Readings for Sunday July 29, 2018

Today’s First Reading, Genesis 9:8-17, is recorded after the account of the devastating flood sent by God to destroy sinful humanity: the story of Noah and the ark. In the flood we see God’s judgment on human sin – He is serious about sin, so much so that He will judge and punish sin. But we also see grace and mercy in the story of Noah and the ark – God saved Noah and his family, and a remnant of all the creatures, so that the earth would be repopulated. There is a warning here: God is serious about sin and its consequences (see also 2 Peter 2), but there is also grace, as we read in 1 Peter 3:18-22, where the apostle Peter talks about how God saved a remnant: Noah and his family through water, and how this corresponds to Baptism, which by grace through faith saves us.
The rainbow is a sign and reminder that God has made a covenant with all living creatures, human and animal, never again to destroy the earth by water. When the rainbow is in the sky, who sees and remembers God’s covenant? Is it we humans who see and remember God’s covenant with all of life? Yes, to be sure, but, read the passage closely, especially verses 15 and 16; when the rainbow is in the sky GOD ALSO SEES THE RAINBOW AND GOD REMEMBERS HIS COVENANT not to destroy the earth by water again. What an awesome realization – whenever we see a rainbow, God also sees the same rainbow and God remembers His covenant never again to destroy the earth by flood. We can take hope and assurance that as God sees and remembers, He will do what He has promised.
Have you noticed the ambiguity of the Words of Institution when we have Communion, “Do this for the remembrance of Me.”? Who does the remembering of what Jesus has done on His cross and in His resurrection? Yes, we humans, but GOD ALSO SEES THE LORD’S SUPPER AND HE REMEMBERS WHAT JESUS HAS DONE ON THE CROSS AND IN HIS RESURRECTION! Wow, that is awesome; as the Words of Institution are proclaimed, and as we eat the bread/Body of Christ and drink the wine/blood of Christ, God sees and remembers what Jesus has done, and when God sees and remembers we have forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.
Lord God, You are so awesome and glorious! To You be all thanks and praise for Your covenant not to destroy the earth by flood again. To You be all thanks and praise that when the rainbow is in the sky You see and remember Your covenant. To You be all thanks and praise that in the Sacrament of the Altar You see and You remember all that Jesus has done for us, and when You see and remember we have forgiveness, life, and salvation. Let us always trust You to keep Your promises, and let us always rejoice in Your grace and mercy. In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.

Today’s psalm, 136:1-9, is a wonderful psalm of praise. I would encourage you to read the entire psalm. Notice the One to Whom the praise is given (the LORD), and the reasons for giving Him praise: in vs. 1-9 it is because He created all there is, and in the rest of the psalm He is praised because He rescued His people against superior foes. Let us join the psalmist and give thanks and praise for God’s creative nature, and for the redemption we have received in Christ.
Lord God, heavenly Father, we join the psalmist in giving You thanks for Your goodness, and for Your steadfast love which endures forever. Praise to You for the wonder and beauty of creation. Thanks be to You for the ways You provide for us through the blessings of the creation. All praise and thanks to You for rescuing us from sin, death, and the devil through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Let us always give You thanks and praise for Your goodness and for Your steadfast love which endure forever. In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.

The Second Reading, Ephesians 3:14-21, continues reading through parts of the book of Ephesians. In the context of this section the apostle Paul has proclaimed redemption in Christ, and, as we saw last week, that in the cross of Christ all dividing walls of hostility have been broken down between God and us and between us and others. In this section Paul kneels before the Father Who is so gracious and merciful to us. Notice that our strength comes from His power, not our own, and that by His Spirit we can begin to grasp how great is God’s love for us!
Heavenly Father, You are so gracious and merciful, even more than we can fully comprehend. Help us to see the breadth, length, height and depth of Your love, and fill us with Your fullness in Christ. Let us give You all the glory, honor, praise and thanks due to Your Name. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Today’s Gospel is recorded in Mark 6:45-56. The immediate context of the Reading is that Jesus has just taught and then fed 5,000 men, plus women and children. Wow, what grace and mercy in Jesus – to teach and to take care of our physical needs. Immediately following this event, Jesus sent the disciples across the Sea of Galilee while He dismissed the crowds, and then He went off by Himself to pray. Notice all the times in the Gospels that Jesus spent time in prayer and/or in worship; let us follow His example of worship and prayer.
The disciples were having a great deal of trouble crossing the Sea of Galilee because the wind and waves were against them. They were undoubtedly tired, frustrated, and probably not happy about the situation; there were probably many words of grumbling. Suddenly out of the darkness and gloom a figure appeared on the water; they were terrified! Yes, so would we be! In their fear they cried out. Have you ever been terrified, frozen with fear? If so, listen to Jesus’ words to His disciples, and to us, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Remember that no matter what happens in life Jesus is with us; take heart, He is with us, do not be afraid. Notice that as soon as they reached the land, people who were in need were brought to Jesus and He ministered to them. Take heart, He ministers to each of us also.
Lord Jesus, there are so many things in our lives that cause us to cry out in fear, so many things that terrify us. When we are afraid, let us hear again Your gentle but firm words, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Melt away our fears with the comforting and assuring words of Your constant presence with us. We pray these things in Your holy and precious Name: Jesus. Amen.

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