“Then Peter said: I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Acts 10: 34-35
No matter how old I get, the first time I enter someone’s home it’s always a little awkward. Is this a shoes on or shoes off house? If I give the person my coat, will it go into a nearby closet which is easy to access when I’m ready to go or will it be taken into a room that resides in a part of the house that I may or may not see (especially raising the stakes when it’s a large gathering and I’m ready to make a polite exit)? Are other people already there? Do I know them? Do they look happy to see me or indifferent? How I’m welcomed goes a long way in knowing that someone is happy to have me around.
Today’s verse takes place right after the passage where Peter has a vision from God that makes it clear that, through the resurrection, adhering to strict Jewish laws that determine what is clean and unclean is no longer necessary. In effect, for each person who wants to come and know God, the door is open and God is waiting to warmly greet each person who walks through it. Today, may each one of us look for when God can use us to invite someone inside.
“And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” —John 17:3
I’ll be honest: There are times, especially late at night when I’m having trouble sleeping, and I start thinking about death, about loved ones who I’ve lost, about loved ones who are in their final years, about how quickly life goes by and how soon death will come for me, that all I want from God is for death not to be the end. In those moments, the contrast between death and life is so stark, so severe, that all I want is to know that death has not had the last word, will not ultimately be victorious.
And there’s good reason for this. Death is an enemy. Death destroys. Death is not a benign force. In 1 Corinthians 15, the apostle Paul wrote of Jesus, “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Death is an enemy to be defeated, and our hope in Christ is in no small part rooted in our confidence that he is the one who has conquered death.
But these words of Jesus that we read today from John 17 remind us that the news is much better than simply undoing death. The world as it is, the world as we live in it, is not as it should be. Even when we are still breathing, our lives are not as they should be. To be sure, life is a gift, and the destruction of life is part and parcel of the brokenness of our world. But simply having breath in our lungs is not all there is. Jesus came to provide eternal life. And here Jesus helps us to see that “eternal” doesn’t just mean going on forever. It means real life, life in its fullness, life in which we know our Heavenly Father and are known by him.
And this is exactly why we are able to start experiencing eternal life right now. Life knowing the God who loves us doesn’t have to wait. Because Jesus is ours and we are his, we can live, really live, right here and now. So, in the midst of the death and decay that surrounds you, in the midst of the brokenness that is in your own heart and soul, may you, today, know real, eternal life, because you know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he sent.
Today’s reflection is written by Deacon Karen Katamay.
“I said, ‘I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause is with the Lord, and my reward with my God.’” —Isaiah 49:4
As a Lutheran, I know that I am saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ alone, apart from works. Yet, even as I know that I cannot earn my salvation through good works, it is my faith that inspires me to do God’s will whenever I can. But if I am doing those good works just to be noticed and rewarded, then as the Bible verse says, I am laboring in vain, and spending my strength for nothing but my own reward.
So where does my true reward come from? It comes not from anything I do, but rather from being a child of God, and from knowing that Jesus cared enough about me to die on the cross and rise again for my salvation. My true reward is being in relationship with a God who loves me and all people. My true joy comes from loving God and loving neighbor.
The second verse for this day provides us with the best ending for this devotion:
“Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” —1 Corinthians 15:58