September 20 Devotional (2021)

September 20, 2021
Ordinary Time

Today’s Readings: Psalm 139:1-18  /  2 Kings 5:1-14  /  James 4:8-5:6

A prayer inspired by John Coleridge Patteson, Bishop of Melanesia, and His Companions, Martyrs, who we remember on September 20th

Almighty God, who didst call thy faithful servants John Coleridge Patteson and his companions to be witnesses and martyrs in the islands of Melanesia, and by their labors and sufferings didst raise up a people for thine own possession: Pour forth thy Holy Spirit upon thy Church in every land, that by the service and sacrifice of many, thy holy Name may be glorified and thy kingdom enlarged; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Invocation

O Lord open thou my lips 

And my mouth shall declare thy praise. 

O God + come to my assistance; 

O Lord, make haste to help me. 

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost: As it was in the beginning, is now, * and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Opening Prayer

For Salvation

O God, Who didst look on man when he had fallen down into death, and resolve to redeem him by the advent of Your only begotten Son; grant, we beseech You, that they who confess His glorious Incarnation may also be admitted to the fellowship of Him their Redeemer; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN. 

—Ambrose. [1]

Hymn

“Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”

Morning Prayer

From The Great Litany

That it may please thee to bring into the way of truth all such as have erred, and are deceived,

          We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord [2]

Short Verse

He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.

Daniel 2:22

Morning Reading: Psalm 139:1-18

Formed in my mother’s womb

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.

You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

you discern my thoughts from far away.

You search out my path and my lying down,

and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue,

O Lord, you know it completely.

You hem me in, behind and before,

and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is so high that I cannot attain it.

Where can I go from your spirit?

Or where can I flee from your presence?

If I ascend to heaven, you are there;

if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.

If I take the wings of the morning

and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,

even there your hand shall lead me,

and your right hand shall hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,

and the light around me become night,”

even the darkness is not dark to you;

the night is as bright as the day,

for darkness is as light to you.

For it was you who formed my inward parts;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works;

that I know very well.

My frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret,

intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.

In your book were written

all the days that were formed for me,

when none of them as yet existed.

How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!

How vast is the sum of them!

I try to count them—they are more than the sand;

I come to the end—I am still with you.

Morning Meditation 

You knit me together.

“Creator God, You knit me together. But Your involvement doesn’t end at conception. You keep a detailed diary of my comings and goings. You would be the perfect expert witness at a trial, explaining where I was, what I was doing, and why, at any point in time. I can’t hide before You… And yet You still want to be in a relationship with me… I praise You and thank You! Amen.” [3]


Midday Prayer

From The Great Litany

That it may please thee to give us a heart to love and fear thee, and diligently to live after thy commandments,

          We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord. [4]

Midday Intercession

[5]

Short Verse

“Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks compassion into the world. Yours are the feet with which Christ walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which Christ blesses the world.”

St. Teresa Of Avila
[6]

Midday Reading: 2 Kings 5:1-14

The girl servant saves her master

1 Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. 2 Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4 So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.” 5 And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.”

So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. 6 And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7 And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”

8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

Midday Lesson

Naaman Healed of Leprosy

“Leprosy, much like AIDS today, was one of the most feared diseases of the time. Some forms were extremely contagious and, in many cases, incurable. In its worst forms, leprosy led to death. Many lepers were forced out of the cities into quarantined camps. Because Naaman still held his post, he probably had a mild form of the disease, or perhaps it was still in the early stages. In either case, his life would have been tragically shortened by his disease.” [7]

St. Ephrem the Syrian wrote, “Some rely on these words to say that [Naaman] was the one who had killed Ahab by striking him with an arrow shot by his own hand, when there was war between [Israel] and Aram. This favor was granted him by the Lord as a reward for killing the persecutor of the prophets and for enfeebling the power of Jezebel, [Ahab’s] wife, and for restraining her cruelty. And thanks to him the disciples of Elijah had relief too, those whom the fear of Ahab and Jezebel had forced to flee into the desert and take refuge in some caves. And they had returned to their abodes, as the Scripture mentions below. But all these theories are groundless, except for what they say about the persecution of the prophets, which is undoubtedly correct,” (On the Second Book of Kings 5). [8]

“Aram was Israel’s neighbor to the northeast, but the two nations were rarely on friendly terms. Under David, Aram paid tribute to Israel. In Elisha’s day, Aram was growing in power and frequently conducted raids on Israel, trying to frustrate the people and bring about political confusion. Israelite captives often would be taken back to Aram after successful raids. Naaman’s servant girl was an Israelite, kidnapped from her home and family. Ironically, Naaman’s only hope of being cured came from Israel.” [9] 

“The little girl’s faith and Naaman’s quest contrast with the stubbornness of Israel’s king (2 Kgs 5:7). A leader in mighty Aram sought the God of Israel; Israel’s own king would not. We don’t know the little girl’s name or much about her, but her brief word to her mistress brought healing and faith in God to a powerful Aramean captain. God had placed her for a purpose, and she was faithful. Where has God put you? No matter how humble or small your position, God can use you to spread his Word. Look for opportunities to tell others what God can do. There’s no telling who will hear your message!” [10]

“The name of Israel’s king is not mentioned in this story. The events of 2 Kings 1–8 are mainly about Elisha’s ministry and are not intended to be chronological. The king was most likely Jehoram (2 Kgs 3:1), but we cannot know for sure.” [11]

“Naaman, a great hero, was used to getting respect, so he was outraged when Elisha treated him like an ordinary person. A proud man, he expected royal treatment. To wash in a great river would be one thing, but the Jordan was small and dirty. To wash in the Jordan, Naaman thought, was beneath a man of his position. But Naaman had to humble himself and obey Elisha’s commands in order to be healed.” [12]

“Obedience to God begins with humility. We must believe that his way is better than our own. We may not always understand his ways of working, but by humbly obeying, we will receive his blessings. We must remember that (1) God’s ways are best; (2) God wants our obedience more than anything else; (3) God can use anything to accomplish his purposes.” [13]

“Naaman left in a rage because the cure for his disease seemed too simple. He was a hero, and he expected a heroic cure. Full of pride and self-will, Naaman could not accept the simple cure of faith. Sometimes people react to God’s offer of forgiveness in the same way. Just to believe in Jesus Christ somehow doesn’t seem significant enough to bring eternal life. To obey God’s commands doesn’t seem heroic. What Naaman had to do to have his leprosy washed away is similar to what we must do to have our sin washed away—humbly accept God’s mercy. Don’t let your reaction to the way of faith keep you from the cure you need the most.” [14]

St. Ephrem the Syrian wrote, “Naaman was sent to the Jordan as to the remedy capable to heal a human being. Indeed, sin is the leprosy of the soul, which is not perceived by the senses, but . . . human nature must be delivered from this disease by Christ’s power which is hidden in baptism. It was necessary that Naaman, in order to be purified from two diseases, that of the soul and that of the body, might represent in his own person the purification of all the nations through the bath of regeneration, whose beginning was in the river Jordan, the mother and originator of baptism,” (On the Second Book of Kings 5.10–11). [15]

He continued, “[Naaman] offered royal presents, but the prophet did not accept them and was not persuaded by the donor, even though he had pressed him many times. For that magnificently and very clearly prefigured the mystery of the healing, which is freely granted to all nations of the earth by our Lord through the intercession of the apostles. And this had been promised in advance to those masters by the prophet Isaiah, when he said, ‘You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money’ [Is 52:3],” (On the Second Book of Kings 5). [16]

“Naaman the leper arrived at Elisha’s house and expected Elisha to cure him by way of magical gesture or incantation. Instead, his healing by Elisha’s instructions brought about a conversion experience that caused him to believe in the one true God. Christ alluded to this when he said, ‘There were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian’ (Lk 4:27); he used this story as an example of a prophet not being welcome in his own country: the prophet performed mightier works among the foreigners than among his own people because their faith was stronger. This story bears resemblance to that of the ten lepers cured by Christ, of which only one returned to thank him (cf. Lk 17:12-19).” [17]


Eventide Prayer

From The Great Litany

That it may please thee so to rule the hearts of thy servants, the President of the United States (or of this nation), and all others in authority, that they may do justice, and love mercy, and walk in the ways of truth,

          We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord. [18]

Short Verse

“Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear.”

St. Catherine of Siena
[19]

Eventide Reading: James 4:8-5:6

Draw near to God

8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3 Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4 Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5 You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.

Eventide Lesson

Stinginess and Boasting About Tomorrow

“Belittling criticism of others is another case of pride coming out in what we say. It is a lack of faith united with evil works, an offense both to the person criticized and to God. God’s will is to love others (v. 8) with humility and mercy, even if they are in the wrong (see 3:13-18).” [20]

Saint Cyril of Alexandria explained, “Every wicked act dulls the sense of our thoughts and gives birth to arrogance. For although it is necessary for each one to examine himself and behave according to God’s will, many people do not do this but prefer to mind the business of others. If they happen to see others suffering, it seems that they forget their own weaknesses and set about criticizing them and slandering them. They condemn them, not knowing that they suffer from the same things as the people they have criticized, and in so doing they condemn themselves. The wise Paul writes exactly the same thing [in Rm 2:1]: ‘If you judge another in something, you condemn yourself, for the one who judges does the same things.'” [21]

Verse 14 says, yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. “James says this in order to indicate just how fleeting and empty our present life is. He wants to make us ashamed of the fact that we spend all our time engaged in its vanity, and in the evils of this age and in things which, as soon as they are accomplished, disappear, and all our labor vanishes with them,” (Oecumenius, Commentary on James). [22]  “True faith depends completely on God and seeks ways to do good works. But to plan as if we know exactly what will happen is arrogance.” [23] “James is not trying to take away our freedom to decide, but he is showing us that it is not just what we want that matters. We need God’s grace to complement our efforts and ought to rely not on them but on God’s love for us. As it says in Proverbs: ‘Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth’ [Pr 27:1],” (Saint Chrysostom). [24]

“Like James’s first readers, we strive to be self-sufficient and to develop detailed plans for our lives. Planning can be good stewardship, but not if our plans crowd out the things God would have us do. James reminds us to seek what “the Lord wills .” This simple statement is a confession of faith and shows confidence in the Lord’s care for us. Time and again, He has shown His fatherly, divine goodness and mercy toward us. He has given us life by His Son, Jesus Christ. Now, freed from seeking our own needs, we serve others.” [25]

Today’s passage also includes a warning to the rich. St. Caesarius of Arles said, “Riches cannot harm a good person, because he spends them kindly. Likewise they cannot help an evil person as long as he keeps them avariciously or wastes them in dissipation,” (Sermons 35.4). [26] 

Saint Bede further explained, “By refusing to give alms the rich think that they have done well in saving their treasure, and indeed they have, though they have not seen what it will be used for, namely, their own condemnation,” (Concerning the Epistle of St. James). [27] “The terrible fate of the unjust rich is that their wealth will condemn them.” [28]

“James condemns the wealthy for living as if this life is all there is to live for and as if Christ will not return. God’s Word repeatedly warns against this attitude. It is easy to think that such words do not apply to us because there is always someone wealthier, someone greedier. But Scripture teaches, ‘You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich’ (2Co 8:9). In Christ, we have the riches that come from God alone—above all, the gift of faith. He will give us the crown of life. • Thank You, Lord, for the gift of each day. Help me to see each one as guided by Your care and lived for Your glory. Through me, bless my family, my co-workers and neighbors, and all the world. Amen.” [29]

Compline Prayer

For Sleep

O heavenly Father, you give your children sleep for the refreshing of soul and body: Grant me this gift, I pray; keep me in that perfect peace which you have promised to those whose minds are fixed on you; and give me such a sense of your presence, that in the hours of silence I may enjoy the blessed assurance of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. [30]

Citations:

[1] Potts, J. M. (2020). Fourth Century Prayers. In Prayers of the Early Church (Kindle, pp. 3). essay. 

[2] Episcopal Church. (1979). The Great Litany. In The Book of common prayer: And administration of the sacraments, and other rites and ceremonies of the church, according to the use of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America: Together with the psalter, or, Psalms of David (pp. 150). New York, NY: Church Publishing Incorporated.

[3] FRANKLIN, D. (2018). Day 248. In PRAY THROUGH THE BIBLE IN A YEAR JOURNAL: A daily devotional and reading plan. Uhrichsville, OH: BARBOUR PUB.

[4] Episcopal Church. (1979). The Great Litany. In The Book of common prayer: And administration of the sacraments, and other rites and ceremonies of the church, according to the use of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America: Together with the psalter, or, Psalms of David (pp. 150). New York, NY: Church Publishing Incorporated.

[5] Forward Movement. (2013). Intercessions. In Prayers for All Occasions (Kindle ed., pp. 666). Cincinnati, OH: Forward Movement.

[6] 14 of the most powerful PEACE quotes from st Teresa OF AVILA. The Writings of Cora Evans. (n.d.). Retrieved September 12, 2021, from https://www.coraevans.com/blog/article/14-Of-The-Most-Powerful-Peace-Quotes-From-St-Teresa-Of-Avila

[7] Tyndale House Publishers. (2012). 2 Kings. In Chronological life application study Bible (Kindle ed., p. 5828). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub.

[8] Ephrem the Syrian. (2019). 2 Kings In Ancient faith study Bible (Kindle ed., p. 1124). Nashville: Holman Bible.

[9] Tyndale House Publishers. (2012). 2 Kings. In Chronological life application study Bible (Kindle ed., p. 5829). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub.

[10] Ibid. 9

[11] Ibid. 9

[12] Ibid. 9

[13] Ibid. 9

[14] Ibid. 9

[15] Ephrem the Syrian. (2019). 2 Kings In Ancient faith study Bible (Kindle ed., p. 1125). Nashville: Holman Bible.

[16] Ibid. 15

[17] Cole, J. (Ed.). (2015). 2 Kings. In Didache Bible: With commentaries based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Kindle ed., p. 974). Downers Grove, IL: Midwest Theological Forum,, Ignatius Press.

[18] Episcopal Church. (1979). The Great Litany. In The Book of common prayer: And administration of the sacraments, and other rites and ceremonies of the church, according to the use of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America: Together with the psalter, or, Psalms of David (pp. 150). New York, NY: Church Publishing Incorporated.

[19] St. Catherine of Siena. (n.d.). TOP 25 quotes BY St. Catherine Of SIENA (of 106): A-Z Quotes. A. Retrieved September 12, 2021, from https://www.azquotes.com/author/17881-St_Catherine_of_Siena

[20] Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology (2008). James. In The Orthodox study Bible (p. 1709). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[21] Cyril of Alexandria. (2019). James. In Ancient faith study Bible (Kindle ed., p. 3493). Nashville: Holman Bible.

[22] Oecumenius. (2019). James. In Ancient faith study Bible (Kindle ed., p. 3493). Nashville: Holman Bible.

[23] Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology (2008). James. In The Orthodox study Bible (p. 1709). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[24] Chrysostom. (2019). James. In Ancient faith study Bible (Kindle ed., p. 3493). Nashville: Holman Bible.

[25] A., E. E. (2016). James. In The Lutheran study Bible: English standard version (Kindle ed., pp. 8530). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

[26] Caesarius of Arles. (2019). James. In Ancient faith study Bible (Kindle ed., p. 3495). Nashville: Holman Bible.

[27] Bede. (2019). James. In Ancient faith study Bible (Kindle ed., p. 3495). Nashville: Holman Bible.

[28] Academic Community of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology (2008). James. In The Orthodox study Bible (p. 1709). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

[29] A., E. E. (2016). James. In The Lutheran study Bible: English standard version (Kindle ed., pp. 8531). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

[30] Episcopal Church. (1979). Ministration to the Sick. In The Book of common prayer: And administration of the sacraments, and other rites and ceremonies of the church, according to the use of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America: Together with the psalter, or, Psalms of David (pp. 461). New York, NY: Church Publishing Incorporated.

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