Readings for the week of August 26, 2018

The First Reading, Isaiah 29:11-19, was written to God’s people who had rebelled against Him. The prophet Isaiah was sent to call them back to faithfully follow the Lord. The prophet begins by telling the people that they have closed their eyes to the words of the Lord as if they cannot open a sealed book, or they cannot read. They no longer follow the Lord, but have drifted far from Him. The question needs to be asked: how are you doing in your walk with the Lord, have you closed your eyes to Him, is your heart far from Him?
As Isaiah continues with vs. 13, we expect that verse 14 will be a statement of judgment and condemnation, but instead it is grace, that God will do a new and wonderful thing for His people. In the short term, that would include allowing a remnant to return to Jerusalem after the Babylonian Captivity; in the long term the most wonderful thing is redemption in and through Jesus.
Lord God, heavenly Father, all too often we become complacent in our relationship with You. All too often our lips give You praise, but our hearts have drifted from You. By Your grace and mercy, call us back through the work of Your Holy Spirit to see and hear again Your mighty deeds, especially in Jesus, and lead us to a renewing of faith in You. In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.

Sometimes people say, “You can make the Bible say anything.”, and today’s Psalm, 14:1-7, is an example. If you take part of verse one out of context, the claim can be made that the Bible says, “There is no God.” Yes, well, in context we see that the fool says, “There is no God.” Look at Bible verses in their context. Read the whole psalm. Notice how evil and corrupt some people are, who even destroy God’s people. But also notice the word of hope: God will see and give salvation to His people. This psalm speaks to the immediate situation of the psalmist, but also to our situation as well: God has given us salvation in Jesus. Rejoice, be glad, and trust Him!
Lord, keep us from turning to foolishness, keep us from turning away from You. Even when we see evil people seemingly prevailing, remind us that You are the glorious victor over all, including sin, death, the devil, and the evils of our world. Keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, our risen Lord and Savior. Amen.

The Second Reading, Ephesians 5:22-33, is a reading that has been used and misused to mistreat women. All too often the first paragraph is quoted, but the second paragraph is ignored. Like the psalm for today, read the context. In the second paragraph husbands are told to love their wives just as Christ loved the Church, and gave His life for the Church. Husbands are to love their wives with the same self-giving love with which Christ loves the Church. How would marriages be different if husbands loved their wives as Christ loves the Church, and if wives loved their husbands with that same love?
Lord Jesus Christ, continually remind us of how much You love us; a love so deep that You would willingly go to the cross to redeem us. Enable Your love to so fill our marriages and our families that we love as You have first loved us. Let Your love change our lives. In Your Name we pray. Amen.

The Gospel for today, Mark 7:1-13, confronts us with human-made laws and regulations, and how they can be a barrier to God in our lives. They can become such a focus to us that we lose sight of God. Let us keep our eyes fixed on God and not on human wisdom and tradition; only He can give us the guidelines for life.
Notice also the importance of family relationships. In the Second Reading the relationship of husband and wife is emphasized, and in the Gospel the relationship of aging parents and their adult children. God has placed us in family relationships and wants us to care for each other. Let us do so.
Heavenly Father, Lord of all, we thank You for the good family relationships which You have given us. Enable us to be faithful and caring in our families so that our loved-ones are loved and respected, and Your will for the family is followed. In Jesus’ Name, Who made arrangements for His mother even while on the cross, we pray. Amen.

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