Pastor Schreiber's Devotions

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"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.

"A Shared Heritage"- Psalm 51:10–12

Back in 2008 I made the observation that we cannot overcome original sin or its corruption on our own. Try as we might, we are recidivists (people given to repeat the same thing over and over). To put it bluntly, we are often like dogs that keep going back to sniff and lap at their own vomit. We are sinners who just don’t learn from our faults, foibles, and mistakes.  St. Paul said in Romans 7:19, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.  In a very real sense, we are like small children who claim that they don’t mean to disobey parents or hurt others but keep repeating their past transgressions. And the problem with this is that we all stand corrupted and culpable—we sin in thought, word, and deed and gain for ourselves the wages of sin (which is death).

Sin and its influence corrupt every aspect of our lives. It taints what could and should be good and beautiful. It destroys even what we hope to preserve and celebrate. It is remorseless in its destruction.

Because we are sinners we must, like King David, approach God and simply throw ourselves on His mercy. In Psalm 51 he prayed:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:10-12)

We are reminded of God’s mercy and grace in John 3:16-18.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:16-18)

Jesus Christ went to Calvary’s cross to suffer and die for sinners like you and me. He was carried to His tomb because of our sins. He was raised to life again because He won our redemption and everlasting salvation! Jesus Christ was how King David was restored and upheld. Jesus Christ is how we also can and will be forgiven, restored, and upheld!

Jesus Christ is someone we can celebrate and share! He is the Good News we need to hear. He is the Good News we can celebrate!  

Prayer: Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Amen.

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