Isaiah 44:24–45:7 (Listen)
24 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer,
who formed you from the womb:
“I am the LORD, who made all things,
who alone stretched out the heavens,
who spread out the earth by myself,
25 who frustrates the signs of liars
and makes fools of diviners,
who turns wise men back
and makes their knowledge foolish,
26 who confirms the word of his servant
and fulfills the counsel of his messengers,
who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited,’
and of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built,
and I will raise up their ruins’;
27 who says to the deep, ‘Be dry;
I will dry up your rivers’;
28 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,
and he shall fulfill all my purpose’;
saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’
and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’”
Cyrus, God’s Instrument
45:1 Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus,
whose right hand I have grasped,
to subdue nations before him
and to loose the belts of kings,
to open doors before him
that gates may not be closed:
2 “I will go before you
and level the exalted places,
I will break in pieces the doors of bronze
and cut through the bars of iron,
3 I will give you the treasures of darkness
and the hoards in secret places,
that you may know that it is I, the LORD,
the God of Israel, who call you by your name.
4 For the sake of my servant Jacob,
and Israel my chosen,
I call you by your name,
I name you, though you do not know me.
5 I am the LORD, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
6 that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me;
I am the LORD, and there is no other.
7 I form light and create darkness;
I make well-being and create calamity;
I am the LORD, who does all these things.
Ephesians 5:1–14 (Listen)
Walk in Love
5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them; 8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Mark 4:1–20 (Listen)
The Parable of the Sower
4:1 Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
The Purpose of the Parables
10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that
“‘they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.’”
13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. 16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. 18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 20 But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”
Psalm 65 (Listen)
O God of Our Salvation
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. A Song.
65:1 Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion,
and to you shall vows be performed.
2 O you who hear prayer,
to you shall all flesh come.
3 When iniquities prevail against me,
you atone for our transgressions.
4 Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
the holiness of your temple!
5 By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness,
O God of our salvation,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas;
6 the one who by his strength established the mountains,
being girded with might;
7 who stills the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples,
8 so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.
You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.
9 You visit the earth and water it;
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide their grain,
for so you have prepared it.
10 You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.
11 You crown the year with your bounty;
your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.
12 The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
13 the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.
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 125 (Listen)
The Lord Surrounds His People
A Song of Ascents.
125:1 Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion,
which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
so the LORD surrounds his people,
from this time forth and forevermore.
3 For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest
on the land allotted to the righteous,
lest the righteous stretch out
their hands to do wrong.
4 Do good, O LORD, to those who are good,
and to those who are upright in their hearts!
5 But those who turn aside to their crooked ways
the LORD will lead away with evildoers!
Peace be upon Israel!
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.”
Fabian, Bishop of Rome, Martyr, 250 (January 20)
About the Commemoration
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Continues
Fabian (Fabianus) was a Roman layman who, according to the historian Eusebius (Church History VI, 29), came into the city from his farm one day as the clergy and people were preparing to elect a new bishop. While the names of several noble and illustrious candidates were being considered, Eusebius reports, a dove flew in and settled on the head of Fabian, whereupon, although he was a stranger, not a candidate, and a layman, he was elected unanimously. The Liber Pontificalis says that he made many administrative reforms, dividing the city into seven districts each supervised by a deacon for practical and charitable purposes, developed the parochial structure of the Church in Rome, and established the custom of venerating martyrs at their tombs in the catacombs. He led the church for fourteen years and died a martyr’s death during the persecution of Decius in 250, one of the first to die in that persecution. Cyprian, the Bishop of Carthage, wrote to Fabian’s successor Cornelius that Fabian was an “incomparable man” whose glory in death befitted the purity and holiness of his life. In the Catacombs of St. Callixtus (Callistus), the burial place of the early bishops of Rome, a stone that covered Fabian’s grave may still be seen, broken into four pieces, bearing the Greek words, “Fabian,” “bishop,” “martyr.” The Roman Catholic calendar also commemorates on this date Sebastian (257?-288?) about whom nothing is known historically except that he was a Roman martyr and was venerated in Milan even in the time of St. Ambrose, who said that Sebastian was born in Milan and that he was buried on the Appian Way. He is mentioned on several martyrologies as early as 350. The pious legend that he was a soldier who was condemned to be killed by archers for protecting martyrs became a popular subject for Renaissance painters.
Fabian is on the General Roman Calendar and the calendar in the Book of Common Prayer and is included in the Methodist For All the Saints.
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 a letter by Cyprian of Carthage about the death of Fabian
When he was informed of the death of Pope Fabian, Saint Cyprian sent this letter to the priests and deacons of Rome: “My dear brothers, while the news of the death of my good colleague was still uncertain, and opinions were divided, I received your letter delivered through the subdeacon Clementius, in which I learned the full details of Fabian’s glorious death. I was quite happy that his virtuous death crowned the integrity of his administration. I also congratulate you that you honor his memory with such a splendid and praiseworthy testimony. We can see quite clearly what an honor for you is the glorious heritage of one who was your leader, and what an example of faith and courage it offers us. For just as the defection of a leader can have a harmful effect on those who follow him, so the constancy of a bishop’s faith offers an healthful and profitable example to his brothers.”
Before Cyprian received this letter, the Church of Rome had given the community at Carthage testimony of its loyalty in time of persecution in the following letter. “Our church stands unshaken in the faith, although some have lapsed because they fear the loss of their high positions or other personal sufferings. Although these have left us, we have not abandoned them. We have urged them and now we continue to encourage them to repent, in the hope that they may receive pardon from the One who can give it. If they were abandoned by us, their situation might become worse.
“And so you see, brothers, you should act in the same manner. Perhaps in this way those who have lapsed, having been converted through your encouragement, and, if they are arrested again, might confess their faith and so might make up for their previous failure. You have other responsibilities as well. If any of those who have defected should become ill and, after repenting, should desire to receive communion, they should certainly be assisted. Widows, the destitute who cannot support themselves, and those who are in prison or who have been evicted from their homes should surely have assistance; likewise catechumens who are ill ought not to be disappointed in their hope of receiving help.
“Your brothers who are in prison send you their greetings, and also the priests, the whole Church which lies awake in great anxiety to pray for all those who call on the Name of the Lord. And we ask you in turn to remember us.”
Letters 9 and 8. Trans. PHP, based on A Short Breviary by the monks of St. John’s Abbey and the International Committee on English in the Liturgy.
O God, in your providence you singled out the holy martyr Fabian as worthy to be chief pastor of your people, and guided him so to strengthen your church that it stood fast in the day of persecution: Grant that the example of your martyr Fabian may help us to imitate his faith and offer you our loving service; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
PHP; CMG + LFF + RS
Readings: 2 Esdras 2:42-48; Psalm 110:1-4 or 126; Matthew 10:16-22
Prayers: For all who today are facing persecution, suffering, and death for their faith; For all who are engaged in church administration; For the lapsed; For the fearful; For parishes throughout the world, particularly those in great cities; For the unity of the church; For Anglican, Old Catholic, and allied churches.
Preface: A Saint (3)
Also on January 20
The Lutheran Service Book (2006) of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, following the practice of the Eastern Church, a practice introduced in the West by the calendar of Wilhelm Löhe (see January 2), commemorates certain people from the Hebrew Bible. On January 20 the Lutheran Service Book remembers Sarah; she is listed on January 19 on Löhe’s calendar.
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.