Based on Luke 1:39-56
Having recently participated in the NALC Life Ministries 2020 Conference, along with activities related to the annual March for Life on the national mall in Washington, D.C., it seems our respect for and celebration of life in the womb continues. And rightly so. It should never be dismissed or diminished how often God is at work in the womb. The first reading for the service of Holy Communion at the Life Ministries Conference (and for Epiphany II) included this verse, “The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name” (Isaiah 49:1). The point of this passage in Isaiah, and the interaction between John and Jesus, still in their mother’s wombs is this — God has a purpose and a plan for each of us!
It is right that we focus on the value and meaning of each human life, from conception to natural death. This includes care for the babe in the womb, but also care for the unwed teenage mother, the married couple struggling to conceive, the parents raising children and youth, the families displaced by conflict living in refugee camps, the victims of violence around the world, and yes, the forgotten elderly living alone and lonely. We dare not care for one life while ignoring the value of another. We want to uplift and cherish every life as a gift from God and have every home and congregation understand itself as a center for “life ministries.”
The Good News in this passage is that God turns our world upside down. Elizabeth, well past child-bearing years, conceives and bears the forerunner, John. Mary, betrothed but not married, conceives by the Holy Spirit and from her lowly estate, gives birth to the Son of the Most High God. The humble are raised up and the mighty are cast down. The hungry are fed and the rich are sent away empty. We can leap for joy at what God conceives in us and through us.
Prayer: My spirit rejoices in you, O God, my Savior!
Lenten response: Make a difference in one life today — through a simple word, prayer or deed.
This year’s devotional was prepared by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, NALC assistant to the bishop for ministry and ecumenism. To learn more about A Lenten Walk Through the Word, visit thenalc.org/lent.
Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
2:6 ‘Don’t preach with such impassioned rhetoric,’ they say excitedly.
‘These prophets should not preach of such things;
we will not be overtaken by humiliation.’
7Does the family of Jacob say,
‘The Lord’s patience can’t be exhausted –
he would never do such things’?
To be sure, my commands bring a reward
for those who obey them,
8but you rise up as an enemy against my people.
You steal a robe from a friend,
from those who pass by peacefully as if returning from a war.
9You wrongly evict widows among my people from their cherished homes.
You defraud their children of their prized inheritance.
10But you are the ones who will be forced to leave!
For this land is not secure!
Sin will thoroughly destroy it!
11If a lying windbag should come and say,
‘I’ll promise you blessings of wine and beer,’
he would be just the right preacher for these people!
12I will certainly gather all of you, O Jacob,
I will certainly assemble those Israelites who remain.
I will bring them together like sheep in a fold,
like a flock in the middle of a pasture;
they will be so numerous that they will make a lot of noise.
13The one who can break through barriers will lead them out
they will break out, pass through the gate, and leave.
Their king will advance before them,
The Lord himself will lead them.(NET Bible)
60:1 For the music director; according to the shushan-eduth style; a prayer of David written to instruct others. It was written when he fought against Aram Naharaim and Aram-Zobah. That was when Joab turned back and struck down 12,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt.
O God, you have rejected us.
You suddenly turned on us in your anger.
Please restore us!
2You made the earth quake; you split it open.
Repair its breaches, for it is ready to fall.
3You have made your people experience hard times;
you have made us drink intoxicating wine.
4You have given your loyal followers a rallying flag,
so that they might seek safety from the bow. (Selah)
5Deliver by your power and answer me,
so that the ones you love may be safe.
6God has spoken in his sanctuary:
“I will triumph! I will parcel out Shechem;
the Valley of Succoth I will measure off.
7Gilead belongs to me,
as does Manasseh!
Ephraim is my helmet,
Judah my royal scepter.
8Moab is my washbasin.
I will make Edom serve me.
I will shout in triumph over Philistia.”
9Who will lead me into the fortified city?
Who will bring me to Edom?
10Have you not rejected us, O God?
O God, you do not go into battle with our armies.
11Give us help against the enemy,
for any help men might offer is futile.
12By God’s power we will conquer;
he will trample down our enemies.(NET Bible)
1:39 In those days Mary got up and went hurriedly into the hill country, to a town of Judah, 40and entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42She exclaimed with a loud voice, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child in your womb! 43And who am I that the mother of my Lord should come and visit me? 44For the instant the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
46And Mary said,
“My soul exalts the Lord,
47and my spirit has begun to rejoice in God my Savior,
48because he has looked upon the humble state of his servant.
For from now on all generations will call me blessed,
49because he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name;
50from generation to generation he is merciful to those who fear him.
51He has demonstrated power with his arm; he has scattered those whose pride wells up from the sheer arrogance of their hearts.
52He has brought down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up those of lowly position;
53he has filled the hungry with good things, and has sent the rich away empty.
54He has helped his servant Israel, remembering his mercy,
55as he promised to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
56So Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then returned to her home.(NET Bible)
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016.
Luther again speaks of the infallibility of Scripture in Contra malignum J. Eckii judicium M. Lutheri Defensio, which left the press on September 30, 1519. In the preface he refers to the statement of Augustine, “I have learned to ascribe this honor (namely the infallibility) only to books which are termed canonical, so that I confidently believe that not one of their authors erred,” and continues, “but the other authors, no matter how distinguished by great sanctity and teaching, I read in this way, that I do not regard them as true because they themselves judged in this wise but in so far as they could convince me through the authority of the canonical writings or other clear deductions.” (17)
–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.