Word that brings comfort, peace, and rest. The Word is Jesus Christ. Strive to listen to Him!
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, You are the eternal Word of God. Give me strength always to strive to listen to You and to do what You command. In your Holy Name. Amen.
Lenten Response: Lent is a time in which we strive to discipline our devotional lives. The church often offers mid-week Lenten services and provides materials for daily Bible readings and meditation. This is a good time for us to begin to practice a daily routine of listening to God’s Word. Nothing is more important than hearing and heeding the Word of God.
Devotion written by the Rev. Dr. Eric Riesen
Deuteronomy 10:12–22 (Listen)
Circumcise Your Heart
12 “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good? 14 Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. 15 Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. 18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. 19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 20 You shall fear the LORD your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. 21 He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen. 22 Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven.
Hebrews 4:11–16 (Listen)
11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Jesus the Great High Priest
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
John 3:22–36 (Listen)
John the Baptist Exalts Christ
22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized 24 (for John had not yet been put in prison).
25 Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”
31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
Psalm 22 (Listen)
Why Have You Forsaken Me?
To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David.
22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.
3 Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
4 In you our fathers trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried and were rescued;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
6 But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me;
they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
8 “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
9 Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10 On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Be not far from me,
for trouble is near,
and there is none to help.
12 Many bulls encompass me;
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.
16 For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
17 I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.
19 But you, O LORD, do not be far off!
O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
my precious life from the power of the dog!
21 Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or abhorred
the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
but has heard, when he cried to him.
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the LORD!
May your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before you.
28 For kingship belongs to the LORD,
and he rules over the nations.
29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30 Posterity shall serve him;
it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
that he has done it.
Psalm 148 (Listen)
Praise the Name of the Lord
148:1 Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
2 Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his hosts!
3 Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars!
4 Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!
5 Let them praise the name of the LORD!
For he commanded and they were created.
6 And he established them forever and ever;
he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.
7 Praise the LORD from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all deeps,
8 fire and hail, snow and mist,
stormy wind fulfilling his word!
9 Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
10 Beasts and all livestock,
creeping things and flying birds!
11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!
12 Young men and maidens together,
old men and children!
13 Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted;
his majesty is above earth and heaven.
14 He has raised up a horn for his people,
praise for all his saints,
for the people of Israel who are near to him.
Praise the LORD!
Psalm 105 (Listen)
Tell of All His Wondrous Works
105:1 Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
2 Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
3 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice!
4 Seek the LORD and his strength;
seek his presence continually!
5 Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
6 O offspring of Abraham, his servant,
children of Jacob, his chosen ones!
7 He is the LORD our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.
8 He remembers his covenant forever,
the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
9 the covenant that he made with Abraham,
his sworn promise to Isaac,
10 which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant,
11 saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan
as your portion for an inheritance.”
12 When they were few in number,
of little account, and sojourners in it,
13 wandering from nation to nation,
from one kingdom to another people,
14 he allowed no one to oppress them;
he rebuked kings on their account,
15 saying, “Touch not my anointed ones,
do my prophets no harm!”
16 When he summoned a famine on the land
and broke all supply of bread,
17 he had sent a man ahead of them,
Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
18 His feet were hurt with fetters;
his neck was put in a collar of iron;
19 until what he had said came to pass,
the word of the LORD tested him.
20 The king sent and released him;
the ruler of the peoples set him free;
21 he made him lord of his house
and ruler of all his possessions,
22 to bind his princes at his pleasure
and to teach his elders wisdom.
23 Then Israel came to Egypt;
Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham.
24 And the LORD made his people very fruitful
and made them stronger than their foes.
25 He turned their hearts to hate his people,
to deal craftily with his servants.
26 He sent Moses, his servant,
and Aaron, whom he had chosen.
27 They performed his signs among them
and miracles in the land of Ham.
28 He sent darkness, and made the land dark;
they did not rebel against his words.
29 He turned their waters into blood
and caused their fish to die.
30 Their land swarmed with frogs,
even in the chambers of their kings.
31 He spoke, and there came swarms of flies,
and gnats throughout their country.
32 He gave them hail for rain,
and fiery lightning bolts through their land.
33 He struck down their vines and fig trees,
and shattered the trees of their country.
34 He spoke, and the locusts came,
young locusts without number,
35 which devoured all the vegetation in their land
and ate up the fruit of their ground.
36 He struck down all the firstborn in their land,
the firstfruits of all their strength.
37 Then he brought out Israel with silver and gold,
and there was none among his tribes who stumbled.
38 Egypt was glad when they departed,
for dread of them had fallen upon it.
39 He spread a cloud for a covering,
and fire to give light by night.
40 They asked, and he brought quail,
and gave them bread from heaven in abundance.
41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
it flowed through the desert like a river.
42 For he remembered his holy promise,
and Abraham, his servant.
43 So he brought his people out with joy,
his chosen ones with singing.
44 And he gave them the lands of the nations,
and they took possession of the fruit of the peoples’ toil,
45 that they might keep his statutes
and observe his laws.
Praise the LORD!
Psalm 130 (Listen)
My Soul Waits for the Lord
A Song of Ascents.
130:1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!
2 O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared.
5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
6 my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.
7 O Israel, hope in the LORD!
For with the LORD there is steadfast love,
and with him is plentiful redemption.
8 And he will redeem Israel
from all his iniquities.
Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg, Missionary to India, 1719 (February 26)
About the Commemoration
Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg (Bar-tol-oh-MAY-us TZEE-gen-balg) was born in Pulsnitz, a little town in Saxony, June 10, 1682, the son of poor, devout parents. As a child he showed great ability in schoolwork and music. He studied at the University of Halle, then the center of the Pietistic movement in the Lutheran Church under the influence of August Hermann Francke. In 1705 Ziegenbalg responded to the call of King Frederik IV of Denmark to take the gospel to India. On July 9, 1706, Ziegenbalg and his associate Heinrich Plütschau (1676-1752) arrived in Tranquebar on the southeast coast of India, the first Protestant missionaries to that country.
Despite the hostility of the local Danish authorities as well as the Hindu religious leaders, Ziegenbalg and Plütschau carried on their work, baptizing their first converts on May 12, 1707. In 1712 a printing press was set up, and Ziegenbalg published important studies on the Tamil language and wrote voluminously on Indian religion and culture. Several of his manuscripts, including The Genealogy of the Malabar Gods, were sent to Halle, but they were never printed. His translation of the New Testament into Tamil (1715) was revised by a successor, Johann Fabricius, and is still in use. The Church of the New Jerusalem, built and dedicated by Ziegenbalg and his associates in 1718, is still used today.
During his brief lifetime (he died when he was thirty-six), Ziegenbalg had to endure poor health, lack of support from the Church, opposition of the civil authorities, and many misfortunes. Plütschau returned to Germany in 1714. The Copenhagen Mission Society ,with the admirable goal of not making the new church a transplanted form of European Christianity, wanted its missionaries simply to preach the gospel and not to involve themselves in other matters. Ziegenbalg insisted, however, that the care of souls also implies a concern for the physical and mental welfare of the people and that such service is implicit in the preaching of the gospel.
The low point of Ziegenbalg’s life was a period of four months between 1708 and 1709, spent in a stifling prison cell on the charge that by converting the Indians he was stirring up rebellion. The last three years of his life, however, were full of joy: his marriage in 1716, the arrival of a new and friendly governor, the publication of his New Testament, and the founding of a seminary to train native clergy. His cooperation with the Anglican Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge (see Thomas Bray, February 15) was one of the first ecumenical ventures. Ziegenbalg died in Madras on February 23, 1719, leaving as his monument a Tamil dictionary and grammar, a Tamil translation of the New Testament and the Old Testament as far as Ruth, some thirty-two tracts on Christian doctrine and duties, two church buildings, the seminary, and a community of 250 baptized Christians.
The work of the Ziegenbalg mission later declined and was in part taken over by Anglican missionaries, but it was the inspiration for missionary efforts elsewhere in the world, and it led indirectly to the flourishing Tamil-speaking Lutheran churches of India today. Dr. Rajah B. Manikam, the first Indian bishop of the Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church, was consecrated in Tranquebar in 1956 during the year of celebration of the 250th anniversary of Ziegenbalg’s arrival in India.
Ziegenbalg was included on the German Evangelical Calendar of Names (1962, 1965) and on the calendar in the Lutheran Book of Worship. An alternative date for the commemoration of Ziegenbalg is the date of his arrival in India, July 9, or the date of his first baptisms, May 12. Evangelical Lutheran Worship remembers Ziegenbalg on November 7 together with Father Heyer and Ludwig Nommensen.
Christian Frederick Schwartz (1726-1798), probably the most influential worker in the Tranquebar mission after Ziegenbalg, might also be remembered on this day. He involved himself in the political affairs of his people and was extraordinarily influential, respected for his integrity, and loved for his saintliness. He spent forty-eight years in India. His work was notably ecumenical (the English made him a chaplain at Trichinopoly), yet he remained a faithful Lutheran. He died on February 12, 1798. He is commemorated on the German Evangelical Calendar of Names (1962, 1965) on February 13.
Another important early Lutheran missionary; also sponsored by the Copenhagen Mission Society, is Hans Egede, the Apostle of Greenland. He was born in 1686 in Norway. After studying theology in Denmark, he was a pastor for a time in his native country, but he was increasingly fascinated by the story of the Norse settlers of Greenland, from whom there had been no reports since the fifteenth century. After rebuffs by his bishop and by the King of Denmark, he raised money himself, bought a ship, and arrived in Greenland in 1721. He was disappointed to find only native people and not a trace of a Scandinavian settlement. With his wife, Gertrud Rask, he began missionary work there nonetheless. The mission made slow progress. It met competition with the arrival of Moravian missionaries in 1733 and suffered from an epidemic of smallpox. The selfless service of Gertrud Rask and her husband made a deep impression on the native peoples, however, and the work showed more promise. Rask died in 1735 and in the following year Egede returned to Denmark to train missionaries. His son Poul carried on the work in Greenland. Egede died November 5, 1758, and is commemorated on that day by the Evangelical Calendar of Names.
Yet another Lutheran missionary sent out by the Copenhagen Mission Society was Thomas von Westen, the Apostle to the Lapps, remembered (April 10) on the German Evangelical Calendar of Names (1962, 1966). He died April 9, 1727.
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.
From the decree on the missionary activity of the Church by the Second Vatican Council
All followers of Christ are responsible in their own measure for the spread of me faith, but Christ the Lord is always calling from among his disciples those whom he wills, so that they may be with him and be sent by him to preach to the nations.
Those whom God calls must answer his call in such a way that, without regard for purely human counsel, they may devote themselves wholly to the work of the Gospel. This response cannot be given except with the inspiration and strength of the Holy Spirit.
Those who are sent enter into the life and mission of him who emptied himself, taking the nature of a slave. They must be ready, therefore, to be true to their vocation for life, to deny themselves, renouncing all that they had before, and to “become all things to all people.” [1 Cor. 9:22]
In preaching the Gospel to the nations they must boldly proclaim the mystery of Christ, whose ambassador they are, so that in Christ they may have the courage to speak as they ought, and not be ashamed of the scandal of the cross. They must follow in the footsteps of the Master, who was gentle and humble of heart, and reveal to others that his yoke is easy and his burden light.
By a life that is truly according to the Gospel, by much endurance, by forbearance, by kindness and sincere love, they must bear witness to their Lord, even, if need be, by the shedding of their blood.
They will pray to God for strength and courage, so that they may come to see that for one who experiences great hardship and extreme poverty there can be abundant joy.
From the English translation of the Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours by the International Committee on English in the Liturgy, rev. PHP. (In the Liturgy of the Hours, the reading is appointed for February 3, the commemoration of St. Ansgar.)
God of eternal and abounding love, you strengthened your servant Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg in his zeal for a true and living faith, upheld him through conflict and discouragement, and opened his mind to the culture of the Tamil people: Foster in your church such respect for those to whom the gospel is proclaimed, that with conviction, persistence, and love your saving word may be made real to all who do not know you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Readings: Isaiah 49:1-6; Psalm 98; Revelation 21:1-4; Matthew 28:16-20
Hymn of the Day: “Your kingdom come, O Father, to earth’s remotest shore” (LBW 384) or “Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise him” (LBW 529), a Tamil hymn
Prayers: For the church in India; For schools and orphanages; For those who seek to understand different cultures; For those in frail health; For a spirit of understanding, acceptance, and support for new work in the church; For the church in Greenland; For the church in Lapland.
Preface: A Saint (1) (BCP)
Florence Li Tim-Oi, First Female Priest in the Anglican Communion, 1944 (February 26)
About the Commemoration
Florence Li Tim-Oi was the first woman ordained as a priest in the Anglican Communion. Named by her father “much beloved daughter,” Li Tim-Oi was born in Hong Kong in 1907. When she was baptized as a student, she chose the name of Florence in honor of Florence Nightingale. Florence studied at Union Theological College in Guangzhou (Canton). In 1938, upon graduation, she served as a layworker, first in Kowloon and then in nearby Macao.
In May 1941 Florence was ordained deaconess. Some months later, Hong Kong fell to Japanese invaders, and priests could not travel to Macao to celebrate the Eucharist. Despite this setback, Florence continued her ministry. Her work came to the attention of Bishop Ronald Hall of Hong Kong, who decided that “God’s work would reap better results if she had the proper title” of priest. On January 25, 1944, the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Bishop Hall ordained her as a priest.
When World War II came to an end, Florence Li Tim-Oi’s ordination became the subject of much controversy. She made the personal decision not to exercise her priesthood until it was acknowledged by the wider Anglican Communion. Undeterred, she continued to minister with great faithfulness, and in 1947 was appointed rector of St. Barnabas Church in Hepu where, on Bishop Hall’s instructions, she was still to be called priest.
When the Communists came to power in China in 1949, Florence undertook theological studies in Beijing to further understand the implications of the Three-Self Movement (self-rule, self-support, and self- propagation) which now determined the life of the churches. She then moved to Guangzhou to teach and to serve at the Cathedral of Our Savior. However, for sixteen years during the Cultural Revolution, from 1958 onwards, all churches were closed. Florence was forced to work first on a farm and then in a factory. Accused of counter-revolutionary activity, she was required to undergo political re-education. Finally, in 1974, she was allowed to retire from her work in the factory.
In 1979 the churches reopened, and Florence resumed her public ministry. Then, two years later, she was allowed to visit family members living in Canada. While there, to her great joy, she was licensed as a priest in the Diocese of Montreal and later in the Diocese of Toronto, where she finally settled until her death on February 26, 1992.
Excerpts from Lesser Feasts & Fasts.
See also: Florence Li Tim-Oi
Almighty God, who pours out your Spirit upon your sons and daughters: Grant that we, following the example of your servant Florence Li Tim-Oi, chosen priest in your church, may with faithfulness, patience, and tenacity proclaim your holy gospel to all the nations, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
Readings: Galatians 3:23–29; Psalm 116:1–12; Luke 5:1–11
Preface: Saint (2)
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.