I hope this day finds you and your family well. I invite you to take a few moments with me to read and reflect upon today’s scripture selection — and to carry these thoughts with you into your day.
Today’s Scripture: 2 Corinthians 3:1-6 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
3 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Surely we do not need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you, do we? 2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our(a) hearts, to be known and read by all; 3 and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
4 Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, 6 who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
In Paul’s time, people who traveled—especially teachers—often carried letters of commendation to prove their credentials and ease their introduction to new places. The letters would also testify to the character of the bearer.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians that surely, he didn’t need such a letter. Instead, he claimed the transformed lives of the Corinthian believers as his living letters of recommendation: “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” (vss. 2-3)
It is a striking image: the lives of the Corinthians themselves were letters of recommendation for Paul’s influence—and Christ’s influence—on their lives.
Think about your life. What kind of letter of recommendation is it for your church or for Christ? Every day, through your words, decisions, and actions, you communicate your values and whether those values are in line with Jesus’ life and teaching. You are writing a letter of recommendation.
There is an old poem by Edgar Guest that makes the point:
I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;
I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.
The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear,
Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear;
And the best of all the preachers are the men who live their creeds,
For to see good put in action is what everybody needs.
I soon can learn to do it if you’ll let me see it done;
I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run.
And the lecture you deliver may be very wise and true,
But I’d rather get my lessons by observing what you do;
For I might misunderstand you and the high advice you give,
But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live.
When I see a deed of kindness, I am eager to be kind.
When a weaker brother stumbles and a strong man stays behind
Just to see if he can help him, then the wish grows strong in me
To become as big and thoughtful as I know that friend to be.
And all travelers can witness that the best of guides today
Is not the one who tells them, but the one who shows the way.
One good man teaches many, men believe what they behold;
One deed of kindness noticed is worth forty that are told.
Who stands with men of honor learns to hold his honor dear,
For right living speaks a language which to every one is clear.
Though an able speaker charms me with his eloquence, I say,
I’d rather see a sermon than to hear one, any day.
We are writing sermons with our lives. We are living letters. How we live truly communicates what we believe.
Hymn: “God the Spirit, Guide and Guardian”
by Carl P. Daw, Jr. (1987)
God the Spirit, guide and guardian,
windsped flame and hovering dove,
breath of life and voice of prophets,
sign of blessing, power of love:
give to those who lead your people,
fresh anointing of your grace;
send them forth as bold apostles
to your church in every place.
Christ our Savior, sovereign, shepherd,
Word made flesh, Love crucified,
teacher, healer, suffering servant,
friend of sinners foe of pride:
in your tending may all pastors
learn and live a shepherd’s care;
grant them courage and compassion
shown through word and deed and prayer.
Great Creator, life-bestower,
truth beyond all thought’s recall,
fount of wisdom, womb of mercy,
giving and forgiving all:
as you know our strength and weakness,
so may those the church exalts
oversee its life steadfastly
yet not overlook its faults.
Triune God, mysterious being,
undivided and diverse,
deeper than our minds can fathom,
greater than our creeds rehearse:
help us in our varied callings
your full image to proclaim,
that our ministries uniting
may give glory to your name.
Thank you for sharing this moment of your day with me, with God, and with these reflections on a portion of scripture. I hope you will carry these with you throughout your day and night.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster