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Thursday of the First Week in Lent

Today, so early in the season of Lent, we commemorate John and Charles Wesley, who died 1791 and 1788 respectively. As founders of “Methodism,” they were sometimes accused of a kind of legalism with regard to Christian observance. They advocated for a more intentional spirituality and life of discipleship, rejecting what they perceived as formal, life-less religion in England focused on outward forms, rites and rituals rather than a heart-felt, lived life of faith, obedience and practice. Both received what they described as an “inner conversion,” which John described as his heart, “strangely warmed.” The established church of England rejected the Wesley brothers, although through their lives and ministries they are regarded today as renewers of the Church.Oddly, Martin Luther was accused not of legalism, but of making the Gospel “cheap,” by proclaiming that we are saved by grace, through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus — not by works, as Paul asserts (read Romans 3:21–31). The established Church responded to Luther, charging that salvation by faith alone would cause Christians to become lazy and lukewarm without faith and good works! As the Wesleys were accused of making salvation a matter of works and “method,” Luther was accused of doing away with good works by focusing on faith!
It has been argued that the Wesleys were not advocating for a works-based righteousness, even as Luther believed and taught that good works of love and mercy flowed from, and were a response to, faith in Jesus Christ. These great renewers of the Church lived the good news that “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him!”
In the season of Lent, let our focus be on God’s great love for us, manifested in the gift of His Son, who gave His life for us on the cross and was raised to new life, that we too, might live! And let our response be lives filled with love and good works, toward God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit—and our neighbor in need!

Prayer: Almighty God, we praise You for the men and women You have sent to call the Church to its tasks and renew its life, such as Your servants John and Charles Wesley, Martin Luther and others. Give us strength to love and serve You with new lives in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Devotion written by The Rev. Dr. David M. Wendel

“John Wesley, 1791; Charles Wesley, 1788; Renewers of the Church”, “Chad, Bishop of Lichfield, 672”

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 several challenging years 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.

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