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Jesus, remember me

by Colleen Fitzpatrick

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Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom’ (Luke 23:42).

Read Luke 23:36–53

Talk about a deathbed conversion! Here, we have a criminal condemned to death, hanging on a cross, recognising Jesus’ sinless life. Not only that, but he asks to be remembered when Jesus comes to his heavenly kingdom. His prayer is answered when Jesus provides reassurance.

This precedes the final stages of Jesus’ suffering and death. Right at the end, Jesus hears this man’s prayer and offers eternal life – that is, life in paradise. What an amazing example of grace!

This incident reminds me of the parable of the workers in the vineyard told in Matthew 20. Workers were hired at varying times during the day, and at the end of the day, each received a full day’s wages – no matter how long or how well they worked. And that is how Jesus does business! Jesus accepts us just how we are. We can be sure of entry to paradise – all we have to do is believe in Jesus and his saving grace. No matter how weak our faith or little we have done, Jesus will welcome us.

Just a gentle reminder: You and I don’t get a vote on who is in or who is out of paradise. God is the divine adjudicator. So, let’s do the best we can and, with God’s help, live a life of loving service, secure in the knowledge that we, too, have the right of entry into God’s kingdom.

Merciful God, thank you for being so gracious. Thank you for the gift of forgiveness that can wipe away my sins and remove barriers to my salvation. Thank you for the gift of baptism, which has opened the way for me to be your child. Amen.

Colleen has a husband, two daughters, three granddaughters and a wide range of extended family and friends. She lives in Adelaide and loves how the various parts of her life intersect. Colleen is involved in numerous committees within the church and community. She loves to read. Colleen coordinates her congregation’s prayer group and is delighted to respond to requests for prayer from friends and family.

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Weeping for our children

by Colleen Fitzpatrick

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Jesus turned and said to them, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children’ (Luke 23:28).

Read Luke 23:13–35

The story of Jesus’ death is not just the story of men. There were women there also. The women remained with him even after the men ran away. The women saw him first after the resurrection.

When we think of some of the women mentioned during Jesus’ life, we see Jesus’ acceptance and response to women as equal citizens, which would have been countercultural then. Think about the Samaritan woman, the woman healed from years of bleeding by touching the hem of Jesus’ gown, his close friends Mary and Martha, the woman who washed his feet with perfume, the widow with two coins to give at the temple, the woman caught in adultery, Peter’s mother-in-law. All these and others were recognised and treated with respect.

As Jesus was being led to his death, there were women in the crowd who were mourning and wailing. Unsurprisingly, Jesus acknowledges them. His advice is chilling and prophetic: ‘Do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and your children.’

Losing a lifelong partner, family member or friend can be tough. The thought of living without them is not easy, and it is because of this that our feelings of sadness well up inside us and can overflow into tears. The grief of a mother who loses a child is insurmountable. The pain is visceral – felt deep in one’s guts. I have heard it said that the hole (left by the death of a child) never heals. Where there is deep love, there is deep grief. You have to learn to live with it.

In these uncertain times, how many of us are weeping for ourselves and our children? What must it be like for those mothers in famine-stricken countries who see their children dying of starvation in war-torn areas that are inaccessible to aid agencies? Brian Neldner, one-time director of Lutheran World Service, says:

During a drought, there is a food shortage when crops fail. A famine occurs when the fabric of society collapses. People don’t move. They don’t respond. They are listless and they just sit there and they die. You smell death.

God of comfort and strength, be with all who weep for themselves and their children. Bring an end to the suffering of innocent women and children wherever they may be. Help them to find comfort and strength in your loving care. Amen.

Colleen has a husband, two daughters, three granddaughters and a wide range of extended family and friends. She lives in Adelaide and loves the way the various parts of her life intersect. Colleen is involved in numerous committees within the church and community. She loves to read. Colleen coordinates her congregation’s prayer group and is delighted to respond to requests for prayer from friends and family.

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A sign for the times

by Colleen Fitzpatrick

Click here to download your printable verse to carry with you today.

He hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort (Luke 23:8b).

Read Luke 23:1–12

I remember seeing a movie, The Man with Two Brains, which starred Steve Martin. My (sometimes fallible) memory is that his wife had died, and he had fallen in love again. He was standing in front of a portrait of his deceased wife and saying, ‘Send me a sign. Just send me a sign’. The portrait started spinning around furiously. He said once more, ‘Send me a sign’, as he watched the painting spinning around, and then took it off the wall and put it where he couldn’t see it.

Wouldn’t it be great if God was better at providing signs to help guide us in our decision-making, to see what will happen in the future or even more importantly, to show God’s amazing powers that would cause people to become Christians?

Herod wanted to see Jesus perform a sign – maybe a miraculous healing, a repeat of turning water into wine, or perhaps even some stunning revelation about what glorious things awaited Herod in the future. Any one of these probably would have satisfied Herod and proved that Jesus was a subversive and justifiably worthy of elimination.

It was not to be. Jesus was not going to play the game. He just stood there, not responding to the taunts, insults or accusations. Maybe if Jesus had performed just one sign, things would have turned out very differently.

Jesus’ humility meant that he had nothing to gain but the cross. As Christians, we are very much in the minority in our current times. We have no earthly power, but we are still called, gathered, enlightened and sanctified so we can serve not only God but also our fellow humans.

As we gather for worship, we confess our faith, hear God’s promises of forgiveness once again and receive the gift of Jesus’ body and blood. If that’s not a sign of God’s love, I don’t know what is!

One of my favourite prayers is the old version of the post-communion prayer. Let’s pray it together.

We give you thanks, almighty God, for refreshing us through your healing gift of holy communion. We pray that through it, you would graciously strengthen us in faith toward you and in love toward one another: through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Colleen has a husband, two daughters, three granddaughters and a wide range of extended family and friends. She lives in Adelaide and loves the way the various parts of her life intersect. Colleen is involved in numerous committees within the church and community. She loves to read. Colleen coordinates her congregation’s prayer group and is delighted to respond to requests for prayer from friends and family.

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The fake news that was real

by Colleen Fitzpatrick

Click here to download your printable verse to carry with you today.

They all asked, ‘Are you then the Son of God?’ He replied, ‘You say that I am’ (Luke 22:70).

Read Luke 22:63–71

Fake news wasn’t a thing back in Jesus’ day. But when Jesus responded to a question about whether he was the Messiah, Jesus claimed he would not be believed if he answered correctly. He then went on to give the correct answer. Those questioning him didn’t care whether Jesus was the Messiah or not – they just wanted to hear him say the words so that they could go ahead with the plan to kill him.

When they asked whether he was the Son of God, Jesus again answered in the affirmative. Both of these responses amounted to blasphemy at that time and were punishable by death. This was the journey that Jesus came for.

Where does that leave me? As I pondered this question, the words of a well-known hymn came to my mind: ‘And can it be that I should gain.’ The hymn verses chart Jesus’ journey from when he left God’s throne in heaven to come to die for us. As you sing the hymn, the triumph of Jesus’ grace, mercy and amazing love rings out. The final verse references Romans 8: ‘There is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus … for what the law was powerless to do … God did by sending his own Son.’

The affirmation in the hymn verse goes like this:

No condemnation now I dread

Jesus, and all in him, is mine.

Alive in him, my living Head

And clothed in righteousness divine.

Bold I approach the eternal throne

And claim the crown, through Christ my own

Amazing love! How can it be

That thou my God, should die for me?

That is not fake news! That’s the Easter truth of God’s amazing love for me and you.

Saving God, thank you for your amazing love. Thank you for sending Jesus to be our Saviour, and that because of Jesus’ death, all we have to do is believe, and we will be clothed in righteousness. Amen.

Colleen has a husband, two daughters, three granddaughters and a wide range of extended family and friends. She lives in Adelaide and loves how the various parts of her life intersect. Colleen is involved in numerous committees within the church and community. She loves to read. Colleen coordinates her congregation’s prayer group and is delighted to respond to requests for prayer from friends and family.

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The sharp-eyed girl

by Colleen Fitzpatrick

Click here to download your printable verse to carry with you today.

A servant girl … looked at him closely and said ‘This man was with him’ (Luke 22:56).

Read Luke 22:52–62

When she was still a preschooler, my granddaughter spotted a teddy bear being thrown out of a window in an episode of Peppa Pig. ‘Grandma,’ she said, ‘that was defenestration’. Which, of course, it was.* This young woman has always been sharp-eyed and the go-to person if anything is mislaid at home or if grandparents need information about what’s what and there is no parent around to answer the question.

No, today’s devotion is not about recommending the practice of defenestration. Rather, when I pondered my granddaughter’s comment, I came to the question, "What do people see when they see me? And what do they see when they see the church? Would the sharp-eyed girl in today’s Bible reading recognise us as being with him"?

Here, we have Peter sitting around the fire with a group of people. A young woman peers closely at Peter and recognises him as a follower of Jesus. We don’t know how or why she comes to recognise Peter. Maybe she had seen him with Jesus, or perhaps it was how he dressed or spoke.

How would people know that we are with Jesus? When we speak about others, do we do so with respect and put on the best interpretation of their behaviour? Does the light of Jesus’ love shine through our actions when we’re at home? Or with our friends?

And what do people think when they see our church? As the Lutheran Church of Australia and New Zealand (LCANZ), we say we’re a church ‘where love comes to life’. Is that the way others see us? What does the sharp-eyed girl see when she looks at the LCANZ?

Galatians 5 has some great encouragement for us. In verse 13, we’re told to ‘Serve one another in love’. In verses 22 and 23, we read that ‘the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control’. That’s something to live up to!

Inspirational God, nurture us so that we may bear your Spirit’s fruit and help us to provide loving service to those we come in contact with today, so that they may know that we are indeed with you. Amen.

*Defenestration means throwing a person or thing out of the window. It was used most famously in Prague to rid of one of their rulers.

Colleen has a husband, two daughters, three granddaughters, and a wide range of extended family and friends. She lives in Adelaide and loves how the various parts of her life intersect. Colleen is involved in numerous committees within the church and community. She loves to read. Colleen coordinates her congregation’s prayer group and is delighted to respond to requests for prayer from friends and family.

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Lord of the Sabbath

by Colleen Fitzpatrick

Click here to download your printable verse to carry with you today.

The Sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath (Mark 2:27).

Read Mark 2:23–3:6

Life in rural New South Wales during the 1950s and '60s was very different from how we live today. On Sunday mornings, my mum, sister, aunt, and I donned our best dresses, hats, and gloves to prepare for church. Dad shaved and put on his good clothes, including a tie and his good hat. We set off early for church, as we had to allow enough time in case we got a flat tyre on the way. I don’t remember that ever happening.

Church was serious business. Holy Communion was celebrated monthly or quarterly (I can’t remember which) and involved a second address and a much lengthier time sitting still on the hard pews. We had a special breakfast on Sunday: cocoa soup (a chocolate custard) followed by boiled eggs. Apart from the necessary milking of cows and feeding of animals, no farm work was undertaken on that day.

Everything in the village and beyond was closed on Sundays. How things have changed! Our busy lives may not allow for a day of rest. More people go to work on Sundays or play sport so Sundays can seem much like any other day.

I wonder what Jesus would say to us about how we spend the Sabbath. Jesus wanted to free people from the innumerable rules and regulations that governed the Sabbath. He said that the Sabbath was made for us – we weren’t made for the Sabbath.

But have we gone too far? The concept of a day of rest for humans, animals, and our world may not be such a bad thing! It may help us recognise that not everything depends on us and that there is more to life than work and pushing ourselves to get ahead. This may need to be balanced with the economic imperative that rules the lives of people earning less than a living wage. I wonder what the world would be like if the division between the richest and the poorest was narrowed. Would we spend our Sabbaths any differently?

Lord of the Sabbath, thank you for making the Sabbath for us. Please help us to use each Sabbath in ways that are pleasing to you and glorify you. Amen.

Colleen has a husband, two daughters, three granddaughters, and a wide range of extended family and friends. She lives in Adelaide and loves how the various parts of her life intersect. Colleen is involved in numerous committees within the church and community. She loves to read. Colleen coordinates her congregation’s prayer group and is delighted to respond to requests for prayer from friends and family.

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Wonderful? Who me?

by Pastor Greg Fowler

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For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13,14).

Read Psalm 139:1–6,13–18

My wife has always been beautiful. And it’s not just me saying that. There has been general agreement on the subject. However, like many people, she felt uncomfortable if anyone complimented her. When someone appreciated her talents, she would redirect the conversation to their gifts. I guess we often feel like we should be humble because arrogant people are no fun to be around. It could also be that we have low self-esteem. After more than 30 years together, my wife can now say ‘thank you’ when someone appreciates her.

When we look into Scripture, we find a different understanding. There is no embarrassment from the psalmists as they declare how wonderful each of us is! According to the Bible, we are wonderful because we are God’s work. It’s okay to celebrate who we are and what we have accomplished because that, too, is God’s work. I was blessed to love a retired missionary couple and serve as their pastor. I was in awe of what they achieved and the legacy they left that came from their obedience and giftedness. Whenever someone praised them for their work, they would accept the praise with a smile and say, ‘It was for his glory and by his power’. They were truly wonderful.

We are all wonderfully made. Maybe we need to hear that afresh today. We have gifts and experiences that only we can use to serve God and bless others. It is okay to smile when another person gives us praise. It is okay to change how we think of ourselves and say, like God himself, ‘I am valuable and beautiful’. And we all say together, ‘It is for God’s glory and by his power’.

Heavenly Father, we thank you that we are wonderfully made. We ask that you help us see ourselves as you do. We praise you as we use our gifts for your glory. Amen.

Pastor Greg lives in beautiful Redland Bay with his wife, Connie, where they enjoy the beaches, weather and outdoor lifestyle of South Brisbane. He serves Faith Lutheran College, Redlands, as the college pastor.

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What sign?

by Pastor Greg Fowler

Click here to download your printable verse to carry with you today.

Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near (Luke 21:31).

Read Luke 21:29–38

One of the most helpful innovations in the past decade for me has been navigation in my car with speed sign recognition. I am one of those drivers who drift off into their own world with the music playing while driving. In the past, I have been known to incur a speed camera fine or two as the speed limit changes, and I miss the sign. Now, the speed limit indicator on my screen changes to bright red if I am over the limit, and I can adjust my driving right away when things change. I am much more content, and I avoid nasty surprises in the mail.

Jesus asks us to be alert to the signs around us as we travel through life. I often find myself going through the routines I know by heart without stopping to see where God is at work. We know we’re busy with packed schedules, so our lives are just one big list of tasks. It’s just like driving on a well-known road without much engagement. In this situation, we miss out on so much that God wants to bless us with. Our God is never absent from the world; we teach that the Father constantly creates the world and his kingdom.

What joy and purpose we receive when we see what God is doing around us and accept his invitation to join him! I know from experience that I can get frustrated when I am caught up in what I am doing and expecting my plans to work out. I am also overwhelmed with gratitude as I tailor what I am doing to God’s action. Opportunities arise and blessings flow. It all starts with eyes open for the signs of God’s kingdom.

Lord Jesus, we thank you for coming to earth and entering the lives of your creation. We thank you for our salvation. Give us eyes of faith to see your kingdom. Give us willing hearts to join in your work. Amen.

Pastor Greg lives in beautiful Redland Bay with his wife, Connie, where they enjoy the beaches, weather and outdoor lifestyle of South Brisbane. He serves Faith Lutheran College, Redlands, as the college pastor.

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I need to calm down

by Pastor Greg Fowler

Click here to download your printable verse to carry with you today.

On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken (Luke 21:25b,26).

Read Luke 21:20–28

Anxiety is much more prevalent now than at any time I can remember. Every week in my pastoral chats with people, I discover more people I know are suffering from anxiety in one form or another. Life is different. We are more aware of mental health needs and wellbeing, yet true peace and joy seem elusive. It seems to me that the description of anguish and perplexity Jesus used as a sign of the times is increasingly evident in each of our personal struggles. It’s easy to be so apprehensive that we feel faint. Experts have diagnosed many culprits, with social media right at the top. I think it’s more of a spiritual problem.

When the Bible testifies to the end times, the writers say those calamitous events are the culmination of a gradual falling away from trust in God. When society is disconnected from the source of life and peace, the enemies of well-being fill the void. And despite our reliance on God, society-wide moods impact us all. This trend has been clear for some time. The need for well-being support will increase as our dissociation from the Creator continues.

Fortunately, Jesus shows us a way to receive peace. In many places, the Scriptures tell us God is found in our direct relationship with him and in our relationships with others who share the faith. Spiritual community is God’s gift to us as a foil against the prevalent moves in society. We are encouraged to ‘do life’ with others who share our love for God and the worldview that comes from being a disciple. Along with proper mental health care and pastoral support, communities of faith are important parts of our well-being.

Father God, help us live as your people in communities of faith. Bless all communities that seek to glorify you. Heal our anxious souls as we look to you, the giver of life. Amen.

Pastor Greg lives in beautiful Redland Bay with his wife, Connie, where they enjoy the beaches, weather, and outdoor lifestyle of South Brisbane. He serves Faith Lutheran College, Redlands, as the college pastor.

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