“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20)
Reading: Matthew 18:15-20
Dear gracious God, we are all sinners, saved and gathered by You. Through our salvation, we became Your children. As Your children we have become sons and daughters of God—related to each other as brothers and sisters. Thus, we gather together to worship, to learn and to be Your disciples.
Thank You for promising to be among us always. In the midst of our conflict, deceptions, and many more messy things, You never leave us. We are sinners who gather in Your name around the water of Baptism, around Your body and blood, and around Your Holy Word. You are always in our midst to give us new life, to feed us through Word and Sacrament and to make us Your disciples. Help us through Your Holy Spirit to be mindful of Your real presence and bring our praise to You, our God, in the name of Your son, Jesus Christ.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen!
The season of Lent has typically held a special place in the life of the Church. Beginning with Ash Wednesday and culminating in the events of Holy Week, Lent is an invitation to focus on what is central to our faith. It has also become a time for personal and spiritual reflection on who we are as God’s people and on what God has given us so graciously in Christ.
In earlier times, Lent was a time to prepare for receiving Baptism. More recently it has become a time to lift up in worship and education the core teachings of our faith or to explore some of the major personalities who surround Jesus on His journey to the cross.
This devotional booklet is meant to enhance and enrich our Lenten observance. We have chosen two themes. One is a selection of biblical passages in which God is addressed as the “Great I Am.” The other is a selection of passages in which we are addressed as God’s people, “You are…”
It is our hope that, as we reflect on these passages from God’s Word, our faith in God may be strengthened and our commitment to His Word renewed.
It is also our prayer that, as we move from Ash Wednesday to Holy Week, we may join the two disciples of Jesus as they cried out, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32 ESV).
The Rev. Paull Spring, Bishop Emeritus
The Rev. Dr. Gemechis Buba, Assistant to the Bishop for Missions
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture is taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. Scripture quotations marked (CEV) are from the Contemporary English Version Copyright © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society. Used by Permission. Scripture quotations designated NASB or NASB95 are from the New American Standard Bible, © the Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995. Scripture quotations designated ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version ®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
2 Samuel 10 (ESV)
David Defeats Ammon and Syria
10 After this the king of the Ammonites died, and Hanun his son reigned in his place. 2 And David said, “I will deal loyally with Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father dealt loyally with me.” So David sent by his servants to console him concerning his father. And David’s servants came into the land of the Ammonites. 3 But the princes of the Ammonites said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think, because David has sent comforters to you, that he is honoring your father? Has not David sent his servants to you to search the city and to spy it out and to overthrow it?” 4 So Hanun took David’s servants and shaved off half the beard of each and cut off their garments in the middle, at their hips, and sent them away. 5 When it was told David, he sent to meet them, for the men were greatly ashamed. And the king said, “Remain at Jericho until your beards have grown and then return.”
6 When the Ammonites saw that they had become a stench to David, the Ammonites sent and hired the Syrians of Beth-rehob, and the Syrians of Zobah, 20,000 foot soldiers, and the king of Maacah with 1,000 men, and the men of Tob, 12,000 men. 7 And when David heard of it, he sent Joab and all the host of the mighty men. 8 And the Ammonites came out and drew up in battle array at the entrance of the gate, and the Syrians of Zobah and of Rehob and the men of Tob and Maacah were by themselves in the open country.
9 When Joab saw that the battle was set against him both in front and in the rear, he chose some of the best men of Israel and arrayed them against the Syrians. 10 The rest of his men he put in the charge of Abishai his brother, and he arrayed them against the Ammonites. 11 And he said, “If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me, but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come and help you. 12 Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the Lord do what seems good to him.” 13 So Joab and the people who were with him drew near to battle against the Syrians, and they fled before him. 14 And when the Ammonites saw that the Syrians fled, they likewise fled before Abishai and entered the city. Then Joab returned from fighting against the Ammonites and came to Jerusalem.
15 But when the Syrians saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they gathered themselves together. 16 And Hadadezer sent and brought out the Syrians who were beyond the Euphrates. They came to Helam, with Shobach the commander of the army of Hadadezer at their head. 17 And when it was told David, he gathered all Israel together and crossed the Jordan and came to Helam. The Syrians arrayed themselves against David and fought with him. 18 And the Syrians fled before Israel, and David killed of the Syrians the men of 700 chariots, and 40,000 horsemen, and wounded Shobach the commander of their army, so that he died there. 19 And when all the kings who were servants of Hadadezer saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they made peace with Israel and became subject to them. So the Syrians were afraid to save the Ammonites anymore.
Psalm 74 (ESV)
Arise, O God, Defend Your Cause
74 A Maskil of Asaph.
1 O God, why do you cast us off forever?
Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?
2 Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old,
which you have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage!
Remember Mount Zion, where you have dwelt.
3 Direct your steps to the perpetual ruins;
the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary!
4 Your foes have roared in the midst of your meeting place;
they set up their own signs for signs.
5 They were like those who swing axes
in a forest of trees.
6 And all its carved wood
they broke down with hatchets and hammers.
7 They set your sanctuary on fire;
they profaned the dwelling place of your name,
bringing it down to the ground.
8 They said to themselves, “We will utterly subdue them”;
they burned all the meeting places of God in the land.
9 We do not see our signs;
there is no longer any prophet,
and there is none among us who knows how long.
10 How long, O God, is the foe to scoff?
Is the enemy to revile your name forever?
11 Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?
Take it from the fold of your garment and destroy them!
12 Yet God my King is from of old,
working salvation in the midst of the earth.
13 You divided the sea by your might;
you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters.
14 You crushed the heads of Leviathan;
you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
15 You split open springs and brooks;
you dried up ever-flowing streams.
16 Yours is the day, yours also the night;
you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.
17 You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth;
you have made summer and winter.
18 Remember this, O Lord, how the enemy scoffs,
and a foolish people reviles your name.
19 Do not deliver the soul of your dove to the wild beasts;
do not forget the life of your poor forever.
20 Have regard for the covenant,
for the dark places of the land are full of the habitations of violence.
21 Let not the downtrodden turn back in shame;
let the poor and needy praise your name.
22 Arise, O God, defend your cause;
remember how the foolish scoff at you all the day!
1 Timothy 5:1–16 (ESV)
Instructions for the Church
5 Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, 2 older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.
3 Honor widows who are truly widows. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. 5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, 6 but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. 7 Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
9 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, 10 and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. 11 But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry 12 and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. 13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. 15 For some have already strayed after Satan. 16 If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.
In regard to the Church Luther says in the same writing: “The Church also has no power to establish new divine promises of grace, as some foolishly speak, that everything which the Church ordains is of no lesser authority than that which is ordained of God, since she is guided by the Holy Spirit. For the Church comes into being through the word of promise through faith … God’s Word stands incomparably high above the Church, in this Word she, as a creature, cannot resolve, order, or execute but can only be resolved, ordered, and carried out. For who generates his father, who has rst called his Creator into being?” (18)
–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.