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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Categories: Devotion

Devotion for Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Lectionary Readings for Second Sunday of Easter:    

Acts 5:29-42

Psalm 148

1 Peter 1:3-9

John 20:19-31

Collect of the Day: Almighty God, grant that we who have celebrated the Lord’s resurrection may by Your grace confess in our life and conversation that Jesus is Lord and God; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Hymn of the Day: O Sons and Daughters of the King (LSB 470/471)

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3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

What a glorious reminder of God’s grace from this reading for the Second Sunday of Easter. I know that I’ve mentioned to a few of you in our conversations over the last week or so that Easter is not just one day. The Season of Easter starts on that first Sunday morning when we celebrate the event of His resurrection, but it continues on for another 48 days after that! Easter is a week of weeks, seven sets of seven, in which we celebrate the saving power of God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

More than that, we recognize in the Lutheran Church that every Sunday is a mini Easter in and of itself, as every Sunday we celebrate the Lord’s resurrection. That’s why Sunday’s aren’t part of Lent. Sunday’s were always intended to be breaks from fasts, Lenten or otherwise, during which time we focus solely on God’s glory. That’s why Luther was opposed to omitting the Alleluias from the Sunday service during Lent, there was no reason to do so as we were to celebrate God’s glory and goodness!

But what about now? We’re not gathering. We’re not celebrating. Sundays don’t seem to be any different than any other day of the week. Despite it’s purpose of a break from fasting, we have been fasting even on that blessed day, as we can’t gather together and receive the gift of His body and His blood given and shed for us for the forgiveness of our sins, in and with the elements of bread and wine in the meal that He instituted for our benefit. We have not been able to gather together, to sing praises to His name, call upon Him in prayer, and encourage each other in the faith as He has called us to do.

If we have this blessed gift, this imperishable, undefiled, and unfading inheritance, why is it that we are suffering now? I know that we’re not in heaven yet, but surely this gift comes with some assurances in the here and now, doesn’t it? Why yes, it does! But not the kind you’re thinking of. God has promised us certain things in this life, but ‘an easy time of it’ is not among the list of promises. He goes on to talk about just this point through Peter in the Epistle lesson we just started:

6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

There is it. Peter knew full well that his wasn’t going to be a life of sunshine and roses, at least not this side of heaven. He knew that troubles were coming, and already there, and he also knew that through these trials God would strengthen the faith of His believing children, and bring them through it stronger. That is one of the promises that God did make about this life here.

“So does that mean that God inflicted us with this Covid-19 to test us and refine us?” No. God doesn’t inflict things upon us, as Jesus took the punishment for all our sins upon Himself and brought it to the cross, having paid the full price for our transgressions – that’s why we celebrate Easter after all as I said above – but that doesn’t mean that sin does not still have consequences in this life. These consequences of our actions and inactions are what God uses; He doesn’t bring them upon us, but He does let them happen to us, and through them He refines us, helps us to be better Christians. I don’t know about you, but I’ve actually seen it working during this pandemic.

People are more polite over all. Yes, there are still some exceptions of course who don’t realize that the arrows on the ground apply to them too, but over all I have heard more people saying thank you to their tellers, praising the essential service workers, and being more grateful for what they have. I have heard radio stations doing specific shout outs to nurses, doctors, and a plethora of other people, raising awareness and ‘good thoughts’ for those putting themselves at the forefront of this illness to help those in need. Google has even been running a daily campaign of thanks and well wishes to essential service providers from doctors and nurses, to police and firefighters, I even saw once day they dedicated it to public transit workers! The same group that everyone was griping about not even two month ago when they went on strike.

God is working through this disaster, and I pray that He is using this time to work on you as well.

How have your devotions been? Have you been ‘getting to church’ every Sunday – tuning in online or reading the email we send out with your family maybe over the phone? How has your prayer life been lately? Have you been thanking God for your continued health, and all the people who are helping you continue living through this such as your garbage collectors, pharmacists, and Uber-eats delivery guys? Have you been rejoicing even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials’?

Thanks be to God that He will never leave us nor forsaken us – that was another one of those promises I mentioned above. He has promised that in this life he will never abandon us; that despite our times of doubts and questions, or frustrations at His apparent lack of action or what we thought was His not answer our prayers, He still comes to us, just as He came to Thomas in our Gospel lesson, and reveals to us the truth of His love through the words of His Son, the very Word of God, which He has given us in Holy Scripture.

Peter too knew this promise and clung to it all the days of His life, even until His last one. As tradition tells us, He died a martyr’s death and was crucified like His Saviour. That being said, Peter didn’t feel worthy to even suffer in the same fashion as His Lord, and so asked to be crucified upside down (which would have increased his suffering) and was granted the request. He trusted His Lord until the end, knowing exactly what awaited him in his final resting place: an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.

And so, my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, I encourage you, as Peter does, to rejoice despite your afflictions. You serve a God who knows all that you are going through, having gone through so much worse Himself for your sake, and who promises to walk with you through the trials of your own lives as well. Know that He will always be there with you, just as He has promised – “I am with you always, even to the ends of the earth.” And when that blessed hour comes, He will be there still, to welcome you into your blessed inheritance. Amen.

In Christ and His service,

Pastor Rapp

Author: Roslyn Zehr