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Weekly Devotions July 4th to 8th

Posted on July 3, 2016 at 12:00 pm in .

 

St. Luke’s Weekly Devotions are written by people just like you. These devotions draw on authentic life experiences, scripture, prayers, and sermon series material to offer inspiration throughout the week. Use these devotions to guide you in your spiritual journey.

RSVP:  Monday, July 4, 2016

Read: One of the dinner guests, on hearing this, said to him, “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Then Jesus said to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.’ (Luke 14:15-20, NRSV)
Think about: Today is July 4th, a day our nation celebrates the Declaration of Independence. A committee composed of John Adams of Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, Robert Livingston of New York, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut instructed Jefferson to compose the draft document. Jefferson began work on June 11, 1776. Together, the committee revised the document, submitting it to the Continental Congress who voted to break from England on July 2nd, releasing the Declaration of Independence to the public July 4th.
The close friendship of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams ended as Jefferson took office as President of the United States, following Adams. Jefferson blamed Adams for making last minute political appointments of people who were enemies of Jefferson’s. For several years, the two were estranged. After Jefferson left office in 1809, Benjamin Rush worked to restore the friendship. It wasn’t until after one of Jefferson’s neighbors visited Adams, that Jefferson learned Adams said, “I always loved Jefferson, and still love him,” that the damaged friendship began restoration lasting until their deaths. In an April 1816 letter to Adams, Jefferson wrote, “…I think with you that it is a good world on the whole, that it has been framed on a principle of benevolence.” On the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1826, Jefferson and Adams died within hours of each other.
Today’s 4th of July celebration will be a sorrowful one for many families and friends of Pulse Nightclub victims. How can we expect to celebrate when grief and still fresh wounds cloud our community as it suffers such immeasurable loss? Still, parades, picnics, barbecues and fireworks will fill the holiday. This 4th of July holiday is a day to be especially sensitive to others in our community as we mourn the loss of loved ones.
The guest speaking to Jesus in our scripture was referring to the Parable of the Wedding Feast Jesus had told while at dinner in the home of a leader of the Pharisees (where they were watching him carefully). Jesus then tells another parable, known as “The Parable of the Great Dinner,” that many were invited to but when the meal was ready, the invited guests began to make excuses for not attending.
Our heavenly father is the giver of the great dinner, inviting everyone. It is ready now. If we have become estranged from ones we used to have dinner with or share holiday celebrations, now is it the time to begin the process of reconciliation. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, did this when he worked to restore a severely broken friendship between two of his friends.
In Congress July 4, 1776, “…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” God created the world. He invites us to join him to invite everyone to life in his Son. “Make sure that no one misses out on God’s grace. Make sure that no root of bitterness grows up that might cause trouble and pollute many people.” (Hebrews 12:15, CEB)
Pray this prayer: Holy, Holy God, my hope in life is in you, your Son and your grace. I hurt for those who suffer. I don’t know what to do. Guide me to what I can do for my hurting community. Amen.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Read: Then Jesus said to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ And the slave said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.’ Then the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. (Luke 14:16-23, NRSV)
Think About: God invites everyone to dinner but not everyone comes. It was Jewish custom to send two invitations, an advance invitation and a follow-up when the dinner was ready. We often receive a “save the date” announcement for upcoming events months in advance, then the invitation follows. In this parable, a “save the date” invitation had been sent, but now, “everything is ready,” it is time to enjoy the dinner. Jesus is at the home of a leader of the Pharisees, on the Sabbath, when he tells this parable.
Those invited began to make excuses when the slave announced, “everything is ready”. Who buys a piece of land without looking at it before buying? Who buys five yoke of oxen without trying them out in the fields before buying them? The one just married knows the work that goes into preparations for a huge feast. Most likely, others in the community would have been aware of the wedding. It is doubtful the banquet would have been scheduled for the same day as the wedding. Those who made commitments to attend backed out from their commitment. I can almost sense the host’s disappointment.
Our culture keeps us busy. Chances are good that Sabbath time, having dinner with our Lord, isn’t on the calendar. Marjorie Thompson offers several suggestions to recapture Sabbath time in the book, “Soul Feast.” One suggestion is to “Acknowledge the many ways you are shaped by worldly thinking that makes productivity, achievement, and success the primary source and valuation of your identity. Embrace your deeper desire for the humility of Christ. Give yourself permission to carve out regular Sabbath time from the massive over commitment that marks most of modern life. You are aiming for a life of balance, spiritual grounding, and inward peace, emulating the life-giving rhythm Jesus himself embodied.”
Is this the time to find a chair on a porch or patio to sit with Jesus? The more concerned we are about status, achievement or material possessions, the less likely we will be able to sit with Jesus.
By reputation, there are dinners we absolutely won’t want to miss because the host is a great cook or we may sense an obligation to attend. Dinner was set with friends. We met for a meal that lasted a very long time. Our waiter asked if it was a special occasion. One of the guests replied, “It’s time to eat.” We ordered our food from the extensive menu. We held hands as we prayed a blessing over our food. Conversation flowed between bread, sweet tea and entrees. We set aside a specific time to go to a place without personal distractions such as a cell phones or a work distraction.
Pray this prayer: Holy Lord, take away my self-importance and selfish need to achieve. Fill my heart to overflowing with a desire to sit with you to listen, to have a conversation, and to be silent in your presence. Amen.

The Bread of Life: Friday, July 8, 2016

Read: One of the dinner guests, on hearing this, said to him, “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Then Jesus said to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the slave returned and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ And the slave said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.’ Then the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.’”(Luke 14:15-24, NRSV)
Think About: Yes, blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God. One enters the kingdom, receiving salvation not by works but by grace. Everyone is invited so that God’s house will be filled. Jesus reminds us to invite those living on the margins to our banquets, and we will be blessed because they can’t repay us. He tells us we will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. (See Luke 14:12-14)
The book of Revelation records a letter to the church of Laodicea, a wealthy city known for among other things, banking, glossy black wool, a medical school and a renowned eye salve. “I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked,” (Revelation 3:15-17, NRSV).
A desire for wealth and material gain keeps us from living into the example of humility and compassion Jesus set. We begin to depend less on Jesus and the Holy Spirit by living a more self-centered life instead of a Christ-centered life while everything we need is in Jesus, available now. The nourishment for living in this world is found in Jesus, the bread of life, “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty,” (John 6:35, NRSV). Material gain doesn’t fill spiritual needs, only Jesus can fill our spirit. When we accept the invitation from Jesus, he enters our lives, working uniquely in each of us to satisfy our hunger for wholeness. With Jesus filling us, we gratefully begin to invite the poor, the crippled, blind and lame to his table through acts of service, like those we have witnessed in the aftermath of the horrific events at the Pulse Nightclub massacre that unfolded in our city on June 12th.
From my personal perspective, I don’t want to be found lukewarm like the people in the church of Laodicea. “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me,” (Revelation 3:20, NRSV). I have a standing invitation to come to the banquet of spiritual riches that Christ offers. Christ provides a sustainable banquet, one that will never run out of anything. Wealth will run out. Material possessions become obsolete. God invites the whole world of us, to join him at his banquet. “From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’;” (Acts 17:26-28a, NRSV).
Pray this prayer: Holy God, in you alone is the bread of life. I am in desperate need of you. Give me the humility to submit to your will for my life so that in you and you alone I will live for your kingdom. Amen.

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