From Privilege to Prisoner to Priest

Scripture: Ephesians 4:1-2
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Many churches in the United States celebrate the Feast of St Francis of Assisi on October 4 each year. The feast commemorates the life of St Francis, who was born in the 12th century. Jon provides us an excellent reflection on today’s reading in Ephesians drawn from events of Francis’s life.

Reflection: From Privilege to Prisoner to Priest
By Jon Polk

St. Francis of Assisi is generally known for his peaceful disposition and love for animals and nature. The Prayer of St. Francis (authorship uncertain, but often attributed to Francis) begins,

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

However, this devoted follower of Christ, widely regarded for his vow of poverty, did not begin life in a humble way. Francis was born in Italy around 1181 to a wealthy cloth merchant and his beautiful French wife. By age 14, Francis, spoiled by luxury, dropped out of school and gained a reputation as a rebellious teen, known for drinking, partying, and vanity.

His privileged upbringing afforded him training in archery and horsemanship and when war broke out in 1202, he joined the cavalry. Having no combat experience, Francis was easily captured by opposing forces and imprisoned for a year before ransom was negotiated.

But during his time as a prisoner of war, Francis began to receive visions from God and arrived home a changed man. He turned his heart towards God and spent time in prayer, seeking direction.

Eventually he felt the call of Christ to serve the Church and to live a life of extreme poverty—fully devoted to Christianity. He is considered by many to be one of the purest examples of living the Christian life, other than Jesus himself.

Certainly, Francis embodies Paul’s encouragement to the Ephesians to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received” and to “be completely humble and gentle.”

Francis’ deep dedication and gratitude to God is seen expressed in these excerpts from a song he composed, Canticle of the Sun. May these words guide our worship and service to Christ.

Most High, all powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor,
and all blessing.

To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no man is worthy to mention Your name.

Blessed are those who endure in peace
for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.

Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will
find in Your most holy will,
for the second death shall do them no harm.

Praise and bless my Lord,
and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.

The Refrain
The Lord is near to those who call upon him, to all who all upon him faithfully.

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 7 (Listen – 7:47)
Ephesians 4 (Listen – 3:58)

Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer From Argentina :: Worldwide Prayer

Scripture: Ephesians 3:14-17
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

This re-imagining and expansion of the Lord’s Prayer as a step-by-step confession of our weakness is a model for us to follow as we pray, not just the Lord’s Prayer, but the Psalms, Christ’s other prayers in Scripture, or prayers that we read from believers throughout history. May our insufficiencies always bring us to the feet of the sufficient Savior and may our hearts continue to be shaped by the indwelling and empowering Holy Spirit. — John

Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer From Argentina :: Worldwide Prayer

Our Father in heaven

We want to pray, “Hallowed be your name.”
For we acknowledge your holiness.

We want to pray, “Your Kingdom come:
But we behave as if this was our kingdom!

We want to pray, “Your will be done”
But we so easily put our will before yours!

We want to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread”
But we desire the bread for tomorrow as well!

We want to pray “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”
But we do not even forgive unintentional debts!

Lord, have mercy on us.
Help us to follow your example of forgiveness.

And because “Yours is the Kingdom”
Give us concern for all human beings…

Because “Yours is the power”
Help us to proclaim your Word with power.

Because “Yours is the glory”
May our lives reflect that divine glory

In the name of Jesus, name above all names, we pray.

Amen.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

The Request for Presence
Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; let these who love your salvation say forever, “Great is the Lord!” — Psalm 70:4

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 6 (Listen – 5:10)
Ephesians 3 (Listen – 2:41)

Putting To Death Racial Hostility

Scripture: Ephesians 2:15-16
His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

Reflection: Putting To Death Racial Hostility
By John Tillman

In the ancient world, every race and people claimed supremacy. Supremacy of race or of country is an ideology that is based on one of the oldest, perhaps first, sins: pride.

The secular vision of evolution does not posit equality as a trait or as a policy. In fact evolutionary biology is the source of much of the past century’s eugenics-based racist thought.

Our culture’s concept of human equality is based not in science, but in Christ. The wellspring of the concept of racial equality is the cross of Christ as described in the above verse from Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church. The first voice in history crying out for racial equality and the end of slavery was a Christian one.

This is why it is such an enduring tragedy that throughout history the church has struggled to keep various strains of racism from infecting and crippling the church and its work. Every era of the church is touched—and sometimes scarred—with this struggle.

While it is true that without Christian abolitionists, the abomination of racial slavery would still be common, it is equally true that many Christians also stood on the other side. Many lent support to slavery as a legal institution—allowing economic needs and cultural norms to force an ungodly twisting of their theology. (Economic needs and cultural norms fuel today’s illegal slavery crisis—including sexual slavery and secular society still has no answer to the problem.)

Idolatry takes many forms and modern Christians are just as susceptible to them as our first century counterparts were. We must not let nationalistic pride become the idol that keeps us from pursuing the death of racial hostility through the cross of Christ. Only at the cross can we drop our pride, let our hostility die, and take up the new life of unity that Christ died to give us.

Christians must take the lead in racial issues because we have the only viable ideology that, if we let it, will counter the ideology of hate. We cannot grow weary. We cannot tire of addressing the issue. We have the only answer.

Because so many Christians haven’t yet learned, these words of Paul must continually be proclaimed—that in Christ the barriers of race, language, culture, and social class are all transcended. For man to put up these superficial fences truly reflects the superficiality of his humanity. — Dr. Nelson Hayashida

The Request for Presence
Be seated on your lofty throne, O Most High; O Lord, judge the nations. — Psalm 7:8

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 4-5 (Listen – 7:21)
Ephesians 2 (Listen – 3:04)

Mercy and Fidelity :: Holy Week

The first Good Friday would not have been a day of rest as much as a day of emptiness. Had the disciples grasped the spiritual aspect of Christ’s sacrifice, in the early hours after the crucifixion, their words likely would have foreshadowed those of John Flavel. The 17th-century puritan declared, achingly, “O how inflexible and severe is the justice of God! No abatement? No sparing mercy; no, not to his own Son?”

On one hand we want the penalty for sin to be harsh—the evil that has been inflicted on us deserves justice. On the other, we are unable to pay if justice requires from us what we demand for others. Flavel, in the twentieth sermon of his series The Fountain of Life Opened Up, acknowledges both—first explaining how sin’s harsh penalty bears fruit in our lives:

Oh cursed sin! It was you who used my dear Lord so; for your sake he underwent all this. If your vileness had not been so great, his sufferings had not been so many. Cursed sin—you are the sword that pierced him!

When the believer remembers that sin put Christ through all that ignominy—and that he was wounded for our transgressions—he is filled with hatred of sin, and cries out, O sin, I will revenge the blood of Christ upon you! You shall never live a quiet hour in my heart.

The harshness of the penalty, as recorded in Scripture, is eclipsed only by the immensity of Christ’s sacrifice. In laying down his life Christ demonstrated the strength of his mercy and depth of his fidelity. Only on these, Flavel concludes, can we securely anchor our lives:

It produces an humble adoration of the goodness and mercy of God, to exact satisfaction for our sins, by such bloody stripes, from our surety. Lord, if this wrath had seized on me, as it did on Christ, what had been my condition then!

If these things were done to the green tree, what had been the case of the dry tree? O love unutterable and inconceivable! How glorious is my love in his red garments!

This begets thankfulness and confidence in the soul—Christ is dead—and his death has satisfied for my sin. Christ is dead—therefore my soul shall never die. Who shall separate me from the love of God?

Today’s Reading
Proverbs 13 (Listen – 2:45)
Ephesians 6 (Listen – 3:17)

This Weekend’s Readings
Proverbs 14 (Listen – 3:45) Philippians 1 (Listen – 4:03)
Proverbs 15 (Listen – 3:36) Philippians 2 (Listen – 3:45)

 

The Abandoned Savior :: Holy Week

Then all the disciples left him and fled. — Matthew 26.56

Lord, we abandoned you.

It was the darkness in our hearts that caused your Father to turn his back on you. Eternal unity broken by our sin. Truly we would have been counted among your disciples that night. When you asked, “remain here, and watch with me,” we would have slept. Disquieted by evil—though we stood in the presence of the very one who could save us—we would have fled.

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me, and why are You so far from helping me, and from the words of my groaning? — Psalm 22.1

You were forsaken because you embraced the consequences of our brokenness. Your body broke under the weight of hell.

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. — Isaiah 53.3–6

Lord we ask only this: may we not forsake your sacrifice by defining our lives by our own failures and fleeting successes rather than the glory of your grace and peace.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors. — Isaiah 53.0-12

Today’s Reading
Proverbs 12 (Listen – 3:07)
Ephesians 5 (Listen – 3:42)

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