Readings for the week of September 9, 2018

Besides being one of the longest books in the Bible, the prophet Isaiah is also a very complex book, with prophesies ranging from severe warnings about turning away from God, to words filled with comfort and hope in God’s steadfast love to forgive and restore. Today’s First Reading, from Isaiah 35:4-7a, are words of comfort as God’s people faced an uncertain and frightful future. Through the prophet the Lord proclaims that He will come to the rescue of His people, exacting vengeance on those who have harmed them. Notice the words of comfort and hope as God proclaims what He will do for His people. There will be restoration of people and of creation. As we face increased pressure from the world to conform to its ways, let us hear again the words of the Lord and let us rest in His protection of us.
Almighty God, Your people have faced hardship and heartache many times, and often were discouraged. As we read the words of Isaiah, remind us that Your steadfast love and mercy are true, and that in Your good time You will renew and restore all things under the gentle rule of Your Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

The psalm for today, Psalm 146, is just as fresh and relevant as it was the day the psalmist wrote it. The psalm is one of the psalms of praise. The Psalmist is filled with praise because he knows that his help is in the Lord. Notice that the psalmist will always sing God’s praises. Let us follow this example. Also notice the warning in the psalm in vs. 3-4, a warning not to put one’s trust in rulers and those who are in authority. During election cycles we hear so many promises made by politicians as they try to win our votes, but once they are in office the promises seem to be forgotten. And, even if a politician is able to fulfill the promises made, when that person is out of office the next person in that office can reverse what was accomplished. The warning – don’t trust people to keep their promises. But, contrast human shortcomings with the One Who is always faithful, look to God Who always does what He promises. It is God Who has created everything, it is God who is holy, righteous, and just. It is God Who ultimately protects those who are helpless. Let us trust God, He will always keep His promises.
Lord God, we live among those who make, but break, promises. By Your Holy Spirit turn our eyes of faith to You, knowing that You Who created all, and Who sustains all, are faithful and keep Your promises. Enable us to trust You, and to see Your faithfulness. We thank and praise You that You have kept Your promise of a redeemer when You sent Your Son Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

The Second Reading begins several readings from the book of James. This reading is recorded in James 2:1-10, 14-18. The reading is in two parts, yet they are tied together by the theme of putting one’s faith into practice. In the first part of the reading the recipients of the letter are warned not to show partiality to someone because they appear to be the elite of society. In the Church, all people are to be treated the same. Are there distinctions, are there differing treatments of people based on our subjective ideas? May it not be.
In the second part of the reading James warns the people to put their faith into action, that faith that does not lead to a changed way of life is not faith at all. He reminds the reader that faith cares for and helps those in need. Do we help and care for others, as Jesus did, or do we think faith is a private matter that doesn’t affect how we live?
Holy Spirit of God, turn us from ourselves and our worldly priorities to see You and Your action in life. Enable us to live our faith each day, putting into practice what we say we believe. Enable us to be consistent in faith and life, and so bring glory to Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Today’s Gospel, recorded in Mark 7:(24-30) 31-37, includes two miracles, the casting out of a demon from a child, and the healing of a deaf man. Notice that the first part of the reading is in parentheses; this does not indicate that this part is optional or insignificant, it is in parentheses because this exorcism is covered more extensively in the Gospel of Matthew. In both miracles notice that even though the people are in great need, they also have great blessings: each has those who care for them – the little girl has a mother who will not give up in getting help for her daughter, and the deaf man has those who brought him to Jesus. How fortunate that each of these who suffer have those who love and care for them. But, even more fortunate, is that their needs are brought to Jesus. At first Jesus seems to put the mother off, He is reflecting the sentiments of His day, but, contrary to the attitudes of His day, He helps the mother and frees her child from the demon. In the second miracle Jesus opens the man’s ears and releases his tongue. Both miracles lead to thanksgiving and praise to God. Let us also give thanks and praise to God.
Lord Jesus Christ, Your compassion overflows in the lives of these people, and in our lives as well. Enable us to see the many powerful ways You impact our lives, and let us give You thanks and praise. And then, as those who see Your wondrous blessings in our lives, move us to share Your blessings with others. In Your Name we pray, Amen.

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