6:10 To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen; behold, the word of the Lord is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it.
– Jeremiah 6:10
Jeremiah’s proclamation of God’s word is clear, “their ears are uncircumcised, they cannot listen.” Despite God’s warnings, His words of love and comfort, His presence and the sending of His prophets, Israel will not hear Him. I tell this story often of when my wife and I lived in a small town north of Edmonton, called Barrhead. She was a teacher and was getting herself ready for work one morning and was in the washroom. I got up to use the facilities and then went to the sink to find her curling iron in the way. Grabbing it by the barrel, I quickly realized was not the best idea. I exclaimed a grunt of sorts and she said, “Quick, put it under cold water,” and so I placed the curling iron under the water in the sink. Second not great idea of the day. Evidently, I am not very good at mornings. She grabbed the curling iron and said, “No! Your hand, silly!”
I tell this story, one that’s actually true, as I was fond of telling my congregation, unlike the other stories I tell, because it illustrates part of our all too human condition. Sometimes we are not that bright at certain points in our lives, or attentive. Perhaps in our youth — as opposed to when we are older, and hopefully wiser — or in our need to have for the sake of having our own way, or maybe just not paying attention to what is happening and being said — especially in relation to God’s Word. Are we paying attention? Do we listen and reflect upon His love letter to us, the Holy Scriptures that have been given to us as His bride?
Often, I think, in our frail humanity, we obviously do not. Jeremiah speaks of the people not having circumcised ears, ears that are attuned to their Maker and paying attention. In today’s reading from the Gospel of Mark, verse 17 reads, “and they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region”, in response to the Lord’s casting out of the demons, Legion, into the pigs, the unclean into the unclean. But even so, those who came to see the healed man knew that the pigs were a source of money and what if this Jesus did or said something else that threatened their sense of what was ultimately important to them? Better not take that chance, they likely thought.
Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, help me to have two ears to hear Your word and one mouth to speak of myself. Amen.
Lenten Response: Have you seen the goodness of God at work? How did it challenge your sense of what is important and worthwhile in this life? Are you paying attention?
Devotion written by the Rev. Phillip Gagnon
Jeremiah 6:9–15 (Listen)
9 Thus says the LORD of hosts:
“They shall glean thoroughly as a vine
the remnant of Israel;
like a grape gatherer pass your hand again
over its branches.”
10 To whom shall I speak and give warning,
that they may hear?
Behold, their ears are uncircumcised,
they cannot listen;
behold, the word of the LORD is to them an object of scorn;
they take no pleasure in it.
11 Therefore I am full of the wrath of the LORD;
I am weary of holding it in.
“Pour it out upon the children in the street,
and upon the gatherings of young men, also;
both husband and wife shall be taken,
the elderly and the very aged.
12 Their houses shall be turned over to others,
their fields and wives together,
for I will stretch out my hand
against the inhabitants of the land,”
declares the LORD.
13 “For from the least to the greatest of them,
everyone is greedy for unjust gain;
and from prophet to priest,
everyone deals falsely.
14 They have healed the wound of my people lightly,
saying, ‘Peace, peace,’
when there is no peace.
15 Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?
No, they were not at all ashamed;
they did not know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,”
says the LORD.
1 Corinthians 6:12–20 (Listen)
Flee Sexual Immorality
12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Mark 5:1–20 (Listen)
Jesus Heals a Man with a Demon
5:1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7 And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8 For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.
14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17 And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
Psalm 84 (Listen)
My Soul Longs for the Courts of the Lord
To the choirmaster: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.
84:1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD of hosts!
2 My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
3 Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O LORD of hosts,
my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house,
ever singing your praise! Selah
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
6 As they go through the Valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength;
each one appears before God in Zion.
8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
9 Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed!
10 For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
12 O LORD of hosts,
blessed is the one who trusts in you!
Psalm 150 (Listen)
Let Everything Praise the Lord
150:1 Praise the LORD!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens!
2 Praise him for his mighty deeds;
praise him according to his excellent greatness!
3 Praise him with trumpet sound;
praise him with lute and harp!
4 Praise him with tambourine and dance;
praise him with strings and pipe!
5 Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD!
Psalm 42 (Listen)
Why Are You Cast Down, O My Soul?
To the choirmaster. A Maskil of the Sons of Korah.
42:1 As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.
5 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation 6 and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
8 By day the LORD commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
9 I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
11 Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
Psalm 32 (Listen)
Blessed Are the Forgiven
A Maskil of David.
32:1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah
5 I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
6 Therefore let everyone who is godly
offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
they shall not reach him.
7 You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah
8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
9 Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
which must be curbed with bit and bridle,
or it will not stay near you.
10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD.
11 Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous,
and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
Perpetua and Her Companions, Martyrs at Carthage, 202 (March 7)
About the Commemoration
No saints are more uniformly honored in all the early calendars and martyrologies than these African martyrs. In 202 the emperor Septimus Severus forbade conversions to Christianity, and harsh persecution ensued. Arrested in Carthage were Vibia Perpetua, a noblewoman from Thuburbo, twenty-two years old; her infant child; Felicity, a pregnant slave; Revocatus, a slave; Saturninus; Secundulus. All were catechumens. Later their catechist, Saturus, was arrested also. While under house arrest, they were baptized.
Perpetua’s father urged her to renounce the faith, but she refused and was imprisoned. In prison she had a vision of a golden ladder guarded by a dragon and sharp weapons that prevented ascent, but nonetheless she walked over the dragon and reached a beautiful place. Her father repeated his plea in vain and repeated it again before the people in the arena.
The steadfast Christians were condemned to be given to wild beasts at a celebration in honor of Caesar Geta. Perpetua had another vision, this time of her seven-year-old brother Dinocrates, who had died of cancer, in heaven. Felicity was not to have been executed with the others since it was illegal to execute a pregnant woman, but three days before the spectacle Felicity gave birth prematurely to a girl, who was adopted by a Christian family, and she gladly joined the others in martyrdom. After being scourged, they were led to the amphitheater, and according to the apparently contemporary account of the martyrdom, they were mangled by the beasts, but survived to be beheaded with a sword.
The record of the Passion of Perpetua and Felicity is one of the most ancient reliable histories of the martyrs extant. Part of the Parian is said to haw been written by Perpetua herself as a kind of diary record of her visions, and part by Saturus the catechist. The introduction and the conclusion are by an apparent eyewitness, said by some to have been the church lather Tertullian. The Passion, which recalls the biblical book of Revelation, is an important document in understanding early Christian ideas of martyrdom, providing a vivid insight into the beliefs of the young and vigorous African church. It was enormously popular, and St. Augustine, who quotes it often, has to warn against it being put on the same level as Holy Scripture. Perpetua and her companions were very popular in Carthage, and a basilica was erected over their tomb.
In the Passion, four other martyrs are also mentioned: Jocundus, Saturninus, and Artaxius, all of whom had been burned, and Quintus, who died in prison. In the Roman Church, the commemoration of Perpetua and Felicity had been moved to March 6 to make room for Thomas Aquinas on March 7, but the present Roman calendar, having moved Thomas to January 28, restores the commemoration of Perpetua and Felicity to March 7, and the Episcopal Church, the Lutheran Church, and the Methodist For All the Saints have followed that change.
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: Perpetua and Felicity
The day of their victory dawned, and they marched from the prison to the amphitheatre joyfully as though they were going to heaven, with calm faces, trembling, if at all, with joy rather than fear. Perpetua went along with shining countenance and calm step, as the beloved of God, as a wife of Christ, putting down everyone’s stare by her own intense gaze. With them also was Felicitas, glad that she had safely given birth so that now she could fight the beasts, going from one blood bath to another, from the midwife to the gladiator, ready to wash after the childbirth in a second baptism.
They were led up to the gates and the men were forced to put on the robes of priests of Saturn, the women the dress of the priestesses of Ceres. But the noble Perpetua strenuously resisted this to the end.
“We came to this of our own free will, that our freedom should not be violated. We agreed to pledge our lives provided that we would do no such thing. You agreed with us to do this.”
Even injustice recognized injustice. The military tribune agreed. They were to be brought into the arena just as they were. Perpetua then began to sing a Psalm: she was treading on the head of the Egyptian. Revocatus, Saturninus, and Saturus began to warn the onlooking mob. Then when they came within sight of Hilarianus, they suggested by their motions and gestures; “You have condemned us, but God will condemn you” was what they were saying.
At this the crowds became enraged and demanded that they be scourged before a line of gladiators. And they rejoiced at this that they had obtained a share in the Lord’s sufferings. First the heifer tossed Perpetua and she fell on her back. Then sitting up she pulled down the tunic that was ripped along the side so that it covered her thighs, thinking more of her modesty than of her pain. Next she asked for a pin to fasten her untidy hair; for it was not right that a martyr should die with her hair in disorder, lest she might seem to be mourning in her hour of triumph.
Then she got up. And seeing that Felicitas had been crushed to the ground, she went over to her, gave her her hand, and lifted her up. Then the two stood side by side.
…[B]ut the mob asked that their bodies be brought out into the open that their eyes might be the guilty witnesses of the sword that pierced their flesh. And so the martyrs got up and went to the spot of their own accord as the people wanted them to go, and kissing one another they sealed their martyrdom with the ritual kiss of peace. The others took the sword in silence without moving, especially Saturus, who being the first to climb the stairway, was the first to die. For once again he was waiting for Perpetua. Perpetua, however, had yet to taste more pain. She screamed as she was struck on the bone; then she took the trembling hand of the young gladiator and guided it to her throat. It was as though so great a woman, feared as she was by the unclean spirit, could not be dispatched unless she herself were willing.
Ah, most valiant and blessed martyrs! Truly are you called and chosen for the glory of Christ Jesus our Lord! And any man who exalts, honors, and worships his glory should read for the consolation of the Church these new deeds of heroism which are no less significant than the tales of old. For these new manifestations of virtue will bear witness to one and the same Spirit who still operates, and to God the Father almighty, to his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom is splendor and immeasurable power for all the ages. Amen.
Martyrdom of Saints Perpetua and Felicitas, in The Acts of the Christian Martyrs, ed. and trans. Herbert Musurillo (1972), 129-31. Reprinted by permission of Oxford University Press.
O God, the King of saints, in whose strength your servants Perpetua and Felicitas and their companions made a good confession, staunchly resisting, for the cause of Christ, the claims of human affection, and encouraging one another in their time of trial: Grant that we who cherish their blessed memory may share their pure and steadfast faith, and win with them the palm of victory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.
LFF, rev. PHP
Readings: Psalm 34:1-8 or Psalm 124; Hebrews 10:32-39; Matthew 24:9-14
Hymn of the Day: “Jerusalem the golden” (H82 624, LBW 347, LSB 672)
Prayers: For faithfulness; For confidence in God’s care; For courage to confess Christ; For strength to support those who suffer.
Preface: A Saint (3) (BCP) or, if after Ash Wednesday, Lent
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.