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Divorce And Remarriage

Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery (Luke 16:18).

Read Luke 16:10–18

Why would I pick this passage for our devotion today when there were much safer subjects in today’s reading? Well, for starters, both my current wife and I were divorcees when we were married some years ago, and this was a passage we had to come to terms with. The passage is seemingly unambiguous and comes from the mouth of Jesus himself. So, there is no wriggle room.

For this devotion, I also bravely searched the internet for inspiration and discovered lots of discussion on who fitted into the categories of those who could never marry again because of divorce. I found discussions on who could find wriggle room to squeeze out of these categories. I felt that much of this was very legalistic and not in the spirit of the God I have come to know. Yes, God has very high standards, and there is no option for divorce (and, therefore, remarriage) in God’s perfect plan.

When my first marriage broke down, and we eventually divorced, I did commit myself to be single for the rest of my life. (Looking back, I think part of the reason was my guilt at failing to make my marriage work). I found a group of loving Christian friends (or they found me), and through these relationships, God matured me in my relationship with him. But all the time, I kept fending off any attempts by women to develop a romantic relationship with me. But God seemed to have a different idea. First, he brought Diane into my life. Then, God organised for a Christian friend to lecture me on the practicalities of God’s forgiveness and grace. He stressed that when God forgives, the past is forgotten; in God’s eyes, it is as if it hasn’t happened. While he was haranguing me, the Holy Spirit was lovingly convicting me that the failure of my marriage was no longer on his mind. Jesus had dealt with it on the cross, and it was buried with Jesus in the grave. Unknown to me at that time, God was also working in Diane’s life to bring us together.

After we got married, we still had to deal with many issues from our previous relationships, but we were also able to provide more stability for our respective children. There were ways God grew us through being in our relationship that may not have happened if we both had stayed single. And we came to understand more personally about God’s grace and mercy.

So, back to Jesus’s words. The context was that he spoke to the religious and legal rulers who loved playing legal games by adding their own interpretations and providing legal loopholes for themselves. Jesus just cut through to God’s clear plan.

Heavenly Father, as hard as we try, we keep failing to live up to your standards. Thank you that Jesus took all these failures on himself to the cross and grave, and they are all still buried in the grave. Amen.

Charles is a retired engineer who has worked on communications projects for the Air Force, Army and Navy. He lives in the outer north-western suburbs of Sydney with his wife, Diane. Together they have four children and eight grandchildren with whom they love spending time. He keeps himself busy with pot plants, a community vegetable garden, researching his family history and volunteering in the community and at LifeWay Lutheran Church.

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Investing For The Future

I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings (Luke 16:9).

Read Luke 16:1–9

This parable is one of the more difficult ones to understand. It is about a dishonest asset manager who gets found out by his boss and is given a short period to finalise the books before getting sacked. The asset manager then acts with further dishonesty by conspiring with his boss’ debtors to reduce their debts and gain their favour, hoping that these favours will extend to him being looked after by the debtors after he is sacked. The surprise of the parable is that the boss then congratulates the dishonest asset manager for his clever response to his impending sacking.

Jesus then makes the statement, ‘Realise that the purpose of money is to strengthen friendships, to provide opportunities for being generous and kind. Eventually, money will be useless to you – but if you use it generously to serve others, you will be welcomed joyfully into your eternal destination’ (from The Voice translation).

In the parable, the asset manager contemplates his future, makes plans, and executes them.

As a retired couple, my wife and I definitely did think while we were still gainfully employed about how we would fund our retirement. We sought financial advice from several sources and then implemented strategies we hoped would accumulate sufficient resources to live on in retirement.

Did we put the same amount of effort into planning for our eternal future? What about the effort to share the good news with others so we could celebrate in heaven together in the future? Am I prepared to review my priorities and goals so that God can use the resources he has given me more effectively in living out his love for others?

Heavenly Father, you have blessed us richly with your gifts to us. Please help us to remember they are a gift from you, and guide us in being clever in using all these gifts in a way that honours you and helps spread the good news to others who will greet and welcome us when we meet in heaven and celebrate together. Amen.

Charles is a retired engineer who has worked on communications projects for the Air Force, army and navy. He lives in the outer north-western suburbs of Sydney with his wife, Diane. Together they have four children and eight grandchildren with whom they love spending time. He keeps himself busy with pot plants, a community vegetable garden, researching his family history and volunteering in the community and at LifeWay Lutheran Church.

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Two lost sons and their father

The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son'. But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate’ (Luke 15:21–23).

Read Luke 15:11–32

Today’s reading is the third of three parables Jesus told about the ‘lost’ being found. Yesterday, we looked at the parables of the lost coin and lost sheep. This parable has traditionally been referred to as the parable of the prodigal son, emphasising the wasteful life the younger son lived after receiving his inheritance from his living father. The emphasis of this parable is really about the love and compassion of the father of the two sons. Like the previous two parables, we have the contrast of the lost son and the ‘good’ son who stays home and faithfully serves his father. In reality, both sons are lost – one in a very obvious way as he rejects his relationship with his father and squanders his inheritance, ending up a pauper; the other in a less obvious way as he slavishly serves his father with little love in the relationship.

One son hits rock bottom and repents, and there is great rejoicing as he returns home. Remember the rejoicing in heaven we read about yesterday over each person who repents? The other son hasn’t yet seen the need to repent. Hold on, you say, what has he done to repent over? There is jealousy over his brother, who is welcomed back into the family, his sulking and the lack of respect for his father when he is invited to the celebrations – just for starters.

But the hero of the story is the father who responded in very unexpected ways. In western culture, we may find it strange how he welcomed the younger son back. In the Middle Eastern culture where this story was told, the listeners would have never experienced such a father who would run to a disgraced son to welcome him home.

Jesus, again, stresses to his hearers how much his Father is committed to welcoming his repentant children back to him and celebrating exuberantly over their return. There is no hint of punishment for their failures, just forgiveness and a welcome home.

Heavenly Father, we often fail to live as your children, sometimes like the younger son, and sometimes the older son. Thank you for your amazing love and grace to us in the way you openly welcome us back once we acknowledge our failures. Please guide us with your Spirit in sharing the good news of this love and grace with others in the way we live our lives. Amen.

Charles is a retired engineer who has worked on communications projects for the air force, army and navy. He lives in the outer north-western suburbs of Sydney with his wife, Diane. Together they have four children and eight grandchildren with whom they love spending time. He keeps himself busy with pot plants, a community vegetable garden, researching his family history and volunteering in the community and at LifeWay Lutheran Church.

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Lost and found

I tell you that in the same way, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent (Luke 15:7).

Read Luke 15:1–10

In response to the comments from the Pharisees and morality police about Jesus welcoming sinners and eating with them, Jesus tells two parables, one about a woman searching for a lost coin and the other about a shepherd searching for a sheep that strayed off. (There is a third parable, which we will look at tomorrow). In these parables, there are three characters; the one who gets lost, the good ones who don’t get lost, and the one who goes looking for the lost one. It is interesting to challenge oneself to pick one of these characters to identify with.

I’ve generally thought that Jesus (and the Holy Spirit) would be searching for the lost one, but he invites us to be part of this activity, too. So we can, therefore, easily identify with the one searching for the lost, asking the Holy Spirit to help us recognise who they are and where they are hiding. And, of course, we need wisdom and sensitivity in reaching out to them.

Then there are the ones who haven’t got lost, the righteous ones who don’t need to repent. It would be nice to identify with these wonderful people; unfortunately, they don’t exist in reality (even though the Pharisees and morality police probably identified with them).

So that leaves us with identifying with the lost ones, although it does nothing for our self-esteem. But our verse tells us that there is rejoicing in heaven each time we acknowledge and repent of our failures, of our inability to live up to God’s standards. I find this picture very encouraging to think that the angels of heaven are cheering us on as we face the challenges of daily life. Our Heavenly Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and all the angels of heaven guide us in living out God’s love to our fellow lost ones.

Thank you, Jesus, for doing everything needed to rescue me from being lost in my relationship with you. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for continuing to find me from where I have wandered off and lovingly calling me back to the security of my relationship with Jesus. Amen.

Charles is a retired engineer who has worked on communications projects for the Air Force, army, and navy. He lives in the outer north-western suburbs of Sydney with his wife, Diane. Together they have four children and eight grandchildren with whom they love spending time. He keeps himself busy with pot plants, a community vegetable garden, researching his family history, and volunteering in the community and at LifeWay Lutheran Church.

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Source Of Sustenance

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing … This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples (John 15:5,8).

Read John 15:1–8

Jesus used many examples and stories (parables) to help us understand how he wants to live in a relationship with us (shepherd/sheep; farmer/produce; vine/branches). All of these rely on a very close connection between us and him. Any of us who have done some gardening will realise how quickly a branch withers and dies when not connected to a source of sustenance. We can maintain life in the cut branch for some time if we place the cut end in water, such as placing cut flowers in a vase. Or we can put a cutting in a special soil mixture to get it to send out its roots and commence a new plant. And there is the option to graft the cutting into a living plant so that it becomes part of that living plant.

But without that source of sustenance, the cut branch will very quickly die. Jesus uses this example to teach us an important truth about how we remain alive as children of his Father and live out his purpose for us. Since Jesus is the source of all the sustenance we need to stay alive and be productive, we need to maintain that intimate connection with him. We generally know what this means: regular systematic Bible reading, times of intimate prayer, and spending time with other Christians. These all help us focus on God’s will for us, help us find answers to the challenges we face, and encourage us when we lose energy and focus. But we also get to know God personally, feel safe and loved in his presence, and excited enough about our relationship with him that others observe his impact on our lives.

When we are feeling ineffectual in our Christian witness or we feel discouraged about the lack of impact our church community is having on the wider community, maybe all we need to do is go back to the source of our sustenance, the Jesus vine, and review how much we are utilising the resources he makes available to us. Are we immersing ourselves in his word? Are we spending intimate time with Jesus and his Father, talking about life and the issues we face? Are we finding encouragement in worshipping God in the company of other Christians? Are we focusing on all that God has done for us and is continuing to do for us?

Being connected to Jesus' vine and receiving all the sustenance it provides, will result in us producing fruit – fruit that others will see as being sourced from God himself, stimulating their curiosity to the source of this fruit.

Heavenly Father, many of us have been trying to produce fruit for you, relying on our efforts and ideas, producing very little. Thank you for reminding us that we can only produce fruit for you if we are connected to the Jesus vine. We surrender our lives to you, for you to achieve your will and purpose in us. Amen.

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He Has Done It

Posterity will serve him, future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it! (Psalm 22:30,31)

Read Psalm 22:25-31

After identifying those of his time, David looks to the future – future generations and those yet unborn. That means us and those who are yet to follow us – our children, grandchildren – and on through the generations. The message of proclaiming God’s righteousness continues, not because of anything we have done. As the text states, ‘He has done it!’ What a relief!

When I lived in the Philippines, I was often faced with typhoons. The advice was to put myself in a place where I am away from the risks of flying objects, breaking glass, or disappearing roofs. Therefore, I would place some cushions in a downstairs bathtub, surround myself with candles – and wait. The wind would howl, and tree branches would bash against the walls. The pressure would build and my ears would pop. I would pray for safety and peace. But, at the same time, all I could think of was that there must be something I could do. Feeling so powerless in such a storm is frightening, and I could easily relate to the disciples in that boat on the Sea of Galilee. Letting go, relinquishing any impulse to control what I can’t, is hard. But it was only when I was able, amid tears of frustration, to declare, ‘I give up – I’m in your hands Lord’, that I found peace and went to sleep.

That is the great gift of trusting God and his promises through faith in Jesus Christ. It enables us to let go, to be relieved of making ourselves right with God, because he has done it for us.

It doesn’t end there, however. In response to this gift, we endeavour to live according to Jesus’ command that we love one another, serve each other, and live our lives praising God and proclaiming this message to future generations and those yet unborn.

We give you thanks, Heavenly Father, for the faith of our forebears, and that through the Holy Spirit, you help us to be your proclaimers to those who follow us, so that they too may know you and abide in your grace. Amen.

Faye Schmidt continues her diaconal calling through governance, having served on the Vic–Tas District Church Board, the General Church Board and currently as chair of the Standing Committee on Constitutions and her congregation, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Adelaide. Having lived and worked in many locations within Australia and overseas, Faye has a heart for the stranger and the newcomer and for being open to new ideas, learning from others and responding to needs.

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Discipleship Has Consequences

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? (Luke 14:28)

Read Luke 14:25–35

Are you an impulse buyer? A person who, when shopping for an item will see something they like and buy it and then, on taking it home are faced with some realities – it is too big for the space, the wrong colour, or too expensive to be covered by the money in the bank? Then we are faced with what we can do with the now-unwanted item.

In today’s text, Jesus is making it clear to us that being one of his followers is a serious matter and has consequences far beyond just the decision to make our commitment to him.

It is not a matter of following the crowd and relying on the strength of the crowd to carry us – it is personal, individual, about our commitment to loving and serving Jesus and having a relationship with him. And that has consequences.

Am I prepared to work on this relationship? Am I prepared to listen to God through his word? Am I prepared to serve wherever he sends me and to those he puts in my path? And am I prepared to make him and his will the priority in my life?

This is not easy, but we are not left to flounder our way through this. God has sent his Holy Spirit to guide, strengthen and uphold us on our journey of faith. In Luther’s explanation to the Third Article of the Apostle’s Creed he states, ‘I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith’.

So, what seems impossible to us to achieve is made possible by God himself, who desires all creation to be made whole and one with him.

By your Holy Spirit, Lord, strengthen me in my faith in you and love for my neighbour so that I may be a true disciple accepting all you require of me, trusting in your grace. Amen.

Faye Schmidt continues her diaconal calling through governance, having served on the Vic–Tas District Church Board, the General Church Board and currently as chair of the Standing Committee on Constitutions and her congregation, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Adelaide. Having lived and worked in many locations within Australia and overseas, Faye has a heart for the stranger and the newcomer and for being open to new ideas, learning from others and responding to needs.

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Everything is ready

At the time of the banquet, he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is ready’ (Luke 14:17).

Read Luke 14:12–24

In preparing for an event many of us would rely on a checklist to make sure that nothing is forgotten. However, we cannot achieve perfection as we are not in control of all circumstances – sudden changes to attendees, quality of venue or food, weather, etc. There would always be a qualification whether ‘everything’ was ready.

Some of the most amazing words spoken by Jesus when on the cross on that first Good Friday, were, ‘It is finished’. When facing the end of our days, how many of us would be able to say the same of any event or our life – that all we were required to do had been achieved, and completed?

For us, being mortal, we are not in control of our lives or made aware of all that we could or should accomplish while here on earth. We are bound and limited by our humanity.

Only God knows the completeness of things and these words of Jesus on the cross speak again that this was not just a man being crucified, but the Son of God. All that was required to atone for our sins was made complete on the cross and Jesus’ rising from the dead on the third day, Easter morning.

So, it should not be a surprise when we meet with Jesus at the Lord’s supper that the words we hear after the elements have been consecrated, ‘Come, for everything is ready’.

Everything has been completed that enables us to meet with Jesus at the altar as he comes to us in the bread and wine and we witness God’s grace in this act. There is nothing required of us but to ‘come’. God has made it all possible and we are invited to partake of the feast of victory.

May we humbly accept your invitation of saving grace as you have made everything right with you. May we also be a witness to others and invite those who do not yet know you, to be fellow invitees to the feast of victory over sin and death, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Where shall I sit?

For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (Luke 14:11).

Read Luke 14:1–11

There are some events to which we are invited when it is quite clear as to where we shall sit and the position that we hold at the event. When we go to the theatre, we have set seats and hunt for our numbers on the back of the seat. Or, when we board a plane, it is quite clear where we sit, although the people surrounding us can be a surprise! Such positions have been determined by others. We may have set some criteria – for example, a window seat on the plane – but the allocation and position are out of our control.

At other times, we can be unsure. There was a custom previously that when attending a wedding, you were placed on either the bride or groom’s side of the church. Or, if you are invited to a conference as a guest speaker, do you sit up the front, or just wait until called?

Even in church, we can often dither as to where we should sit. This is particularly an issue when visiting another church – as people often sit in the same place each week, it can be unsettling to find that we have sat in someone’s regular place.

The guests in the above text were comparing themselves with the other guests and determined for themselves the position that they considered appropriate to them.

Our decisions are often predicated on how we perceive ourselves – as a special guest, a speaker, etc. But Jesus is saying to us that when it comes to entering his kingdom, we are not the arbiters of our position – he is.

There are many ways in which we lack humility and measure ourselves against others – the suburbs we live in, the cars we drive, academic qualifications, holidays, and career positions. But do any of these identifiers make us more worthy in Jesus’ eyes than our neighbour who is different from us? In Philippians 2:4 we read, ‘Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your interests but each of you to the interests of the others’.

By your Holy Spirit, Lord, turn me from pride in myself to be more like you, seeking to see you in those who surround me so that I may be worthy to be a child of your kingdom. Amen.

Faye Schmidt continues her diaconal calling through governance, having served on the Vic–Tas District Church Board, the General Church Board, and currently as chair of the Standing Committee on Constitutions and her congregation, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Adelaide. Having lived and worked in many locations within Australia and overseas, Faye has a heart for the stranger and the newcomer and for being open to new ideas, learning from others, and responding to needs.

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