10:22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
– John 10:22-30
“How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah tell us plainly!” Wow … this is a nation that has been waiting for a Messiah for thousands of years. Now they encounter someone who claims to be the Son of God and who is doing extraordinary things before their very eyes. He is reading and teaching Scripture, with absolute clarity and immense authority like they have never seen before. He is not self-centered. He’s upholding God the Father, and He’s humble and very wise. At the same time, He is performing miracle after miracle — things that they have never seen before, or even imagined. But there is one major problem that they are experiencing. That problem is a problem of faith and certainty.
How can we be certain about the messianic authority and divine identity of Jesus Christ? He is living and walking among us as a human being. But everything about Him is supernatural and everything He is saying and doing is extraordinary. Therefore, most of His contemporaries, whether they are His friends or His family, are all kept in this magnanimous suspense that they cannot resolve. Finally, they come very close to Him and proposed this question boldly: “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus is giving them a very direct answer, indirectly. He’s not making an explicit claim, but He’s pointing to all the things that He’s doing. And all the things that are stated in Scripture about the Messiah. He’s asking for them to go and compare the works in His life to the claims and declarations of Scripture. And then it is up to the Holy Spirit, in the grace of God, to create that faith and certainty in their lives. That is the process of being born again. It is the Holy Spirit that opens our eyes and our hearts to see the person and identity of Jesus.
Prayer: Dear Jesus thank You for revealing Yourself to us and for opening our eyes to see You and for helping our hearts to believe in You. Without the help of Your Holy Spirit, and without the guidance of Your grace, and without the preaching of Your Word, there is no way for us to put our faith and trust and confidence in You. But we are forever grateful for the marvelous work of Your Holy Spirit that opened the eyes of our hearts to see You clearly, to love You, to follow You and to worship You. Now we ask Your grace to continue working in our hearts and to help us grow in knowing and loving You all the days of our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen!
Lenten Response: Pray for someone who is struggling with their faith or who does not know the saving love of Jesus. Perhaps set an alarm on your phone to remind you to continue to pray for this person or write their name on an index card.
Devotion written by the Rev. Dr. Gemechis Buba
Jeremiah 26 (Listen)
Jeremiah Threatened with Death
26:1 In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came from the LORD: 2 “Thus says the LORD: Stand in the court of the LORD’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the LORD all the words that I command you to speak to them; do not hold back a word. 3 It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent of the disaster that I intend to do to them because of their evil deeds. 4 You shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD: If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, 5 and to listen to the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently, though you have not listened, 6 then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.’”
7 The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LORD. 8 And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! 9 Why have you prophesied in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the LORD.
10 When the officials of Judah heard these things, they came up from the king’s house to the house of the LORD and took their seat in the entry of the New Gate of the house of the LORD. 11 Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and to all the people, “This man deserves the sentence of death, because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.”
12 Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, “The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. 13 Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the LORD your God, and the LORD will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you. 14 But as for me, behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. 15 Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the LORD sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.”
Jeremiah Spared from Death
16 Then the officials and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, “This man does not deserve the sentence of death, for he has spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God.” 17 And certain of the elders of the land arose and spoke to all the assembled people, saying, 18 “Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and said to all the people of Judah: ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts,
“‘Zion shall be plowed as a field;
Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,
and the mountain of the house a wooded height.’
19 Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him to death? Did he not fear the LORD and entreat the favor of the LORD, and did not the LORD relent of the disaster that he had pronounced against them? But we are about to bring great disaster upon ourselves.”
20 There was another man who prophesied in the name of the LORD, Uriah the son of Shemaiah from Kiriath-jearim. He prophesied against this city and against this land in words like those of Jeremiah. 21 And when King Jehoiakim, with all his warriors and all the officials, heard his words, the king sought to put him to death. But when Uriah heard of it, he was afraid and fled and escaped to Egypt. 22 Then King Jehoiakim sent to Egypt certain men, Elnathan the son of Achbor and others with him, 23 and they took Uriah from Egypt and brought him to King Jehoiakim, who struck him down with the sword and dumped his dead body into the burial place of the common people.
24 But the hand of Ahikam the son of Shaphan was with Jeremiah so that he was not given over to the people to be put to death.
Romans 11:1–12 (Listen)
The Remnant of Israel
11:1 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” 4 But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. 6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written,
“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
eyes that would not see
and ears that would not hear,
down to this very day.”
9 And David says,
“Let their table become a snare and a trap,
a stumbling block and a retribution for them;
10 let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
and bend their backs forever.”
Gentiles Grafted In
11 So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. 12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!
John 10:19–42 (Listen)
19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
I and the Father Are One
22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 39 Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.
40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. 41 And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there.
Psalm 40:1–11 (Listen)
My Help and My Deliverer
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.
40:1 I waited patiently for the LORD;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
2 He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the LORD.
4 Blessed is the man who makes
the LORD his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after a lie!
5 You have multiplied, O LORD my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
yet they are more than can be told.
6 In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering
you have not required.
7 Then I said, “Behold, I have come;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
8 I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.”
9 I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O LORD.
10 I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.
11 As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain
your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
ever preserve me!
Psalm 147:13–20 (Listen)
13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates;
he blesses your children within you.
14 He makes peace in your borders;
he fills you with the finest of the wheat.
15 He sends out his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
16 He gives snow like wool;
he scatters frost like ashes.
17 He hurls down his crystals of ice like crumbs;
who can stand before his cold?
18 He sends out his word, and melts them;
he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.
19 He declares his word to Jacob,
his statutes and rules to Israel.
20 He has not dealt thus with any other nation;
they do not know his rules.
Praise the LORD!
Psalm 126 (Listen)
Restore Our Fortunes, O Lord
A Song of Ascents.
126:1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
3 The LORD has done great things for us;
we are glad.
4 Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
like streams in the Negeb!
5 Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!
6 He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him.
Psalm 102 (Listen)
Do Not Hide Your Face from Me
A Prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the LORD.
102:1 Hear my prayer, O LORD;
let my cry come to you!
2 Do not hide your face from me
in the day of my distress!
Incline your ear to me;
answer me speedily in the day when I call!
3 For my days pass away like smoke,
and my bones burn like a furnace.
4 My heart is struck down like grass and has withered;
I forget to eat my bread.
5 Because of my loud groaning
my bones cling to my flesh.
6 I am like a desert owl of the wilderness,
like an owl of the waste places;
7 I lie awake;
I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.
8 All the day my enemies taunt me;
those who deride me use my name for a curse.
9 For I eat ashes like bread
and mingle tears with my drink,
10 because of your indignation and anger;
for you have taken me up and thrown me down.
11 My days are like an evening shadow;
I wither away like grass.
12 But you, O LORD, are enthroned forever;
you are remembered throughout all generations.
13 You will arise and have pity on Zion;
it is the time to favor her;
the appointed time has come.
14 For your servants hold her stones dear
and have pity on her dust.
15 Nations will fear the name of the LORD,
and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory.
16 For the LORD builds up Zion;
he appears in his glory;
17 he regards the prayer of the destitute
and does not despise their prayer.
18 Let this be recorded for a generation to come,
so that a people yet to be created may praise the LORD:
19 that he looked down from his holy height;
from heaven the LORD looked at the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners,
to set free those who were doomed to die,
21 that they may declare in Zion the name of the LORD,
and in Jerusalem his praise,
22 when peoples gather together,
and kingdoms, to worship the LORD.
23 He has broken my strength in midcourse;
he has shortened my days.
24 “O my God,” I say, “take me not away
in the midst of my days—
you whose years endure
throughout all generations!”
25 Of old you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you will remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away,
27 but you are the same, and your years have no end.
28 The children of your servants shall dwell secure;
their offspring shall be established before you.
The Annunciation of Our Lord to the Virgin Mary (March 25)
About the Festival
Exactly nine months before Christmas, the church celebrates the first moment of the coming of God to his people. With the Savior’s conception the new age had begun, and so even into the eighteenth century this day was, in many places, considered the beginning of the year. It was also regarded in some places as being the day on which the world was created, this joining the first creation and the new creation, creation and redemption, on one day.
The day is a festival of Christ. The heights of Mary’s exaltation as most favored, chosen to be the birth-giver of God, are surpassed by the splendor of that event of which she was the chosen vessel: the entrance of God into the world.
The celebration of the angel’s announcement to Mary that she was to become the mother of the Savior seems to have originated in the East in the fifth century, where it is called evangelismos, the good news. The festival was introduced in the West during the sixth and seventh centuries and was universally celebrated by the time of the Tenth Synod of Toledo in 656. The date of March 25, precisely nine months before Christmas, is practically universal, but some churches in Spain kept the commemoration during Advent, on December 18. In the eleventh century, Spain accepted the traditional date but retained the December date also so that the Annunciation was celebrated twice. In the eighteenth century, Rome made December 18 “The Expectation of the Blessed Virgin of the Birth” of Christ.
The observance of March 25 presents certain practical problems, for the feast usually falls during Lent, when joyful celebration seems out of place, and often occurs in Holy Week, when the celebration must be postponed until after Easter week. Periodically, therefore, the suggestion is made that the day be moved to some time in Advent, closer to Christmas, when the church is anticipating the birth of Christ, but the suggestion has not been accepted. The tradition of counting back nine months is strong. In the Eastern Churches the Feast of the Annunciation is of such importance that it takes precedence over a Sunday in Lent with which it may coincide.
The title for the Blessed Virgin Mary, first used apparently by Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 387), Theotokos (the birth-giver of God), which in popular Latin usage became Mater Dei (mother of God), was affirmed by the Council of Ephesus in 431. The day commemorates Mary’s acceptance of her vocation, assenting to the message of the angel Gabriel, and opening the way for God to accomplish the salvation of the world. In the mid-second century, Justin described Mary as “the new Eve.” As mother of the new Israel, Mary is thus the counterpart to Abraham, the father of God’s chosen people.
In the Middle Ages it was thought that, following a mystical conjunction of events, March 25 was not only the day on which the Incarnation began but was also the day on which creation began and the day on which Christ was crucified; so the great doctrines of creation, incarnation, and redemption were brought together as one. The Annunciation was therefore observed as New Year’s Day for much of Christian Europe from the sixth century down into the eighteenth century.
Although the festival is often associated with Mary (in England it is called Lady Day), in its origins the day is a festival of the Lord. The oldest titles for the day are “Annunciation of the Lord” and “the Conception of Christ.”
The Moravian Church observes this date as the Festival of All the Choirs. That observance suggests the possibility of a celebration in honor of those who serve the church through music, which joins the songs of earth to the praises of the heavenly chorus.
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: The Annunciation
From Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word
The incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God came into our world, even though he was not absent from it before. For no part of creation was without his presence; with his Father he was present everywhere. He came in loving-kindness to make himself known openly to us. Seeing the race of rational creatures passing away and death reigning over them, he could not stand aside. He did not want creation to perish and his Father’s work in creating human beings to be in vain. He therefore took a body no different from ours, for he did not simply will to be in a body or merely to be seen. If he had wanted simply to appear, he could have accomplished that by some another and higher means. Instead he took a body no different from ours.
Within the womb of the pure and spotless virgin he built himself a temple, a body. He made it his very own instrument in which to dwell among us and make himself known. He therefore took a body like ours, and since all were subject to death, he delivered that body to death for all, with supreme love offering it to the Father. He did so to destroy the law of death passed against all humanity, since in him all died. The law, which had spent its force on the body of the Lord, no longer had any power against his people. Moreover, in this way the Word restored the immortality we had lost and recalled us from death to life. He destroyed the power of death, as a fire consumes chaff, by means of the body he had taken and the grace of the resurrection.
This is why the Word took a mortal body, so that this body, sharing in the Word who is Lord of all things, might submit to death in place of all, and yet, because the Word dwelt in that body, it would remain incorruptible, and all would be freed for ever from corruption by the grace of the resurrection.
The body he assumed, therefore, he offered to death as a spotless victim and so banished death from all humanity. For the immortal Son of God, united with all humanity, gained immortality for all humanity through resurrection from the dead.
Chaps. 8-9, trans. PHP
Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord, that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel, may by his cross and passion be brought to the glory of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Gregorian sacramentary no. 143, BCP, LBW, ELW
Readings: Isaiah 7:10-14; Psalm 40:7-11 or 40:1-11 or 40:5-10 or Magnificat; Hebrews 10:(4) 5-10; Luke 1:26-38
Hymn of the Day: “Ye who claim the faith of Jesus” (H82 269); “Blest are the pure in heart” (H82 656, SBH 394); “The advent of our God” (LBW 22; LSB 331 alt.)
Prayers: For purity of heart; For obedience to the word of God; For joyful submission to the will of God.
Preface: Christmas (or Epiphany, 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.