God’s Word and Christ’s Prayer

Scripture Focus: John 17.13-22
13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. 

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Reflection: God’s Word and Christ’s Prayer
By John Tillman

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5.16) Jesus is the definition of righteousness. And, my dear brothers and sisters, Jesus, the righteous man, prayed for you. That prayer has power and is effective for everyone who believes.

If you are a believer, Jesus prayed for you. He prayed that you would have the full measure of his joy despite being hated by the world. He prayed that God’s word would be your lifeline while living in the world, to protect you from evil. He prayed that God’s word would sanctify you in the truth and that you would be sent into the world, as Jesus was, to testify to that truth.

If you are not a believer, Jesus prayed for you. He prayed that you would be able to see and hear the truth of God’s Word. He prayed that you would be able to overcome obstacles to belief.

God’s Word, the Bible, is the key to so much of Jesus’ prayer. It is a lifeline of breathable air to believers plunged in the depths of this world. We are in this world but not of it, like a diver walking the floor of the ocean. The Bible carries the testimony about Jesus that the world is to hear. 

If we want to live and walk in the power of Jesus’ prayer and see its effect in our lives, we need to devote ourselves to his Word. The Bible is our air supply in a world flooded by sin. Let us stay connected to it and breathe deeply and well.

There are many metaphors like this for God’s word in the Bible. God’s word is our light in a dark place. It is manna in a land with no food. It is our stream in the waterless desert. It is our shelter in a world of hostility.

God’s Word and Christ’s prayer are powerful and effective. Let us continually recommit ourselves to Jesus and God’s Word. The Word he has given us comes from the Father and we live in it and act from it through the power of the Holy Spirit.

“Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me.” (John 17.7-8)

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “Whoever holds my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me; and whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and reveal myself to him.” — John 14.21

Today’s Readings
Genesis 18 (Listen 4:59
John 17 (Listen 3:40)

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Inner and Outward Circumcision

Scripture Focus: Genesis 17.23-27
23 On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him. 24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, 25 and his son Ishmael was thirteen; 26 Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day. 27 And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him. 

John 16.1-4
1 “All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the time is coming when anyone who kills you will think they are offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4 I have told you this, so that when their time comes you will remember that I warned you about them.

Acts 7.51
51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!

From John: Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The purpose of this day is to encourage service to one’s community. Along with that purpose, we also acknowledge that many have wrongly thought that they were doing “a service for God” (John 16.2) when they committed acts of violence. May our service bring about a loving community on Earth that mirrors that above and may we redouble our efforts to counter violence and the normalization of violent language and threats in our world.

Reflection: Inner and Outward Circumcision
By John Tillman

Every male in Abraham’s household was circumcised. Not just his offspring. Not just his blood relatives. Not just those of his race or country. Everyone. Abraham did not yet have the son God promised, but all those with him were marked as children of this promise.

Even though it set Abraham apart from the rest of the world, from the very beginning circumcision made one people from diverse peoples. It was intended as an external physical marker of an internal spiritual reality. 

Eventually, circumcision, and other distinguishing marks of faith, went from being about inclusion to being about exclusion. “Holiness” became just another kind of sinful show.

Jesus warned his disciples of what they would face in the immediate future from the religious elite. Paul and Stephen would soon live out Jesus’ words. (Acts 7.51-60) Stephen called out “uncircumcised” hearts and ears of those deaf and blind to God’s Word and his work. Their inner spirituality did not match their outward ritual purity.

With any religious practice, it is easy for the ritual to become a replacement for the spiritual. Our legalistic holiness can become a sinfully prideful show. If we are not careful, we can lose our love for the Lord, and other humans, amidst our liturgies. 

But without ritual or liturgy or law our “spirituality” is just a mush of feelings—ecstatic highs and depressive lows. Liturgy, law, and the rhythmic rituals of worship are tools to remind us that we are included. They are intended to set us apart from the world and, at the same time, hold out an invitation to the world. We, like the foreigners in Abraham’s household, can be marked as children of the promise alongside Christ, Abraham’s true son.

Faith can start outwardly. Nonbelievers may begin reading the Bible, coming to church, singing worship songs, or changing outward behaviors of their lives. This can be a path to inward faith.

Faith can start inwardly. People may have sudden or life-altering conversions of heart. These may lead to disciplines such as Bible reading, worship, and lifestyle changes.

Wherever faith starts, may every part, inward and outward, be changed. By God’s grace, may our ears, hearts, and every part of our lives bear the mark of a “circumcision” that is more than skin deep. May our inner spirituality and outward reality match.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Be exalted, O Lord, in your might; we will sing and praise your power. — Psalm 21.14

Today’s Readings
Genesis 17 (Listen 4:02
John 16 (Listen 4:14)

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Dirty Feet

Scripture Focus: John 13.12-17
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. 

From John: Today we look back at Jada’s post from 2018. I’m thankful that Jada reminds us that Jesus washed Judas’s feet. As we think of all the ways Jesus served his disciples and us (washing feet, self-sacrificing, loving enemies, etc.) may we remember his words, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

Reflection: Dirty Feet
By Jada Swanson

If you knew that you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do? What would you say?

Imagine walking into a tiny upper room, crowding around a table, passing plates of food to eat, but knowing tomorrow was the day. This is the situation Jesus faced on the Thursday before he was crucified.

On this day, Jesus celebrated his final Passover with His disciples. However, on this occasion, he did something quite different. At the very beginning of the traditional meal, Jesus washed each of the disciples’ feet. Something he had never done before.

In the Old Testament foot washing occurs frequently (Genesis 18.4; 19.2; 24.32; 43.24; Judges 19.21; 1 Samuel 25.41; 2 Samuel 11.8; Song of Solomon 5.3; Psalms 58.10). In ancient times, foot washing was considered a tremendous act of hospitality, and was done before entering someone’s home or tent. One’s status (rich or poor) determined whether the guest washed their own feet with water provided by the host, or if a slave performed this act, which was considered the lowliest of services.

However, as often is the case with Jesus, he turned everything upside down. Surely, shouldn’t the servants be washing their master’s feet? According to customs of this time, this should have been the case. But, instead, Jesus washed each of the disciples’ feet, even Judas’ (John 13.2).

Jesus gathered the disciples around him, took a towel, poured water into a basin, and washed their feet. He served them with love and humility. As his followers, we are called to do the same.

Although we do not know the hour or the day of our final moments on earth, we do have an example of how to live our life. Jesus is our example, and his life demonstrates love and service to others. On the final evening with his disciples, he included an act of service. As his modern-day disciples, may we all continue to carry on his example by serving others each and every day of our lives.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
O God, you know my foolishness, and my faults are not hidden from you. — Psalm 69.6

Today’s Readings
Genesis 14 (Listen 4:04)
John 13 (Listen 5:06)

Today’s Readings
Genesis 15 (Listen 2:53John 14 (Listen 4:13)
Genesis 16 (Listen 2:18John 15 (Listen 3:20)

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What he wanted to say couldn’t be said with pen and ink. He needed to…wash dirty feet. He needed to bleed.

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Mary and Judas

Scripture Focus: John 12.4-9
4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. 

7 “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. 8 You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” 

9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.

Reflection: Mary and Judas
By John Tillman

The raising of Lazarus, in chapter 11, is the seventh sign John has arranged to tell us who Jesus is. After presenting these signs, John shows us the responses. He begins with the responses of two of his close followers, Mary and Judas.

I’ve written before that Mary seems to be the only one of Jesus’ friends to realize what the signs meant. She did the theological math. She gave her offering knowing Jesus was about to give his life.

Judas did some math as well. He realized that he didn’t want to follow the path Jesus was on. John tells us that Judas stole from the money bag. This highlights the difference between Mary and Judas. Her response to Jesus’ identity and to what Jesus is about to do was to say, “What can I give?” So she gave her all. Judas’s response was, “What can I get?”

He criticized Mary’s extravagance, but Jesus shut him down, saying, “Leave her alone.”  So he took what the world gave him: money, guilt, and death.

The detail of Judas being an embezzler hints that his betrayal of Jesus wasn’t an instant or impulsive decision. Betrayal kissed his heart long before he kissed Jesus’ face. 

When Jesus came to Bethany after Lazarus had died, Mary and Martha knew he had delayed. They knew he could have prevented Lazarus from dying. Mary wouldn’t come out to see Jesus until he called for her. Jesus wept with her in her grief before he raised Lazarus. Then she wept in grief over Jesus, before following him to the cross.

When we look at Jesus, we have a choice. It is our turn to respond. 

Like Mary, you may be in a moment of doubt or confusion. Like Judas, your heart may already hold sins and betrayals you are ashamed of. You may be unsure of Jesus or wondering about him. Or you may know someone who is.

Every rebuke from Jesus is also a call to come close. Come to him like Mary. Look again at the signs John described:
He makes something from nothing. (John 2.1-11)
He heals the dying. (John 4.46-54)
He motivates the paralyzed. (John 5.1-15)
He feeds the hungry. (John 6.5-14)
He delivers from chaos. (John 6.15-24)
He makes the blind see. (John 9.1-7)
He raises the dead. (John 11.1-45)

Who could this be except the Son of God? You can trust him and follow him, even to the cross.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah—that is, Christ—is coming; and when he comes he will explain everything.” Jesus said, “That is who I am, I who speak to you.” — John 4.25-26

Today’s Readings
Genesis 13 (Listen 2:16)
John 12 (Listen 6:26)

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The Landless Wanderer

Scripture Focus: Genesis 12:1
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.”

Reflection: The Landless Wanderer
By Erin Newton

Nomad. Vagabond. Roamer. We have many words for those who travel, often without a permanent home. Gordon Wenham refers to Abraham as a “landless wanderer” to our human eyes.

The story of Abraham’s call marks a pivotal moment in Genesis. From creation to the Tower of Babel, humanity has encountered a series of judgments: the banishment from the Garden, the curse of Cain, the Flood, and the disruption of easy communication. God now calls out to one person, granting a message of peace and blessing to him.

From the text, we know that Abraham was 75 with a wife, extended family, but no children. He had servants (whether they were slaves or willing employees, it is unclear in this chapter) and many possessions.

In short, he was well established, self-sufficient. He was a man of means that quickly caught the attention of the Egyptian Pharaoh later in the chapter. The stability that Abraham enjoyed was self-made and self-secured.

Suddenly, God calls him to walk an unknown path with an unknown future, leave all he ever knew. Everything hinged upon the promise that God would bless his family and through him, the world. The details were vague, only a promise. By faith, Abraham responded and followed.

It is hard to imagine someone of great means leaving it all. The idea is so mystifying that we are enamored by stories with such plotlines. Royals leaving the monarchy. Billionaires donating their wealth. Pastors leaving their megachurch. The security in each case is established through wealth, power, prestige, or popularity. Give that up? Preposterous!

In these cases, the reason could be righteous or not. In the case of Abraham, it is a righteous response that is expressed in his immediate worship. Abraham would follow, perhaps looking like a fool to his peers.

It is a call we see repeated throughout the Bible. Jesus, a landless wanderer himself with no place to lay his head, leaves the glory of the right hand of God to fulfill his call on Earth. The disciples, busy with their work, are called to leave it all and follow Jesus. We are called to do the same.

Each journey is not without trials and tribulations. Abraham was not exempt. Jesus was not exempt. We will not be exempt. 

What has God called you to do? Where has he called you to go? Where will you be a blessing?

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “Do not worry; do not say, ‘What are we to eat? What are we to drink? What are we to wear?’ It is the gentiles who set their hearts on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all. Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on God’s saving justice, and all these other things will be given you as well.” — Matthew 6.31-33

Today’s Readings
Genesis 12 (Listen 2:51)
John 11 (Listen 6:37)

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