Use this devo as you are able, in whole or in part. Don’t feel compelled to read it all. Simply read and meditate upon whatever catches your attention. The goal is enjoying time with God through His Word and in prayer. Questions about the devotional elements?
This week we enter into the second half of the Christian year. The first half (Advent-Pentecost) traces the grand arc of God’s saving action in Jesus Christ. Ordinary Time offers us time (half the year!) to find our place in God’s story. It gives us time to absorb the story of the gospel, and then allow it to shape our ordinary lives, making connections between Jesus’ story and our lives.
Call to Prayer
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” (Ezek. 36:26-27)
Prayer of Confession
Giver of every good gift,you never send your people off empty-handed but always outfit them with good things—your guiding presence in the fiery cloud, the manna that rained down from heaven on the wilderness trek.
Thank you for pouring out your Holy Spirit and all his gifts for the journeys you send us on. Make us freely generous with all your gifts to bless the world, the very reason for which you sent us. Amen. (a prayer based on the Helvetic Confession, Q51)
*Prayer borrowed from Philip Reinders’ Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year
This reading plan will help you to develop the habit of being in God’s Word each morning and evening. Come to this time with expectation. Expect God to reveal himself to you. Expect that he delights in you being there, even when you’ve wandered away. Growing a spiritual habit is a slow, patient process. So be kind to yourself as you grow!
Readings are hyperlinked. Simply hover over the passage or click Morning/Evening Reading (email version).
Praying the Psalms: Read slowly. Take note of words and phrases. Bring them before the Lord in prayer and personalize the passage as you pray.
NT Context: “Christian churches are not, as a rule, model communities of good behavior. They are, rather, places where human misbehavior is brought out in the open, faced, and dealt with. The letter of James shows one of the church’s early pastors skillfully going about his work of confronting, diagnosing, and dealing with areas of misbelief and misbehavior that had turned up in congregations committed to his care.” Meditate on the passage, noting a few words or a phrase that stood out. Take them to God in prayer.
OT Context: “Twice in Judges (17:6 and 21:25) there is the telling refrain: “At that time there was no king in Israel. People did whatever they felt like doing.” But we readers know that there was a king in Israel: God was king. And so, while the lack of an earthly king accounts for the moral and political anarchy, the presence of the sovereign God, however obscurely realized, means that the reality of the kingdom is never in doubt.” Reflect on the passage. Who was the original audience, and what was their situation? How is that relevant to you today?
Read: Acts 2:42-47
We have been exploring what it means to go. I’ve tried to emphasize how ordinary our going is. So I hope that you are not too shocked when I say that: We are not called by Christ to change the world.That is the work of God’s Word and Spirit. He speaks, we listen and obey. We participate but we are not the sourceof the change. The source is God himself. His grace flowing out into his world and bring his people home to himself. That’s the storyline of the gospel and the early church.
This preface may seem an odd preface for our passage today from Acts 2 but I hope it sets the tone for noticing exactly what Christians were doing together: devoting themselves to receiving the teaching of God’s Word, forming friendships, enjoying meals together, taking care of one another, and worshipping God together. The mission moved outward from there but the basic structure of Christian community and mission is all right there.
Jump forward to Acts 20 when Paul is reflecting on his ministry in Ephesus (which seems to me to have been the most relationally fulfilling portion of his ministry) and how does he describe his gospel-work in Ephesus? He taught “anything that was advantageous” for them to know about the gospel, and where did he teach them? “…in the marketplace and from house to house…” I think that we can easily read past that.
We so often emphasize that people in the Roman world said the Christians “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) that we forget that the way the world was turned upside down was through the message of the gospel being talked about among coworkers and over an artisan loaf of bread (*the bread may or may not have been artisan but I like to think that it was).
Christian witness to the reality of the gospel came through what Rosaria Butterfield calls “radically ordinary” means. In fact, the gospel has always moved forward in this way: between spouses and siblings; in families and neighborhoods; among groups of friends and people we meet along the way. Rosaria notes that this sort of radically ordinary faith involves risk. But risk leads to resolve in our faith.
“Too many of us,” she says, “are sidelined by fears. We fear that people will hurt us. We fear that people will negatively influence our children. We fear that we do not even understand the language of this new world order, least of all its people. We long for days gone by. Our sentimentality makes us stupid. We need to snap ourselves out of this self-pitying reverie. The best days are ahead. Jesus advances from the front of the line.” (The Gospel Comes with a House Key, p.35)
Indeed! And may our fears dissipate in the coming years not because we are brave, but because Christ is on the move, a new world is coming (though not, I suspect, in the ways we expect), and our faith will one day be sight.
Reflect: In what ways is your “going” radically ordinary? Are there any ways that you think God might be leading you to begin practicing?
Evening Prayer of Examen
Where did you move with or feel close to Jesus today?
Where did you resist or feel far from Jesus today?
Where is Jesus leading you tomorrow? Ask for joy as you follow him.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 15:13)