This week’s memory verse: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9
  • 2/23 – Proverbs 3:5
  • 2/24 – Psalm 37:4-6
  • 2/25 – Romans 8:28
  • 2/26 – Mark 5:36
  • 2/27 – Psalm 37:5
  • 2/28 – Isaiah 41:10
  • 2/29 – Hebrews 11:6

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, I trust in You alone. Help me to trust in You.

You have heard
it said.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life”

As we discussed over the past two weeks, this Pre-Lenten season’s readings are taken from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Jesus’ teaching takes the Commandments of God and instruct us in the way we are to understand and live them. Jesus commandments, His way, His fulfillment of the old Law, His right interpretation is for us, so we can truly live.

We have been reminded, in this season of preparation, that we are to turn and focus on living in the way Jesus defines. This great opportunity moves us not just into unity with life as God designed, for unity with that way of life is not enough. Rather, we are called to dive headlong into the fulness of God’s way.

At the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus demands more of us than His words alone describe. He calls us to complete integrity of life. If we live His call to integrity, the reward is great. The reward is fullness of relationship and inheritance. It is a joy without compare or equal. However, if we do not surrender to Jesus’ way, if we are not all-in, the caution is, we grow ridgid and cold. Sin creeps in and puts the frost on. The cold goes deeper and deeper and we lose touch with God and with our very selves.

This season of preparation, with only today plus two more days to go, has been a wakeup call. In the Orthodox Churches the Sundays before Lent are days of clean out. The home is cleansed of earthly things like meat, fish, dairy, and eggs. This clean out symbolizes the call to detachment from distraction, from the things that may hold us back from jumping in headfirst.

Hearing Jesus’ words today remind us of this necessary detachment.

Jumping in headfirst requires an act of faith and trust, complete trust in God. It requires trust that says nothing we have, nothing we desire or value outside of God, is of any consequence. They are things here today, gone tomorrow. Seemingly beautiful in the now but only fuel for the fire, or the dumpster, or the landfill tomorrow.

Faith and trust in God, in His word: “do not worry about your life,” is a surrender. As we enter into the Great and Holy Lent this Wednesday let us recognize that proclamation is not enough, worship is not enough, setting aside food, and place, and wealth for a time not enough. Rather, we are to value God above all, setting aside what the world says for what Jesus says, and surrendering fully.

This week’s memory verse: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23
  • 2/16 – Galatians 6:10
  • 2/17 – Romans 12:9
  • 2/18 – Ephesians 4:32
  • 2/19 – Matthew 12:35
  • 2/20 – Psalm 119:68
  • 2/21 – Micah 6:8
  • 2/22 – Romans 15:14

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, Your goodness is beyond compare. Grant that I may live the fulness of Your goodness in all I say and do each day.

You have heard
it said.

Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

As we discussed last week, this Pre-Lenten season’s readings are taken from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Jesus’ teaching there take the Commandments of God and instruct us in the way we are to understand and live them. 

Jesus commandments, His way, His fulfillment of the old Law, His right interpretation is for us, so we can truly live. Yes, it is for us, as we heard last week: to make us great in the kingdom!

In this season of preparation, we are to turn and focus on living in the way Jesus defines. We are to live His way without limit and in striving to do so, wash away the ways we fall short. As we will hear in today’s closing prayer, we are to move toward committed love and faithful work for the Kingdom.

Living in a genuine way is not easy. Of course, it is easy to say we are genuine, I’m the ‘real me’ when we go about doing whatever we want, what we choose. Unfortunately, that is the power of sin, it blinds us to the way we are to strive for; the way ‘just being me’ isn’t good enough for the Kingdom. My being me should never be good enough for me. It should not be good enough for you, the people around me.

As faithful and devoted Christians, we know that we fall short in ways big, small, and perhaps in ways only known to ourselves. As such, let us take this season to evaluate where the fixes are needed, where I fall short of the Kingdom life I am to live.

God told the Israelites to: “Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.” That is a super high standard, but indeed, as the lessons from the Sermon on the Mount tell us, we have a gap to cover, a ways to go, but that we can do it.

It is important that we not despair in our frequent failure to live up. Where despair is called for is in any lack of trying, and lack of self-assessment, any attempt to ignore the blindness sin instills. 

Committed love calls for faithful work. Bringing the ideals of the Kingdom life to reality in our lives will not kill us. In fact, they will inoculate us so we can enter the Kingdom with heads held high, so we can enter as the great in the kingdom!

As we enter this new week, let our self-examination focus on the ways revenge, hate, resistance, ‘opionatedness,’ or limitation exist in our lives. Let us remember that to be great we must see and rise above (recall this is a year of politics) and live the Kingdom life.

“So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.”

Hosea 12:6
  • 2/9 – 1 John 1:6
  • 2/10 – John 14:23
  • 2/11 – Deuteronomy 20:1-4
  • 2/12 – Philippians 3:14
  • 2/13 – Ezekiel 18:30
  • 2/14 – James 1:25
  • 2/15 – Acts 3:19

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, grant that I turn again to You, that Your commandments be my in my mind and ears, and that in turning I find forgiveness.

whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Welcome to the season of Pre-Lent, Septuagesima. This season is set apart as a time of reflective preparation for the upcoming Lenten season. We notice about us a penitential mood. The colors go to purple and rose. The Gloria is no longer proclaimed. The Alleluia is suppressed and is replaced by a Tract. The dismissal is “Let us bless the Lord.”

This time of preparation means we are to desire to turn to the reality of what life must be. It is the clearing away of the dust and cobwebs, the pushing out of darkness and confusion, and a realization that there is light, a way, a goodness that brings eternal life. It is a realization that life is not to be defined by what the crowds or noisemakers say, but by what Jesus defines.

Throughout this season we hear Jesus’ teachings from the Sermon on the Mount. In many of these teachings, Jesus draws comparisons saying: “You have heard that it was said… But I say” This helps us, in this season, to reflect on what we hear all the time, what we have heard in the past, and what we will likely hear in the future; that noise of the crowd, and to turn away from it to the clarity Jesus has given.

In preparing let us view what Jesus says through the lens Sirach focuses for us today: If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you; if you trust in God, you shall live; he has set before you fire and water to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand. Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.

The noise of the age, the noise of the world past, present, and future cannot save us. That noise counts as nothing. Man’s interpretation is, at its essence, self-serving and meritless. Seek rather the music of Jesus, the beautiful call to live righteous lives. Jesus’ way is the clarity we really need. His direction is the way of life, teachings we can trust in, water for life, good, and life eternal. Now is the time to choose. Now is the time to stretch forth our hands to wipe the old away and to return to life. We must turn to Jesus’ way.

Jesus commandments, His way, His fulfillment, His right interpretation is for us. Yes, it is for us, to make us great in the kingdom! Now is the moment, now the time to turn to His definitions, now to follow His way without limit. Now.

Memory verse: Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12
  • 2/2 – 1 John 1:7
  • 2/3 – Psalm 119:105
  • 2/4 – Ephesians 5:8
  • 2/5 – Matthew 5:14
  • 2/6 – 1 Peter 2:9
  • 2/7 – Psalm 27:1
  • 2/8 – 2 Corinthians 4:6

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, grant that I might bear Your light in all my interactions, that I might reveal You to those who are in darkness, and that my home be filled with Your radiance.

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.

This is the Sixth and final Sunday after Christmas. 

We have reflected over these weeks on the way Jesus had made Himself known to the world: To the Jewish people; To the poor and humble; To the world; and In His call to the disciples. In these weeks we have covered thirty years of Jesus’ time on earth. Today, we take a step back. 

After Jesus’ birth, He and His mother would stay confined for forty days. She was considered ritually impure because of the blood associated with birth. This time of separation concluded with a reappearance, a revelation, at the time of ritual purification.

The Holy Family goes up to the Temple, only a few miles away from Bethlehem, to perform this ceremony. We can imagine that their thoughts were on what they had to do. We know how it is when our focus is on the things we have to accomplish. Like the Holy Family, in the midst of our focus, we are taken by surprise.

The words of surprise are summed up in this statement: The child’s father and mother were amazed. A very old and holy man sings praise to God for what he has been allowed to see – the glory of Israel, the light to the Gentiles. An elderly woman goes about speaking prophecy and praising God, talking to everyone who awaited redemption.

For us Christians, each day must be a new revelation, a new offering. Each is a chance to show who we are as a people, as a family, and as Church. Each day is a new chance to take the light of Christ that is in us, as symbolized by the candles we hold, and speak to those awaiting redemption.  Each of our homes, that hold this light, needs to be a place of refuge and safety that is in some respects apart from the world. In these places we find our refuge and offer it to those we may meet.

On this day, let us consider how we might be taken by surprise by the way Jesus might appear at any moment. It may be in any encounter we might have. Let us allow ourselves to be pulled away from our focus to a new focus, the opportunity to bring Jesus’ light to those who sit in darkness. This season of revelation was our beginning. We walk out of it holding a light and making an offering to the world.

Memory verse for this week: No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

John 6:44
  • 1/26 – Isaiah 55:11
  • 1/27 – Psalm 119:105
  • 1/28 – 2 Peter 1:20-21
  • 1/29 – Psalm 138:2
  • 1/30 – 1 Thessalonians 2:13
  • 1/31 – John 14:26
  • 2/1 – Matthew 24:35

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, grant that I might hear Your word and respond to Your revelation in ways mighty and powerful.

The
realization.

From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

This is the Fifth Sunday after Christmas. As we’ve been studying, Christmas is a season focused on Jesus’ revelation. 

Jesus’ revelation came first to the shepherds – the poor, lowly, and outcasts of that territory. At the arrival of the Maji, Jesus was revealed to the nations of the world. As Jesus rose up from the waters of the Jordan at His baptism the nation of Israel came to know Him as the Son of God by the descent of the Holy Spirit and the voice of the Father saying: “This is my beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased.” The Baptizer finally saw clearly who Jesus is, recognizing Him as the Lamb of God come to take away the sins of the world, and he declared it.

Recalling all this, we see the many and varied ways Jesus was revealed. As we hear today, at Capernaum, there was no heavenly choir to announce Jesus’ arrival. There were no scientists from the east with precious gifts and a mighty star to follow. There was no opening of heaven, descent of a dove, or voice of the Father as at the Jordan. All Jesus had in Capernaum was His voice, His call. 

In a season focused on revelation, Jesus comes among us saying: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus delivers His message, His gospel: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” Jesus invites us to allow Him to be revealed within us. He invites us to realize Who He is. He invites us to get up and get out into the world in response as disciples carrying His message.

Today, the Gospel recalls Jesus’ arrival in Capernaum by the sea. In Capernaum, Jesus calls the first of His disciples, Andrew, the first called, followed by Simon, aka Peter, aka Cephas, James, and John. They respond fully to the awakening in their hearts. Jesus is revealed, not by signs and wonders, but by their response to interior awakening and revelation.

At Capernaum we find a new and ever permanent call to revelation. This revelation is in Jesus’ words and our call to respond. Like all those called before us, let us allow Jesus’ life to be awakened in us in ever new and great ways. Jesus is calling! Allow His revelation to take hold. Leave the old self behind and go out as His revelation to a searching world. Today, here in Schenectady, as in Capernaum, we hear Jesus. Allow Him to be revealed in us and by our response.