Priests of Life and Peace—Epiphany

Scripture Focus: Malachi 2.5-7
5 “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. 6 True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin. 
7 “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth.

John 19.35-36
35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” 37 and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.” 

Reflection: Priests of Life and Peace—Epiphany
By John Tillman

From the moment of his birth to his death and resurrection, Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies concerning the awaited savior and faithful witnesses recorded these events.

Jesus proclaimed that the promise of a savior to come and a light to dawn in the darkness was fulfilled in himself. (Luke 4.17-21) He told the religious leaders that Moses wrote about him. (John 5.46-47) He gave Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus a walking masterclass about himself. (Luke 24.25-27, 32) He promised his disciples the Holy Spirit would teach them how all of scripture testified about him. Here in Malachi, we see some shadows that pointed toward the Christ to come. 

The Levites had a covenantal, priestly role. They were to be light to the people and the people were to be light to the nations. They were to have words of life (Malachi 2.5-7) on their tongues and in their teachings. But the Levites failed to honor God.

Their ministry was so corrupt that God set out to reverse their work. The God who had promised to “Bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you,” (Genesis 12.2-3) reversed course, telling the corrupt leaders that he will “curse their blessings.” (Malachi 2.1-2

God also promises to smear “dung” on their faces. This feces is from the skin, intestines, and waste of sacrificial animals. (Exodus 29.11-14; Leviticus 1.11-13) This waste would normally be carried out of the camp and burned. This is another reversal. In their commissioning, Levites had the blood of the sacrifices daubed on them to represent holiness. (Exodus 29.19-20) Their faces, smeared with feces rather than blood, graphically showed that they would be discarded and replaced.

God’s purpose is not to end the priesthood. Instead, through Christ’s sacrifice, he instituted a new priesthood for all who follow Jesus. (Genesis 14.18-20; Psalm 110.4; Hebrews 7)

As Christians and priests, may we maintain the new “covenant of life and peace” in Christ’s blood. 
May we “walk in peace and uprightness” so that our blessings may never be cursed by God.
May we be covered in the righteousness of Christ, not the dung of our own sins.
May the gospel of grace speed our feet toward the ends of the earth.
May acts of generosity and justice be wrought by our hands.
May words of life and light be on our lips.
May we be faithful witnesses of Christ, our high priest.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, and your faithfulness to the clouds. — Psalm 36.5

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Malachi 2 (Listen -3:12) 
John 19 (Listen – 6:23)

Read more about End of Year Giving and Supporting our work
Even a tiny seed may, when planted, produce a great harvest, and it only takes a small patch of grass to grow over and beautify a bare acre of earth.

Read more about Making Him Known :: A Guided Prayer
For the sake of your Name and the salvation of the nations, glorify your Son, Jesus Christ, through us no matter what we may suffer.

Reflecting the Unity of Christ :: Worldwide Prayer

Exodus 40.15
Their anointing will be to a priesthood that will continue throughout their generations.

John 19.15
“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.

From John:
We close this week of Lent with a prayer for unity and harmony that comes from the country of Lebanon. The book of prayers this was taken from was published in 1998, in conjunction with a worship conference in Berlin at which I was privileged to minister and attend. At that time, Lebanon was struggling with the effects of a civil war that started with sectarian violence, the effects of which are still felt today. The prayers for unity and peace coming from our brothers and sisters worshiping in places where violence is as common as bad traffic, are especially to be emulated and repeated by us, and treasured by our Heavenly Father.

Reflection: Reflecting the Unity of Christ :: Worldwide Prayer
Prayer for harmony from Lebanon

My Lord and Heavenly Father, I thank you for the opportunity of worship with members of the worldwide Christian family, across barriers of every kind that separate people and keep them apart. This reflects our unity in Christ.

Lord, when we worship together it is a revival of Pentecost, as your Holy Spirit elevates our prayers before your Holy Throne, while also making us aware of each others’ pain and suffering. Dear Lord, mold us into that perfect image that reflects the beauty of Christ in a broken world.

Bless us in our worship to feel your presence, to open our hearts and minds, to be really in touch with you. Help us not to wander away from your presence.

May each one of us really feel your powerful love so that we can share it with others. Help us to share the blessings of knowing you with others and be at peace with you and with each other.

In Jesus’ Holy name we lift our voices of praise with thankfulness.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Thy Name, L. A. (Tony) Cupit, ed., Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Let not those who hope in your be put to shame through me, Lord God of hosts; let not those who seek you be disgraced because of me, O God of Israel. — Psalm 69.7

Today’s Readings
Exodus 40 (Listen – 4:07)
John 19 (Listen – 6:23)

This Weekend’s Readings
Leviticus 1 (Listen – 2:37) John 20 (Listen – 4:17)
Leviticus 2-3 (Listen – 4:43) John 21 (Listen – 3:58)

Thank You!
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Read more about Blossoming of Joy in Adversity
We find examples of joy under persecution and difficulty in Jesus, Peter, John, Paul, and many others in scripture. But examples are also blossoming amidst persecution around the world.

Read more about The Wrong Fear
Christian thought has always been extremist thought. It is a revolutionary rejection of the world’s power structure. Jesus was crucified for extremist thought. It was Christian extremist thought that brought down slavery.

Truth Unwanted :: A Guided Prayer

John 18.23
“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?”

Reflection: Truth Unwanted :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

Making Jesus known will lead to suffering and rejection. As the world investigates Jesus in our lives, we can expect the same treatment that Jesus received. May we do so, knowing that he is with us in all our suffering.

A Prayer for the Truth

“Who is it you want?” — John 18.4

Jesus, you are the king, the gift, and the truth that the world does not want.

When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. — John 18.5

The simple revelation of who you are causes even your enemies to fall to the ground.

You refuse to be who politicians want to make you.
You refuse to be who the religious elite want to make you.
You refuse to be who even your closest disciples want to make you.

Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” — John 18.11

“If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” — John 18.23

We must not expect, Lord, better treatment than our master. We will be struck for speaking your truth.

“The reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. — John 18.37-38

The world’s powers reject even the existence of truth. Much less your truth, Lord.

“My kingdom is not of this world…my kingdom is from another place.” — John 18.36

Remind us, Lord, that we are not of this world.
Its systems are not ours to run.
Its wealth is not ours to spend.
Its power is not ours to grasp.
Its wisdom is not ours to claim.
Its kings are not our sovereigns.

We are sent into the world, Lord, as you were.
Not to join it. But to confront it.
Not to lead it. But to serve it.
Not to enslave it. But to liberate it.
To call out from it those who will come to your truth.

We need your protection, Lord…
So that we may do as you commanded Peter, and put away our swords.
We need your power, Lord…
So that we may overcome evil not with the evils of corrupt power, but with the goodness that comes of taking up our cross and following you.

Remind us, Lord, that this world is not our home to defend, but it is the world you died for and we can expect to do no differently.

*On December 28, Christians around the world remember with sorrow the slaughter of the male infants of Bethlehem. They were killed for the same reasons many children die today. They were killed that those in power could remain in power—for economic and political convenience. They were killed to prevent justice and truth from coming.

Justice came to Herod anyway. And justice will come to the powerful who remain callous to the deaths of the innocent, in no matter what age they live. As this weekend’s reading from Malachi testifies: “So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty.”

Prayer: A Reading
Herod was furious on realizing that he had been fooled by the wise men…a voice is heard in Ramah, lamenting and weeping betterly: it is Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted because they are not more. — Matthew 2:16-18

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Malachi 1 (Listen – 2:47)
John 18 (Listen – 5:16)

This Weekend’s Readings
Malachi 2 (Listen – 3:12) John 19 (Listen – 6:23)
Malachi 3 (Listen – 3:13) John 20 (Listen – 4:17)

Additional Reading
Read More about What is Truth?
Christ’s kingdom does not depend, as earthly kingdoms too often do, upon craft, policy, and duplicity. The Master tells us that the main force and power of his kingdom lies in the truth. — Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Read More about The Trap of Being Offended
There’s no gunshot like conviction,
There’s no conscience bulletproof,
There’s no strength like our own weakness,
There’s no insult like the truth. — Charlie Peacock

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