Read: Colossians 3:1-11.
This passage begins with baptismal imagery (“you have been raised with Christ”) that had already been established in verse 2:12: “When you were buried with him in baptism, you were already raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” It is important to see the baptismal life in chapter three not as a rejection of bodily, earthly things, but affirming the higher calling in this daily life. In baptism we put to death—repent of—the sin that dwells within and among us (vv. 5-9). We are freed from looking for personal glory (v. 3) to care for others in a way that sees all as united in Christ whether “Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free” (v. 11). What a gift of life: in baptism we are freed from focusing on ourselves—from looking for personal recognition in life—so that the whole body can be served with love. Our lives are hidden in Christ yet also visible as a people united in Christ. Therefore, your life is freed from sin so that you are able to serve others. In what ways do you feel freed in Christ to serve others?
Pray: Gracious Lord Jesus, thank you for freeing me from the need for personal recognition so that I can recognize the need of others. Amen.
Read: Galatians 6:1-16.
Luke 10 speaks of a mission to those who have not received the message of the kingdom Jesus brings. Galatians 6 speaks to how that same message of Jesus shapes the life within the body of Christ, the church. There is an important mission to care for those who have already received the Holy Spirit and are part of the “family of faith” (v. 10). It is important—but not easy—to give and to receive care that includes a need for correction. We are to do so with gentleness, not forgetting our temptations to sin (v. 15). The “law of Christ” (v. 2) is to carry another’s burdens. As the Lord is our Good Shepherd, we are to shepherd one another in all humility as part of the “new creation” (v. 15). To follow this rule or principle is to share peace and mercy with others (v. 16). When has someone gently and lovingly given you important correction and guidance in the Christian faith? How have you tried to offer that same gentle and loving care to others?
Pray: Almighty God, thank you for your care and loving guidance. Help us to provide that same gentle and loving care to others. Amen.
Read: Luke 8:26-39.
Being burdened by personal limitations or even oppressed by others takes on many different forms. In Luke 8 a man was tortured by unclean spirits. We may not call our personal issues “demons” as described in Luke, but we certainly know of the hurts and harassments of physical and mental illness, of abuse by others, and even the more subtle, yet equally painful experiences of being ignored as though you were not even there. The reign of God that Jesus brings heals a world of hurts. In our story of the man with many demons, Jesus not only restores him to sit at Jesus’ feet fully clothed and in his right mind, Jesus also sends him out to spread the good news to others. How has your life been touched by Jesus’ healing and cleansing power? How has that impacted your life to share the good news of Jesus Christ?
Pray: Merciful Jesus, heal me where I have hurts and guide me to a life that cares for others in your name. Amen.
Read: John 17:20-26.
This concludes Jesus’ farewell address to his disciples. It immediately precedes his return to a familiar garden where he will be met by Judas and the officials who will take him away to die. In the Gospel of John, those who are opposed to God are described as “the world.” At the same time Jesus prays for his followers, he prays for the world so that the world may believe that Jesus’ Father has sent him. Even as his own suffering and death was about to happen, he prayed for his followers and for those who would oppose him and his followers. God’s work in Christ is the work of reconciliation that gives us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). Jesus prays for unity and reconciliation even while the forces of sin and destruction are closing in on him. Understanding and resolving differences will require the love of the Father and of Jesus to be in us as disciples. Jesus prays for us to have a loving and empowering relationship to God. How would you, as a follower of Jesus, describe your relationship with God? With others?
Pray: Loving God, come to me that I may love the world as you have loved me, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Read: Acts 11:1-18.
This story is about one of the most important developments in the early church. Followers of Jesus now included Gentiles as well as Jews. There were objections from the early church believers in Judea (vv. 1-3). Peter’s response was that it was not his doing, but God’s. Peter was sent to the home of Cornelius (Acts 10) through a vision and an invitation from Gentiles. Interestingly, the real objection was not Peter’s preaching, but his fellowship and eating with Gentiles. Establishing relationships, having fellowship, and being a guest in another’s home are all hallmarks of the expanding mission field of outreach in the church, both then and now. The Gentiles end up having a similar response to the preached word by receiving the Holy Spirit as Jewish believers did in Acts 2. The believers in Judea hear all this and are silenced in a way that must have led to a repentance that turned to praise of God for what has now happened. Is there a difference in what you do and say when you are host and when you are a guest? What are those differences? Where might God be leading you to fellowship with others?
Pray: Loving God, help me and all who claim Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord be empowered by the Holy Spirit to share the Easter faith and reach out to others with love. Amen.