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This piece is a preview of upcoming Forward Day by Day daily devotions
SUNDAY, May 6
Acts 16:16-17. One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.”
Today’s Reading: Acts 16:16-40
The chains of the Roman Empire clank and clatter throughout this passage. We hear of an enslaved woman, her greedy owners’ moneymaking scheme, of Paul’s imprisonment, and of how the prison guard readies himself to commit suicide upon discovering the prison doors ajar. We also hear the woman describe Paul in terms that she and millions of slaves in the Roman Empire would have understood—they are fellow slaves, albeit they have very different owners.
Paul’s owner—the Most High God—disrupts the greedy masters’ moneymaking scheme. Paul’s owner opens the doors of the cell and stays the hand of the guard before he can kill himself. Being bathed in grace and mercy, held captive by love and surrendering to the Lover of Souls is not slavery at all but rather the best kind of freedom we could ask for or imagine.
By Miguel Escobar
PRAY for the Diocese of the Central Solomons
MOVING FORWARD: What are some of the ways God’s love has set you free?
MONDAY, June 11
Saint Barnabas, Apostle
Acts 11:23. When [Barnabas] came and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast devotion.
Today’s Readings: Ps 112 | Isaiah 42:5-12 | Acts 11:19-40, 13:1-3 | Matthew 10:7-16
Many organizations consider “a good leader” as the person who comes in and charts the course, steers the ship, and tells the subordinates what to do. This model of leadership is alive and well in many churches. If we hire a young and dynamic pastor, surely, she or he will bring in other young and dynamic people! The pastor becomes the “fixer-in-chief.” Our friend Barnabas, however, offers another perspective. Instead of showing up and fixing everything, Barnabas arrives on the scene, witnesses the grace of God already present among the people, celebrates it, and empowers the people to remain faithful and steadfast—to keep doing what they are doing. I wonder how often I’ve rushed into a situation, intent on fixing it, without taking a moment to acknowledge the grace of God already present. What possibilities open up when we choose to celebrate and empower the people of God? How might we lead like Barnabas, encouraging one another to remain faithful and steadfast to the Lord Jesus?
By Rev. Marshall Jolly
PRAY for the Church of Nigeria
MOVING FORWARD: Is there something you’re trying to fix that isn’t broken? How might you move from fixer to encourager?
MONDAY July 30
Matthew 27:24. So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”
Today’s Readings: Ps 56,57,* 64,65 | Joshua 24:16-33 | Romans 16:1-16 | Matthew 27:24-31
Whether it’s slavery or war or bullying in school or sexual harassment, no one likes to say, “I did it.” Embarrassed, we don’t want to own the fact that our actions—or lack thereof—might have created a situation in which people have been psychologically or physically injured. Our egos just can’t take it.
Ironically, though, when we fail to recognize our culpability, we also fail to find forgiveness and freedom.
The granddaughter of a Klansman, I come from a family that once owned slaves. While I was not personally complicit in this history, I also have had to acknowledge that I, like so many other white Americans, have benefitted from a system that was evil.
This knowledge may not be a weight around my neck, but it helps to keep me honest with myself. And it helps me see the wounds remaining to be healed.
By Susan Hanson
PRAY for the Church of the Province of South East Asia
MOVING FORWARD: Are there difficult truths in your family or community that need to be acknowledged, so that healing can begin? How will you be active in that ministry of reconciliation?