Protecting Those Most Vulnerable
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
– Matthew 25:31–46 ESV
Jesus is teaching at what appears to be a feverish pace, using parables and other methods to instruct the crowds that gather near Him and around the temple. The sense of urgency is palpable; He is two days away from being betrayed and handed over to face the cross. It is the week of Christ’s Passion.
At this fateful moment, Jesus discusses His glorious second coming when He will separate the sheep from the goats, choosing those who have carried out deeds of mercy and rejecting those who have not done so. Earlier, Matthew records Jesus’ words as “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters” (12:30 NASB). Indeed, those who are with Jesus are called to perform acts of mercy. When we neglect our duties as stewards of God’s creation, we fail. In today’s reading from Psalm 8:4-6, we read, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet” (ESV). Yet, as a nation, we squander this privilege! We are collectively negligent. In child abuse cases, there are two types of perpetrators: perpetrators by commission and perpetrators by omission. The first is obvious; the second refers to the negligent person who did not speak up, who did not make a report, and who failed a child.
Are we good stewards of God’s creation, or are we also negligent? Do we feed the hungry, house the homeless, clothe the naked? Do we defend life in the womb? Do we defend life after birth?
In his book, Manger in the Mountains, Jim Nestingen writes, “We’ll meet you at the manger, and we’ll meet you …to eat bread with Jesus Christ in the coming kingdom.” We just met at the liturgical manger a few days ago—the manger that leads to the cross. Jim Nestingen reminds us that “we’re all welcome and safe at the manger.” But not everyone is safe in the womb. So it is up to us to feed and care for the unborn. We need to pray, speak up, march, write and engage in acts of mercy for the least of these. It is Christ’s own command and His urgency is upon us.
Prayer: Lord, giver of all life, you have created the world and every good thing in it. You have placed us as stewards of Your creation. Yet, we act more like goats than sheep, with the Old Adam in charge. Send Your Holy Spirit to guard us against the evil foe so that we may be free to answer Your call to defend the defenseless among us. Help us to be a voice, strong and mighty, for the unborn. Help us to see every unborn child through the image of the helpless and vulnerable baby Jesus, himself cradled in a manger. Amen.
Pro-Life Action: If you’re unable to attend the NALC Life Conference and/or the March for Life due to various reasons (health, employment, family obligations, etc.), please consider sponsoring someone who can or consider sponsoring one of the speakers at the NALC Life Conference by contacting Pastor Dennis Di Mauro at [email protected].
Do you have a prayer partner? In my home congregation, our pastor is leading us in establishing prayer partnerships to become a “praying church.” Prayer partnerships are a great vehicle for powerful intercession on behalf of the sanctity of human life at every stage of development. Include folks of all ages!
Today’s devotion was written by Ms. Rebecka V. Andrae, administrative assistant for the Mid-Northeast Mission District. She resides in Greensburg, PA and is a disciple of Christ worshiping at St. Paul, Latrobe, PA.
This year’s Advent devotions are written by the members of NALC Life Ministries. The devotional follows the daily Revised Common Lectionary for Advent and includes a Bible reading, commentary, prayer and pro-life action for every day until Christmas Eve.
As we move through the season of Advent, Scripture reveals the anxiety of an unplanned pregnancy, as Mary and Joseph ponder this miracle and seek to understand who this precious child might be. This devotional examines our responsibility to protect all human life in light of Mary and Joseph’s protection of Jesus, the savior of the world.
Our authors include Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Rev. Mark Chavez, Rev. Dr. Dennis Di Mauro, Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, Rev. Scott Licht, Rev. Sandra Towberman, Rev. Steve Shipman, Ms. Rebecka Andrae, Rev. Melinda Jones, Rev. David Nelson, Ms. Rosemary Johnson, Rev. Mark Werner and Rev. Steve Bliss.
Judges 10 (ESV)
Tola and Jair
10 After Abimelech there arose to save Israel Tola the son of Puah, son of Dodo, a man of Issachar, and he lived at Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim. 2 And he judged Israel twenty-three years. Then he died and was buried at Shamir.
3 After him arose Jair the Gileadite, who judged Israel twenty-two years. 4 And he had thirty sons who rode on thirty donkeys, and they had thirty cities, called Havvoth-jair to this day, which are in the land of Gilead. 5 And Jair died and was buried in Kamon.
Further Disobedience and Oppression
6 The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites, and the gods of the Philistines. And they forsook the Lord and did not serve him. 7 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he sold them into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the Ammonites, 8 and they crushed and oppressed the people of Israel that year. For eighteen years they oppressed all the people of Israel who were beyond the Jordan in the land of the Amorites, which is in Gilead. 9 And the Ammonites crossed the Jordan to fight also against Judah and against Benjamin and against the house of Ephraim, so that Israel was severely distressed.
10 And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, saying, “We have sinned against you, because we have forsaken our God and have served the Baals.” 11 And the Lord said to the people of Israel, “Did I not save you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites, from the Ammonites and from the Philistines? 12 The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you, and you cried out to me, and I saved you out of their hand. 13 Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more. 14 Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.” 15 And the people of Israel said to the Lord, “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you. Only please deliver us this day.” 16 So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord, and he became impatient over the misery of Israel.
17 Then the Ammonites were called to arms, and they encamped in Gilead. And the people of Israel came together, and they encamped at Mizpah. 18 And the people, the leaders of Gilead, said one to another, “Who is the man who will begin to fight against the Ammonites? He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.”
Psalm 1 (ESV)
The Way of the Righteous and the Wicked
1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
Acts 15:22–35 (ESV)
The Council’s Letter to Gentile Believers
22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers, 23 with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. 24 Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, 25 it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”
30 So when they were sent off, they went down to Antioch, and having gathered the congregation together, they delivered the letter. 31 And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. 32 And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words. 33 And after they had spent some time, they were sent off in peace by the brothers to those who had sent them. 35 But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.
We know that in 1513, when [Luther] began his lectures on the Psalms, he still operated with the fourfold sense of Scripture, the sensus literalis, allegoricus, tropologicus, and anagogicus, but that already in the course of his lectures he combined three of them into one and occasionally designated the sensus literalis as the sensus primarius scripturaebehind which the sensus tropologicus must retreat. In his lectures on Romans, 1515-1516, and on Galatians, 1516-1517, this view becomes increasingly evident, and after 1519 his exposition is entirely controlled by the principle: Scripture has but one meaning, even though in his practical explanations of the Scriptures he still oftentimes pays tribute to the allegorical sense. He now declares in his writing against Emser, “Scripture shall not have a double meaning but shall retain the one that accords with the meaning by the words,” and again, “The Holy Ghost is the most simple author and speaker in heaven and earth, therefore His words cannot have more than one, the most simple meaning.” In his Christmas Postil of 1522 he even writes, “If we concede that Scripture has more than one sense, it loses its fighting force.” (10)
–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures
This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.