8:33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” 34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” 39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.
– John 8:33-44
Family is a beautiful, wonderful thing, isn’t it? Relationships are nurtured, cherished and sustained, woven in threads of love, trust and promises kept in a covenant between everyone. One belongs to the other, not only of blood and flesh, but of spirit, character and compassionate, edifying love for each other. One can hear Paul’s chapter, 1 Corinthians 13 often at weddings, because of its emphasis on love’s importance, indeed centrality in life (1 Cor. 13:13) and hope for the couple as they begin a family.
However, being born into a family doesn’t automatically guarantee that one will act, believe, stand for, or love as part of the family. Here in John’s Gospel, Jesus confronts those Pharisees who claim to be sons of Abraham. Jesus directly challenges their claim by pointing out that they have forgotten what Abraham did. They forget that Israel was in fact enslaved to Egypt, but greater yet, “anyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” Jesus reminds them. Being physically descended from Abraham is one thing, but living faithfully, in accordance with the truth of God’s Word is another. They reveal that in their hearts they have a different father, a different loyalty, a different family.
As Moses and Paul each wrote, do not be circumcised of the flesh alone, but of the heart, for who is the true son of Israel, the one circumcised of the flesh or of the heart? To follow self is to be enslaved to sin and to not hear the word Jesus speaks (John 8:43) and, thus, Jesus reveals who their true father is, the devil, and their will and ours, when we neglect the Word and follow our own desires — this is the devil’s desire; to lie, kill and destroy, and thus not of God.
Prayer: Gracious Father, help me to show my family’s ties by living according to Your love. Help me, when I doubt myself, to look to Your Word of promise, to Your Baptism, for You have claimed me as Your own. Teach me in my stumbling, weak way to remember that You are for me and not against me, that You know my frailty, and in Your love walk beside me, carry me and will hold me close to Your heart as Your child. Amen.
Lenten Response: In reading the texts for today, what does the Word reveal about your desire?
Devotion written by the Rev. Phillip Gagnon
Jeremiah 11:1–8 (Listen)
The Broken Covenant
11:1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 “Hear the words of this covenant, and speak to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 3 You shall say to them, Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Cursed be the man who does not hear the words of this covenant 4 that I commanded your fathers when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Listen to my voice, and do all that I command you. So shall you be my people, and I will be your God, 5 that I may confirm the oath that I swore to your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as at this day.” Then I answered, “So be it, LORD.”
6 And the LORD said to me, “Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem: Hear the words of this covenant and do them. 7 For I solemnly warned your fathers when I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, warning them persistently, even to this day, saying, Obey my voice. 8 Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone walked in the stubbornness of his evil heart. Therefore I brought upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not.”
Jeremiah 11:14–17 (Listen)
14 “Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer on their behalf, for I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their trouble. 15 What right has my beloved in my house, when she has done many vile deeds? Can even sacrificial flesh avert your doom? Can you then exult? 16 The LORD once called you ‘a green olive tree, beautiful with good fruit.’ But with the roar of a great tempest he will set fire to it, and its branches will be consumed. 17 The LORD of hosts, who planted you, has decreed disaster against you, because of the evil that the house of Israel and the house of Judah have done, provoking me to anger by making offerings to Baal.”
Romans 6:1–11 (Listen)
Dead to Sin, Alive to God
6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
John 8:33–47 (Listen)
33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”
34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. 38 I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”
You Are of Your Father the Devil
39 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”
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.
Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome, 604 (March 12)
About the Commemoration
Gregory I, called “the Great,” was born in Rome ca. 540 to a distinguished Christian family of senatorial rank. His grandfather had been a pope after he had become a widower. Gregory as a young man had a palace and immense wealth. He was educated in the law and entered civil service. As Prefect of Rome, the chief administrative officer of the city, he presided over the Roman Senate, gathering knowledge of political and business affairs. Shortly after Gregory took office, his father died, and not long afterward Gregory became a monk.
About 575 he turned his family home into a monastery dedicated to St. Andrew, provided for the founding of six monasteries on his father’s property in Sicily, and gave the surplus of his inheritance to the poor. He reentered what he liked to call the turbulence of life in the world when he was ordained deacon by Benedict I. In 579 he was sent as the papal representative to the Byzantine court at Constantinople where he increased his knowledge of the political and religious problems disturbing the empire. (During his stay in Constantinople he lived with the monks who accompanied him and apparently never learned Greek.)
He was recalled to Rome ca. 586 to be a counselor to Pope Pelagius II. It was a troubled time for the city. A plague spread through Rome, killing many, including the pope, and Gregory was elected his successor by popular acclaim. His consecration as Bishop of Rome was delayed until the approval of the Byzantine emperor could be secured. Meanwhile, Gregory ministered to the sick and dying in the then-plague-ridden city and organized penitential processions.
In 592 the Lombards invaded Rome. In the absence of secular leadership, Gregory rallied the people to defend the city and agreed to pay a yearly tribute to save Rome. The Byzantine emperor had refused aid; civil government had failed. The people, therefore, saw the pope as their protector who had assumed responsibility when they had no other helper.
Gregory showed concern for the poor and for justice, insisted upon a high standard of spirituality in Church administrators and reformed the process of raising money from the papal patrimonies so that unjust amounts of money were not collected. He put his stamp on the liturgy by reviving the “station churches” to which the pope processed and celebrated Mass on certain days; writing some prayers of the Gregorian sacramentary; changing the second petition in the threefold Kyrie to “Christ have mercy”; ordering that Alleluia be sung throughout the year except on penitential days; fostering the development of music; emphasizing the importance of the sermon; and fixing the present order of the Our Father in the Mass.
Gregory struggled with the Patriarch of Constantinople who claimed to be the “ecumenical patriarch,” and in opposition to him Gregory claimed universal jurisdiction for the Bishop of Rome, not as lord but as “servant of the servants of God” (a title not original with Gregory but typical of his approach). Gregory’s use of monks as missionaries to the Anglo-Saxons was his single most influential act in determining the future of Christian culture and institutions. In 597 he sent Augustine of Canterbury (see May 26) and forty monks to evangelize Britain. The story told by Bede is that Gregory saw some fair-haired slaves in Rome and, being told that they were Angles, is said to have replied, “Not Angles but angels,” and decided that they must be Christianized.
Gregory is remembered not for the brilliance of his writing or his thought, although his Pastoral Care is a classic work on the ministry, but rather as an austere and masterful statesman who managed the Church in a complex and changing world. And this was the work of a man who described himself as sickly and who constantly yearned to return to monastic seclusion. Called by some the greatest man of the sixth century, Gregory forms a bridge between the ancient and the medieval worlds, and his episcopate was a model for his successors.
Gregory died March 12,604. His feast day in the Roman Catholic calendar is September 3, the date of his election as Bishop of Rome. This avoids celebrating his feast during Lent. The Episcopal and Lutheran Churches and the Methodist For All the Saints retain March 12 as the date of his commemoration.
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: Pope Gregory I
From a sermon on Ezekiel by Gregory the Great
“Mortal, I have made you a sentinel for the house of Israel.” [Ezekiel 3:17; 33:7] Note that one whom the Lord sends forth as a preacher is called a sentinel. A sentinel always stands on a height in order to see from afar what is coming. Anyone appointed to be a sentinel for the people must stand on a height throughout life to help them by such foresight.
How hard it is for me to say this, for by these very words I denounce myself. I cannot preach with any competence, and yet insofar as I do succeed, still I myself do not live my life according to my own preaching.
I do not deny my responsibility; I recognize that I am slothful and negligent, but perhaps the acknowledgement of my fault will win me pardon from my just judge. Indeed when I was in the monastery I could curb my idle talk and usually be absorbed in my prayers. Since I assumed the burden of pastoral care, my mind can no longer be collected; it is concerned with so many matters.
I am forced to consider the affairs of the Church and of the monasteries. I must weigh the lives and acts of individuals. I am responsible for the concerns of our citizens. I must worry about the invasions of roving bands of barbarians, and beware of the wolves who lie in wait for my flock. I must become an administrator lest the religious go in want. I must put up with certain robbers without losing patience and at times I must deal with them in all charity.
With my mind divided and torn to pieces by so many problems, how can I meditate or preach wholeheartedly without neglecting the ministry of proclaiming the Gospel? Moreover, in my position I must often communicate with worldly men. At times I let my tongue run, for if I am always severe in my judgments, the worldly avoid me, and I can never attack them as I would. As a result I often listen patiently to chatter. And because I am too weak, I find myself drawn little by little into idle conversation, and I begin to talk freely about matters which once I would have avoided. What once I found tedious I now enjoy.
So who am I to be a sentinel, for I do not stand on the mountain of action but lie down in the valley of weakness? Truly the all-powerful Creator and Redeemer of the human race can give me in spite of my weaknesses a higher life and effective speech; because I love him, I do not spare myself in speaking of him.
From the English translation of the Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours by the International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., rev. PHP.
Almighty and merciful God, guiding your people with kindness and governing us with love, you raised up Gregory of Rome to be a servant of the servants of God: Give the Spirit of wisdom to those whom you call to be the shepherds of your church and that your people, growing in holiness and fruitful in every good work, may receive the crown of glory that never fades away; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.
PHP, after RS and LFF
Readings: 1 Chronicles 25:1a, 6-8; Psalm 57:6-11 or 33:1-5, 20-21; Mark 10:42-45 or John 21:15-17
Hymn of the Day: “O Christ, our king, creator, Lord” (by Gregory, LBW 101) or “Kind Maker of the world, O hear” (H82 152)
Prayers: For the poor; For social justice; For renewed appreciation of the liturgy; For a spirit of service; For harried pastors and administrators, distracted by many concerns.
Preface: Apostles (BCP)
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.