Choose Abundant Life
Sixth Sunday After Epiphany
SUNDAY, February 12
“Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him”
God who created us gave us a wonderful and fearsome gift: free will. In every choice we make—both the big and the small—we have the opportunity to lean into life or to slip toward death. God commands us: Choose life. Choose abundant life.
For many years I was a volunteer EMT. While I have now retired, I continue to be blessed by a daily awareness that our life on earth is short—sometimes unexpectedly short. Our hope for eternal life is based on embracing the gift of life today, always following the clear commands God has given us.
Creator God, thank you for the gift of life. Give me the courage to choose abundant life. Teach me to live a good life. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: COURAGE TO TURN TO GOD
There Is Always a Way Back to Love
MONDAY, February 13
God did not mean for us to live alone. Throughout the Bible, we learn that he meant us to live in community and harmony. In Genesis, God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (2:18, NIV). In Romans, we learn “So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to one another” (12:4, NIV).
How can it be that we who were created in love and are born with the instinct to love are so often at odds with each other? It’s not that we don’t want to love. The inner child in each of us yearns for love, for acceptance, for connection. Yet we cage ourselves behind bars of our own making, focusing on our differences instead of our common humanity, holding grudges, keeping score. We turn our backs on each other until it seems impossible to find a way back.
There is always a way back to love, and the starting point is always within our own hearts.
Loving God, help heal the broken relationships in my life. Give me the wisdom to find a beginning and the courage to take the first step. Guide me on a path to healing. AMEN.
TUESDAY, February 14
In today’s Scripture, Jesus expands on the prohibition of the seventh commandment, saying, “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (v. 28, NIV). The lust in our heart may be the first step toward sin. How do we protect ourselves from falling into that?
I attended a funeral where a husband eulogized his wife, describing a period early in their relationship when he wavered regarding whether he was ready for marriage. He was not sure if he loved his prospective wife enough. She looked at him and said, “Love is not something you feel. It is something you do!”
Love is in the little actions. A common daily courtesy. The gift of being fully present when the other person needs you. Making a habit of physical intimacy as a gift and refuge.
Lord, give me the courage to open my heart and the gentleness to treat other open hearts with loving care. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: FOR OUR ENEMIES
Be True to Your Word
WEDNESDAY, February 15
Richard Daley, the long-time mayor of Chicago, once said, “If a man’s handshake is no good, all the paper in the world won’t make it good.” We learn this truth through hard experience. The trusted bookkeeper who racks up personal charges on the business credit card. The insurance company that weasels it way out of a claim it ought to pay.
It goes the other way too. Have you ever been blessed by a really good neighbor? The kind of person who says, “I’ll keep an eye out for your mother,” and does? They actually check up on your mom, send their kids over to rake leaves and shovel the walkway, pop over with a warm casserole. There is no contract there, just a kept promise.
Ancient of Days, when the books are opened and I stand before your throne, I want it known that my word was ever my bond. Give me the steadfastness to always keep my word. AMEN.
Turn the Other Cheek
THURSDAY, February 16
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Nonviolence is absolute commitment to the way of love. Love is not emotional bash; it is not empty sentimentalism. It is the active outpouring of one’s whole being into the being of another.” It is never easy to turn the other cheek. Nevertheless, people choose the path of nonviolence and love every single day, in every part of the world.
Last spring Alabama pastor Michael Jennings was watering flowers for a neighbor who was out of town when another neighbor called the police on “a suspicious person.” Pastor Jennings was arrested. On the drive to the police station, one of the officers asked him if he could pray for him as he was having family issues at home.
Regarding the incident, Pastor Jennings said, “The Bible teaches us to love thy neighbor. Whether it’s the one you want to water their flowers for, or the one who calls the police on you.”
O God, teach me to follow Jesus, taking this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it, and choosing always the pathway to peace and love. Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: CONSTANCY IN PRAYER
Love for Enemies
FRIDAY, February 17
Jesus’s words are not easy. In the Middle East, a group called the Parents Circle–Families Forum is composed of Israeli Jews and Palestinians who have lost family to the conflict and who work together in pursuit of peace. Bassam Aramin lost his ten-year-old daughter, Abir, in 2007 when she was shot and killed by an Israeli soldier. “When we say free Palestine, in fact, we say free Israel also. They don’t need to be killed,” he says. “We both will exist on this land as one state or two states or five states. Otherwise, we will share the same land in two big graves.” Aramin continues to pursue justice for his daughter and peace for his country. As Nelson Mandela said, “Reconciliation does not mean forgetting or trying to bury the pain of conflict….It means working together to correct the legacy of past injustice.”
O God, you have taught me that to change the world, I must start with myself. Lead me to honestly reflect on my own heart. AMEN.
Faith in the Kingdom of Heaven
SATURDAY, February 18
In my years as an EMT, I had many memorable calls, but one was particularly sacred. We had been dispatched for a man in cardiac arrest. We are a small town, and I recognized the address. Our patient was an elderly and much-loved member of our church. When the arriving team determined that our patient was beyond all earthly help, I turned my attention to his wife. As we stood in the kitchen, I prayed words that communicated, “Dear God, I know that whenever two are gathered together in your name, you are there with them. In this moment, I ask you to let us truly feel your presence. Dear Lord, your good and faithful servant is on his way to you. You know that in his life he was a good man, a faithful husband and loving father who knew and followed you. Even as we grieve, we are comforted to know that you are welcoming him into your kingdom with open arms.” In those moments we felt known, as if God saw us, saw our pain, and lovingly enfolded us.
Eternal God, thank you for the gift of life. Help me to live abundantly, so that at the end of my life I will accept death, knowing beyond doubt that you will welcome me into your heavenly kingdom with open arms. AMEN.
PRAYER FOCUS: WILLINGNESS TO SEEK PEACE