Readings for Sept. 30, 2018

The First Reading, recorded in Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, and 24-29, has a lot packed into it. The first part of the reading is filled with complaining: the people, whom God has rescued from slavery in Egypt, now want to go back to Egypt because the food was better there. They forgot the slavery, they forgot God’s daily care for them in the wilderness, all they wanted was a change in menu. They complained and grumbled. Moses heard their complaining and he was fed up with them, so he complained to God – the load was too heavy to take care of all these people, it was better to be dead than to put up with this bunch of whiners and complainers.
This passage has a fascinating response of God. God was angry with the people, but His solution was to take some of the Spirit which rested upon Moses and put it on 70 elders of the people, who were now tasked with helping Moses.
This passage reminds us that God is patient, even with us when we whine and complain, although this is not license to complain, and this passage reminds us that all of us have a part in ministering to each other. Let us not leave the work of the Lord to others, let us follow Jesus in lives of service and help.
Oh Lord God, we scratch our heads at the people of Israel during the Exodus who complained even after you rescued them and daily provided for them. How could they treat Your blessings with such contempt? Yet, Lord, if we are honest, we, too must admit that we whine and complain. Forgive us and renew us in Jesus.
And Lord, empower us with Your Holy Spirit to do Your work around us, sharing the Gospel of Jesus with others, and helping them in their needs.
In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.

Today’s psalm, recorded in Psalm 104:27-35, is a wonderful psalm of God’s provision for all living, and also shows how closely the Lord is tied with creation: He gives what is needed for life and we are filled with good things, He withdraws His breath and death results, and then He breathes again and life is renewed. The psalmist’s response? Praise. May we also praise the Lord for His care and provision for all of life.
Lord God, You fill all the earth with life, and provide for every living thing. We thank and praise You for Your care and benevolence. Open our eyes to see Your blessings in life, and open our hearts and lives to give You praise. In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.

The Second Reading concludes our readings from the book of James. The book of James deals largely with putting one’s faith into practice. Today’s reading, from James 5:1-20, continues that trend. The first part is a warning to those who would withhold proper pay to their workers; the Lord sees, and the Lord will bring justice to the oppressed.
The second paragraph is a reminder to be patient in life, the Lord will act in His good time. James uses the image of the patience of a farmer as the crops grow, an image we can readily see.
The next section, vs. 13-20, deals primarily with prayer. Read this section closely, see what a great blessing prayer is. Be people of prayer! Praying that the Lord’s will is accomplished, praying for each other, praying for those in need. Pray.
Most holy Lord, thank You for the wonderful gift of prayer. Teach us to pray. Lead us to pray. By Your grace, answer our prayers in the ways that You know to be best. We pray in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

The Gospel is recorded in Mark 9:38-50. The first paragraph is a wonderful reminder that the Church of Jesus is larger than any single person, any individual congregation, or even a particular denomination. Let us work with our brothers and sisters in the Lord to accomplish His tasks.
The second paragraph deals with the seriousness of sin; don’t cause another person to stumble because of our sinfulness (and repent when we do sin). We see how serious sin is: Jesus tells us to do whatever we can to get rid of sin. Jesus calls for radical action to excise sin from our lives. However, He knows that even if we were to cut off parts of our bodies, sin would still be in us (so don’t cut anything off). He knows something even more radical is required to free us from sin, and that is His death on the cross because of our sinfulness, and His resurrection to justify us before God. As we see sin in our lives, by the influence of the Holy Spirit, turn to the Lord in repentance, appealing to Him to forgive and remove sin from our lives. Only He can do what we need.
Lord Jesus Christ, sin fills us and brings hardship and heartache into our lives and the lives of those around us. Led us to repentance, and set us free each day from evil and sin. Thank You for Your victory over sin, death, and the devil, enable us to live in this victory each day. In Your Name we pray. Amen.

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