Pastor Schreiber's Devotions

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"A New Commandment"- John 13:1–17, 34

On Maundy Thursday Jesus gas His disciples a new commandment: to love each other as He loved them. In the institution of Holy Communion institution Jesus showed His disciples how He loved them.

Saint Paul described it this way: “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.”

Jesus poured out His life as the one offering which could atone for all people and their sins, and which would be acceptable to God for the redemption of the world’s sinners. In His bloody sacrifice we see how great is God’s love for sinners. In the bread and wine of the sacrament of Holy Communion we are reminded of how our Savior loved us.

The common human reaction to such a sacrifice could have been, “It’s not my job! Let somebody else do it! I don’t like doing that!” Like Cain, many could have asked “Am I my brother’s keeper?” But Jesus didn’t say these things. He didn’t do these things. Jesus revealed His love for people in that while they were still sinners Christ died for them.

Jesus gave His disciples a real-time, real-life demonstration of His sacrificial love when He washed the disciples’ feet; but He didn’t stop there. With His innocent suffering, death and glorious resurrection from the dead Jesus gave a real-time, real-life demonstration of His love for all people.

He also taught His disciples that true greatness in God’s kingdom is established in loving service and sacrifice to and for others. He was and is the perfect Servant who gave His life as the ransom for many; and His command to His followers is, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

How will we love each other?

You could volunteer your services to your church or school. You could pray for others. You could do little things that often go unnoticed and neglected like picking up your bulletins and putting the hymnbooks back where they belong. You could sing in the choir. You could help fix up or clean up the church. You could help make our community more inviting by helping your neighbors with their yard work. You could help a struggling student gain a better grasp of the subject matter. You could obey traffic laws. You could smile.

And the list goes on and on.

When we feel our limits are being pushed go back to that night so many years ago and remember how Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. Remember the next day when Jesus sacrificed His body and blood on the cross. Remember that Jesus gave us a new commandment: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

So, we pray, “Lord, help us love others as You loved us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

"The Light of the Lord"- Psalm 118:19–29

It used to be that I always celebrated Palm Sunday. As a pastor I would have to deal with extra services (and sermon preparation), sick calls, shut-in calls, meetings, and classes all year long; but during the Lenten season everything seemed more pressing and demanding. So, when Palm Sunday would arrive, I knew that the end was in sight. I soon would have a little free time. I was usually a little tired (of the grind) so reading and hearing the words of this text were welcome good news to me—but, I think, for the wrong reason. Now, in my retirement, I see things more clearly! My celebration used to be for primarily very selfish and personal reasons. Now, I have the opportunity to think beyond my selfish reasoning and think more about what we should be celebrating!

I’m speaking, specifically, of verse twenty-seven, the first part. “The Lord is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us.” This verse helps me put things in proper perspective!

First, there is the acknowledgement that “The Lord is God.”

“The Lord” was an ancient Jewish way of naming God without risking taking His name in vain. Instead of possibly misusing the name He used, they would substitute the term “The Lord” to reference Him. This attitude of reverence is one we would do well to emulate in our own lives, I think.

Then there is the clear recognition of what God has done. The Psalmist put it this way: “He has made his light to shine upon us…” This is precisely what we celebrated at Christmas with the birth of the Christ child, but now, during Holy Week we remember and thank God for what this child grew up to do. Jesus came to give His life to ransom sinners from hell itself; and then on Easter we will again celebrate the fact that Jesus accomplished what He set out to do! This is the Light that surpasses every other light and gives us hope and brings us joy!

Jesus is the One who “Opened to us the gates of righteousness, that we may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord.” He has made His light to shine on us!

We pray: Thank you, Lord Jesus, for opening the gates of righteousness for us by making Your light to shine upon us! In Your name we pray. Amen.

"No Childhood Game"- Psalm 119:9–16

Most youngsters have, I believe, played a certain game. I used to call it “follow the leader.”  In this game we would choose a leader, and the rest of the children would have to go where the leader went or do what the leader did—sometimes with hilarious results; but not always. Sometimes a youngster would be too small or otherwise incapable of following the leader. When unable to successfully copy the leader, a youngster would have to stand aside or sit out until the next round of the game. The winner would be the last youngster who successfully mimicked the leader; and that youngster would become the leader of the next round of the game. (I never did well at this game.)

In a sense, our Psalm portion (Ps. 119: 9-16) reflects the basic impulse of this game. Assuming that Jesus Christ is our leader, we should live our lives like He did. The rules and examples are clear: be like Jesus in all we say and do. Our problem is that we are not and cannot be like Jesus, try as we might. He was and is perfect and sinless. We are not so good or righteous. We fail to copy His ways or remember His commandments. Instead, we wander off, assuming that we know better that God.

This is sin, and sin’s affects on sinners is devastating. Sin separates sinners from God and each other. It causes distrust and hatred, envy and strife. Sin in any and all shapes and forms does only one thing: it points a person to hell.

This is why verse eleven of our reading is so important. Here we read: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.  But this is not child’s play. It is deadly serious! The soul that sins shall die! The wages of sin is death!

So, the Psalmist continues in the remainder of our Psalm portion:

Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. (Ps.119: 12-16)

This is what Jesus Christ did for us! He obeyed God’s Law perfectly, then offered Himself on Calvary’s cross in payment for out transgressions; then, on the third day (Easter) Jesus rose victorious over sin, death, and the devil.

This isn’t exactly like our childhood game, because in God’s plan we are all be winners through Jesus Christ!  

We pray: Heavenly Father, we cannot on our own keep your Law as you demand. We simply follow Jesus and gain the victory! In Jesus’ name we thank and praise you! Amen.